Inexplicably, as woman after woman comes forward to accuse celebrities, politicians, and others of sexual assault, and #MeToo becomes a popular rallying cry, no one seems to care about the causes of such brutish behavior on the part of the perpetrators.
One cause, in particular, almost never gets mentioned, and that is pornography. If sexual assaults are the classic example of the objectification of women, then how can pornography be ignored? After all, pornography is nothing if not the objectification of women. And, yet, when the number of accusers increased, practically no one in the press talked about pornography as a possible cause for assaults and sexual harassment.
How is it that we worry about air and water pollution but care nothing for mind pollution? A person who continues to drink polluted water will undoubtedly get sick and may die. No one doubts this. Yet we are supposed to believe that a person who absorbs many years of pornographic material is somehow immune from forming a twisted, polluted mind. That’s a lie that defies common sense.
Hard-core pornography is available on computers, cell phones, iPads, and other such devices. An elementary student with an iPhone has access to material that is depraved beyond imagination. And how big is the porn industry? In the United States alone, in 2016, pornographers took in $3 billion. Last year, one porn site streamed 4.6 billion hours of porn, which surpassed both Google and Netflix in the number of daily visitors.
In most cases, sexual perversion begins at a very young age. Serial killer Ted Bundy, who raped and/or murdered over 30 women, said he was introduced to so-called “soft” pornography when he was 12 or 13. For him, it was an addiction that could only be fed by more explicit, more violent content. Eventually, he began to act out what he saw. He revealed that, while in prison, he met many men who committed violent acts against women, and all of them, without exception, were deep into porn.
Dr. Mary Anne Layden, Ph.D., Director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychotherapy Program Center for Cognitive Therapy, makes an important point:
Pornography is a potent teacher of both beliefs and behaviors, and in fact provides the ideal conditions for learning. It can teach not only specific sexual behaviors, but general attitudes toward women and children, what relationships are like, and the nature of sexuality . . .
Layden quotes from a 2000 study of pornography: “Pornographic depictions of the sexuality of women and children distort the truth about desires of women and children, and legitimize men’s sense of entitlement, and use of force, violence, and degrading acts by the male actors.”
Drawing from her own experience as a therapist, she writes, “In the last 12 years I have specialized in the treatment of sexual violence victims and perpetrators. I have not treated one case of sexual violence that did not include pornography . . . Pornography is an equal opportunity and very lethal toxin.”
Ana J. Bridges, of the Department of Psychology at the University of Arkansas, writes that when it comes to sexual behavior, “ . . . the heavy use of pornography skews the users’ perception of what is normal.”
More and more studies of the effects of pornography are showing that explicit violent images can lead to violence against women and children. As Zac Crippen, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin, notes, “The connection to assault is at least partly circular: We have a sexual violence problem because we have a porn problem, and vice versa.”
In 2017, the Utah legislature passed a resolution declaring that “pornography is a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms.” The resolution lists the harmful effects of pornography, including the hypersexualization of young children and the objectification of women, which hurts marriage and family life. Pornography also leads to sex trafficking and prostitution and makes violence against women a “normal” behavior. This year, at least three other states are likely to follow Utah’s lead.
The nation was appalled by the sexual assaults of young gymnasts by Dr. Larry Nassar. Almost unnoticed by the media was the fact that he was also found guilty of possessing and distributing child porn. In court, he said it was an addiction that he couldn’t break. Like Bundy, he acted upon what he saw. But how many reporters looked into the pornography-sexual abuse link? At best, a handful.
So, when the #MeToo gang rails against men who objectify and abuse women, they have a legitimate concern. But I question the depth of their sincerity. If they really want to change how men act, they should be the first to condemn pornography and its detrimental effects on women in particular and on society in general. But they are silent. Sorry, ladies. Call me when you want to get serious.
THOMAS ADDIS is a retired high school teacher and published author, most recently authoring a children’s book, A Gift of Light, which is available at Amazon. An M.A. graduate of Oakland University, he is Associate Editor of Catholic Journal. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and cycling.