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Dr. Patrick Fagan of the Family Research Council Explains Devastating Effects of Media Exposure and Pornography on Human and Family Relationships
Fagan presented his research findings during the ongoing John Henry Cardinal Newman Series sponsored by the Institute for Psychological Sciences.

Dr Fagan
Dr. Patrick Fagan, Senior Fellow and Director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Family and Religion.

If we want our young people to have successful marriages, it is important for them to learn to practice “continence” in the area of sexuality, according to Dr. Patrick Fagan, Senior Fellow and Director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Family and Religion.

According to Fagan, the current saturation of technology and media in our society has lead to a “highly sexualized” culture resulting in distorted perceptions of reality by young people, in turn increasing pre-marital sexual activity. Such activity can only undermine the success of marriages. 

Dr. Fagan is among several presenters in the 2nd annual John Henry Cardinal Newman Series sponsored by the Institute for Psychological Sciences.  The series, which began on Oct. 31, 2008, is titled “Virtual Reality: Its Distortion of Self and Others.”  Fagan’s presentation is titled “Virtual Intimacy and Pseudo Sexuality: The Effect of Pornography on the Self and Relationships within the Family.”

Young People Want Sexual Information from Parents

According to Fagan’s data, young people report a preference for getting their sexual information from adults, (i.e. parents) but more than ½ of those reporting said they learned about the details of sexuality from television.  Half of the young women reporting said they got their information from magazines.  Of the young people studied, a high percentage reported getting supplemental information from the Internet, and a good deal of those reported not wanting such information.  Of young people ages 15-17, depending on the study, somewhere between 30 to 90 percent stated they encountered pornography on the Internet accidentally.  About ¼ of those said this happens “somewhat or very often.”

Dr. Fagan reported that the data also shows that young men regularly exposed to pornography showed a positive attitude toward uncommitted sexual encounters.  And the younger the person is exposed, the greater the reported affect of pornography on that person.  In one study, those who watched the highest amount of sexual content on television greatly increased their reported sexual activity in the next year, and the likelihood they would initiate a sexual encounter doubled.

Fagan stated that the research results are disturbing because pornography exposure can disorient teens at a time when they are most vulnerable and most uncertain about their sexual beliefs and values.  Young people with higher media exposure to pornography reported a distorted view of the incidence of sexual activity in the populace, and an overestimation in the frequency of “sexual deviance” in the populace.  Among young men who viewed pornography, the data showed a greater tendency to view women as “sexual objects” and sex itself as a recreational activity.
Interestingly, studies showed a significant relationship between frequent use of pornography and reported feelings of loneliness by those exposed.

Pornography has Devastating Effect on Marriages

Data also showed that pornography has a devastating effect on the success of marriage when used within marriage.  Studies show that wives report high levels of distress with husbands who view pornography (as opposed to non-married couples) and that distress is reported at such a high level as to be considered “trauma.”  Not surprisingly, studies show pornography use leads to higher marital infidelity, and as the use of pornography increases, so does the likelihood of divorce, financial loss and even job loss, particularly for men.

The dysfunction in relationships that develops because of pornography use can affect the children of married couples.   Sons especially are affected since they often see their fathers’ pornography.  And, as Fagan’s data shows, this exposure at a young age can understandably distort a boy´s sexual development.

Fagan said the adult children of intact marriages (less likely when pornography is a problem) are themselves less likely to view pornography.  A parents’ intact marriage can have a greater effect than even religious involvement and worship activities in stemming use of pornography in children.

The Answer Involves Incorporating a Belief in the Spiritual

Fagan states the solution to our culture’s problems detailed in his report must include a spiritual component.

“In our present age of material abundance, the probabilities of addictions to food, drink, depersonalized sexuality, and drugs, and others real and yet undeveloped, indicate the need for man to be aware of his fused nature, biological and spiritual,” Fagan states.

“The first and grounding experiences of the spiritual for man are found not in fleeing from society but in being brought by others deeply into it, especially by parents in family life and the extended life of friends of the family,” he said.  “For the spiritual is found first and foremost in relationships.  It is right there that man’s spirituality is most frequently and most foundationally exercised. “

Fagan said mankind’s path to health and “wholeness” lies in the development of relationships. These relationships, well lived, put the material dimension into focus and in place and keep the probabilities of addictions at bay.

Children Want Us to Protect Them

“In a highly sexualized culture, with a longer pre-marriage period, our children need the capacity for continence if their marriages are to be stable,” Fagan said.  “It is not surprising that 93 percent of teenagers think that young people ought to receive a strong abstinence message. What a cry for protection!”

Fagan says young people are right to want such protection. “The data confirms that those who remain abstinent until marriage have greater confidence in their future success, and do go on to have more stability and success in their lives as measured by education, economics, and emotional stability,” he reported.  “Humans are the healthiest and happiest when they are monogamous, and that happiness is directly related to monogamy’s long-term stability and exclusivity.”

Fagan said it is important for our culture to use our technology appropriately, and to focus on time to enjoy actual (not virtual) contact with friends and family.

“This is the way to heaven, the preparation for it, and the anticipatory enjoyment of it on Earth,” he explained.



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