Effects of Pornography and Violence

View statement online

from “Pornography and Violence in the Communications Media: A Pastoral Response”


9. Ordinary experience confirmed by studies conducted around the world has recognized the evil effects of pornography and violence in the media.5 Pornography in the media is understood as a violation, through the use of audiovisual techniques, of the right to privacy of the human body in its male or female nature, a violation which reduces the human person and human body to an anonymous object of misuse for the purpose of gratifying concupiscence; violence in the media may be understood – especially in this context – as a presentation designed to appeal to base human instincts of actions contrary to the dignity of the person and depicting intense physical force exercised in a deeply offensive and often passionate manner. Specialists may disagree among themselves about how and to what degree particular individuals and groups are affected by these phenomena, but the broad outlines of the problem are stark, clear and frightening.

10. While no one can consider himself or herself immune to the corrupting effects of pornography and violence or safe from injury at the hands of those acting under their influence, the young and the immature are especially vulnerable and the most likely to be victimized. Pornography and sadistic violence debase sexuality, corrode human relationships, exploit individuals – especially women and young people, undermine marriage and family life, foster anti-social behaviour and weaken the moral fibre of society itself.

11. Thus, one of the clear effects of pornography is sin. Willing participation in the production or dissemination of these noxious products can only be judged a serious moral evil. Likewise, production and dissemination of these materials could not continue if there were not a market for them, so those who use such materials not only do moral harm to themselves but contribute to the continuation of a nefarious trade.

12. Frequent exposure to violence in the media can be confusing to children, who may not be able to distinguish readily between fantasy and reality. At a later stage, violence in the media can condition impressionable persons, especially those who are young, to regard this as normal and acceptable behaviour, suitable for imitation.

13. It has even been said that there can be a psychological link between pornography and sadistic violence, and some pornography is itself overtly violent in theme and content. Those who view or read such material run the risk of carrying over such attitudes and behaviour into their own relationships and can come to lack reverence and respect for others as precious children of God and as brothers and sisters in the same human family. Such a link between pornography and sadistic violence has particular implications for those suffering from certain forms of mental illness.

14. Even so called “soft core” pornography can have a progressively desensitizing effect, gradually rendering individuals morally numb and personally insensitive to the rights and dignity of others. Exposure to pornography can also be – like exposure to narcotics – habit-forming and can lead individuals to seek increasingly “hard core” and perverse material. The likelihood of anti-social behaviour can grow as this process continues.

15. Pornography can foster unhealthy preoccupations in fantasy and behaviour. It can interfere with personal moral growth and the development of healthy and mature relationships, especially in marriage and family life, where mutual trust and openness and personal moral integrity in thought and in action are so important.

16. Indeed, pornography can militate against the family character of true human sexual expression. The more sexual activity is considered as a continuing frenzied search for personal gratification rather than as an expression of enduring love in marriage, the more pornography can be considered as a factor contributing to the undermining of wholesome family life.

17. In the worst cases, pornography can act as an inciting or reinforcing agent, a kind of accomplice, in the behaviour of dangerous sex offenders – child molesters, rapists and killers.

18. A fundamental message of pornography and violence is disdain, the consideration of others as objects rather than as persons. Thus, pornography and violence can eat away at tenderness and compassion and can foster insensitivity and even brutality.

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