A Catholic Monthly Magazine

The Folly of Pornography

No one in their right mind would push a metal knife into a live electric socket. That would risk a severe shock or even electrocution. Yet that is an approximate picture of the psychological damage that can happen when a healthy person uses pornography.

Our lives are driven by powerful energies of divine origin, spiritual, creative, and erotic. And our task in life is to direct these energies for our well-being and that of others. Carl Jung pointed out that these energies are not friendly, and if out of control can wreak sssshavoc. He stated that people of our modern age of freedom and self-expression tend to be extremely naïve with regard to the power of our basic drives.

Pornography overstimulates the erotic power in a person, so that there is a choice either to act out the fantasy with antisocial or even criminal behaviour, or turn on the cooling mechanisms inside of us to restrain these energies. The body experiences this as frustration, and the slow sizzling down causes depression.

It is not that sexual activity itself is harmful – on the contrary it can be healing, and potentially transforming. But the images of pornography are so raw and unmediated by relationship or other human emotions that the humanity is drained. Pornographic images are humanly degrading and often accompanied by violence. The pleasure principle is isolated from all the other elements that would humanise the experience.

One of the telling signs of a person using pornography is the absence of joy and delight in their life.

One of the first signs of a person using pornography is the complete absence of joy and delight in their life. The human spirit is exhausted at the effort to restrain this powerful force, and cannot take joy in simple things, or indeed appreciate beauty, as the aesthetic sense has been debased.

Every society, however unsophisticated, has norms and taboos to protect their people from unmediated sexual images. Sex however beautiful is never a spectator sport because the images are too powerful and potentially destructive.

The Bible has an image for the danger of God-given energies released gratuitously: No one can look on the face of God and live. The great prophets Abraham and Moses were in the presence of God and yet never saw God’s face.

Humans are made in the image and likeness of God, and the sexual element in our bodilyness is a share in the creative power of God, and our bodies share in the mystery of God the Creator who contains all the perfections of gender.

Christian morality has always thrown a cloak of modesty around the human body to protect sexuality, and a set of standards around sexuality to protect marriage. All the current attacks on marriage come from skewed perceptions of sexuality. The Church has overdone the guilt trips around sexuality, and now rightly stresses the beauty and positives around the ‘theology of the body’. It is time for the Church to address those of her children caught in the toils of internet porn, and offer healing and understanding, and a healthy alternative to ‘the dead hand of pornography’ blighting our age.

Bibliography: The Holy Longing, Ronald Rohlheiser [Doubleday 1999]


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1 Responses »

  1. Thank you for this article. For years I was racked with guilt and that, together with the fact that until my wife's family come over from the UK, we cannot get married - but have instead chosen to have a civil union. For some reason, the Church does not think of this as being married, but it is the same other than the use of 'civil union' instead of marriage.

    I would love to see less emphasis on the sexual nature of people. I am aware that marriage figures are plummeting, that more and more people want to live in an informal arrangement but the Church has excluded all those who have a civil union (and we are hetrosexual) or who live in a defacto relationship.

    I have joined The Meadows Church in Paraparaumu where no one gives two damns about the nature of my relationship, or really of anyone else's either. I would like to see the Catholic Church be the same.

    I have been in the Police for 24 years and have seen the harm pornography does. It produces unrealistic expectations and is in fact, often used as an excuse to have affairs - which is also a sign of the modern way of life.

    I would like to see a greater emphasis on allowing a young couple the freedom to explore each other's sexuality and a greater emphasis placed on long term relationships (of whatever nature) and also greater emphasis on the fact that sex is just one part of a couple - it is not the be all and end all.

    I would also like to see society frowning upon the continual changes in partners and somehow, forcing an expectation of couples who do not need to be sexual experts. After all, they have their whole lives to spend together and exploring each other.

    Those who know me think I am nuts in trying to have TV 2 banned but its continual references to affairs, to partners, to those who think sex should be what they exist for and the fact it is banal to the extreme is the reason why.

    Bob Renshaw