Pornography has historically been considered a man’s issue, but times are changing.
In addition to men, more women are partaking in it, children are being exposed at earlier ages, and marriages and families are suffering because of it.
“People think pornography is something people somewhere else do,” Atkinson says. “But it could be a family member, a neighbor, or someone at church—it’s everywhere, and we can’t ignore it anymore.”
Here’s a breakdown of the groups affected by pornography, along with the startling damages it can bring.
Men are still the number-one consumer of pornography, and it’s a trend that has only continued to climb.
“Pornography shuts men down emotionally,” Steurer says. “And it’s not an issue of being sex crazed—which I think is often misunderstood. This is an addiction that covers up other emotions, and it can lead men to view women in a different way, affect the way they feel about themselves, and cause them to become moody and distant.”
Additionally, it can lead to an obsession with fantasy and distaste for reality.
“Oftentimes, they become less interested in their own lives and less interested in having sex with their spouses,” Steurer says. “In some cases, it leads men to take more risks that may lead to affairs or even criminal activity. They can become completely, totally different people.”
The growing trend of women and pornography is a startling one, perhaps because it’s so seldom discussed. A big part of that is the explosion—and anonymity—of the Internet.
“The Internet is the great equalizer on many things, but sadly, it’s also the great equalizer with the pornography industry,” Manning says. “Instead of being a boys club, you have women who can now access this material in private online—women who wouldn’t have dared show their face in an adult video store 15 years ago.”
Part of the desire, Steurer believes, comes from the pressure women receive about their appearance.
“Women are being told at every turn that their power and influence comes from their bodies,” he says. “Back in the day, publications like Good Housekeeping and Ladies Home Journal were touting a message for women to rise up and be better homemakers and have better character. And now the message is not about serving your family, but about how hot you can be and how to satisfy your man. Women are being groomed to think of themselves as only sexual beings.”
And as a result, that grooming can spark curiosity and lead women to engage in online pornography sites, graphic romance novels, and the ever-growing trend of sexting.
“More women send nudity across their cell phones than men do,” Steurer says. “They think it’s what men want, and then they get hooked. Too often, their self worth comes from being accepted by men in this way, which only furthers their immersion into the pornography world.”
A number of research studies show kids being exposed to their first pornographic image at an average age of 11.
That’s Primary age, folks.
“Thanks to the media, kids are being taught at younger ages that pornography is an acceptable form of expression,” Steurer says. “And in homes where these issues are not discussed, they’re too young to realize what’s happening to them. They don’t understand the gravity of these messages, which are both subliminal and overt.”
Jan Garbett, president of Women For Decency, an organization that links women together in the fight against offensive content, wholeheartedly concurs.
“When we leave our kids to fend for themselves in sexual matters, it isn’t fair,” she says. “It’s like giving your sixth grader the keys to the Ferrari and saying, ‘Want to go to the beach? Great! We’ll meet you there.’ They are on this super highway in this incredible machine, but they don’t know how to drive it.”
Spouses and Family Members
Pornography can affect the marital unit on two levels. The first is a matter of one partner secretly engaging in pornographic material.
“It can literally feel as though your spouse has had an affair,” Steurer says. “As Latter-day Saints, we live in a world where we value monogamy, fidelity, and commitment, and when a spouse turns to someone else—even if it’s not a real, live person—the betrayal feels the same and the insecurities arise: ‘What’s wrong with me? Why am I not enough?’”
The second effect happens to couples who view pornography openly.
“Speaking as a researcher, there is no data that shows pornography is helpful to marriages—and that holds true for couples who consume it openly and mutually,” Manning says. “Actually, what we see is the opposite. There is a body of data growing that fully supports what our prophets and apostles have been telling us, and it’s that pornography undermines fidelity, trust, and intimacy in marriage.”
Regardless of how it’s viewed, the effects on marriages (and consequently families) are monumental. Below, Manning lists 10 such effects:
· Decreased sensitivity toward women
· Less progressive views of gender roles
· Increased risk of becoming aggressive, violent, and abusive
· Three times more likely to commit adultery and four times more likely to hire a prostitute
· Acquire an instrumental view of sexuality
· Increased risk of sexual dysfunction and dissatisfaction
· Decreased trust in partner
· Decreased desire to marry and have children
· Increased risk of separation, divorce, and job loss
· Diminished spirituality and respect of sacred aspects of life
Keep reading on the next page for prevention tips and resources for healing.