John and Christine are engaged to be married. As part of their diocesan marriage prep program, they are meeting regularly with their pastor and an older married couple in their parish. During one meeting their pastor asked them how they felt about pornography use in marriages. Both John and Christine were taken off-guard with the question. No one had ever asked them about pornography, nor had they ever talked about it. This led to a series of conversations that were at times uncomfortable, yet invaluable.
The truth is that many couples have not discussed pornography use and few marriage prep programs address the issue. This is unfortunate because research has shown that pornography plays a significant role in over half of all divorces. This is truly an elephant in our Catholic living rooms.
Addressing the Issue
Tackling the issue of pornography begins with the people who facilitate marriage prep programs. They need to be completely faithful to all the teachings of the Catholic Church, especially the teachings on sexual morality. They also need to understand God’s plan for sexuality. They can gain this by studying St. John Paul’s Theology of the Body and Love and Responsibility. Once the facilitators understand the true purpose and meaning of sexuality, then they can share this with engaged couples. This is important for four reasons:
- Most engaged couples have not been properly catechized and don’t know the Church’s teaching on sexuality
- Our culture has lead couples to believe that sex is merely a recreational activity to be enjoyed by two “consenting adults who love each other.”
- They have no concept of the true meaning of sexuality as God designed it.
- Most believe the Church’s response to anything sexual is a giant resounding “NO!”
By understanding the Church’s teachings and God’s plan for sexuality couples will be able to see the true beauty of sexuality. They will view it as a holy pursuit where they become more bonded to each other and to God. They will understand why procreation is a vital part of sexuality. Couples will also see how pornography, masturbation, lust, and homosexual acts are fueled by selfishness and can never be part of God’s plan.
Danger to Marriages
In addition to educating couples on God’s plan for sexuality, they need to understand the dangers of pornography. Men often don’t see the harm in viewing pornography because they have grown up with it on the Internet. They may consider is it “harmless adult entertainment.” Some even believe it can help their marital sex lives by educating them on new and exciting sex acts. Unfortunately, this often results in great disappointment, especially for wives. The often end up being coerced into performing sex acts that are dangerous, painful and degrading. Men need to realize that pornography teaches them to use women as sex toys, to be controlled and manipulated. This will not help them develop a healthy marital relationship. What many men also don’t realize is that excessive pornography use can lead to erectile dysfunction. They become so accustomed to being sexually aroused by the women in pornography that when they attempt to be sexual with a real woman (who doesn’t look like a porn star), they cannot perform.
While most women are disgusted by pornography and don’t want it in their marriages, there are women who don’t feel it’s a problem. I believe this is because most young women feel they are able to compete with the women in porn for their husband’s attention. However, while all couples grow older, the women in porn are always young. A wife in her 40s, who finds her husband viewing women in porn who are in their 20s, will often feel rejected and betrayed. She may believe she has lost her beauty and is no longer desirable to her husband. The feeling of rejection is further intensified if her husband struggles with erectile dysfunction because of his porn use.
Danger to the Family
In addition to educating couples on the dangers of pornography to marriages, those who facilitate marriage prep programs need to warn couples of the danger of pornography to children. Some spouses/couples try to hide their porn use from their children; however, any couple with children will tell you how difficult it can be to hide things from their kids. Children are naturally curious and they often find the things you don’t want them to find! Couples need to understand how pornography can affect the healthy development of children’s minds. It will inevitably give them the wrong message about sexuality. Children who are exposed to pornography early and often are also more susceptible to pornography addiction and often become sexual at early ages. They need to be protected at all costs.
Your Only Chance
Those who facilitate marriage prep programs are often overwhelmed by the amount of material they must cover in a short period of time: communication, finances, children, faith life, etc. While these are all important, programs need to adapt to the times and address current issues that are affecting marriages. Since few people are willing to address the issue of pornography in marriage, it’s within a marriage prep program that a couple may hear about the dangers of pornography for the first time. They need to discuss this issue. If there is a problem with pornography in their relationship, facilitators can direct the couple to professionals who can help them. The goal is to give couples the information and tools needed for a happy, healthy and holy marriage.
Back to John and Christine
The topic of pornography had never before come up in their conversations. John had viewed it occasionally, but didn’t believe there was anything wrong with it. Christine was disgusted by porn and wanted no part of it in their marriage. With the help of their marriage prep facilitators, Christine was able help John understand how deeply hurt she was by his use of pornography. This saddened John and he vowed to eliminate it from his life. By understanding the Church’s teaching and God’s plan for sexuality, they were committed to keeping porn out of their marriage and future family. They wanted their marriage and their sex life to be holy. While these discussions were difficult at times, John and Christine were grateful that pornography was addressed in their marriage prep program.