Whether legally classified as obscene or indecent, all pornography is harmful. Pornography reduces human beings to sexual commodities that can be bought, sold, used and discarded. No one is immune to the mental, emotional, spiritual and even physical consequences of viewing pornographic material. These effects are not confined to the individuals viewing pornography; they extend to families and culture as well.
In his book, The Centerfold Syndrome, psychologist Gary Brooks identified the relational impact on men who consume a steady diet of pornography:
- Voyeurism: An obsession with visual stimulation that minimizes all other features of a healthy relationship.
- Objectification: An obsession with body parts at the expense of the whole person.
- Validation: A condition in which a man needs beautiful, sexy or sexually submissive women to validate himself and his masculinity.
- Trophyism: Treating women as collectibles and property.
- Fear of Intimacy: An inability to get beyond centerfold images of women in order to enter a real relationship.
Addictive and Progressive
Dr. Victor Cline identified a four-stage progression detailing the addictive quality of pornography.
According to Cline, after exposure and repeated viewing, a person enters stage one, which is addiction. Multiple research studies show that porn viewing stimulates a powerful cocktail of neurotransmitters that floods the brain and provides a high similar to that produced by narcotics.
Once addicted, a person may reach stage two, which is escalation. In this stage, material that formerly produced a"high" no longer does. More material, longer viewing times and coarser and more degrading material is sought in order to achieve the same degree of stimulation.
The third stage is desensitization. Dr. Cline wrote: "Material which was originally perceived as shocking, taboo-breaking, illegal, repulsive or immoral, in time, comes to be seen as acceptable and commonplace." Sadly, many who are arrested for possessing child pornography say they never started out looking for it, but had become bored with regular pornography.
The final stage involves acting-out what the user has seen in pornography. This could take the form of seeking out prostitutes, engaging in group sex, voyeurism, inflicting pain, compulsive promiscuity, committing rape or child sexual assault.
Effects on Children
Although the adult mind is vulnerable to pornographic imagery, children are the most severaly harmed. Emory University behavioral scientist Ralph DiClemente said: "[Children] can't just put [porn] in their worldview, because they don't have one. This becomes one of the building blocks that they're going to put into their worldview, and that's what we don't want."
Because their minds are still developing, children don't have the proper filters to sift out the lies of pornography. These lies become the filters through which the rest of life is seen and understood.
Dr. Jill Manning confirms that the harm to mental filters is one of seven primary negative effects of children exposed to pornography. The other six are:
- Emotional trauma
- Having sex earlier
- Desiring and pursuing sex apart from emotional attachments
- Antagonism toward being married or having a family
- Higher risk for sexual compulsions and addictions
- Believing that deviant sex practices, such as group sex, bestiality or sadomasochistic activity, are actually common
Effects on the Family
Dr. Cline wrote that "the major consequence of being addicted to pornography is … the disturbance of the fragile bonds of intimate family and marital relationships. This is where the most grievous pain, damage and sorrow occur."
Dr. Manning's research found six primary harms to marriage associated with porn consumption:
- Increased marital distress and risk of separation and divorce
- Decreased marital intimacy and sexual satisfaction
- An increased appetite for more graphic types of pornography and sexual activity associated with abusive, illegal or unsafe practices
- Devaluation of monogamy, marriage and child rearing
- An increasing number of people struggling with compulsive and addictive sexual behavior
Dr. Manning also found that children living in a home where pornography was being used were more likely to suffer from decreased parental time and attention, and had a higher risk of encountering pornographic material, parental seperation and divorce and parental job loss and financial strain.
The research clearly demolishes the old lie that pornography is harmless adult entertainment.