How can we still be aroused by pornography if we value people as human beings?

‘I am not interested in a world where men really want to watch porn but resist because they’ve been shamed; I’m interested in a world where men are raised from birth with such an unshakeable understanding of women as living human beings that they are incapable of being aroused by their exploitation.’

-Jonah Mix

I would also be interested in the world described in the quote above. But I feel that there is an inherent implication here that those who are aroused by porn do not value the people that it exploits as human beings. Jonah’s comment was about men watching porn that exploits women, and that would be the most likely case, but we know that women also watch porn, and we know that such an industry will exploit almost anything it can, which includes men as well.

So, do those who watch it just not see the value of a person, man or woman?

Let’s think first about this: Does an alcoholic enjoy drinking? Does a heroin addict actually like shooting-up? Do the many of us who struggle to maintain a healthy diet actually look forward to the next time we scoff an entire block of chocolate before lunch? Or is it in fact the case that all of those people can simultaneously hate themselves for doing those things, yet repeat the acts with a sense of satisfaction every day?

The work of those like-minded to myself and Jonah, such as Melinda Tankard Reist (on whose page I first saw this quote) is ever reminding us that porn is a drug, or at least triggers very similar responses in the brain. Now, the science can be argued, I will admit; since I tried to find the best sources for that claim that I could, but of course, there are those out there who deny it. One gets the feeling that those who vehemently deny that porn is acting like a drug are doing so because they don’t like hearing that they are drug users, or drug dealers, or both.

In my opinion, those in the Porn is a drug camp have a much more convincing argument but that’s not today’s conversation. I am concerned instead with the inherent idea that people who can be and are aroused by porn do not have a firm understanding of others as living human beings. It seems like a hard-hitting yet logical truth. How anyone who views women or men as real people with real value, be turned on by them being forced to have sex on camera? (Note: We often think of it being the women who are being forced, and the men who are doing the forcing, and sadly, this is most often true. But simultaneously there exists a truth that those who have turned to the porn industry for money, are at least in part, being forced to have sex.)

My response: Cinema. Celluloid, the silver screen, whatever you want to call it, it’s the concept of an impossible idea being shown on screen not just as possible but in fact happening before your eyes. The video camera is a powerful trickster: Although there are some myths about the convincing effects of the first pieces of captured footage, it is most certainly not a myth that people in screenings of Psycho, The Exorcist and various war movies have vomited or been psychologically affected for months after viewing. Personally, a preview for a horror movie that I saw at the age of 15 affected me in my daily life for at least a few months. The film Gravity, or as my wife calls it, The 90-minute Panic Attack, had me turning my head almost upside down so as to attempt to feel ‘the right way up’ during a particularly masterful shot that places Earth at the top of the screen. Watching it again, it is an almost impossible task to hold firm to the fact that none of the scenes were shot in space at all and Sandra Bullock is in fact not gasping for breath in fear of her life.

Yet it is the film’s very purpose to convince us otherwise, and most of us are no match for its wares. Nor are most of us a match for the much more damaging and dark trick that porn plays on us; the one in which it convinces us that a real live couple (of any variety of your choosing) are having physically satisfying and fulfilling sex. Needless to say, I don’t want to go into details of how it might do this, but to shame a man or even a woman, for having a biological response to the idea and depiction of sex, is, in my opinion, not overly different from laughing at a war veteran who ducks for cover during the shelling in Saving Private Ryan. “Haha, fool! It’s only a movie!”

Only a movie it may well be, but your body is only a body. It is programmed for good and right response to sexual stimulation, but it is a piece of flesh. It cannot take into account that what it’s seeing is fake, and certainly it can’t take into account the sinister and deep rooted exploitation of people that underpins the industry that is on screen. One might argue: Yes, but your brain can. Your brain wouldn’t be sending signals to be aroused if you had an understanding of people as real people. Again, no. That is asking one’s brain to work on a much higher plain when one of the most base desires is being promised satisfaction. That is like asking the horror movie viewer to consider that there is actually a director standing behind the camera, and that the little girl who looks like she’s about to suck your soul from you is actually just an actress with makeup, matted hair and a dirty dressy gown. It doesn’t work. Everything in front of you is telling you: This is real, and this is terrifying. Just as everything in porn is saying: This is real, and it’s sexy.

But isn’t it the case that people who valued human beings would never look for porn in the first place, so its tricks would never have the chance to act on them?

Partially, yes. I am not at all suggesting that we are incapable of higher thought, or programming ourselves for patterns of thinking that will steer us clear of porn. I think it’s extremely effective to hear from those who are part of the fight against porn. The Grace Spot, Collective Shout and Fight The New Drug for example, are not just places to read about the pain that porn causes. They are places where I build up the part of my brain that values people and remind myself: Sex is good, but porn is not sex. But just because the weak, enslaved part of a person returns to their porn habit, does not mean that the whole person has lost their humanity. Very often, porn addicts have some kind of history that is not their fault; some pain for which they are turning to porn in the hope of temporary relief; it may be abuse, or an early exposure to porn, or an upbringing centred on in constant degradation of the opposite sex. We don’t say of alcoholics: But if they really wanted to stop drinking, they wouldn’t have gone to the bottle shop in the first place. We don’t say it because we know how compulsive their actions are, and we don’t believe that the rational being inside them, who desperately wants to be sober, is gone. We know that they are in there somewhere, and we should want to help them grow strong enough to regain control.

I daresay that there is more time and effort invested in making sure a porn user returns to their habit than in making sure an alcoholic returns to the bottle shop. In Australia, there are restrictions around alcohol: opening hours, prices, warnings and advice on labels etc. As ineffective as they may be, they are at least required. There are no such regulations for porn. It is a bottle shop with unlimited free samples, no closing hours and no warnings or safety advice. It’s medium is one that has a hundred and twenty year history of convincing the user that it’s real; it worked in Psycho almost 60 years ago and it works all the more effectively now.

And so, those who are aroused by porn are only falling victim to the very powerful trick that it plays. Inside many porn users, there is a person who loves men and women, and respects them as people. And even if that person has been using porn for so long, and wandered so far from the light that you and I can no longer see them for the dark that enshrouds them, there is a God who can.

For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! – Romans 7:22-25




This article was written by Lamont Baker. He is a Husband, Father to one Son and lives in New South Wales, Australia. He teaches English part-time, and enjoys learning other languages for fun! 

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