Boys, Porn and Education

boy-reading-adventure-story

The headmaster of the all-boys boarding school I attended when I was a teenager was always wary of admitting students to the academy that had been exposed to pornography. Among his reasons for this was that boys who had carnal knowledge—even on the level that pornography affords—very often found it an impediment in the process of their education. Now I am the headmaster of that same boarding school, and I am increasingly convinced of the reasoning behind my old headmaster’s reticence over such applicants. Pornography is a destroyer of innocence, and the innocence proper to certain years of a boy’s life is an important factor in his education—especially if that education is informed by the classical pedagogies of wonder, imagination, and delight. Furthermore, I am increasingly convinced that I am facing a crisis that my headmaster did not face. While he had to consider the possibility that a boy may have viewed pornography, I have to consider the probability that every boy has viewed pornography. The only thing about our respective positions that are the same touching this matter is the grave obstacle of pornography in masculine education.

Pornography has come a long way in recent decades. There is a telling scene in a Woody Allen film from the 1970’s where he peruses and purchases pornography at a corner store, forced to face the humiliations of a tactless checkout clerk and unsympathetic customer scrutiny. Those days are over. No more top-shelf magazines. No more public purchases. No more physical evidence. All is anonymous, instantaneous, and easy. The long way porn has come in recent decades has been straight down the information superhighway. Today we have the Internet, and to many, the Internet is for porn.

There is no doubt that, since the dawn of the online era, porn has become wildly and incalculably more available and more mainstream. It is now a standard, systemic temptation: a pervasive fact of people’s lives, especially young people’s lives—and most especially young men’s lives. Though reports abound analyzing what percentage of the web is devoted to smut, or what the addictive properties of online porn are, or what it is doing to relationships, or how it is affecting bodies and brains, one thing is certain without scientific data or social studies: Internet pornography is damaging the lives and minds of possibly every single boy in this country, impeding his ability to be drawn to virtue and wisdom—in other words, impeding his education.

To suppose that boys in general, even boys from good families, are not exposed to pornography in some form or another is naïve. In our day, the presence of porn is a given, being widespread, strategic, and insidious. Porn is inescapable because it is immediately accessible. It is always just a click away, and hence it is everywhere. That is the reality that must be faced before it can be fought, and prudence demands that parents and educators presume the effects of pornography in the boys of today. Whether boys seek porn out or not, nowadays it is unimaginable that most boys—if not all boys—have not encountered pornography and have not been assaulted by its lies.

As a lie, pornography is inimical to the truth and therefore an enemy of authentic education. The reason pornography hinders a boy’s ability to accept and enjoy education is because pornography creates a barrier to wonder by numbing the sense of wonder. Without wonder, education is a crippled thing at best. Socrates taught that wonder is the beginning of wisdom, the very occasion of education, and pornography wounds the ability to wonder through the voyeuristic, shameless stripping of one of the most sacred sources of wonder. It creates desensitization to beauty, robbing boys of their innocence through the elimination of the mysteries of the heart, severely impairing their ability to be awed or find pleasure in the beautiful. Jaded spirits are not very susceptible to formation. Cynicism quickly develops as a defense. Boys are finally lost to apathy in a world that fails to titillate. The fantasy, or blasphemy, of reality results in a loss of desire for reality, which is the foundation of any education. This latter principle of teaching through exposure to reality is a particularly powerful tool in educating young men, as boys tend to be highly sensory and active, and the experience of the world and its mysteries is an arena for wonder. Pornography eradicates mystery, and without mystery, boys will lose their ability to wonder, and in a large part, their ability to become wise—which is the work of education.

Of course, pornography targets boys and men with specific force given their specific weakness for visual sexual stimulus; but beyond this, porn preys on the male impulse to exercise control. This is a natural masculine virtue, but one that can be perverted into vice. Pornography creates a false world of male supremacy, distorting the balance of truth—of activity and passivity—that education introduces and fosters. Men also have a predisposition to protect women, but pornography introduces a violation of women, like a species of rape, that breaks down a boy’s sense of an essential identity of manhood. These perversions of self-knowledge are a tremendous inhibitor of knowledge of outside things. Boys learn well through the context of first-hand experience, and if that experience is warped, so too will it warp the things it measures. What is more, the overdeveloped sense of mastery and manipulation that porn creates can cause boys to shut off instinctively when drawn to receive truths that are solid and supreme. Reality is not something that can be enslaved like a fantasy, and hence reality is often rejected once a taste develops for pornographic illusion.

Through exposure to the anti-masculine paradigm and anti-feminine propaganda that is the chief poison of pornography, chimera and culpability are softening our boys. As my old headmaster said, “You can’t sculpt Jello.” Boys have always struggled with motivation and attention, and pornography is a propagator of these problems by coaxing boys into a hazy dream world where they, and only they, are in charge. School calls boys out of themselves. Porn drags them within—and after time employs chains to keep them there, locked in within themselves and locked out from the world they are called to know as men of strength and sensitivity.

Pornography depicts women as disposable sexual objects, pulling boys away from the idea of permanency. Education, on the other hand, is about the permanent things, the eternal things, and anything that breaks down contact with transcendental realities impedes the work of education. Without the mysteries of beauty and love intact, there are severe impediments to education, where the whole draw is mystery and longing. Pornography, and the accessibility of pornography, cheapens the most hallowed of domains to a young mind and can render any object of beauty a dubious and dirty thing, nothing to take seriously, nothing to respect, and nothing to be in awe of.

Pornography murders wonder and the sense of the sacred, which makes education far more of a challenge than it already is, especially to boys. Boys long for meaning, especially in education, and the damage and desensitization caused by Internet porn puts boys at risk of never finding their way out of the cave of shadows, out of virtual reality, into the world that God made good: a meaningful world filled with the mysteries of beauty where He can be found and give true fulfillment.

Editor’s note: The image above is a detail from “Boy Reading Adventure Story” painted by Norman Rockwell in 1923.

Sean Fitzpatrick

By

Sean Fitzpatrick is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College and the Headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy. He lives in Scranton, PA with his wife and family of four.

  • TERRY

    This sad article reminds me of a homily I once heard. I live in Maine and when I’m not reading at my Parish I go to the Latin Mass in Lewiston, Maine.

    (Latin Mass @ 8 a.m., St. Peter & Paul Basilica, confession and the Rosary @ 7:30 FYI.)

    On this particular Sunday there was a guest Priest celebrating the mass and during his homily he said something I have never forgotten – “The biggest sin of our times is the loss of the sense of sin.”

    • jacobhalo

      One of the reasons that we have lost a sense of sin, because it is hardly preached from the pulpit. We have clerics saying that, maybe, there is no one in hell.
      When I attended Catholics schools before the Protestant Reformation in 1962, we were made to feel guilty about the sins we committed, and, you know what, we were guilty.

    • Catholic pilgrim

      A parish priest preached about sin? Can such a thing still exist? I thought priests preaching about the evils of sin were long extinct… like mammoths & dinosaurs, you know? I’ll believe it when I see one. I might have greater chances of seeing Bigfoot.
      *Seriousness: on*
      I love Sean Fitzpatrick’s article, but as someone who was devastated by the slavery of pornography in horrible ways, admit my own responsibility in having chosen sin over God, & turn to Christ & His graces/Sacraments to continually heal my broken nature (that still suffers from temptations to porn) & combat the evil of porn, I hope that Headmaster Fitzpatrick shows mercy to applicant boys who have suffered from porn but are truly & sincerely repentant. If a boy has chosen porn & sincerely repents & is working with Christ to heal him (as opposed to denying his choosing porn &/or saying Satan’s lie that porn “is no big deal”), mercy should be shown. Christ Jesus (who is fully Man & fully God) can heal ANY aspect of our mind/brain, body, & soul affected by porn (if we allow Him to heal us). Christ our Savior is always more than able to heal concupiscence. We need to realize that in many cases it won’t happen overnight. In some cases, it may even take a lifetime (or even purgatory), but for those who repent & steadfastly work with Him who Rose, nothing is impossible.

      • Vinny

        You are searching for Christ – we cannot judge.

  • St JD George

    This is a complex subject is it not. Before discussing modern issues, I think it’s interesting to go backwards in time. Years ago when I lived in Italy I visited the national museum in Naples where many of the artifacts of Pompeii are kept. I was surprised at the huge number which were disturbingly pornographic, including bestiality. That was a personal experience, but in hind sight maybe not so shocking knowing the egregious sins of the flesh throughout the empire. Even earlier archaeologists have uncovered objects and paintings in cave dwellers so there is something clearly human in this misguided curiosity that transcends modern media, though I agree with you that it has made things much worse in terms of easy access and availability. I’d like to think that early, frank discussion would be the answer, but I’m not convinced. For one, most of us aren’t all that comfortable having that conversation, and for another I don’t think adolescent minds are really capable of understanding the beauty of union of a man and a woman in marriage and gift of sex and children. I do think when we approach it as “the big taboo” as most of us probably experienced it, it only seems for some/many to make it more interesting to pursue. Somehow we need to get that through to each child as they develop at home in the appropriate family setting and not at school. It really makes me sad to read about grown men who are addicted who have never developed an understanding, and I think the movie Fireproof really drove that home.
    You said it well Terry (or your priest) about the biggest sin of our time, and I would argue that progressiveism feeds that with the sense of personal entitlement to do what you feel if it feels good, while not accepting the sin destroys the soul slowly and has dire consequences to others also.

    • Right, I agree with this article but it’s hard to say what to do about it. As you say any conversation about this with a minor is going to be extremely awkward and might just pique their curiosity. I think the best tactic is to encourage activities that are more interesting than porn and thus lessen the draw.

      • Catholic pilgrim

        From personal experience, it’s a good idea to offer alternative activities, but you also have to explicitly warn of the harms & evil of porn (at the appropriate age); if you don’t, you’re sheltering your kids. If a deadly disease was going viral, would you not warn your children of the dangers? Or would you shelter them & let them eventually deal with it? How I wish my dad (whom I love) would have warned me at least once of the dangers of porn. I think another good starting action would be to have parish priest talk about porn also. Aren’t parishes supposed to be “field hospitals” were weary, wounded people go to & seek healing? If we ignore porn at our parishes (for fear of embarrassment or ridicule or awkardness), we’re denying healing to those wounded by a horrible disease (porn).

    • Catholic pilgrim

      I wholeheartedly agree with your message, & I hate to be nitpicky, but when you said:
      “so there is something clearly human in this misguided curiosity that transcends modern media”
      It should be ‘clearly “sinful”‘, not “human”. Christ who is both fully (perfect) Human & fully (perfect) God would not have such curiosity in His fully human nature. This drive for porn/lust is a result of our sinfulness, not of our original God-designed humanness.

      • St JD George

        True enough, but we know it is mans nature to sin, and divine nature to repent and seek forgiveness.

        • Catholic pilgrim

          Yes, except for Christ Jesus’s Humanity (to which we are being joined by partaking of the Eucharist) & (by God’s grace) His Mother Mary’s immaculate Humanity. New Adam, new Eve. New human nature.

  • Tim Danaher

    To understand the scope of the porn problem in the US, check out the Covenant Eyes stats page. This cuts across all segments of society. It has been stated that the porn industry make more annual revenue than the NFL, MBL, and NBA combined, even when half their “product” is given any free one the internet. It has also been proposed that porn is behind most the internet’s technological advances: greater download speeds, video streaming, and greater resolution. Satan sure knows how to deliver “pleasure”.

  • jpct50

    Not just boys, but girls also are being pulled into this addiction in increasing numbers.

  • Mike Nace

    This is a phenomenal article as usual from Crisis. I found this idea particularly fresh: “The reason pornography hinders a boy’s ability to accept and enjoy education is because pornography creates a barrier to wonder by numbing the sense of wonder. Without wonder, education is a crippled thing at best.” Another issue with easy access to pornography via the internet is that it even further destroys wonder. Pornography exists in so many formats — even in digital content that is not immediately recognized as pornographic — that there’s no wonderment to its discovery at all.

    What is interesting about pornography is that it is not a symptom, but rather a root cause of immorality and social dysfunction. It can be seen as a root cause because anyone — any of us — can be (and perhaps have been) lured by it; being allured by pornography is not limited to those who are mentally or emotionally damaged. My parish priest once said something to this: “In the past, people have tried to impress me of their virtues by saying how ‘disgusting’ pornography is. That observation is disingenuous — pornography isn’t disgusting. If it were disgusting, no one would look at it. It is for all people potentially alluring, which is what makes it so dangerous.”

    Thus, pornography is the root cause of objectification in our modern society. Men look at pornography and learn to objectify women. Women look at pornography and it reinforces in them that they are sexual objects. These forms of sexual objectification are species of other objectifications that lead to our society being tolerant of abortion, homosexuality, and a slippery moral slope that will lead to who knows where.

    In addition to putting up both internal and external barriers to pornography (for boys AND girls, because girls are accessing pornography at alarming rates as well), there also needs to be more taught about “personhood” and how it contrasts with “objectification.”

    Also, I think the term “porn” should not be used by those who speak out against pornography. I believe “porn” is a light, comic, equivocating term for it that seeks to reinforce it as fun, playful, harmless, and hobby-like.

    • Vinny

      pornography/porn, homosexual/gay. You’re right. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

    • Scott W.

      Or use an even more direct word: “smut”.

    • Martha

      From a woman’s perspective, but perhaps only my own, I must disagree with your comment that people are being disingenuous when they say they find porn ‘disgusting.’ I certainly do. Revolting, more like. The few unfortunate times I’ve stumbled across it, I was horrified and sickened, not curious. It literally made me nauseous to think that the various male figures in my life most likely have looked at things like it.

      All porn is not equal though, and different kinds of porn certainly exist. I really don’t believe most women (or girls) would be interested in the Penthouse style of porn, but seem to be quite interested in things like Harlequin novels. I think it has to do with the visual responses of men vs. the emotional responses of women. So, emotional porn, if you will. And it is probably just as insidious for women.

      I do agree though that women have come to see and accept themselves as objects, e.g. horrid Victoria’s Secret and Hollister type posters all over every mall. Then, having the natural desire to please, women try to emulate the poor, objectified women, thinking that this is how one must dress to attract men, thus cementing the belief in women as objects. So sad.

      • Mike Nace

        “I really don’t believe most women (or girls) would be interested in the Penthouse style of porn.” I agree that this brand of pornography — and most of the industry in general — gears the imagery toward men more than women. That being said, I think you’d be disturbed to find that the current generation of teenage to mid-20 girls/women have had alarming access and increased interest in male-focused pornography. For as much as all pornography is immoral, at least the “Harlequin novels” were oriented to the more emotion-infused sexual fantasy typified by traditional female sex role socialization. Male pornography is decidedly more dominating and demeaning to women, and these images are now seeping into the female consciousness. Very damaging for society.

        • Martha

          Well, that just blows my mind, Mike. I really don’t think women are wired that way, so I wonder what’s going on. We have feminization of men, and masculinization of women? It’s like the strip club scene and male strippers. I’ve always held that women really aren’t interested in that kind of thing, and that they only have them to feel equal, or maybe get back at men. The way I’ve described it to people is, if I saw a male stripper, I might admire his physique, appreciate how much time he must put into maintaining it, or think it beautiful, but that would be it. I think I’m a fairly average female specimen, so I don’t get it. :/ But then, I’m 37, so maybe there’s something new in the water…

          I agree with you about the novels, Mike.

      • Ruth Rocker

        The problem with the romance novels (I generally refer to them at TRN – trashy romance novels) is that they set up a false sense of reality. Nearly all of them have the same plot. Boy meets girl – they’re generally from opposite worlds, i.e., rich/poor, governor’s daughter/pirate, etc. They start liking each other. Something happens that tears them apart. They both go through hardships and travail to, at the end, be reunited and live happily ever after. It is a really bad idea to put the idea of these kinds of men into the minds of young girls. Things generally don’t happen like this in real life. In real life, if you get involved with a “bad boy” bad things are nearly inevitable. Not to mention the fact that violence is easily equated with love/sex in these things.

        I have not read 50 shades and have no plans to do so. I am totally and completely in love with my husband. To read something like this is like being unfaithful to him. Even if I never acted on anything, the movie would be playing in my subconscious. I know it sounds weird, but he doesn’t do porn, either online or off.

        But then, we are both from the “old school” way of doing things

        • jb

          Ruth,

          Great comment. I wanted to tell you, too, that all of my children can say almost as a mantra what I told them when so many of their friends were going through the “he/she will change for our love” bit. If you put a pretty bow on a wolf cub, you don’t end up with a loyal beagle; you end up with a wolf in a bow.

          But then, we’re pretty old school as well. My children all pointedly look away from the Victoria’s Secret display the few times we end up at the mall.

      • RufusChoate

        You are merely commenting upon pictorial pornography. You might want to investigate the majority of romance novels and even soap operas published and broadcast since the 1970’s. It has all the corrosive pornographic lasciviousness of pictures and the same deleterious effect on the life of the family.

      • redfish

        I’m a man, and I find porn to often be gross, and I’m not saying that to impress anyone. The women in porn often aren’t even particularly pretty, they just wear a lot of makeup. And its completely blunt, in your face, and unerotic, and that’s exactly what makes it porn. Porn isn’t about eliciting feeling in a subtle manner like art does, its about allowing you to be vicarious and live out your fantasies in some manner.

        That doesn’t mean I don’t understand how someone can become hooked on it. Its exactly like junk food. Junk food doesn’t often doesn’t really taste that good, but is easy to eat and comforting. In some cases, junk food actually *tastes bad* with a very strong flavor that would naturally be unappealing, but people get addicted to the bad taste. People like to eat some junk food specifically because it tastes bad. And after a while you acquire the taste and don’t notice how bad it tastes. It invites a kind of piggishness, which is what you see with porn, too.

        A lot of people who get hooked on porn, I’ve noticed, lose some of their standards for what they consider an attractive woman. If a woman isn’t wearing a lot of makeup and doesn’t have big breasts, she’s “ugly” and even if a woman is ugly but has proper proportions and makeup she’s “beautiful.”

  • If you needed any more proof, the GOV sponsored, so called anti-drug program D.A.R.E. does exactly the same thing but with drugs and gangs. The increase in a communities illicit drug use after the programs introduction is documented and supressed. I had a ‘sheltered’ childhood growing up in the 50’s and 60’s. That world doesn’t exist for most young people any longer.

    • Black helicopters? … this may well be true but it’s rather speculative at best,

      • St JD George

        Are they coming to take you away for a ride, should I watch on the news? Michael’s assertions line up with what I know and see on a great number of things. When the Feds get involved it usually seems to have the opposite effect in the long term either driving activity underground or making things worse. Front and center is gun control. No laws on the books would have prevented any of the tragedies in the news, and the regions with the most severely restrictive laws have the worse violence, go figure.

        • Catholic pilgrim

          But Chicago’s liberal gun laws worked in making it the safest city in the nation… oh, wait. Yes, liberals go full force on the guns & then ignore the big causes of gun violence: broken families, social isolation, & mental illness (which is partly caused by our over-medicating/drugging every problem, rather than giving real treatment).

          • St JD George

            It’s worse than that, they are the cause of and enable broken families which perpetuates an endless cycle of despair and worship at the alter of the state which fails them. Then they mock people of faith who do try to help lift them up and out of their plight.

    • RufusChoate

      Actually there are studies and anecdotal evidence that the D.A.R.E. does in fact produce more drug use in community. It has been true since its inception.

      The use of “Sexual” Education programs have the same effect and are primarily focused on making sexual exploration and deviancy acceptable as long as pregnancy does not result. It is very light on actual science and a recent analysis of children subjected to public school sexual education found that they know about all types of sexual acts but nothing about the biology involved or the scientific names and nature of sexuality.

      Even the common scientific name for the organs involved were unknown.

  • Ladasha Smithson

    Men are so lucky to have the church’s eye when it comes to porn. They have hundreds of resources to help them overcome a porn addiction. Meanwhile many of the same women who vehemently criticize porn and the men addicted to it, are themselves users of porn.

    Women’s use of erotica is on the rise especially in the demographic of married mothers. Movies like the Notebook, Magic Mike, the new 50 shades of grey and numerous others are showing that porn is no longer a problem that exists exclusively for men.

    • St JD George

      I don’t know about the “lucky” part, but what you said about the rise in acceptance with women I know is true. So much can be (and has been) said about our cultural effect on that, but it really makes me sad to see the results of ruined lives or souls in the loss of innocence. It would be interesting to know about how much the church helps overcome, but as with any addiction is has to come from within to first recognize that their is a problem and then be willing to fight to overcome it. Until it seen as a problem I’m afraid it will continue unabated in a society that pushes the limits of perversion daily in the name of freedom as if there were no consequences.

    • Barbaracvm

      Not just porn but the whore houses. The younger the boy starts his experimentation the more he does not understand how special A personal relationship is.
      When a father or an older male takes a young boy he is responsible for destroying a soul.
      We learn from example and when the example is steeped in corruption, the good gets buried.

  • St JD George

    I hate to interject “more” politics into this, but it’s relevant and seems to also be a pattern as we get closer to the election next week. There is “a party” who is trying to stir up fear about the prospects of a victory by “the other party” by saying things like “stock up on condoms, they’re going to take them away”, and the same thing about birth control, access to abortifactants or abortion, or the recognition of SSM. The common theme seems to be promoting perversion. The Pope yesterday reminded again of the acts of Satan in this world, well I could not imagine him being any more involved than with this group.

  • St JD George

    Sorry this is off topic except under the umbrella of perversion and an extension of the SSM discussion, but this story today should really add to your sense of the state of the world. The NY court of appeals in a UNANIMOUS ruling granted access to an incest marriage. I guess who were they to judge. And the SSM appeasers said it wouldn’t lead to any further push of perversion. I feel for you in NY who are sane and faithful.
    http://nypost.com/2014/10/29/new-york-state-blesses-incest-marriage-between-uncle-niece/

    • JohnE_o

      according to the link – half uncle and half niece.

      By the law – as written – the relationship was not incestuous.

      Don’t like that? Then change the law.

      Is leaving out crucial information such as the above a sin of omission?

      • St JD George

        Identical to first cousins, or one-eighth common DNA. I’ll give you that it’s not as extreme as immediate blood line, they did rule “within the law”, and the headline did sensationalize though not incorrect. Probably more first cousins in relationships than we care to know about.

  • MamaK

    I would have liked the author to go further and answer the question of how he educates boys who have viewed porn. He gives the caution and urges prevention, but what is the solution for those who have been perverted? Is their education hopeless? Can they be reclaimed? This would seem to be a subject of prime importance to Catholic educators who can’t control the environment boys come from, but whose lives are dedicated to raising them higher.

  • cestusdei

    One could argue that some in our society WANT porn to be so available. They want children jaded and vulnerable. It makes them easy prey. Yet if we state that we must end this porn epidemic they immediately decry “censorship.” It is demonic.

    • Simple & Plain

      Yep. People who promote sex-positivity and to let people, including children, develop their own sexuality as they see fit. Forget the implications. The same people shame those who vow chastity and remain virgin.

  • Simple & Plain

    Such a nice added bonus of a morally drained culture. Yes, sex-related stimuli for individuals has been around for hundred’s of years, but it’s a little out of hand. With kids having sex (yes, kids), their consumption of porn is changing sexuality to a porn-culture. The CBC rain a really good documentary called sext up kids (you can find it by searching YouTube for ‘doc zone sext up kids’) to show how porn is having a direct impact on youth.

    One thing that frustrates me to no end is the women who openly normalize pornography and sexual violence, such as 50 shades. In the morning, they are fighting for women’s rights. In the evening, they are reading 50 shades and watching porn flicks on HBO or the internet.

  • montanajack1948

    I completely agree about the dangers and consequences of pornography. What I want to know–and perhaps I missed this?–is what can be done about it?

    • Guest

      You can tell people you hang out with, you can tell anybody, that sometimes the secular tenets about “freedom of…” are simply too damaging to remain silent. Not enough people are willing to do this because they feel that “my views, or a Church’s ‘views'”, should not be mentioned in the public square.

    • STF
  • HigherCalling

    The worship of sex is an element of nature worship. In a post-Christian culture the sense of mysticism is lost, and we fall back into the worship of natural passions such as health and sex and even death. Where there is nature worship there is always dehumanization and human sacrifice that runs concurrent with human objectification. It’s not surprising that the rise and acceptance of pornography coincides with the rise and acceptance of abortion. The heathen tradition of nature worship in Rome is not dissimilar to our modern day heathen traditions. Chesterton makes the connection:

    “What had happened to the human imagination, as a whole, was that the whole world was colored by dangerous and rapidly deteriorating passions; by natural passions becoming unnatural passions. Thus the effect of treating sex as only one innocent natural thing was that every other innocent natural thing became soaked and sodden with sex. For sex cannot be admitted to a mere equality among elementary emotions or experiences like eating and sleeping. The moment sex ceases to be a servant it becomes a tyrant.”
    (– St. Francis of Assisi, GKC)

    • Catholic pilgrim

      My heart & mind always light up when Chesterton is brought into the conversations (especially in reference to the great, holy St. Francis of Assisi). It’s amazing how much wisdom & sight God gifted to GKC. (Thank God, he decided to share it generously with us.) Santo subito!

  • GaudeteMan

    Priests in the confessional are often ill-equipped to counsel men in this regard. Its such a shameful subject that most men would prefer not to discuss it and so seminars, conferences, etc, are few and far between. I did have the occasion to speak to a holy priest that confirmed that his religious order would not consider former pornography addicts/users as candidates to the priesthood since it does such grave damage to men’s emotional, psychological and spiritual realms and that relapses are statistically imminent. In short, pornography destroys not only women (see suicide, addiction rates of porn actresses) but the Church itself.

  • RufusChoate

    The reality is that Pornography and the lewd and lascivious portrayal of even clothed women in all media emasculates Men and enslaves them to effete sensuality while debasing women. The loss of innocence is a damnable outcome but in the long term males have the masculine virtues of courage,self control, honor,respect for the power of the feminine, forbearance and discipline effaced from their psyche and an increased effeminacy, lack of control and weakness put in its place.

    Evil has always counterfeited the good and natural to completely debase it and vitiate it of its true potency.

    One small point that is frequently missed in reporting the nature of pornography is how many of the males work in both the Heterosexual and Homosexual pornographic industry without the slightest misgivings. Homosexual porn is also an immense market.

  • M.J.

    Would it be that the underlying thirst for porn comes from misplaced attachments !
    We , who are baptised unto The Lord are to be concerned about others near and far and bring them unto The Lord – may be through devotions such as the rosary / divine mercy prayers , wherein we get to contemplate and blessThe Mother, taking in the joy and awe of the moment of Incarnation and life of The Lord , in His Spirit – united with others in the spirit .
    When such is not being done , do the fallen spirits use the vaccum, to want persons to
    fill the space , with depraved ways to connect !
    Devotion to the ( Vilnius ) Image of Mercy might be a powerful counter – would advise having large size images in every child’s room and contemplate the loving Fatherly gaze which invites all – ‘bring all to Me ‘ – to see them in the loving attributes that The Lord can impart ! http://www.divinemercyart.org/

    • Anna Marie

      “A thing of beauty is a joy forever” – Keats. Unless that person has a gold standard for beauty that can’t ever be obtained. As for me, the beauty of a deformity and the humility it takes to bear with grace(a wounded soldier, burn victim, child, loss of hair due to illness, etc) far surpasses any Victoria’s Secret “Angels” on the runway. Slapping a pair of wings on a semi-nude woman doesn’t make them an angel, it makes them a near naked woman getting paid to look like a jack ass. Let’s keep the angel status for those heavenly creatures that prostrate before the throne of God , or so called “earth angels” that may look like the average Jane ,who now has a prosthetic limb because the only wings she saw was on the plane that she parachuted out of ,to fight for this country. Which is more beautiful???? A jack ass in a pair of dime store angel wings or someone’s daughter in a wheel chair? We really don’t know if the ” hottie” in the wings would have the courage to fight for your freedom, but we do know that courageous soldier in the wheel chair has. Which is more beautiful?? Be honest with yourself, it will reveal whether your proclivity is towards perversion or beauty. Start with that, and then possibly ask God for a healthy interest in heavenly angels and saints that will eventually replace the lie that you bought into.

  • David

    Your analysis of pornography and its effects are right on. But echoing the sentiment of others – what is the proposed solution? The suggestion that boys exposed to pornography should be excluded from a Catholic education is outrageous.

    Boys are not robots needing your precise programming. They are human beings in need of God’s mercy and grace. (As are you and I.) Is there room for God to reach through time and space to touch the life of a wayward young soul at a Catholic boarding school? One would sure hope so. If those of you running the boarding school have such little faith in God’s zealousness for these little ones as to simply exclude them from proper formation, perhaps you are in the wrong profession.

    • Gabriel

      Kids who have been perverted by pornography should be kept from other children. The rotten apple rotting the basket of apples is very true. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton established the first Catholic school in the Unite States. Here is what she said about bad company:

      “If I had to advise parents, I should tell them to take great care about the people with whom their children associate.…Much harm may result from bad company, and we are inclined by nature to follow what is worse rather than what is better.” —St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

    • STF

      We do hold faith in the healing power of Christ at our boarding school. That is precisely why we run a boarding school – and we do our best to cooperate with His healing power with the boys in our care, as this sequel explains: http://www.crisismagazine.com/2014/boys-porn-education-can-done

  • I was told that, during the 1973 Yom Kippur war, the Israelis were facing riots and disturbances in one of the territories they had occupied. So what did they decide to do? They started broadcasting porn, every night, over three of the four TV channels. It calmed the disturbances immediately.

    Porn has such a destructive effect on vitality and masculinity that it can be a weapon of war.

    I suspect this is one of the reasons western governments today don’t seem too concerned over widespread porn use. (Same with pot-smoking.)

    Kyrie eleison.

    • Benjamin Warren

      I understand that the CIA and the Shin Bet did the same thing in the Palestianian territories in the 2000s, courtesy of a sermon by Fr. Phil Wolfe, FSSP.

  • Guest

    Mr. Fitzpatrick, your school can provide interventions that public schools wouldn’t even consider. If I were in your position I’d be on this like a duck on a June bug.

  • M.J .

    Agree with those who mention how this is an excellent article and hopefully to influence many ; the effects of porn on destroying the sense of awe and wonder , affecting capacity to learn and the virtuous drives from recognising the innate dignity of the human person – crtical aspects to ponder .
    We can be grateful how JP11, prophetically foresaw our times ( the Holy Spirit sees to such needs way ahead of time ) clarifying how love is responsibility for the good of each other .
    Would it be that porn is a sequel to the abortion crisis and its pervasive effects , including even the aspect of enemy claims as bondages – those in deliverance ministry mentioning how families can be targeted by such forces , when there is serious sin !
    Repenting of all such sins at family levels , including use of deliverance prayers , even by the very boys who would be able to see the connections from the O.T incidents such as of David and Bathsheba – even going as far back as them being brought to recognise that , it is likley that there are real family connections to all these people , in their lives too , that the Old Testament is our family history and the heartache that can come from reading same is a sort of repentance , asking for mercy by the grieving , which is good for all ; after all, through The Lord and His Mother , we are connected too .
    Wearing of the Miraculous Medal, Holy Face medal and devotion , membership in the Militia of The Immaculata and such , being instilled deeply the truth that we are in warfare and that deliverance ministry , effects of which are matters of awe and wonder is a great purpose for every life – hope more of the parents and all involved would recognise the rich armaments we have at our disposal !
    ‘ In Name of Jesus , i command my soul spirit , to praise and worship The Lord,from midnight to midnight ‘ – is a prayer mentioned in the book Freedom through Deliverance , by Rev.Fr.Carl Schmidt ; those in authroity over the lives of the children – let us use same , for real good !

  • Guest_august

    And as St. Augustine tells us in the City of God (Book 14, chapter 21-24) the use of marital sex relations separate from its procreative intent is a sin, even in the context of a valid marriage.

    St. Augustine summarizes:
    “The use of Matrimony for the mere pleasure of lust is not without sin,
    but because of the nuptial relation, the sin is Venial.”

    To put it succinctly: Sex for the sake of Lust is sin.

    Is this not the reason why every sex act that is separated from the procreative intent is cheered on by Satan and his cohorts?

    Is this not the reason why pornography is cheered on by Satan and his cohorts?

    Is this not the reason why masturbation is cheered on by Satan and his cohorts?

    Is this not the reason why sodomy is cheered on by Satan and his cohorts?

    Is this not the reason why all same-sex sexual acts are cheered on by Satan and his cohorts?

    Is this not the reason why labeling oneself as “gay” is a delight to Satan and his cohorts. Because by such labeling a man binds himself to the nature of the Lust that he is subject to.

    read more: http://popeleo13.com/pope/2014/10/29/category-archive-message-board-158-the-name-judah-2/

  • John Lillis

    Mr. Fitzpatrick…Just wanted to drop by and say: “Great flippin’ article man!” Wow. Really puts it to you in a different way, part religious and part educational. Thank you for writing this. As a victim of this “species of rape” by neighbor boys at a very, disturbingly, young age, I can testify to what you are discussing. Seems like the pornographers only compound the difficulties boys already have in sitting still, learning and growing in wonder and wisdom….Thanks again.

  • El_Tigre

    Sex is alluring to men. It was made so by the Creator. The problem with pornography is that it is not sex. It is a sham putting forth false images and actions that, if one becomes addicted to the idea of them, makes men unhappy with real sex. As a result, men spend their lives looking for something that doesn’t exist, resulting in unhappiness for humans but glee for the evil one.

  • calbertley

    Our Lady of Fatima once stated that more people go to hell for impurity than any other sin.

  • Muru Gesu

    In Malaysia no priest preaches about Sin and its effects anymore

  • Brian

    Reading this article, it occurs to me that men who struggle with pornography addiction might find healing by praying to God for a renewed sense of wonder and awe at his majesty and mystery.

  • So, basically, the only way to get them interested in ancient forms of porn, is to deny them the far more crass modern forms of porn?

    • STF

      This is a strange comment. Can you elaborate as to your meaning? I am not sure why you think that there is some desire inherent here to interest young people in “ancient forms of porn?”

      • Porn is a form of beauty. A crass form, but still a form of beauty, and beauty attracts.

        The Great Books are an equal example, intellectual porn.

        The Big Bang Theory, in last night’s episode, had Dr. Sheldon Cooper going on about this; how when his generation was doing sex, drugs, and rock and roll (in a discussion of normal things that are supposed to happen on Prom Night), he was doing physics, chemistry, and mathematics.

        It does not matter what you make the idol, the problem lies in making something an idol.

        • STF

          Pornography is not beauty because beauty is not crass. Ugliness can attract, too, posing as a thing of beauty.

          Beauty is a resting in something that gives fulfillment. Pornography, by its very nature, is an empty thing – a thing that promises satisfaction but only breeds hunger. It is not beauty.

          It is also misguided to call the Great Books and the Liberal Arts “intellectual porn” since they are guiding lights to the true, the good, and the beautiful. They provide insight into the right relations of things so that idols are not fashioned.

          I agree with you that idolatry is unhealthy, but to use the wisdom of the ages to give balance and meaning to the world is not a form of idolatry. It is intellectual form, not porn.

  • jmstalk

    Excellent article. I am and have been firmly convinced that pornography is the root cause of abortion. If you want to stop abortion, end pornography. Men (and women) who live in this world will never accept a paradigm where you can’t destroy the consequences of these actions. They uplift, sustain, and by sheer numbers, give credibility to the pro-choice perspective. I’m willing to bet the vast majority of pro-choice people have some form of pornography in their lives or are acting it out in some way. Find the sin, and you will find the reason why someone advocates the destruction of a human being.

  • Jdonnell

    Internet porno is now seen by just about all boys–and most girls. Half of them view it before they have even become teenagers. They think that what they see is what their parents do behind the bedroom door, which means that they see nothing of love in what they view and are likely to dissociate sex from love. Porno becomes an occasion for masturbation, encouraging what may become a lifelong habit and rendering the habitual viewer incapable of a satisfactory sexual relationship and inducing a mentality of narcissism. It is a quiet plague in society, now more and more throughout the world.

  • Samuel

    Sean — this is without doubt the best article I have ever read on the crisis of pornography in our age. Your writing is as lucid as it is incisive. One is grateful to recognize the synthesis of a great tradition standing behind what you say. By focusing on the question of education, you have articulated not just the problems that such deeply imbued cultural practices pose for society, but offered a morally intelligible language by which to name and dismantle the evils we face. Thank you, and God bless!

  • Gary Hinchman

    Pornography uses the most beautiful thing God ever created against us. This is the nature of the Sin that dwells in our flesh in Adam. The apostle Paul describes it in Romans 7:

    Rom 7:8 But Sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead.

    Rom 7:11 for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.

    Rom 7:13 Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was Sin, in order that it might be shown to be Sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment Sin would become utterly sinful.

    Rom 7:24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?

    Sin uses our best, brightest, and most beautiful against us. Paul also says in another place, “the woman is the glory of the man” [1 Cor. 11:7]. If you want to see the most beautiful aspect of mankind, look at the female form, she is the most glorious thing in God’s creation of mankind. So Sin takes this reality, its hypnotic beauty, and uses it to seduce the mind away from focus on God to a focus on the flesh in Adam. The flesh is not the wrong here, it is the Sin in the flesh, our rebellious nature, that turns a beautiful genetic creature into a fixating idol.

    Girls and Boys need to know this – that Sin in us takes the most beautiful things in God’s creation, including our sense of pleasure, and uses it against us – perverting our pleasures into idolatrous fixations instead of faithful focuses on things that truly matter in the grandest scheme of things – God’s schema and order for humanity.

    Sin wants to destroy and defile all innocence and proper use of God’s created order. A young person needs to understand that they are a part of that created order and the indwelling Sin [rebellion] in us would take the greatest and most good things about us and pervert them. A truly holy life will maintain the order of God in creation, respect it,and maintain it.

    Another thing that would help young people is to know that their sinful desires, because of indwelling Sin, do not equal them as a person, just as cancer does not equal the whole person who has it. The corrupted conscience would equate in extremes one way or the other – total purity or total evil to be judged. A child must learn that his inmost corruptions of the heart’s desire are forgiven in the blood of Jesus Christ – and that the Holy Spirit is given to each person to guide them into greater and greater holiness over time. And without holiness . . . no one will see God [Heb. 12:14; 1 Thess. 4:3-7]. But God forgives youthful desires. We are not called to not have them, but to control them in the power of the Holy Spirit. This was Paul’s charge to young Timothy:

    2Ti_2:22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

    How do you flee desires in your heart? By pursuing other alternatives. How do you flee pornographic desires? By pursuing other alternatives and confessing those desires honestly before God and allowing the Spirit of Grace to wash our minds by His “Holy” Spirit.

    But in growing up in our world, we must make holy choices in spite of tempting pleasures which lead us astray. Otherwise, we becomes addicts to our own personal pleasures, and in so doing idolaters of the flesh without a Holy Spirit to keep and guide us away from it all.

  • Thank you for this. Excellent.

  • Joe

    Great article. As someone who’s wrestles with the demon of pornography, Mr. Fitzpatrick’s diagnosis is flawless. Another byproduct of pornography, which occurred to me while reading an economic textbook, is crippling laziness. In the hierarchy of things, the greatest achievements, of course, require the greatest labor and time. Man must act and strive to secure his future good with unflagging discipline. Now, the supreme good, for man qua masculinity is a wife with whom he makes love, and raises children. Scripture vouches for the man who must toil diligently for a wife. Consider the account of Jacob and Rachel. The man slaved for 14 years to be of one flesh with her.
    Pornography obliterates the need. It reduces men to violent, stupid apes, with no desire for domestic happiness.

  • momagainstporn

    Good description of the devastating affects pornography…my hellish marriage/divorce and now broken family being yet one more example of early porn use leading a man to objectify women to the point of child molestation, sexual assault, and rape. Though I have studied the subject in depth in order to protect my own young son from this travesty, I would love to hear your suggestions for protecting the eyes, minds, and hearts of our young people since, as you so aptly pointed out, porn is readily available in our society. Thank you.

  • Matthew

    Another thing to look at are the people who give up on themselves because they think that they can’t be saved from their lives of stupidity because they have tried to get away from it and they end up falling back into it because they have lowered their guard while surfing the net.

  • Dwayne Johnson

    I too, am a lost soul in this horrible virtual cave of shadows. Porn has enslaved me and I am battling tooth and nail for the recapture of my mind! I just hope others who are lost like this can find the way out of the perverted hole!

  • Daniel

    Mr. Fitzpatrick,
    I firmly and unequivocally agree with most of what is said here. However, I would like to point out an issue of some relevance to this discussion.

    • Daniel

      Sorry, my computer freaked out and wouldn’t allow for me to finish my post.

      Anyway, the issue is this:
      When you said, “Pornography eradicates mystery, and without mystery, boys will lose their ability to wonder, and in a large part, their ability to become wise—which is the work of education”, I believe you are overlooking a substantial portion of the equation. Someone’s ability to become wise has very little to do with education. Wisdom, in short, is the application of past experiences and lessons combined with the discernment required to make morally just decisions. Knowledge can be confused with wisdom but the two are very different indeed. Wisdom is more a lifestyle, an ongoing struggle to perform right actions and make just determinations where knowledge is simply retaining information previously learned. The Bible makes a stark contrast between the two. To bluntly paraphrase my own understanding of the Bible’s instruction on the two, knowledge is primarily a head thing and wisdom is more of a heart thing in combination with and using what you have stored in your head.
      Furthermore, I don’t see where pornography impedes the ability to retain knowledge or even to learn at whatever level of education. However, I definitely agree that it affects very greatly a young person’s ability to grow in wisdom and character and, as a result, hampers that person’s ability to use the knowledge they have to make wise decisions and follow a path of good moral fiber and positive direction.
      Great article but I had to weigh in on that topic because I believe the world we live in is becoming more and more a “knowledge seeking” society. Wisdom and discernment are becoming increasingly more rare and I wanted to point that out.
      Thanks and God bless.

      • STF

        Daniel,

        Thank you for your insightful comment.

        I cannot agree more as to the importance of distinguishing wisdom and knowledge. It is one of my favorite details in the Nordic cycle of myths when Odin goes to Mimir’s Well to change his knowledge into wisdom in order to save mankind. Wisdom must flow from knowledge – which is really a focus in the work of education. The idea of wisdom that I refer to in this piece, and which I say is impeded by pornography, is taken from Socrates’ teaching (linked in my article) that wisdom begins in wonder. Wonder is the basis of any good education because it leads to wisdom – leading through knowledge as well, of course, but wisdom is the end, and education is concerned with ends, not means.

        I think Chesterton put it best when he said that the whole point of education is to provide abstract and eternal standards to judge material and fugitive conditions. That is the function of wisdom and it is the goal of any true education. As I said, you are very right to hold the factoid strategy at bay – schools are infested with Gradgrinds. Wisdom is a lifestyle, and education, at its best, should impart that lifestyle – not just knowledge. Education is about the heart as much as it is about the head. In fact, education by desire is the most effective pedagogy I know.

        There are plenty of studies that boys who are exposed to pornography suffer a type of brain damage that can actually make learning more difficult. Anything done in excess retards the ability to know outside that excess – as in addiction, and there is no doubt that porn is addictive.

        I hope this addresses your comment at least in part. These are wide topics and difficult to cover in a combox. Thank you again and God keep you.

  • Is this article even remotely serious? There are sooo many assumptions about masculinity, males, pornography, sex and education! All of these assumptions without any critical engagement with current literature on any of these topics. This article is a cry to maintain hierarchical, patriarchal and heterosexual forms of domination. I feel for any child at Gregory the Great Academy that doesn’t come from the ‘right family’ (meaning a heterosexual, patriarchal, puritanical, sex-negative family). Porn, sex, gender and education are never the problem…..the problem is how we teach children to think about these topics. Our goals as educators should not be to forbid but to help students make meaning about those ideas and media forms that will inevitably populate their lives.

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