NAVA: Just say no to porn

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Heroin. Cocaine. Porn.

Addictive substances have a peculiar effect of stimulating the reward centers of our brains while making us crave them even more.

And that is just what pornography does to us.  A growing body of research in psychology is beginning to show that an expanding online marketplace of smut is thriving on repeated, uncontrolled consumption by viewers of all ages — even young children. Marriage counselors and clergy are seeing an “epidemic” of porn abuse that ruins families, personal lives and careers.

Like other drug suppliers, the porn industry is thriving on this addiction.  Forbes magazine estimated that the sex industry brings in as much as $14 billion annually.  To make porn even more attractive, a new trend in online billing works with credit cards to assure discreet labeling of sleazy purchases.  Unsuspecting spouses or parents will just see innocuous charges like “CCBill” on their monthly statements.

Porn is all about hiding its filthy face from our loved ones.

But there is evidence that porn may be even more costly than we realize.  A recent psychology study at Princeton and Stanford found that the brains of young men who looked at images of scantily dressed women showed patterns of activity related to the way the brain sees objects.  After consuming porn, these men start to see women the way they see tools like hammers or screwdrivers.  This means porn is perhaps more insidious than addictive drugs; it can shape the way we think and see others.

These findings play into fears that our own generation, already beset with teenage pregnancy and date rape, may constitute one of the largest consumer blocks of porn.  Some have even framed porn as the “gateway drug” to a host of social pathologies: pedophilia, sex addiction, infidelity, incest, prostitution and rape.

For decades the campaign against porn has marshaled religious groups and feminists concerned about the fallout effects on women and character.  And with a mounting body of evidence in neuroscience, the need to say no to porn is now even greater.

Last year our university commemorated its centennial commitment to educating and honoring women.

Now we need to honor them even more.

Marquette’s leadership in attending to the spiritual and moral education of its students demands a higher standard for how we use campus Internet resources.  As an institution with a Catholic, Jesuit character, Marquette must make the bold move to install porn filters on its network.

Without content control of Marquette’s Internet, pornographic pictures and films can flood into our campus.  Even public places like cafes and study rooms can be viewing galleries of filth.

Porn has no place in our library computers, workplaces, dormitories, or in clogging up wireless signals.  Some may argue it is a matter of privacy.  But the private choice to consume porn has very public consequences that we must not accept.  If porn is a mere private indulgence, then, by that logic, domestic abuse or incest are just family matters that are really none of our business.

Make this a smut-free campus that respects the dignity of women (and men).  The mission of Jesuits has always been bold and courageous.  Now it can be heroic.

Say no to porn.

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