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Val Farmer, Published July 08 2011

Val Farmer: Porn has a destructive impact on our society

The Internet has unleashed a flood of pornography that threatens to swamp individuals and major social institutions, leaving broken hearts, human wreckage and suffering strewn in its wake.

Like tobacco, pornography is a legal poison. Some of it is illegal. It is a poison we as a society are loath to give up, in spite of the facts. We fill our minds with sexual images and pretend it doesn’t have any effect on sexual practices or relationships.

Well, it does. Major harm. Pornography plays a major role in the acquisition and maintenance of sexual addictions. Make no mistake. Pornography feeds fantasies and reinforces the practice of masturbation.

Pornography is addictive. Users need more each time to get the same arousal effect. Some seek to fulfill their fantasies in reality. Incest offenders and pedophiles feed off of pornography.

How about violence and pornography? More bad news. Viewers and readers are exposed to sexually arousing scenes and images followed by violence. Experiments have shown that this produces a desensitization to violence and victims of violence, increased beliefs that women enjoy coerced sex, less sympathy for victims of rape, and lower regard for females.

Other effects. Researchers have shown that states with the greatest amount of per capita sex-magazine readership also have a proportionately greater incidence of reported rape. One study showed that males who are exposed to both violent and non-violent pornography are twice as likely to commit rape as those having had no exposure to pornographic materials.

Other findings about non-violent pornography include:

Taking humanity out of sex. No harm done? It sounds like harm to me. Perhaps the most pervasive effect of pornography has to do with depersonalizing and dehumanizing sexual expression. Pornography takes the humanity out of sex.

Allen Bloom comments on the role of modesty in regulating male/female relationships. “Modesty was the female virtue, because it governed the powerful desire that related men to women, providing a gratification in harmony with the procreation and rearing of children, the risk and responsibility of which fell naturally – that is, biologically – on women.”

Delaying sexual relations was central to a serious life and allowed time for the delicate interplay between the sexes and for attachment bonds to form. By taking love out of sex, pornography encourages individualism and isolation.

Traditional sex roles and dating patterns no longer guide the courtship process. Teen and young adults engage in non-exclusive and non-committed relationships without investing their emotions in them. Sex has become a thing in itself, devoid of meaning other than satisfying physical desire.

Teens experience sex as a normal part of their dating experience. They have had an easy familiarity with each other’s bodies, without any illusion that the relationship will be permanent.

Sex becomes no big deal. Passion is gone. Emotions are stripped away. Robots can do it – which is what pornography addicts are fast becoming.

There is no bonding or delirious infatuation with their partner. Nobody is confusing what is going on with love. Teens are too familiar sex to confuse it with love.

The conventions of courtship are gone. How do young people mate in this environment where sex precedes and interferes with love? Commitments are agonizingly hard to make when sexual gratification is so readily available without any need for commitment.

Despite their sexual freedom, many young women miss the traditional courtship patterns and feel used and discarded under present conditions. With all this sexual sophistication and expectation, young males are feeling anxiety and pressure to prove their sexual prowess.

At best, relationships between the sexes have always been difficult. With emotions, attachments and commitment being eliminated from sexual relations, teens and young adults are losing their ability to progress toward true intimacy and love. They don’t know how to relate or commit.

They look for love and can’t find it. Careers and narcissistic self-preoccupation are poor substitutes for attachment, commitment, and intimacy.

Pornography and other media depictions of sexual behavior are robbing youth of the joy and beauty that comes when modesty and premarital chastity made sex symbolic of love and commitment. It sounds like harm to me. Major harm.

Val Farmer is a clinical psychologist specializing in family business consultation and mediation with farm families. He lives in Wildwood, Mo., and can be contacted through his website, www.valfarmer.com.