Pornography – Every Parent’s Battle

by Jack Rigert, Director, JPll RC

The opposite of love is not hate.  The opposite of love is to grasp, to use another…the opposite of love is pornography.

Today one of the leading porn websites – and there are thousands upon thousands of others – will have 100 million visitors viewing hardcore pornography.  A huge number of viewers will be between the ages of twelve and seventeen years old. Pornography addiction is an epidemic in America, and we are “approaching 100% exposure to pornography for males between ten and twenty-nine years of age.”[1] Yet only 12% of parents are even aware that their children have been exposed to it. As a parent, you can no longer hide from your responsibility to talk to your children about sexuality and pornography. If they don’t learn about it from you, then Mister Google, their iPhone, and their friends all stand ready to teach them.

Dan Spencer who specializes in Internet Pornography states that, “While anyone can fall prey to pornography addiction, youth are most at risk. The largest single population of Internet Pornography users is teens between the ages of twelve and seventeen. The average age when children are first exposed to hardcore Internet Pornography is eight. This has devastating long-term effects on individuals and society as a whole. Pornography is warping young people’s view of sexuality and relationships. It’s teaching boys that its okay to use women for their selfish sexual pleasure. It’s teaching girls that in order to get and keep a man, a woman must look and act like a porn star. In addition, pornography leads young people to believe that the physically dangerous and emotionally degrading sex it portrays is normal and healthy.” [2]

At the John Paul ll Renewal Center, we have spent considerable time with thousands of teens discussing authentic love, the beauty of human sexuality in God’s plan, and the virtue of chastity which frees them, and all of us, to find deep and abiding love and happiness. As one who has personally led many small group discussions, I have learned from the teens themselves that we are wasting our time if we are afraid to discuss the elephant in the room… pornography. I am amazed by how few parents have discussed this all-important issue with their children and the amount of confusion and hurt that has resulted.

After one such discussion, a sixteen-year-old girl had tears in her eyes. When we asked her if she was OK, she said, “I sensed that love had to be more than what I was experiencing with my boyfriend, more than just sex, more than this feeling of being used, but I didn’t know why. Then I heard about the beauty of love and how it was possible for me to find it someday. I learned that pornography and using someone was the opposite of love and I learned how a boy should treat me if he really loved me. It was so beautiful that I just started to cry, and I looked around the room and I wasn’t the only one.”

The sad thing is that the girl above went home and tried to start a much needed discussion with her parents. When she told her parents that she learned that true love was beautiful and that we are all created to love and be loved, to be a gift to one another and that pornography, using a person as an object for your personal pleasure, was the opposite of love… her parents failed to see this as an opportunity to have a open, honest discussion with her. Instead they got angry and called the school to complain that “their daughter was a wonderful, innocent girl who did not need to hear about the dangers of pornography or anything about pornography for that matter.”

I wish they had been in the room with us when their daughter began to cry. I wish they could understand that it is these beautiful young men and women, who so desire to know the truth and beauty of love, that respond so well to this message of hope and love. Do parents really fail to understand that pornography use is epidemic in our culture? Do they realize that it is distorting and taking away the innocence of their children by twisting their understanding of sexuality, of who we are and what love is?

We are already at the point where many – if not most – of the young men their daughter will meet and possibly date one day will have spent time on a pornographic website. Yet we are also encouraged by many of the young men we meet! When they begin to understand the truth behind their desires, including their sexual desires, many willingly and courageously embrace our challenge to “become a man”…in the words of William Wallace, “All men die, not every man really lives”… and to fight the battle to “see” all the women in their lives not as objects to be used, but as beautiful hearts that desire and deserve to be loved! This includes the “real women”, our sisters in Christ, who are being used as objects in the pornography industry.

Dan Spencer states, “Pornography is not an easy topic to discuss. That is why so many parents and even clergy avoid discussing the topic at all. It just seems too ugly, too dark and shameful. But this reluctance has taken a terrible toll on our society, and especially our families. Parents like you must deal with this issue head on. That is especially true given that the scourge of pornography has become a nearly universal threat to our marriages and children. It is part of an enormous multi-pronged attack on the family, and there is no opting out if you love your family–and I know you do.”[3]

To conclude I suggest as parents that you make it a priority to understand and discuss pornography with your children. Then ask your Parish to bring in a chastity speaker who is comfortable speaking to both you and your children. This will make it much easier for the whole family to open up a dialog at home that has the potential to bear much fruit.

As the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops puts it,

“In the confessional and in our daily ministry and work with families, we have seen the corrosive damage caused by pornography–children whose innocence has been stolen; men and women who feel great guilt and shame for viewing pornography occasionally or habitually; spouses who feel betrayed and traumatized; men, women and children exploited by the pornography industry. While the production and use of pornography has always been a problem, in recent years its impact has grown exponentially, in large part due to the internet and mobile technology. Some have described it as a public health crisis. Everyone, in some way, is affected by increased pornography use in society. We all suffer negative consequences from its distorted view of the human person and sexuality. As bishops, we are called to proclaim a new the abundant mercy and healing of God found in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, and through His Church.”[4]

To help you get started I want to recommend two wonderful books, an e-book and the excellent letter from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Below is a link to our website. From there go to “resources” and scroll down to “pornography” where you will find links to the two books. More information on the e-book and the bishops letter can be found highlighted below.

As Saint John Paul ll reminded us so often… “Do not be Afraid”!  We have the light of truth, goodness and beauty on our side!”

“God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.” (2 Tim 1:7)

[1] Dr. Mary Anne Layden, the Director of the Center for Cognitive Therapy at the University of Pennsylvania

[2] Dan S. Spencer lll, Every Parent’s Battle, 2017

[3] Dan S. Spencer lll, Every Parent’s Battle, 2017

[4] USCCB “Create in Me a Clean Heart, A Pastoral Response to Pornography”, 2015