Boys Will Be Boys: The Danger of Underestimating Pornography's Effect Part I
We stopped by the office merely out of convenience. In an attempt to solidify my cool status amongst my daughter's preteen friends, I volunteered to be their chauffeur and bodyguard for the night. Each girl (all twelve of them) had left their respective sports practices and insisted on a wardrobe change before heading out for the night to the hippest of Dothan's November scenes: the Peanut Festival.
They walked through the office, all of them vaguely familiar with the work done here. They glanced at the posters on the walls and commented on the butterflies spread throughout the space. After a few pointed questions, I offered to give them a full tour.
With each room, I shared a bit about the activities that circulate through the building. We talked about the teen girls we minister to, club ministry, street outreach, etc. They made themselves comfortable in our back room, plopping themselves down on the floor and sprawling about as if they were at a sleepover. I was and continue to be thankful for how at home every teen girl who crosses our threshold seems to feel here.
They began asking questions. This opened the door to conversations ranging from the heart of the Gospel and His great love for us to the ins and outs of why sex trafficking is not what the movie Taken usuallyinsinuates. It was a beautiful time. Very similar conversations happen here in this building regularly, but what a gift to have it happen with my daughter and her friends.
As we were winding down our tour and getting ready to leave, one of the girls began to nonchalantly complain about the lewd comments middle school boys make to them. Quickly, one of the other girls chimed in, "It's because they watch porn all the time."
Of course, this naturally caught my attention. If you are like me, you cherish watching your little girl grow up, but managing to swallow the reality of the fast pace of time is a bit of a different feat. How is it that these girls are already facing this?
Many people when they hear of middle school boys watching porn and saying inappropriate things to girls would shrug it off as boys will be boys. Perhaps, they assume curiosity takes the lead or that hormones outpace self-control.
The average age of exposure to pornography is between eight and twelve years old. As one article put it, we've placed an X-Rated theater in the hands of every child who has a cell phone (Covenant Eyes, 2021).
When I hear my daughter and her friends share about a boy's birthday party where porn was the feature film, I can't possibly separate it from the stories I hear from the women and girls we serve here at our ministry. In this line of work, we see the devastating fallout of pornography every day.
We sometimes encounter pornography-addicted buyers in the parking lots of motels while they wait to purchase sex from the women and teen girls we serve. If you were to ask these buyers where their journey to this transaction began, the vast majority of them would tell you of how their boyhood interest in pornography led them to a full blown addiction. Pornography addiction follows a path much like that of an addiction to a drug. An ever increasing tolerance drives the addict to use more frequently and in greater quantity as well as to use more hardcore drugs. For pornography addicts, this same tolerance affect leads them from not just needing to view more and more hardcore images and videos but leads them to desire actual physical participation and onto commiting violent sex acts.
Pornography teaches the individual to disassociate the sex act from the humanity of the person to which the act is being performed. We serve women and teen girls who are purchased as the object of that desire for participation, and sometimes, these acts are executed with extreme violence. They are seen as objects, not people. Objects cannot feel pain. They do not have rights. Objects can be bought, sold, and mistreated without remorse.
Boys will be boys is a dangerous underestimation of the effects of pornography on the brain and behavior. Am I suggesting that every young man at my daughter's school who is watching porn and saying inappropriate things is destined to become a sexual predator? No. But, the truth is some will. The serious truth is pornography is a gateway to normalizing violence against women and sexually predatory behavior.
It's easy to dismiss the personal nature of sexual violence when we reduce it to a statistic. Even an emotionally moving story we read or watch on social media can easily be compartmentalized as an isolated event or something that only happens to girls from a certain side of social or economic tracks. When we believe the lie that it could never be my daughter or your daughter, we are likely to excuse the consumption of pornography as a victimless personal indulgence without thinking of the consequences.
The reality for my daughter and her friends is that they have already begun to see the impact of pornography in their lives. They've been the recipients of off-color, sexual comments. They've experienced moments of objectification fueled by depictions of women and sex in pornography.
Likely, your daughter has as well.
Why do we talk about this?
Not at all to suggest you live in fear, but to ask you to maintain awareness that porn is not victimless and to know that preventative measures are possible. Though, it will require all of us to confront societal norms that accept pornography as harmless in its consumption and existence.
The pornography industry has deceptively fooled modern society into believing it is female-empowering in nature and is the product of a pro-feminism "sexual revolution." However, the vast majority of pornography depicts violence against women. When we use the justification of boys will be boys, we are opening the door for young men to be conditioned to believe pleasurable sex is equated with sexual violence.
What kind of world does this create for our daughters?
It would be easy for defenders of pornography to dismiss these realities as the combined effect of motherly love and time spent with victims of sex trafficking. Both are true and definitely inform my perspective. However, the science is beginning to catch up to moral conviction.
In Part II, we will outline the brain and behavioral science behind pornography addiction and its effects upon women and girls in our community.
Until then, we have provided below links to excellent resources regarding pornography and its effects. I encourage you to dig deeper. Talk to your daughters. Talk to your sons. Refuse to allow topics like pornography to be taboo.
They are likely already talking about it, and we should be too.