The Catholic Thing
Pornography – and Marriage Print E-mail
By Patrick F. Fagan   
Thursday, 28 January 2010

It’s not exactly news that marriage is in crisis. Marriage rates are dropping, which means the next generations will be weaker because children won’t have the benefit of the love of both parents. Nations will be poorer, less healthy, and less happy also. We know all this from sound social science.

Pornography is likely one of the key ingredients in this evisceration of society. Consider its documented effects on family life:

  • Married men involved in pornography feel less satisfied with their conjugal relations and less emotionally attached to their wives. Wives notice and are very upset, even clinically traumatized.
  • Among couples affected by one spouses addiction, two-thirds experience a loss of interest in sexual intercourse.
  • Both spouses perceive pornography viewing as tantamount to infidelity.
  • Pornography is frequently a major factor in infidelity and divorce.
  • Pornography viewing leads to a loss of interest in good family relations.

The effects on individuals compound these problems:

  • Pornography is addictive, and neuroscientists are beginning to map its biological substrate.
  • Users tend to become desensitized to the type of pornography they use, and then seek more perverse forms of pornographic stimulation.
  • Men who view pornography regularly have a higher tolerance for abnormal sexuality, including rape, sexual aggression, and sexual promiscuity.
  • Prolonged consumption of pornography by men produces stronger notions of women as commodities or as sex objects.
  • Pornography engenders greater sexual permissiveness, which in turn leads to a greater risk of out-of-wedlock births and STDs.
  • Child-sex offenders are more likely to view pornography regularly or to be involved in its distribution.

These are just some of the tragic effects from habitually viewing pornography but the most deleterious lie in the heart, and in family life the heart counts most.

Most men, including doctors, have not the foggiest notion that the wives develop deep psychological wounds, commonly reporting feelings of betrayal, loss, mistrust, devastation, and anger at the discovery of their husbands’ use of pornography, especially Internet use.

Many wives also begin to feel unattractive or sexually inadequate, and many become depressed, even severely depressed, so badly that they need treatment for trauma, not just for depression. Many pornography-viewing husbands lose their emotional capacity for marital relations, and this, in turn, causes both husbands wives to be less interested in the marriage bed. (Viagra sales are soaring while Internet viewing of pornography continues to rise steadily). Not only is there a loss in sexual intercourse, but even distaste for the affection of a spouse and a cynicism about love can replace the affection that used to be present between them.

It is not surprising then that pornography users increasingly see the institution of marriage as sexually confining, doubt the importance of faithfulness, question the value of marriage as an essential social institution, and are skeptical about its future.

One study of “cybersex” – sexually explicit interaction made possible in the last decade and a half by the Internet – suggests that it leads to a fourfold increase in procurement of prostitution.

When the use of pornography rises to the level of addiction, as many as 40 percent of these addicts lose their spouses, and close to 60 percent suffer considerable financial losses. About a third lose their jobs.

Given all this, it is not surprising that pornography addiction is a major contributor to separation and divorce: In the only study to date of the relationship, 68 percent of divorces reviewed involved one party meeting a new paramour over the Internet, 56 percent involved “one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites,” 47 percent involved “spending excessive time on the computer,” and 33 percent involved spending excessive time in chat rooms (a commonly sexualized forum). This particular study is far from satisfactory from a strictly social scientific point of view, but it suggests a potent threat to social stability.

The effects on children are grievous: finding pornographic material a parent has stored away, overhearing a parent engaged in “phone sex,” experiencing stress and conflict in the home caused by online sexual activities of the parent, exposure to the treatment of women, as “sex objects,” and living in a home where this has already happened to their mother.

Where are the studies from the National Institutes of Mental Health on this matter? This phenomenon is big, nasty, and devastating, and likely robs more children of their fathers and families than smoking does, to say nothing of the debilitating effects on their mothers. Among the tools of the culture of death, pornography likely ranks in third place, after abortion and contraception.

It would be wonderful if a massive class-action suit could be brought by wives and children against the pornographers who made their money by addicting and warping their husbands and fathers. If massive multi-billion dollar damages have been procured from tobacco companies, why not from pornographers who also do demonstrable damage to our society? Where are those class-action attorneys when we really need them for something worthwhile?

Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D. is the author of “
The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Marriage, Family and Community”, an extensive review of the social science literature on the effects of pornography.

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Comments (12)Add Comment
The Government's View
written by William H. Phelan, January 29, 2010
An excellent and timely piece. It is worth noting that when governments wish to increase their birth rate, they criminalize the manufacture and sale of pornography. When they wish to decrease the rate, they allow, even encourage, pornography. Abortions must also be a result of this unreined promiscuity. Look at homosexual acts. Fifty years ago they were a crime. Now homosexuals are arguing to be allowed to marry. Our society has no core values with which to defend itself.
written by Lee, January 29, 2010
After years of forming their imaginations, pornography plays out in the lives of young men and women, with unwanted pregnancies and abortions being a typical result. It is the main cause of abortion.

Where is the Church in dealing with this? Focused on immigration, health care and liturgical reform. But preaching holiness of life and showing the way to it is her raison d'etre. Where, for example, are the pamphlets in the back of Church showing the way to break out of habitual mortal sin?
written by Joseph, January 29, 2010
I'm sure there's some lawyer out there willing to pursue a class-action suit for the usual generous cut. Another sign of the spreading depravity: the Leader of the so-called Free World deeming it of national interest to openly promote homosexuality to a worldwide audience. The world is as plagued by moral pollution as it is by the environmental kind. When a pro-life TV ad becomes "controversial" and one advertising a gay website is ignored, it's a sad but telling commentary. Come, Lord Jesus!
On the Road to Gomorrah.
written by Willie, January 29, 2010
Very compelling and pertinent. However, I don't believe all the class action suits and trial lawyers in the world will make much difference. The West is steeped in secular humanism and has jettisoned Judeo-Christian values. Some seek unbridled lust to fill the void. Marriage and children are giving and loving entities. Porno and contraception just take and destroy. If there is no return to values, we shall all wind up in the trash heap of death and disease. Is sex just for pleasure? Seems so.
written by John, January 30, 2010
Porn is sick and perverted. My wife and I of 20 years have had sex only about ten times, and it was to bring our two wonderful daughters into this world. Sex is not for pleasure. These producers who no doubt enslave young women into doing porn should be put away for life. No woman chooses to do porn. They are being taken advantage of or even kidnapped.
a wife's point of view
written by mary, January 30, 2010
Four months ago after 30 years of marriage, I found out about my husband's sex addiction. What started in grade school with looking at playboy, eventually ended with him going to prostitutes! The internet porn greatly changed our lives. Now that I know about it and understand it, I see all the damage it did to our marriage. He was always angry, impatient and always looked at other people's faults but never his own. I'm grieving the last 30 years. The deceit has been so painful.
Ruined by ignorance
written by Jacob, January 30, 2010
Your thesis is jarringly ignorant of the fact that women are equally complicit in this. I can guarantee you that not long would the majority of pornography survive if women, including wives, weren't willing to help make the pornography. Also women (wives) traumatize their children and significant others if not as much, close to as much.

An otherwise well thought out point loses all its value when you attach it to such a profound ignorance of reality.

Only the children have a real grievance.
Thank you and suggestion
written by Br. Timothy Combs, O.P., January 30, 2010
Thank you so very much for this superb and much needed expose, Dr. Fagan! Have you brought this to groups such as the Thomas Moore society? They do excellent work.
- Br. T
Thank You!
written by patricia stockdale, January 30, 2010
"The Catholic Thing" writers are amazing and doing God's work. Thank you!

Jacob's comment misses the mark.

Jacob, men are the pornography offenders more often than women.
God's War
written by De Coth, January 30, 2010
What about the Women that do porn? These evil women suck the life out of our husbands and our bank accounts! Pornography makes our children not listen, we put them in bed and they sneak on the Internet, even though I put a computer in the same room with them, if they didnt have porn to pull them in, I wouldnt have to babysit my 5 year old on the Internet.

This has to stop! I cut my husband off years ago and make him watch the kid now too, Im ready to prove Gods errors on sexual pleasures.
Thank you. And what?!
written by Kenny Buyle, January 30, 2010
I would like to thank Dr. Fagan for writing a great article.

Jacob, do you seriously blame the women who are exploited to make this trash? Some may seriously participate freely with a "clean" conscience. It seems to me that most of these women only come into the business after being tricked and stay in because they know no other kind of work. Even if they think that it is a legitimate way to make a living it is only because the men in her life did not step up to show her what real love is.
written by, February 08, 2010
Action needed.

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