WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Catholic apologist Matthew Fradd leads men and youth in prayer during the Men of Integrity Conference at Holy Trinity Parish.
The problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the human person, but that it shows too little, says Catholic apologist Matthew Fradd. "It reduces the beauty and the complexity of the person to a thing to be used for my sexual pleasure."
Fradd, a native of Australia who now lives in San Diego with his wife and three small children, addressed some of the myths of pornography and other manly topics at the annual Men of Integrity Conference at Holy Trinity Parish, Spruce Grove, Feb. 8-9.
About 600 men and boys from across Alberta attended the event organized by Catholic Family Ministries.
In an interview at the conference, Fradd said the reason we need to address pornography is "we are immersed in a pornographic culture and a lot of Catholic men and women view pornography."
As people with intrinsic dignity and inalienable rights, he said, we should never be looked upon or used as things but rather we should be persons to be loved. "Even if one disagrees with that, he still knows innately that pornography is wrong."
Porn stores cover up their windows and offer back entrances not merely to safeguard the public or because their customers are misunderstood revolutionaries trying to plot the demise of a sexually repressive country.
"They are not heroes," Fradd said. "They know what they are doing is wrong."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church condemns pornography as gravely immoral. "So when we do such an act with freedom and we do it knowing that is wrong, it constitutes what in Catholic theology we call a mortal sin."
One myth about pornography is that it isn't addictive.
"It is; and in fact the American Society of Addictive Medicine just last year came out with a new definition of addiction, which included sexual addiction," Fradd said. "Pornography elicits powerful neurotransmitters which the brain indeed becomes addicted to."
Pornography, in fact, resets the "pleasure thermostat" in one's brain and that's the reason why many men can't stay away from it, Fradd said. "All I can say is that porn addiction has a real impact on the brain itself and even damages it."
The good news is that it only takes about 14 months for the dopamine receptor cells to repair themselves after a person begins therapy or simply quits porn altogether, he said.
In his speech, Fradd cited a study in the British Medical Journal last year that said "porn changes the way in which we treat women."
He cited another study published by the U.S. Justice Department that found that when 150 sex-oriented businesses closed in Oklahoma, the rate of rape decreased by 27 per cent over five years while the rate of rape in the rest of the country increased by 19 per cent.
Another myth is that porn stars are well-rounded nymphomaniacs who enjoy having sex with strangers.
"Of course, this is a myth that the sex industry wants you to believe but you should know that many of these ladies were abused as (children or teenagers)," Fradd said. "When I spoke to a former porn star about this she told me porn stars are not well-rounded individuals but mentally-ill or physically diseased people."
The former porn star told Fradd most women get involved in porn for the money and hate being touched and having sex with strangers. "She said some women hate it so much they can be heard vomiting in the bathroom between scenes."
The average life expectancy of a porn star is 37 years while the lifespan of the ordinary American is about 80, he said. Many die of suicide or drug overdoses.
In Genesis 1.28, God commands us to be fruitful and multiply. By that he did not mean grow oranges and invent calculators. "So this is God's idea. Sexual desire is good. The body is good."
However, those in the pornography industry have distorted and perverted a good thing. "(Through) pornography, you are removing sexual intimacy from its natural context and you are turning it into a commodity to be bought and sold, and you are trying to elicit lust in the viewer."
Some people think that lust is synonymous with sexual desire. It's not, Fradd said. "You and I have been given sexual desire by God; it is a gift that should propel us to make a gift of ourselves according to the demands of chastity."
Chastity is a virtue we all need. "It's a good thing. It's the third way." The problem is that when people think about chastity, they are thinking about an uncomfortable belt or abstinence.
"While abstinence is about what you are not doing, chastity is about what you are doing," Fradd said. "It's a virtue like courage. Chastity enables a man to reorient his desire for the love of God and the dignity of the person."
To overcome addiction to pornography, the first thing one must do is "you have to admit to yourself that you have a problem," Fradd recommended. "As long as you are justifying it, saying 'It is natural; I only do it from time to time; it's just normal for men my age,' you won't get cured."
As Christian men, he said, we need to be praying. "And we need to be fasting, abstaining from food, not because food is bad but because we want to gain control over our appetites. If I can't say no to a donut, how am I going to say no to pornography?"
It's also important that people understand that they may need professional counselling to overcome their addiction, he said.