Whether we care to admit it or not, pornography has become a huge part of western society. Here are just a few statistics provided by familysafemedia.com:
- Every second – 28,258 internet users are viewing pornography.
- In 2006, 23% of all internet users who searched the word ‘porn’ were under 18.
- 12% of all internet websites are pornographic.
- The average age of a person’s first exposure to internet pornography is 11.
- 1 in 3 visitors to adult websites are female – this affects people from both genders.
- And, perhaps most shockingly, 80% of 15-17 year olds have multiple hard-core exposures to pornography.
The question we must therefore ask ourselves is whether these huge numbers are an issue with our culture or should be embraced and celebrated throughout the world.
From a governmental perspective, the first thing to consider has to be “does this phenomenon cause anyone harm?” And, on the surface, it seems to be fairly harmless; the majority of internet pornography features consenting adults, and people high up in the industry are well paid for their performances – there’s a lot of money in the business, as it’s a product in high demand. So, from a shallow perspective, it looks as though this is just a trade like any other and this goes much of the way to understanding why most governments have legalised consumption for ‘responsible adults’ with Ukraine being among the few states in Europe to prohibit its possession.
Beyond the surface, however, I believe it is clear to see that there are a number of harmful factors that are not being well controlled in our society. For example, it is often overlooked that viewing pornography is actually a huge waste of time, preventing people from doing something useful and productive in its place. 20% of men and 13% of women admit to having accessed pornography in the workplace, and that’s just those that weren’t too proud to share. If someone lacks that much self-control then pornography must, surely, be having seriously detrimental effects on their lives and their personal relationships – not to mention the inefficiency that they must be contributing to their place of work. Pornography cannot be argued to be a productive use of time by any means.
And, unfortunately, the habit of viewing indecent images isn’t something that people fall into when they are responsible enough to know the risks. With people experiencing pornography for the fist time at the average age of eleven, today’s culture exposes children to this fantasy world before they have the chance to encounter any real-life sexual experiences. Scarily, we are allowing the world of pornography to become children’s sex education and when you look at it like that it’s no surprise that teenage pregnancy is at such a high rate. Whether parents realise it or not, most teenagers are being exposed to pornography, inadvertently or otherwise, and it can change the way they think.
Then there’s the impact that pornography addiction has on relationships. One of the characteristic features of marriage is the commitment to an exclusive sexual relationship. I may be wrong, but I would say that pornography has never successfully championed this particular concept. I have heard people, quite genuinely, say “it’s okay to look, as long as you don’t touch” with regard to other people of the opposite gender. Personally, I think this is wrong (this is quite clearly explained from a Christian perspective in Matthew 5:28.) Marriage is meant to be a lifelong commitment to one person, in all respects. If you have any intention – or any indication you might fall short of this with your body, or your mind, then your marriage should probably be a civil partnership because your marriage vows mean nothing. Pornography instantly taints these vows and is undermining marriages throughout the country.
There is also a blatant amount of fantasy exploited in the industry. Pornography is almost ergonomically designed to give the greatest excitement to the individual watching it, ignoring the biological and spiritual purpose for sexual intercourse; to have, and to nurture kids into adulthood with the partner you conceived with – whichever way you look at it, sex is naturally a bigger commitment than pornography represents. This fantasy land that pornography creates can lead people into far more elaborate and perverse fantasies than they would have ever have concocted on their own, putting pressure on relationships and marriages to satisfy these desires. Alternatively, these fantasies may be such an embarrassment to their possessor that they feel unable to speak to any sexual partner about them or seek any psychological help. In failing to do so, this leaves them trapped in the world of pornography for life, never having a truly honest sexual encounter and never feeling satisfied. In rare cases, this frustration may even lead to the commitment of sex offences.
Reliable evidence that viewing pornography increases likelihood of committing sex crimes is difficult to obtain but it has long been thought that a strong link can be made between the two. The most convincing and worrying evidence I’ve seen is an interview with Ted Bundy, an infamous American serial rapist, active in the 1970s. What interested me about this case is that Bundy accepts full responsibility for the crimes he committed in the interview, and makes it clear that he isn’t trying to shift the blame, but seems to want to warn the world of the dangerous influence pornography can have on someone’s mental health. The man was clearly not proud of his crimes – he, wrongly, acted out on perverse desires – and he just wanted to prevent them from happening again. I understand that many people find it hard to take this interview seriously in light of Bundy’s conviction, but here’s some of what he had to say:
“…Part of the tragedy of this whole situation [is that I was never physically, sexually or emotionally abused as a child] I grew up in a wonderful home with two dedicated and loving parents, as one of 5 brothers and sisters. We, as children, were the focus of my parent’s lives. We regularly attended church. My parents did not drink or smoke or gamble. There was no physical abuse or fighting in the home. I’m not saying it was “Leave it to Beaver”, but it was a fine, solid Christian home. I hope no one will try to take the easy way out of this and accuse my family of contributing to this. I know, and I’m trying to tell you as honestly as I know how, what happened.
As a young boy of 12 or 13, I encountered, outside the home, in the local grocery and drug stores, softcore pornography. Young boys explore the sideways and byways of their neighbourhoods, and in our neighbourhood, people would dump the garbage. From time to time, we would come across books of a harder nature – more graphic. This also included detective magazines, etc. and I want to emphasise this. The most damaging kind of pornography – and I’m talking from hard, real, personal experience – is that that involves violence and sexual violence. The wedding of those two forces – as I know only too well – brings about behaviour that is too terrible to describe…
…In the beginning, it fuels this kind of thought process. Then, at a certain time, it is instrumental in crystallizing it, making it into something that is almost a separate entity inside…
…I knew it was wrong to think about it, and certainly, to do it was wrong. I was on the edge, and the last vestiges of restraint were being tested constantly, and assailed through the kind of fantasy life that was fuelled, largely, by pornography…
…It’s a very difficult thing to describe – the sensation of reaching that point where I knew I couldn’t control it any more. The barriers I had learned as a child were not enough to hold me back from seeking out and harming somebody…”
Whilst this is, by no means, conclusive proof that pornography is a significant contributing factor in the motives for sexually motivated crime, it is worrying to me that a serial rapist in the 1970s felt that this was an important message to deliver to the world when these days the average age for first viewing pornography is eleven. The availability of pornography has increased dramatically since then and we can never really get to grips with the impact this has had on our communities, as so much domestic abuse is never reported or discovered. Whether pornography contributes to these crimes or not, it is clear to me that viewing it is a waste of time and undermines relationships and marriages. The problem is poorly controlled, as young children are clearly accessing this material prematurely and this is something that very little is being done about, allowing pornography to pervert the natural desire in sex and mould it to whatever is being modelled.
If we think that this is unacceptable, then we should be doing more to stop it from happening.