Looking at Porn is not Shameful

Co-written with my beautiful cousin Ashley Richards, 19.

Looking at pornography is not a shameful act. “The difference between shame and guilt lies in the way we talk to ourselves. Shame is a focus on self while guilt is a focus on behavior.” “There’s a huge difference between I screwed up: Guilt, and I am a screw up: Shame.” I would like to add that it also lies in the way we talk to others. We would never tell a friend or loved one that they are a terrible person or have no worth. Likewise we must grant ourselves this same respect. “Shame thrives on secrecy, silence and judgement.” When we talk about the pornography we have viewed we silence shame and give voice to virtue.

Most people don’t know that the initial effect of pornography is the same as the effect of eating cake. That initial feeling of pleasure releases dopamine which travels across the brainstem, the emotional limbic system and the frontal lobe cortex thus affecting nearly all areas of the brain. When you are exposed to pornographic images the brain is overloaded with natural chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin, and this overload causes the brain to be desensitized much like it would be when using hard core drugs like cocaine or heroin. And just like with those drugs the part of the brain that is most damaged is the frontal lobe; the part responsible for the decision making process. It’s no wonder that those struggling with addictions have a hard time breaking free from these habits because their decision making process is physically damaged, however when the virtue of abstinence is chosen the brain is enabled to begin the process of rewiring its reasoning skills. To the brain it doesn’t matter if you’re addicted to cocaine, cookies or pornography the effects on the brain are the same.

These effects on our reasoning skills take a drastic toll on behavior even if the initial action of watching pornography or smoking a joint may not seem that threatening. In 1998 serial killer Ted Bundy was executed for kidnapping, raping and murdering over 30 women. In his final interview he was asked how he got to this point. How he reached a point where could do such heinous crimes to another human being. His answer? Pornography. Ted Bundy grew up in a normal home with both parents but was exposed to Pornography at a very young age. But wait, how does watching sex lead to violence? Wouldn’t that invoke feelings of lust, or possibly love? In a recent study of 50 of the most popular porn films, they were analyzed and it was found that 88% of the scenes contained either verbal or physical abuse, and 95% of the time those victims responded with either neutrality or pleasure. Whether the viewer realizes it or not he or she is being subconsciously rewired to believe that violence in those situations is ok if not desirable. That is the trap that Ted Bundy fell into, escalating to the point where in his fantasy, violence was so intertwined with his sexual desires that he couldn’t have one without the other. It is important to remember that not all who view pornography become serial killers, but all serial killers view pornography.

As it is seen with examples such as Ted Bundy, the drastic change in behavior effects not only the viewer but their relationships with everyone they come in contact with. In most porn the women are depicted as inferior to men and instruments of male pleasure. Studies have shown that those who are continually exposed to pornography show an attitude of male dominance and expect women to be submissive to men. This expectation of gender roles alienates couples from each other and destroys foundations built on trust. It is clear that family is the most important thing in this life. When one member of the couple continually exposes themselves to pornography he or she is alienating their spouse and slowly tearing down one of the most important relationships they can gain.

It is essential to know that porn kills love. While pornography remains silent it is able to grow. It is able to win. Only when we give voice to virtue are we strengthened by the Atonement to silence our shame. “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to overcome it.” Be courageous and silence shame as you communicate your story with those you trust.