Pornography seems to be everywhere these days. Sometimes it is overt, but sometimes we are reminded that it’s part of our culture in subtle ways.
For instance, for years I used to hear a certain song on the local classic rock station. I always found the song’s melody and guitar riffs catchy, and the lyrics had an almost self-mocking tone to them. Overall, the song seemed to have a feel-good quality to it.
But, not too long ago, when hearing it again, I started listening to it in a new way. The song’s lyrics are really quite sad. The singer seems torn between his frustration over an innocent girl he once knew, and giving into his own lust:
“She was pure like snowflakes
No one could ever stain
The memory of my angel
Could never cause me pain
Years go by, I’m lookin’ through a girly magazine
And there’s my homeroom angel on the pages in between
My blood runs cold
My memory has just been sold
My angel is the centerfold
(Angel is the centerfold)
My blood runs cold (wooh)
My memory has just been sold
(Angel is the centerfold)
Pornography is de-humanizing
Thinking about the lyrics led me to some thought-provoking questions: For those who view pornography, how many have suddenly seen somebody they used to know? How did it make them feel? Do people see the performer as a person, or do they just give into the de-humanizing effects that pornography wreaks and treat the performer as an object of lust?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
“2354 Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.”
We should not forget that those who work in the pornography industry are people too. As such, we need to avoid judging them and writing them off as ‘people who enjoy being objects of lust.’ Many didn’t expect they’d be forced to do degrading things in front of a camera.
A dark reality
In an article at FighttheNewDrug.org, 10 ex-porn performers were interviewed and asked about some of things they were forced to endure. The performers used pseudonyms to protect their identities. Here are just a couple of quotes (Warning: the accounts are shocking):
“Of course I lied to my fans. I led them to believe I lived a fantasy life which was far from the truth. I fed into their fantasies. I said I wanted sex 24/7 and made it seem like I absolutely loved what I did and was living this happy life. I started to feel like an important nobody, they knew Elizabeth [the porn star], but they would never care to know [the real me]. I had to do whatever the producer pleased and I had to accept it or else no pay. Sometimes you would get to a gig and the producer would change what the scene was supposed to be to something more intense and again if you didn’t like it, too bad, you did it or no pay.” ~ Elizabeth
“[One particular film] was the most brutal, depressing, scary scene that I have ever done. I have tried to block it out from my memory due to the severe abuse that I received during the filming. The [male performer] has a natural hatred towards women, in the sense that he has always been known to be more brutal than ever needed. If you noticed, [he] had worn his solid gold ring the entire time and continued to punch me with it. I actually stopped the scene while it was being filmed because I was in too much pain.” ~ Alex
“It was torture for seven years. I was miserable, I was lonely, I eventually turned to drugs and alcohol and attempted suicide. I knew I wanted out, but I didn’t know how to get out.” ~ Jenna
Children of God
How can our hearts not break upon reading such first-hand accounts? Every one of the 10 women, and the countless others still in the pornography industry, are people made in the image and likeness of God. What they have done, or been coerced into doing, doesn’t diminish their inherent worth as children of God.
Just like the woman caught in adultery, in John 8:1-11, they need to be shown the mercy and love of Jesus. And it is our responsibility, as Jesus’ disciples, to be merciful, patient, understanding, and loving towards them.
But how do we do that? First, we should refuse to support the pornography industry in any way. Second, and just as importantly, we should also educate others on the harmful effects that pornography wreaks on society, churches, marriages, families, and individuals. Third, we need to help others see that pornography is “a grave offense” that is both injurious and addictive. But at the same time we should point out that the performers still possess their inherent, God-given worth. Those who are in a position to do so should reach out to those who are struggling to leave and help them break free from the industry.
We should also pray for those who are trapped in this degrading industry and for those who struggle with an addiction to pornography. Finally, we should tell others about the beauty of the human being (body, mind, and soul) as seen a special way through the eyes of the Catholic Church, through the teachings of the Theology of the Body.
A person’s rightful due
Now is the time for us to re-discover and re-dedicate ourselves to God’s plan for our lives. As Pope St. John Paul II stated in Love and Responsibility, “A person’s rightful due is to be treated as an object of love, not as an object for use.”