13 Oct Pornography and its impact on parenting
by Allison Cook
This was the total revenue made in 2006 off of pornographic websites worldwide (Getting Serious, 2010). In 2005, 56 percent of all divorce cases involved one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites (Skinner, 2011). Today, pornography is all around us and is easily accessible, unlike how it used to be. National Public Radio implored society to “imagine a drug so powerful it can destroy a family simply by distorting a man’s perception of his wife. Picture an addiction so lethal it has the potential to render an entire generation incapable of forming lasting marriages (Getting Serious, 2010). What makes pornography so lethal that it will tear marriages apart and effect children so harshly?
During a recent Q&A at Brigham Young University-Idaho, a married couple had the opportunity to come speak to my class about their challenge in overcoming pornography as a couple and as parents. The husband explained pornography as highly addictive, which he put like this: “addiction surrenders later freedom to choose.” He went on to teach the class the physical changes the brain needs to make when the body and its chemicals become imbalanced. He shared the hopelessness he felt and the pain it brought to his wife. They had only one child at the time and explained the worry they shared in raising a daughter whose father was now on probation for his actions due to viewing pornography. The wife says their relationship began to weaken significantly, which began to affect the atmosphere of the home and how they treated their child.
There have been many studies on the effect pornography has on relationships and families, but Zitzman and Butler’s stood out. They interviewed fourteen women whose spouses were involved in pornography and their adult bonding relationships. After careful study, they found three attachment-related influences. The first was the development of stress in the relationship that stemmed from attachment infidelity. The second factor was the widening rift between husband and wife because of the distance and disconnect perceived by the women or wives. And lastly, there was a large and culminating “estrangement” in the relationship because of the sense of being emotionally and psychologically unsafe in the relationship. They concluded that mistrust is what breaks down attachment among couples and a strong correlation between the effects on pornography use and “deception in the pair-bond relationship” (Butler, Zitzman, 2009).
Generally, when people think of parenting, they think of it as a partnership, teamwork, and/or fellowship. However, there cannot be a strong partnership, team, or fellowship that is based on mistrust. Having mistrust as a foundation will eventually lead to a collapse later. Marriage and parenting is not any different. When raising children, there needs to be stability, love and trust between the parents.
Pornography hits home
The pornography industry has quickly made it into our homes, work, and school environments. Jill Manning proclaims that “consequently, couples, families, and individuals of all ages are being impacted by pornography in new and often devastating ways”. She explains that pornography is “very intrusive” and keeps attracting new customers that “undermine public health and safety” (Manning, 2005). She describes it as “a hidden public health hazard exploding, in part because very few are recognizing it as such or taking it seriously”. Pornography affects couples in many ways including divorce, decreased marital intimacy, infidelity, devaluation of marriage/childrearing, and addictive behavior. Pornography affects children in ways such as decreased parental time, increased likelihood of them encountering pornography, increased parental separation, negative emotional responses, increased risk of sexual intercourse, and developing addictive behavior. Manning closes by stating, “Internet pornography is grooming young generations of Americans in such a way that their chances of enjoying healthy and enduring relationships are handicapped” (Manning, 2005).
Not everyone sees pornography as an issue or problem, preferring to think of it as just something that healthy men and women engage in. There are many examples and much research that would make that position seem naïve. Columnist, Tony Parsons tells a story about a man who fell into pornography and became so addicted that he would not stop to eat or drink. His life with his wife became a serious of secret activities. He related that it started affecting his work and fueled paranoia. In short his marriage began to suffer as he started being unfaithful to his wife. This is just one story out of many like it and fuels the flame for anti-pornography activists that say this story is proof of how degrading and detrimental the effects are of pornography and exclaim that it demeans women, abuses women and creates a harmful view on sex. Nevertheless, not all share their opinion (Parson, 2003).
Some say that pornography is a “free expression and view the detractors as prudish.” They also say, “People should not be ashamed of their sexual orientation or desires”. These people even argue that pornography can be used as a tool to stimulate open discussions about sex. They also suggest that the “proliferation of pornography is the hallmark of an open, healthy society and that a society mature enough to cope with the explicit depiction of sex between consenting adults is likely to be one comfortable with sexual diversity and women’s equality” writes Brian McNair (Parsons, 2003).
With views colliding on such an issue, it is hard to determine what is right and what is wrong. However, the question is not if pornography is right or wrong, but is pornography something that is healthy for society? This kind of problem affects everybody, whether they may know it or not. Members in my own family have struggled with pornography addiction and instead of seeing husband and wife pull together because of “freedom of expression” and a “tool that stimulated open discussions of sexual intimacy”; it has made both individuals withdraw. The effects are dramatic. Their children feel a need to choose sides and even manipulate their parents dysfunctional relationship (ex. when one might say no, they go to the other who would say yes). There is a rift that is almost palpable.
It must be pointed out that there are other healthy alternative options available to those who wish to know how to have open conversations about sex rather than viewing pornography (i.e. counseling, books, mediation, religious guidance, support systems, help programs etc.).
Because there is such a presence of pornography and a staggering amount of marriages damaged in our society, it is important to be aware of how dangerous and corrosive it can be to a marital relationship and to effective parenting. The evidence continues to mount that pornography is far from being simply an expression of freedom; the lasting effects of pornography on individuals, couples, families, and children have proven to be more accurately deemed behavior that will capture and imprison.
Allison Cook is currently a junior studying Marriage and Family Studies (emphasis in Professional Generals) at Brigham Young University-Idaho. She was born and raised in the southern states, primarily Oklahoma and Texas. She married her husband, Ashton, in 2012 and their first child was born this last March.