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While modern civilization has made great strides in eradicating many of the scourges that have crippled and killed millions, it has overwhelmingly welcomed the latest cancer with wide open arms. Curiously, this disease is weaved into the popular culture in such a way that few see it for what it truly is. Instead, like cigarette smokers half a century ago, it is accepted by most as a healthy and/or innocent form of personal entertainment.
The plague that is pornography has devastated the lives and relationships of countless millions, infusing society with a strain of selfishness and baseness that, if unchecked, will contributed in large part to its ultimate doom. Consider a few of the alarming statistics: as of July 2003, there were 260 million pages of porn online, an increase of 1800% since 1998; more than 70% of men from 18 to 34 visit a pornographic site in a typical month; and over 45 million unique users visit adult websites each month in the United States alone. The data continues, each thread helping to weave part of the large and ugly picture that represents this blight on our society.
As the saying goes, sex sells. In 2006, the industry netted brought in over $97 billion—more than the revenues of Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Apple, and Netflix combined. Obviously, there is a market for this drug, and its demand is ever-increasing.
But at what cost?
Pornography and its usage serve no beneficial purpose; its only perceived advantage is the generation of large profits for those who produce and distribute it. In this sense, it is very much a drug; its peddlers rely upon its addictive nature to secure an income stream and ensure the customer returns for more.
At its core, pornography’s popularity relies upon the dehumanization of its subject, which is almost always a woman. She is treated not as a human being with character, intellect, kindness, and personality, but as a collection of anatomical components serving to induce a physiological response. The very essence of pornography is that of a false substitute—a cheap forgery whose attempt at imitation astonishingly deceives many.
Put more succintly:
Pornography takes human sexuality, with its hope of love, fidelity, family, and fulfillment, and turns it into an empty and lifeless husk. It does this as a predator destroys its prey, by eviscerating sexuality of all its inherent grace. This transmogrification, which some mistake as emancipation, takes place through processes that are neither liberating or enriching, but depersonalizing, enslaving, self-destructive, preposterous, alienating, isolating, reductionistic.
The process can be subtle enough that, for some, it goes unnoticed. But ultimately, the difference between the reality of human sexuality and its residue in pornography is all the difference in the world. It is the difference between what “gift” means in English and what “gift” (poison) means in German. Indeed, it is the difference between hope and despair, heaven and hell.
This falsification of wholesome qualities such as love, unity, and intimacy is only one of the many deceptions inherent in the very existence of this material. Another such deception is the absolute hypocrisy involved in one’s viewing of such content. Dr. Mary Anne Layden of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Cognitive Therapy once stated:
When I ask men who are sex addicts if they would want their wife or daughter to be in porn, 100 percent say, ‘No’. They want it to be somebody else’s wife or daughter. They know this material is damaging.
This aspect, perhaps more than any other, illustrates the dehumanization of those involved in pornography. Those who choose to degrade themselves through participation in such material uphold the reverse of the golden rule, doing to others’ daughters what they would not want done to their own.
Comparing the drug of pornography to that of crack cocaine—and arguing that pornography is a harder addiction to overcome—Layden also stated that it is the “most concerning thing to psychological health that [she knows] of existing today.”
Simply put, "pornography victimizes everyone—those who are addicted to it, those who live with them, a society that fosters it, a society that is trying to oppose it, even those who create it. It contaminates everyone." Dehumanizing anybody destroys relationships and distorts behavior for all involved parties. In short, it degrades individuals, destroys families, and spoils society.
And yet, as was noted earlier, society warmly embraces this lucrative and enticing enterprise. Having become wiser, our society now sees the tobacco advertising of the mid-1900s as a deceptive, money-hungry campaign to make an unhealthy practice popular and sexy. We can only hope that some sort of catalyst will produce a similar result with pornography; our society’s successful future demands that we re-humanize the women who have become involved in this industry, and reject the fraudulent objectivization of other people’s daughters.