Changing Course: A Comparison of Sexual Assault and Pornography
Sexual Assault In the News Anyone who has paid attention to the news over this last year has seen the rise of the #MeToo movement and heard of the numerous allegations of sexual misconduct against accomplished men in our society. It’s clear women are starting to break the silence about their experiences of sexual assault, and men are starting to be held to accountable for how they’ve treated these women, whether in the past or present. A Violation of Boundaries Inherent in cases of sexual assault that have reached the public sphere, and those which remain hidden in the shadows, is a painful dynamic involving one or more individuals violating the sexual boundaries of another person. The utter disregard of those boundaries leaves a victim deeply shaken and traumatized, and regardless of whether help is sought after such an experience, the resulting effects upon the individual are profound and lasting. When The Self Is All That Matters Moreover, in a sexual assault, the perpetrator has no respect for the humanity or sexuality of the victim. They are only concerned with their own sexual gratification. The emotional and physical trauma that will result for the victim because their person was violated and their boundaries were disregarded is irrelevant to them. It’s obvious such behavior is unacceptable in any context and that we can longer ignore the issue of sexual assault in our society. We additionally have to face the degree to which this type of content has been allowed and encouraged over time in specific domains like the pornography industry. Similarities Between Pornography and Sexual Assault The pornography industry, now reaching vast populations of our world every day, is characterized by notions of self and it functions according to the variables inherent in sexual assault: Deliberately negating and ignoring the sexual boundaries of another person. Objectifying and exploiting others for the sake of selfish sexual pleasure. Not considering how someone else will be affected because of that exploitation. It is also common for sexual assault to be directly promoted and explicitly portrayed in pornography. For example, a search of “aggressive porn” in Google yields 74,000,000 results including: Hard and Aggressive Aggressive Porn Very Aggressive Rape Videos There is truly something wrong with this. Not only is this content easily accessible to minors and adults, it purposefully depicts the abuse, degradation and sexual humiliation of a person, while reinforcing in the minds of those viewing it that such behavior is normal, acceptable or even desirable. On a broader level, our society receives a mixed message when in one sense the pornography industry is allowed to create, distribute and glorify content depicting sexual assault or otherwise, and in another sense it publicly condemns sexual assault, as it should, in the courts or in other forums. Changing Course We live in a day where a drastic course correction is needed, from a ceaseless exploitation our sexuality for the sake of selfish pleasure and profit, to an unyielding consistency in cherishing and treating it with the greatest respect. There is a well know passage of Scripture that I believe wholly applies to this issue: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” - Mark 12:30-31 I firmly believe in a free society, a society of laws based on a Constitution that speaks to the rights of man. Yet, a society of laws that forgets to acknowledge and steward the humanity to which those freedoms apply, breaks itself down in the end only to find it has become bound by itself. Inversely, when that same society chooses to ensure the message that every life matters and contains immeasurable value is conveyed by what it allows and doesn’t allow, it does something great and noble. All of this most certainly applies to the realm of human sexuality, and to the broader conception of loving your neighbor as yourself. Eric Gomez is a Marriage & Family Therapist specializing in building families, strengthening marriages and addressing the personal, relational, and cultural harms of pornography. He received his graduate degree in Marriage & Family Therapy from Seattle Pacific University and his undergraduate degree in Psychology from New Mexico State University.