Like most dioceses in the United States, if not the world, my own is working to provide a response and pastoral approach to the problem of pornography at every level. Pornography is not just the stag movies, the infamous magazines and the unmentionable internet sites. It also includes a good number of the romance novels, primetime television shows and commercials. If you wanted to argue the point, I guess we would most likely be arguing over degree not content. The fact is that the hyper-sexual media has been desensitizing us for years. My wife and I were reflecting yesterday on the effect it has on women and men. In fact, she reminded me that the issue is really a cultural crisis concerning beauty, and, more precisely, the beauty of women.
Dove® in 2004, release began the Dove® Campaign for Real Beauty. The goal was to assist in re-defining how girls view the beauty of women. It wanted to help girls see that the Barbie/Paris Hilton/Super-model look was not only unrealistic but unhealthy. I think the most impressive piece the campaign generated was the Dove Evolutions commercial demonstrating how a “plain” person is transformed into a super-model for a billboard (Dove Evolution). The effort it takes to put a person in print or on television is enormous and nowhere near to how the rest of the world lives. While these visual aids are great, they do not approach the heart of the matter.
I believe that the cancer at the heart of this matter is two-fold. The first issue is related to how we define beauty. The Hellenists would tell us that beauty is the manifestation of truth and goodness revealing itself together. One might say that it is a mutual exchange of the intellect and will that culminates in the outward expression we call beauty. Let’s face it. We were built to be attracted to those things that please the eye. The problem is that the eye was supposed to be able to perceive more than just the outward appearance but truth and goodness radiating through. I am sure it is this beauty that many saw in the short and wrinkled sun-scorched skin of the little Armenian nun from Calcutta.
If the first issue deals with what we see then the second deals with a sort of blindness. Every person wants to experience the “I see you” moment. Do you remember the first time your spouse or significant other noticed you! I’m sure that it was exhilarating! Do you remember the first time you discovered that even though you were talking and standing right in from of another person, they did not see you?
We do everything we may these days in order to be seen but on our terms. And yet, we shoot ourselves in the foot through fashion and all the accoutrements that we use to draw attention to ourselves. Net result? We tend to draw attention to specific qualities and not the person. Let’s be honest. What purpose does a plunging neckline have other than to say “Hello!!! Look here!”
If we want to be seen we need the virtue of modesty. Modesty in dress is the best we can give to the other and still be seen. Now, before everyone objects, I am not suggesting burkas. I am, however, suggesting that there is a wisdom in dressing simply in order to draw attention to one’s face.
We are only now discovering the effect to the culture and the damage sustained to our understanding of beauty which has been caused by the use of pornography. What we do know is that it deadens the heart and causes us to seek after a quick fix and perfects the ability to use other people. Recovery time for those looking to shake the addiction? A minimum of 45 to 60 days. Here are some quick stats, not to end on a low note but to fire-you-up and incite a righteous anger in oder for you to make a difference in the culture:
The average teenager spends 3-4 hours per day watching television and 83% of the programming most frequently watched contains some sexual content. (Gary Rose, CEO of The Medical Institute 2005)
42% of all searches on file-to-file sharing systems at American universities involved child or adult pornography. The study also found that 73% of movie searches were for pornography, 24% percent of image searches were for child pornography. (April 1, 2003 – Des Moines Register)
According to sociologist Jill Manning, the research indicates pornography consumption is associated with the following six trends, among others:
- Increased marital distress, and risk of separation and divorce
- Decreased marital intimacy and sexual satisfaction
- Increased appetite for more graphic types of pornography and sexual activity associated with abusive, illegal or unsafe practices
- Devaluation of monogamy, marriage and child rearing
- An increasing number of people struggling with compulsive and addictive sexual behavior
According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, prolonged exposure to pornography as a teenager leads to:
- An exaggerated perception of sexual activity in society
- Diminished trust between intimate couples
- The abandonment of the hope of sexual monogamy
- Belief that promiscuity is the natural state
- Belief that abstinence and sexual inactivity are unhealthy
- Cynicism about love or the need for affection between sexual partners
- Belief that marriage is sexually confining
- Lack of attraction to family and child-raising
Dads, it is time to stand up and be counted. I can speak for all of us when I say, I don’t want this for my kids. Who is with me?