Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

Pornography—or Persons as Objects

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Dec 06, 2011 | In Reviews

Did you know that more than 80% of all pornographic web pages originate in the United States? As with so many other things, we Americans are the chief exporters of pornography to the world. One could make a powerful foreign policy case against pornography, as it is little wonder that cultures which take self-control, marriage and sexual virtue seriously hate what America seems to stand for. But at the moment I’m much more concerned about the impact of pornography on ourselves.

Pornography is rooted in the temptation to turn other persons into objects for our own sexual gratification. This is a particularly potent twist because it actually reverses the result that the proper use of our sexuality is supposed to produce—namely strong bonds between men and women, mutual support, long-term commitment, and that genuine love which always fosters a profound sense of self-worth. A pornographic culture seriously wounds all those who absorb its message. It wounds them at the deepest personal level.

This is widely recognized now in child sexual abuse, but it is one of the absurdities of our present situation that we can see this so clearly with children but we cannot see that our full message about the use of sex in general, especially among consenting adults, has exactly the same impact: Feelings of shame and worthlessness, internal scars, an inability to engage in constructive human relationships, a fear of betrayal and commitment, anger at God or society or life in general, suicidal tendencies, and a deep inability to know and love ourselves.

Of course, the pornography industry projects an image of intense, never-ending fun. The message is that everybody loves sex, everybody thrives on it, and there are never any bad consequences of acting out our sexual fantasies (which, by the way, grow increasingly distorted as we become jaded).

Take the case of Shelley Lubben, for example. Shelley was largely ignored by her parents as a child. She became a rebellious teen, and she was thrown out of the house by her father when she finished high school. Within a few days, with intense anger at her parents and even a desire to get even, Shelley became a prostitute. Thus began a long period of attempting to distinguish herself in the sex industry, ultimately in pornographic films. Despite a growing conflict within herself, she threw herself into her work. She wanted people to notice her, to recognize how special she was.

Once Shelley realized she needed to get out of the sex industry, it took a decade of intense psychiatric, medical and spiritual work and treatment to heal the wounds. The journey began, however, when one man actually began to teach her what love really was. Now Shelley works in a ministry to rescue men and women from the sex and pornography industry.

Shelley’s story is told in a new documentary from Anteroom Pictures called Out of the Darkness. The documentary also follows Mark Houck who, instead of playing professional football after an outstanding college career, gradually fought and overcame his own addiction to pornography and went on to found The King’s Men, an organization which teaches what masculinity really means, and attempts to eliminate pornography from men’s lives.

In addition, Out of the Darkness draws heavily on the work of Dr. Judith Reisman and Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons. Reisman is an expert lecturer and counselor on fraudulent sex science (think Alfred Kinsey and Hugh Hefner) and on the effects of pornography on the human brain, mind, memory and conduct. Fitzgibbons is the Director of the Institute for Marital Healing. He has helped thousands of couples overcome the problems of pornography. He has also done seminal research on the psychotherapeutic uses of forgiveness in the treatment of the excessive anger which so often afflicts those who are damaged by pornography.

Out of the Darkness was directed by Sean Finnegan. An outstanding film, it is as informative as it is moving. It has already won three awards since its release earlier this year: Best Feature Documentary at the Phoenix Christian Film Festival; Best Director at the ITN Distribution Film Festival; and Mystery of Love Award Winner at the John Paul II Film Festival. Its message is at once human, scientific, and spiritual. Out of the Darkness is an intensely Catholic film in its conception and its message, but not overtly so. It is not at all limited in its appeal to Catholics or even to Christians in general.

One of the reasons that Out of the Darkness works so well now, when it might not have been as effective twenty or thirty years ago, is that the devastation of pornography is becoming progressively clearer with each passing year, and the number of people dabbling in it, addicted to it, or harmed by association with it has reached epidemic proportions. And yet what is wrong is not clearly understood. The problem is felt deep within, but the nature of the problem is difficult for most people to articulate.

For this reason, almost everyone who views Out of the Darkness—whether they currently use pornography or have had their sexual attitudes affected by it, or whether they have been pressured into lifestyles they secretly dislike by the pornographic subtext which runs through our hook-up culture, or whether they have themselves been treated as objects by others who seem too often to see them as mere toys—almost anyone can say, “Yes, I’ve experienced this problem. Yes, I can see what they are talking about.”

Even if a person is still in denial about the bad effects of his attraction to pornography, this documentary can still plant a seed which will bear fruit in due time. But the impact of pornography on the human person often has a pendulum effect: We swing away from it in shame only to be inexorably drawn back again and again. This very natural response increases the likelihood of success for a documentary of this kind.

The presentation is never salacious; Out of the Darkness can be used with anyone from mature teenagers on up. Parents who take it seriously, as they certainly should, will also find in it the motivation and ideas they ought to be using to inoculate their younger children against the disease, as well as putting them on guard against those who have already been infected by it.

This is a documentary for everybody. Buy it. View it. Distribute it as widely as possible. Pornography is one of the greatest challenges of our time.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: - Dec. 22, 2011 8:05 PM ET USA

    If they want to sell many copies, they ought to get it on Amazon. I am in the UK, and I would buy it IF it was on Amazon.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 12, 2011 9:40 PM ET USA

    Excellent Article. I will definitely have to check it out.

  • Posted by: bkmajer3729 - Dec. 07, 2011 1:01 AM ET USA

    Get the book "An Affair of the Mind" by Laurie Hall and read it. Get the DVD "every young man's battle" and watch it. Take special note of the excerpt interview of Dr. Dobson with Ted Bundy. The cultural cancer of pornography is far more damaging then many are aware but there is hope and there is a way out! The only way out - the only way out - is through your feelings and totally trusting in the reality and healing power of Jesus Christ. I'll get the documentary and watch it.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Dec. 06, 2011 6:59 PM ET USA

    Excellent article about a tremendous and pandemic problem that receives little attention. It speaks to the courage of those involved in its production that they undertook this challenging project. Thanks to these people for doing great work with the help of prayer and a commitment to Christ and to the salvation of souls. We are all affected in some way by the poison of pornography; it is time to stem the tide with God's help.

  • Posted by: howland5905 - Dec. 06, 2011 5:25 PM ET USA

    Thanks for addressing this issue. It has affected me personally and most men and many women struggle with it as a "silent" addiction. It is a sin that is corrosive to the soul.

  • Posted by: wolfdavef3415 - Dec. 06, 2011 3:49 PM ET USA

    Ironically, the secular world agrees. They just don't want to involve the whole right/wrong aspect of it. Relativism at work.