How Porn Destroys the Education of Boys

How Porn Destroys the Education of Boys November 6, 2014

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I use the term “must-read” sparingly. Most of what is written is not worth reading, and so the amount of material that needs to be read is quite small. But Sean Fitzpatrick’s essay on “Boys, Porn and Education” is truly a must-read article.

Carl Trueman recently dubbed pornography the “single biggest pastoral problem in the church.” If you doubt that, it’s likely because you don’t know enough about the people in your church. Pornography’s insidiousness lies in its low profile. There’s no breathalyzer for porn, nor do people show up to Sunday morning service wearing obvious scars from it. Pastorally, it’s almost impossible to confront porn addiction unless the addict initiates the process, something that never happens for scores of oppressed souls.

That’s why the stakes are so high when men are still boys. And it’s why Fitzpatrick’s piece on porn’s disruptive effect on intellectual and emotional development is crucial.

Some excerpts:

As a lie, pornography is inimical to the truth and therefore an enemy of authentic education. The reason pornography hinders a boy’s ability to accept and enjoy education is because pornography creates a barrier to wonder by numbing the sense of wonder. Without wonder, education is a crippled thing at best. Socrates taught that wonder is the beginning of wisdom, the very occasion of education, and pornography wounds the ability to wonder through the voyeuristic, shameless stripping of one of the most sacred sources of wonder. It creates desensitization to beauty, robbing boys of their innocence through the elimination of the mysteries of the heart, severely impairing their ability to be awed or find pleasure in the beautiful. Jaded spirits are not very susceptible to formation. Cynicism quickly develops as a defense. Boys are finally lost to apathy in a world that fails to titillate. The fantasy, or blasphemy, of reality results in a loss of desire for reality, which is the foundation of any education. This latter principle of teaching through exposure to reality is a particularly powerful tool in educating young men, as boys tend to be highly sensory and active, and the experience of the world and its mysteries is an arena for wonder. Pornography eradicates mystery, and without mystery, boys will lose their ability to wonder, and in a large part, their ability to become wise—which is the work of education…

Through exposure to the anti-masculine paradigm and anti-feminine propaganda that is the chief poison of pornography, chimera and culpability are softening our boys. As my old headmaster said, “You can’t sculpt Jello.” Boys have always struggled with motivation and attention, and pornography is a propagator of these problems by coaxing boys into a hazy dream world where they, and only they, are in charge. School calls boys out of themselves. Porn drags them within—and after time employs chains to keep them there, locked in within themselves and locked out from the world they are called to know as men of strength and sensitivity.

Read the entire essay at Crisis Magazine.

One of the commenters did bring up a good question, and that is: Given this article’s wisdom about the preemptive danger of porn, how should we go about educating boys who have been exposed and even addicted to it?

I think the best answer to that is simply: Reach out to those addicted with the forgiveness and resurrection of the Gospel, and then teach as “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” One of the mistakes that can be made in teaching and reaching out to those hooked on porn is to let the addiction control the vocabulary. Everything can become about “beating porn” and “experiencing healing.” Those are helpful words to be sure, but sometimes we give the Devil more than his due. Porn isn’t the highest pleasure a body can have, it’s not the most fun a boy can experience, and therefore, it is not the lowest pit from which a boy must be delivered. Porn doesn’t define anyone, even if that person is in the throes of addiction. Tailoring education to those struggling makes the unintentional error of agreeing with the addiction that What Really Matters Here is pornography.

In my own experience with porn addiction, the two most helpful earthly realities that God used for deliverance and healing were confession and fellowship. While I was in the midst of addiction, my world had collapsed to the size of a bedroom. There’s a reason that adult bookstores lack windows, and it’s the same reason why, as Fitzpatrick notes, pornography pulls boys inward. Deliverance from pornography entails a widening of the soul’s eyes to see the blue sky, the green grass, and the human faces that make up the world in which God has placed his image-bearing people.


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