The Truth About Men, Women, Love, and Porn (In 2 minutes and 37 seconds)

So, who among us is feeling more and more like St. John the Baptist?

You know, the lone voice crying out in the wilderness? The fellow standing athwart history yelling “Stop!” The only woman at the Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros concert without a tattoo?

Okay, maybe that last one was just me last Friday. But the point stands. With the culture seemingly on the express train to Crazy Town, it’s all too easy these days to feel like the last sane person standing.

donjon3820132But then, something happens. Not a big something. Just a little something. And for one bright shining moment, the heavens part, the angels sing, and you know, know, that you’re not alone.

I just had one of those moments.

Here, I’ll share. You can have a moment too.

(Warning: Uber-brief images of scantily-dressed women. Nothing you won’t see walking through your local mall, but just so no one can gripe at me…)


See?

Admittedly, this is just a trailer. The actual film is rumored to have more than a few scenes in it that make one think writer/director Joseph Gordon Levitt may not entirely grasp the point he’s making. Still, beggars can’t be choosers: I’ll take my cultural bright spots where I can get them.

And this trailer is a bright spot. In a mere 2 minutes and 37 seconds, it manages to convey more essential truths about men, women, love, and sex than Oprah does in a year.

Like…..?

1. Pornography is a problem.

Did you see the tears in that trailer? The betrayal felt by Don Jon’s girlfriend? The hurt? That’s pornography in the real world. It’s not funny. It’s not healthy. And it’s not “no big deal.” It’s a destructive habit that leaves one’s significant other feeling like they’re not good enough, that they’ve been cheated on, and that they can never measure up. It also makes many a woman think that in order to find love, she needs to don porn-star chic every time she leaves the house to go to the grocery store. Note: Women don’t wear skin-tight mini-dresses for the comfort factor.

Even worse, pornography is a vicious habit that turns viewers into users. Not just users of “pornography.” Users of people.  On screen and off. Remember how Don Jon looked at his girlfriend’s Facebook photos? He didn’t see her as a person. Just a particularly pliable sex toy.

And no, it doesn’t matter if the people freely signed up to be used. Using people is still wrong. It’s wrong to treat living, breathing, thinking, feeling human beings as objects, as things. That holds true for using people for the sake of professional advancement, for emotional gratification, and for sexual pleasure.

2. Pornography is addictive.

That’s right, addictive. Like alcohol. Or crack. Or heroin. The chemicals released in a person’s body while watching porn function like a drug, drawing users back again and again until the porn, not them, controls their life and habits. That’s not only why porn made it on to Don Jon’s “things that really matter” list, but why, as the trailer implies, it’s actually at the top of that list.

Back when purchasing porn meant a trip to a shady store, fewer people succumbed to this addiction. But in today’s world, where you can’t do a Google search for Rainbow Brite without explicit images turning up (trust me on this one), even just dabbling with porn is playing with fire. It takes a heck of a lot of virtue to walk away and stay away when the supply is abundant and ever present, and most people just don’t have that kind of virtue. Hence why pornography addiction is soaring.

3. Pornography messes with a person’s understanding of reality.

When the culture peddles porn, it praises it as an aid to a healthy sex life. But in reality, it’s just the opposite. Men who regularly use porn report growing dissatisfaction with the bodies of their wives and girlfriends. Many, like the Don Jon character, start to prefer pornography to real life intimacy. They’d rather be alone with their porn than deal with the messy complications of loving a real, live person.

That preference is not only evident in growing reports of lack-luster sex within relationships, but also climbing divorce rates and plummeting marriage rates. Remember the mother’s cry when her son tells her he doesn’t know if he wants a wife and kids? “I look like a grandmother, but do I have any grandchildren?”

There are a heck of a lot of moms saying the exact same thing today.

 4. Romantic comedies mess with minds too.

In the trailer (and movie) Don Jon isn’t the only one with a problem. His girlfriend has one too. Only hers doesn’t carry an “X” rating. Today, half the loosey-goosey, bolt from the blue, “I have to marry my soul mate so I can find my life’s purpose” love notions that people have are spoon fed to them by sappy romantic comedies. No, they’re not addictive and destructive in the same way porn is, but they’re not contributing to a culture of marriage either.

In real life, love doesn’t happen in an instant, men don’t talk like Edward Cullen, and happy relationships take more work and compromise than any 90-minute chick flick can possibly convey. The more we let our expectations for love and marriage be shaped by those flicks, the greater the chance we’ll miss out on love when it does present itself. Reason being? Real love doesn’t look like movie love.

Cue The Avett Brothers.

 

5. Loving another person is a high risk, high reward endeavor.

Casual sex and casual dating have their perks: namely, quick emotional and physical highs. They bring instant fun and instant affirmation. They’re also empty, meaningless, and leave you facing cancer, heart disease, or old age all by your lonesome.

Loving someone, on the other hand, is hard. It means letting someone see all of you, not just the pretty, pleasant parts, but scars and warts too. It means growing and stretching and compromising so that your life can move in harmony with another’s. It means opening yourself up to unimaginable pain and loss, knowing that illness or accident or rejection could take the one you love from you at any second of any day.

But that’s where the real fun is. That’s where the joy and freedom and adventure that come across in the last few seconds of the trailer begins. You find life when you make a gift of your life. You live when you live for another. “It is not good that man should be alone.”

***

So, will Don Jon find happiness? Will he choose love over lust? Will the film even be watchable? Who knows? I suppose, almost none of us will until Don Jon hits theaters on October 18.

But the trailer, at the very least, suggests that one bright young Hollywood actor isn’t completely buying into the cultural script on love and sex. It may not be much, but again, I’ll take what I can get.

In the wilderness, company is company.

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Categories:Culture Marriage Media

39 thoughts on “The Truth About Men, Women, Love, and Porn (In 2 minutes and 37 seconds)

  1. Fr John Corrigan says:

    Great post!

    Good discussion thread too. I’d argue — and have (see below) — that porn addiction needs to be recognised as a “brain disease,” not a moral failure. Nonetheless, it certainly has a spiritual (even diabolical) element. Spiritual and psychological remedies are both called for.

    http://www.acountrypriest.com/the-new-heroin/

  2. Dan says:

    I would have to oartially agree with Sol on this. Catholicism should be more about helping one another than condemning them. You have no idea what life experiences all these ‘evil’ people have gone through, that is why judgement cannot be passed by any of us. Happiness is a fundamental of life, and while people may choose they’re own way of finding happiness that may not be sustainable, they truly could be doing the best they can in a bad situation. This condemning nature saddens me, and I believe it has strayed so far from Jesus’ teachings that most ‘Christians’ act like they’re anything but. I used to be a Christian, but the unrelenting judgement that was being passed told me I didn’t belong.

  3. Jeremy says:

    Don Jon must REALLY not be listening to “his Church.”

  4. Suzanne says:

    Absolutely fascinating! I just watched this TED talk about the same subject!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=wSF82AwSDiU

  5. YES! I was just writing about this in March! (You can see my blog post here: http://www.catholicpsych.com/2013/03/18/emotional-pornography/) Thank you for bringing this movie to my attention and presenting it with clarity and precision. Keep up the good work!

  6. Sol says:

    This article is good. However, what it does not do is talk about the whys of pornography, sex addiction. In fact, even from the comments you can see some women speak of the “evil” male who watches pornography. Many a male is struggling with this sin not because they want to, but because they have been a victim of circumstances. It does not mean that pornography is excusable, but let’s have a little more love and understanding for people who are sinning, but fighting as hard as they can to overcome the sin.

    Also, I would really like websites like catholicvote.org to take on the following subjects.

    1) Why do men turn to pornography? Many times it has to do with how they grew up. Abusive relationships by mom, dad or another relative. Sex and pornography offer an escape to the horror they were/are living.

    Not always, but many times pornography is the outward expression of a much deeper problem. Unless we get to the root problems, pornography will continue and now more than ever given the internet.

    2) I see many articles like the one above in Christian websites. What I rarely see are articles talking about the opposite. What happens when a wife or husband do not want to have sex? They see sex as evil, wrong, disgusting. This hurts marriages as much as pornography. In fact, I know individuals who, sadly, turned to pornography after their spouses refused to be intimate with them. Not because anything the spouse had done, but because one of the spouses had grown up in a very unhealthy environment when it comes to sexuality or had had a bad experience with intimacy in the past.

    3) Pornography watching among women is skyrocketing. I believe I heard on Relative Radio that over 25% of women now watch pornography on a regular basis. You also have books like the silly and empty “Shades of Grey”. It is pure and unadulterated pornography. Women are addicted to this type of books. Don’t believe me? Go to any bookstore and you can find countless of novels just like Shades of Grey long before Shades of Grey came out.

    1. Courtney says:

      I agree with Sol. Yes, pornography is a problem, but is it a symptom, and if so, of WHAT? It’s fine to address problems and to point out how they damage, but why are they there in the first place? We must ask the greater question of why, not simply point out what.

    2. SueinsoCal says:

      Sol, in spite of all you wrote, sin is a choice and pornography is an evil that is chosen. It doesn’t matter why any more than it matters why pedophiles choose children or Stalin chose mass murder. They are all evil, they are mortally sinful, and they lead to the death of your soul. Pray, go to confession, get help: those are the choices that will lead to a healthier spiritual life and healthier relationships.

      1. Sue,
        Confession is good and yes seeking help of a good spiritual advisor is good advice. However, the issue that Sol makes is a good one, and need to be made more often than it is stated in the Catechism, when it discuss the moral culpability of someone who masturbates. By the way, it is Article #2352, where it states, “To form an equitable judgment about the subjects’ moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability.” So, don’t be so hasty to make judgements about a persons choice in choosing to watch pornography, because it is a part of the same sickness that the Catechism is explaining above. I believe we all need to learn the lesson, even a lot of married men and women these days don’t understand, that we can learn from the book of Tobit, when he prays before he lays down with his wife for the first time. He prays, “Now, Lord, you know that I take this wife of mine not because of lust, but for a noble purpose.” Only after the Archangel Raphael helps him dispel the demons that would have taken his life. We must look at our significant others with much more chastity in our heart or we will continue down this rabbit hole of depravity with much greater speed. We all need conversion, not just the outward sinners, who have given in to lust in its most base form. Lord Jesus, convert our hearts, before we lose them to more evil. Amen!

      2. Derek says:

        Read the Catechism: “To form an equitable judgment about the subjects’ moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability.” CCCC 2352

        1. Derek says:

          Ha! I posted that to SueinsoCal before i read Jason’s reply. Too funny.

      3. Sol says:

        I am sorry Sue, but as people below have stated, not all sins are chosen. The Roman Catholic Church teaches this very clearly. There are certain conditions for a sin, to be a Mortal or Venial sin or even a sin at all.

        A child who was sexually abused who later turns to pornography because of the sexual abuse is more likely than not, not at fault for this action. The sin falls on the person or individuals who abused him as a child.

        Pornography is evil, what we, what you do not know is whether the person who is watching the pornography is evil or not. You do know whether the person watching pornography is committing a sin or not. God is offended, but the sin may or may not fall on the person watching the pornography. Maturity, ability to make a sound choice, etc. must be present in order for it to be a Sin which falls on the person watching the pornography. As pointed in below posts, the Roman Catholic Catechism clearly teaches the conditions that must be present in order for something to be a Sin.

        Remember that you pray the Lord’s Prayer which clearly states that we will be judged according to how we judge others. Soften your heart a bit, Sue.

        To compare watching pornography to Stalin mass murdering is beyond uncharitable.

        Please allow Mercy to enter your heart. In order for pornography to be a sin, it must be a willing choice, not a forced choice. Huge difference.

        May God Bless you and open up your heart to His Mercy and Love.

        1. Slats says:

          Sol, I agree with much of what you say, but I think it’s important not to lose sight of Sue’s point that porn use is grave matter. You’re right, it isn’t Stalinist mass murder, but it does have worse temporal consequences for those around the porn user than I perceive you are acknowledging. The user in a given circumstance may not have committed a mortal sin, but I think it strains all credibility and Catholic sense to say that he (or she!) didn’t at least commit a venial sin. To say less is ultimately to minimize wrongfully the matter of what was done. Furthermore, as non-culpable as the party might be for mortal sin, the responsibility does fall squarely on the shoulders of him or her to seek to overcome the problem/addiction by any and all spiritual and incarnational means possible, and I firmly believe that at some point a consistent failure to do so would move undeniably into mortal sin.

          Lastly, I think the most concerning thing about your point is that a user would look at it and exonerate him- or herself of culpability of mortal sin. Let’s say he or she struggles and falls. Should he or she say, “Oh, well, I’m a sex addict, so that certainly wasn’t a mortal sin?” That isn’t the judgment responsibility of the sinner to claim mitigated culpability, but rather of a confessor or spiritual director. We as human beings are possessed of a seemingly unlimited capacity to baloney sandwich ourselves. It is a very intimate matter of conscience to judge whether or not an act of grave matter was a mortal sin or not, and I would say it’s too important a matter to presume mitigated culpability, ***especially*** when it comes to the personal decision of whether or not to receive Communion. I personally don’t agree that anyone aware of the commission of an act of grave matter going to Communion before confession, nor with a spiritual director telling them to do so. But that’s my opinion, and in the end, it’s between the user, the spiritual director, and God. I just really don’t want to see anyone go to hell by deprecating the Blood of Christ.

    3. Derek says:

      I agree with Sol for the most part, but when a person turns to porn because their spouse won’t have sex with them, it’s a classic case of two wrongs don’t make a right. Withholding sex is a problem, but it can’t be conflated into the problem with pornography.

      Btw, I’ve read some interesting exegesis on 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 like what follows. It’s interesting – there are better articles out there from a readability perspective, too: http://bible.org/seriespage/touchy-issue-1-corinthians-71-5

      1. Slats says:

        Derek, that article is interesting, but both St. Paul and the pastor say nothing about the more fundamental purpose of marital relations – children. I have always found St. Paul’s instructions here interesting, to say the least, because he does not seem to account for how such frequent relations over a lifetime’s marriage will produce lots of children. However, that’s the natural conclusion. The pastor’s article doesn’t address how the decision to have or not have children at a given time would play into those issues. In short, I think the flaw in the pastor’s article is the presumption of birth control.

        I have to admit as well that I can think of a scenario in which I don’t think the pastor can possibly be right in his interpretation of St. Paul. The pastor says that the initiator should be the final arbiter of whether relations take place or not. What if the wife feels overwhelmed by the care of children (assuming the traditional roles of husband as breadwinner and wife as childcare) and perhaps has some health problems to boot – in short, for the time being, no more kids, final answer for the million – and the husband is pushing relations (say, specifically during her fertile period) for the precise intended reason of co-creating a new baby, because that’s what he wants. NFP teaching would generally say that’s bad, and overall that the decision to have a child (or, in a sense, not be trying not to have a child) should be the agreed-on decision of both spouses. I think it’s partly addressed by the pastor saying that the initiator should listen to the responder’s “negotiations,” but to me, that’s undone by the initiator still being declared the final arbiter.

        To me, in conscience, I cannot disagree with the wife in such a situation. She should have the preponderant proportion of the decision-making in such a case. Am I wrong? Inform my conscience!

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