Note: This is part two of a five part series on pornography

Part I: My porn addiction
Part II: Porn, devil or an angel?
Part III: Three ways to kick porn out of your life
Part IV: The fight for sexual sanity in a world awash in porn
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art V: The pointlessness of pornography

November 27, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - But there is no use going any further until we can all agree that porn really is a devil.

Strange as it may seem, many of our modern sex educators believe that porn use is simply a natural part of the healthy development of an adolescent sexuality, and that it is only harmful in cases where the habit interferes with the user’s capacity to perform his or her daily duties. In this view porn is, at worst, a mischievous but usually “harmless” sprite, or, at best, an angel.

I once read an article about pornography under which hundreds of people had posted comments. One of these, a young man, confessed that he had several hundred gigabytes of lesbian pornography on his computer, but assured his readers that his attitude towards women had not changed, and that in real life he always treated them with respect. His comment was only the most extreme of many to the same effect: arguing that porn use is a purely private affair, and kept within its proper boundaries, is no more or less harmful than having a gin and tonic every now and again.

This argument has about it an aura of reasonableness, if you accept its underlying premise: namely that the purpose of life is to get as much pleasure as you can while causing the least amount of harm to others. But it is exposed as absolute rubbish the moment you reject this premise and accept the competing worldview: namely, that the purpose of life is to learn how to love. Let me explain.

There are some critics of pornography who will immediately cite cases of serial killers and rapists who have been porn addicts. They will accompany their sordid list with dire warnings that it is only a matter of time before porn users begin to “act out” what they have seen. It’s not an altogether wrong-headed approach. After all, it makes a certain amount of sense that the most inhuman criminals would be immersed head-deep in something that essentially dehumanizes others. And certainly, there is some solid evidence that in some cases the danger of “acting out” is real: which is likely why we are seeing, for instance, an increase in reports of young children performing sex acts on one another, growing complaints from women that their boyfriends or husbands are demanding that they do things in the bedroom which they find naturally repellant, and the widespread practice of “sexting” among young teens. 

But both of these arguments have the same basic weakness: that they put the emphasis on fringe actions that porn may lead some people to commit. And in response most porn users will respond, “Well, I have no desire to violate and kill strange women,” and will place themselves outside the scope of argument. The same weakness applies, to a lesser extent, to the argument that porn use leads to addiction, since there are men and women who only view porn occasionally, and who do not find that the weekend hours they give to it interfere with their ability to function as responsible members of society.

To really show why porn is so harmful we have to go deeper than that, to the root of the problem, which is simply this: that porn is always and everywhere, in every single case, without exception, a profound corruption of the true meaning and beauty of sex, and that every single minute spent looking at it debases its user, no matter how “in control” their porn habit may seem to be. The problem is not that porn may cause some users to perform perverse or violent actions (though in some cases that may be a problem), but that it is in itself a perverse and violent form of entertainment.*

In the first place, we cannot ignore everything we know about what goes into the making of a lot of porn - the abuse, the coercion, the drugs, the disease, and the violence. Donny Pauling, a former highly successful Playboy pornographer who quit the business after a conversion, once told me, when I asked if he still struggled with porn addiction, “There’s nothing appealing about a girl curled up in a corner sucking her thumb because her mind is so blown by what she’s been doing.” In other words, when Pauling sees porn, he doesn’t see the white-washed fantasy, he sees the rotten framework on which the fantasy is supported: the broken lives, the broken dreams, the broken bodies.

But even this argument misses the mark. Porn is not perverse and violent simply because the industry is exploitative. The exploitation is merely the logical outcome of the fact that porn takes that which is intended to unite two human beings in a beautiful, intimate, self-giving bond of love, and transforms it into a selfish transaction in which one person uses the other’s body for pleasure, without any interest in encountering the other as an actual person or even considering the question of his or her welfare. Sex, used properly, brings a person out of himself. Porn turns him inwards. Sex unites. Porn drives apart.

The problem with this argument is that it is somewhat abstract; and so I will say this: that those who argue that their porn habit has not affected their lives or the way they view the world in any negative way have never really experienced what sex or the world can really be. The only reason they think that porn has not affected them is because they cannot remember what it was like not to have an imagination stuffed to overflowing with porn. In other words, they have been enslaved so long, that they have forgotten what it is like to be free.

In my own case, while I never believed pornography was anything but an unwanted millstone about my neck, my abhorrence for it grew exponentially after my marriage. Until then what I had learned about theoretically from books, the beautiful truth about the real meaning of sex, had been at war with what I had learned about sex from porn. But in marriage I really learned, for the first time, that there is a vast world of difference between the lonely, selfish, and often-violent world of porn, and the world in which a man and a woman come together as an expression of their love and commitment for one another; and in which – how has basic biological fact become so counterintuitive? – their union has the mind-blowing capacity to bring a totally new human being into existence.

Porn, for all of its carefully constructed storylines designed to satisfy every fantasy and fetish, for all of its mood lighting and music and costumes and elaborate camera angles, for all of its representations of a sanitized casual sex free from any fears of disease or pregnancy, and for all of its airbrushed and “enhanced” actors and actresses, will never be one thousandth as beautiful as the real thing. Because the lie, no matter how dolled up, is never as beautiful and convincing as the truth. 

In the end, of course, the doomsaying prophets of porn are proved correct. A lie, even if not spoken aloud, will always do harm, even if it is only to the person who is thinking the lie. No, not every porn user will become a rapist. Not every porn user will completely destroy their lives or their marriages through addiction. Not every porn user will follow the temptation to seek out the most extreme high, ending up in the darker and seedier districts of the world of porn.

But every porn user will inevitably, to one degree or another, lose his or her capacity to love.

This is why, I think, we now have a world in which young men and women are increasingly incapable of engaging in long-term, committed relationships. In which the “one-night stand” is the norm. In which the divorce rate is sky high, with a majority of divorce cases citing porn use as a contributing factor. In which more and more men and women are not bothering to get married in the first place, instead moving about from live-in partner to live-in partner – seeking, in vain, for the one who can give them everything, without asking for anything in return. In which more and more men find that they derive no satisfaction from real women, instead preferring to cavort with their favorite porn stars, who do not demand even their own orgasm, let alone love, in return. In which many women have ceased to believe even in the possibility of “true love,” because all they have ever known are sexual advances at best “dressed up” as love.

This list only scratches the surface, for, though it may sound extreme, porn poses a threat to the very structures of a functioning civilization. Porn essentially habituates people to take, without any thought of giving. It habituates people to look upon others as mere vehicles for pleasure, and not as fellow, equal human beings to love. It is essentially an axe laid to the very root of community. And with whole cities of people now hooked on porn, it is hard to overstate the profound ways porn is transforming the hearts of our citizens, and ultimately, our civilization. 

Tomorrow: Part III of this five-part series - Three Ways to Beat a Porn Addiction

* Supporters of pornography will understandably disagree with my absolute condemnation of all pornography. While I stand by this position, let me anticipate an objection and clarify that I do believe there are vast differences between various forms of pornography. Some are worse and some are better. There are some who will agree that the more “hardcore” forms of pornography are damaging, but argue that forms of “erotica” that emphasize romance and relationship are not only not damaging, but can even be healthy for a relationship. While I agree that such pornography may be less harmful than porn depicting violence or other forms of exploitation or “extreme” sex acts, it seems obvious to me that in the long run it is still profoundly damaging, for the reasons stated above. The notion that viewing and fantasizing over other people having sex can legitimately help one grow closer to one’s spouse or partner, or help one grow as a person, is simply a contradiction in terms.