Highlighting the Effects
As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I am daily faced with clients whose lives have been indelibly shaped by the pervasive sexual exploitation rooted within our American media culture. Pornography, a widely accessible form of sexual exploitation, is specifically reported by clients as a significant cause of depression, anxiety, low self-image, and relational distress.
No Longer Harmless
Clinical experiences such as these demand that the mental health community engages in a thorough and realistic look into the emotional, relational, and neurological effects of pornography. They further bring us to the juncture where descriptions of pornography as a harmless form of entertainment are no longer tenable. (Hilton & Watts, 2011; Staley & Prause, 2013)
Pornography Reinforces Harmful Messages
Any time pornography is viewed or produced, it reinforces the following messages:
- A human life can be sexually exploited for the gratification of another human being.
- Human sexuality is neither sacred, valuable, nor something to be carefully protected.
- The objectification of others is acceptable, allowable, and profitable.
These messages are constantly being conveyed by our current media culture, but they are always explicit within the framework of pornography. Their impact is profound, particularly when they are filtered through the media into the culture at large. They are internalized by men, women, and children and become commonplace, acceptable, and normalized. The damage they do is reinforced when our societal ideas of healthy sexuality and attraction are skewed by the unrealistic nature of pornography.
How Families Can Guard Against the Dangers of Pornography
Never before in our nation’s history have families had to guard against the presentation and normalization of these messages to such a degree, while at the same time aiming to shield each individual member from direct exposure to the substance of pornography itself. Thankfully, there is a great deal that families can do to protect against these damaging influences.
One of the greatest steps a family can take is to create a safe environment where the topic of pornography and the harmful messages it perpetuates can openly be discussed. This is an increasingly important step for parents to take, especially as the average age of exposure to pornography continues to decrease. (Sabina, Wolak, & Finkelhor, 2008) Being informed as a parent and helping your kids to be informed is, therefore, a primary means of protecting your family.
Additional Protections Against Pornography
Purposefully having conversations as a family about the sacred nature of human sexuality is another crucial step. These conversations help keep sexuality from becoming a taboo subject within the family system. They provide parents with the opportunity to address the inherently beautiful, exciting, and pleasurable nature of sex within the marital framework while also teaching their children how to value their bodies and their sexuality.
Families can further protect themselves from the dangers of pornography by placing internet filters and passwords on each computer and smartphone device. Parents need to remain aware of their child’s internet usage since the prevalence and easy access to pornography over the internet is such that a child may stumble upon pornographic content, or end up viewing this type of content if they search for it out of curiosity. Beyond this, parents and children need to be on guard, for we live in a culture where pornography now tends to find you, for example, through someone telling you about it or a random pop-up appearing on your computer.
The sexual exploitation of men, women, and children in America ends when the people of our nation collectively say, #Enough.
— Eric Gomez (@egomez_ft) November 7, 2014
Seeking Christian Counseling as a Family Unit
A primary and important part of my clinical work is informing families about the harmful effects of pornography and sexual exploitation. This is in addition to helping those who have experienced the frequent use of pornography or have become addicted to it. As a Christian counselor, I help them to find ways to overcome their usage patterns and rebuild their relationships, which are often significantly damaged by such use. Ultimately, my heart is to join with you and your family in guarding against the dangers of pornography, and to help you move beyond any damage you may have already sustained, whether individually, in your marriage, or as a family unit.
* Hilton Jr, Donald L., and Clark Watts. “Pornography addiction: A neuroscience perspective.” Surgical neurology international 2 (2011).
* Sabina, C., Wolak, J., & Finkelhor, D. (2008). The nature and dynamics of Internet pornography exposure for youth. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 11(6), 691-693.
* Staley, Cameron, and Nicole Prause. “Erotica viewing effects on intimate relationships and self/partner evaluations.” Archives of sexual behavior 42.4 (2013): 615-624.
“Shades of Autumn,” by Beverley Goodwin, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0) 10182554575_472f1e4631_z.jpg; “Autumn Cycle,” by Mo Risa, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0), 308483890_840fc68b94_o.jpg
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