My bishop recently released a pastoral letter
on pornography, “Bought With A Price”, and it is really good, take a look at it. I want to focus on one aspect of his thought: the user of pornography generally does so in a desire for intimacy, and is harming himself because the “intimacy” promised by pornography is fake, false, fraudulent.
Some assert the position that acting sexually, in general, and the use of pornography, in particular, meets the most basic of human needs. This position posits that pornography can provide a modicum of human satisfaction and comfort for those who find intimacy in marriage impossible or at least unavailable. Examples are cited of spouses separated by distance, single men and women not yet able to marry, husbands and wives suddenly deprived of marital intimacy owing to age or illness. In each of these cases, the attainment of some level of human (i.e., sexual) satisfaction, even if inferior to true marital intimacy, is offered as a temporary relief to a person longing for human contact.
This view presupposes that sexual activity alone, or the viewing of others in sexual activity, is somehow of the same nature as true human intimacy. In fact, the intimacy longed for by all persons is the antithesis of the exploitative and dehumanizing experience of the use of pornographic images. Rather than providing comfort or satisfaction, the use of pornography inevitably leads not only to repeated unsatisfying experiences, but demands an escalation of stimulation. Each escalation and each experience demeans and desensitizes the viewer to the beauty and nobility of the human person.
Bishop Loverde here picks up on something that is keenly insightful, and certainly he enlightened me with this: people turn to pornography – a dead object – because they feel a lack of something, they are not being fulfilled. But the thing that they are feeling the lack of is intimacy with another person. You cannot have true intimacy with a dead object like a photo or movie images. Intimacy involves sharing, give and take, openness. The photo only mimics some of these, and only from one side of the equation.
Intimacy is a deep co-respondence between two persons. By definition, it cannot take place instantly when two people first meet, because they do not yet have the ground-work of knowledge, trust, understanding, and respect that has already grown mutually. Once you have some level of these, then there can be a mutual sharing of the inner self, some of your most closely-held thoughts, feelings, aspirations, amusements. You don’t put these out on display for all the world to see, because all the world cannot understand them properly without first knowing you. They will mistake your hopes for either ambition or silliness, instead of what they really are. They will mock your fears as either ungrounded or futile, but not lend you a sympathetic ear. It takes a true friend to be intimate.
Sexual intimacy is a new level laid on top of the former intimacy of friendship. The human body is made for touching and being touched intimately, but ONLY between two who already have established intimacy of soul, only when they already share intimately their minds and hearts. The physical intimacy of granting to your spouse (and receiving) a touch of delight that comes in the very midst of love, trust, and respect, is the necessary framework in which human sexual relation takes place. Without that framework, sexuality doesn’t express intimacy at all, it only expresses animal desire. Unfortunately, in humans, animal desire separated from what makes it human (the love and deep acceptance of the person him- or herself that is being offered) is a base act of lust, not of love, and not of intimacy.
(Speaking from the perspective of a male, since most pornography is made for men,) seeing a woman who has shed her outer barriers-against-the-world is supposed to be the beginning of the intimacy of physical love within the framework of intimate friendship already established. But seeing that happen outside of a relationship of intimacy (say, at an exotic dance bar) is actually a mockery of intimacy, because it promises a meeting of hearts that it cannot fulfill. Seeing it captured in a dead (and deadening) movie or still photo is even worse: it reduces the woman herself to a mere shell of her live self, something even farther removed from her goodness, wit, love, and affection. It has just a tiny bit of “her” at all, a false suggestion of intimacy carried by some photons, not even a real person.
It also damages the viewer in another way – it reduces his capacity to see in the human physical form the window to nobility, live beauty, and truly human expression of love. In seeking to see love in a photo, instead he transforms his capacity to see love at all. He comes away from the experience not only not having his desire for intimacy met, but with new layers of crust preventing his being intimate properly, and with a degenerate capacity to appreciate beauty. The human beauty that is harbored by the form of your spouse offering herself is a beauty that can be properly perceived only by her husband, who knows her heart and mind as well. That true and proper perception increases your receptivity to beauty in the noble, true, and beautiful. Outside of that relationship, the same sight cannot convey the beauty, and instead the viewer’s receptivity to the true, the good, and the beautiful contracts. Small wonder, then, that (as the Bishop says) pornography demands an escalation of stimulation. It is like being really hungry, and being fed a diarrhetic instead of good food. The poor sod is being sold a bill of goods by the devil: he will get less and less real enjoyment out of things that are more and more evil.
Please note that this thread is not about whether pornography should or should not be legal.
Also, I have company for the next 4 days so I will have limited capacity to follow up. Sorry, but them’s the breaks.