Trust is broken. Marriages are destroyed. Children are exploited. Alone, these destructive consequences are cause for action against the $12 billion pornography industry. But the damage of adult entertainment affects our culture on an even deeper level: the dehumanization of women, children, and men. Whether the user or the used, pornography quickly transforms us into seemingly thoughtless objects and consumers.
People as Usable Objects
We look at images all the time—photos of friends and family are framed on our walls, saved on social media sites, and lovingly placed in scrapbooks. Looking at these photos, we see people with stories. We’ve listened to their thoughts, heard their needs, and witnessed their hardship. This knowledge enables us to value them beyond the two-dimensional—a relationships that must be cherished and cared for.
Pornographic images prevent us from seeing humans in a meaningful way. With open mouths, bare bodies, and seductive messages these manufactured stories strip valuable people of their human nature. Use them, abuse them, toss them aside, and they won’t mind; this is the lie of the sex industry. In reality, it is impossible to know the truth behind the camera. Is that woman trafficked? Was that man abused as a child? Are their children hungry?
The more we look at these harmful images, the more we become displaced from reality. This seemingly passive violence against exploited men, women, and children often leads to active engagement. In Illinois, the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE) interviewed over 100 men who bought sex and found that, “Interviewees frequently mentioned re-enacting scenes from pornography with women in prostitution.” One man stated, “Prostitutes are like a product, like cereal. You go to the grocery store, pick the brand you want, and pay for it. It’s business.” This dehumanizing attitude can only escalate our actions—rape and abuse grow out of a culture that sees people as less than.
People as Mindless Consumers
This process not only affects those within the industry, but also dehumanizes the user. Men are the target audience of pornography producers, encouraged to reduce themselves to “mindless consumers” through numbing “products” that intentionally change the brain,
“Just like other addictive substances, porn floods the brain with dopamine. That rush of chemicals happening over and over again rewires the brain’s reward pathways, ultimately changing the make-up of the viewer’s brain.” (Fight the New Drug).
By changing the brain’s pathways, saying “no” to pornography becomes increasingly challenging. Not only that, but it also changes the way users bond with real people. The dopamine released while using porn, over time, pales in comparison to the dopamine released during real interactions. Pornography users then search for more and more porn, falsely feeding their need for relationships.
While consumers are not necessarily victims of pornographic exploitation, they are clearly affected by the industry’s success. The stories told in erotic movies and magazines not only portray men as having a “one-track mind” but also encourage our culture to view them in this manner. Men are believed to be incapable of real relationships—seeking only physical and shallow companionship. Young men see this example laid before them and attempt to fit themselves into the mold, shutting down humanizing qualities such as compassion, and real emotions that would enable them to connect with others on meaningful levels.
Real People Taking Real Action
Dehumanization does not only exist on pornographic web pages or in Play Boy magazines, it begins in the media where we choose to commercialize sex. It’s everywhere. But everyone has the power to “rehumanize” our culture. Join WAR, Int’l for the White Ribbon Against Pornography Week (Oct. 27-Nov. 3) and raise awareness about the harmful effects of the sex industry. Then, start engaging in truth: take loving pictures of friends and family, start conversations that encourage us to think deeply, and join stories that reflect a positive reality. As we move towards real relationships with real people, we can begin to heal the scars left by pornography and move toward a future of hope and dignity.