Evert’s comment: The battle against pornography demands a change in culture
France is trying to limit the access to pornography for young people. Of course, this is a good thing. But it will not work. Something else has to be done.
Porn seems to be everywhere. Half of the 12-years-old youngsters watch something every month, a recent study from France revealed. There is no reason to think that this is different in other countries.
Is this harmful to the young boys and girls? Of course, it is. There are enough reasons why it is better to teach our children not to consume porn (and to give a good example). Just a few of the many reasons:
Pornography arouses many things, but not faithfulness in marriage. Whilst we know that Europe could use some more marital fidelity.
Sex is intimacy, in which a man and a woman accept and protect each other. This is how God created it. Stories and pictures of the sexual act breach this intimacy.
In the era after #MeToo, it would help to give more attention to female desires in sexuality. The porn industry only gives a one-sided masculine picture, leading to wrong expectations.
And then, after all, some very practical reasons:
For all of us, porn is addictive, although it differs from person to person how much. Every civilisation is obliged to prevent (young) people from getting addicted, whether it is smoking, drinking, or sex addiction.
Porn is connected to sexual violence. We know that many women playing in this, are trafficked and under pressure.
Brain research shows that pictures from this stay in the memory for a long time, even decades.
Knowing all this, it would have been better if porn had not been there. But it is there, and we have to deal with it. And that isn’t easy.
One problem is that it is difficult to ‘reason’ with it. Many watchers know it is wrong and a sin against God – and therefore, they feel guilty. We can have good arguments about why it is not good to consume pornography – but that would not help.
Porn just takes the other entrance: not the head but the heart. Sex is not an activity of the mind but of the feelings. We can try to convince the mind. But in reality, we should try to change the heart.
Of course, our heart is not disconnected from our head. Saying that porn is connected to violence, is not just a piece of information. You hope you reach the heart with that.
But still, you can know a lot but not give up consuming. Why do you think that so many doctors and care workers smoke? More than other people, they know that smoking is dangerous. You don’t have to tell them that. But they are still tied to the cigarette. It does not help to call them hypocrites – that is a word for the mind, not for the heart.
It is the same with porn. The preacher who warns against the dangers of it with honesty can still enjoy watching a forbidden movie. Of course, it will give him stress. But this is how complex we are as human beings.
There is only one thing that really could help: a change in our will and our desires. You are motivated to change once you get a distaste for sin because it dishonours the loving God. As soon as you see that porn wrecks families and relationships, that can help to get an aversion to it.
Does this all mean that this is a spiritual battle, then? Yes, of course. What else would it be?
So far, the moralistic part. Now to the politics.
It is clear that a government has a task of protecting people against evil things. Of course, there is privacy, and no state can prescribe me how much coffee I drink and what bread we eat. But regarding smoking, I think the government is allowed to campaign against this. The same with drinking (especially in traffic).
Would it not be better to leave all this to the free market? I am afraid not. The market has no interest in educating the new generation if that would lead to less consumption of porn, cigarettes and alcohol. And the market is so powerful that it will seduce our children to spend time and money on all this.
So, what then? A warning as on a cigarette’s carton: “Porn will hurt you”? Good idea! A QR code can lead to a website with further explanation.
That is an excellent first step. A second step is to forbid the distribution of pornography to minors. Of course, this will only help if this rule is maintained. On the internet as well. There is no reason not to demand from porn sites that they introduce age verification. A judge in France will give a verdict about that in a few weeks’ time.
This is a technical measure. We know this is not sufficient. There will still be ways around it. But it is still helpful because it gives the signal from the authorities that porn is not innocent. And we need such signals. The law is not only legal but also offers a moral message.
And if such measures are implemented, will that change the world? Not much, I am afraid. We have to change the culture.
It would be a huge step forward if leaders in the Western world would reflect on the example they give. The present signal that young people get from the world of politics, media and sports is that “sex is free”. Sex is there for you, not for the other. There is just one law: don’t hurt anybody else. For the rest, there are no limits; you can get what you want.
But that is not what leads to happiness. This is not what we are designed for. God has made us for connection and covenant. Sex is for marriage, to sustain each other.
Is it realistic to expect that the big celebrities will give another example? Why not? You can even start it yourself. If you are an example of a decent life, you are a star!
Evert van Vlastuin (1972) has been working as a journalist from the early 90s.
He has interviewed several Nobel Peace Price winners as the former South African president F. W. de Klerk and two from Northern Ireland, John Hume and David Trimble.
From 2001, he worked as a foreign news reporter for the Dutch Reformed Daily. Since 2021, he works as managing editor for the start-up CNE.news.
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