Warning: The content in this post is not necessarily suitable for young readers. It contains graphic imagery and involves real events and people. Please use discretion.
Among the travesties and evils of the world, few seem to mount in importance for me quite like pornography does. Although I try to make a point to combat evil on all fronts, pornography and masturbation have been significant for me because of the very personal impact they’ve had on my own life.
I was first exposed to pornography at a young age, maybe 9 or 10. Despite my parent’s attempts to protect me from it, and God knows they tried, it wasn’t all that difficult for me to get ahold of and to get hooked on. After all, it offers a false and twisted sense of love. A sort of distorted love that lures us away from the genuine love we were created for. A true lie.
One night, while staying over at a friend’s house, my buddy showed me a graphic movie on one of the late-night movie channels. As cliché as it sounds, I didn’t know what to make of it; after all, I had never seen a person use their body in such ways. Immediately, I noticed a change in how my own body was feeling. I experienced strange sensations; strong feelings that I had never felt before. Of course, at the time, I really didn’t realize that what I was getting into was so evil. I knew that it wasn’t “good,” but I had no idea how sinful it really was, and how dangerous it is.
What neither I nor my friend realized at the time were the physical changes that were occurring in our brains, the chemical highs we had created for ourselves.
Before I knew it, I was sneaking onto the family computer (back when most people had one PC and a dial-up connection) and I would search for images, print them out, and hide them away under my bed. It was, for all intents and purposes, the start of a very bad addiction. Something about it felt wrong, although I couldn’t put my finger on it; nonetheless, I kept going.
Eventually, I was caught. My parents of course put me and the family computer on lockdown. Inevitably, though, I would simply go back to it when the punishment was lifted. On top of that, I knew I had friends who had access to it, and even friends whose parents didn’t even care! Needless to say, I wasn’t going to be stopped.
I never really saw the evil in it growing up… It was only evil in our home as far as I was concerned. Anywhere else, it was almost glorified. The first time I ever even heard the word “pornography” was in on the elementary school black-top. I remember asking, “What’s pornography?” to which a friend replied, “its pictures of naked people.” Seemingly, it was a harmless answer from a harmless kid. Really, it was an insidious answer from a kid who had no clue what he was talking about. I remember thinking to myself, “Who’d want to take pictures of naked people?” It was a market, and I was now a consumer, even at 9 years old.
Ten years later, when I was about 20 years old, I was totally consumed by this darkness called “porn,” and completely unaware of myself. I had, for the first time, moved out of my parents’ house and I was free to do whatever I wanted, and my addiction to pornography multiplied exponentially. Despite my love for the Church, I had completely stopped attending Mass, I wasn't volunteering with the local youth group anymore, and I wanted nothing to do with it.
By the time I was 22, I couldn’t even get out of bed in the morning without it using it, and each time, the guilt would be unbearable. My shame reminded me of my abhorrent behavior. I had hit a spiritual rock bottom. I wasn’t visiting my family, I wasn’t socializing with friends as often, and, worst of all, I had completely abandoned Christ and his Church that I loved so much. I was far more concerned about my addiction and about getting through the day. I went through the motions, started drinking more, and ended up at bars too often… I was lost.
It wasn’t until the Lenten season of 2015 that something changed. One day, just before the season of Lent started, I woke up in my room, and was about to start my routine of pornographic indulgence, which usually took hours to find the “right” content. After that, I remember looking up at a crucifix, at Our Lord, and I remember thinking, “My God, how can I do this in front of you?” The profoundness of that moment was almost unbearable. At that moment, it hit me exactly just how hard I had fallen and how unaware I was of my own vile behavior.
I resolved to, for the season of Lent, stop that behavior. It didn’t come easy and I failed often. It hadn’t occurred to me until I was in the thick of it that my body would feel sick, weak and agitated without pornography and masturbation. I was angry, I was tired, and I was terrified. My body didn’t want to stop. It made it all the more difficult that I had gone through a breakup several months before, and I really didn’t have many people to talk to. Since I wasn’t really seeing family, I had been ignoring the Church, and I hadn’t been to confession in years. On top of that, my friends simply didn’t understand and I essentially came to the conclusion that I was in this alone… I was truly lost.
But there was no doubt that I had been given an incredible gift. I was, by the grace of God, allowed to live long enough to amend my life. I spent several nights crying and praying to God to help me overcome this terrible sickness. I was, for the first time, disgraced; not only because of my actions, but because of the disappointment I felt from my Father in Heaven. I had never cared so much for what my Creator thought of me.
Starting that Lent, I abstained. Like I said before, I certainly stumbled and failed often, but I abstained to the best of my ability. I began to attend confession regularly, I started attending Mass every week, and I started seeing my family more often. Things were looking up!
Near the end of Lent, I met my wife. What an inspiration that was. I couldn’t help but notice her, think about her. Her wits, her faith, and the strong sense of love I felt from her… There was no doubt she was made for me. I knew that God had been providing, he always has, and she was the greatest personal gift he had ever given to me.
For the sake of my new girlfriend, who I loved almost immediately, I found a new vigor in my abstinence. It was no longer a task, but a privilege to fight my battle. For God, I gave my life and my sufferings. For her, I fought vehemently to control my addition. With the help of our precious Father, the gifts of the Sacraments, and the support of my then girlfriend, I managed most days without pornography or masturbation. I was elated. Eventually, my sense of strength, energy, attitude, and everything else started to improve. My life had virtually done a 180.
Once I had realized God’s plan for me, and I had begun learning to manage this vile part of my life, I married my bride. It wasn’t an easy road, but it was the easiest decision I had ever made.
Today, I live with the same addiction. One thing I had believed when I was younger was that marriage would help with the desire for pornography. It doesn’t. I thought, “Once I get married, I’ll never need porn again!” I’ve heard others say the same thing. It isn’t so. The more I think about it, the more I believe this to be an idea straight from Satan, “Don’t worry, once you’re married you’re fine.” All you’re really doing is dragging someone else into the fight with you. The reality is this: It won’t make matters better, because it’s not the same problem.
If a Catholic couple who was not married was living together, and having pre-marital sex, they are living in sin; namely, fornication and scandal. If, by the grace of God, they decided to come back to the Church and receive the Sacraments, there would be essentially three things they’d need to do: Separate their living spaces for a time, make a contrite confession, and get married in the Church. For them, Marriage would literally solve their problem.
The problem with an addiction to pornography and masturbation is that it’s not as simple. It’s a true addiction. There’s a reason the Catechism of the Catholic Church places it right in between alcoholism and drugs (CCC 2211). In all the ways drugs and alcohol affect our brains, so can pornography. Arguably, pornography is an even stronger addiction for some; especially since some people don’t even see it as an addiction.
Getting married to your spouse won’t solve the problem because it’s got nothing to do with them, even if they think it does. I know it crosses a lot of people’s minds, “Maybe my husband doesn’t love me,” or, “Maybe he uses porn because he’s not attracted to me anymore.” This is simply not the case. In my own situation, I was long addicted to pornography before I even started dating. In addition to that, I struggled with that addiction even when I was dating… and do you really think I would date people I wasn’t attracted to? Of course not. So, even as I struggled with pornography, I certainly still wanted to find my soul mate.
So, the problem remains. Even today, as I’m going about my business, doing day-to-day tasks, I sometimes think about pornography. When women dress inappropriately, or when I come across a picture online that’s just a little too provocative, I think about it. I fight the temptation almost daily.
When something triggers those feelings, I feel a physical pain. I experience a real sense of panic. When I’m exposed to some things, my heart rate increases, I get sweaty, I feel nervous and agitated, and my adrenaline kicks in. My body remembers what it used to crave, and it hurts when it realizes that I won’t let it win. Constantly, I remind myself to pray when that happens, because if I don’t, I know I could fail again. Whenever that urge enters my mind, I try to pray that God takes over, and removes those thoughts. It’s an actual “Jesus, take the wheel” moment.
With the help of God the Father, Christ, and the Holy Spirit along with the support of my Wife and the Church, I am learning every day to combat this terrible affliction. It’s no joke and it ruins lives. I try to maintain an open channel with my bride and with my priest, and I embrace today. Like any other addiction, I know that if I fail, I can try again immediately. There is only one “Game Over,” and it only happens if I die in a state of mortal sin. The idea is to always fight, and, if I fall, I confess and try again. So far, it’s working for me.
Pornography and masturbation are grave and evil sins. The Catechism says that pornography “offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other” (CCC 2354). It indeed takes away from the splendor that we were meant to enjoy with our married spouses. It is evil for many of the same reasons as fornication, homosexuality, and even contraception. It distorts the beauty of the natural order and offends God.
Of masturbation, the Catechism says, “The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose” (CCC 2352). It is clearly not only considered an “intrinsically and gravely disordered action” (ibid.), it’s also contrary to the natural order and offensive to God, just like the sins mentioned above.
Pornography and Masturbation are, no doubt, a major problem in this county. Perhaps this is because these are some of the only sins in the world that are considered wrong, but not serious. What do I mean? Well, if you were to go out and ask someone on the street if they thought birth control was wrong, they’d likely either say it’s wrong and they don’t support it, or that it’s fine, and they do support it. You don’t get a lot of people who say, “Well, it’s wrong, but it’s fine.”
Obversely, many of these sexual sins, like Fornication, Pornography and Masturbation, are considered morally wrong, but people tend to commit them themselves. According to SafeFamilies.org, 70% of men visit a porn site in a given month. That’s staggering. The same source offers a plethora of other sickening statistics on pornography that I don’t even need to get into. The fact is that this is a hushed problem.
Even more alarming is that pornography is a marriage killer. According to Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D. at the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, “Pornography use is a pathway to infidelity and divorce, and is frequently a major factor in these family disasters.
Another study, also compiled by Dr. Fagan and originally done by Jill Manning, stated that 56% of divorces involved “one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.” That’s well over half.
There’s an epidemic of marriage destruction that is tearing the country apart. It’s a problem that needs addressing rather than being swept under the rug, and I aim to talk about it. By the grace of Almighty God, I was able to move away from this life-sucking addiction, and I pray that others are delivered from it as well. I hope, for the sake of the souls afflicted by sexual perversion, that we can grow as a nation, certainly as a Church, and bring to light all of the vile and intrinsic evils that are destroying the natural order by which God intends us to live. God help us.