31 Days of Writing with the Nester,  Marriage,  Pornography,  Sex,  Theology of the Body

A little porn never hurt anybody

I escaped from momdom for a couple hours this afternoon and found myself with a hour left on the baby-sitter-meter and nary an errand or appointment to occupy my remaining 60 minutes of freedom.

I have a deep seated weakness for the pedicure chair. Maybe it’s because I went into labor for the first time while seated in one. Or maybe I just like polished toes. But whichever the case may be, I found myself cozied up with a stack of Good Housekeeping magazines and a truly hideous shade of mauve that I swore up and down to myself was stone-cold Autumn in a bottle, but looks fairly corpse-like on my feet. C’est la pedi.

As I flipped through my extremely age-appropriate choice of magazines and relaxed into the pummeling of a massage chair set to “drunken kidney punches” I came upon a strange interview with Jennifer Garner, aka Mrs. Ben Affleck.

She had the weirdest reaction to one of the interviewer’s questions about pornography.

Just for reference, she has a new movie coming out about the internet, and her A-list husband reportedly flashed some serious skin in his latest blockbuster, so I was curious to see her answer.

It was … odd.

Basically she started by saying that she was afraid for the day her daughters might find something scary online, and that she really needed to be mindful, as a parent, of what they were exposed to. Okay, so far, so good.

But then…then she said that pornography between two adults was probably fine, and that there was “probably a time and a place for porn” if two people are on the same page and mature. Or something. But still, not for her daughters. Not now, anyway.

I can understand a mother’s heart wanting to protect her children from harm. What I can’t understand is ever not wanting that.

The truth is, there’s no such, this as “a little bit of porn between two consenting adults,” because first of all, the camera man makes three. And even with selfie-style contemporary amateur porn, the inevitable internet makes three…million.

Part of what makes porn so destructive is the intrusive nature of making something so intensely private as sex, public, and not only public, but actually intended and designed to be consumed by an other, an outsider, an observer.

Porn degrades sex into a transactional exchange, into an open invitation to use a human person as a tool, to consume them as a product. 

Everyone involved, from the “actors” on the set to the producers behind the product to the consumer on the other side of the computer screen is participating in the use and abuse of a human person.

There’s no such thing as just a little bit of porn. And there’s no acceptable age at which it becomes “healthy” or “normal” to consume porn, or more accurately, to be consumed by it.

Because even if two consenting adults were to sit down with a completely digitally-acted movie and use it as a means to introduce a level of erotic excitement into their own sex life, it’s still an utterly self-centered means to arousal. When you’re watching porn with your partner, you’re not experiencing any kind of intimacy with them as you both get excited by the person on the screen in front of you.

It might be titilating and it might lead to sex in real life, but at what cost? You just used another person’s body (either actual or CGI, it really doesn’t matter) to bring yourself to sexual arousal so that you can, essentially, dump your feelings (and then some) into an available receptacle in the form of your partner.

Self, self, self.

But that’s not what sex was made for. Sex was designed to draw us to the other, to invite our small and selfish little hearts to open wide enough to let another person inside, and to pursue their happiness above our own, seeking to outdo one another in love.

That’s part of why St. John Paul II was so (and scandalously so, for his time) insistent that mutual climax be the goal of sexual union between spouses, so that husband and wife were continually seeking the good of the other, constantly trying to outdo each other in love.

Porn seeks the opposite. It wants immediate self gratification.

Forget delayed gratification, porn says ‘give me what I’m owed, and if you can’t deliver it, I’ll just click over to the next option.’

And even if it’s used alone, in the privacy of one’s own bedroom, with nary another flesh and blood participant to be found, it’s still deeply damaging. To the person consuming it, to the person performing it, to the spouse or boyfriend or daughter on the other side of the closed door, perhaps unaware but not unharmed by the transaction taking place on your screen.

There’s never a time or a place for it, and there’s no relationship on the planet that’s better off because of it.

The reason that a little porn never hurt anyone, is that there’s no such thing as a little porn. It’s a dark, insidious, addictive,  and destructive force that feeds on human love. And God knows we’ve got too little of that to go around these days, anyway.

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9 Comments

  • Kathleen

    Okay I’m going to come out of the proverbial closet here and share a deeply intimate story that I have never, ever uttered online, and only in person to maybe 3 people: a close trusted friend, a therapist, and my parish priest.

    There is no such thing as a little porn. None.

    My husband is a really good man. Graduated from Franciscan University. Loving family. Parents married 49 years.

    I am a good person. Graduated from Loyola University in Maryland. Loving family. Parents married 41 years.

    9 years ago we met on CatholicMatch.com. We were pioneers in internet dating and I don’t even know if that site exists.

    What started as innocent curiosity for my husband at 12 years of age when he was unwillingly exposed to Playboy magazine by neighborhood kids grew into a life time addiction to porn. We dated 4 years, got engaged and married, had babies. I HAD NO IDEA. He kept it all from me. He lived a double life.

    That little porn addiction grew – as all addictions to. It grew into visits with prostitutes. Because masturbating eventually isn’t enough and the addict seeks to live out what he/she sees on screen.

    My husband hit rock bottom almost 2 years ago. I’ve lived through some pretty shitty things. My mom is a cancer survivor. I had an ectopic pregnancy & almost died in the ER. But there was nothing, NOTHING that traumatized me the way my husband’s porn addiction – and eventual infidelity – did.

    It took a LOT of work to get back on track. Through the grace of God, our parish pastor put us in immediate counseling and foot the bill. My husband took a 3 month leave of absence from work to get sober (there was alcohol addiction too).

    Our babies (twins) were not even 2 years old when all this was going on. I won’t sit here and list all the reasons why I decided to stay with my husband. Those are private reasons for us to know. But without God, we couldn’t have climbed out of the hole our marriage and family was in almost 2 years ago.

    Today, our marriage is better than ever. We are stronger. There are no more secrets.

    So I reiterate: there is no such thing as a little porn. All porn is evil and detrimental to family life and society. Porn is an addiction that can and will grow until it consumes you and your life.

    • Jenny

      THANK YOU for your bravery in sharing your story Kathleen. It’s powerful and I’m sure it’s going to minister to somebody who desperately needs to hear it. God bless you guys in your perseverance and your humility.

    • Kathleen

      You’re welcome, Jenny, and thank you for providing the forum to allow these stories to be shared. They’re not pretty, like mine, but they’re very real. Porn is evil and there is no amount of evil that is good. Even porn shared between a married couple doesn’t teach about love. It teaches lust and emotional betrayal. It’s a very slippery slope from soft core porn in a magazine to online porn to massage parlors where sex is solicited, paid for, and acted out. A little porn will always hurt somebody.

    • Jenny

      I also meant to say (but hit publish too fast) that your story is one of millions. There are SO many good Christian Catholic men and women who struggle in secret with this hideous, destructive evil. It’s so insidious, and it has infected so many of our lives. There truly is no limit to the damage it can do, and there is nobody who is “immune” or safe from it the 24/7 internet world we live in.

      We have to be vigilant, transparent, and humble in seeking grace and help when – not if – we find porn infecting the life of someone we know and love. Thank you for the example you’ve given here.

    • Kathleen

      You’re probably correct about one in millions, but I really don’t know because sex addiction is almost never discussed publicly. We only hear the stories on the news of politicians and their covert affairs and deviant lifestyles. People more willingly share about a loved one’s struggle with other addictions: food, drugs, alcohol, exercise, before sex addiction is ever discussed.

      For a husband or wife who has recently learned of their spouse’s secret sex addictions, and is without a doubt reeling and living a nightmare, it can be very, very isolating and seemingly hopeless.

      We are so blessed that we got professional help – both individually and as a couple – immediately and frequently after my husband “came clean” to me. The professional counseling, and lots of prayer and time spent together in front of the blessed sacrament, are what saved us and our family.

      Thank you for shedding light on a taboo topic that, as you point out, is probably being silently suffered by millions of “normal” people.

  • Patty

    Wow her comments remind me of what Jennifer Lawrence said in Vanity Fair…maybe both these gals should the easily found stats on porn addiction and how it kills true intimacy…

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