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Stop! Don’t click that link…

What’s the new drug? Pornography. Really. Senior writer Lara Pickford-Gordon finds out more about this insidious ‘drug’ that’s affecting the minds – and hearts – of thousands.

There was a field trip for a class of pupils and one of them forgot his mobile phone in the vehicle used for transport. The phone was found by a teacher who noticed pornographic videos on the device; these were being shared in a WhatsApp group of pupils.

Primary school children are learning about sex not from their parents but through exposure to porn via the internet and social media.

“A lot of parents say ‘My son don’t look at that. I don’t want them getting a sex education’. The truth is they are already getting a sex education and it is called pornography,” said Jerome Alexander, an Ambassador for Fight the New Drug (FTND). The US-based non-governmental organisation seeks to raise awareness about the harmful effects of pornography and provide hope of recovery.

Alexander recalls a parent was adamant her son had never seen porn. When he interacted with the Standard Four class in which her son was, 95 per cent admitted they had viewed pornography.

Children easily can come across pornography while looking online for video games, researching homework, or get access when it is shared by a friend or viewed by an older sibling. Alexander has made it his mission to educate children and young adults especially about the dangers of pornography, having had his own struggle and recovery to break free.

“Gone are the days that people go looking for pornography. Pornography is now so easily accessible that you can be doing honest research and there is a pop up that leads to a downward spiral from there,” he said.

Alexander said in many “unfortunate circumstances” children as young as five have seen porn because their father or an older person in the house was viewing and left sites open on a computer, or a DVD in a DVD player.

“The child went on looking for video games or to look at television and there it is,” he added. Thankfully though, he has observed a shifting of attitudes towards information about the dangers of porn as parents become more aware.

Countering the shame factor

Since 2017 through the aegis of the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission, Alexander has delivered talks to Catholic confirmation classes, youth and men’s groups and primary and secondary schools. He has also travelled regionally.

There is keen interest and many questions follow his presentation. One of the common questions asked by the young listeners in different ways is on how to deal with the constant bombardment of so much sexual content just being all over—on social media, in the press, in music videos, songs.

He tells them, temptation will not go away, but they can learn to recognise it and respond accordingly. “Know when to turn off, don’t lead yourself into temptation. The minute you see a link that looks suspicious you don’t click on it. The minute someone shares something with you and say ‘take a look at it’, you don’t go immediately and say let me see what it is,” he advised.

The challenge for those who want to stop looking is “the shame factor”. Young people without a confidante to keep secrets and who are using pornography may get out of control. Alexander said, “we always recommend you have someone you trust” to share the struggles. Availing of confession is a good option.

Alexander said parents need to do a better job in educating their children about “what healthy sex is” but recognised that parents too may not know in order to pass on the knowledge to their children. “They just leave it in the hopes they learn the right way,” he said.

FTND provides “truths” about the effects of porn and it is up to the individual what to do with the information received. “You can no longer say that you did not know that pornography is harmful,” he said.

Alexander willingly shares references to websites, persons or apps where individuals can get help. To get counselling he refers them to “professionals”.

Persons interested in getting more information from FTND Ambassador Jerome Alexander can contact: Jeromealexander618@gmail.com, or the AFLC, 672-4280, 299-1047, or familylife@catholictt.org

The effects of pornography

On the brain: Many develop a compulsion to pornography causing them to need more of it more often and more hardcore versions just to feel normal; sexual preferences can be altered “dramatically” as persons seek out more shocking content.

The heart: Porn users express less love for partners, are more critical of appearance and less able to perform sexually; more aggressive and disrespectful within intimacy. Source: fightthenewdrug.org

What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says (2354)

Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.