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Pornography and the War on Human Dignity

Brigham Young University–Idaho has released a video encouraging its students to hold one another accountable on porn use.

The video shows a student viewing porn in his dorm room, then switches to combat footage, portraying the student as a wounded warrior who needs the help of his fellow soldiers.

The video includes audio from a speech by university president Kim B. Clark, who describes pornography as a “battlefield.”

Sure, this is a dramatization. But I applaud BYU–Idaho’s effort to bring attention to the damaging effects of porn. And the combat language does not overstate the importance of the issue. Porn truly is waging war on human dignity.

As it happens, I spoke at a symposium at Purdue University this past weekend on the topic of human trafficking and human dignity. One of the other speakers was Chrissy Moran, a former porn actress, who described how her history of sexual abuse and her own “bad choices,” set her down a dark road toward a career in porn.

It’s telling that while many men use porn, I’ve never met a man who wanted his sister or daughter or mother to be in the porn industry.

Why is that?

Maybe it’s because we have a hard time seeing the people in porn as people–as human beings, with feelings, hopes, desires and, often, painful and abusive personal histories.

It’s a lot more difficult to use someone when you think of them as an actual person. We wouldn’t want to feel we are taking advantage of someone’s vulnerability or history of abuse, would we?

That’s why a talk like Moran’s is so eye-opening. To use porn requires us to dehumanize another person, to treat her as an object that we use for our own gratification.

It’s very difficult, especially for us men, because the internet has made the most addictive, extreme, and violent pornography just a click away.

Defenders of porn say that as long as it involves consenting adults there’s no problem. Porn performers choose to do what they do, after all.

But to accept that argument, you have to believe that there is no other moral standard other than human consent. The violence and the brutality of today’s porn, in particular, make it difficult to ignore the ways porn debases us, difficult to ignore the fact that it is incompatible with human dignity.

Let me give you an example: During my talk at the symposium, I tell of my own exposure to violent pornography as a student during Yale University’s “Sex Week.” I saw a woman tied up with chains, stripped naked, and beaten by a man, who hurled insults at her all the while. It’s hard to come up with any definition of “human dignity” that covers such a thing.

And in fact, it’s the loss of respect for human dignity, fueled in part by the explosive growth of violent pornography online, that has accelerated the growth of human sex trafficking.

You think that’s a stretch? Try to find a sex offender who isn’t a porn addict.

Hold on, you say–porn doesn’t cause all users or even most to become sex criminals.

That may be true. Nevertheless, porn harms us in other ways–it affects even our ability to carry on healthy, loving relationships.

When boys learn at the earliest possible age to use others sexually, without regard to their humanity, there are enormous consequences. You are fooling yourself if you think it doesn’t affect how those boys treat women and girls when they grow up. See here and here for just a couple of examples.

If our sexual culture is focused only on using others to bring pleasure to ourselves, without regard to the dignity and well-being of the ones we use–what is the result?

The result is: We are all demeaned.

The result is: Lives are destroyed.

I leave you with a video clip taken from a talk at the symposium by Libby Swenson. Swenson is an advocate for International Justice Mission, a group that combats child sex slavery around the world.

(h/t The Daily Caller)

Nathan Harden is editor of The College Fix and author of the book SEX & GOD AT YALE: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad.

Follow Nathan on Twitter @NathanHarden

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