Pornography’s Threat to Children

New Report Urges Action

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By Father John Flynn, LC

ROME, OCT. 18, 2009 ( Protecting children from sexual exploitation is a priority for many government agencies and private bodies today. In spite of this, not nearly enough is being done to deal with the threat to children from the dangers of adult pornography, a recent report accuses.

Morality in Media, a non-profit organization based in New York City, published a study in September titled, “How Adult Pornography Contributes To Sexual Exploitation of Children.” It argues that government agencies and private groups are ignoring the consequences of what they term an “explosion” of hardcore adult pornography on the Internet and elsewhere.

Adult porn is a menace for children in a number of ways, the report contends:

— Perpetrators use adult pornography to groom their victims;

— For many perpetrators there is a progression from viewing adult pornography to viewing child pornography;

— Men act out with child prostitutes what they view in adult pornography, and pimps use adult pornography to instruct child prostitutes;

— Children imitate behavior they view in adult pornography with other children;

— Addiction to adult pornography destroys marriages, and children raised in one-parent households are more likely to be sexually exploited.


The report’s author, Robert Peters, president of Morality in Media, explains that a couple of decades ago, in his research into court cases, he came across multiple examples of situations involving sexual exploitation of children in which an adult defendant had shown or given adult pornography to the child victim as part of the grooming process.

A lot of debate has centered on the issue of whether adult pornography causes sex crimes, he notes. Even if this matter of a direct causation still remains a contested question, Peters comments that in his experience the use of adult pornography by predators to arouse and desensitize their child victims is certainly one way in which adult pornography contributes to harm.

This is more than just a personal opinion. One of the appendices to the report contains more than 100 pages of excerpts from news articles and court cases that refer to how a perpetrator showed or gave pornography to a child or forced the child to watch it.

The report goes on to explain that persons who are addicted to pornography require more explicit and deviant kinds of sexual material as time goes on, just as is the case with those afflicted with drug addictions. Thus, over time there is an increasing need for more of the stimulant to get the same initial effect.

Peters also observes that there is an increasing tendency to act out sexually the behaviors viewed in the pornography. So users of pornography are not only passive consumers, but tend to act out the behaviors that they view. 

Media threats

When it comes to children themselves, the report explains that if a child were to walk into an adult bookstore, then they would be told to leave, as it is against the law to sell pornography to children in the physical world. 

By contrast, if that same child were to “click” to most commercial Web sites that distribute adult pornography, it is possible to view hardcore adult pornography free of charge, and without restriction. Supposedly, when it comes to the Internet, the courts think parental use of filters is an adequate solution to the problem, the report acerbically comments.

Parents do have a primary role in protecting children from harmful Internet content, Peters admits. Nevertheless, most children can still access the Internet outside the home or by means of mobile devices. All it takes is one child in a group of friends to have unrestricted access to the Internet for all to have access, the report points out.

Peters also said that in his many years of experience a significant number of predators use adult pornography not just to arouse and instruct their victims, but also to sexually arouse themselves.

One of the conclusions of the report is a request that churches and other religious organizations do more to confront the adult pornography problem. Pornography is a problem not only for many who do not attend religious service, but also for those of all ages who do attend, it argues.

As well, news and entertainment media could help by portraying the production and consumption of adult pornography as a real problem, instead of as a matter of no moral or social significance.

Family life

The observation by the report that pornography damages family life and hurts children is by no means an isolated opinion. From Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald in an article published Mar. 5, related the scenario of a male partner in a marriage being found out to be a porn addict. The “catastrophic emotional fallout that ensues” from this addiction is a depressingly common fact. 

Last year the telephone counselors at Mensline Australia had a 34% increase in calls from men who felt pornography was a problem in their relationship, the article commented.

The possibility to access pornography through computers and phones has removed the so-called barrier to entry, that is, the embarrassment of a visit to a sex shop to buy a magazine or video.

It’s also a serious problem for women, the article noted. “There is a fair proportion of women who see their partner’s porn use as an infidelity,” said sociologist Dr. Michael Flood. “Even when he is being honest about it, some women find his porn use to be a kind of adultery.”

The link between the multibillion-dollar porn industry and sexual appetite has become like the relationship between super-size portions and obesity, argued feminist Naomi Wolf in an article published April 4 in the Times newspaper.

“The ubiquity of sexual images does not free the power of Eros, but dilutes it,” she added. 

Further evidence of the implication of this for children came in an article published May 29 in the Canadian newspaper, the Ottawa Citizen. Richard Poulin a professor of sociology at the University of Ottawa, was taking part in a conference in Montreal titled: “Youth, Media and Sexualization.”

He observed that sexual assaults are now committed by younger assailants against younger victims. Moreover, a survey he carried out among students at the University of Ottawa in Canada found that the average age at which they first looked at pornography was 13. Among those whose parents kept pornography in the home, the age was lower, between 10 and 11, he noted.

Poulin also cited a survey showing that one in five men aged 22-23 admitted being sexually attracted to 13-year-old girls. “This is not a trivial trend,” he said.

Healthy environment

Benedict XVI addressed the issue of pornography in his April 16 address to American bishops during his visit to the United States last year.

“Children deserve to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships,” he recommended. “They should be spared the degrading manifestations and the crude manipulation of sexuality so prevalent today.”

Children have a right to be educated in authentic moral values that are based on the dignity of the human person, the Pontiff continued. 

“What does it mean to speak of child protection when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today?” he questioned.

To deal with this problem the Pope spoke of the need to urgently assess the values that are guiding society today. If we really care about young people we will all recognize our responsibility to promote and live by authentic moral values, which will enable all people to flourish, he concluded. 

A timely reminder of the dangers of turning a blind eye to a problem that too often is ignored.

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