Purity and Porn in a Sex-Centred World…

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In recent days the debate about pornography and its dominant prevalence and ease of access on the internet, for children amongst others, has been hitting the headlines in the UK (and many would argue rightly so). Even Prime Minister David Cameron last week got involved.

With the rise of the internet as opposed to older forms of media such as print and television, new and unprecedented issues have exploded for our society, and indeed the world, as they struggle to keep up with the ever-growing, unprecedented demands for pornography, now available so easily 24/7.

These issues include, for example (but not limited to), not only what IS pornography, but, should there be so much ease of access to it on the internet?, should we be legislating to make it more difficult for children and the next generation to be prevented from the ease of access currently available to all forms of pornography via the internet?, and I would argue, even more importantly, what are the implications for the next generation regarding the current status of unregulated access, now so widely available, through ease of access to pornography (not only on pre-existing laptops and desktop computers, but also via new technology in the form of tablets, smartphones and similar devices).

Many arguments begin with even a disagreement on the very definition of the word ‘pornography.’
Computational Neuroscientist, Dr Ogi Ogas, defines pornography as, “Anything that stimulates the sexual regions of your brain.”

Many are currently asking what is the evidence that pornography harms people who view it?

In the 1960s, a famous psychologist called Anthony Bandura carried out a ground-breaking experiment involving children watching an adult beat up an inflatable doll, then leaving each child with the doll to see what he or she would do. The result was that children also threw punches. Bandura concluded that we are inclined to copy violent behaviour, rather than find it cathartic.

(Perhaps many reading this may not have needed a ground-breaking psychological experiment to confirm such a result. However, research is research. Rightly or wrongly, our society is guided by it, and therefore, we are subject to what research highlights on such matters, with our politicians guided by scientific findings).

In an experiment years later, in 1986, Neil Malamuth, a psychology student at the UCLA, tested human reactions to pornography in a similar way, and has continued to pursue a career as a Professor researching within this subject area.

Malamuth’s 1986 experiment recruited 42 men and assessed them in a “likelihood of rape” scale devised for this social science experiment. He then divided them randomly into three groups, with the first group being given a selection of sexually explicit materials containing rape scenes and sadomasochism. The second group was given non-violent pornography. The third group was a control group, given none at all.

About one week later, in what they thought was an unrelated experiment, each of the men was paired up with a woman, and told that she wasn’t attracted to him. A guessing game was then played by each man, in that each man then had an option to punish the woman each time she got the wrong answer.

From this, and many other additional linked studies, Prof. Malamuth concluded that if a man is already sexually aggressive and consumes a lot of sexually aggressive pornography, there is a greater likelihood that he will commit a sexually aggressive act.

Shouldn’t young people be taught about these and other scientific research pieces which clearly highlight the powerfully detrimental effect pornography can and does have on people?

Some campaigners against porn have used this research to claim pornography leads to rape. However, together with Malamuth himself, we must be careful to not be too simplistic as to proclaim this alone, in what is a vastly complex area.

In addition to the link between pornography and violence, there is also the wider issue to be noted: the now increasingly sinister issue of the rapid rise in wide-spread porn viewing amongst children, and what are the longer lasting implications for such concerning 21st century internet-induced behaviour?

There is no clear statistical picture as to how many children access porn online, or how often they do it.

In 2011, an EU-wide survey found that a quarter of 9-16 year-olds had seen sexual images and only 11% on websites.

Almost a third of 16-18-year-olds have seen sexual pictures on mobile phones at school at least a few times a month, a 2010 YouGov survey suggested.

The stark reality therefore, is that many teenagers regularly view porn. But does this give them a distorted view of sex and relationships, and is there anything that can be done?

In 2010, a Home Office report warned the “drip-drip” exposure to sexual imagery – which included pornography, “lads’ mags” and sexual imagery in advertising – was distorting young people’s perceptions of themselves, encouraging boys to become fixated on being macho and dominant, and girls to present themselves as sexually available and permissive.

What do we do with the aforementioned (perhaps shocking) information and issues? More specifically, what do Christians do about the issues? And entirely equally important, what do those of no faith persuasion whatsoever do with these issues?

These are huge points to consider, regardless of faith or moral persuasion. These are issues of extreme pertinence to humanity, and not only our lives, but more importantly the generation below us growing up with the internet and all that includes for both good and bad, sexualised at ever younger ages, and deprived of the purity and simplicity of a lengthy childhood even more than any other previous generation.

These matters should stir us. These matters should even disturb us. Not as a person of faith, but as a person full of oxygen and simply a living human being. If we cannot protect or truly care for the next generation, and those in our society who are both vulnerable and in need of responsible adult protection and nurture, have we really any business pretending we are the intelligent beings we seem to think we are, who’ve evolved so supposedly sophisticatedly from our ape cousins? (Perhaps there is more family resemblance there than those on this train of thought would care to admit?).

What will be the implications of lack of action on these complex and multi-level matters pertaining to pornography for your children and your children’s children? What will be the implications of these issues remaining unregulated and unchallenged for my children?

Let today be a day for change.

Let today be a day to challenge the expected norms, and fight back at the subtle but powerful pervasion of passivity which is gripping Western individual’s lives, as we increasingly feel the inability to change anything in our world around us singled out as a mere individual in a globalised world of over 7 billion inhabitants.

‘What can I do, as merely one person?’ our internal worlds scream at us, as we turn on our television screens and hear about these issues and feel at least a mild gentle stirring that maybe, just maybe, this IS something I should care about, and just maybe somebody should do something to protect our children and change the irresponsible ever-shifting boundaries which are inadvertently sexualising pure and impressionable children at younger and younger ages, and exposing them to things their grandparents and great-grandparents’ era never ever thought possible in their lives.

What is one to do?

In my own struggle to act upon this vast and complex issue, and as a merely one single person, with my admittedly huge ignorance and lack of the matter until more recently, last week I simply sat down and wrote a quick personal letter of concern on the matter, raising the subject for politicians’ attention, and posted it to 20 MPs and specific people of influence in Westminster (the place of UK government) on the issue. I await their response. It was perhaps a personal experiment as much as anything. My passion is unashamedly for purity, and I desire to fight the injustice of pornography and its wider, vast detrimental societal effects in whatever small or large manner I can. From my own little mini-experimental letter writing act last week, I shall see how the power of the pen still holds weight and significance (or not) in these current times, and go from there. The old adage hit me, “evil triumphs when good people do nothing,” hence my own conviction and challenge to myself to get up and do something, even as small and mediocre as it may be, and begin to take a stand for what is right, rather than self-righteously tear down the wrong.

My own personal view is that although the internet has been largely built by porn, it is time to fight back against this ugly damaging dark pillar in our society, and place restrictions upon porn (or preferably ban it), especially that which uses violence, by calling for greater action from internet giants such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. Pornography changes people’s attitudes towards what is normal sexual behaviour and what is normal appearance, distorting perceptions of how a person should appear and behave. Sex is not something to be handled lightly, but its role in humanity should be explored and considered by each individual in depth, and should be treated with the understanding, appreciation and great respect it deserves.

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