- For Survivors
- Resource Center
- Make a Difference
- Book Clubs
This page helps complete Step 1:
We honestly Face and Embrace the Impact of the Sexual Revolution on our lives.
If you are not familiar with the “7 Steps to Sexual Peace,” go here.
We have identified twelve categories of people who have been harmed by the Sexual Revolution. This questionnaire explores Pornography Addicts and their Families. Use this check list to see if you are a Victim of the Sexual Revolution.
Our goal here is not merely to identify Victims. The goal is to help the Victims become Survivors, and the Survivors to become Activists for positive change.
The Pornography Addict and his or her Family: Pornography is a victimless crime. No one ever gets addicted to pornography. No family members are ever harmed by their pornography use.
This section of the questionnaire is written for the pornography addict. If you are a family member, you may wish to ask yourself these questions about the addict in your life.
This section of the questionnaire is written for the family member of a pornography addict.
If you are a Pornography Addict and Their Families, you may benefit from these resources created or compiled by the Ruth Institute.
Posted on: Friday, May 31, 2019
(May 31, 2019) Dr J is one of the speakers at the Spiritual Life Center's Catholic Culture Conference in Wichita, Kansas. This is the first of three talks she's giving at the annual gathering, and it's entitled, "Understanding the Sexual Revolution."
The Q&A session after this talk is also available for listening or download here. Stay tuned for her other talks from the conference, coming right up in our podcast stream.
Listen to the talk | Listen to the Q&A
Posted on: Tuesday, October 09, 2018
By Tyler O'Neil
This article was first published October 4, 2018, at PJMedia.com.
In 21st century America, sex is all around us: on television, in movies, in classrooms, in politics, and even in churches. Sex permeates our desires, our expectations for relationships, even our identity. The Sexual Revolution goes far beyond the LGBT movement, and it has fundamentally reshaped American society. But few Americans actually grasp exactly where this revolution came from. An explosive new book reveals that government and wealthy donors, rather than impersonal historical forces or newly liberated women, propelled the Sexual Revolution.
"The State bears the greatest responsibility for the toxic sexual culture in which we live," Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute (RI), writes in "The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologues Are Destroying Lives And Why the Church Was Right All Along." She presented five other explanations for the Sexual Revolution, and found each one wanting.
Many have suggested that the Sexual Revolution came about through the inevitable and impersonal "march of history." This view does not work "because it robs us and our forbears of human agency." Even the over-hyped birth control pill "is just an inert piece of technology" that people could decide to use or not use, or use in different ways.
Morse also rebuts the feminist narrative, which suggests that "these changes have been one long string of victories for the benefit and advancement of women." Ironically, the very success of women's liberation "undermines the claim that women have been completely powerless and dominated by the patriarchy throughout all of recorded history." Furthermore, the author argues that "the pro-life movement is dominated by women," suggesting that not all women want more of the Sexual Revolution.
Perhaps the most common explanation for the Sexual Revolution is the "liberationist narrative," which posits that everyone is more free thanks to new sexual norms. This view also cannot explain how age-old oppression was immediately dissolved in one generation, Morse argues.
Furthermore, many people "have become less free, in fact actually oppressed, by the very forces that are supposedly liberating us. The breaking of family bonds has increased the size and scope of the State, including the intrusion of the State into the everyday lives of ordinary people." She mentions college sex tribunals, family courts — which even rule on which schools and churches children can attend — and higher taxes to pay for social workers who manage tough divorces and family breakdown.
Morse also rejects the "over-population narrative," which suggests that "too many people create ecological disaster and economic backwardness," so the State needs to control population through birth control and abortion. Interestingly, advocates of this narrative "haven't been able to adapt the narrative to the changing circumstances of population decline, which the Over-Population Narrative itself helped bring about."
Finally, the author turns to a "steal capitalist narrative," explaining the Sexual Revolution by pointing to the many people who benefit financially from family breakdown. Abortionists, pharmaceutical companies, the fertility industry, pornographers, divorce professionals, family court judges and lawyers, medical professionals who specialize in sexually transmitted diseases, and social workers all perversely benefit from family breakdown, contraception, and abortion.
Even higher education and employers benefit from women choosing to get married later, to go to school and to work, rather than raising a family. Morse claims that employers benefit from easy divorce as well, as women are less able to rely on their husbands to financially support them. She suggests that these factors cement the Sexual Revolution, but they do not explain it.
The author boils the Sexual Revolution down to three basic "ideologies:" the Contraceptive Ideology separates sex from childbearing; the Divorce Ideology separates sex and childbearing from marriage; and the Gender Ideology eliminates the distinctions between men and women that individuals do not explicitly embrace.
"The Sexual Revolution needs the State for one major reason: the premises of the Sexual Revolution are false," Morse declares. "Sex does make babies. Children do need their parents, and therefore marriage is the proper and just context for both sex and childbearing. Men and women are different." The Sexual Revolution requires "reconstructing society" around a rejection of these basic truths, so it involves a great deal of propaganda.
"If you can make people believe Bruce Jenner, the 1976 male Olympic decathlon winner, is a woman, you can make them believe 2 + 2 = 5. If you can make people afraid to say, 'Bruce Jenner is a man,' you can make them afraid to say anything," Morse quips. "The Sexual Revolution is a totalitarian ideology with a blind commitment to the implementation of its tenets, regardless of the human costs."
The book begins with a list of victims of the Sexual Revolution, a topic for a future article. Those victims include children of divorce, spouses who did not want to get divorced, women who waited too long to have children, young women who wanted to abstain from sex, and more. Suffice it to say, the Sexual Revolution has harmed many people.
Morse narrates how the state unleashed the Sexual Revolution, beginning with the Supreme Court contraception case Griswold v. Connecticut (1965). The Contraceptive Ideology predated this decision and played a large role in pushing the Court to change the law on contraception.
The author cites liberal attorney Leo Pfeffer and conservative historian Allan Carlson, who agreed that governments will consider contraception necessary once they have established welfare states — in order to prevent the subsidized poor from having children. Tragically, the U.S. government pushed contraception before Griswold, pushing contraception in post-World War II Japan and other foreign countries considered to be U.S. interests.
In the 1960s and 1970s, USAID started pushing contraception and abortion, thinking these "family planning" efforts would help other countries defeat poverty. These policies were also wrapped up with the ugly eugenics movement in America.
In order to downplay the ugly history of eugenics, contraception activists turned to the work of Alfred Kinsey, an academic who claimed that "up to" 67 to 98 percent of American men ha had premarital sex and that 69 percent of American males had at least one experience with a prostitute. His claims were shot down by other researchers, who exposed his shoddy methods. But the Rockefeller Foundation funded his research and sent his crackpot theories mainstream.
Planned Parenthood and its allies enjoyed connections to elites, and helped push the Court in the direction of legalizing contraception for anyone across the country.
Similarly, elite institutions and big donors pushed no-fault divorce, Morse argues. After Ronald Reagan signed the first no-fault divorce law in 1968, the American Law Institute (ALI), founded with support from the Carnegie Foundation, crafted model legislation to insert the state in between husbands and wives — and favor the spouse who wanted a divorce.
The ALI pushed for decriminalizing private sexual acts between consenting adults, a key plank that struck down states' ability to regulate obscene materials and contraception.
By 1974, all but five states had adopted a form of no-fault divorce.
Morse argues that no-fault divorce positions the power of the state on the side of whichever spouse least wants the marriage to continue. This damages spouses who are committed to the marriage, but it also damages children who do not grow up with both of their parents. It also empowers the government, which now mediates between divorced mothers and fathers.
The author argues that the claim "the kids will be all right" is propaganda. She cites the work of Judith Wallerstein, who found that divorce has a long-term impact on children — damaging their prospects for romantic relationships in adulthood. Similarly, the worries about husbands abusing wives are overblown, as studies have shown that women and children are more likely to be abused in cohabiting relationships than in marriage.
Finally, Morse argues that the government and elites pushed the "Gender Ideology" — long before transgender identity went mainstream — in order to encourage women to be "ideal workers:" "a person who never takes time off, is never sick, whose mental and psychological focus is entirely on the job."
"We've built a society around the premise that our educated women must be permitted to time their 1.6 pregnancies right down to the minute when it's most convenient. But convenient for whom? All too often, it means the convenience of the employers, or the interests of the career path, or of those who hold the student debt which the young woman or young couple must pay down," Morse claims.
The author does not lament the fact that women have entered the "managerial class," highly paid professions which do not involve manual labor. She herself is a member of this class. Rather, she suggests that the pressures of work and the benefits of this class enable people to overlook the obvious differences between men and women.
"People who do manual labor aren't deluded for a moment that men and women are interchangeable," Morse quips. For this reason, men are vastly over-represented in the dangerous professions.
Women's involvement in the workforce need not be connected to the Sexual Revolution's Gender Ideology, the author argues. "I claim the right to participate in the labor market as women, not as men in skirts." She suggests that "educated women would be better off if they accepted that their fertility peaks during their twenties and planned their lives around this fact."
Morse lays out a basic life plan: Women should go to college for a liberal education, not a vocational one. They should et married and have kids early, using their higher educations to be involved in educating their kids. "Let your husbands support you. Trust them. Be grateful for them," and when the children are older, go back for an advanced degree and work.
Tragically, activists are pushing on all these issues and more. Morse discusses same-sex marriage in a chapter on the Gender Ideology. She recalls the battle over California's Proposition 8.
"The 'Yes on 8' campaign was arguably the largest grassroots campaign in history," she writes, noting that California's secretary of state website crashed because there were over 5,000 pages of contributors to the campaign. Yet modern "progressives" "took Proposition 8 to court on flimsy pretexts and rich people's money."
After Proposition 8 passed and the people had amended their constitution, California's attorney general refused to defend it. The people's will failed thanks to an effective pocket veto. in the case Hollingsworth v. Perry (2013), the Supreme Court ruled that proponents of ballot initiatives like Proposition 8 could not defend such laws in court, enabling Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) to resume same-sex marriage in the state. Now-Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) performed the first same-sex marriage after this ruling.
As with Proposition 8, wealthy liberals continue to push Sexual Revolution issues, particularly abortion and contraception. George Soros and Warren Buffett continue to fund abortion groups, and they use their money to "shape political institutions so they can use the government to recreate the world in their own image and likeness," Morse alleges.
Importantly, the book notes that contraception carries health risks for women, and some studies have shown that hormonal contraception is as likely to cause cancer as smoking. "Smoking has been all but banned, tobacco companies have been sued, and smokers have been socially shunned," Morse writes. "By contrast, the government actively promotes the use of hormonal contraception while the media plays down the risks."
Abortion, often considered an alternative should contraception fail, also carries tremendous health risks to the mother, which medical associations keep secret for political reasons, the author argues. She also notes that wealthy donors funded abortion activists who convinced the Supreme Court to strike down Texas regulations treating abortion clinics like any other medical facility.
"When the people of Texas, acting through their duly elected state legislators, enacted health and safety legislation for abortion clinics, the elites of society knocked it down," Morse declares.
"The Sexual State" makes a compelling case that state power and wealthy elites pushed the Sexual Revolution, and people should fight back. While Morse does address LGBT issues, her book mostly focuses on the negative impacts the Sexual Revolution has had on family life, harming faithful spouses, children of divorce, and many others.
Morse, a Roman Catholic, presents a very Catholic view of these issues and champions the Catholic Church's approach. Her book was ill-fated to release shortly after the sexual abuse scandal broke, but her points still stand.
The book may be too polemical, but it raises important questions about the hidden harms of the Sexual Revolution and who benefits from this humongous social change.
"The Sexual State" is an important book for libertarians to wrestle with, as it presents a compelling case that big government benefits from the Sexual Revolution, and that marriage and family would help weaken the power of the state.
Posted on: Monday, January 08, 2018
Posted by Marc & Julie Anderson on in Archdiocese, Leaven News
What part will you play in the future of the family?
It is a question that is on the mind of more than a few Catholic leaders these days, as we see the primary institution of our society fracture under seemingly insurmountable stress.
But the Catholic Church is not the only institution unwilling to throw in the towel on the institution of the family.
The Ruth Institute, founded in 2008 by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, is a global nonprofit organization aimed at ending family breakdown by energizing survivors of the Sexual Revolution.
And it’s a movement that is coming to the archdiocese next month.
On Jan. 27, the archdiocesan office of marriage and family life will host the institute’s “Healing Family Breakdown” spiritual workshop at the Church of the Ascension in Overland Park.
The event is open to all, Catholic and non-Catholic, and, according to Morse, is meant to accomplish three goals: (1) heal families; (2) help participants prevent family breakdown; and (3) help participants become agents of healing within society at large.
When families attend the workshop, Morse added, something important and life-changing happens to them.
“You realize you and your family are not the only ones,” she said. “For a lot of people, that is huge.”
That realization is an important first step in healing, she said, and is often made manifest to her in a tangible way in the seating arrangement of workshop participants.
“The Holy Spirit has a way of seating people at the table who belong together,” Morse said.
For example, at a past workshop, she witnessed a teenage girl’s perspective change as a result of a conversation she had with a man at her table.
The girl was the daughter of divorced parents. She blamed her father for the situation and did not want anything to do with him.
However, also seated at her table was a divorced man experiencing loneliness as his children would not talk to him. A conversation between the two, Morse said, led the young lady to consider the hurt and loneliness her father might be experiencing, a perspective the teenager had not considered previously.
And that’s just one type of healing and paradigm shift The Ruth Institute is trying to bring about in the world.
On the nonprofit’s website — www.ruthinstitute.org — Morse identifies a dozen different types of survivors of the Sexual Revolution, ranging from children of divorce and of unmarried parents, to a pornography addict or a post-abortive man or woman.
If you recognize yourself, a family member or a friend in one of the 12 survivor descriptions, Morse discourages you from trying to go it alone. Participate in the workshop and begin the healing process, instead.
“We need [survivors’] participation,” she said. “We need you to be witnesses to say the church was right all along [about its teachings on family and sexuality].”
Morse calls survivors “the secret weapon” to restoring the family to its greatness and its rightful place in society.
“All these wounded souls need to speak up,” she said.
“Many people leave the faith over sexual issues,” Morse explained. “I know. I stormed off in a huff.”
But just as people leave the faith over sexual issues, Morse said, countless people later realize the beauty of church teaching and return to the faith.
“I was completely wrong, of course,” she said of her departure from the faith.
Later, by studying the church’s teachings and by watching her adopted and biological children grow, Morse said she realized how much children need their father and mother as well as how much they want their parents.
“That’s how I got interested in the family and how the family fits into society,” said Morse.
As she has watched the family structure in modern society continue to deteriorate, however, Morse is not without hope.
“A lot of what society is trying to do is undoable,” she said. “We believe it is possible to make the family great again.”
Posted on: Friday, September 29, 2017
(September 29, 2017) Dr J is once again Todd Wilkin's guest on Issues, Etc. They're discussing Hugh Hefner's "legacy" as the man who advanced the sexual revolution by mainstreaming pornography.
Todd also mentioned Issues's annual Making the Case conference that's coming up--check out Issues, Etc.'s website for registration details.Listen
Posted on: Wednesday, July 12, 2017
We were the happy couple, married in our parish almost 30 years ago. After the marriage, my spouse apologized for pressuring before marriage to unchastity.
That had been my first mistake--believing the lie that in a serious relationship (we were nearly engaged after all) having sex occasionally was ok.
It wasn't. It bothered my conscience deeply and I felt used.
Once married we used Natural Family Planning. In the first year, we conceived. With bills to pay, crying every day, I left my child to go to work. Eventually my husband did quite well financially, so I quit to raise our children. My youngest was born in a traumatic delivery, which led me to fear having more children. I then made mistake number two--taking the pill. I knew it was wrong, but I justified it in "my case." God would understand, but I'm ashamed that I didn't confess it. I didn't understand the WHY of what the church taught. My mother had worked full time, and the message growing up was to put career and financial security as the top priority. Having a large family was seen as irresponsible.
After a decade of marriage, one day I walked in and caught my husband masturbating. Was he watching porn on his computer? He said that every man does it. It hurt deeply. He met someone, a porn model. He told me that he didn't want to be married to me anymore. He claimed that he had never loved me and we were not compatible.
We saw a priest who failed us. He told my husband that since he wasn't happy he could leave. I felt so abandoned. I considered leaving the church. My husband continued to be distant, cold towards me. I considered suicide.
Alone one night, I heard a quiet voice telling me that I was not alone--God was there. During this time our oldest, who was in high school, became involved in a same sex relationship. I cried all the time. No one could tell me how to deal with this. The ministry in my archdiocese turned out to be gay-affirming. I left the first meeting in tears. Their message, to affirm, I couldn't do. At my new parish the priest told me about Courage.
I couldn't in good conscience start dating, as I was still a married woman, regardless of what my husband chose to do. He had broken his promise; I didn't want to give my children that example. I focused on my two teenagers. They needed a responsible parent. I was forced to go back to work. I remember crying on Christmas Eve as the utility man came to shut off our utilities again. That same Christmas my estranged husband bought our daughters designer handbags. I felt ashamed that I had failed my children. One day I came home and caught my youngest daughter, 18, with her boyfriend. I yelled at him and asked him point blank if he was prepared to support a child.
Soon it will be 10 years since that day when my husband shattered our family. Along the path of tears I gained a deeper faith. I learned to trust God in ways I never had. I discovered how very much He had always been there with me, protected, and guided me. I am a different person than I was on that first day when I thought my heart would explode from pain. I left my old parish because the memories hurt too much and because the failure of the pastor left me feeling abandoned. I found a new parish where they actually preach the true Catholic faith. I became involved in parish life and began formation as a secular Carmelite. I began to educate myself through the Courage apostolate. I began an EnCourage chapter in my area, providing hope and truth for parents.
Three years ago my husband filed for divorce. I miss the man he used to be. I now see a man without inner peace, and my heart hurts for him. He is
cohabiting with a woman 10 years younger than I. My oldest is cohabiting in a same sex relationship. I understand now about redemptive suffering. God
really is close to the broken-hearted, abandoned spouse. He always provided for me. And I really feel that I have been blessed with the better part.
I am His, and that is where I want to stay.
Submitted by M. M.
Posted on: Thursday, June 22, 2017
At the age of 52, I recently found myself sitting in my mother's psychologist's office. She went to him most of her adult life, though she died six years ago. I knew her psychologist well since, at the age of 14, I was the one who had sought him out in hopes of acquiring help for my family. My dad attended family therapy once, at which time he stood in frustration, faced his broken family, and proclaimed, "I am an alcoholic and have no intention of changing anything."
After my third divorce, I returned home to the Catholic Church. Then, following a year of devotion to praying my mom's rosary, I felt compelled to approach my parish priest about starting the annulment process. The time had come to confront my painful past, and the healing process was subsequently set in motion. It has not been easy, but necessary.
After Mom passed away, I discovered her own annulment documents. They revealed that my father was a sex addict and described in detail the abuse she had suffered in her marriage. It was overwhelming to realize the puzzle of my past consisted of a myriad of pieces. I think it would have been a relief the day dad chose to walk out of our family had it not been Christmas Eve. He was donning a new shirt and void of regret as he walked right past his wife's brokenness and his children's joyful anticipation of the arrival of Santa Claus.
After two years of therapy, I found myself still staring at a mound of puzzle pieces--very few connected. In my desperation, I thought mom's psychologist could help trigger some memories. Within the first ten minutes of our visit, I regretted this decision as he hastily concluded I had "hang ups" about sex since I was in a chaste relationship. He suggested that if we liked each other, we should live together. I remember staring at his degree hanging appropriately lopsided on the wall when it felt as if a bolt of lightning shot through my body, which appeared to have traveled upwards from hell, as I realized this man had influenced my mom. She sought help to better her life, and this is what she got. I was now guilt-ridden, knowing I had brought them together.
This sparked an unwelcome memory of my mom asking me to purchase her a condom. I vividly recollected struggling to process the metamorphosis I was witnessing--she was planning a one night stand. At the time I was married with two small children. Possessing only the life skills acquired on my own, I desperately tried to persuade her to reconsider. What was most upsetting was that she seemed so happy, even giddy, at the prospect. I wondered what had happened to my mom, the one who attended mass and confession and was quite devoted to praying the rosary. Now I knew.
I listened to the psychologist as he recalled this very encounter as my mom had described it to him. "It was liberating," he proclaimed, for her to express herself in this manner after being abused by my dad for so long. She now had control over her sexual being and was free to express her sexuality with confidence and without fear. He assured me it was quite pleasurable for her. I felt sick and was rendered speechless for a moment as I absorbed the shock waves of this most recent traumatic event. I responded to him by leaning inward and looking directly into his eyes with a resounding, "Seemingly!"
It was time to leave. As I walked out the door, I muttered "hippie" and felt somewhat vindicated.
Submitted by D.W.
Posted on: Tuesday, March 14, 2017
For immediate release:
“Families don’t just ‘break down.’ Marriages don’t just ‘fall apart.’ Somebody sins! So, go to Confession!” –Ruth Institute President, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse
Ruth Institute launches ‘Go to Confession’ Campaign
(March 14, 2017, Lake Charles, LA) During this season of Lent, The Ruth Institute has launched an online and billboard campaign encouraging people of all faiths to make things right with God. “Families don’t just ‘break down.’ Marriages don’t just ‘fall apart.’ Somebody sins!” Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse stated in announcing the campaign. “That is why have launched a series of billboards and social media messages urging people to go to confession!”
Even in cases where one person has the major responsibility for fracturing the family, all family members can benefit from going to confession. “The injured parties may need help with bitterness, anger, emotional paralysis and many other issues. The grace of confession can help them,” Dr. Morse explained. “And of course, it goes without saying: if you have injured your family through addiction, abuse, adultery or desertion, go to confession. Jesus is waiting for you in the confessional and wants to forgive you. If you can’t tell him, in the person of the priest, that you are sorry, how are you ever going to be able to face your ex-spouse or your children?”
“Our ‘Go to Confession’ campaign reminds people that God is merciful and He will forgive us. What better time than during Lent?” Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute said.
The Institute launched a billboard campaign in Lake Charles, LA, with messages: “Jesus is waiting for you,” “Sin makes you stupid,” featuring St. Thomas Aquinas (who loosely said that), and “Party’s over. Go to confession,” with an image of Mardi Gras debris. “Lake Charles is in the heart of Cajun Country, the Catholic buckle on the Bible belt. If we can’t publicly urge people to go to confession here, where can we? And the world desperately needs this encouragement.”
Dr. Morse added. “Guilty consciences make it harder for us to move forward and to resolve the issues caused by our sins, or the bitterness we’ve held onto from the sins of others.” Find the Ruth Institute’s ‘Go to Confession’ images on their website here, here and here.
The Ruth Institute is a global non-profit organization dedicated to finding Christ-like solutions to the problems of family breakdown. Founded by world renowned author, speaker and academic, Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, the Ruth Institute has accumulated decades of research to support individuals and families harmed by divorce, the hook-up culture, and other forms of family breakdown.
Reply to this email if you’d like to interview Dr. Morse further about this unique and beneficial ‘Go to Confession’ campaign.
Posted on: Tuesday, February 21, 2017
The good news is that media literacy and character development can protect kids.
For more than four decades, my work as a developmental psychologist and educator has focused on helping schools and parents develop good character in youth. I direct a character education center at the State University of New York in Cortland, New York.
Among many things, our Center’s work includes teaching young people how to respect the gift of their sexuality—how to exercise virtues such as good judgment, modesty, self-control, and authentic love in this vulnerable part of their lives. More than ever, our children need good guidance in this crucial area from their parents and teachers and others who love them.
The sexual revolution has been the dominant cultural revolution of the past half century. It promoted a radical ideology of unrestricted sexual freedom. It has created a more difficult world for our children to grow up in, a hypersexualized culture that surrounds them with sexual pressures and temptations and the message that in matters of sex, anything is okay “as long as nobody gets hurt.”
One of the biggest effects of the sexual revolution is that it normalized pornography. With the arrival of the Internet, pornography exploded. According to recent estimates, the average age at which boys now begin use of Internet pornography is 11. Many are addicted by the time they are teens. Many carry that addiction into their marriages and families.
The good news: media literacy, science and grassroots movements
But there is good news in the battle against pornography. Many smart and dedicated people are addressing the problem. As families and schools, we can draw hope from that and make use of their good work.
It’s good news that we have educational tools that schools and families can use in fighting this battle. Character education, especially character education that includes media literacy, is one such tool. Media literacy, whether it’s done at home or in classrooms, has two goals:
1. to teach students how to think critically about all forms of media (Who created this? What are the messages?)
2. to teach students to think critically about their own media habits. How does any particular form of media influence their values, beliefs, attitudes, goals, how they spend their time, and the kind of person they are becoming? Is it making them a better person and helping them build a positive future—or not? This kind of self-examination turns media literacy into authentic character education. It challenges students to take a hard look in the mirror—and then change what they discover needs changing.
It’s not hard to get students to think critically about media. They enjoy that. It’s considerably harder to get them to think critically about themselves. But that’s essential for building character—and for confronting the problem of pornography.
It’s also very good news that there is now a science of pornography that helps us understand how pornography does its damage. It’s good news that there is a growing body of solid scientific research showing the many harmful effects of pornography.
It’s good news that more therapists and others in the mental health profession recognize pornography addiction as a problem. For many years they did not. You may be surprised to learn—I was—that Harvard University now has a psychiatrist on its Medical School faculty who is teaching psychiatrists-in-training how to use a virtue-based approach to treating pornography and other addictions.
It’s also good news that there is a growing anti-pornography movement led by young people themselves.
Fight the New Drug
Their website includes a lot of other videos you could use as part of a media literacy unit or watch at home with your family. Then check out the Get the facts tab. That link will take you to an excellent summary of how pornography “harms the brain, the heart, and the world.” You can read and absorb the key points under each of those three headings in about 15 minutes.
The ‘Porn Kills Love’ movement
Fight the New Drug has launched a second website. Porn Kills Love has become its own movement, promoted by young women as well as guys. They emphasize that they are “pro-sex”—but sex in the right kind of relationship, one where there is true love and lasting commitment.
What do other sources of evidence say?
If you are doing a good job of teaching critical thinking when you do media literacy, your students might ask, “But how do we know Fight the New Drug isn’t biased? They have an agenda; they don’t want people to use porn. Why should we trust what they say about the research?”
Affirm your students for asking tough questions like these. A healthy skepticism is part of critical thinking. Have them look at other sources of evidence.
Here is one: In October 2015, the American College of Pediatricians issued a report titled: “The Impact of Pornography on Children” It summarizes dozens of studies of pornography’s effects on both children and adults.
But the clearest explanation I have found of this an article titled, “The Science Behind Pornography” by Dr Kevin Majeres. Dr Majeres is the Harvard psychiatrist I mentioned earlier as specializing in a virtue-based approach to treating pornography and other addictions. I think you could use his article with your students or children.
To succeed, we need virtue education
The big idea we want to hold on to and have our children and students hold on to is this: If you want to be a good person and lead a good life, rules can help. They teach us right from wrong. But rules aren’t enough. We need virtues in order to live by the rules. We need virtues in order to turn knowledge into action.
Dr Majeres’ ideas are actually a combination of new insights from modern psychology—like “reframing” and having a “growth mindset” (“I can get better if I really work at it”)—and very old wisdom. Thousands of years ago, the Greek philosopher Aristotle said, “If you want to be kind, do acts of kindness. If you wish to be brave, perform acts of courage. If you want to have self-control, practice self-control.”
If our character education efforts are not changing our students’ behavior, then we are probably not spending enough time guiding them in practicing the virtues. Virtues are good habits. We can’t develop good habits without effort and practice. A lot of character education, unfortunately, is mostly talk, not action.
What makes Fight the New Drug effective character education?
The Fight the New Drug and Porn Kills Love program is a good example of what I consider effective character and media literacy education. Here’s why: It’s designed to develop the three essential components of character—the head, the heart, and the hand.
To become a person of character is to become the best person we can be. That involves knowing the good (understanding the nature of virtuous circles and vicious circles, for example), loving the good (strongly desiring to grow in the virtues, like purity), and doing the good (strengthening the virtues through practice, until they become habits).
One of the ways this program engages the head and heart and contributes to our desire to do something is by exposing what really goes on in the porn industry. Porn and prostitution fuel each other, Fight the New Drug says. They are both part of the sex trade.
In one of their videos a former male porn star tells the story of his descent into the industry and eventual redemption. This is a poignant video, very tastefully done, with a moving message and no graphic details, but you might want to save it for high school and up.
Using good movies to develop the head, heart, and hand
* The New York City altruism project
Stepping back from strategies that deal directly with pornography, I’d like to share with you the story of a character education experiment with inner-city kids in New York City. Its goal was to try to develop altruism—the virtue of doing good for others without asking, “What’s in it for me?”
(Paul C. Vitz and Philip P. Scala, “Evaluating a Short Curriculum for Teaching Altruism,” unpublished study, Department of Psychology, New York University. Available from Paul C. Vitz, The Institute for the Psychological Sciences, Suite 511, 2001 Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington, VA 22202.)
The virtue of altruism orients kids toward the needs of others. An orientation toward others is one of the most basic building blocks of character. It’s the opposite of selfishness. Selfishness is at the psychological core of using pornography; you’re not thinking of anybody else.
If we want to help our children resist the lure of pornography, and help others do the same, they’ll need more than critical thinking (media literacy) and more than self-control and patience. They’ll need many other basic virtues, like wanting to do good for others. We’ll need a character education program that develops character in the full sense.
I like the New York City altruism project for three other reasons: (1) I love movies myself; (2) It’s another good example of how to design a character education experience that—like Fight the New Drug—engages and develops head, heart, and hand; and (3) It shows how to evaluate whether what we have done with students, actually worked.
How do we know if our character education efforts are having any impact on students? Schools won’t make time for character education if they don’t have any evidence that it’s worth their time—that it produces results. They can tell easily whether students are learning math and reading, by their test scores. Is it possible to measure their growth in character?
For their project they chose seven racially and ethnically mixed classrooms of 8th- graders (13-year-olds), most of whom came from low-income families and tough New York City neighborhoods, where drugs and crime were common.
They decided to use stories—ones that showed altruism in attractive and dramatic ways. They knew that movies are the form of storytelling that young people today find most engaging. So, they created shortened, half-hour versions of seven feature films. Each movie presented a strong example of altruistic behavior.
It's a Wonderful Life (the prayers and support of George Bailey’s family, friends, and an angel dispel his despair and convince him his life has been worthwhile)
The Miracle Worker (pictured, right, 20-year-old Annie Sullivan finds a way to teach language to 7-year-old Helen Keller, who is blind, deaf, and dumb; freed from her psychological prison, Helen goes on to graduate from college and to promote the cause of the blind worldwide)
Brian’s Song (two professional football players, one white, one black, initially compete for the same position on the team, then become close friends and help each other through illness and injury, including Brian’s fatal struggle with cancer).
Class discussions also included role-playing. Students volunteered to act out an altruistic deed they had performed during the preceding week.
Vitz and Scala concluded that three things worked together to make their project successful:
1. adequate “dosage”—a long-enough intervention to have the desired impact on students’ thinking, attitudes, and behavior
2. inspiring movies, followed by focused discussions, that helped students gain a clear understanding of altruism and its positive effects
3. enough practice—an altruistic act performed every day over the seven-week period—for good habits to begin to form and for those habits to have an impact on students’ “sense of identity” (as reflected in the boy’s comment, “I know I’m a good person because I do good things”).
* Love and Life at the Movies
This is a published curriculum that also makes use of classic and contemporary films to engage students as ethical thinkers and choice-makers. Developed by Dr. Onalee McGraw of the Educational Guidance Institute, lesson plans for each film promote critical analysis and writing about character issues.
Love and Life has been used in high school and junior high school classrooms, after-school programs, and also detention homes for delinquents. McGraw comments: “The films are chosen for their power to depict personal virtues such as integrity, courage, and love, but also to model the meaning of moral and social bonds with the larger community. The films contain no bad language, violence, or sexual references.”
* Teach With Movies is an online resource that capitalizes on the power of films. It catalogues hundreds of movies and offers lesson plans for using movies to explore character themes.
Obviously, we can and should also watch good movies with our kids at home—and discuss what we each liked and took from a film. This can greatly enrich the shared experience and educational value of watching a good movie as a family.
What else can parents do?
As Common Sense Media points out, “Despite dramatic changes in media use, TV still reigns supreme in children’s media lives. Television can very easily take over as our children’s main character educator in two ways: (1) by shutting down family communication, and (2) by bombarding our kids with bad values.”
Working out family media guidelines
Here’s the big idea we want to communicate to our kids (and a family meeting is a good way to do this): The use of the media in the family is a privilege, not a right. That privilege has to be exercised in a way that is consistent with our family values. So, for any particular TV show, movie, magazine, music CD, video game, Internet site, or social media, here’s the question: Is it consistent with what we value and believe as a family?
In formulating your family’s guidelines, you may wish to consider including the following. It’s wise to write them out, in a posted “Media Contract” that everyone signs:
1. The use of any media in our home should be consistent with our beliefs and values as a family.
2. Watching TV is a special event, not a regular routine. In general, it is also a family event, not a private pastime.
3. No TV before school, before homework is done, or during meals.
4. Always ask permission to turn on the TV; watch only approved programs.
5. Certain nights are “quiet nights”; the TV stays off so we can focus on family activities and doing others things. (Choose these nights together as a family).
6. All video games must be previewed by a parent, and limited to agreed-upon times.
7. No mobile devices at meals. Unless permission is granted, no use of mobile devices after agreed-upon times (set a reasonable curfew).
8. Pornographic and hate web sites are off limits and blocked by an Internet screen installed by the family (digitally savvy kids know how to get around most of these controls, which is why our talking with them about these issues is essential for developing the most important control—their conscience).
9. Internet rules: No use of the Internet without parental approval. You must have parental permission to download anything. Do not share your password with friends or over email. Never physically meet someone you have met online. If a stranger tries to involve you in an online relationship, tell Mom or Dad right away.
10. Movies: No R-rated movies and no PG-13 or PG movies without parental permission. (Parents will check out the content and rating of current films on www.screenit.com and www.kidsinmind.com).
There is no more toxic legacy of the sexual revolution than pornography. But in this battle, we can take heart from the progress being made and share that good news with our colleagues, students, and families.
Thomas Lickona is the Director of the Center for the 4th and 5th Rs (Respect and Responsibility) at the State University of New York at Cortland. The above is an edited version of a paper given at the Character Education and Digital Lifestyles Conference, convened by Interaxion Group, in Rome last October. A comprehensive interview with Dr Lickona on this subject can be found at Family and Media.
Credit: Image of "The Miracle Worker" (eBay front back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Posted on: Monday, January 16, 2017
It all probably started in high school when I became bulimic. I thought I was the only one in the world with this terrible compulsion. Now I know that 4 of the 6 daughters of my family engaged in bulimia during their teens. I also now know that my father was engaged in porn and put enormous pressure on us to look slim and perfect.
Later at the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1971, I had a nervous breakdown at the end of my sophomore year and sought psychiatric care. The psychiatrist told me "the problem is that you are still a virgin." Until then, I had resisted the sexual revolution because of my morals and belief in the teachings of the Catholic Church. Suddenly I rationalized that since I was suicidal for so long, I was obligated to try anything to try to save my life.
Three months later I had slept with 4 different guys. I was headed to a life of promiscuity. I convinced a guy from my old high school that we should live together and then that we should sleep together. In 1973, this man became my husband, two months before our first son was born, and fathered 5 children with me. We divorced after 29 years.
He was unfaithful most of the marriage, perhaps because I had been promiscuous before marriage. I was faithful to him though. I was too busy and too blind to see. I still blame myself for seducing him in the first place.
I came to see that I had been wrong, because I was using men to lift me out of a suicidal depression. Sure sex can distract you from the pain, but not cure the underlying dysfunction. It has taken me 45 years of growing self awareness to appreciate that I survived and have been active in the prolife group ever since Roe vs. Wade, January 22, 1973.
In 1973, before my ex and I got married, I went for a pregnancy test at the Blue Bus free health clinic in Madison, WI. They gave me the positive results with a list of 5 doctors that would do my abortion. They knew I was single and poor. I quickly ran out of the bus and hid from the pro abortion atmosphere in Madison my entire 9 months. I felt like a spy for the prolife movement.
Every year though, I was able to become more vocal and active until I stopped hiding. I have been to two March for Life events both in D.C. with 3 kids and in Chicago with a grandchild. Now I am happy and God has just blessed me with Grandchildren #12 and 13. My family is prolife and good Catholics. My 3 sons have wonderful Catholic wives and are leaders in their churches. I am grateful that I didn't abort. I am grateful that I forgave myself and my ex and can love my whole family now.
Submitted by J. B.
Posted on: Thursday, January 05, 2017
When I think of Robin, my heart is broken, both for her and the wrong I did to her.
I met Robin at a party when I was eighteen. When she walked in the door, I was immediately taken by her. She was one of the prettiest girls I had ever seen. I made a comment about the dress she was wearing and she sat down next to me and began talking with me. By the end of the night we were deeply attracted to each other and began spending time together.
Before I go on, I think it would be helpful to give some back story regarding myself. In my very early years, I became sexualized. Having read publications on this matter, I think I was molested. From the age of eight, I experimented with my body and with the bodies of other children who were willing to let me undress them and play around with them. When the so-called “Sexual Revolution” of the 1960's hit in full force, I found many outlets for what had now become a raging sexuality demanding daily gratification of some sort.
Yet despite having the availability of pornography, the “free-love” of the Hippie Movement, and my own self-gratification, I was deeply lonely inside. I think that sexual gratification gave me that false sense of worth and fleeting happiness which books on addiction speak about, for I was truly addicted. Sexuality made me feel good, and the society which developed in the 1960's told me that it was okay to be this way. It took 40 years to realize that God knows much better than we what is good for us.
It was this sad and searching man who met Robin at the party. We spent a summer in love and only expressing that love by kissing. For the first time, I had someone in my life who made a fuss over me, who couldn’t wait to be with me, and who easily talked with me. I’m sure I ruined all that the day I had sex with her. Not long after, another man decided he wanted Robin and told her that I was sleeping with her best friend. From that point on, the relationship went downhill. I guess it was easy for Robin to believe that if I would have sex with her instead of waiting for marriage, I would be open to any woman who came by.
Somehow Robin and I got back together again later. She looked awful. There was no longer any joy in her face and she had lost weight, a mere shadow of herself. I am ashamed to say that she let me have sex with her that day. I asked her to marry me, but she said no. I look back on that day and see a young man so selfish that he didn’t even ask her in concern what had happened and why she looked so bad. Did she get pregnant and have an abortion? Did this other guy use her for sex and leave her feeling used and disrespected?
Dear Robin, wherever you are, please forgive me. This is what the Sexual Revolution did to me, but the story does not end there.
A while later I got another woman pregnant. I told her to have an abortion, but she refused. I would see the baby and long to be part of his life, but somehow I couldn’t actually propose to this woman. Playboy magazine had sold me a pack of airbrushed lies. The idea that Playboy promoted was that there is somewhere this perfect woman with a perfect body with whom you want to spend your days. Somehow, having a perfect body in bed with me would be what I needed and wanted to have ultimate happiness. I bought the lie, as did so many millions of men. Our search was for that perfect sexual experience because we were sure this was what would fulfill our lives. How many divorces have there been because men like me were expecting sex to deliver much more than it was ever intended to deliver?
Karen was not that perfect body. She went back home with her son and I kept looking for the next woman who might be that Promised One who would complete my life. But something I wasn’t expecting happened. I wound up at a Bible study. I honestly believe that I had a demon expelled from me that night, for after that night and my fervent prayer for God’s mercy, everything slowly started to change for me. I wish I could say I went from being a sex-crazed deviant to being the loving person God intended me to be, but that is not how life is.
The powerful issues that had driven me for much of my life continued to plague me, even though I was now, with the preaching of the Bible study leader to encourage me, abstaining from sex outside marriage. A year after I started attending those Bible studies regularly, I called Karen and asked her to see me. I felt a need to be a father to the son to whom she and I had given life. She accepted my proposal and we were married. We spent the next 34 years together until she passed away. I wish I could say that they were wonderful years, but they were tough. The same lack of intimacy which caused me to seek out solace in pornography continued to dog me. Neither Karen nor I knew how to be really intimate with each other. To this day I realize that I could have done so much more in little ways to express love to her.
In 2001 I converted to the Catholic faith and a few years later I discovered Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. This was the teaching that the world needed in the 1960's. We needed to hear that true love is an act not of taking for one’s self, as in sexual conquest, but of sacrificial giving. How I wish I had known that when I met Robin. How I wish I had heard that in time to live it out with Karen. The ramifications of my sexually-fueled selfishness are still with me. There are people I have hurt, relationships I have either lost or not been able to fully enjoy, such as with my children, because I have trouble with intimacy.
Promiscuity increases the problem of selfishness, loneliness, and inability to connect on a deeper level with people. Promiscuity and pornography turn a person in on themselves. True love turns a person outward to serve others first. If I love others, I use my body not to gratify the demands of my passions, but to do good in loving service to others. This is the message we need to share. I have since found in the Church many opportunities to serve others, but I’ll die in regret of the numerous times I hurt people when I didn’t know what true love is.
Submitted by E. H.
Posted on: Monday, October 24, 2016
by Marcia Segelstein
One of the first sermons I heard at the Catholic parish where I would eventually be received into the Church was on the subject of marriage. The priest spoke about the relationship between a husband and wife as being indissoluble. Like siblings or parents and children, he told us, spouses formed a different, but equally permanent, bond with each other. It was as though a light bulb went on for me. “Of course,” I thought. “That makes perfect sense!” It was, simply put, the Catholic definition of marriage.
So while I firmly believe that commitment is the most critical ingredient for a marriage as it’s meant to be, choosing the right partner is pretty important, too.
Jennifer Roback Morse and her colleague at the Ruth Institute, Betsy Kerekes, have just released a new book called 101 Tips for Marrying the Right Person: Helping Singles Find Each other, Contemplate Marriage, and Say I Do. It’s an easy read chock full of great advice.
I’ve narrowed their tips down to my top ten favorites, in some cases combining a few.
1) Pray. Pray for encouragement, guidance, and consolation. Pray that you find your future spouse. Pray for him or her. And, as Morse and Kerekes put it, “If you have no prayer life, get one. Right away. For real. You think life is tough now, searching for the right person? Wait until you have to put up with each other – and kids.”
2) Be friends first. My husband started out as my best friend, so I can attest to the wisdom of this advice. It is, as the book says, “an excellent, no-pressure way of getting to know each other without stress or expectations.” It’s also a great way to avoid the pitfalls of the hook-up culture, where physical intimacy comes first, and emotional intimacy not so much.
3) Keep your expectations real. Fight the inclination to expect fairy-tale romance or love at first sight. Or, as Morse and Kerekes write, “This is real life. Your Prince (or Princess) Charming will not magically appear as you sing to the wildlife in the forest.” Nor will your perfect soul mate magically bump into you at Starbucks. You might find your future spouse there. But there’s no such thing as a perfect soul mate.
4) Don’t waste your time. It’s OK to want commitment. If the person you’ve been dating for months doesn’t exclusively want to be with you, ask yourself if he or she is worth it.
5) Try to imagine the future. Specifically, try to imagine the person you’re dating as the parent of your children. Ask yourself if you can picture him or her as a role model for them. “If not,” say Morse and Kerekes, “move on.”
6) Picture introducing your potential future spouse to friends and family. Would you be proud? Or would you find yourself embarrassed or ashamed of some aspect of his or her character? If so, some reevaluating is in order.
7) Take parents into consideration. Or, as the book suggests, “Evaluate your significant other’s relationship with his or her parents as well as your relationship with your own parents.” Most people have some unresolved issues with their parents. Try to determine if you’re ready to live with the consequences of your loved one’s, and take a hard look at your own.
8) Stay chaste. Sexual activity releases hormones that cause feelings of bonding, especially in women. Your ability to think clearly and rationally about what may be the most important decision of your life will be clouded by a hormonal fog otherwise.
9) Don’t live together. Study after study has shown that cohabitating before marriage is not a good idea. The authors put it bluntly: “Ignore the hype from popular culture: couples who live together prior to marriage are more likely to divorce than those who don’t.”
10) When the time comes, focus on the marriage, not the wedding. Keep Bridezilla in check and take this advice from Morse and Kerekes: “Take a deep breath, relax and go with the flow. This one day, though extremely important, is not as important as the rest of your lives.”
Posted on: Saturday, September 24, 2016
I am a survivor of the sexual revolution. I wasted my entire child bearing years on sex. It started in the early 70’s when I was 16 and lost my virginity to a 22-year-old. I got high and gave away my heart and wept. It started a whirlwind of relationships. Sex was powerful! I was exposed to porn. I was literally looking for love in all the wrong places and lost count of the bodies. I got pregnant at 18. We lived together to my angst. I wanted to be married, but he said it was just a piece of paper. I felt that he was rejecting me and our son and had a shameful whirlwind affair with a married man who divorced his wife to be with me.
I ran away within weeks of the whole mess. My son's father came back, but still no marriage commitment, no trust, but why should there be? I had another sexual relationship. My son's father’s last word to me was “Whore!” as he threw all of my son’s belongings on the front porch of my mother’s house and his stroller through the front door.
Sometime during then, my early 20’s, I realized that my body was beautifully and wonderfully made. I heard the Lord call me. I was a beautiful creation, but to my great sorrow, knew in my heart that I had aborted my future children with birth control. My mother backed me up when I was pregnant. She wouldn’t let me be shamed like she was when she had me out of wedlock. I cherished the life within me more than myself. My mother had a very unfulfilled marriage, but was open to having a grandchild, but we had fights. When I tried to voice my feelings, she said “you just need to get laid!”
I wanted to give him up for adoption to a man/woman who could get him what he needed to get to heaven. She thought I was trying to keep him away from her. I just wanted him to get to heaven. Someone showed me a picture of Jesus of Divine Mercy. I called on the Lord to forgive me and He did. I could see the Father and his love for me, the prodigal child, but it was just starting. The war raged on. I ended up in a psych ward and suicidal. It was hell on everyone around me. I was back living with my parents and son. I had terrible shouting matches with my mother. I had no control over anything and was in a corner alone. I just kept crying “I have no control over him!”
I was back to zero self-worth and had other affairs. I was worthless now. What difference could it make? My life was shattered all around me. I had been sexually “off the rails” since I was a teen and it spiraled to the destruction of me. My son was cutting himself and using drugs/drinking, and I lost my 1st grandchild to abortion when he was 16. He was so confused and angry and had no compass, no male figure to guide him, except for my dad, who became his surrogate. I will always blame myself for his eternal welfare. He was never baptized, but I gave him to God in my heart. I ask for mercy all the time and pray for him/us. I don’t know what else to do. I have two beautiful grandchildren now. Maybe God works with crooked lines and it will be okay.
Women’s lib is a lie. You can’t have it all. We are sold lies, and I devoured them. I was so angry once I knew the truth, but learning/hoping/asking/wanting mercy. It’s all any of us have. Thank you.
Submitted by C.L.
Posted on: Saturday, April 02, 2016
A new report from Australia speaks for itself:
When asked, “How do you know a guy likes you?,” an 8th grade girl replied: “He still wants to talk to you after you [give him oral sex].” A male high school student said to a girl: “If you [give me oral sex] I’ll give you a kiss.” Girls are expected to provide sex acts for tokens of affection, and are coached through it by porn-taught boys. A 15-year-old girl said she didn’t enjoy sex at all, but that getting it out of the way quickly was the only way her boyfriend would stop pressuring her and watch a movie.
Read the whole sickening thing here.
Posted on: Saturday, April 02, 2016
The headline over at LifeSiteNews says this is a story out of the gay lifestyle. And so it it. But it is first and foremost an inspiring story of forgiveness and repentance. Any Survivor of the Sexual Revolution, any person seeking peace, can benefit from this article.
I embarked upon an incredible journey of forgiveness, having many people from my past, and especially men, that I needed to forgive. The therapy and prayer sessions I now regularly engaged in never focused solely on my being sexually attracted to men, but I was encouraged to look every aspect of my present and past in the eye. This included the painful process of accepting that I had been consistently sexually abused by a number of men as a child over a three-year period.
Much of my spiritual journey became concerned with recognizing where, during my infancy and childhood, my little soul had chosen to build walls within myself against significant others in my life, especially against my parents, siblings and other prominent people from my past.
He faced the wrong that was done to him (child sexual abuse) and at the same time took responsibility for the ways he had built walls around himself. Eventually, he became able to forgive those who had wronged him.
Survivors of all sorts: please study this!
Posted on: Friday, February 26, 2016
The evidence is piling up.
This article was first published February 24, 2016 at Mercatornet.com.
A committee in the Utah legislature has voted to classify pornography as a public health crisis. Although this is merely a resolution and not a law, it could mark a new stage of awareness of the harms of pornography.
"Everything in the resolution is supported by science and research,” said the state senator who introduced the resolution, Todd Weiler. “It's not just a kooky thing that some politician from Mormon Utah came up with. It's bigger than that."
The news was ridiculed across the internet and on social media by people who asserted that pornography is neither addictive nor harmful.
"I personally believe it is,” Weiler responded. “I think the science shows that it is. I believe that's a discussion we should be having because it's impacting divorces, it's impacting our youth, it's undermining the family"
“Public health crisis” is a term which has been used to describe Ebola, SARS, the Chinese milk scandal and smoking. Is porn really as destructive as these?
Pornography is a huge industry, although hard figures are difficult to obtain. According to a report in The Economist, there are possibly 700 to 800 million individual porn pages, 60 percent of them in the US. A portal for pornography, PornHub, claims that it had nearly 80 billion video viewings in 2014 and more than 18 billion visits.
It’s obvious that we live in a pornography-saturated culture. The figures vary from study to study but across national boundaries, the story is the same: young people are consuming lots of pornography. Michael Flood, an Australian researcher in the sociology of pornography, notes that in one Swedish study from 2007, 92 percent of young men and 57 percent of young women aged 15-18 had watched a “porno film”.
But is there a problem with this?
Writing at RH Reality Check, an on-line magazine about reproductive and sexual health issues linked to the United Nations, journalist Martha Kempner sneered that there is no science to back up Weiler’s claim that pornography is a public health crisis.
… it’s not an epidemic, it’s not inevitably harmful to the viewer, and it won’t be the downfall of our society. What might be our downfall, however, is allowing politicians to impose their own morality and use pseudoscience and misinformation to scare us all into buying their beliefs or at least living by their rules.
Nonetheless, there is growing evidence to support nearly all of Weiler’s assertions. Unfortunately, evidence does not mean agreement on how to achieve change, or even what successful change looks like.
Broadly speaking, there are two overlapping but different ways of framing opposition to pornography.
Michael Flood, the Australian academic, approaches it from a feminist perspective. At a recent conference at the University of New South Wales organised by Collective Shout, a lobby group “for a world free of sexploitation”, he listed some well-documented harms.
Pornography is becoming a primary sex educator for boys and young men, displacing explanations from parents, formal instruction in schools, and even conversations with peers. However, what they learn from pornography websites is kinky practices which strip sex of intimacy, loving affection and human connection. And they learn that women are always ready for sex and have insatiable sexual appetites.
Women feel betrayed by men who use pornography. Most often men conceal their use of pornography. When a partner discovers it, she often feels as if he was having an affair. Pornography use decreases intimacy and makes women feel less attractive and more like mere sexual objects.
Pornography may become an addiction. Flood is cautious about analogies to drug addiction. He points out that attachment ranges from recreational users to compulsive and self-destructive users. However, as with other addictions, some people experience social, work or financial difficulties because they use pornography.
Pornography entrenches sexist attitudes. Abundant research shows that men who use pornography are more accepting of attitudes that sexualise and objectify women. They tend to want sex without emotional involvement.
Pornography disposes men for violence against women. Flood writes, “Exposure to sexually violent material desensitizes male viewers to sexual violence, diminishing their emotional response to the stimulus, eroding their sympathy to victims of violence, and informing more callous attitudes towards women rape victims.”
As a pro-feminist man, Flood and other activists view the sex industry as patriarchal, misogynistic, and brutalising. They call upon men “to quit pornography and forge ethical sexual and gender relations.” Their strategy for change is good sexual education, mostly in schools.
But this does not exclude the possibility of “good pornography”. And it includes acceptance of masturbation as a normal and natural part of human sexuality. Even more troubling, a feminist approach to pornography isn’t interested in the context of sex. It doesn’t need to be within marriage; it doesn’t even have to be heterosexual. The key thing is that it should be mutually pleasurable and lead to greater intimacy and affection.
Flood characterises the other approach to fighting pornography as “Christian”: it is based on total abstinence outside of marriage and it frowns on masturbation. He believes that this approach is limited, because “the contrary tenets of a powerful sexual culture” make it unrealistic.
However, in many respects, the Christian approach might be more realistic, if harder. Fundamentally it is based not on “narrow sexual proscriptions”, as Flood calls them, but on virtue, building up good habits that lead to human flourishing. What the feminist approach lacks is a clear vision of the purpose of sex and how it can be integrated into a mature personality. At the conference, for instance, the idea that sex is connected with babies, children and marriage was barely mentioned.
Young people need to be exhorted to struggle to control their unruly sexuality. The task is made much easier if they realise that this is part of their capacity to participate in procreation and the even greater and more absorbing responsibility of raising children and participating in society as mothers and fathers. Without a unifying vision like this, feminist exhortations also shrivel up into “narrow sexual proscriptions” like “No means No”, “Yes means Yes” and elaborate parsing of the meaning of affirmative consent to sexual activity.
A public health crisis
These important differences can put feminist and Christian activists at loggerheads. The beauty of describing pornography as a public health crisis is that they can work together in the same tent. Perhaps we can finally make some progress.
The idea had been kicking around for a while before Senator Weiler’s resolution in Utah. Cordelia Anderson, an anti-pornography activist from Minnesota, told a Congressional Symposium in Washington DC last year that “Individual stories and realities do not constitute a public health concern, but when the reach of today’s pornography through ever expanding and changing technologies create what some researchers, academics, and activists have called ‘the largest unregulated social experiment ever,’ we have reason to be concerned.”
“Various studies document the harms of viewing pornography [she said] including sexually aggressive behavior in adults and youth, sexually reactive behaviors in youth, desensitization to others in sexual situations, rape supportive attitudes, arousal to increasingly violent content, increased levels of sexual insecurities, and difficulties with intimacy or sexual functioning such as erectile dysfunction in males.”
Activists’ model for social change is the complete reversal of attitudes towards tobacco. In the 1950s, most people smoked and doctors even said that it could be good for people’s health. Today, smokers are treated like pariahs.
To be sure, pornography is deeply entrenched in the culture and the pornography industry is well-funded and powerful. But this was also the case with the Big Tobacco.
In 2009 social researcher Mary Eberstadt made a powerful comparison of the tobacco industry with the pornography industry. They both dispute the harms of their lucrative product; they both use bogus science to bolster their claims; they both rationalise addiction; and they both use sophisticated marketing techniques.
Bizarre as it seems, like Big Tobacco, Big Porn even uses philanthropy to burnish its image as a good corporate citizen. Earlier this month Pornhub pledged a one-cent donation to saving the whale through the Moclips Cetological Society, a non-profit organization, for every 2,000 videos streamed from its website in February. "This initiative allows us to demonstrate our sincerity and integrity when it comes to helping out one of the planet's most sacred populations of creatures," said Pornhub’s vice-president.
So if society turned its back on tobacco, why can’t it kick its addiction to an even more serious public health crisis, pornography?
The canary in the coal mine
Alcohol and Pornography Ban Warning sign at an Aboriginal community near Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory / Owen 65, Flickr
The stakes are high. As many speakers at the conference pointed out, pornography is destroying the capacity of young people to relate to each other. In the words of Dr Joe Tucci, head of the Australian Childhood Foundation, “Are we willing to remove from relationships the values of love and intimacy which make life worthwhile?”
Another speaker described the corrosive effects of pornography on remote Aboriginal communities. So many communities in the Northern Territory had been rendered dysfunctional by alcohol abuse and pornography that in 2007 the Australian government was forced to send in the Army to protect children against sexual abuse and neglect. It was an unpopular, paternalistic and undemocratic move. But child abuse fuelled by grog and porn had become a real public health crisis. Conditions in the impoverished camps were hellish, with children as young as four sexually abusing each other and pornography a staple of entertainment for men both young and old.
These Aboriginal communities have been corrupted by Western vices. Their desperation and degradation could be what awaits us if we do not win the battle to contain the spread of pornography. A campaign to treat it everywhere as a public health crisis is a welcome step forward.
Posted on: Monday, February 01, 2016
This article was first posted February 10, 2015, at Life Site News.
Over the past several weeks, countless pixels have been expended on this website and others about just how horrible the cultural juggernaut known as Fifty Shades of Grey is. Literary and film critics hate it because it’s terribly written. Feminists hate it because the main female character is spineless and void of personality. Domestic abuse awareness activists hate it because it portrays stalking, threats, and controlling behavior as signs of true love. BDSM aficionados hate it because they feel it unfairly portrays their lifestyle. Cultural conservatives hate it because it’s taken the kind of violent, kinky porn people used to be ashamed about consuming and placed it squarely into the mainstream.
Even the stars of the soon-to-be released film adaptation of the popular books sort of hate Fifty Shades. Jamie Dornan, who portrays the series’ titular character Christian Grey, told Glamour magazine that he’s “played a couple of sick, sick dudes, serial killers…and characters who don’t treat women the way society deems appropriate.” Still, he said, “Christian was a massive challenge.”
To prepare for filming, Dornan visited a sex dungeon like the one Christian Grey built in his apartment to satisfy his taste for violence and control. After watching the things he’d be expected to do to his costar, he returned to his wife and newborn baby feeling dirty. “I had a long shower before touching either of them,” he told Elle UK. He even went as far as telling the UK’s Guardian newspaper that although he desperately misses his late mother, who died of cancer when he was 16, “it’s probably just as well she didn’t have to see Fifty Shades.”
Meanwhile, Dakota Johnson, who plays Ana Steele, told Glamour that even though she comes from a long line of Hollywood actors – her parents are Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, and her grandmother is Tippi Hedren – she’s uncomfortable with the idea of them seeing her breakout role.
“I don't want my family to see [Fifty Shades], because it's inappropriate,” Johnson said. “Or my brothers' friends, who I grew up with. I think they'd be like, 'Blegh.' Also there's part of me that's like, I don't want anyone to see this movie.”
So with all this hate for the series of books and the upcoming films, what is the secret to its massive success?
Jamie Dornan is curious about that himself.
“I wonder what it is about this set of books that has, excuse my pun, penetrated the global market," he told Elle UK. “Mass appreciation doesn't always equate to something good. Think of Hitler! But I think, in this case, it must. It simply must. There's got to be merit in it if so many people agree.”
You’re not wrong, Jamie, but here’s a hint: It’s not about the sex.
To truly understand the success of Fifty Shades, one first has to revisit the book’s roots. Despite a determined campaign of internet scrubbing by author E.L. James and her publishers, it’s still relatively common knowledge that Fifty Shades began its life as an online Twilight fan fiction serial called Master of the Universe.
Then going by the pen name “Snowqueen’s Icedragon,” or “Icy” for short, James (real name: Erika Leonard) published the story online as an X-rated reimagining of the blockbuster series about a teenage vampire and his obsession with an ordinary human girl. Master of the Universe transformed sparkly vampire Edward Cullen into a young billionaire entrepreneur (think Mark Zuckerberg with sex appeal and a sadistic streak), and mousy high school student Bella Swan into a mousy college co-ed who stumbles – literally – into Edward’s world and immediately captures his attention.
At the time, Twilight fan fiction had become so popular that entire small publishing houses were set up to “file the serial numbers off” the most read stories and republish them as original works. (Publishing fan fiction for profit is widely considered a violation of copyright law, so removing all reference to characters owned by other authors is a necessity if one wishes to sell a derivative work.)
One of these small publishers approached “Icy,” and she agreed to switch up the character names in order to publish her story as a series of e-books under a new pen name, E.L. James. As they became increasingly popular, the rights were sold to Vintage, which republished them as what the world now knows as Fifty Shades of Grey.
So what is the secret to Fifty Shades’ success? Easy. It never strayed far from its source material. Fifty Shades is popular for exactly the same reasons as Twilight, because it’s exactly the same story, just written for an older audience – an audience with deeper pockets and no meddling parents to say “no” when they ask to buy the book at the store, check it out at the library, or see the movie when it comes out in theaters.
Twilight was told from the perspective of Bella Swan, a shy and awkward teenage girl who, without even trying, attracts the attention and eventual obsession of Edward Cullen, an inhumanly attractive classmate with superpowers and a dark secret: he’s a vampire, and even though he is desperately in love with Bella, he struggles with his innate desire to hurt her.
In Fifty Shades, we have Ana Steele, a shy and awkward college girl who, without even trying, attracts the attention and eventual obsession of Christian Grey, an inhumanly attractive (he’s repeatedly described as an “Adonis”) man with incredible power and a dark secret: he’s addicted to violent sex, and even though he is desperately in love with Ana, he struggles with his innate desire to hurt her.
Does any of this sound familiar?
The commonalities between these two stories go much deeper than the ripped-off plotline. The characters of Bella and Ana are both written as almost blank slates, onto which readers can project their own personalities. (For the salty-language tolerant, The Oatmeal explains the mechanics of this process here, better and more concisely than I ever could.)
All we know about each girl is that she’s ordinary – like, so ordinary that if you looked up the word “ordinary” in the dictionary, you would find their pictures – only you wouldn’t; you’d find a little mirror reflecting your own face back at you, because that’s the entire point. You’re meant to insert yourself into the story, and suddenly it’s you, in all your banal lack of glory, who has proven irresistible to these powerful, godlike, beautiful, deeply damaged men, and only you can help them find their humanity again. The best part? You didn’t have to do anything to capture their undying devotion but be yourself.
It’s a heady fantasy, no?
For the women who love Fifty Shades, the sex is largely beside the point. (Let’s be honest; there’s better-written and much more explicit erotica out there for those who are into that sort of thing.) The descriptions of sex in Fifty Shades range from the dryly clinical to the absurdly childish, with the main character constantly referring to her sexual organs as “down there.” Penthouse Letters, this is not.
No, the appeal of Fifty Shades and Twilight alike is the fantasy that somewhere out there, there’s an extraordinary man (or, erm, vampire) who will adore you just the way you are, no matter how plain, how unaccomplished, how downright unremarkable. If this has you thinking that maybe these women have a God-shaped hole in their hearts, you’re probably right. Even The Oatmeal cartoonist Matthew Inman, an atheist, picked up on this in his above-mentioned critique of Twilight, labeling his cartoon rendering of the lead male character: “Edward Cullen – Also known as He-Man/Jesus Christ.”
“Imagine everything women want in a man, then exaggerate it by ten thousand - and you've got Edward Cullen,” Inman wrote. “As far as the reader is concerned, Edward cares about nothing in the world more than [Bella]. What the author has done is created a perfect male figure - a pale Greek statue which the reader can worship and in turn be worshipped by.”
Substitute “Christian” and “Ana” for “Edward” and “Bella” in Inman’s commentary, and you’ll begin to understand what’s going on here.
The success of both Twilight and Fifty Shades stems from the battle that rages in all of us from the day we emerge screaming, naked, and helpless into this world. On the one hand, we all want to be deeply loved for who we are. On the other, we see ourselves as pathetically unworthy.
That feeling of unworthiness may come from a lot of different places – the media, society, maybe even our friends and families. In fact, as I was writing this essay, a friend and fellow writer noted that the women who make up Fifty Shades’ core audience were born and raised in the late 1960s, and 1970s, when divorce was at its peak. As a result, many of them – perhaps even the majority – were raised without a full-time father in the home.
Maybe they missed out on the experience of being the apple of their father’s eye, as Mom nursed whatever wounds drove the split in the first place, while Dad set up a new house and a new life with some other lady and different kids. Perhaps in idolizing these damaged men who find healing and wholeness only by learning to unconditionally love these seemingly unworthy girls, they are unconsciously being swept up by a fairy tale that speaks not to their romantic desires, but some deep, unexamined childhood wound. Since no one’s done a study on this, it’s only speculation, but I suspect the results of such a study would be telling.
That’s just one possible source of the emptiness books like Fifty Shades temporarily fill. But the truth is, anyone who has ever felt unremarkable or invisible for any reason can put themselves in Ana’s shoes and understand her thrill at being chosen – her, of all people! – by a man with so much power he might as well be God. And anyone who has ever tried to love someone out of a dangerous lifestyle – be it addiction, violence, self-harm, risky sexual behaviors, or heck, vampirism (you never know) – can relate to Ana’s joy as her steadfast love transforms Christian from a damaged, petulant dictator into a loving husband.
Ultimately, the secret to the success of Fifty Shades is that it puts the reader in the role of both the saved and the savior. But that’s also precisely what’s so dangerous about this story – because Christian Grey is not God, neither is Ana, and neither are any of us. In reality, Christian’s all-consuming “love” would warrant a restraining order, and Ana’s refusal to leave him would eventually land her at a battered women’s shelter or dead. The same is true for the rest of us – bad things happen when we try to play God, or when we let someone else fill the role of God for us. The only salvific love we’ll ever find in this world is divine in origin – not romantic.
Christian conservatives in particular have been working hard to combat the damage this series is primed to do, sounding the alarm about its glorification of pornography, domestic abuse and degradation. But there’s another front Christians need to be fighting on, and for once, it’s not one where we’re on the defensive. Forget the porn for a minute; forget the abuse. In Fifty Shades, we have a story that has touched the hearts of millions of women, and underneath its filthy exterior, at its core, it’s about unconditional love and redemption.
This is our home turf, people … this is our story. If a hundred million people will shell out for a counterfeit paperback version of a love we live every day, we should see that not just as an attack, but an opportunity.
Love is our story. Let’s tell it better.
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