I have wanted to change it up a bit from the apologetics bender I have been on and post about a few social issues I have been thinking about for awhile. One of the issues that is of great concern to me as a husband, father, and man who seeks live in accordance with God’s moral principles is the tsunami of pornography that plagues our society. In my mind we suffer more as the result of our obsession with sex than we do any other vice our society imbibes in; including illegal drugs, alcohol, and obesity. Pornography can and does lead to the destruction of marriages, jobs, debt, and in the extreme, legal troubles – all consequences I have seen up close as I have counseled men in this area over the years.
In her recent article on the subject, The Weight of Smut, Mary Eberstadt makes a comparison between another societal ill, childhood obesity, and the impact of pornography on the happiness and health of children and the adults they later grow to be. The difference of course is that while our society is greatly concerned about obesity to the point of creating government agencies to battle its existence, we are completely indifferent to the impact the exposure to sexual images has on our youth. An excerpt:
As the impressively depressing cover story “America the Obese” in the May issue of The Atlantic serves to remind us all, the weight-gain epidemic in the United States and the rest of the West is indeed widespread, deleterious, and unhealthy—which is why it is so frequently remarked on, and an object of such universal public concern. But while we’re on the subject of bad habits that can turn unwitting kids into unhappy adults, how about that other epidemic out there that is far more likely to make their future lives miserable than carrying those extra pounds ever will? That would be the emerging social phenomenon of what can appropriately be called “sexual obesity”: the widespread gorging on pornographic imagery that is also deleterious and unhealthy, though far less remarked on than that other epidemic—and nowhere near an object of universal public concern. That complacency may now be changing. The term sexual obesity comes from Mary Ann Layden, a psychiatrist who runs the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program at the University of Pennsylvania. She sees the victims of Internet-pornography consumption in her practice, day in and day out. She also knows what most do not: Quietly, patiently, and irrefutably, an empirical record of the harms of sexual obesity is being assembled piecemeal via the combined efforts of psychologists, sociologists, addiction specialists, psychiatrists, and other authorities.
Because it is often (and strangely) categorized as ‘free speech’, pornography is often left to do its nasty business with few restrictions. Oddly, we give smut a leeway we don’t give other human activities which are also protected as rights. Our food consumption is tightly regulated, and companies that produce food are required to carefully detail ingredients and warn of possible harms. One must be licensed to sell food – or conduct other activities which are potentially harmful, like cutting hair or giving manicures. Adults have the right to purchase and drink alcohol, but the manner of the sale can be licensed, restricted and severe penalties can be incurred for selling to minors or driving intoxicated.
And yet, I would argue that the packaging and selling of sex is as damaging if not worse for our society on the whole, and yet it exists with almost no restrictions whatsoever. I have often posted on this blog and in other places about the potential harm of gay marriage – but I would have to say on the whole, if I was forced to choose which our society would allow, the unrestricted flow of pornography we have now or gay marriage, I would certainly choose gay marriage. Unfortunately, I think that pornography is much more deeply entrenched in the lives of many Christian men than is generally acknowledged, and so I don’t expect we will ever see it protested as vociferously as gay marriage is. It’s time for that to change.