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“The Road to Porndiction” (Part 1 of 3)

Fr. Francis Ongkingco
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Fr. Francis OngkingcoDrugs! Death! Damnation! Our society, now more than before, is experiencing the toll of these words as we become helpless and fearful spectators of the vicious cycle of extra-judicial executions.

There is no doubt that taking illegal drugs is always health and life threatening. Either the drugs themselves will kill the user or he is terminated due to his knowledge about the pushers. We have enough testimonies about users who sadly ruin their family, careers and tragically lose their lives.

If using illegal drugs is evidently a health problem with grave social repercussions, could the same be said of the wave of pornography that has become a mainstream commodity, especially through the internet?

This concern was recently featured by BBC of a study done by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) on the rise of children’s exposure to pornography.

The statistic results from NSPCC are the following:

  1. “Most children are exposed to online pornography by their early teenage years. (…) About 53% of 11- to 16-year-olds have seen explicit material online, nearly all of whom (94%) had seen it by 14. (…)
  2. The researchers questioned 1,001 children aged 11 to 16 and found 65% of 15- to 16-year-olds reported seeing pornography, as did 28% of 11- to 12-year-olds. (Katherin Sellgren, NSPCC, BBC 16 June 2016)”

But is pornography really endangering one’s health and eventually his professional and social life?

Those involved with the mass production of adult sex films do not think so. Why would there be something unhealthy about viewing an “activity” so natural and pleasurable for man? Moreover, they believe that pornography can in fact be healthy as an aid to properly inform on how to maximize and enjoy the natural sexual features man already has.

More objective researchers, however, are doubtful. Dr. Elena Martellozzo, reveals the consequence of children’s exposure to pornography:

“Although many children did not report seeing online pornography, it is worrying that some children came across it accidentally and could be sent it without seeking it.

If boys believe that online pornography provides a realistic view of sexual relationships, then this may lead to inappropriate expectations of girls and women. Girls too may feel pressured to live up to these unrealistic, and perhaps non-consensual, interpretations of sex. (…)

We found that children and young people need safe spaces where they can freely discuss the full range of issues related to sex, relationships and the accessibility of online porn in the digital age. (BBC, Ibid.)”

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless adds:

“A generation of children are in danger of being stripped of their childhoods at a young age by stumbling across extreme and violent porn online. (BBC, Ibid.)”
How can we understand pornography as a threatening health issue?

In the first place, we have to agree that the notion of health is no longer limited to one’s physiological well-being. It encompasses the other rich realities in man (i.e. spiritual, psychological, emotional, and social). When these are properly integrated a person is more capable of genuinely giving himself as a gift to others.
Second, our broader notion of health implies that one’s personal and social development requires some order or structure for personal integration to happen. Something interfering of this order will naturally lead to either hampering or deforming growth and maturity in a person’s interior realities.

A child’s senses, for example, already capture a wide variety of stimuli. But he does not yet have the intellectual or emotional state to process them altogether. Thus, many toddlers exposed too early to strong levels of light and colors found in tablet games tend to develop vision related problems.

Under these considerations we can also say that a child, who has not yet acquired the proper tools to maturely discern and to judge, may develop undesired and unrealistic notions and emotions after being exposed to pornography, as Dr. Martellozzo’s studies showed.

Young children are not yet able to adequately negotiate these confusing emotional, psychological, and sexual stimuli. Either they develop a repulsion towards the untimely awareness of his sexuality or they may develop an unhealthy curiosity (as activated sexual functions are seen pleasurable) that gradually evolves into a hidden addiction.

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