The word pornography is scary. No, the word porn is dirty. Even in its shortened form, porn is just a word–a word that simply describes something that is demeaning, causes objectification, makes us feel funny, drives the largest slavery operation in the history of the world, and changes the ways we think and act. Porn, simply put, is poison.
It wasn’t until I was preparing to be the emcee for a symposium on the issue of pornography at seminary that I found myself even saying the word porn in front of other people.
One of the speakers, Dr. Philip Mamalakis, professor of pastoral care at Holy Cross School of Theology, noticed how uncomfortable I was and asked me a question that I’ll never forget. “Are you ashamed to talk about poison?” I answered, “Of course not.” Dr. Mamalakis replied, “That’s what pornography is; it’s poison and should be discussed as such.” It’s not difficult to say the word poison. It’s not difficult to discuss poison and the harmful effects it has on us—so that’s what we need to do.
Pornography has a significant effect on the brain, changing the way we view others. It releases extreme amounts of natural chemicals in our brain that make us numb to many healthy life experiences. In addition, pornography is a known contributor to sex slavery and human trafficking.
If you think you aren’t affected by it, know that you are because EVERYONE is. Whether you have a porn habit or not, you’ve been impacted by it in varying degrees. Our culture is obsessed with sex—it saturates much of what we see and hear. Sex tells young women and men how they should act and look. Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook all lend themselves to an overexposure of self, to be praised or criticized by peers. Young girls, in particular, post pictures on Instagram hoping to be considered sexy or attractive by both their female and male peers. Some their perspective is skewed by what porn tells them is attractive. This is part of the porn culture that exists.
Pornography was accessible in small doses via magazine and video for years. Viewing it often meant having to buy it or rent it from someone. It took many steps to obtain it–including looking someone in the eye and paying for it. However, about 20 years ago, technology really evolved. The internet emerged as part of the American home. By 2000, most kids had easy access to the internet, either in their own house or that of a friend. By 2005, the internet was something a student could not do without, especially in college. More than all of that, on June 29, 2007 the game changed completely when the first-generation iPhone came out. This meant you could have a computer in your pocket at all times, granting instant access to every kind of destructive pornographic material imaginable.
Kids today don’t really understand there was a time when people walked around without a phone in their pocket, much less a computer. When smartphones came out and got faster and more advanced, EVERYTHING became accessible. You could get quick answers to questions like ‘How long do elephants live?’ or ‘Who’s the saint of the day?’
Unfortunately, the internet also continues to provide access to anything else you could imagine and the anything else gets worse and worse. The sad reality is, as things deteriorate, many of us just pretend those things don’t exist. We know it’s there, but we’re not going to deal with it. We’ll just go on with our lives as if this could not impact our homes or our families.
Imagine there was a toxic spill in our area. It could reach us by infecting our water source. Would it be helpful to sit and assume it could not enter our homes? Would it be helpful to just act as if it wasn’t a threat to our families? Likewise with porn, we, as parents, might actually be letting our family down by not protecting them. The bad news is our families are infected. So now what? This isn’t a panic moment, but we should act with a sense of urgency. “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26)
This isn’t an individual problem— this is a family problem. This is a Church issue, because the Church is the Body of Christ.
About 93 percent of boys and 62 percent of girls are exposed to porn before the age of 18. The average age of first exposure is 11 years old.
Yes, it is likely that your pre-teen has been exposed to pornography. This $97-BILLION industry makes more money than the NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA…combined!
In addition to this, 56 percent of divorces cite pornography use as one of the causes for splits. That’s just where it is admitted and acknowledged to be a problem.
What do we do?
Parents must start the discussion. We must learn about the enemy and not be afraid to eradicate it as best we can in our lives.
Pornography is something that separates us from each other. It isolates its users and causes shame and feelings of worthlessness.
Here are some suggestions:
- Create an environment of love and openness. It is a courageous endeavor to talk about pornography, especially if you are someone who struggles with it. St. John Chrysostom tells us, “Be ashamed when you sin, not when you repent.” The person who asks for help should be commended for their bravery, but remember they will need assistance to deal with this serious issue.
- It’s never too early to start the discussion. It could be as simple as saying, “Let us know if you ever see something that makes you feel uncomfortable or is shocking to you.” Depending on their age, you might let your kids know the effect pornography has on the body and soul. It is better to hear about it from you, parents, than from experience it elsewhere or hear about it from friends first. Find the resources provided in the Church and elsewhere. For more information on resources to help you with these discussions, see the resource list below.
- Be attentive to every flow of technology into your lives, as well as that of your kids. Just as you would filter water for your kids’ health, filter their intake of technology. If your teen has a phone, it needs parental controls.
The work you do in your home and with the Church to prevent this poison from entering your home will, in one way or another, have a long-term positive effect on you and your kids. It could be lifesaving. Let’s work together as a Church to be the antidote to the poison that is pornography. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to talk about porn.
Nick graduated from Holy Cross School of Theology in 2013 with a Masters of Divinity. He served as the Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for the GOA until returning to Michigan with his family to work in local parish ministry. His many years serving youth and young adults have given him insight into important issues including dealing with pornography. He is the author and creator of wolfyoufeed.com, a resource site for parents and those who struggle to quit pornography for good. He currently lives in Rochester Hills, Mich.
Resources for Pornography Addiction
- Wolf You Feed (www.wolfyoufeed.com) Program to quit pornography through positive action, accountability, love, and the grace of God. Developed with an Orthodox Christian understanding of community and salvation.
- Finding the Freedom to Live (http://ftftl.org/about/) Helps Orthodox Christians live lives in Christ that free them to build intimacy with integrity. They have a wonderful article on how to discuss pornography with your children as well as a podcast for adults.
- Internet Pornography Podcast (www.ancientfaith.com) This two-episode discussion can be found on the Becoming a Healing Presence podocast, hosted by Dr. Albert Rossi on Ancient Faith Radio.
- Religious Alliance Against Pornography (https://www.religiousalliance.org/) This organization works to produce resources and educate people about the effects of pornography and its impact on marriages, families, children, and faith communities. They have a variety of webinars available for watching.