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Pornified by Pamela Paul

Pornified - How pornography is transforming our lives, our relationships, and our families.

Most compelling thought:
Porn is everywhere. Porn junkies are everywhere. Porn isn't cute, daring or liberating but a relentless destroyer of lives.

Buy this book for:
Yourself probably. This book should also be read by every minister of every church.

Pamela Paul
Pamela Paul is currently an editor at American Demographics magazine, where she reports on social, political, and media trends. She is also a frequent New York correspondent for The Economist.

A brief review of:

Pornified is a well-researched manifest against pornography, and a highly necessary one at that. Since the introduction of the Internet, porn-use has sky rocketed and the consequences of porn-use are becoming visible. Viewing naked people releases endorphin in the brain, which makes porn highly addictive and to be listed among nicotine, heroine and alcohol. In addition to this, pornography increasingly desensitizes the user. People lose the ability to see others as complex and emotional beings and become islands of sex crazed masturbators.

Pamela Paul argues that the distribution of porn should be regulated by governments and that sex education should include a chapter on the detrimental effects of porn. And to gain momentum for her final statements, she alternates snippets of research results with interviews of a handful of porn users. This in turn leads to almost 300 gore-gushing pages of what sometimes seems little more than gossip and can hardly be compared to the readily referenced Kinsey Report. At least a hundred pages of tales of woe should have been invested in a brief history of porn (the Romans used it plenty), the results of counter measures (from the anti-sexual revolution in the wake of the Reformation to Reagan's Meese Report) and the very why most men are drawn to porn. Paul writes, "Many men are drawn to pornography because it's an emotionally and physically easier route to sexual satisfaction than dealing with another human being, even a willing partner, wooing and pleasing her." But insert the word "heroin" for "pornography" and it becomes clear how superficial this statement is.

What I specifically miss in Pornified is a discussion on how wives may in some measure prevent porn-use by their spouses. Paul rightly states that a man's sexual energy is limited but says nothing about how spouses should endeavor to route that energy to them. I even think that Paul underestimates the power of a man's sex drive and how much it is tied into to his self-esteem. After decades of sexual revolution, girl-power and books that present women as intricate gardens of sensitivity and men as mindless predators - it used to be said that a mere five minutes "rain shower" would ensure procreation but now with the going technology, men have become utterly superfluous - a man may be tempted to engage a fantasy in which he becomes that hunter of old and she his awe-struck conquest, rather than risking rejection or having to do the dishes first. It may be too simple to say: a quickie a day keeps porn away, but, as the old saying goes: rain that falls today, won't fall tomorrow.

The bulk of Pamela Paul's book consists of the single observation that porn use and relationship-gone-sour go hand in hand. But she makes by no means certain that one is caused by the other. It seems a rule these days that relationships go belly up, but not only relationships that involve porn do so.
She also makes no report of relationships that utilize porn with reasonable success (I know of some, actually), or porn use by people who are severed from their spouses (prisoners, sailors, soldiers, oil rig workers...) and rather relieve their substantial stress by engaging a paper fantasy than be tempted to engage a flesh and blood one.

What is even sadder though (and again completely unnoticed by Pornified) is that a human being's sex-drive may not be meant to be spent entirely on sex alone. You don't have to believe in God to acknowledge that many people have mystical experiences, which, speaking from an evolutionary standpoint, are somehow so beneficial that a genetic tendency towards mysticism has been diligently preserved by either nature's mechanisms or God's providence. It has always been customary for non-mystics to confuse spiritual ecstasy with sexual arousal (take the myriad of dumb comments on Bernini's sculpture of Theresa for instance), and for mystics it is almost impossible to describe their epiphanies with words that are not already widely in use to describe sexual events. Hence the most famous work of literary art that is concerned with the relationship of God and man (that's a mystical experience) is a highly erotic play (most commonly represented in strongly censured translations), namely the Song of Solomon. It should therefore have been no surprise that Dr Andrew Newsberg, Director of Clinical Nuclear Medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania where they use Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography to look at brain activity, has become convinced that the brain systems that handle mystical experiences also handle sexual experiences. This is all the more rather marvelous because the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is highly similar, or rather: self-similar, to the human reproduction cycle (read the article).

All this taken into account yields the strong suspicion that porn-junks not only deprive their spouses of their sex-energy but also God of their worship. Apart from those who actually do this, the guilty party may also be found in church leaders who have managed to turn a deeply satisfying revelation into something totally boring or, perhaps even worse, into a skin-deep Sunday morning sing-along.

The bottom line (which Pornified does not reach) is that mankind clings to every method of self destruction. The reason for this is a much debated issue but most commonly known as 'sin', and, yes, that's a church word and, yes, the church is also riddled with porn users (over 50%, including clergy, re-reports Paul). In the opinion of Abarim Publications, Pamela Paul makes some valid suggestions to battle this poison but her audience is not limited to Christians, while ours is (O my God, you suckered onto a Christian website!). We urge all pastors out there to have a look at Paul's Pornified and devote some serious preaching time to the issue. It would probably also be wise to discus porn-use face to face in men groups (and women groups!) and to be vigilant not to turn the battle against porn into a witch hunt. Porn users are addicted to chemical stimulants, just like heroin addicts. And just like how for heroin junkies every other person becomes a walking wallet, so becomes every attractive person for the porn junk a walking syringe. By all definitions, a porn addiction creates a psychosis. Porn junks are horribly lonely.

It's a victory but a wry one to see the world come up with the same conclusions as the Bible did so long ago (Mat 5:28) and hear a cry for sexual purity arise from outside the church. Pornified may not be as thorough and effective as it could have been - Pamela Paul doesn't seem to understand the phenomenon all that well - but it is certain that no one should have to share a spouse with some of the bizarre websites that Paul lists in her book. Pornography is a formidable enemy, which should be dealt with by governments, teachers and parents alike. But in the end it is up to no one other than ourselves to make the decision to not engage in any activity that would displease or dishonor our spouses. Faithfulness to our spouse begins with faithfulness to ourself. And that is quite an art.

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Pamela Paul - author of Pornified

Pamela Paul