Lauren Dubinsky got into porn accidentally. At first she didn’t think it was bad since she wasn’t actually having sex. She was lonely, bored and single, so she watched it.
This is how many people get hooked. They think it’s a harmless activity, something that doesn’t affect anyone else. But over time, Lauren discovered the destructive effects of watching porn: its addictive power, the way it reduces your self esteem, and the way it ruins your sex life. Her account, as told in “What I Wish I’d Known Before Watching Porn,” is both compelling and disturbing.
Disturbing because more and more young people today are getting hooked – including women. And it’s particularly tempting for singles, who often struggle with feelings of loneliness and anxiety. In today’s online culture, a quick fix for these feelings is only a mouse click away.
Once Lauren started watching porn, she found she wanted more and more. Viewing pornography has been called the “crack cocaine of sexual addiction” – after the “novel rush” of sexual highs, the brain quickly begins to rewire itself for addiction. Yet those fleeting moments of intense pleasure are soon followed by feelings of degradation and shame (because we know, deep down, that it’s wrong). Completing the cycle, the user turns once more to the very activity that caused those feelings of anxiety and shame, thereby cementing even further the preoccupation with porn and, eventually, leading to addiction. At the same time normal relationships (with real life people) become less satisfying, less exciting. Porn use rewires the brain, causes intimacy disorders, sexual aggression, “sexual anorexia,” and sexual self-hatred.
It used to be the porn addict was a dirty old man who shuffled into the X-rated bookstore or skulked at the sidelines of the swimming pool in the summer. But now he is us.
Porn also normalizes things that should never be normalized, like sado-masochism.
Just when moms everywhere finally gave into their teenage daughters reading vampire romance, they are now faced with bondage and domination. The fastest selling paperback in history (beating out Harry Potter) is Fifty Shades of Grey. I haven’t read it, but I’ve heard about it – from my teenager who told me that everyone (and their mother!) is reading this explicit novel about the sexual escapades of a young woman seduced by a handsome entrepreneur who is into sexual domination. (For the record, when she heard about the plot, her reaction was “ew!”)
Reading a romance novel might seem harmless compared with watching X-rated movies, but when the hero is a sado-masochist and it’s being marketed to young teenage girls, we’re looking at a gateway to hard-core porn.
Despite – or perhaps because of – our ready access to friends and acquaintances via texting, our iPhones, or the Internet, despite our large number of Facebook “friends,” we are lonely and depressed. Into that vacuum steps Fifty Shades of Grey.
What is the antidote to these feelings of loneliness and anxiety? In part, it’s having real conversations in person. Listening, really listening, without checking the iPhone or Twitter feed. And if you have already succumbed to the temptation of porn, don’t dig yourself in deeper by succumbing to secrecy and shame. Go to confession, get spiritual direction, and enlist the aid of a therapist who can help you beat the habit.
Most importantly, what’s needed is spending time in prayer, in quiet contemplation, in the presence of the only One who can completely heal our wounded hearts. As Pope Benedict XVI writes in Introduction to Christianity, “Christ strode through the gate of our final loneliness…in his Passion he went down into the abyss of our abandonment. Where no voice can reach us any longer, there He is.”