The truth of pornography

My very dear Grandchildren,

I am writing you an important letter. You may or may not agree with it, but I am asking you to read it carefully and to think about what it says. Since it’s an awkward subject – pornography – you may not want to talk with me or your grandmother about it – and that’s fine. But we’re here if you want to.

Nowadays pornography is easily available, perhaps on a tablet or on a phone. And, if you haven’t looked for it yourself, you may well have friends who have shown it to you. That’s not surprising because many people, of all ages, have watched pornography. I am not going to discuss rights or wrongs here but I want to tell you that pornography is a lie. And it’s a dangerous lie which can do you a great deal of harm. The kind of pornography I am writing about is typically a video in which pretty well every form of possible sexual contact between men and women is shown, either with couples or groups.

What is the lie about that – if such things really do happen? It’s found in the impression that what you see on the video shows in some way what a good and exciting sexual life ought to be like. Older people with many years of experience, recognise the lie immediately, and need pay no attention to it. But those who encounter pornography at a young age have no such defence.

When you look at yourself as a sexual person you will probably recognise two things. One is a concern about love – falling in love, about affection between men and women, and about loving relationships. The other is sexual thrill. And it is only the second which pornography addresses.

Don’t knock sexual thrill! It’s very important. It is nature’s way of urging: “make a baby, make a baby”. In your science classes you will have learned how evolution constantly favours breeding – without it there would be no evolution in any species. In the midst of sexual thrill you won’t hear nature’s message; indeed the last thing you may want is to make a baby, but that’s what it’s all about.

Go back to the video. To listen to it you would think that everyone one is having ecstatic feelings over and over again. Look more carefully, and you will see that the actors don’t look ecstatic, they look bored. They look bored because before long even extreme sexual thrills become boring. Think about it – first time great, second time good, 100th time boring – give me something new!

And now you can pity your grandparents. They have been married for 50 years. Assuming they’ve made love twice a week, that’s 5000 times. Boring, boring, boring. They probably gave up simply years ago. Well perhaps not – not if they have the secret. And that secret is simple. It says: if the motive of all your sexual relations is love, affection and total commitment to each other you can carry on enjoying the accompanying thrills until they carry you out in a box. And that kind of sexual life spreads itself throughout the marriage through care and closeness.

Give me something new! Yes, marriages whose first motivation is sexual thrill will risk the relationship. Sooner or later boredom sets in. Perhaps one partner, or both, ceases to have any interest in sex – with an inevitable effect on the relationship. Perhaps one of them seeks, or finds by chance, the new thrill of a new partner. Novelty is erotic – that’s nature again, trying to make new babies anywhere at any cost. Over 40% of today’s marriages fail. How many of them do you think were based on love, affection and total commitment? And how many based on thrills which ran out of steam?

So that’s the big lie of pornography. But there are other problems too. A recent study of young teenagers discovered that nearly 20% had been shocked or upset by porn images. That is a tragedy because it means that their early knowledge of adult sex is one of disgust; it’s not a good start to what will probably be a large part of their later lives. But there are worse things.

One of these is the danger of becoming addicted to pornography. Just like drugs, some people (about 10%) get hooked – and they find themselves not only preoccupied by extreme sexual thoughts but endlessly searching for more and more porn to keep the thrills going. And, again like drugs, they never guessed when they started that it would turn out like that.

Perhaps most shameful of all, some young people are pushed and persuaded into pornography by their friends. Some kind of friends! Look on the bright side – the Devil gets some shut-eye while others do his work for him.

Your loving Grandparents.

About Quentin

Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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86 Responses to The truth of pornography

  1. Ann says:

    I totally agree that viewing porn at a young age can have an effect on how a person thinks union of man and women should be. I was shown soft porn video’s by my sexually abusive uncle at aged 10, and it did effect how I thought a man viewed women. I wouldn’t say it totally effected me, but it turned me away from trusting men. Sorry men, I know there are many good ones out there 🙂

    • Brendan says:

      Pornography, or with its disturbing blandness , I will call ‘ fake-love ‘ acts – IS the great lie. It is the antithesis , of the act of conjugal love between man and woman destined for mutual satisfaction and fruitfulness. In reducing our common humanity to a worthless anonymity ; its addictive nature in danger of reducing ‘ person-hood ‘ to something stripped of common humanity.
      From a Christian point of view in modern times it is the biggest weapon in the The Liar’s ( Satan ) armoury. Pornography , we find endemic in society ; transcending all age groups , being particularly attactive to young peoples basic human need to be wanted in a loving truthfully authentic relationship. The truth is it does not build relationships it destroys.
      I pray to God that the right message gets through especially to our young people.

    • Brendan says:

      Thank you for contributing at the start to a difficult subject , Ann.

  2. milliganp says:

    There are particular issues with children watching pornography in that it gives them an unrealistic view of the nature and purpose of sexual relationships. However it has a more immediate effect of setting norms of behaviour when they become sexually active and encourages them to do so (in conjunction with peer group pressure).
    However the effect in the extended early aduthood single period (typically 18-25+) when casual sexual relationships are considered normal is equally important. Today most people form their longer term relationships between 25-30 but increasingly do so with a complex sexual history.
    There are now internet dating sites which specifically target people looking for casual sex and sites specifically for those in permanent (sic) relationships who wish to cheat on their partner.
    The exposure of teens to pornography s but the first stage of a moral minefield.

  3. Brendan says:

    Sexual exploitation – pornography , is big business worldwide and therefore attracts big money. It thrives on relative secrecy and anonymity for the occasional voyeur to the on-line addict. The detrimental social fallout inn society I believe to be self-evident.
    Like any addiction it is impossible to know the insidious nature of it until one is ‘ hooked ‘. There is no doubt that certain psychological ‘ types ‘ – such as in chemical addiction ( alcohol, nocotine drug abuse ) – are highly susceptible to the corrupting effects of pornography. Public awareness of this must be well-known by now. In this vulnerable state , the consequences for the initial unsuspecting ‘ thrill-seeker ‘ of viewing pornographic imagery must be akin to playing ‘ Russian roulette ‘ while blindfolded.

  4. Vincent says:

    Yes, I agree very much with what Quentin has said. But I do have a question. At no point does he say that the use of pornography is wrong. But it is quite clear that the Church’s teaching about the misuse of sexuality condemns it. Was this a deliberate omission? And if so, why?

    • St.Joseph says:

      It is made legal now with same sex marriage.
      Only in mans eyes not God’s. even killing unborn babies is legal ,
      Voting for euthansia will soon be made legal.
      It is a slippery slope.
      But I do think young people will always be interested in ‘sex’ but pornography is evil.,totally against human nature that God planned it.
      It sends out the wrong message.
      Self gratifacation!

    • Alan says:

      “Was this a deliberate omission? And if so, why?”

      Not that I would want to second guess Quentin’s motives but is it not most likely because of the target audience and how they would receive the news “the Catholic Church teaches that it is wrong”?

      • Brendan says:

        Just so, Alan. Catholic Blog- Catholic Teaching. It’s worth reminding ourselves of Church Teaching.
        Cat. Cath. CH. – 2354. ” Pornography consists of removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners , in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other.It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants ( actors, vendors, the public ) , since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offence. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.

      • Quentin says:

        Alan, your second guessing seems to be working well. The moral status of pornography does not arise from the Church’s teaching, it derives from its own nature — to which the Church gives witness through its teaching.

        When I work with young people who are at an age for questioning things, I find that laying down the law immediately leads to the closing of ears. I find it better to help them to think about issues, perhaps with the help of evidence which they do not have or may not have thought about. Then they may be able to understand why the Church says what it does. And, even if they can’t accept it at that point, they will be thinking more deeply about the question.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Yes you have shown the right approach in telling the damage it does.
        It is always better to teach with that in mind.
        As with abortfacients.

  5. John L says:

    Congratulations, Quentin, on an excellent commentary. I do hope it reaches the desired audience.

  6. Brendan says:

    Thank you Quentin for the fuller answer than I gave to Allan’s question.

  7. Brian Hamill says:

    Your point about the standing of the Church’s moral authority with young people is absolutely right; it hardly exists. Pornography is not evil because the Church condemns it: the Church condemns it because it is evil. Unfortunately the Church also condemns a number of things in its code of sexual morality, which are by no means so obviously evil, with sweeping unconcern for any niceties of context, whilst at the same time having to be bullied by ‘the World’ into dealing with its covering up of clerical sexual abuse. This leads to not only the young but also many of the older generation ceasing to take much interest in its teaching. The recent vote on same sex marriage in Ireland is a clear demonstration of this.

    • St.Joseph says:


    • Quentin says:

      There is much truth in what you say. But I would add that adolescents are inclined to question or defy any rule coming from a ‘grownup’. They are at a stage in life when they must develop their own values. To do that they are first inclined to question, or defy, imposed rules. It’s natural. I remember one of my sons asking: “Why don’t you behave like a normal father?” I asked him to explain. He said: “When I ask you what I should do about something, instead of telling me, you say ‘what do you think?” He grew up to be a distinguished academic, marked by his ability to question the lazy thinking of traditional opinion.

  8. St.Joseph says:

    Brian Hamill.
    Mr John Kelly RIP. The International distinguished Obsterician and Gynaecologist working as a consultant and running ‘obs and gynae services. where I studied under him in Birmingham, he was a stalwart defender of the faith never aborting and also never contracepting.
    His world with Dr Anna Flynn put real science behind Natural Family Planning,he ran many courses and enabled many couples ‘including myself to learn the science of reliable and excellent NFP.
    He worked in the deprived parts of the world repairing visico-vaginal fistulae.

    On one occasion when a contraceptive sales rep tried to denigrate his colleague Dr Anna Flynn {who was also my teacher) by asking her a question about her religious background (who was also a firm catholic) he grabbed the microphone and insisted that the question be withdrawn., discussion would be based upon scientific fact and not degraded by predjudice.
    That has always been my motto while teaching.Whilst teaching more non-catholics than catholics!
    I hope that makes my last comment clear!!

  9. St.Joseph says:

    Info on Dr John Kelly, FRCOG OBE. HON MD.

  10. Nektarios says:

    As pornography is global, watched every day by many millions, I tend to see it more as a symptom
    not only among young people but every age group. Perhaps the atrraction that some have towards it has mare to do with the fragmentation taking place in most societies, people not learning the art of relating to one another, not experiencing love first hand in the home, the too early in my view, sexual education in schools, the sense of isolation many feel today.

    • Brendan says:

      On-line erotica now feeds this sense of isolation experienced by many in the West who feel the loss of the debased nature of the marriage/ children paradigm post 1960’s ; once a universal life enhancing feature of society. A universally accepted pillar of religious belief and practice , and with its decline – ‘ the universe abhors a vacuum ‘ – in this isolated state it is filled by many ; turning to the new paradigm of sexual gratification of the ego divorcing oneself in a fearful isolation ( ? a description of ‘ living hell ‘ ) from The Creator’s plan for the World manifested in Natural Law .

      • Brendan says:

        Error – ” of the debased nature of marriage ..” , should read.. ” following the based nature of marriage .. “.

  11. Ignatius says:

    One of the lesser know things about pornography is that it often leads to excessive masturbation. Those who pursue it, often young men also run the risk of become impotent in actual sexual encounter…this tends to magnify the problem as the lack of ability to proceed along normal pathways causes further destabilising of the individual. Overall pornography seems to be a pretty pernicious habit to make. I have wondered about the strong attraction it exerts and have come to the conclusion that pornography is simply an addictive pursuit, initially pleasurable after the fashion of drugs, but then causing dependence at a more visceral level.

  12. John Nolan says:

    The question is, what is pornography? There is erotic literature which has a long history (read Catullus for instance). The 1960s legal definition of that which tends to ‘deprave and corrupt’ no longer applies. Archbishop John Charles McQuaid of Dublin urged the Irish government in the 1950s to take action against the drapery store Clery’s whose advertisements included ‘small line drawings of women modelling underwear of a design which reflected the modest standards of the Ireland of that era. McQuaid, however, pointed out the insidious immorality of the drawings. Some of them, if one used a magnifying glass, indicated the outline of a mons veneris’.’ (Tim Pat Coogan, De Valera, p.652.)

    I have seen cartoons from the Georgian era by Rowlandson and others which are extremely explicit in their depictions of sexual congress. Is this pornography? Undoubtedly so, but is it morally corrupting? it certainly comments on the moral corruption of the age (which wasn’t all that much different from our own) but that’s not at all the same thing.

  13. Ignatius says:

    Helpful question, good to get down to the nitty gritty a bit. In the early 70’s we were flooded with ‘soft porn’ films which were highly erotic in part and I guess the modern equivalent of your Georgian era seeing as how they were “extremely explicit in their depictions of sexual congress” I watched them as did most of my peers and mainly found them erotic but I wouldn’t say they were morally corrupting apart from the simple fact they encouraged promiscuity since many were about casual liasons. based upon immediate desires. However some, Last Tango in Paris for example, were also in their own way Morality plays of their genre. Fatal Attraction being another such film which featured both erotica and a warning against its outcomes. My own view is that an element of perversity is required for the line to be crossed into debasement.

  14. Ignatius says:

    Hi St Joseph,
    I wonder about that too. One is inclined to think that it is a more male pursuit being as it is involved with domination and power, yet this could just be a myth; I don’t know.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Ignatius.Thank you.
      The reason I wondered is that you dont hear often of a women sexually abusing children,
      Maybe there is an association with watching pornography and rape by males and child abuse.

    • Quentin says:

      “Although a greater proportion of teenage boys than girls watch and fantasise about sex they have seen in pornography, there are no differences between the sexes when it comes to what types of sex they fantasise about. This is shown in a new study from Uppsala University that is published in Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.”

      This study of 16 year old young people seems to summarise the situation at that age. Elsewhere we have reports of girls being pressured into watching pornography, and being induced to perform, or allow, the kinds of sexual acts illustrated. This would include oral and anal sex. The latter unfortunately can lead to internal damage leaving a woman ‘leaky’ thereafter.

      Studies of masturbation at different ages show that a high proportion of women are involved but, again, the reported figure for men is higher. In most instances of the use of porn in marriage one would assume that much of the porn watching would be mutual, though not necessarily mutually enjoyed.

      Of course, as has been remarked, pornography is as old as the hills. The current problem arises because of its immediate availability to all ages.

      • milliganp says:

        Accesibility is one of the biggest challenges with modern pornography. In the distant past you had to go to a ‘dirty book store’, latterly a sex shop. Modern pornography is available on every mobile phone, tablet and computer. The second problem is the graphic detail. In the past the mere desription of a sex act in a novel rendered it pornographic, today videos leave nothing to the imagination from the opening scene. Finally, in the secular world, pornography is seen as a normal part of a persons sex life ( I seem to remember an American study that the average male watches 20 mins EVERY day).
        If we accept that 80%+ of children in Catholic Schools do not have strong faith practice or belief, the church is largely powerless to influence their actions. And that’s before we look at the remaining 85% of children who do not attend a faith school.

  15. Nektarios says:

    Pornography and the preoccupation with the erotic and the deviant is nothing new, as I am sure we are well aware, but the root of it all lies with one of the major effects after the Fall. Prior to that, man’s preoccupation was fellowship with God face to face – it is hard to imagine.
    After the Fall man lost that fellowship and preoccupation he had with God and he was alienated from God and his mind lost that heavenly mindedness. Thank God He had not forgotten man.
    The natural man, preoccupation became with the body and its appetites in some form or other.
    Pornography in the terms that it is demonstrated today, is simply the same preoccupation with the body and sexual, deviant, loveless, by a different form, that technology allows one to indulge in.
    My sympathies go out to Ann where such abuse is often carried all their days and robs such of trust and other emotions.

    • St.Joseph says:

      I agree with you.
      Also more and more sex is acceptable in society. Especially as we all know on our television screen, if one wants to watch a film at least it says,’ sexual scenes and language might offend Looking for a film within decency rules is largely impossible,. This is most common today than the days when we had good old films and good old songs.
      It is just taken for granted now.
      I am speaking mostly about myself and others who are mostly housebound.
      Thank God for EWTN, that has a variety of programmes.
      Christians seem to be an isolated crowd of people without a public voice..

  16. Martha says:

    The vastly increased evil and danger of pornography now is the internet and the means and ease by which it is spread. It requires a great deal more self control and awareness of harm and determination not to become involved now than was needed to avoid certain books or to ignore certain films. It is especially hard for young people to refuse to watch video clips sent round by their class mates and they need really strong convictions to manage to be different. This needs to come from a very strong supportive family life and their own developping prayer life. We worry for our grandchildren who are at a very vulnerable age but so far we trust that they are not involved.

    • Quentin says:

      Your grandchildren, Martha, are just the sort of people who I hope will ‘come across’ my column – by fair means or foul. They may not have seen pornography themselves, but they will know all about its existence.

      • St.Joseph says:

        My two grandsons who one 24 left uni last year,my other grandson left week age 22 just. .It would be good for them to read your post ,as Uni will no doubt have been a place where they could be involved. My 24 yr old is engaged -now for 2 years I dont think he or his fiancee are interested in pornography,nor my other one ,however it would be good to hear their views!
        I may ask them to look in or at least the youngest one.!
        I pray your wife is getting better and more comfortable.

        Martha you are quite right about the internet,It seems to me that when one sees young people in the street or elsewhere that is mostly what they are doing clicking away(not saying pornography).They dont even see one on the pavement! They must miss so much of life around them.Or maybe they dont ‘miss’ it.

  17. Martha says:

    Thank you, Quentin, we will be working on that. It is really upsetting to know of so many youngsters drawn in, maybe by one slightly risky photograph that they have very foolishly allowed, and then can be so easily blackmailed. They need real well founded self confidence, and spiritual help especially from Our Lady.

    • Quentin says:

      Here’s a tip. My mother used to have such things in the lavatory (where you could read them without anyone knowing). That’s why, for instance, I am an expert on painless childbirth – from Grantly Dick-Read’s books!

  18. Truthos says:

    The letter makes some very valuable points which have taken years for me to understand. Pornography is certainly addictive and could be likened to a drug addiction in which a person’s tolerance raises through continued use and larger amounts are needed to achieve satisfaction. Only with pornography it is a persons tolerance to their own sexual preferences or desires which is raised which is extremely dangerous as most often they involve other people. I have often warned people with more perverse perverse desires about ‘feeding the monster.’ Sexual over-indulgence can be as dangerous as sexual denial.
    In addition to this it is the ultimate objectification of the actors, who each have their own lives, families etc.
    Without some overall change in consciousness, I can only see the porn industry growing in line with the ease of access. I’m sure it would be immediately shocking to any young person at first but it is not easily avoided on the internet and desensitisation doesn’t take long. Like with all things, education and understanding is key. I couldn’t see condemnation solving the issue. Support to those addicted is also essential. I’m sure most people that watch porn on a regular basis wouldn’t consider the fact that they might be addicted. However it is filling a hole in their life which will be there no matter what. I’m not sure about the availability of counselling for sexual addiction or hyper sexuality but a thorough understanding of the issues by young people could keep many of them out of trouble and make a lot of lives easier.
    I think often when a young person is confronted with pornography, the main question for them is ‘Why not?’ It’s certainly an in-the-moment endeavour and more often than not regrettable once that urge has been seen to. Because with a clear head it’s not nice to watch people do lurid things. Perhaps similar to a hangover the morning after a night out. I say to myself ‘that’s why I shouldn’t drink alcohol, I mustn’t do that again’. But I do. I suppose there are two minds, the cloudy tempted unsatisfied one and the clear satisfied one.

    • Quentin says:

      There seems to me to be a very important point here. I used the term ‘addiction’ in my post, but Truthos is reminding us that the road towards addiction – in the sense of always wanting more – begins right at the start. One might just as well say: try a little cocaine, that won’t do you any harm. Just substitute pornography for cocaine and we’ve got his point.

      • milliganp says:

        I had a cousin who introduced me to drink and we over-enjoyed it together. He had an expression – the first pint drinks the second and the second drinks the rest. Interestingly his father used to stop at two pints and say “it will still be here tomorrow!”
        The difference between alcohol and drugs or pornography is that there is no tradition of “reasonable use” for drugs or pornography.

  19. Nektarios says:

    As I have read through the postings again, it strikes me there is a kind of creeping helplessness. But of course that is the helplessness of those pursuing the course of this world.
    As Christians we know this is part of the Fall and part of the history of the world. Man does not change, until that is, he is changed.
    Man is such a helpless and hopeless case, a rebel from God, until that is, he is changed.
    It is clear, mere externals of religion cannot do it. No amount of ceremonies or rituals can do it, no amount of dire warnings and threats of punishment can do it, so what does? What turns a man or woman around and changes them completely?
    What goes on in the world, hell-bent on destruction, as far as this topic goes, which should not even be mentioned among Christians, but sadly it is.
    Would it be true to say, we are more Christlike or more like those perishing in the world?
    So I ask again, what is it that turns man around from sin?

    • St.Joseph says:

      You make an interesting comment which is food for thought!.Thank you!
      As you ask ‘what is it that turns man around from sin? Even those who do not believe in God can have goodness in their hearts,
      I think the Holy Spirit lays where He Will. That is to simplify a very large subject which leaves more food for thought.
      As christians we need to mention what goes on in the world,especially as we have been given the Word through Jesus Christ and the confidence of the Holy Spirit to reveal it to the best of our abilities and to ‘Be not Afraid’

    • Truthos says:

      I don’t think condemnation from government or the church would have any effect. Both are particularly unfashionable and unpopular at the moment especially among young people. However I think the church has been gaining in popularity over the last few years, perhaps due to Pope Francis.
      This kind of change has to come from within and I believe it is down to the individual to realise that indulging in pornography is more damaging than satisfying and ultimately bad for the mind and soul. The church and government could only aid in this by providing realistic support and guidance. Just as alcohol prohibition didn’t work and other drug prohibition is not working, it’s evident that compassion and education would do most good.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I agree with you about compassion and education.
        However Holy Mother Church did this, and provided that in special home for ‘sick’ priests’ that they were called.
        There was such a place in a Home near where I live in the Cotswolds after a while they said Mass in a local parish when the were considered to be healed.,but it closed down and they returned to their own countries.We know the rest now,.!
        The locals used to call it the naughty priests convent.Also there were alcoholics. helped

        I wonder why the law does not see the damage that pornography can do to young people and make it a criminal law. One can see such pornography on the TV if one happens to get into it while searching for something else.

    • Brendan says:

      ” And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8: 32.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Yes that is a true quote that you say.

        It is very difficult to understand when priests and religious in all denominations now are guilty of child abuse.’which is also a sexual sin.
        I believe that Satan tempts those close to God I think that the Spirit of Truth would be there to give those in the church strength, more so than those in ignorance,
        I understand that Judas was one of the twelve,but nowadays we do have the belief in the Real Presence,whereby in the times of Jesus,Judas would have been more easily tempted!

      • milliganp says:

        I think it is wrong to presume that our age is so different to any other. Clerical abuse has always existed, in varying forms. In the early middle ages concubinage was commonplace. Fra Angelico ran off with a nun and within a short period every nun in the convent had left with priests. Bishops, Cardinals and even Popes have had mistresses children etc.

      • milliganp says:

        St Joseph, I’m not sure what your comment about the Real Presence is supposed to mean. Judas knew Christ in the flesh, if that’s not a real presence, I’m not sure what is.

    • milliganp says:

      Nektarios, I thought the essence of Christianity is that we are saved as sinners as a result of God’s sovereign will; we are not automatically rendered virtuous. It is as appropriate for me to worry about the rise of pornography and its impact on our society as it is to care for the sick, homeless etc.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Judas did not know Jesus was going to rise from the dead!!!
        When we speak of the REAL PRESENCE we know what the theology is..
        I thought you would have understood that!!!!!

      • St.Joseph says:

        Did I say times were different now.
        .Whether it was always like what you say, that does not make it any more acceptable or

      • Nektarios says:

        Nothing we do in this world will be totally perfect, nor virtuous, however, in Christ from before the foundation of the world, God the Father has determined before hand to make us holy.
        He who has this hope within him, purifieth himself.
        Sorry not to answer sooner, been having one or two serious computer problems. Ok now.

  20. John Candido says:

    This scientific study from the United States which in ‘Current Sexual Health Reports’ suggests that there is no such thing as pornography addiction.

    However, the following study suggests that pornography can lead to an addiction similar to drug addiction. To balance the former study with this study is rather frustrating as they seem to directly contradict each other’s principal finding.

    Such is our current scientific predicament with psychological/sociological research and is probably due to our rudimentary knowledge and/or methods of obtaining data which currently have a limited reach. Scientific reports in the field of nutrition are similarly afflicted with contradictory results and are probably due to the methodological limits as well as an insufficiently deep understanding of the field compared with what we may learn many decades from now. It is why there currently is a plethora of contradictory advice on diets for a variety of reasons to everyone’s frustration.

    As the scientific literature on the effects of pornography on humans is dichotomous or tenuous at best, caution should apply to the certainty of communal understandings on this issue. It is tempting to jump to conclusions based on our personal experience and/or religious upbringing. For the foreseeable future it is all that we have left unfortunately.

    Despite this lack of clarity I certainly agree that pornography is a disingenuous act played out before cameras to an audience consisting of millions of people who are prepared to part with their money for it. It is a billion dollar business.

    Pornography is a pale imitation of the real thing which is based wholly on love and genuine tenderness for the other person. Real love takes time, patience and all of one’s faculties, while pornography is a sexually based commercial transaction, quite shallow by comparison.

    It doesn’t take genius to see any of this and neither is it difficult to understand that the use of the latest technological wizardry in order to produce pornography cannot disguise the fact that it occupies a similar moral space as prostitution, i.e. sex for money, despite it potentially being better paid and physically safer than street prostitution. However, I am still convinced that in a secular society sex work should remain legal.

    Firstly, science does not give us certainty that it is most likely to be harmful to humans and society. If science can demonstrate a causal link to communal pathology in terms of crimes against women and children by individuals with a predilection to criminality, I would be in favor of restricting pornography by law for the common good.

    Secondly, pornography should remain legal because of the dichotomous experience of prostitution itself by those who do this for a living. Some male and female prostitutes do not have abusive backgrounds that are partly a product of real poverty or drug addiction. Strange as it may seem, some prostitutes like their work or prefer it to more normal occupations for its material rewards and/or its ‘freedom’ from the restraints of an ordinary occupation.

    Thirdly, in legalised sex work society has a far greater handle on limiting violence against any sex worker as well as limiting or better controlling sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea etc., and in extremely serious infections such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

    Lastly, legalised sex work is a far better context within which any sex worker can obtain counselling to help them get out of this way of life, if that is their choice. Despite believing that sex work should remain legal, I am not in favor of anyone participating in such an activity.

  21. John Candido says:

    I just want to clarify that in my post above the terms pornography and sex work are to be considered synonymous or interchangeable.

  22. ignatius says:

    The prison I attend regularly is now a dedicated establishment for sex offenders. There are all manner of folk in there including celebrities and ex priests. Mostly however there are confused individuals themselves from abusive backgrounds together with individuals whose genetic components have clearly dealt them a rough deal one way or another. It is important to realise I think that some individuals are simply not especially well wired for integrated living. At Whatton prison, Britains largest dedicated prison for sexual offenders, they have come to the conclusion that the only way forward with most of the indivduals is kindness and the raising of self esteem. Raising self esteem equates to falling levels of self hatred, self hatred breeds hatred of others as if you believe yourself worthless then you will believe the same as others and see them as objects for your indulgence. In my limited experience I might add that not every priest who gets locked up is a monster either.

    • Martha says:

      Your comment is very helpful and compassionate, and resonates with the one experience of priestly sexual frailty with boys which we have knowingly come across. One of our sons was in the group, and though he escaped molestation in a rather near miss, the experience probably contributed to his later lapsing from the Church. It seems that the priest concerned was looking for the affection he felt he had not received himself as a child, it was a real tragedy as he was well liked and popular with the young people he worked with. In this case the abusive behaviour probably had nothing to do with watching pornography, I wonder how often it does.

    • St.Joseph says:

      In the Gospels we read that Jesus cast out demons or devils.He made them clean and the demons went out of them.
      I often wonder what the Churches thinking is nowadays on this subject.
      I know we have exorcism, priests who cast out spirits and I knew of one who did this in a local elderly peoples home where some were thrown out of their beds and a lift was going up and down, also the priest recoginised the white dust which was supposedly left by the spirit. Also there was a lot of publicity when the same local priest now died-cast out a ‘ghost’ from Princess Michael of Kent’s home near where I live..
      Do you have any information on how the church believes in doing what Jesus did. or are evils spirits a thing of the past?
      Years ago my brother at 7 used to sleep walk and a priest my grandmother knew would pray over someone who walked in their sleep,he prayed over my brother and me at the time (I wasn’t going to be left out at 5). My brother never walked in his sleep again..
      Do you think our heads are so full of technology nowadays to consider this as a spiritual
      thing,whereby people dont believe in even a spiritual world.!

      • Ignatius says:

        St Joseph,
        As far as I know all Anglican and Catholic Dioceses have exorcists. I know the Local Anglican one well, he is a good friend of mine. But these things are generally kept pretty quiet.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Thank you.

  23. Iona says:

    I remember seeing (many years ago) a TV programme about paedophiles, in which one of the Imprisoned paedophiles being interviewed commented that he wished the authorities would not let him out of prison, because he knew that if they did he would re-offend.

    • John Candido says:

      Thank you for your post Iona. Society needs to critically re-assess the notion that there are not any therapies that can be directed at those with a proclivity for paedophilia. I have read scattered reports in a number of responsible media outlets that there are therapies directed at men or women who have this appalling proclivity. I am talking about the class of offenders who sincerely acknowledge their wrongdoing and are voluntarily prepared to submit to ongoing supervision and therapeutic intervention upon release from any correctional facility.

      I don’t know how successful these therapies are in terms of their rate of recidivism. The reason that this issue is critical to an informed and caring society, is that if there are effective therapies to prevent some measure of recidivism amongst convicted paedophiles, after these people have satisfactorily completed their sentences in jail, they must have the privacy of their criminal convictions respected for their sake, for society’s sake, and in order to protect the peace and harmony of society through the rule of law. Ongoing supervision, and continued therapy if needed, cannot possibly occur when the privacy of convicted felons are sullied.

      Any community that is whipped into frenzy about convicted paedophiles, who now live in the community because they have completed their sentences, is a community that is potentially out of control and out for revenge. In doing so, some members of society are at risk of committing criminal offences themselves. It is in the best interests of society, that any convicted person, who has completed their sentence for whatever offences, must be accorded their privacy in order to mature and rehabilitate themselves.

      They have paid their penalty and done their time and must have their right to privacy in order to progress and make whatever is left of their lives as productive as possible. Their right to privacy, together with varying levels of supervision and post institutional therapy by social workers, psychologists etc., are what can transition them to mature and responsible lives in society. A person’s legal rights do not end after being convicted of an offence, or indeed after their proper release from any penal institution.

      I want to make it abundantly clear that paedophilia is a serious crime that calls on society to do all it can to protect children in the most intelligent and careful manner possible. Society must also do all it can to prevent any person taking the law into their own hands through revenge attacks against any person convicted of paedophilia or any other crime, after they have been released from jail on the completion of their sentence.

  24. St.Joseph says:

    Yes I remember seeing that too.
    That makes me wonder if hypnosis would help the person,
    If priests abuse children that appears it is an addiction;
    One would think that their faith would be strong enough to save them from doing such evil.
    One can not compare that with falling in love with women. As Milligan mentioned in his post Thats natural although not right, I think they can get released from their vow
    Someone will correct me I am sure if that is not so!!.

  25. Brendan says:

    John Candido – I disagree with so much of the substance and basic tenor of your post that I hardly know where to begin. Briefly , it sounded to me more akin to given a platform for materialistic atheism than for religious faith and reason in action.
    The global tsunami of eroticism / pornography that is now available unchecked to all ages , is such that it does not take academia to tell one that the immediacy of it is having a profound detrimental affect on the populace and therefore societies now , and in the not too distant future. Three poignant news items that struck me as relevant here in the U.K. tells the real story behind of the damage being reeked by this ‘ cancer ‘.
    Earlier this year Swansea University, South Wales conducted a survey of British university students on how they paid of their mounting student debt. The results took took them completely by surprise. One in twenty resorted to the sex-industry ( from lap-dancing, escort agency to full prostitution ) – mostly females – and a number said they would continue on with this after university. The link is blindingly obvious.
    Secondly, ‘ Met ‘ Police ( London ) have set a special unit to deal with pornographic crime on-line. There is a quick change over of personnel because of the perceived awareness of the corrupting nature of viewing this material , having a deleterious affect on themselves and their family life. The link is blindingly obvious.
    Finally, in Stuttgart there is a ‘ mega – brothel , one of the biggest in Germany. Really, it is run like a top class hotel , with everything at the disposal of the paying ‘ guest ‘. The owner plans to expand his empire and here, I leave the rest to ones imagination. Women are courted and interviewed for sex work from Spain to the Baltic States – not everyone is accepted. In an interview, the owner describes how the girls never leave the precincts of the brothel ; a young , attractive topless young lady giving the impression that their male employer is totally in charge of their fantasy world – body and soul. It was so depressing and shocking in its content that I could not watch and listen to anymore of the report . The link is blindingly obvious.
    But the saddest thing about the expose was the reply when the reporter asked what affect this ‘ work ‘ had on the girls over time. His reply… ” it did not matter, they are all damaged when they arrived here. ”
    John , evil is evil however you may want to dress it up .

    • John Candido says:

      If ‘the link is blindingly obvious’, as you say Brendan, then objective scientific studies would have no problem demonstrating this causal link after being thoroughly scrutinised by independent peer reviews, that have also been subjected to replication in a plethora of instances. They cannot do this at the present moment for a number of reasons so therefore we are all dependent on our values, biases, education, experience, observations or anecdotes. What you have resorted to is making statements based on anecdotal evidence in the absence of peer reviewed studies that has the authority international replication. What is ‘blindingly obvious’ to one person, may not be ‘blindingly obvious’ to others.

      • Quentin says:

        It is certainly true that, although sexual disturbance is associated with pornography, we don’t know whether the disturbance is caused by pornography or whether pornography causes the disturbance. To solve that we would need a longitudinal survey, starting with a random group of pre-pubescents and tracking through their experience over a number of years. I doubt if this would produce clearcut results unless the sample size was very large. And there are other difficulties to be surmounted. I doubt if it is practicable.

        So we fall back on commonsense. We know that a proportion of young people self-report addiction to pornography. We know that sexual stimuli, taken on their own, tend to pall with repetition and familiarity. It would be highly imprudent to reject the provisional conclusion that there is a significant danger of addiction, similar in many ways to drug addiction, as a result.

      • stormdog1 says:

        Quentin.I would be a good thing to hear from young people like you suggested.,if anyone on SS mentioned it to their children or grandchildren.We might get an insight into what the difficulties are of avoiding it. In schools and Universities.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I dont know what happened in my reply to you below.
        This one is OK. I am not stormdog1

      • John Candido says:

        Falling back on commonsense can be practical under the circumstances where a researched answer is not available. Society can either make pornography illegal or legal. If it were to remain legal it would be accompanied by appropriate controls. Controls such as who may sell it, what content must be excluded due to its appalling nature such as paedophilia, actual violence, rape simulation suggesting that females really want to be raped in the end as a prelude to sex, drug use in pornography, where pornography may be legally sold and what is the minimum age that a consumer would have to be.

        Making pornography or sex work illegal makes as much sense to me as the failed war on drugs. A supportive medical approach rather than an exclusively legal and punitive one to illegal drug users or sex workers, are far more productive for both the individuals involved, their families and for the rest of society than a regime of legal enforcement.

        Even when society eventually provides a medical model to better control the drug problem, there will be many regulations and laws that will be drafted in order to properly administer such a regime. The criminal justice system will still be needed to prosecute criminal gangs behind the production and distribution of illegal drugs despite drug legalisation. The difference is that with the legalisation of drugs in a so called medical model, I believe the tendency towards illegal drugs will be significantly diminished and hopefully lead to a loss of profitability for criminal gangs.

        Individuals who become addicted to pornography need our understanding. They need access to counselling as well. If society is going to make pornography illegal some serious questions need to be asked. How significant a problem is addiction to pornography and what are the consequences of this condition? What proportion of healthy individuals and what proportion of maladjusted individuals becomes addicted? What are the psychological predispositions, if any, of anyone who becomes addicted to pornography, and how prevalent are these predispositions in the rest of the population? Can the addiction to pornography be attributed to other causes such as coexisting personal problems or family dysfunctionality?

        Without first knowing the answer to these questions and in the absence of scientific research, it would be difficult to determine the appropriateness of making pornography illegal other than it accords with our values and religious beliefs.

      • Alan says:

        Quentin – “We know that sexual stimuli, taken on their own, tend to pall with repetition and familiarity.”

        Is the “taken on their own” condition known to be a required factor for the tendency? We can find accounts of exceptions of course and we could assume that relationships that suffered from this weren’t loving or committed enough, but it seems we could easily make the mistake of finding only what we were looking for if we did.

      • Quentin says:

        “We know that sexual stimuli, taken on their own, tend to pall with repetition and familiarity.”

        Alan, I certainly couldn’t demonstrate this with scientific surveys etc. But we do know that sensual pleasures of all kinds tend to reduce with familiarity. In the case of sexual sensuality, it is apparent that the greatest pull is present with novelty — whether the novelty of a new partner or of a new practice. The converse of course is that familiarity, by definition, reduces novelty. However, when the objective is love and commitment the sensuality comes with the package. I can only report this anecdotally, and also from the position of someone who is 80 and has been married for 59 years. Thus I can see the connection from the inside — so to speak. Here’s a little verse, scarcely poetry, which might amuse.

        It simply isn’t right, she said,
        That we should have such fun in bed,
        With you an old, bedraggled man,
        And I now wondering how I can.

        The decades pass, our ninth is logged,
        Our hearts are weak, our lungs are clogged.
        We need some help to mount a bed.
        What would you have us do instead?

    • milliganp says:

      Brendan, as far as I can discern, John’s post was primarily about paedophilia where the proclivity is deeply embedded in the psyche. It is officially designated as untreatable.
      Admitting this does not make one a materialist any more than thinking gays can be cured. We are responsible for our actions but not our temptations.

      • Brendan says:

        Millinganp – My comments were directed at John’s first post -9.25am. , not his subsequent reply. As I see it ,this’ blog’ is to do with the relationship between science ( the material ) and ‘ faith ‘. In the disagreement between John and I, Quentin mediated ( astutely I may say ) I believe by positing ‘ commonsense ‘ ( reason ) as being the arbiter. I agree with his position. In the light of hard facts based on scientific research ; my position falls firmly on the side of my Christian ‘ faith ‘ – as it is – being the final arbiter.

      • milliganp says:

        Brendan, it was because I, correctly, assumed your response was to John’s first post that I could not understand your reply. I’m not sure from which branch of Christian thinking you respond. In Catholic moral theology a mental compulsion (such as that experienced by many paedophiles) is accepted as some mitigation for an immoral act; it does not excuse it but recognises dimminished responsibility.
        The soul and / or conscience is not co-terminus with the mind or psyche. I’m not trying to merely contradict but to understand how you belve your christian faith contradicts John’s post.

  26. Alan says:

    On the understanding that “it’s wrong” or “it’s evil” isn’t going to hold much sway with many I’ve some views on the alternate approach to challenging the issue. It might not be enough to point out the risks and the deceptive/”fantasy performance” nature of pornography. You can stress the level of risk perhaps but (with respect to the sentiment Brendan) I am always wary of claims of an “obvious” link in any such cases. If it’s obvious then it should be a simple thing to define it by more than just the correlation. People can become addicted all sorts of things, even something like physical exercise, to the detriment of others and themselves. Just because it happens doesn’t mean it shows cause or “evil” … and it follows from therefore that just because it happens more/a lot doesn’t mean it shows cause/”evil” either.
    Perhaps this view can help you to frame other responses or approaches to the problem. Or maybe I’ve just made it next to impossible?!

    • St.Joseph says:

      Just a small thought on this,and that is- If one believes we are created by God even not a Christian nor an atheist, it is totally against our human nature and what we are meant to be-made in His image and likeness!

    • Brendan says:

      Alan – Helping to .. ” frame other responses or approaches to the problem. ” … St. Joseph’s response is right on the button. For the person of ‘ faith ‘ , and specifically Christian faith , the framework is decided by Jesus’ words … ” by their fruits you shall know them ” Matthew 7: 20.

  27. Nektarios says:

    I am looking at this topic of pornography from a pastoral point of view now.
    When asked about the subject or any other sinful activity for that matter, it would be better not to indulge such.
    It might be better to say,` well, if you are happy viewing pornography, then I have nothing to say to you. But if you are unhappy about anything and you want to look at it from a Christian viewpoint with us, come and we will explore that together.’
    Sometimes certain behaviours are symptom of deeper unresolved issues.

  28. Horace says:

    I am almost completely ignorant about “pornography” but I do have one question – what about “soft porn”? Very often when watching current films on TV we see, for example, a couple indulging in sexual intercourse albeit covered by bedclothes! Is this just harmless or can it be an introduction to pornography proper?

    • St.Joseph says:

      Nearly all films that are shown now, even not under the bedclothes…
      When I made the point above about films on TV-one can hardly see a film without
      sex in it.Even the soaps are before 9pm I was told today.I wrote to them often years ago. It makes no difference.
      It also give the impression to every one that sex before marriage or adultry is the in going thing.Even on meeting each other on the first night.
      It must send a message out to society.
      No longer long courting or engagements.

  29. John Nolan says:

    St Joseph makes a good point about TV soaps. To my mind pornography which portrays emotionless sex for the benefit of those who are inclined to seek it out is less pernicious than the normalization of immoral conduct which is deliberately put out before the 9pm ‘watershed’ . Homosexual behaviour is held up to be normal and natural; adultery is commonplace and simply regarded as ‘cheating’; abortion is purely a matter of choice and assisted suicide is shown in a positive and sympathetic way. Coronation Street recently had a storyline about a practising homosexual vicar whose bishop’s disapproval of his lifestyle was held up as being bigoted and unChristian. No-one in the cast (even the churchy old ladies) took the bishop’s side. Dishonesty and criminal activity abounds in Emmerdale and everyone seems to take it for granted. They inhabit an amoral universe.

    John Candido has a touching faith in peer-reviewed sociological studies but the world’s oldest profession long predates social science. Paedophilia is a sexual orientation, and not a crime per se; Krafft- Ebing who first identified it in the 19th century regarded it as a mental illness (along with same-sex attraction). The Church regards both as an objective disorder which can be an occasion of sin. Sounds about right.

  30. Brendan says:

    John Candido – 1.36pm.
    In the absence of unscientific ” commonsense ” ; are we left sometimes with … ” the road to Hell is paved with good intentions “. ( ? St. Bernard of Clairvaux )

  31. Brendan says:

    Milliganp – O.k. I’m starting to get a little confused and therefore losing my stance a bit here. However I think ( I hope ) I’ve got your line of thinking. On the peadophile issue , which I take you to mean that was the ” substance ” on which John and I disagree – in fact there is no disagreement .I can only say that regarding comments on mitigation of paedophilia and other acts of ” diminished responsibility ” – we are in agreement. Where I part company with him in ” substance ” was more a matter of approach than fact. To me his positioning /” tenor ” of his post did not appeal to my , shall I say non-scientific approach. Post – Quentin’s intervention – in light of the lack of substantive verifiable evidence for the link between pornography and its damaging effect on society at large – I am at pains to project my intuitive Christianity as ” arbiter ” . In this instance Quentin sums up better than I : – ” It would be highly imprudent to reject the provisional conclusion that there is a significant danger of addiction, similar in many ways to drug addiction ,as a result.
    I hope my reply satisfies.

  32. milliganp says:

    In the discussion we’ve tended towards concentrating on the ‘worst’ effects of pornography. Prior to the greater availability of porn most couples would have had a sexual relationship based on basic functional education (which bit goes where) and mutual personal exploration within their own boundaries.
    Now sexuality is a comparitive subject and people talk about ‘good sex’ like ‘good food’. This adds an extra dimension of expectation and concern to any marital relationship; ‘am I a good lover… etc’. These expectations and concerns are then projected onto children and young adults as they ‘explore their sexuality’. Pornography then sets an expectation as to what constitutes ‘good sex’.
    From a Christian point of view this journey is not just about the worst outcomes but whether it is even a journey that should be undertaken. It is implicit in our modern society that sex is OK as long as it’s ‘safe’. From a Christian viewpoint all extra-marital sex is unsafe as it corrupts the natural purpose of our sexuality and even marital sex needs to be constrained to ensure that it doesn’t become an object apart from an expression of mutual love.

  33. Ignatius says:

    “From a Christian viewpoint all extra-marital sex is unsafe as it corrupts the natural purpose of our sexuality and even marital sex needs to be constrained to ensure that it doesn’t become an object apart from an expression of mutual love…”
    On the other hand, also from a Christian viewpoint, unbridled enjoyment of ones shared and mutual sexuality is simply a very good thing the goodness of which is sadly often underrated!..

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