'Don Jon' represents society's porn problem

As a culture, whenever we think of dangerous addictive practices, there are a few usual suspects that come to mind. Drugs, alcohol and gambling, just to name a few, can create addictive consumption patterns that harm the well-being of the individual and society at large.

Less documented but perhaps even more destructive are the effects of pornography consumption.

An article written by clinical therapist Gordon S. Bruin claims that “pornography addiction is the grand daddy of them all. It hits at the very core of our humanity and is negatively impacting the world in ways that most scarcely imagine.”

Joseph Gordon-Levitt elaborates on this sentiment in an upcoming release in which he wrote, directed and starred, "Don Jon."

When the film hits theaters this Friday, it will illuminate the danger of pornography consumption but just as important, the danger of the objectification culture in which we live.

At its core, pornography is destructive because it undermines the sexual act. It degrades the loving union between a man and woman by turning them into objects of entertainment. It also paints a fantastical picture of men and women as sexual gods, perfect in every way.

To the viewer, this disorients expectations of reality. "Don Jon" hits upon this notion, as the central character, Jon, is repeatedly dissatisfied with his actual sexual experiences because they never match up to what he can view online.

This is destructive in two ways. For one, he can never really experience happiness. He has lost touch with reality to the point that real experiences have no effect on him. Second, he objectifies his partner and the pornographic subjects as a means to his pleasure, in effect reducing their intrinsic human value. This is the worst part of the story. When we fail to respect humans for their inherent goodness, we degrade them.

As Gordon-Levitt said regarding Jon, “Everything is an object at a distance, and has to live up to certain standards that he has.”

Jon is not alone. The objectification culture is made easy thanks to Internet pornography which means it is available to more demographics than ever before.

Is it any coincidence that the rise in consumption and addiction to pornography corresponds to a record-high divorce rate and unhappy marriages?

Bruin also wrote that "pornography leaves in its wake feelings of frustration, irritation and depression.”

Pornography provides an immediate sense of gratification because the “brain responds to visual sexual images in microseconds where chemical reactions take place automatically.”

However, the feelings of satisfaction fade and irritation sets. These feelings Bruin mentions are indicators of the long-term emptiness that accompanies the consumption of a drug — an emptiness which makes the individual unhappy and society worse off.

However, there is always hope.

Addictions to pornography “must be treated with proven scientific principles along with faith," Bruin wrote.

As humans, we possess the ability to choose between good and evil. And make no mistake, pornography is a gripping evil that offends against the dignity of the person, the beauty of the sexual act and destroys families and individuals.

It is a lie that must be called such because only then can the healing start.

 

Reach the columnist at mrrich2@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @cshmneyrichard


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