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Pornography: The Deconstruction of Human Sexuality.
by S. Michael Craven
As a result of the proliferation of pornography, there are many today that have removed pornography from any moral category altogether and simply regard this as a First Amendment issue. In fact, according to research by George Barna conducted in November 2003, thirty-eight percent of American adults surveyed stated that pornography was morally acceptable.1 This is the first supposition that we must address: is pornography morally acceptable or is it in fact immoral? And if we suppose it is immoral, on what basis do we make this distinction?
Regardless of one's religious beliefs, most rational people can agree that behavior which does harm could be categorized as immoral, evil or wrong. Therefore we can likely agree that we, as a society, have an interest in and responsibility to prohibit or restrain certain behavior in order to eliminate or minimize the harm to both individuals and society. This would be regarded as "public morality."
Robert George offers an excellent definition of public morality. "Public morality, like public health and safety, is a concern that goes beyond considerations of law and public policy. Public morals are affected, for good or ill, by the activities of private parties, and such parties have obligations with respect to them."2 Contrary to the assertion that the private exercise of behavior or in this case the private use of pornography is not the concern of anyone else - private behavior is of concern simply because it does in fact affect public morals and therefore does have public consequences. For example, even apart from laws prohibiting the creation of fire hazards, individuals have an obligation to avoid placing persons and property in jeopardy of fire.3 While this example addresses a health and safety issue it is nonetheless the same with respect to the moral obligations imposed by society upon private behaviors which produce public consequences.
It is with this in mind that we examine the issue of pornography in an effort to first understand how this "private" behavior affects public morality and our society as a justification for governmental restriction and/or prohibition of pornographic materials.
So, we begin with the simple question: Does pornography cause harm? To adequately answer this question we must first make an argument for a proper view of sex.
A view of sex that integrates the psychological, emotional, physical and life-giving or procreative potential is a comprehensive and proper view of sex. This perspective provides the only foundation for intimacy built upon mutual love and respect with a high view of humanity. Intimacy by its very nature is something deeply personal marked by the sharing of one's innermost self, an act of unrestrained exposure to our most vulnerable physical and emotional self. For this reason a relationship rooted in mutual trust and respect proves essential to a truly fulfilling sexual experience. This would explain why, statistically speaking, married couples report feeling significantly more sexually satisfied than non-married sex partners.4 This is one of the principal reasons why marriage is so integral to healthy sexuality as it represents the highest level of commitment integrating persons psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. It is within the context of such a relationship that people discover the emotional and physical security necessary to experience true sexual freedom.
There is much more that could be said regarding marriage and its intrinsic relationship to sex. However, for the purposes of our examination of pornography, this will suffice. For more on this perspective I would encourage you to read my booklet, Why is Marriage Important? - The reasonable defense of marriage.
The other view of sexuality, and frankly the more pervasive view in today's culture, is by contrast a disintegrated view separating the physical from every other aspect. Sex is reduced to mere copulation and persons are instrumentalized or viewed as objects of sexual gratification. This is a radically different view than the one described above and serves as the basis for a whole host of negative perceptions and consequences. This view is inherently dehumanizing, reducing persons to nothing more than instrumental value. Our perceptions of men and women are brought down to their most base form as "objects" whose sole purpose is to meet the "objectifier's" needs. This shift in thinking denies the intrinsic value of people made in the image of God and renders them less than human, fostering a low view of humanity. History has demonstrated that a society of people who have a view of others as less than human will necessarily become desensitized and indifferent leading to a culture in which the abuse of those so objectified increases. This might account for the unprecedented increase in violence against women and the epidemic rape rates in this country just in the period since the so-called sexual revolution began.5
In addition, this disintegrated view of sexuality is inherently selfish and narcissistic; sex is divorced from love and relationship and instead is viewed as sport producing a conquest mentality. Intimacy has no place in such a system. Sex is no longer an act of sharing and vulnerability but simply self-centered gratification. The gratification of self above all else becomes the purpose and aim of all sexual encounters. Again, this is in sharp contrast to a proper view of human sexuality which advocates and achieves the highest satisfaction through an emphasis on the other instead of self.
Peter Kreeft summed this up well in his book How to Win the Culture War when he wrote, "America does not know the difference between money and sex. It treats sex like money because it treats sex as a medium of exchange, and it treats money like sex because it expects its money to get pregnant and reproduce."6
This is the view of sexuality and human relationships that pornography promotes and idealizes to the exclusion of all others. This would explain why, in large part, pornography has such strong appeal among men because the difficult and sometimes challenging aspects of relationship are completely removed giving the viewer unabated access to sex without any prior or subsequent commitments. Couple this with the visual medium, a powerful sexual stimulant to men, and you have the makings of a potent platform for the perversion of male views pertaining to sex, relationships, and women in general.
As one researcher put it, "Pornography presents a graphic, degrading picture of human life and invites the viewer to wallow in it. It [pornography] plunges him into imaginative preoccupation with autoerotic fantasies wherein he entertains himself by violently or sexually feeding, vicariously, on the helplessness or willing vulnerability of a no-longer- human animal."7
Dartmouth Medical School recently completed one of the most compelling research studies to date on the growing mental health crisis among U.S. children and adolescents entitled, Hardwired to Connect: The New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities. The results of this research are simply astonishing and should serve as a wake up call to the escalating danger in our nation. The report, undertaken by the Commission on Children at Risk, sought to address the rising rates of mental problems and emotional distress among U.S. children and adolescents.
The report stated that, "we are witnessing high and rising rates of depression, anxiety, attention deficit, conduct disorders, thoughts of suicide, and other serious mental, emotional, and behavioral problems among U.S. children and adolescents." In answer to the question; what's causing the crisis? The report offered the following:
In large measure, what's causing this crisis of American childhood is a lack of connected-ness. We mean two kinds of connectedness - close connections to other people, and deep connections to moral and spiritual meaning. 8
Since the report goes on to say, "the scientific evidence shows that the human child is hard-wired to connect,"9 I would argue that the pornographic culture with its disintegrating view of persons and relationships is at the very least exacerbating this condition and at most central to creating them.
According to the psychiatrically trained anthropologist, David Gutmann: "Acquiring a moral identity is largely based on a profound redirection of the idealizing tendency, from being introversive and reflexive (that is, fixed on the self) to being focused on some worthy version of otherness. We can say that adulthood has been achieved when narcissism is transmuted, and thereby detoxified into strong, lasting idealizations and into healthy narcissism. ...Instead of himself, the true adult venerates ideal versions of his community, his vocation and his family."10
In other words, adults that remain self-centered and narcissistic, the central theme of the pornographic message, may actually experience a retardation of moral development. This moral retardation then inhibits healthy relationships, which in turn produces a sense of disconnect-ness from other persons as well as any transcendent sense of meaning and purpose. This then affects society in two ways. First, if those using pornography are spouses and parents then this dysfunctional relationship is modeled between mother and father and experienced directly between parent and child. Secondly, the proliferation of pornography and its messages into mainstream media is promoting this same dysfunctional view of sex and relationships as the norm for an entire generation.
If pornography does indeed promote this disintegrated view of sexuality, which all of the social science seems to confirm, then we must ask, "Does such a view actually produce any tangible negative consequences?"
Victor B. Cline, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Utah, identified as early as 1985 that exposure to pornography was in fact capable of producing profound psychological and behavioral changes. Dr. Cline conducted a clinical-case history study of approximately 225 male patients who had sexual pathology or family disruption resulting from their involvement with pornography.11 Dr. Cline reported that of those males who became immersed in pornography there appeared a near universal four factor syndrome characterizing their experience with and effect of pornography use.
This four factor syndrome identified by Cline is as follows:
The first thing that happened was an ADDICTION effect. There seemed to be a clear psychological addiction to this material. Once involved the men kept coming back for more and still more. The material provided a very powerful sexual stimulant or aphrodisiac effect followed by some kind of sexual release.
Secondly there was an ESCALATION effect. With the passage of time these men required more explicit, rougher, more deviant kinds of sexual material to get their "highs" and "sexual turn-ons." In one sense it was reminiscent of individuals afflicted with drug addictions. In time there is an increasing need for more of the stimulant to get the same effects as initially. If their spouses or girlfriends were involved with them the same thing occurred. They pushed their partners over time into doing increasingly bizarre and deviant sexual activities. In many cases this resulted in a rupture of the relationship when the spouse or girlfriend refused to go further leading to conflict, separation or divorce.
The third thing that happened was DESENSITIZATION. Materials that were originally perceived as shocking, taboo breaking, repulsive or immoral (even though still sexually arousing) in time were seen as acceptable and commonplace. These behaviors, in a sense, became legitimized. There was also, increasingly, a sense that "everybody does this" or at least many people do, which gave a kind of permission to do likewise.
The fourth thing that occurred was an increasing tendency to ACT OUT the sexual activities witnessed in the pornography viewed. This involved a great variety of acts including the sexual seduction of children, sexual aggression against women, as well as an increasing repertoire of sexual activities in the bedroom with one's current partner. Group sex and partner switching were other outcomes. Voyeurism, exhibitionism, fetishism, and necrophilia were other examples of acting out behavior.12
This is not to suggest that every person who views pornography will inevitably experience any or all of these four stages but it demonstrates the progressively degenerating potential of pornography consumption. There is something very powerful taking place within the psyche of a person with long term exposure to pornography. This is further confirmed by the research of Dr. James L. McGaugh at the University of California - Irvine in his groundbreaking work on memory.
Dr. McGaugh's work suggests that experiences at times of emotional (or sexual) arousal get locked in the brain by the chemical epinephrine and become virtually impossible to erase.13 According to Dr. McGaugh, this may help explain pornography's addictive effect. It is the combination of visual stimulation and chemical response working together to produce a powerful physiological phenomenon.
Another study suggests that "many sexual deviations occur (or are learned) through the process of masturbatory conditioning. Vivid sexual [images] memories, and fantasies are masturbated to which at the moment of climax further reinforces their linkage in the brain and leads in time to the increased probability of their being acted out in real life behavior."14
Again, this demonstrates the unique aspect of sexual stimulation and its influence on a person. There are very few other influences capable of producing such strong chemical and physiological responses than that of sexual stimulation. This in and of itself is not necessarily bad; this is the natural design of human sexuality - it is most definitely a powerful human experience, and we ignore this fact to our own peril. This is precisely why sex should never be treated casually. A casual or recreational approach to sexuality is by necessity a disintegrated view of sex.
In pornography sexual stimulation is achieved visually (excluding phone sex) and the chemical and physiological process begins, however the object of arousal is not a person in an anthropological sense but an artificial image of a person existing outside of any relationship to the viewer. The viewer is focused on his own gratification to the exclusion of all others even if he is viewing the pornography with a sexual partner. Furthermore, by integrating pornography into his sexual experience he is becoming dependent upon the stimulation of the image and not a "live" person. This provides the conditions described by Dr. Cline above in which the person enters the ESCALATION stage. In addition, this person is becoming more and more disconnected from relationship as the context for sexual gratification.
Nowhere do you find any positive effects resulting from habitual exposure to pornography, there are no documented "improvements" in a person's attitude toward the opposite sex or relationships in general for example. The tendency is NOT toward a higher view of sex, relationships and humanity but in every case, a perverted view of intimacy, a dysfunctional view of relationships, and a dehumanizing view of women.
Dr. Victor Cline accurately stated, "If there is some suspicion that the drinking water, for example, is contaminated and people are getting ill after drinking it the burden of proof shifts to proving it is safe - rather than having final conclusive proof that it is indeed toxic. I think that this situation now pretty clearly applies to the pornography area."
What has been addressed thus far is the fact that pornography most certainly and in almost every way adversely affects the person using pornography and those in relationship to them but the question remains, "how does this affect society in general?"
If a commitment to the prohibition or restriction of pornography necessitates a broader impact than that upon the individuals which I have just described, then let us examine the collateral social effects of pornography to which all of us are exposed. Let's begin by examining the unprecedented proliferation of pornography that has taken place in the last four decades and then attempt to correlate these facts with a number of related societal ills.
In 1973, Americans spent approximately $10 million on pornography. By 1999 the pornography industry took in more than $8 billion dollars.15 More recently that figure was placed at $10 billion.16 This is more than all revenues generated by Rock-n-Roll and Country music, more than Americans spent on Broadway productions, theater, ballet, jazz and classical music combined!17 In addition, it is estimated that online sex sites generate at the very least, another $1 billion in annual revenues.18 These figures, of course, do not even begin to include the "free" pornographic material presently available in abundance on the Internet not to mention the estimated 2.5 billion pornographic e- mails that are sent each day!19
However, this raises the "supply and demand" question. In other words, did the increase in availability produce an increase in demand or were pornographers simply responding to existing market demands? To answer this we have to examine several converging factors that will demonstrate that it was the supply that preceded the so-called demand for pornography.
Since the founding of America there has always been some form of legal prohibition against obscene or pornographic materials. The definition of obscenity remained, for the most part, objectively understood in a society that made clear moral distinctions pertaining to sexual conduct. However, in the wake of the sexual revolution in the 1960s these standards became less clear, more subjective, and thus no longer associated with a universal moral consensus.
Beginning in the 1960s, First Amendment protections were invoked by pornographers claiming that any restriction of obscene material was a violation of free speech. The words of philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard seem an appropriate response here, "People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought, which they seldom use." Nonetheless, necessary steps had to be taken to further define obscenity. In the Miller v. California case of 1973 the current definition and legal prohibitions against obscene material were put in place having been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that, "this much has been categorically settled by the Court, that obscene material is unprotected by the First Amendment." However, the Court then went on to provide additional qualifications in an effort to clarify the legal definition of obscenity. The Court provided the following three-prong constitutional criteria for federal and state laws and court adjudications of obscenity:
(1) Whether the average person, applying contemporary adult community standards, would find that the material, taken as a whole, appeals to a prurient interest in sex (i.e., an erotic, lascivious, abnormal, unhealthy, degrading, shameful, or morbid interest in nudity, sex, or excretion); and
(2) whether the average person, applying contemporary adult community standards, would find that the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct (i.e., ultimate sex acts, normal or perverted, actual or simulated; masturbation; excretory functions; lewd exhibition of the genitals; or sadomasochistic sexual abuse); and
(3) Whether a reasonable person would find that the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
While there remains some room for interpretation obscenity was nonetheless defined and the Supreme Court affirmed that such material was NOT protected by the First Amendment.
From then until 1992 obscenity was successfully and vigorously prosecuted by both Federal and State governments. Then in 1992 under the Clinton administration, the Justice Department led by Janet Reno virtually abandoned the prosecution of obscenity.20 According to a Vice Unit Lieutenant quoted at the time in the Los Angeles Daily News, "Adult obscenity enforcement by the federal government is practically nonexistent since the administration changed."21 This despite the findings of the 1986 Attorney General's Commission on Pornography that concluded unanimously that pornography represented a "serious public safety and health risk."
This led one porn industry insider to comment prior to the 2000 presidential election, "How likely is it...that we are going to enjoy the same benevolent neglect that the industry has enjoyed under Janet Reno?"22 Clearly this was in reaction to a possible change in administrations.
Unfortunately, this "benevolent neglect" could not have come at a worse time in history. With the advent of the Internet in the early 90s coupled with an absence of fear from prosecution, the pornography industry found and capitalized on the perfect medium of distribution - affordable, accessible, and anonymous. Every previous barrier to pornography including child pornography, bestiality, sadomasochistic and every perverse expression imaginable was suddenly eliminated.
This condition alone should raise universal concern over pornography given the often unrestricted access of children to these materials and worse, the unrestricted access of pornographers to children. In fact, in June 2000, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children released "Online Victimization: A Report on the Nation's Youth." The survey revealed that 25% of the 5001 surveyed had received "unwanted exposure to pictorial images of naked people or people having sex." The study says this represents an estimated 5.4 to 6.4 million children.23
Every person whether they be liberal or conservative, religious or atheistic is compelled by conscience to protect the most innocent among us: children. Clearly this is a crisis not only affecting children but in fact targeting children in many cases.
It has long been known that Internet pornographers have utilized deceptive and unscrupulous marketing methodologies targeting children. In the past, pornographers have incorporated "key words" and "meta-tags" into their websites such as "Nintendo", "Disney", and "doll" so that children entering these words into Internet search engines might inadvertently click on a link in the search results leading them to a porn site.
What possible interest could pornographers have in marketing their "products" to an audience with little or no means to generate revenue except to cultivate future consumers? Very clearly pornographers understand the addictive nature of their product in much the same way that the tobacco companies do. We are outraged and take legislative steps to stop the tobacco industry from targeting children [and in many cases adults also] and yet any attempts to protect children from exposure to pornography are met with resistance for fear of infringing upon some perceived constitutional right of pornographers to do as they please regardless of harm.
Consequently, more and more children are being exposed to pornography with the inculcation of its disintegrated view of sexuality and relationships occurring at an earlier and more vulnerable age. Dr. Mark Laaser, a nationally known psychologist specializing in sexual addiction, testified before a joint Congressional Committee in May 2000 that the average age of initial exposure to pornography for boys is now age 5.24 Prior to the advent of the Internet this figure was placed at around 15-16 for males and this was mostly Playboy type publications.
Given the current trends it is safe to say that if steps are not taken to stem the tide of pornographic materials we will likely see a generation of young men incapable of normal, healthy sexuality and relationships; creating an era of unprecedented family dissolution, sexual dysfunction, and abuse.
Pornography has been in existence since the earliest civilizations however its presence and effects remained minimal up until this point. The convergence of these two factors: prosecutorial neglect along with a ubiquitous, and cheap distribution channel - provided the unabated flow of pornographic material into society producing an ever increasing demand and with it, a host of devastating societal consequences.
As we have already seen, pornography very clearly affects individuals and those in relationship to them, we have addressed the question of supply versus demand, the legalities surrounding pornography, and of course the risk to children, so now let us return to the question of pornography's broader societal impact.
As we have learned, pornographic images are capable of provoking powerful psychological and physiological responses in people that engender a specific view of sexuality that I have termed, disintegrated. This disintegrated view then alters how one views relationships, themselves, and in particular the opposite sex. Furthermore, we have seen how this altered view never edifies or builds up but rather dehumanizes persons and breaks down relationships.
Therefore, it is logical to conclude that such persons so affected will project those attitudes on others in sometimes destructive or anti-social behaviors. The research in this area appears to overwhelmingly confirm this. For example, the Los Angeles Police Department's Sexually Exploited Child Unit examined the relationship between extra familial (outside the family) child sexual abuse and pornography in their cases over a ten year period from 1980-1989. Pornography was directly involved in 62% of the cases and actually recovered in 55% of the total cases. The study's author concluded: "Clearly, pornography, whether it be adult or child pornography, is an insidious tool in the hands of the pedophilic population ... The study merely confirms what detectives have long known: that pornography is a strong factor in the sexual victimization of children."25
In another study of adult sex offenders the researchers found that 86 percent of convicted rapists said they were regular users of pornography, with 57 percent admitting direct imitation of pornographic scenes they enjoyed in the commission of their rapes.26
In 1979 a U. S. Department of Justice study in Phoenix, Arizona, found that neighborhoods with a pornography business experienced 40 percent more property crime and 500 percent more sexual offenses than similar neighborhoods without a pornography outlet.27 Michigan state police detective Darrell Pope found that of the 38,000 sexual assault cases in Michigan (1956-1979), in 41 percent of the cases pornographic material was viewed just prior to or during the crime. This agrees with research done by psychotherapist David Scott who found that "half the rapists studied used pornography to arouse themselves immediately prior to seeking out a victim."28
In his introduction to a reprint of the Final Report of the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, columnist Michael McManus noted that:
The FBI interviewed two dozen sex murderers in prison who had killed multiple numbers of times. Some eighty-one percent said their biggest sexual interest was in reading pornography. They acted out sex fantasies on real people. For example, Arthur Gary Bishop convicted of sexually abusing and killing five young boys said, "If pornographic material would have been unavailable to me in my early states, it is most probable that my sexual activities would not have escalated to the degree they did." He said pornography's impact on him was "devastating. . . . I am a homosexual pedophile convicted of murder, and pornography was a determining factor in my downfall."29
Proponents of pornography will argue that these are extreme cases involving a number of other factors which are ignored such as socio-economic, early family conditions, mental illness, etc. They argue that attempts to isolate pornography as a contributing cause of so many sex-related incidents is wishful thinking on the part of pornography opponents.
Some proponents argue that pornography actually performs a positive function in society by acting like a "safety-valve" for potential sexual offenders. Aristotle put forth a similar theory with regard to violence stating that "the witnessing of violence will calm the spectator." Of course, today there is an abundance of research evidence refuting such theoretical conjecture.30
Ironically, this perspective is based almost exclusively on the work of Berl Kutchinsky, a criminologist at the University of Copenhagen. His famous study on pornography found that when the Danish government lifted restrictions on pornography, the number of sex crimes decreased.31 His theory was that the availability of pornography siphons off dangerous sexual impulses. But when the data for his "safety valve" theory was further evaluated, many of his research flaws began to show.32
For example, Kutchinsky failed to distinguish between different kinds of sex crimes (e.g., rape, indecent exposure, etc.) and instead merely lumped them together. This effectively masked an increase in rape statistics. He also failed to take into account that increased tolerance for certain crimes (e.g., public nudity, sex with a minor) may have contributed to a drop in the reported crimes.33
Proponents of pornography will argue that there are no empirical studies demonstrating a direct cause and effect, and, of course, they are correct; however, scientifically proving cause and effect in pornography is virtually impossible because ethically researchers cannot conduct the necessary research. Dolf Zillman, a leading researcher in this field, points out, "Men cannot be placed at risk of developing sexually violent inclinations by extensive exposure to violent or nonviolent pornography, and women cannot be placed at risk of becoming victims of such inclinations."34 But, this does not mean that the current body of research offering a correlation between pornography and the aforementioned effects can be completely dismissed either. In fact, a 1994 review of 81 original peer- reviewed research studies concluded that "the empirical research on the effects of aggressive pornography shows, with fairly impressive consistency, that exposure to these materials has a negative effect on attitudes toward women and the perceived likelihood to rape."35
In the absence of "empirical" scientific evidence we are forced to rely upon logic and reason, along with a plethora of anecdotal evidence which clearly demonstrates that pornography does indeed produce changes in attitudes and values. With this is mind we must conclude that pornography is, in essence, sex education of the worst possible kind, capable of reorienting our natural sexuality into unnatural and unhealthy behaviors both personally and socially.
Again, "If there is some suspicion that the drinking water is contaminated and people are getting sick after drinking it the burden of proof shifts to proving it is safe - rather than having final conclusive proof that it is indeed toxic." Clearly people are getting "sick" and only the person who refuses to recognize the obvious relationship of pornography to its effects insists that the "water is safe."
As Christians we are bound by the authority of scripture but we also understand that truth, if it is true, will correspond to reality and experience. Such is the basis of my arguments thus far - pornography fails this test at every point despite what its proponents may argue. Pornography offers a false and disintegrating view of sexuality and relationships which in turn alters attitudes and values which can then lead to destructive, anti-social, and sometimes criminal behavior.
But what does the Bible say about pornography? What perspective can we deduce from the study of scripture?
First we must recall that God created men and women in His image. (Gen. 1:27) God also made us sexual beings - male & female. However, as a result of the fall and sin in the world (Rom. 3:23), sex has been corrupted from its original intent and misused (Rom. 1:24-25).
Pornography erodes the dignity of men and women created in the image of God. (This is the disintegrating view) Pornography distorts God's design for sex by promoting sex apart from the marriage covenant (1 Cor. 7:2-3). Moreover, Scripture specifically condemns behaviors that result from pornography such as sexual exposure (Gen. 9:21- 23), adultery (Lev. 18:20), bestiality (Lev. 18:23), homosexuality (Lev. 18:22 and 20:13), incest (Lev. 18:6-18), and prostitution (Deut. 23:17-18).
A biblical view of human sexuality must recognize that sexual intercourse is exclusively reserved for marriage for the following purposes. First, it establishes the one-flesh union (Gen. 2:24-25; Matt. 19:4-6). Secondly, it provides for sexual intimacy within the marriage bond. The use of the word "know" indicates a profound meaning of sexual intercourse (Gen. 4:1). Thirdly, sexual intercourse is for the mutual pleasure of husband and wife (Prov. 5:18-19). Fourth, sexual intercourse is for procreation (Gen. 1:28).
The Bible also warns against the misuse of sex. Premarital and extramarital sex is condemned (1 Cor. 6:13-18; 1 Thess. 4:3). Even thoughts of sexual immorality (often fed by pornographic material) are condemned (Matt. 5:27-28).
Moreover, Christians must realize that pornography can have significant harmful effects on the user. These include: a comparison mentality, a performance-based sexuality, a feeling that only forbidden things are sexually satisfying, increased guilt, decreased self concept, and obsessional thinking.
Christians, therefore, must do two things. First, they must work to keep themselves pure by fleeing immorality (1 Cor. 6:18) and thinking on those things which are pure (Phil. 4:8). As a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Prov. 23:7). Christians must make no provision for the flesh (Rom. 13:14). Pornography will fuel the sexual desire in abnormal ways and can eventually lead to even more debase perversion. We, therefore, must "abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul" (1 Peter 2:11). 36
In conclusion, society has a moral obligation to prevent the emission of toxic pollutants that can cause harm to or kill the body. In much the same way that we take steps to protect the body from exposure to such toxins we must also take steps to protect the soul from the toxic moral effects of pornography and its messages. A similar conclusion was reached in the aforementioned Dartmouth Study stating that, "For what may be the first time, a diverse group of scientists and other experts on children's health is publicly recommending that our society pay considerably more attention to young people's moral, spiritual, and religious needs."37
America is under siege from pornography and its distorted view of sex, women and relationships. Morality is mocked and once immoral and deviant sexual behavior is now prime time entertainment. As revealed in the Dartmouth study even secular science is beginning to recognize the inevitable results of moral, spiritual and religious indifference on society. The fact is no society in history has ever successfully built its knowledge of morality on any basis other than religion.38 As America fights to exclude religion from the public square (a condition never intended by the Founding Fathers) America will only deepen this moral and cultural crisis - pornography and its messages will only spread bringing with it generations of broken people, dysfunctional relationships, and widespread social breakdown. Therefore, it is imperative for the sake of the Gospel and our nation that Christians return to a position of intellectual competence and cultural relevance in order to provide desperately needed moral leadership and education on the true nature of human sexuality and relationships.
In addition, families can take steps to protect themselves from the influence and harm of pornography. The National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families offers a number of resources to assist you in everything from selecting Internet filtering software and tips and talking points for use with your children to materials helping those struggling with pornography addictions and their families.
Visit our website: www.NationalCoalition.org for more information on these and other materials or call our Victim Assistance HelpLine at 1-800-583-2964 to speak with one of our trained counselors.
? National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families, 2004 800 Compton Road, Suite 9224 Cincinnati, OH 45231 513.521.6227 www.nationalcoalition.org
S. Michael Craven is the Vice President for Religious & Cultural Affairs at the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families.
Michael is considered a leading "cultural apologist" offering a rational biblical perspective in response to the various cultural forces that seek to reshape morality and ethics in America. Michael is the author of numerous publications and articles, and has been a featured speaker at places like the University of California at Berkeley, numerous churches and seminaries, appeared on Fox News, CNN, NBC, and many other national television and radio programs.
Michael is regarded by many as a rare voice of reason representing the Christian perspective in matters of moral and social conflict in an uncompromising but relevant and persuasive fashion.
1 Morality Continues to Decay, November 3, 2003, The Barna Group, Ltd.
2 Robert P. George, The Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion, and Morality in Crisis (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books) p. 91
3 Ibid. p. 91
4 According to a study reported in The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier and Better Off Financially By Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher [Hardcover - 256 pages (October 3, 2000) Doubleday: 50 percent of married men and 42 percent of married women find sex physically and emotionally satisfying while only 39 percent of cohabiting men and 39 percent of cohabiting women do.
5 Violence against women has increased 526% since 1960 and America has the highest reported rape rates in the world, more than 13 times that of Great Britain and 20 times that of Japan according to: U.S. Dept. of Justice, FBI Crime Report, 1993, FBI Uniform Crime Report, National Crime Survey, U.S. Dept. of Justice, 1990
6 Peter Kreeft, How to Win the Culture War: A Christian Battle Plan for a Society in Crisis (2002) InterVarsity Press, p. 15
7 Harold M. Voth, M.D., Chief of Staff, VA Medical Center, Topeka, KS, The Psychological and Social Effects of Pornography
8 Hardwired to Connect: The New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities, A Report to the Nation from the Commission on Children at Risk, YMCA, Dartmouth Medical School, Institute for American Values, 2003
9 Ibid. p. 6
10 A Report from the Commission on Children at Risk, Hardwired to Connect: The New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities, Dartmouth Medical School, 2003, p. 26-27
11 Victor B. Cline, Ph.D., Presentation to National Pornography Commission, Houston, Texas, September 11, 1985 entitled, The Effects of Pornography on Human Behavior: Data and Observations.
12 Ibid. These four stages are taken directly from Cline's report.
13 J.L. McGaugh, Preserving the Presence of the Past: Hormonal Influences on Memory Storage, American Psychologist, 38:2, February 1983.
14 R. McGuire, et al. Sexual Deviations as Conditioned Behavior: A Hypothesis, Behavior Research Therapy, 2:185, 1965
15 Porn.Com, U.S. News & World Reports, March 2000
16 Overdosing on Porn, Rebecca Hagelin. www.worldandi.com, March, 2004.
17 Porn.Com, U.S. News & World Reports, March 2000
18 Wall Street Meets Pornography. New York Times, 23 October, 2000
19 Pornography Statistics 2003, Family Safe Media. www.familysafemedia.com, 2003.
20 It should be noted that this does not include prosecutions for Child Pornography since Child Porn is covered under a different section of the federal obscenity statutes.
21 Melissa Seckora, Porno for Webphiles: Stop'em Janet Reno!, NR Comment, July 21, 2000
22 The Adult Entertainment Monthly, a publication of Adult Video News, Are you ready?, March 2000
23 Frank York & Jan LaRue, Protecting Your Child in an X-Rated World, 2002, A Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers, p. 14
24 Ibid., p. 12
25 Ralph W. Bennett, The Relationship Between Pornography and Extrafamilial Child Sexual Abuse, The Police Chief, February 1991
26 W. Marshall, Use of Sexually Explicit Stimuli by Rapists, Child Molesters and Non-Offenders, 25 Journal of Sex Research p. 267, 1988
27 U.S. Department of Justice, Child Pornography, Obscenity and Organized Crime, February 1988
28 David Alexander Scott, How Pornography Changes Attitudes, in Pornography: The Human Tragedy, ed. Tom Minnery (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers).
29 Final Report of the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, ed. Michael McManus (Nashville, Tenn.: Rutledge Hill Press, 1986) xvii.
30 "Several correlations have been observed in studies of violent media content and children: exposure to such content is correlated with desensitization, increases in hostility, imitation and disinhibition, and fear and anxiety responses" National Research Council, Youth, Pornography, and the Internet, National Academy Press, 2002, p. 149
31 Berl Kutchinsky, The Effect of Easy Availability of Pornography on the Incidence of Sex Crimes: The Danish Experience, Journal of Social Issues, 29 (1973): 163-81.
32 Kerby Anderson, The Pornography Plague, 1997, Probe Ministries website.
34 Dolf Zillman, Pornography Research and Public Policy, in Dolf Zillman and Jennings Bryant, eds., Pornography: Research Advances and Policy Considerations (New York: Academic Press, 1989), 387-88.
35 J.S. Lyons, R.L. Anderson, and D. Larsen, A Systematic Review of the Effects of Aggressive and Nonaggresive Pornography, in Zillman, Bryant & Huston (Ed.), Media, Children & the Family: Social Scientific, Psychodynamic, and Clinical Perspectives, Hillsdale, N.J., J. Erlbaum Associates, p. 305
36 This Biblical perspective on pornography was adapted from The Pornography Plague, 1997 by Kerby Anderson, Probe Ministries.
37 Ibid. p. 7 38 Peter Kreeft, How to Win the Culture War
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