Friday, 23 March 2012

An Epidemic

"When I saw all the hair, I knew it was you," said Sister. "Come in. Are you pregnant?"

"No," I said. "Are you praying?"

"Are you praying? You should be praying to Saint Gerard. How old are you?"

I told her how old I was. There was a pregnant pause.

"Huh," she said.

For once she had minced words.

Sister stuck me in the sitting room to watch the Cardinal on TV while she changed for an appointment. The interviewer asked the Cardinal the questions viewers called in.

"They're asking him about hockey," I said when Sister came back in. "They want to know what can be done about the Leafs."

"They should be asking him about p*rn," said Sister. "They should be asking him what can be done about p*rn destroying marriages."

Sister works in the Marriage Tribunal, so I turned around and looked at her, interested.

"Is it a big problem? I've read it is a big problem---."

"Oh, Seraphic," said Sister. "It's HUGE. I get all these people in my office. It's an epidemic. And somebody should tell these people. The women. Somebody should tell the women what a big problem it is. BEFORE they get married. They should be talking about this in marriage prep."

She looked a bit abashed.

"I know you don't want to spend marriage prep talking about negative stuff, but this is a serious problem, and we have to talk about it."

"Well, I'll talk about it," I said. "I have a blog. I have a column. I can talk about it."

"These women...," said Sister. "You know in marriage you have to give your whole self to your spouse, but these women... They can't. They just can't because they're so... And you can see why. They talk to him about it, and he promises to give it up, and then they wake up in the middle of the night and there he is back on the computer with his... We have to talk about it."

"This must be a new problem," I said. "It wasn't always so easy for men to get p*rn."

"New?! It's been, what is it, twenty, twenty-five years now. And we're seeing hundreds of couples... It's an epidemic. I'm telling you, we have to talk about it."

"So how old are these guys?" I asked. "I guess they're not fifty."

"No not fifty. It's the younger ones. The younger ones are using it. They're all using it."

"And they're addicted?"

"Sure, they're addicted!"

And once again I felt that my generation got shafted, and so did yours. Although, to be fair, we can't blame Boomers for this as much as we can blame the inevitable march of technological progress. Almost as soon as photography was invented, there were dirty photographs. Almost as soon as the web was invented, there was internet p*rn. But what we didn't know then, as we know now, is that porn can be as addictive as crack cocaine, and all those taboos against children and teens seeing porn were not prudery but common sense.

Fortunately, it is still possible to choose to avoid p*rn--and will be as long as we make sure the laws protecting us from it are still in force. I am on the web every day, and I never see any. Television is more difficult, for British standards are more degraded than those in Canada and the USA. However, a gentle request to B.A. ("Change the channel!!!") clears up that problem. A more pressing problem in the McAmbrose household is the amount of food and drink we consume.

The National Health Service in Britain is obsessed with food and drink. When B.A. and I signed up at our local office, the nurse wanted immediately to know how much we drank and how much we weighed, in that order. B.A. got a lecture about how much he drank, but not much about his weight. I got a pass on how much I drank, but got stick about my weight. This is because alcohol and overeating account for most of the health problems in Scotland.

We could take a cue from the Scottish NHS. If it is true that internet p*rn accounts for serious problems in Catholic marriages, then we really do need to talk about it and warn Catholic teenagers that this is a problem that can destroy their marriages and families. We tell them how dangerous chemical stimulants are, so we should tell them how dangerous visual stimulants can be. We manage to get across the message that crack and heroin are dirty, so maybe we could once again get across that p*rn is dirty too.

As for you girls, if you're addicted to the stuff, you know you should quit because it is not harmless. It will affect your sexual mental health and therefore any future marriage. And if you are wondering if the Nice Catholic Boy you've seeing exclusively uses the stuff, you should ask him. I wouldn't make a big deal out of it, but if marriage-type stuff is being discussed, that would be one topic to raise. I think I said at some point that (among other things) our home would be a p*rn-free zone, and B.A. agreed.

Begin, they say, as you mean to go on. Don't think it isn't a problem for Catholics and others of Good Will because it is.


healthily sanguine said...

Yes. I would go a step further. I don't want to date anyone who is addicted to porn or watches porn on any kind of regular basis--to me, it is tantamount to cheating, and a big deal--so I would emphatically NOT save this question for when marriage-type stuff is being discussed. Ask it early. This especially goes for my fellow homeschool-raised gals out there, who really can't fathom why or how anyone would start on this abhorrent habit: ASK your boyfriend whether he uses porn. If he does, BREAK UP WITH HIM. You'll save yourself a lot of heartache in the long run.

Catherine said...

Eek - This is a problem that is so easy to forget about, and it's always a shock to be reminded.

Med School Girl said...

Matthew Fradd, a friend of some in my Catholic circle, has a ministry in Ireland dedicated to counteracting porn's effects. He is now happily married with 2 children and overcame a porn addiction himself.

A Mending Heart said...

I agree with Healthily Sanguine. Homeschooled/ generally sheltered gals out there: Don't be afraid to ask him about it! Sadly, it's a struggle even the best of NCB's have, and was a large contributor to the break-up of my marriage.

P*rn totally messes with your sexual mental health, to the point that sometimes one begins to believe that some things (too horrible to mention) are allowable practices, never mind that it begins a steady breakdown of respect for a woman's dignity by objectifying her. Sexual abuse within the context of a marriage can and does happen, and I strongly feel that an addiction to p*rn contributes largely to that.

Seraphic said...

Mmm. Call me old-fashioned, but I think asking men about their sinful sexual habits really early in a relationship a bit...ah...immodest. You wouldn't like it if a NCB suddenly asked you early in the relationship if you have sinful sexual fantasies. read erotic fiction or look at stuff you shouldn't look at.

Unless you are really in a position where you have to decide if you are going to accept a man as your husband, you are not responsible for what he does in private, and he is not responsible to you. I would hope any man (or woman) who presents himself (or herself) as a believing Catholic but uses porn is working to overcome such a habit with the help of his (or her) confessor.

Men are not the enemy; porn is.
It would never occur to me in a million years to ask any man, except a man I was thinking of marrying, if he used porn. Not male friends, not my brothers, nobody else.

Angie said...

Seraphic, I'm wondering why it is that lately I am seeing you and others in your blog comments reference homeschooled kids as "sheltered"? I get how it's possible that is the case, but I don't think the two go hand in hand, and maybe I'm being sensitive here, but it's sort of insulting to assume that because someone was homeschooled that they were sheltered. Most homeschool families I know homeschool for non-religious reasons, and actually spend more time socializing in all sorts of situations and traveling than other families who go to traditional school are able to because of their schedules. We were very aware while I was growing up of what was going on in the world, the good and bad, listening to the news and discussing it was part of our education...I do know families who use homeschooling to try to insulate their kids from influences out side their religion or culture, but I don't see that as most homeschooling families by any means. I was homeschooled most of my life, but graduated early, was working and in college by age 16....sheltered I was not! Anyway, rant over :)

Oh, and the porn habit affects just about every male I know, including my (also homeschooled) brothers, and guys I went to a very conservative Catholic college with. I think that for some men, who aren't good at controlling sexual behaviors, they might think that with porn, they aren't "hurting anyone," and are able to keep a good public reputation (because they aren't out chasing girls all the time.) That's a personal observation of mine, whether they would admit to it or not, who knows. For some, I think it is a real addiction, but many seem to grow out of it as they mature and actually begin relationships with real women, maybe at least in part because they see that it can be hurtful to the woman that they love.

Anonymous said...

I comPLETELY agree about your point about home schoolers not necessarily being "sheltered" AND the part about it being a struggle for home schooled boys, too. Actually, it's been a struggle for me before, and I am a Nice Catholic Girl who was home schooled (which is why I was mildly offended at healthy sanguine's comment. It just read to me like if you CAN imagine looking at porn, you are not a NCG, or somehow lesser. I dunno, it might be just me who read into it like that.)

Of course, I don't think I ever had anything you could call an addiction, but it is a temptation, and one I've given in to before, much to my dismay. This Lent I put up a browser blocker that doesn't actually block any website, but unless you specifically add a website to an authorized list, it brings you to an image of the Crucified Christ and several religious quotes so that you think twice before continuing on to your page. It can be a bit of a nuisance when I am going to places like Seraphic's blog, but it's a good penance, I think, and one that's helping me break-- or at any rate, not start-- a horrible habit.

I also agree with Seraphic when she said it's rather immodest and personal to ask a man you just started dating if he has a porn problem. Ick.

*Jane is a moniker for obvious reasons.

Anonymous said...

I was homeschooled, oh, how I wish I had been sheltered. Before the age of 16 I was exposed through friends and family to pre-marital sex, drugs, alcholoism, bullying, verbal abuse, and so much more. Just because we homeschoolers might not do it ourselves doesn't mean we've never heard of it, suffered from it or watched other people suffer from it.

Med School Girl said...

I must say that apart from one comment in the comment box referring to "home schooled/generally sheltered" women, I am not seeing general inferences that those who were home schooled must therefore be sheltered and naive.
It seems as though this is a sensitive point for some readers (perhaps due to your own experiences, past criticisms of being educated at school) and you might be being overly defensive.
I certainly don't assume that every home schooled person is naive, but I have known some who are.
Conversely, I have known some home schooled people who are very well rounded.

I agree with Seraphic: interrogating a man about his use of porn very early on in the relationship is inappropriate. In my view, it is the equivalent of a man interrogating a woman about her potential weaknesses right off the bat: "Do you ever gossip about other women? Binge on ice cream and chips when you're upset? Overreact to little things? Suffer from PMS?"
You get my point.
Relationships take time to build, and you reveal your true self and discover the other person's true self in time.

Med School Girl said...

That should read : "educated at home..."

Angie said...

Seraphic has directed certain explanations towards the homeschooled or sheltered before...most recently in her St. Cougar's Day post, if I'm not mistaken. I'm a longtime reader and I seem to remember being suprised by it before, but it seems to come up more often lately, which is why I commented on it.

Seraphic said...

Actually, what I wrote on "St. Cougar's Day" was "home-schoolers and other carefully brought up readers". This was not intended as any kind of slight against people educated at home. If you make it to 20 without knowing what a cougar is, that is actually rather cool.

St. Ignatius of Loyola counselled that when you don't understand something, you ought to make the most charitable interpretation. He might have added "and read the words that are actually there".

If anyone searches the blog, they will discover that I once asked people who were home-schooled to write about their experiences in the combox.

Seraphic said...

By the way, newcomers should know that my blog is, and always has been, a fight-free zone.

Seraphic said...

FINALLY, if you want to see any references I have made to "homeschooled", all you have to do is type it in the search box. So far I have only found my acknowledgments that I HAVE readers who were homeschooled. I don't think I have taken potshots at anyone's education, and I am disturbed that someone thinks I have.

Just Another Catholic Girl said...

I was homeschooled but I was never offended by the “sheltered” comment. I’ve seen sheltered and non-sheltered homeschoolers in my time, and I think “sheltered” is just a common misconception about homeschooling. Gives us a great opportunity to educate people on what homeschooling is all about. Besides, what’s wrong with sheltered anyway? Lol

Here is a link to a HYSTERICAL video by a Christian Homeschooler, under the name of Blimey Cow. It sort of went viral among the homeschooling crowd. I laughed my head off because it addresses all the common misconceptions about homeschooling. It’s sure to give you a few giggles. :-) Enjoy!

TGWWS said...

Seraphic, you haven't taken potshots at anyone. Some of us (I was homeschooled too) get hypersensitive about the subject because we grew up hearing SO much criticism of our parents' choice to teach us at home. I'm sorry this has erupted into a fight on your blog, but it isn't your fault. Just think of the single thing for which you were most teased as a child--there must have been times, even as an adult, when you found your hackles rising at a totally innocent reference to it? (That, btw, is "an explanation, but not an excuse.")

Seraphic said...

@JACG: Well, exactly. There is nothing wrong with being sheltered! We should keep children "sheltered" as we give them the tools they need to flourish as adults!

It's so interesting that people who were homeschooled are a "crowd"--especially because this "crowd" depends very much on the internet, doesn't it?

TGWWS: For me it's my hair. I've been teased about my hair all my life, and even this week I could hear people talking about it behind me. Honestly, a teacher and some schoolchildren having a loud conversation about how much my hair was like hers, etc. When a young woman walked past me on campus and smiled slyly at me, I thought "What? Lesbian admirer? CR fan? Amused by my massive hair? What?"

healthily sanguine said...

Sorry if my comment was offensive! It might have been better without the comma in that sentence, which would then read, "fellow homeschool-raised gals out there who really can't fathom," etc. As that sentence indicates, I was homeschooled, and as you might guess from the content of my comment, I found myself surprised in a certain situation about the prevalence of the problem of porn--so my advice applies to others like me, not necessarily to all former homeschoolers. Don't be surprised. And what's the point of "going steady" with someone with whom marriage isn't a viable option, as it really isn't with someone who is addicted to porn? Heed A Mending Heart's comment above: it would be better never to marry than to enter a situation of such pain and abuse. I agree with Auntie Seraphic that it's less than ideal to bring up issues of sexuality early in a relationship, but this issue of porn is not like asking "do you struggle with erotic fantasies?" (or, "are you a guy?") or asking for any level of detail about these things. It's just saying, "You know what, this is a dealbreaker for me, and I want to know up front." Perhaps a more subtle way of finding out the answer might be to ask, "Do you currently struggle with any forms of addiction, such as drugs, alcohol, or sexual addiction?" I don't have impossibly high standards, but I know I don't want to date anyone for whom the answer to that question is yes.

The Crescat said...

So you suggest not to ask about porn unless the man you are seeing is a serious marriage potential prospect bc this is an intimate question to ask. I understand that. However, do you think waiting that long puts a woman at a disadvantage since she is seriously emotionally invested at that point making it harder to walk away?

Wanna know my secret... it's sneaky and I should be ashamed, but when I am over at a man's house I ask to use their computer to check my email. Or my blog. Or whatever bc they all know I write. Usually the drop down menu of the address bar reveals a porn site right off the bat. I've had this happen SIX times and shortly there after I make my excuses and never call them back. It's probably one of a million reasons why I am still single but I do have a son to think about. I suppose that makes me the rare exception to your readers.