The Fight Against Porn: a battle worth waging

“What in the world are you reading?” 

And so began one of the most awkward conversations of my life as I sat in seat 6E, 30,000 feet in the air on my way to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

“Oh, it’s a book I’m reviewing for my blog,” I mumbled, hoping my seat mate would catch the hint that I wasn’t wearing Bose noise cancelling headphones to make a fashion statement.

“It’s about the harmful effects of pornography and the reasons why we as a culture should look to eradicate its presence.” 

“That’s a terrible title for a book, you know,” the gentleman responded. “There’s no myth about porn. It is what it is and it’s here to stay.”

And with that definitive and final statement, he put on his headphones, pulled out an iPad, and we didn’t speak for the remainder of the flight except to say “excuse me” when he got up to go to the restroom. In retrospect, I don’t entirely blame the man for being surprised when he caught sight of the book in my hand. 

There’s no bones about it: I was reading a book about porn while sitting in a large metal tube making its way up and over the central United States. He really did have every right to ask what it was about. It was his response that threw me off…as if I was somehow responsible for the title and content of a book I was simply reading. Perhaps more shocking, though, was how confident he sounded when he claimed that pornography isn’t going anywhere. It was like he had just accepted that this epidemic of pornography exists in our society, no different than the reality that people will fall ill, taxes must be paid, and the sun will shine when it rises. 

It broke my heart, and I wanted to hand him the book so he could read it for himself and be shocked to find that much of what he has heard about or experienced with pornography is nothing more than a well-planned, well-executed, demonic and poisonous lie that has infected our culture. 

Over the course of the 200+ pages of The Porn Myth, Matt Fradd (arguably the leading Catholic expert on the harmful effects of and the fight to battle against pornography), unpacks how pornography has poisoned our culture with its lies about “love” and “intimacy” and “the good it serves for society.” For each falsehood and lie that’s been perpetuated in our modern world, Fradd provides a scientific, well-reasoned, articulate antidote.  He takes the seemingly endless myths about pornography down in a systematic, organized manner, examining the culture of porn in which we now live, how the industry operates, the effects it has had on our sexuality, the harm it has caused to relationships, and the seemingly endless struggle with pornography addiction that so many people seem to now face. 

He doesn’t approach the issue from a religious or even Catholic perspective, although it is quite evident that Fradd is a man of deep faith. Instead, he argues against each individual myth one by one, explaining how the lie is in fact false by appealing to neurological data, expert explanations, and psychological research. The Porn Myth is no light-weight pamphlet about why pornography is bad: it is a veritable masterpiece on the dangers of the epidemic affecting countless men and women around the world.

About halfway through the book, and after Fradd has already hammered home a variety of useful and undeniable facts that completely dismantle the lies many of us have been fed about pornography (see “Chapter 12: Women don’t struggle with porn” and prepare to be shocked), I was convinced this book needs to be in the hands of every parent, educator, youth minister, and pastor who are on the front lines fighting against this poison infecting so many people.

Fradd explains how the addiction to pornography greatly alters the physical make-up of the human brain, resulting in a loss of grey matter. The man or woman addicted to pornography dulls the affects of dopamine in their brain, and the pleasure areas of their brain begin to atrophy and shrink. In short: they can’t feel pleasure anymore, and so they become even more addicted to the substance they are consuming (porn) in search of the chemical high and release associated with the pleasure they initially received. Extended viewing of pornography has the same affects on the brain as cocaine, methamphetamine, and opioids. 

When I read this, slowly comprehending the detrimental effects of using pornography, I immediately began thinking of the thousands of young people I’ve encountered over the years both in my classroom, parish, and various events across the country. Do they know what happens when they just click on this or watch that? Do they have any idea what it’s doing to their mind, literally changing them from the inside out for the rest of their life…

Are we telling them all of this? Are we too scared? Do we know how? Do we even want to? Or are we perhaps even struggling with it ourselves…

As a society, we abhor addictions to alcohol, drugs, and gambling. We aid people in their search for freedom from the crippling addictions that are less taboo and sometimes easier to notice. But pornography is the new drug, and it’s often free. The attachment to “pleasure by way of a glowing computer screen” has taken hold, and it is not letting go easily. The lies are being bought and sold for next to nothing, and souls are being crushed by the half-truths of Satan himself. 

The accessibility of porn, the misunderstanding about what it is and how it affects us all, and the rapid growth and control of the industry in our society should frighten us…and it should call us to arms. We cannot sit idly by and let pornography and the addiction to it win. We must fight, because this is a battle worth waging. 

We cannot just shield our eyes, look away, huff in disgust, and wish it would disappear. We must act, by informing others of what we know and speaking out to aid them in their pursuit of freedom and healing. We must give testimony to the freedom we may have found ourselves. We must encourage parishes and schools to educate everyone about what is happening before our very eyes and how we can combat it. We must empower parents to be protected and secure as they struggle with ensuring pornography doesn't infect their family. 

The Porn Myth by Matt Fradd is the book to equip us in this battle. It is the clarion call our culture needs to wake up to the reality of the dangers of pornography. It is the clear-cut, straightforward, articulate handbook we must use when battling the seemingly endless lies about an industry and issue that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

If my seat mate on that flight to Wisconsin was right, pornography is here to stay...and we’ll be here to fight against it, well-informed and prepared to win.