Pornography: A Public Health Crisis
By Mercedes W. Gutierrez *
A recent article in the Denver Post warned that the infusion of pornography into mainstream culture has reached “epidemic” proportions, to the point of being classified as a “public-health crisis.” James Weaver, a professor at George Mason University in Virginia conducted research on pornography and its effects in the 1980s. He concluded, “we need to do with pornography what we did with smoking and drunk driving.” In years past, “we had the courage as a society to talk about smoking and responsible drinking, but we haven’t been able to get past our inhibitions about talking about pornography.”
He insists that we need to call pornography what it is: a distortion. And, as research confirms, this distortion is devastating our marriages, families and society as a whole.
For example, a 2002 survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers analyzed the impact of Internet use on marriages. It indicated that 56% of the divorce cases in the study involved one party’s obsessive interest in pornographic websites.
Along with destroying marriages, pornography is affecting children at younger ages today. Mary Anne Layden, co-director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program at the University of Pennsylvania, stated that the average age a child gets their first glimpse at pornography is now five years old.
No wonder Weaver is labeling pornography’s influx as “a public health crisis.”
Pornography, especially internet porn, wreaks havoc on society because it is easily accessible, anonymous, and addictive. Not only do pornographic pop-ups infiltrate cable channels and internet sites, but the ability to view the material in the privacy of your own home removes any shame associated with the act. Tragically, most viewers buy into the illusion that this pornographic fantasy world is merely entertainment. They have little understanding that this addiction is detrimental to their own physical, spiritual and emotional well-being.
The Catechism explains that pornography “does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public) since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others” (#2354). In other words, pornography separates the sexual act from the intimacy of spouses and places it on display for pleasure and profit. Pornography perverts and strips the conjugal act of its meaning. In addition, those involved in the act exploit themselves and those who view the material. Respect for the gift of sexuality diminishes along with the reverence owed to the dignity of the human person.
Again, pornography exploits for pleasure and profit. And, this pornographic mentality is infiltrating our daily print, radio, and televised media in ways we don’t even recognize. For instance, when perusing through fashion magazines, almost every advertisement exploits a certain feature of a woman. Most especially, ads for Victoria’s Secret over-sexualize women and use obvious pornographic poses to sell their products. Similarly, an increasing number of network television programs like Desperate Housewives or Sex in the City are known for their provocative portrayal of sex and sexuality.
This messaging is very dangerous, especially for women today. It not only objectifies the women in the ads or programs, but subconsciously convinces us that we must exploit or objectify ourselves.
As women, we need to be aware of these advertising ploys and guard our hearts and minds from objectification. In addition, we need to educate and safeguard our families against the addictive accessibility of pornography, which seeks to undermine the inherent dignity of the human person.
* Mercedes W. Gutierrez sits on the Board of Directors for ENDOW (Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women,) a non-profit, grassroots organization that promotes the New Feminism as proposed by Pope John Paul II. Mercedes and her husband Sergio live in Denver, Colorado.
Pornography: A Public Health Crisis?
Pornography: A Public Health Crisis