Cesspools in the living room
Type in “pornography” on Google, and you will learn that there are at least 48,600,000 entries under that head. Under “XXX” there were a mind-boggling 1,250,000,000 entries as of Aug. 27. Veritable cesspools lie under our homes, ready to bubble out of our computers at the click of a mouse.
I was put onto this by a forthcoming article by Sr. Ann-Marie Bruchalski and Fr. James McTavish of the Verbum Dei community. However, though their fine article has not yet appeared, some of its statistics are already out of date: they speak of 20 million entries under the heading “pornography,” a number which has more than doubled since they wrote, and 887 million under “XXX.” The reader may be interested in seeing how much more the numbers have ballooned by today.
The empirical anchor of the Bruchalski-McTavish paper is a study conducted by the Witherspoon Institute and available on the Internet as “The Social Costs of Pornography: A Statement of Findings and Recommendations” by Mary Eberstadt and Mary Ann Layden. The 54 scholars who signed on to the conclusions, people of different political and religious orientations and academic specializations, agree that Internet pornography poses a new and very real threat to men, women and children, to family life, to users and non-users. We draw on some of their conclusions
In terms of supply and demand, measures other than a simple Google search are available. A 2005 book by Time magazine correspondent Pamela Paul, noted that Americans rented more than 800 million pornographic movies and DVDs annually, and that the 11,000 porn films shot each year dwarfed Hollywood’s output of 400 films. Two-thirds of American men aged 18-34 visited a pornographic site on the Internet at least once a month.
Slightly different data from the 2008 Internet Pornography Statistics indicate that each day there were about 116,000 Internet searches for child pornography, and that in 2005 in the United States, 13,585 hard-core pornographic films and DVDs were released. Among college and university students, 69 percent of men and 10 percent of women reported viewing porn more than once a month.
Obviously, the production and distribution of porn is big business, but I was amazed to realize how big it is. According to Pamela Paul, more money, about $4 billion annually, is spent in the United States on video pornography than on football, baseball and basketball
Harmless adult entertainment? Hardly. Evidence is accumulating that pornography viewing is addictive, that it is by no means limited to adults, and that it is harmful to all concerned.
On the basis of more than 100 interviews with viewers of pornography, Pamela Paul reports that countless men “have described to me how, while using pornography, they have lost the ability to relate to or be close to women. They have trouble being turned on by ‘real’ women, and their sex lives with their girlfriends or wives collapse. These are men who seem like regular guys, but who spend hours each week with porn—usually online. And many of them admit they have trouble cutting down their use. They also find themselves seeking out harder and harder pornography.”
The Eberstadt and Layden study adds that the “combination of hyper-realistic imagery, moving pictures, and rapid rebombardment of images appears to mean also that chronic consumers both become visually desensitized, and find themselves viewing depictions they themselves would once have regarded as taboo or off-limits.” The same study notes a “slippery slope” whereby habitual users slip from pornography featuring adults to child pornography.
Although the majority of pornography users are men, their wives are often victims. Modern cultural expectations lead women to expect shared power, mutual respect, honesty and openness, love going far beyond sex, in the marriage relationship; on the other hand pornography emphasizes sex-and-violence themes, dominance, deception, detachment, promiscuity. Finding out about one’s husband’s addiction to pornography can be a devastating experience for wives who feel betrayed in their expectations.
Hence it is not surprising that more than half of divorce cases handled by America’s top matrimonial lawyers in the year 2002 involved one party’s obsession with Internet pornography. Neither is it surprising that married individuals who reported having seen an X-rated movie in the past year were 25.6 percent more likely to be divorced and 65.1 percent more likely to report having had an extra-marital affair than those who did not report seeing such films.
The impact on children of viewing pornographic material is probably even more devastating than its impact on adults, but research in this delicate area is understandably scarce. Nevertheless, what is available indicates that boys who have been exposed to such material are more aggressive than those who do not, more likely to have engaged in sexual harassment or to have forced others to have sex. Among 30 juvenile sex offenders, 29 had been exposed to it as children, beginning at about seven-and-a-half years of age. Girls as well as boys come to see abusive sexual relations as normal.
More disturbingly perhaps, parents in these studies were typically unaware that their children had been viewing pornography. The latter had been introduced to it by siblings or friends, or even by adults in the process of preparing these children for acts of lasciviousness or for the production of sex-films to be displayed on the international market.
The cesspools are there. You can smell them in your living room.
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