A "porn kills love" bill board seen in San Francisco in 2015. The anti-porn group Fight the New Drug has been pushing a social media campaign to show the harmful effects of pornography through scientific research. Photo/Courtesy of torbakhopper via Flickr [http://bit.ly/29NKZ08]

Organizations combat trend toward moral acceptance of pornography

By  Colleen Dulle, Catholic News Service
  • July 16, 2016

WASHINGTON – A recent Gallup poll found that most Americans deem pornography largely unacceptable, but that majority is shrinking.

The poll, conducted in May and released June 8, showed that 61 per cent of respondents thought viewing pornography was morally wrong, regardless of legality. Only 34 per cent said it was OK.

Gallup has asked Americans about pornography for the last five years, during which time it's found a consistent gradual shift toward more people accepting the practice and fewer disapproving.

At this rate, the lines will cross in 2031.

Several organizations from varying backgrounds are working to stop this trend.

Jesuit Father Morton Hill founded interfaith group Morality in Media in New York in the 1960s to fight pornography and obscenity. The organization is now the National Center on Sexual Exploitation and is not affiliated with any faith group, though its CEO, Patrick Trueman, is Catholic.

The centre, based in Washington, focuses on uniting the movement against sexual exploitation. Its law centre drafted a bill that was recently passed in Utah declaring pornography a public health crisis.

Lisa Thompson, director of education and outreach for the centre, said that declaring pornography a public health crisis is necessary because the hypersexualization of women is so prevalent in American society.

Other organizations such as Fight the New Drug see pornography as a public health issue but avoid legal advocacy.

The San Francisco- and Salt Lake City-based Fight the New Drug has garnered attention among younger generations with its trendy "Porn Kills Love" T-shirts and popular social media presence — more than 1.3 million "Fighters," or followers, subscribe to the organization's accounts.

Robbie Tripp, director of content marketing, said that Fight the New Drug spreads awareness through scientific research on the harmful effects of pornography and through firsthand accounts from former porn stars and pornography addicts.

"We are not trying to take away any adult's right to view legal forms of pornography. Our main goal since day one has been to change the conversation surrounding pornography in society. It has been seen as normal, acceptable and even 'natural,' and we are seeking to change those attitudes," Tripp told Catholic News Service in an e-mail.

The group's sleek media campaigns and digital presence deliver a new message to young audiences already targeted with pro-pornography messaging like BuzzFeed's lighthearted "A Day in the Life of a Pornstar" video released in May or PornHub's 2014 competition for a non-pornographic ad to be displayed in New York's Times Square. 

Fight the New Drug released parodies of the competition entries, replacing catch phrases like #everybodydoesit with #realmendontneedporn, or changing a suggestive classified ad for a "one-handed touch typist" to say "Ladies want: men who don't have porn-induced erectile dysfunction."

Tripp said that Fight the New Drug approaches pornography from a nonreligious, nonpolitical perspective, which allows the organization to speak in hundreds of public middle schools and high schools each year.

Catholics, though, recognize spiritual implications in pornography use. That's why LifeTeen, a national Catholic youth ministry organization, developed its popular Victory app for smartphones and iPads about a year ago.

Joel Stepanek, LifeTeen's director of resource development, said the free app originally accompanied a print handbook for fighting pornography addiction but grew popular on its own, garnering 18,000 downloads on Apple devices and 7,000 on Android.

The app takes a uniquely Catholic approach to fighting pornography addiction, providing inspirational quotes from the saints and a tracker where users can log their progress, including days they went to confession.

Stepanek said Victory "aims to provide hope and healing in a practical way," making users aware of what triggers them to seek out pornography. When users slip up, the app prompts them to identify triggers like boredom or loneliness that they can avoid in the future.

"We want to liberate people from their disordered desires," Stepanek said.

Stepanek has heard from men and women at conferences across the country how the app has helped them. One feature they say helps most is the app's prayer request button, which users can press when they're tempted to use porn or fall into any other sinful habit they're trying to kick. The request feature immediately asks up to three "accountability partners" chosen by the user for prayers.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a pastoral statement called "Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography" in November 2015. The statement, which can be found at http://tinyurl.com/qhsd9vt, includes resources for Catholics to fight pornography use.

"Freedom from pornography is possible!" the bishops wrote. "No one needs to fight this battle alone."

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