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Why porn is bad

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By Mark Azzara

Dear Friend,

In terms of reader reaction to my column/letter last week I hit the jackpot. I am truly grateful for all the comments, and I’ll tackle them in this column (except for one specific question, to which I replied on the website several days ago).

On the website Neal Schindler asks, “What line do you draw between sexual scenes in film — or books, or visual art, or cave drawings — and pornography? What’s the difference between porn and erotic art, which has been around as long as humans?‬”

Bryan Richards asserts on the Facebook page that there is “nothing inherently wrong with porn. In fact puritanical views cause a good deal more harm than merely being open about sex.” He goes on to claim that I am “misinformed,” and in a second comment claims that “most people” watch porn and those that say they don’t are “usually lying.”

Kesha Rosencrans says there is “no logical reason to be against the porn industry. It’s always morality and faith, which are great reasons for you to not look at it, but pretty idiotic reasons for you to tell me not to look at it.”

My concern has to do partly with the effect this stuff has on the brain. And since most of the porn is directed at men, I am referring at the moment to the male brain.

According to Dr. William M. Struthers’ book, “Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain,” the more porn that a man consumes the more his brain wants it. And, Struthers argues, the more he pursues porn the more he is distracted from pursuing his overall intellectual, psychological, emotional, spiritual and sexual growth as an adult.

This growth doesn’t stop at 18 or 21 but is a lifelong experience. This is why, in many cultures, the elderly are deeply respected because their lifetime of such growth makes them sources of wisdom for younger generations.

There is nothing wrong with seeing the naked human body; the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling is loaded with it. But in recent generations, especially the last 30 years with the exponential growth of electronic/digital media and the use of sex as a motivator in advertising, our perceptions of the human body have changed radically.

The human body is no longer seen primarily as a reflection of the great beauty of the person housed within that body. Rather, it is now increasingly a mere thing that can be used for personal pleasure by the consumer without regard to the person within.

That is why I do not distinguish between porn and depictions of sexual activity in films, books, etc., except in the sense that sexual activity depicted in electronic or photographic images is vastly more potent than reading about it.

I also dispute the implication in Neal’s comment that the examples he cites are somehow OK. They’re not. Just because something has been around a long time doesn’t make it appropriate. Human beings have always had distorted views about the nature and purpose of sexual activity.

Porn is a booming industry because sex sells. It’s that simple. And the more we turn sex into a commodity the less appreciation we have for each other as human beings.

Sexual intercourse, in its highest form, is meant to convey the extreme value of the other. It’s not about self-fulfillment; it’s about other-fulfillment. When sex becomes a commodity that you can consume without regard to the other person, then we have destroyed one of the most important links we have to our human worth.

Engaging in sexual activity in a way that elevates the partner also is meant to give us a deeper appreciation for the worth of those with whom we aren’t physically intimate. In other words, seeing the inner beauty of one person helps you to see it in others.

Conversely, the more we devalue those who are near us, the more immune we become to the value of those who aren’t near us. If you can trash your intimate partner by viewing him or her as an object, that’s eventually how you will see and treat others.

And porn proves it. Those who consume porn don’t give a damn about the women in those videos. They don’t see the dignity of those women. They don’t value those women for who they are. Those women become merely the means to an end – objects to be used for personal pleasure.

Anyone who reads my letters regularly know about my Christian faith. I am not pushing my faith on you, as Kesha suggests, but I believe that of all the people who have ever walked this Earth, Jesus ranks first among those who demand that we recognize the dignity of every person and demonstrate the utmost respect for every person – i.e., that we always put the other person first.

Porn demands the exact opposite – that you turn the other person (whether it’s your sex partner OR the women in those videos) into someone you can (ab)use for personal gain, whether it be financial, emotional, psychological or sexual.

I have made my choice. What’s yours?

All God’s blessings – Mark

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Mark Azzara

About Mark Azzara

Mark Azzara spent 45 years in print journalism, most of them with the Waterbury Republican in Connecticut, where he was a features writer with a special focus on religion at the time of his retirement. He also worked for newspapers in New Haven and Danbury, Conn. At the latter paper, while sports editor, he won a national first-place writing award on college baseball. Azzara also has served as the only admissions recruiter for a small Catholic college in Connecticut and wrote a self-published book on spirituality, "And So Are You." He is active in his church and facilitates two Christian study groups for men. Azzara grew up in southern California, graduating from Cal State Los Angeles. He holds a master's degree from the University of Connecticut.

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