Is this the beginning of the end for pornography?
By Brendan Malone
The Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company was founded in 1873.
It would take another 123 years before they became the first tobacco company to settle smoking-related court action and to admit that smoking causes cancer and heart disease, that it is addictive, and that they had marketed their products to children.
It's hard to believe now, but that was just 20 years ago, around the same time that our societal attitudes and toleration of smoking completely shifted from one of cautious but general acceptance, to today's strong disdain and discouragement of cigarettes and smoking.
What's even harder to comprehend is the fact that just a few decades before that some medical professionals were advising their patients that smoking could relieve stress, and, here in NZ, children under the age of 16 could buy cigarettes from their local corner shop.
It is my belief that in another 100 years time the history of pornography and our societal attitudes towards it will have charted a similar course to that of smoking.
Stage one was the widespread availability, consumption and mainstreaming of the product.
During this phase any voices of dissent were shouted down as prudish or baseless scaremongering.
Stage two was when the harms caused by the product started to become more pronounced and the research clearly indicated that there was a problem.
During this stage, voices of dissent were tolerated as long as they didn't talk about widespread harm, but instead qualified their concerns as being about 'some people,' like minors or those with pre-existing conditions.
We advised people that 'cutting back' their consumption was a healthy approach to take, and while we applauded those who kicked the habit we didn't really seem to think that this was necessary for everyone.
Then came the third and final stage.
We entered this phase after the research and the documented cases of harm became simply too many and too varied to ignore, downplay or treat as if the problems were only very narrow and controllable in their scope.
All of sudden we began to openly acknowledge and actively warn people of the harms. It became standard and best practice to advise people to quit the product altogether, and we even started using taxpayer funds to assist people to do this.
I would suggest that when it comes to the problem of pornography, we are currently at stage two in our societal approach to this issue.
There are those of us who know that there really is no such thing as a healthy level of pornography consumption and so we are actively working to provide resources and support to people (predominantly males) in order for them to overcome this problem in their lives.
There are others however, who, while applauding individuals who fight or overcome their addiction to pornography, are still trying to insist that not all pornography usage is a bad thing.
I recently represented Focus on the Family NZ as a guest speaker at an event discussing these very issues where one of my fellow panelists tried to suggest that the only negative issues around pornography are caused by people who treat it as a problem to be solved rather than something we should tolerate and encourage open and educated experimentation with it.
Last weekend when Kiwi athlete Nick Willis came out publicly in the media about his struggle with pornography and the damage that it had caused to him and his marriage, some people openly scoffed at the suggestion that pornography is addictive.
But despite all this, the fact is that the writing is now well and truly on the wall for pornography.
Willis was the second celebrity in only as many weeks to appear in the NZ media to talk about the harm that pornography had done to him and how grateful he was to be free of it.
The personal stories and the research findings are now starting to pile up, and that large and growing mountain is only going to become bigger and bigger with each passing year, until we suddenly find that the shadow it casts is simply too large and too dark to ignore anymore.
Until that day comes, myself, Wayne and the rest of the team here at Focus on the Family NZ will continue to tell the truth about pornography while working hard to offer those caught up in its addictive grasp practical and effective strategies and resources to help them find freedom.
While society continues to move through stage two of the response to pornography (however long that may last), our job is not to spend endless hours debating those who refuse to accept the gravity of the situation. Instead our role is to assist the large and growing number of people, who can see that there is a serious problem here, to protect their lives, marriages and families from becoming caught up in pornography's wide and destructive swath.
If you're a parent looking for practical advice on porn-proofing in the home then make sure you check out our Ten Tips for Porn-Proofing Your Family Home video below. If you're looking for really good software protection for all the devices in your house then we recommend you sign up for Covenant Eyes filtering and accountability software.
If you’re a man who is serious about addressing the sexual struggles in your life, or you’re a Christian leader who wants to equip the men in your church with effective tools and strategies to live out an authentic, Christ-centred and life-giving male sexuality, then our Valiant Man programme really is the place to start - you can find out all the details about this 10 session programme for males over the age of 16 here.