Porn, a human issue

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Photo by Helen Maier

As uncomfortable as this topic is, opening a discourse on pornography allows for the distinction between the issue and the person. 

According to the National Society on Sexual Exploitation, 30-40% of college students consume pornographic material more than once a week; it is a conversation we must have at a personal level. 

Porn has become a vicious epidemic of minds and hearts, indiscriminate of gender or age, race or relation. Understanding the context of what many struggle to overcome is the first step toward healing. 

Pornography sites incur more traffic monthly than Netflix, Twitter and Amazon combined. It’s not a question of whether someone would find porn but when. It’s no surprise, then, that both women and men find themselves consumers of pornography. 

According to the Journal of Adolescent Research, one in three women regularly consume pornography, 62% of which had encountered porn before the age of eighteen. Ninety percent of those who view pornography do so on a digital platform, as reported by The Independent, two-thirds of which consume via their smartphone.

I was fifteen when I first encountered pornography. A juvenile curiosity quickly became a full-blown addiction. I was convinced I was quite alone. Nights of loneliness crippled my heart and for many years I felt beyond hope. I became insecure about my body, isolated from my familyand frustrated with God. Instead of spending time with friends, I found myself standing in line for the confessional, praying I found the strength to quit.

I kept my struggle a secret from everyone. After all, a girl dealing with a porn addiction was unheard of, disgraceful and the opposite of womanly. Though by God’s grace I am healing; overcoming pornography as a woman felt impossible. Unfortunately, this narrative is not uncommon. 

Women of all ages share similar testimonies and reveal how shame dominates their lives. Many live in secrecy, believing themselves to be alone to wrestle with a “man’s issue.”  

Pornography is not an issue unique to only men but rather concerns human fallenness. 

Every person has the capacity for both great desire and pain. If you are a woman struggling with a porn habit, you’re not alone. I know your anguish, and I’m overjoyed to tell you that freedom is attainable. Though you feel battered, adulterated and undesirable, know your worth has not disintegrated. You are not unworthy of care or healing, and I invite you to reclaim your identity as beloved. Resources are often sparse for women and the question of how to overcome this cycle can be immense, but some sources that I have found helpful in my recovery, in addition to good friends and counseling, have been Fight the New Drug, Covenant Eyes, the Victory App and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Regardless of your gender, the destruction of pornography is evident. Habitual consumption rewires the reward circuitry of the brain to crave only porn. This compulsion is linked to depression and anxiety. In addition to personal side-effects, pornography companies encourage assault, normalize abuse, exploit women and contribute to the trafficking of thousands of children. Internet porn companies brand porn as a good thing, claiming it can be a tool to “become familiar with your body.” Truthfully, it ensnares its viewer and leaves them dependent.

Knowing this, what causes an individual to continue watching porn? 

Viewing pornography is addictive to the brain, which is why many women and men struggle to kick the habit. As stated in the National Library of Medicine, sexual arousal activates the same reward system nerve cells as addictive drugs. The problem with porn is that there is an endless inventory.

There is no limit to the quantity, or how graphic, a video might be. Porn is fundamentally unlike a loving relationship with another person. Pornography is a solo act that can never reciprocate. It is anonymous, accessible, affordable and addictive. 

This parasitic cycle degrades a user’s life. If you feel confused and overwhelmed, it’s not just you. This is an epoch of overwhelming stimulus, continuous pop-ups, bothersome notifications, ads broadcasting the human body as an object and the ever-increasing presence of the screen. We live in a high-stress society that often values productivity above health. Pornography addiction is often provoked and fostered by these stresses, though as a coping method only further entrenches its users. After years of healing, I am still recovering from the wounds caused by pornography.

Pornography isn’t a distant threat, but a community outbreak. It impacts our ability to form healthy relationships and to truly encounter one another. It’s important to remember that the worth of a person is not determined by their transgressions, but by their innate personhood. What was a deep issue for me is today hardly a thought, and the freedom found in God’s kindness has blessed me beyond measure. 

Though pornography runs rampant, be confident in hope. Extend your attention to the people in your life, I can guarantee at least one of them is burdened by shame. With the permission of God’s loving mercy, may we fight for one another to reclaim love. 

If you have been harmed by pornography and need help, email counseling@udallas.edu to set up a counseling appointment, and tbarba@udallas.edu to schedule a meeting with our chaplain, Fr. Thomas More.

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you Helen for this courageous article! It was wonderfully written and deeply personal. I am grateful to be able to read this and will continue this fight into my prayers, and your personal fight as well!

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