It’s a question that occupies the minds of Christians in today’s world: how to share common ground on moral questions with one’s secular neighbours without resorting to religious arguments to underpin one’s stance or being labelled as being part of the “God squad”. This question comes to mind when reading The Porn Myth: Exposing the Reality behind the Fantasy of Pornography by Matt Fradd.
If you are a Christian, including those who have been tempted by pornography, it is not hard to know it is wrong and to feel guilty about its use: it is spiritually degrading to the viewer and a cynical corruption of sex as designed by God. But how do you convince others? It is here that Fradd does an admirable and effective job in debunking the supposed arguments in favour of pornography without resorting to religious arguments.
Defining pornography as “material that depicts erotic behaviour intended to cause sexual arousal”, he has utilised much research to show that pornography can be effectively opposed by social science and medical research, as well as by the personal experience of those wounded by it.
He argues that neuroscience demonstrates the frontal lobes of the brain (the pre-frontal cortex), where control is exercised, shrink in drug users, in overeating and in sexual addiction. Some people will challenge the word “addiction” of behaviour that is chosen. The author reminds us that while not yet officially described as “addictive” (probably because its widespread use is a comparatively recent phenomenon), pornography use “triggers the same centres in the brain as does drug abuse, gambling and other behaviours that can become compulsive.”
Fradd examines all the pathetic, self-serving arguments used to justify pornography, such as that it is just “adult” entertainment; that it is the same as naked art; that actors in porn films freely choose the lifestyles they lead; that it prevents rape and sexual violence; that it is only fantasy and doesn’t affect our real lives and so on. With persuasive arguments he demolishes them all.
As he concludes, “Porn promises freedom, but it enslaves us. It promises excitement, but it ends up boring us. It promises us ‘adult’ entertainment, yet it makes us increasingly juvenile. It promises intimacy, but leads to isolation.”
Fradd includes three appendices, citing research on the effects of pornography on the brain, sexual violence, marriage, adolescence and emotional health and providing resources for individuals who want to break the habit, for their spouses and for parents. Given that hundreds of images of hardcore pornography are only a click away on a smart-phone in the school playground, parents will find this book particularly helpful.