By Caleb Seibert
The recent wave of sexual assault scandals should be a wake-up call to America of a long-overlooked truth: Our sexual obsession has spun out of control. As society searches for an explanation to this tragedy, one culprit lurks in the shadows. That culprit is pornography.
Pornography has become shockingly pervasive, and even more so with the rise of the smartphone and nearly limitless Internet access. A recent survey found that 79 percent of men and 34 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 30 view pornography on at least a monthly basis. A single pornographic website in 2015 reported 4.3 billion hours of viewership - the equivalent of 500,000 years of screen-staring. When Professor Simon Lajeunesse of the University of Montreal began to study porn’s impact on young men, he was hindered in his research because he could not find any men in their twenties who were not already looking at it.
These statistics have serious implications. Fight the New Drug, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about the harmful effects of pornography, points out that a vast majority of popular porn films contain physical violence in conjunction with sexual activity. In fact, “the typical scene [in such movies] averaged 12 physical or verbal attacks.” Pornography addiction has also been found to reduce the logical decision-making capacity of its users through structural altering of their brains, leading to emotional instability and depression. In fact, viewing porn in any capacity correlates with a greater likelihood of coercing someone into sex and a higher chance of endorsing such activities in others.
So are we still surprised by the proliferation of sexual assault?
At a base level, both pornography and sexual assault spring from the same root: treating women as objects to be used rather than individuals deserving of honor and respect. While it is easy in today’s finger-pointing environment to blame others for the injustice we see, the time has come to take a long look in the mirror.
In a recent take of “The Daily Show,” a Comedy Central hour which has been called “the #1 show among millennials” and averages over 800,000 viewers per night, host Trevor Noah addressed the issue of pornography. In early September, someone on Ted Cruz’s Twitter account liked a pornographic video, and Noah saw this as the perfect opportunity to make a joke. “Come on people, it’s no big deal,” Noah said, “Everyone watches porn. It’s part of being a normal human being. Which is why we know Ted Cruz didn’t do it.” This promptly led to rousing, laughing applause from the audience.
What a tragedy. If we want to see sexual abuse and harassment eliminated from our society, we cannot afford to take pornography lightly.
Do all people who consume pornography become violent rapists and/or predators in the workplace? No. But consuming pornography does objectify women and normalize violence. Rather than looking to others to make a change, let’s make a change ourselves. If we don’t, all of our well-intentioned protests against this evil will lose their power as we perpetuate its very existence.
Are you struggling with a pornography addiction? You can find freedom. Reach out to your local pastor, small group, or a close friend for help. You can also check out hundreds of available ministries and online resources that help people just like you walk through the steps to real freedom. The most important principle is this: bring it to the light. Find someone to share with and don’t believe the lie that you are the only one struggling with this issue. If this article proves anything, it’s that you aren’t alone. Let’s fight for change together.
Caleb Seibert is an intern with the Christian Life Commission. He is a graduate student at the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs in Austin.