Parents are in the unenviable position of protecting and/or healing their families from many evils in the world. Parents must be proactive in preventing it from affecting their family and/or in healing their family from its effects. Pornography is one of the tools Satan uses in his attack on faith and families. The assault of pornography comes from all sides – cultural, moral, political, and biological. Pornography is everywhere and steals into our homes over the airways and cables.
I have written several blog posts about pornography and its affects, and I found that the more I study about it, the more I understand how evil and dangerous it is to our society. I recently attended a meeting organized by our stake president who invited Steven and Rhyll Croshaw of Utah to come to Alaska to present information on healing our families from the effect of pornography. Most of the information in this post comes from the discussion and handouts at that meeting.
I returned from that meeting with a greater determination to prepare myself to help others prevent exposure to sexual addiction or to become healthy from its effects. No one can afford to hide their heads in the sand on this problem. It will affect all of us in some way; if it is not ourselves, it could be our spouse, child, parent, sibling, friend, neighbor, etc. It will touch all of us in one way or another sooner or later.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained how “the corrupting influence of pornography, produced and disseminated for commercial gain, is sweeping over our society like an avalanche of evil. Here, brethren, I must tell you that our bishops and our professional counselors are seeing an increasing number of men involved with pornography, and many of those are active members….
“Pornography is … addicting. It impairs decision-making capacities and it `hooks’ its users, drawing them back obsessively for more and more. Pornography impairs one’s ability to enjoy a normal emotional, romantic, and spiritual relationship with a person of the opposite sex. It erodes the moral barriers that stand against inappropriate, abnormal, or illegal behavior” (“Pornography,” Ensign, May 2005, p. 87).
Pornography can come in different modes. It has been described as any “visual, aural, or written material intended to incite sexual desire” (Understanding Pornography and Sexual Addictions – A Resource for LDS Families and Leaders, p. v). Pornography was present in ancient Egypt and Rome, but modern technology and other recent developments have changed its “acceptance, nature, and delivery.” Things that used to shock most people are now commonly accepted.
Jill C. Manning, PhD, explained that the choice to use pornography is more than a moral judgment. “Pornography is neither harmless nor helpful. It is a mood-altering, belief-changing, relationship-damaging, addiction-forming, socially-harmful, spiritually-deadening, life-crippling practice, through which one practices the ways of the adversary” (Handout from S.A. Lifeline Foundation).
Dr. Norman Doidge, a neurologist at Columbia, wrote a book entitled The Brain That Changes Itself. Dr. Doidge describes in his book how the wiring in the neural circuits of the brain is changed by pornography. Under the influence of pornography, the part of the brain that controls impulsiveness becomes overcharged while the brain center that controls willpower shrinks. Did you get that? Pornography actually changes the brain! People who have been addicted to drugs or alcohol as well as pornography say that addiction to pornography is the most difficult addiction to overcome.
Children as young as five or six years old can become addicted. The average age for first-time viewing of pornography is eleven years old. I understand that the younger the age at the first introduction to pornography, the more likely the child is to become addicted. Most young men see their first pornography by ages 9-11, at least by age 14. About 90% of college-age young men are using pornography occasionally. Even though pornography has usually been a male thing in the past, young women are starting to use it also; approximately 30 percent of young women have used it. Whereas males use visual images, females tend to use aural or written means. Addiction comes because pornography brings pleasure and comfort; it makes a person feel better.
A pornography or sexual addict is so self-absorbed that he has difficulty connecting and relating to other people. Even though a wife may not know her husband has used pornography or is currently using pornography, she will feel disconnected from her husband and emotionally isolated. The effect of pornography on a healthy spouse has been compared to PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder); this disorder is called betrayal trauma. Eventually the betrayed spouse will realize it was all about the lies and the resulting lack of trust in their spouse. Unhealthy people cause unhealthy relationships. Addiction to pornography is the #1 cause of divorce – whether it is a legal divorce or a virtual divorce. Couples who are disconnected emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually are simply living parallel lives.
Children too are affected if a parent has a sexual addiction. They feel the disconnection and lack of relationship with their parent even if they do not know the problem. An unhealthy parent cannot help an unhealthy child, youth or young adult become whole from addiction. Frederick Douglas understood this problem when he stated: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
There is hope for both the addicted person and his loved ones. Healing can take place in user, spouse and children with the guidance of a spiritual leader, qualified therapist, working the 12 step program, and becoming educated about addiction. Just as an alcoholic can be sober without being in recovery, a sexual addict can abstain without being in recovery – until the stress becomes too great and he seeks the comfort of the addiction.
Recovery from sexual addiction is a lifelong commitment. Just as the recovering alcoholic or drug addict must stay strong, the recovering sexual addict must stay ever alert. No one can break this addiction without help! In order to overcome sexual addiction or the trauma caused by it, one must center his life in Jesus Christ. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is real and truly does cover all our sins as we repent of them.
Parents and other leaders can best help the rising generation by personally understanding the dangers of pornography and sexual addiction and then teaching their children and youth how to safeguard against it, how to recognize it, and how to help those who need healing.
The best preventive measure is to help the rising generation to development an internal monitoring system. Parents must teach their children correct principles and healthy sexuality in order for them to build their own moral conviction. “Parents must teach healthy sexuality, marriage-centered chastity, the importance of avoiding pornography, the need for open discussion about experiences with pornography, the consequences of improper sexuality, and the benefits of sexual restraint” (Jason Carroll, PhD as referred to in Understanding Pornography and Sexual Addiction, p. 2).
Elder M. Russell Ballard taught that as “our children grow, they need information taught by parents more directly and plainly about what is and is not appropriate. Parents need to teach children to avoid any pornographic photographs or stories. Talk to them plainly about sex. Let this information come from parents in the home in an appropriate way” (“Like a Flame Unquenchable,” Ensign, May 1999, p. 85).
Parents must become actively involved in teaching their children the dangers of pornography and its effects. Parents must teach the importance of chastity of mind and body, both by their examples and precepts. They must teach it so plainly and so lovingly that their children cannot misunderstand the dangers of pornography and other immoral activities. By teaching correct principles, the power of lust, and how to withstand evil, parents can strengthen their families, communities, and nations.