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Protesting porn in public

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Christian Concern's Communications Officer, Camilla Olim, comments on the issue of pornography being watched in public, after BBC journalist Siobhann Tighe published an article about her own experience.

She says the fact that "individuals would risk the shame attached to watching porn because they cannot wait to get their 'fix' in private is a warning sign, flashing neon, about the severity of this problem."
 

Watching pornography is no longer confined to the home, it turns out. Last week, an article appeared on the BBC website about a female journalist who encountered a man watching pornography on the bus. The journalist, Siobhann Tighe, said that although she did not confront the man beside her, the experience left a lasting impression and raised many questions:

"As a journalist, I also looked at it from his point of view, even though he made me feel uncomfortable. I asked myself: is he within his rights to look at porn on his private device wherever he is? Do civil liberties in our society grant him that freedom?"

Later that week, others wrote in to share their own stories of encountering fellow passengers watching porn on their phones or laptops. Clearly, the journalist's willingness to talk about what she saw opened up opportunity for discussion, about something that others may have otherwise remained silent about.

When we understand that pornography for many is an addiction like any other mood-affecting drug, it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that there are growing incidences of people watching it in public. But it is disturbing that our society has become so infected with pornography that it can no longer be contained behind closed doors.

That individuals would risk the shame attached to watching porn because they cannot wait to get their 'fix' in private is a warning sign, flashing neon, about the severity of this problem.

Siobhann Tighe's story sparked a fierce debate about whether it is 'OK' to watch porn in public. Some argued that this is sexual harassment; for others, the greatest concern was that children are being exposed to this content. But a comment from a woman known as 'Annie G' was particularly interesting:

"I'm not anti-men, anti-sex or anti-porn. Yet whenever I've raised this issue in the past, there's always someone ready to call me out for being a prude. I'm not. I just don't think porn has a place on public transport, or in any areas frequented by the general public."

Whatever there is to disagree with about Annie's stance, she did recognise something vital here: sex is designed to be a private act, so when it is brought into the open, it brings shame. But Annie is deeply deceived if she believes that porn is OK as long as it remains in the dark.

Siobhann Tighe, after arguing to herself that maybe the man on the bus has legal freedom to watch whatever he likes, admitted: "But in my heart, I was offended."

As a society, we know deep down that pornography is wrong. But we cannot bring ourselves to say so, which is why the arguments against porn on public transport lack strength and conviction.

There are, of course, arguments that banning pornography altogether would amount to censorship of civil liberties. But perhaps the true reason that we won't explicitly condemn pornography is that we don't want to address our personal sin.

So we try to create moral boxes for porn, by saying that porn is OK in private but not OK in public, OK for adults but not OK for children, OK to indulge in now and then but not OK if it becomes an addiction.

Drawing these blurred lines has resulted in mass confusion. Porn users say it is OK to indulge in from time to time, but their partners wouldn't necessarily agree. We all seem to agree that porn should be kept away from children, yet pre-pubescent teenagers all over the country are getting caught up in a 'sexting' epidemic and we are not responding adequately to that.

So we need to confront the inconvenient reality: It doesn't matter if you are watching porn in your bedroom or on the bus. It is harmful.

It is harmful to the viewer – it rewires the brain, making it very difficult for individuals to see others as a whole person rather than a means of sexual gratification. Studies show that frequency of porn use correlates with depression, anxiety, stress, and social problems.

It is harmful to the people who are close to the viewer. Porn addictions destroy marriages and relationships. As well as the feelings of betrayal and inadequacy experienced by the spouses of porn addicts, and the breakdown of intimacy between partners, pornography has also been shown to increase marital infidelity by over 300%. And who are caught in the crossfire when marriages disintegrate because of porn? Children.

Porn is harmful to the participants in porn films. Abuse on set is common, including women being drugged, beaten and raped. Porn fuels child exploitation and it fuels the demand for human trafficking. An action that seems completely private is indirectly sustaining modern slavery.

Private actions have public consequences.

John 3:19-20 says this: "And this is the verdict: The Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness more than light, because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come into the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed."

But pornography is being exposed, and we should not be surprised. Jesus said in Luke 12:2: "There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known."

As horrifying as it is to realise that people are now watching pornography in public, it is also easier to confront when it is in the open. We should hope and pray that these incidents will force us to face pornography for the destructive evil that it is.
 

Get help

If you are struggling with pornography, The Naked Truth project provides recovery programs and other tools to help you overcome porn addiction. It also provides advice for parents in talking to young people about porn and measures that can be used to offer protection. 


Related links:
Is it OK to watch porn in public? (BBC) 
Planes, trains and McDonald's: Your stories of porn in public (BBC) 
How porn affects the brain like a drug (Fight The New Drug) 
The porn industry's dark secrets (Fight The New Drug) 
Harm of pornography exposed in BBC documentary 
 

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