The Dangers of Pornography Use

The Purpose of this post is to challenge the belief: “Watching pornography doesn’t hurt anyone.”  This is to help members move from a naive and simplistic perspective on pornography to a more nuanced and holistic view.  Watching pornography harms the self, your current/future spouse and society. Justifications for pornography are usually reductionist and distorted.

Case Overview

Arguments to support the claim are broken down into the following four sections:

Section  1: Pornography Harms the Self: Kills your spirit, Primes Negative Behaviors, Fosters Addiction & Has Many Opportunity Costs.

Section 2: Pornography Harms Your Current/Future Relationship with a Spouse. It contributes to role dysfunction, fosters dishonest behavior and affects sex life.

Section 3: Pornography Harms Society: Changes culture and leads to role dysfunction.

Section 4: Justifications for pornography use are reductionist and distorted.  

Section 1: Pornography Harms the Self

i.) Leads to Spiritual Death

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has taught:“Setting aside sins against the Holy Ghost for a moment as a special category unto themselves, it is LDS doctrine that sexual transgression is second only to murder in the Lord’s list of life’s most serious sins.   “Clearly God’s greatest concerns regarding mortality are how one gets into this world and how one gets out of it. These two most important issues in our very personal and carefully supervised progress are the two issues that he as our Creator and Father and Guide wishes most to reserve to himself.”” (Jeffrey R. Holland)

President Hinckley taught that Marriage is the Institution God has ordained for Children to be born into: “ I believe that it should be the blessing of every child to be born into a home where that child is welcomed, nurtured, loved, and blessed with parents, a father and a mother, who live with loyalty to one another and to their children.” (Gordon B. Hinckley)

President Hinckley Continues:“As we look out over the world, it seems that morality has been cast aside.  But, my dear friends, we cannot accept that which has become common in the world. Yours, as members of this Church, is a higher standard and more demanding. It declares as a voice from Sinai that thou shalt not indulge. You must keep control of your desires.”

The scriptures teach us that there are severe consequences for breaking the law of chastity that include:

a.) Destruction of the Body:  “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?  If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” (1 Cor. 3: 16-17, 6: 15-18)

b.) Destruction of the Soul: But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul. A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away.” (Proverbs 6: 32)

c.) Loss of Peace: “No family can have peace, no life can be free from the storms of adversity unless that family and that home are built on foundations of morality, fidelity, and mutual respect.” Gordon B. Hinckley

d.) Loss of the Spirit & Excommunication: “And he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit; and if he repents not he shall be cast out.” (D&C 42:23)

e.) Addiction: “Pornography is as addictive as cocaine or any illegal drug.” (James E. Faust‐The Enemy Within)

f.) Destruction and Impairment of Family Relationships: “Pornography impairs one’s ability to enjoy a normal emotional, romantic, and spiritual relationship with a person of the opposite sex.” (Dallin H. Oaks‐ Pornography)

g.) Forfeit the Priesthood: “Those who seek out and use pornography forfeit the power of their priesthood.” (Dallin H. Oaks-Pornography)

ii.) Primes Negative Behaviors

Pornography also primes negative behaviors in the following ways:

a.) Frontal Lobe Shrinkage: For more than 10 years, studies have shown that addictions can cause the brain’s frontal lobes to start shrinking leading to poorer decision making and inhibitory control.

b.) Self-Hatred: “Immediately after the action of self-indulgence has been performed, when the appetite for it has been temporarily satiated, the addicts described experiencing an intense emotional and physical let-down, characterized by sadness, regret, discouragement, and guilt.”

c.) Self-Concealment: “The addict’s reaction to the addictive behavior is shame, and the reaction to shame is almost always a life-style of deception designed to hide the addiction.”

d.) Isolation: The more pornography you watch the less able you are to form relationships with real people fueling a cycle of increasing isolation.

e.) Isolating Behaviors: “The addict’s actions of self-concealment thus not only lead him or her back to feelings of isolation but also intensify those feelings, so the void within the person becomes larger than ever.” (Martha & John Beck)

f.) Isolation from God: “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2)

iii.) Fosters Addiction & Tolerance

Pornography can be just as addictive as most drugs.  Those who use pornography tend to show signs of role dysfunction, tolerance and withdrawal, the three classic signs of addiction.

Tolerance refers to needing more intense dosages over time to achieve the same effect. The mesocorticolimbic dopamine pathway in the brain is your “pleasure center.”  It is activated by a chemical in your brain called “Dopamine.”  Whenever you feel pleasure it is because dopamine has stimulated this part of your brain. Addictions occur when your pleasure center is continually overloaded with pleasure chemicals in an unnatural way. Your brain responds to this overload of pleasure by reducing the amount of “dopamine receptors” you have and thus decreasing your ability to experience pleasure. This is the biological foundation of “tolerance” and explains why addicts need more and more of the substance/activity to achieve the same initial high.

Alma reminded us that Wickedness and happiness are mutually exclusive and that pleasure is not the same thing as happiness: “Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.” (Alma 41:10)

Withdrawal refers to abnormal symptoms that develop as a result of dependence on a substance for normal brain functioning.  Since porn addiction rewires your brain it means that your brain can only function normally when using and when you are not using your brain does not function normally. This is the foundation of “dependence” as when you are not using your brain produces negative “withdrawal” symptoms that reflect its inability to function anymore without the substance.  Your brain compensates for the chemical changes brought on by pornography use and can no longer function without them.  Many experience withdrawal as feeling under stimulated and underactive.

Role dysfunction is seen as the addict falls further into a sense of isolation and meaninglessness.   Traditional experiments on addiction have been done with rats in cages. Traditionally, rats are given a choice between normal water and drug water and rats always chose the drug water. Bruce Alexander did a series of experiments in which he changed the environment the rats were living in from a cage to a “park” filled with meaningful things for the rats to do. The rats in “Rat Park” did not use the drug water but instead used the regular water. The implication is that addiction is about the environment within which people live. The rats in the empty cage used drugs while the rats in a resource-rich cage with lots of other rats did not use drugs.

Addiction can also foster a sense of alienation from God.  Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12)

Pornography addiction is often driven by a lack of meaning and connection with the compulsive behavior a maladaptive attempt to fill the void of meaning and connection.  Our culture promotes a false parody of connection and meaning within which addiction thrives.  To overcome addiction, one must establish deep connections with others and find a sense of real meaning.

Pornography undermines this drive for connection with others by providing parodies of connection that can deceive the person into believing this innate need is being met when it isn’t. It is analogous to consuming “junk food” to obtain nutrients.  You think you are giving your body what it wants when you really aren’t.

This leads to a Vicious Cycle of Loneliness in which you feel lonely so you attempt to alleviate these feelings through porn which gives you temporary relief but in the long run makes you lonelier.

Christ is the true Antidote for Loneliness.  Jesus taught: “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4: 13-14)

iv.) Has Many Opportunity Costs

An Opportunity Cost is the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.  The opportunity costs of pornography use include:

Spiritual Losses

a.) The Ultimate Cost is Eternal Life in the world to Come.

b.) Peace in this life is lost.

c.) Loss of the Holy Spirit & Excommunication.

d.) Loss of the Priesthood.

Biological Losses

a.) Loss of Decision Making Abilities & Self-Control.

b.) Loss of ability to experience pleasure.

Psychological Losses 

a.) Loss of Self-Esteem, Integrity & Honesty.

b.) Loss of Connection with Others.

c.) Loss of freedom and independence.

Section 2: Pornography Harms Your Current/Future Spouse

i.) Conditions Deviant Paraphilias

Pornography conditions deviant paraphilias, which are abnormal sexual desires.  In one study, rats were taught to associate the smell of death with sexual arousal.  Naturally the rats were turned off by the smell but through exposure learned to love it.  As a result, the rat became aroused by death.  Through classical conditioning, you teach yourself to become aroused to terrible things.

Pornography researchers have found that users acclimate to the porn they watch—they get used to it, and it stops being exciting or arousing. Why? Because their brain’s pleasure response has gotten numb.  In a 2012 survey of 1,500 men, 56% said their tastes in porn had become “increasingly extreme or deviant.”

Paul warns the Colossians against “inordinate affection” or attractions that are not within reasonable limits: “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Col 3:5)

ii.) Alters beliefs about sex, love & women

Pornography presents a distorted and false idea about what sex is and how people actually engage in it. Beliefs are altered in the following ways:

a.) Women as sex objects: In one study it was found that the more pornography a man watched the more likely he was to prefer that women were submissive and subordinate to men.

b.) Decreases Love: After men watch pornography, they rate themselves as less in love with their partner than prior to watching it.  They also are more critical of their spouses appearance, sexual performance and displays of affection.

c.) Changes Views of Love: Frequent porn use is associated with feeling cynical about love in general, less trust in romantic partners, and with feeling like marriage is confining.

d.) Changes Attraction: In a study in the 50’s researchers determined what colors male butterflies liked most in females and then created cardboard cutouts and the males began trying to mate with the cardboard cutouts and not the females.   Like the cardboard cutouts, images in pornography are not realistic.

e.) Distorted Views of Women: A study of the most popular videos found that nine scenes out of 10 showed women being verbally or physically abused, yet the female victims almost always responded with either pleasure or appeared to be neutral.

f.) Distorted Views of Sex: Sex acts shown are overwhelmingly degrading toward women, and are usually focused on enhancing male pleasure leading to warped ideas about what sex is.

iii.) Negative Effects on the Spouse

Pornography use negatively affects the spouse in the following ways:

a.) Depression & Anxiety: Many partners of pornography users report feeling depressed, anxious, and feeling like they can never measure up. Some even develop symptoms of PTSD and suicidality.

b.) Betrayal and Mistrust:  Several studies have found that partners of  users often report feeling loss, betrayal, mistrust, devastation, and anger when they learn that the other half of their committed relationship has been using porn.

c.) Feeling “Not Good Enough”:  Women are often surgically enhanced, air-brushed and photoshopped like the cardboard cut-outs referred to earlier.  In one study, 6/7 women reported that pornography use had changed expectations of how women should look.

d.) Less Attraction:  As mentioned earlier, people who use feel less attracted to their partner over time.

e.) Isolation: Many women isolate themselves as they fear telling anyone about the problem due to embarrassment or a fear of being blamed.

The Prophet Jacob warned the men of the Covenant  of the damage they were doing to their wives when he said:“For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people…because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands….For they shall not lead away captive the daughters of my people because of their tenderness, save I shall visit them with a sore curse, even unto destruction; for they shall not commit whoredoms, like unto them of old, saith the Lord of Hosts.” (Jacob 2: 31-33)

iv.) Pornography use is associated with a decreased satisfaction in sex. 

Pornography use is also associated with a decreased satisfaction in sex. Pornography use often leads to less sex and less satisfying sex. And for many users, porn eventually means losing the ability to have sex at all as it isn’t stimulating enough.

Whenever you experience something pleasurable your brain leaves markers that makes it easier for you to engage in that behavior again. When you stop associating certain things with pleasure your brain removes those markers making those things harder to get pleasure out of.  Many pornography users cease to associate seeing, hearing or cuddling with their partner as pleasurable and their brain rewires in response.  Meanwhile their brain starts to associate virtual images and being alone as pleasurable and pretty soon they do not associate sex with a real person.

Paul may have described this condition of Latter Day men in this way:“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.  For men shall be lovers of their own selves Without natural affection.” (Tim 3: 1-3)

v.) The opportunity costs in relationships include

Changing Tastes & Preferences

a.) Loss of Attraction to Healthy/Wholesome Sources.

b.) Loss of freedom from deviant attractions.

Changing Beliefs

a.) Loss of a Healthy View of Women as more than sex objects.

b.) Loss of Ability to Love Your Spouse.

c.) Loss of Realistic Views of Sex.

Effects on Spouse

a.) Loss of Esteem, Peace & Security.

b.) Loss of Trust.

c.) Loss of Attraction & Satisfaction.

Section 3: Pornography Harms Society

i.) Pornography Damages Families

Pornography undermines commitment, trust, attraction and love between partners.  This can lead to broken families and a host of other ills such as divorce, stress, trauma, poverty and role dysfunction. In a survey of members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers taken in 2002, 62 percent of the divorce attorneys surveyed said that obsession with pornography had been a significant factor in divorce cases they had handled in the last year.

Another survey of porn addicts reports that 40% lost their spouse, 70% had severe marital problems, 68% were exposed to HIV and other STD’s, 27% lost their career and 58% reported legal consequences as a result of this destructive behaviour (El Hage, 2004).

In the Family Proclamation the Lord declared: “WE WARN that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.” (The Family Proclamation)

Pornography use is also correlated with anxiety, body-image issues, poor self-image, relationship problems, insecurity, and depression. Professors Jennings Bryant and Dolf Zillman at the University of Alabama have studied the effects of pornography for over 30 years and conclude that there are “no rigorous  research demonstrations of desirable effects can be reported.”

ii.) Pornography hurts women & society

Pornography has been found to hurt women in the following ways:

a.) Promotes violence against Women: In one study, researchers analyzed 50 of the most popular movies and found that 88% contained physical violence and that the typical scene averaged 12 physical or verbal attacks. Those who watch pornography are more likely endorse statements supporting aggression against women.

b.) Promotes Sexual Assault: exposure to both non-violent and violent porn increases aggressive behavior, including both having violent fantasies and actually committing violent assaults. Even Watching non-violent pornography makes men more likely to use verbal coercion, drugs and alcohol to coerce women into sex. Other studies reveal that those who watch pornography are more likely to believe that women like being raped and this belief is predictive of sexually aggressive behaviors.

c.) Promotes the Sex Trade: In one study that looked at prostitution across 9 countries, 49% said videos were made of them and that many men seek out prostitutes to fulfill fantasies they learn about through pornography.

d.) Increases Crime: When Sex businesses in Oklahoma City were shut down, rapes declined 27% while they rose 19% in the rest of the state who did not shut those businesses down. In another study, Queensland kept restrictive pornography laws while South Australia did not.  Over a 13 year period, rapes increased 6 fold in South Australia while remaining unchanged in Queensland. Another study of sex criminals revealed that 53% used pornography as a stimulant before committing their crimes.

iii.) Opportunity costs

This leads us to several opportunity costs for society that include:

Harm to the Family

a.) Loss of Healthy Relationships & Functional Families.

b.) Loss of Psychological Health & Well-Being.

Harm to Women

c.) Loss of a Healthy View of Women as more than sex objects.

d.) Loss of Ability to Love Your Spouse.

e.) Loss of Realistic Views of Sex.

Harm to Society

f.) Loss of Respect & Safety for Women.

g.) Loss of a Society free From Sex-Trade & Assault.

Section 4: Justifications are Reductionist Distortions

Reductionism is: “The practice of simplifying a complex idea, issue, condition, or the  like, especially to the point of minimizing, obscuring, or distorting it.” The Belief: “Watching pornography doesn’t hurt anyone” is naïve, simplistic and is reductionist because it seeks to reduce sex to a biomechanical reaction. It ignores the effects that sex has on a host of complex biopsychosocial and spiritual factors.

Elder Holland warns us against this reductionist view of sex when he says: “To give only part of that which cannot be followed with the gift of your whole heart and your whole life and your whole self is its own form of emotional Russian roulette…. If you persist in giving parts and pieces and inflamed fragments only, you run the terrible risk of such spiritual, psychic damage that you may undermine both your physical intimacy and your wholehearted devotion to a truer, later love.” (Jeffrey R. Holland)

A distortion is something that is not a complete representation of the facts or reality. When we distort something we give a partial representation of the facts but neglect to account for the rest of those facts.  Satan is a Master Liar and Distorter.  In Moses 4:4 we learn: “And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.”

“Pornography use doesn’t hurt anyone” is distorted in the following ways:

i.) Anticipatory Beliefs: It focuses only on the pleasure associated with using and ignores the host of ills associated with it.

ii.) Helpless Beliefs: It is often justified by a belief that sexual impulses are uncontrollable and that the user is not strong enough to resist them.

iii.) Permissive Beliefs: This is a form of permission giving.  The act is justified because the claim is made that nobody is really being hurt so it’s okay to use.

iv.) All-Or Nothing:  It is an all-or-nothing statement that rejects what is really a more complex reality.

v.) Mental Filter:  This involves selectively paying attention to evidence that supports your belief and ignoring evidence that does not.

vi.)Fortune Telling:  This involves believing you can predict the future, knowing all the consequences that this behavior will have on you.

vii.) Minimization & Denial: This involves distorting the seriousness of a behavior so that negatives are either ignored or not taken seriously.  Pornography never shows anyone contracting STI’s, getting pregnant, getting injured or having to consider the feelings, opinions and beliefs of a real person.

Recognizing the importance of our beliefs, Jesus taught: “As [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7).  Jesus gave a commandment to control our thoughts as well as our deeds. He said, “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). …

Chastity violation is maintained by beliefs that distort the positives of sin and minimize the consequences of it.  These beliefs include ideas that give us “permission” to sin or ideas that we are “helpless” or “powerless” before biological urges.

An essential part of overcoming a pornography addiction is to make  your mind single to the glory of God and bring all thoughts in subjection to Christ (D&C 88:67–68; 2 Cor 10:5)

Summary

The Belief: “Watching pornography doesn’t hurt anyone” is naïve, simplistic and seeks to reduce sex to a biomechanical reaction.  It is irrational in that it persists despite the large body of evidence that suggests otherwise including:

i.) Warnings from Scripture concerning the gravity and consequences of the sin.

ii.) Warning from Neuroscience concerning addiction, frontal lobe damage, loss of ability to feel joy and the formation of deviant paraphilias.

iii.) Warnings from Psychological Research concerning the maladaptive attempt to establish connection with others that paradoxically eliminates your ability to connect with real people and fuels isolation.

iv.) Warnings from Psychological Research concerning the likelihood of adopting false and distorted views of sex, women and love and ultimately losing the ability to feel love for or have satisfying sex with a real person.

v.) Warnings from Research that outlines the negative effects on the mental health of the user and on the spouse.

vi.) Warnings from Research that outlines the damages done to the spouse including betrayal, mistrust, loss of intimacy, self-esteem, attraction & Connection.

vii.) Warnings from Research concerning the damaging effects of pornography on the family and how it contributes to divorce rates.

viii.) Warnings from Research concerning how it promotes violence against women, increases crime and promotes the sex trade.

ix.) Distorting the experience to ignore all of the negatives and to only focus on the perceived benefits.  It involves reducing sex to a biomechanical reaction with no other components.

Sources

Fight the New Drug Resources: http://learn.ftnd.org/

ElHage, A. M. (2004). Sexual Degradation: How Pornography Destroys the Family. Retrieved November 20, 2007, from http://www.ncfamily.org/PolicyPapers/Findings%200407 SexualDegrad.pdf

Hughes, R. D. (1998). How Pornography Harms Children. Retrieved November 20, 2007, from http://www.protectkPornography Statistics. Retrieved November 20, 2007, from http://www.familysafemedia.com/pornography_statistics.html

ids.com/effects/harms.htm#ii

Watson, B. & Welch, S.R. (2000). Just Harmless Fun? Understanding the Impact of Pornography. Retrieved November 20, 2007, fromhttp://www.protectkids.com/effects/justharmlessfun.pdf

Weiss, D. (2005). Pornography: Harmless Fun or Public Health Hazard? Retrieved November 23, 2007, from http://family.org/socialissues/A000001158.cfm

Resources

The Dangers of Pornography Presentation

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