joining the dots

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Refocusing in the post-porn world

Recently, a 12 year boy narrowly avoided a custodial sentence after raping a nine year old girl. The motivation behind this attack was the viewing of internet pornography. This is an extreme example of the problem of porn; however, I would argue that porn causes a multitude of serious, society changing, problems, because the viewing of porn is not as private an activity as many like to think it is.

In my previous post I suggested that we need to think a lot more about porn. The three responses of (1) considering it to be bad, (2) trying to avoid it and (3) wanting it kept as far away from children as possible, are not enough. In this post I’ll go further in outlining one of the key issues we need to think about.

To begin with, I will briefly outline three groups of people who are negatively affected by pornography.

Firstly, those in the porn industry have chosen a career that will impact them deeply. Many of the issues were touched upon by Louis Theroux in his recent documentary, however the issues are too many and too complex to even begin to consider in this post. Suffice to say, in the word’s of the character played by Cameron Diaz in the film Vanilla Sky, “When you sleep with someone your body makes a promise whether you do or not.” This little quote, captures the idea at the heart of the Christian understanding of sex, and introduces why those that work in the porn industry are almost certainly going to find that, one day, their profession (or hobby as now increasingly the case) is going to haunt them. Hats off to organisations like XXX Church who, as well as offering support to users of porn, seek to introduce those in the porn industry to Jesus.

Secondly the users of porn (and their partners), whether they are addicts or casual users, tend to end up suffering as a result of their short term pursuit of pleasure. Again the issues are numerous and complex, but to mention just one. There’s a great big chasm between sex in the fantasy world of porn (as is often the sex in Hollywood movies), and what sex is actually like in the real world. The more someone views porn, the more the way it presents sex will become normalised, and therefore sex becomes something that is about self-centred act about getting. Giving, connectivity, love and intimacy become removed from the sexual experience. I’ll think more about the idea of the process of normalisation tomorrow.

Thirdly, and it’s this problem that is the focus of this post, is the problem that porn inflicts within society. The case of a 12 year old boy raping a nine year old girl is a tragedy, not only itself, but because it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Some would argue that the problem here isn’t porn; it’s the fact that a child was able to watch porn. The argument goes that an adult is responsible enough to be able to watch porn and not go and act out what they see. There is some truth to this. However, it also potentially misses the point. That is because although the vast majority of porn is viewed in private, the impact of it doesn’t stay within the mind of the viewer. Neither does it only have a negative impact on their relationship with their partner. The viewing of porn has a public impact.

To look at the issue from just one side, the viewing of porn (as does the increasing amount of soft porn and use of sex in advertising) objectifies women. The more porn a man views the more his mind will see women as ‘things’ that exist to satisfy his sexual desires. The fact that women have emotions and intellects and a whole array of other positive and non-physical attributes is increasingly forgotten. This consequently affects the very fabric of society because it affects the way men and women relate to each other. It doesn’t just distort sex, it doesn’t just distort intimate relationships, it begins to distort all relationships.

The story of young boy raping a young girl is tragic and must not be ignored – action needs to be taken so that occurrences like this do not become common place. However, we must not ignore that there is also a more subtle problem when it comes to the increasing commonness (even perhaps the normalisation) of porn. That is, more and more people will not only have a distorted understanding of sex, but they will have a distorted understanding of personhood and how to relate to one another.

Like it or not we live in a post-porn world. Sadly, by ‘post’ I don’t mean that we are living in the time after the death of porn. No, rather I mean ‘post’ as it we are living in a time after the effects of porn have ravished our society. We need to ensure that the worldview that is implicitly promoted by pornography does not become normalised. We must ensure that the ideas that are implicitly present in porn about personhood, sex and relationship do not become so embedded in the minds of users that they become accepted. Perhaps it’s subtlety is its greatest danger. Too often we think that porn just affects what goes on in private, it doesn’t, it affects the public also. Too often we think that porn just damages the person directly involved (and perhaps their partner), but it doesn’t, the damages impacts how that person relates to others, and therefore, it effects go wider.

It’s obvious that we need to find ways to ensure that we refocus on sex as an act of love, of connectivity, of intimacy and of giving. But we also need to ensure that we find ways to help boys (for example) learn that girls are more than their looks and their sexuality.

We need to think more about porn, because in a post-porn society we need to be proactively re-focusing the areas of life that porn has distorted.

The urgency of this, in part, is because of the sheer numbers of people who view porn. Statistics unsurprisingly vary, but one infographic stated that 70% of men between the ages of 18 and 24 view porn at least once a month, and every second almost 30,000 internet users are looking at porn.

About Phil Green

By day I work for the Evangelical Alliance, by night I lead a small charity called a little bit of HOPE.

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This entry was posted on 17/06/2012 by in porn and tagged , , , , , , .

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Copyright © 2009-2012 Phil Green
a little bit of hope
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