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The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Marriage, Family and Community

The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Marriage, Family and Community



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Published by: Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Ed on Dec 10, 2009
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The Effects of Pornography on Individuals,Marriage, Family and Community
by Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D.
About the Author
Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D., is Senior Fellow and Director o the Marriage and ReligionResearch Institute (MARRI) o the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.,where he examines the relationships among amily, marriage, religion, community and America’s social problems as illustrated in the social sciences research data. He is an Advisor to the Love and Responsibility Project o Te Center or the Study o Catholic Higher Education; the project brings together experts in pastoral care,medicine, psychology and social sciences to study sexual activity on Catholic college campuses and how colleges and universities can support chastity among students.Fagan is a ormer Deputy Assistant Secretary or Family and Community Policy at the U.S. Department o Health and Human Services and senior ellow at Te Heri-tage Foundation. He has a proessional graduate degree in psychology (dip. psych.)as well as a Ph.D. in social policy rom University College Dublin.
Editor’s Note
This paper is co-published by the Marriage and Religion ResearchInstitute (MARRI) at the Family Research Council in cooperationwith the Love and Responsibility Project of The Center for the Studyof Catholic Higher Education.Catholic colleges and universities have important reasons to dis-courage and restrict student access to pornography, which “pervertsthe conjugal act” and is a “grave offense” according to the
Catechismof the Catholic Church
. Given the massive, deleterious individual,marital, family and social effects of pornography, college leadersshould consider ways of increasing the effectiveness and impact ofinstitutional approaches to students’ sexual behavior.This paper reports ample evidence that pornography distorts ayoung person’s concept of the nature of conjugal relations and al-ters both sexual attitudes and behavior. Pornography engendersgreater sexual permissiveness, which in turn leads to a greater riskof out-of-wedlock births and STDs. Men who view pornographyregularly have a higher tolerance for abnormal sexuality—includ-ing rape, sexual aggression and sexual promiscuity. If continued beyond college, the viewing of pornography is a major threat tomarriage, to family, to children and to individual happiness. Inundermining marriage it is one of the factors in undermining socialstability.
December 2009
 A Policy Series Guided by the Principles of Ex Corde Ecclesiae
Center Leadership
David B. House Ph.D.
Senior Fellow & Interim Director
Center Advisory Board
William H. Dempsey, Esq.
President, Project Sycamore
 John P. Hittinger, Ph.D.
Professor of PhilosophyCenter for Thomistic StudiesUniversity of St. Thomas (Houston)
Rev. Leonard A. Kennedy C.S.B., Ph.D.
Former President, Assumption College,Univ. of Windsor; and St. Thomas MoreCollege, Univ. of Saskatchewan
Rev. Joseph Koterski, S.J., Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Philosophy,Fordham University
Msgr. Stuart W. Swetland, S.T.D.
 The Flynn Professor of Christian EthicsMount St. Mary’s UniversityDirector of Pre-Theology, Mount St. Mary’s Seminary
Hon. Kenneth D. Whitehead
Former Assistant Secretary for PostsecondaryEducation, U.S. Department of Education
Cardinal Newman SocietyExecutive Staf 
Patrick J. Reilly
President and CEO
Thomas W. Mead
Executive Vice President
9415 West StreetManassas, Virginia 20110703-367-0333
The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Marriage, Family and Community
by Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D.December 2009Copyright © 2009 The Cardinal Newman Society. All Rights Reserved.
Permission to reprint is hereby granted provided no modications are made to the text and it is identied as a
product of The Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Education, The Cardinal Newman Society or both.
Note: the views expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Center for the Study
of Catholic Higher Education or The Cardinal Newman Society.This paper is available online at The Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Education’s website,www.CatholicHigherEd.org. For future editions of this paper, please forward any peer-reviewedpublished research not covered in this paper tonewresearch@frc.org.
 About The Center
The Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Education is the research division of The Cardinal Newman Society.Its mission is to promote the ongoing renewal of Catholic higher education by researching and analyzing criticalissues facing Catholic colleges and universities, and sharing best practices. The Center’s work is guided by theprinciples of 
Ex corde Ecclesiae 
and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.
The Eects of Pornography on Individuals,Marriage, Family and Community
by Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D.
The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Marriage, Familyand Community
Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D.
Pornography, as a visual (mis)representation of sexuality, distorts an individual’s conceptof sexual relations by objectifying them, which, in turn, alters both sexual attitudes and be-havior. It is a major threat to marriage, to family, to children, and to individual happiness.Social scientists, clinical psychologists, and biologists have begun to clarify some of thesocial and psychological effects of pornography, and neurologists are beginning to delin-eate the biological mechanisms through which pornography produces its powerful effectson people.Pornography’s power to undermine individual and social functioning is powerful anddeep.
Effect on the Mind:
Pornography significantly distorts attitudes and perceptions aboutthe nature of sexual intercourse. Men who habitually look at pornography have a highertolerance for abnormal sexual behaviors, sexual aggression, promiscuity, and even rape.In addition, men begin to view women and even children as “sex objects,” commoditiesor instruments for their pleasure, not as persons with their own inherent dignity.
Effect on the Body:
Pornography is very addictive. The addictive aspect of pornographyhas a biological substrate, with dopamine hormone release acting as one of the mecha-nisms for forming the transmission pathway to pleasure centers of the brain. Also, theincreased sexual permissiveness engendered by pornography increases the risk of con-tracting a sexually transmitted disease or of being an unwitting parent in an out-of-wed-lock pregnancy.
Effect on the Heart:
Pornography affects people’s emotional lives. Married men whoare involved in pornography feel less satisfied with their marital sexual relations andless emotionally attached to their wives. Women married to men with a pornographyaddiction report feelings of betrayal, mistrust, and anger. Pornographic use may lead toinfidelity and even divorce. Adolescents who view pornography feel shame, diminishedself-confidence, and sexual uncertainty.
Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D. Senior Fellow and Director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI),Family Research Council, Washington, D.C.The author acknowledges his debt to Drs. Jill Manning, Stephanie Sargeant-Weaver and James B. Weaver III with-out whose reviews of the literature, Senate Testimonies and pointers towards the underlying studies he couldnot have prepared this paper. Their work suffuses the whole project. These reviews include Jill C. Manning,“The Impact of Internet Pornography on Marriage and the Family: A Review of the Research,”
Sexual Addiction& Compulsivity
3 (2006): 3-65; Stephanie Sargent-Weaver, “The Effects of Teens’ Exposure to Sexually ExplicitMaterials on the Internet: Synthesis of the Research and Implications for Future Research;” and James B. WeaverIII, “The Effects of Pornography Addiction on Families and Communities,” presented before the Subcommittee onScience, Technology, and Space of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Washington,DC (November 8, 2004). Jill Manning’s Senate Testimony, from which more of this paper has been drawn thanfrom any other source, is highly recommended for its comprehensiveness and can be found athttp://www.heritage.org/Research/Family/upload/85273_.pdf(Retrieved Jan 9 2009).

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