John Paul II, Porn, and the Stanford Rapist

One need not recount again the abominable details of Brock Turner’s “20 minutes of action,” or those of his trial and recent conviction on three counts of sexual assault. Enough ink has been spilled in outrage (rightfully so) over his woefully short prison sentence, and the support for his victim’s courageous statement before the court has been equally covered.

What is worth retelling, as many times as needed, is the blatant use of one human person by another, and the inherent sinfulness in such an act. As Elizabeth Scalia rightly pointed out, what Brock Turner did was a sin, a fact that even the staunchest atheist would affirm, that is, one with a moral conscience. The relation between perpetrator and victim was one of insidious use, and nothing less.

Eighteen years before he became John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla noted in Love and Responsibility that the opposite of love was not hate, as many might surmise, but was, instead, use. It is only in a life where pleasure is the highest good, the saintly pope writes, that one will stoop to use another human being as the means to their own end, sexually or otherwise.

Turner’s crime, coupled with an audacious defense letter by his father, indicate that both he and his dad are quintessential products of an increasingly utilitarian society, a society that puts pleasure and the lack of discomfort above all else. John Paul could have predicted such an outcome, and in fact pointed to this very concept when describing how utilitarianism—the use of another person as a means to an end—begets nothing more than an inflated ego that seeks what it wants, typically at any cost.

If I accept the utilitarian premise … I must then look at every person other than myself from the same point of view: as a possible means of obtaining the maximum pleasure. [They] would seem to be a particular threat in the sphere of sexual relations … Utilitarianism seems to be a program of thoroughgoing egoism quite incapable of evolving into authentic altruism.

Those who read the statement of Turner’s victim will recall her being astonished at her attacker’s lack of remorse—or even an admission of guilt beyond drinking too much—a sentiment every reader likely shared. But with a perpetrator seemingly so entrenched—perhaps even from childhood—in a utilitarian mentality, we shouldn’t be surprised by Turner’s unwillingness to admit his true fault.

When putting all the pieces together—a young man barely out of high school, an unthinkable act of sexual aggression, all happening in a culture of moral decadence—one wonders if the scourge of pornography served as a sort of backstage actor or underlying cause in this sad affair. After all, what is pornography if not a brutal separation of a natural pair—sex and love—put on display for the (you guessed it) use of its voyeuristic audience?

Set aside the fact that it’s incredibly likely that Turner has seen, if not used, porn regularly (around 107 million U.S. adults viewed porn on a monthly basis, a February 2016 study found). His behavior alone smacks of the escalating nature of porn use; the fact that the brain treats porn addiction like drug addiction tells us that with porn more is continually needed in order to reach a comparable “high.” What’s more, just as drug addicts become increasingly neurotic as their desperation for a hit grows, the case could similarly be made for the more extreme—or, shall we say, unstable—users of pornography, of which Turner may well have been one.

Of course, we have no way of knowing for sure if porn played a factor. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the interaction between Turner and his victim was an example of love’s complete absence. His aloof attitude makes one think of John Paul explaining just how insane the utilitarian worldview must become to remain believable. Because worldly pleasure is only ever temporary and can never be, in itself, a transcendent good, he writes, “we can only close this gap by a fiction, a semblance of altruism.”

In that vein, note how Turner tried to explain that his victim both consented and (as I suppress a gag) even liked it, as if he were doing his victim a favor by taking advantage of her.

John Paul continues by saying, “Love is the unification of persons,” and so one’s heart breaks for the victim. The woman noted in her address that she and Turner are forever linked, just in the exact opposite way nature intended:

What he did to me doesn’t expire, doesn’t just go away after a set number of years. It stays with me, it’s part of my identity, it has forever changed the way I carry myself, the way I live the rest of my life.

Nothing—nothing—about their encounter was unifying, and perhaps neither will be capable of true, unifying, sexual love ever again. That unceremonious destruction of unity, both between and within persons, is a small victory for the Sower of Division. Those wounds are surely no match for the Eternal God, but an avoidable sin like Turner’s makes one lament that they ever occurred in the first place.

Let us pray both for Turner and his victim, that both would be healed by the saving power of Jesus Christ, and that God might use their plight for good to keep other predators from falling into similar sin.

Matthew Sewell

By

Matthew Sewell grew up Catholic but became serious about his faith only during graduate studies at Northern Arizona University. He lives and works in Spokane, Wash. and blogs at MtnCatholic.com.

MENU