Porn shaming

Recently I’ve had friends send me some conservative Christian screeds on the terrible horribleness of pornography (examples 1, 2, 3, and 4). The amount of porn shaming that happens in conservative Christian circles wasn’t obvious to me for a long time. I had friends in the past who complained about the shaming they went through for porn, but I’ve never watched much porn (it’s not really my thing, every now and then it sounds fun but that’s about it) so it was never on my radar.

But, as usual, a personal event began to wake me up. There was one week during my last year of college when I was home on break and didn’t have a lot going on, so I watched porn a decent amount that week. Before heading back to school, I went to confession with a priest and I confessed that since my last confession 4 weeks prior, I had watched pornography 5 times. Of course, those 5 times were concentrated in 5 days of those 4 weeks, and could be extrapolated to 5 times in 3 months – but, I didn’t feel the need to explain that because even 5 times in four weeks is far from excessive in comparison to many single 21-year-olds. His reaction shocked me – he didn’t want me to leave the confessional until I promised that I seek professional help for my addiction. I tried to explain the scenario, but I was already caught off-guard and backed into a corner. This gave me confessional anxiety from there on out.

But, this experience helped me observe something – conservative Christian circles often conflate porn use with porn addiction. They don’t make a distinction – they see porn the same way they see all drugs; once you’ve used it, you’re an addict. 99% of men have viewed pornography and about half regularly view it, while upwards of 80% of women have viewed pornography with about a third of women as regular viewers (the numbers vary greatly by survey and what terminology and definitions of that terminology is used). Clearly 90% of people are not porn addicts, and it’s probably safe to say that half of people aren’t addicts either. Again, habit or regular use is not the same thing as addiction.

Within purity culture, porn is to men what premarital sex is to women – it’s how we become “ruined.” It becomes yet another arbitrary standard that nearly no one meets and is used to shame and control people. I’ve seen too many very good boys and men, who are shamed into thinking they are dirty, perverted, terrible people because they view or have viewed pornography. Regardless of the potential effects porn (whether real or imagined), porn viewing says nothing about one’s character. And, I wish I would’ve realized that at the time of my confession and I wish that my friends who are good, good men would realize that. It would completely change the way they view themselves, and thus the way they interact with others.

I’m not going to get into all of the details of how the anti-porn polemics of conservative Christians is factually wrong. But, I will leave you with this interesting and moderate tidbit from the American Psychological Association:

Putting a label on a porn habit isn’t an idle exercise. Understanding what drives the behavior is a necessary step toward designing effective treatments for people who can’t control the urge.

While science is far from settling this debate, some treatment programs continue to push the idea that porn is an addiction. “There’s a tremendous treatment industry that needs this to be a disease — a thing they can charge people to treat,” Prause says.

But promoting certain therapies may be ill-advised. “You can harm patients by using treatment models that aren’t research-supported,” Prause says.

Whether or not pornography is a diagnosable addiction, it’s clear it hurts some people. For them, there just isn’t much evidence about how best to control this behavior. “There is a real dearth of good, evidence-based therapeutic literature,” Voon says.

A handful of researchers are working to close that knowledge gap but it’s not an easy field to work in. “[Pornography] is a highly politicized and sensitive topic,” notes Janssen. “It’s hard to get funding for sex research in general, unless it’s in the context of sexually transmitted diseases.”

Prause has experienced the difficulty firsthand. While she’d be thrilled to see things change, she says, funding agencies are still squeamish about sex. “It’s difficult to have it taken seriously,” she says. “But it really is a science like any other.”

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6 thoughts on “Porn shaming

  1. I really like your post. I hope you wont mind a few of my own thoughts to what you wrote. Please feel free to edit if you find my writings too long. First I can’t really comment much on any religions take on sexuality because I am not a member of any sect, however basically how can any group of people who are dedicated to deny and restrict to draconian amounts human nature and then try to council others on that same nature. For example if I were to claim that only the best people, those chosen by a deity to serve him ate no honey, and that honey was to be eaten only twice a year at certain times and in only one prescribed way, my self having never eaten or forsaken honey, how then could I counsel or understand those who love honey and have it regularly as part of their diet and suffer no harm. I simply couldn’t, not and maintain my position. To then claim to be the authority on honey would seem even more silly.

    I think porn today serves an even more important purpose than it ever did. Because it is so available and so diverse many people are finding out things, answers, ideas, and challenges to their own views they never could have before. For example I grew up a gay boy in a small farming town. I thought I was the only gay person in the world. I had never read a book about gays, never heard adults talk about it, and when others older kids did it was as an insult. Now almost every kid can go online and find positive gay role models and an understanding of how to handle their desires. Lets be clear, the human body is designed to be stimulated by sex and sex acts. At any age. Fetuses masturbate in the womb. That is a fact, you can look it up.

    Now I am not saying every small child should be exploited and raped, had that in my childhood and it did not do much for my self esteem or development. What I am saying is the response of my body to that was normal, and that I knew I was attracted to males forever, and that I played doctor with other boys not girls and it as all innocent exploration of self. For me and the other boys and we all were below the age of puberty.

    I think the real problem is our country’s weird unrealistic view of the human body and our fear of sex. Other countries have progressed to the point where the human body is not a sin in it self but a work of art, no two just a like, and nudity is not so feared as violence. In other countries you can show all the human body you want but not the violence we in our country not only are use to but have come to expect. We would rather relish and wade in harmful hurting of others than loving consensual body enjoyment. we would rather see two teenagers tear each other apart and batter each other senseless than explore their body’s. Same for all ages really.

    I am sorry you had this negative experience. Can I give you two examples where porn has helped people I know. One is a long time married couple, the husband is no long interested nor able to have sex. The wife uses porn to stimulate her normal desires and to satisfy her normal desires. They are both staying together as they say this works for them. The other is a young man I met when he was 19. He was paraplegic. Had been for half his life. He had normal desires though and porn was the only way he could satisfy them and get release for his need.

    Last I hope you wont mind but I wish to reblog your post on my own blog as I think it is greatly important in our world today. Thank you for letting me express my self and thank you for writing this. Many hugs

    Liked by 1 person

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