If we were to hear of a drug, one that would ruin our families and our communities, what would we do? Would we encourage our children to avoid it? Certainly. Would we make sure it never enters our homes? Of course. Suppose though that this drug could enter your home so covertly that you wouldn’t even realize its presence. That drug is here and it’s called the “new cocaine” by the Daily Mail. This “cocaine” isn’t injected or snorted through the nose, it’s viewed; this drug is pornography and it’s everywhere at every time.
Numerous men find themselves caught up in this addiction. To a Christian magazine, one woman writes her story of her relationship with her husband and the effects pornography had on her and their family.
“When I discovered that my beloved eternal companion had become ensnared by pornography, I experienced the intense pain a wife in such a situation suffers. It is a deep sense of soul sickness, betrayal, and spiritual agony. It feels like the very roots of a precious eternal marriage have been yanked out of the safety and protection of gospel ground and, exposed to all the elements, begin to wilt and die. There is a sense of panic. The safety and peace of the marriage relationship evaporate. Trust, respect, honor, love…—all are deeply injured.
“For some months I had known something was not right. My husband and I had always been close, and our marriage had been very happy. But now there was an emotional distance, a barrier of some kind between us….
“Within only a few weeks, my husband, sick with the flu, went to bed, leaving his computer on. As I started to shut it down, I suddenly felt I should check it. There was the pornography.
“In the midst of the flood of feelings that nearly overwhelmed me, I knew my discovery was an answer to my prayers. I don’t know how long I was on my knees or how long my cheeks were wet with tears, but as I poured out my heart to [God], the comfort made possible by the Atonement of our Savior began to fill my soul. My pain and fear were lifted. Spiritual insights flowed into my mind and heart. I saw that my husband and I and our eternal marriage were precious to [God], and I knew that He would help us.”
A Harmless Habit?
While pornography is more often sloughed off as harmless and a minor vice, there is no denying that it permeates society, especially the family. Simply put, it is addictive. Pornography causes tremendous biological and chemical reactions in the brain that it has similar effects as the powerful narcotics fought in the War on Drugs. The release of pleasurable chemicals in the brain rewires pornography users to desire more and more their release and the thrill it brings. Those users are not only men, but women too. An estimated one sixth of visitors to pornography sites on the internet are women, though men are more likely to visit pornographic websites.
Pornography is the disgusting scar on sexuality around the world. As men and women view pornography, they damage their emotional ties to their families. Pornography encourages secrecy and wrongly expressed sexuality. Sexuality is best displayed in a loving marriage where each partner can provide one another with satisfaction, but with pornography, users are encouraged to develop self-centered sexuality with pornography’s cohort: masturbation. This also leads to sexual frustration, violent sexual behavior, as well as an unrealistic perception of healthy sexual relations. Healthy sexuality is an expression of love and devotion, while pornography causes a degeneration of sexuality to the viewer’s enjoyment. It constantly tells us that it is right to treat other people as objects of desire for our gratification. Recent studies have found that after viewing online pornography, men report less interest in sex with their partners leading to a reduced relational satisfaction. If half of all marriages end in divorce, it would be right to consider the pervasiveness of pornography today and the reasons so many couples do not remain together.
Just as narcotics and other drugs exhibit side effects, so does pornography. As husbands, wives, and parents, we need to be vigilant in identifying these symptoms:
- Failure to control sexual behavior,
- Continuing to view pornography in spite of attempts to stop,
- Withdrawal or other emotional changes,
If we find a loved one using pornography, we must be sure to reach out with love. Numerous 12-step programs are available, as well as local support groups and addiction specialists. Because pornography is not yet classified as a medical addiction, specialists of sexual addiction in general may need to be consulted.
Legal implications surrounding pornography
Taken together, it is easy for us to ask: What are the legal implications surrounding pornography? We’re quite familiar that in the United States, viewers must be 18 to access adult content, though lewd images and videos can be found regardless. Child pornography has been illegal in most countries for some time thanks to the efforts coordinated by Interpol and the United States Department of Justice. However, most Western nations, i.e. United States, Canada, Mexico, and most European nations, declare pornography as legal. Many Asian, Middle Eastern, and North African nations declare pornography to be illegal or legal under restrictions.
In the United States specifically, printed, visual, and auditory materials must meet specific criteria to determine if it is obscene. Obscene materials are put to the “Miller test,” a three-pronged test developed from the 1973 Supreme Court case Miller v. California. To be considered obscene, an “average person applying community standards” would find the work arousing, the work would display or describe sexual acts, and lacks serious “literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” Only when all three conditions are met is the work considered obscene.
Citizens of the United States and other nations employing similar measures need to understand that they have the power to remove such materials from their communities and homes. Legislation can be proposed by any citizen at any level of government that opposes pornography. Internet filters are easy to come by and many are free to download. While these are good measures to take, parents and couples should ensure their safety by clearly teaching children and each other the dangers of pornography.
The Marriage and Religion Research Institute tells us that our “main defenses against pornography are close family life, a good marriage and good relations between parents and children, coupled with deliberate parental monitoring of Internet use.” Further, by reaching out with love to those affected by its grasp, we can help build up our homes, neighborhoods, and communities. Just as with any business, if there are no customers, pornographers and peddlers of lewd works will eventually go out of business. We can make that happen.
Shyla Johnson is a student at BYU-Idaho studying Child Development. She is interested in advocating for the family because she believes the family is worth fighting for. She has a wonderful family that has taught her values and skills that made her who she is today.
Charles Bower is a senior studying sociology and marriage and family studies at BYU-Idaho. Growing up with his sisters and brother, he grew to understand the importance of a unified family. He and his wife, Megan, have been married for 10 months.