Q. I have some friends who like to look at pornography on the Internet. My parents have always said that kind of stuff degrades women. When they start looking at the pictures, I just don’t look, but I haven’t ever said anything. I don’t really want to lose them as friends, and I don’t want people to think I’m weird. What can I do?
A. My dear friend…this is, unfortunately, a topic that affects more people than most of us want to admit. Let me offer a few thoughts.
First of all I think your parents response is absolutely correct! And I’d add that it also degrades men. This is a good conviction to keep in the forefront of your mind any time this discussion or temptation comes up.
Why is it degrading? As one very good chastity speaker I heard recently said, “The problem with pornography is not that it shows too much, rather, it shows too little!” I think this is a very good statement. What I believe he means is that pornography only shows the body of another and does so in a way that the person is turned into a selfish object of another’s disordered pleasure. We call this “objectification.” Therefore, it “shows too little” in the sense that pornography fails to show the true beauty and dignity of the person being exposed. It fails to reveal that this person is in fact a person…a son or daughter of God made in God’s image and likeness. It also does much damage to the person looking at the images, because it has the effect of drawing that person into a disordered sexual desire. This means that the person’s sexual desires will most likely become disordered and out of control by the use of pornography. This creates a sort of “imprisonment” and unhealthy attachment. As a result, the person caught in the world of pornography will have a hard time looking at others with dignity, respect and true love. It truly has the potential to affect one’s relationships in a very negative and selfish way. So, yes, it is degrading all the way around.
Regarding your friends who are looking at pornography and trying to expose you to it, you say that you “don’t really want to lose them as friends” and that you “don’t want people to think [you are] weird.” I have a couple of thoughts on this. First, it’s not “weird” in any sense of the word to respect the dignity of another person and to see them the way God sees them. God would never want you to look at another person the way they are portrayed in pornographic images. So, believe me, you are far from weird for not wanting to get drawn into this practice.
And as for losing them as friends, I think it’s important to understand what a friend is and is not. A true friend would not push you into this practice. A true friend would see that this is unhealthy and would respect this desire in you. So, if they do not want to spend time with you or make fun of you or even call you “weird” for not being interested in this, then I can assure you these are not your friends. I know the pressure can be strong to, in a sense, “fit in” with the crowd. But it’s not worth it. You are much better off standing your ground and experiencing their rejection than you are going with the flow of this disordered behavior. Recent brain science studies reveal that pornography can be as addicting as some of the most addicting drugs, and there are many who are so addicted that they simply cannot find a way to break their habits. This addiction, for many, can go on for years and cause much distress, guilt, shame and sexual confusion. And the end result is that an addiction to pornography can (and I dare say “will”) affect your healthy ability to love others in the way God wants you to.
So, stay strong and keep talking to your parents about this. That open communication with them will help you for years to come!