February is for Lovers. It is the reason that the movie, Fifty Shades of Grey is opening in theaters on Valentine’s Day. The producers hope that sweethearts will celebrate by watching sadomasochistic pornography together on the big screen. But pornography and love do not go together; one is selfish and the other is selfless.
Even the non-religious world is coming to understand that pornography is not good for anyone. In the talk The Great Porn Experiment, Gary Wilson presents studies and images of the brain to clearly show how damaging it is. Yet, in some unexpected circles, pornography is promoted as a good thing for couples in a committed relationship.
For instance, The Huffington Post, a popular news source, ran an article that promoted pornography for couples. “Before we consign it to the relationship deal breaker dustbin, perhaps we should re-examine our prejudices about porn to see if it’s really as bad as everyone says it is,” the reporter stated. Several psychologists were then quoted claiming that since pornography is very popular, perhaps it’s not really so bad. Their conclusion was that watching pornography together could be good for marriages.
Dr. James Link, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Bismarck, North Dakota, noted in an interview that he differs with a lot of his secular colleagues who claim pornography in marriage is fine. He is a husband and father of seven young children and also has a master’s in theology. “The majority of counselors would say pornography is not a big deal if it’s not causing a problem in your marriage,” Link said. “I disagree.”
It’s not always just a male problem, according to him, and sometimes a couple does not want to give it up. “I don’t force them to talk about it, but I let them know that at some point, it’s probably going to cause problems,” he said. “What I find is that, sooner or later, frustration sets in because it ultimately reduces people to objects for pleasure. Pornography, and from what I’ve heard about 50 Shades of Gray, looks at sex as just something you indulge in so it distorts sexuality.” In such cases, Link asks: “What is your view of sex?’ If it’s only about pleasure, then it’s about lust, not love.”
Peter Kleponis, assistant director of Comprehensive Counseling Services in West Conshohocken, PA, has been a clinical therapist specializing in marriage and family issues and pornography addiction for 18 years. He is the author of a new book, Integrity Restored: Helping Catholic Families Win the Battle Against Pornography, and the website PeterKleponis.com which helps people overcome pornography with a Catholic perspective.
“Even for spouses who think viewing pornography together is okay, it is still wrong because both are using other people (porn stars) for selfish sexual pleasure,” he said in an email interview. “In addition, the way women are portrayed is exploitive which can lead to husbands using their wives in sexually aggressive or violent ways.” In his experience, Kleponis said that women often consent reluctantly simply to please their husbands.
According to him, since men are more visually stimulated than women, they are more likely to become addicted and experience problems associated with addiction. “The pornography consumes the husband’s life leaving his wife and children feeling rejected, neglected and abandoned,” Kleponis explained. “Addiction can also result in loss of a career and mountains of debt. It brings chaos into the marriage and family. “
Wives also often end up feeling compared and replaced by the young girls in porn and the men come to judge beauty by what they see in porn, according to Kleponis. “Instead of their love and attraction to their wives growing and maturing, these men continue to act like adolescents,” he said. “They are unable to appreciate the true beauty of their wives at every age.”
Experience also tells him that it is very difficult to keep pornography use a secret so children often discover their parent’s pornography “stash” and become addicted themselves. “Teenage sons come to believe that viewing pornography and using women is okay. Teenage girls come to believe that in order to be considered beautiful and desirable to men, they must look and act like porn stars,” he said.
The Catholic Catechism warns against pornography regardless of one’s state in life.
“Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense” (CCC 2354).
Kleponis pointed out that based on this definition, pornography cannot be good for a marriage because it cannot strengthen the self-giving, intimacy or chastity in a marriage. “Instead of growing in love and intimacy, one or both spouses will simply end up feeling used.”
While many marriage therapists promote pornography as helpful for marriages, he stated that their arguments are weak. “They often believe having better sex will strengthen the love and intimacy of a marriage,” Kleponis said. “However, they have it backwards. Great sex is the result of a strong and intimate marriage, not the catalyst. It is more beneficial for couples to find non-sexual ways to strengthen their marriage. This can include working on better communication, respect, quality time, unconditional love, virtue and forgiveness,” he said. “When this happens a couple’s marriage, and sex life, will naturally improve.”