I am part of the ranks that is horrified that Brock Turner, a swimmer on scholarship at Stanford, received only a six-month sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster on campus. The response of his parents to minimize his actions and portray him as a victim has ignited outrage.
The real victim's powerful letter that she read in court went viral and has cleared our cultural vision of how damaging sexual assault is. Turner blamed drinking and promiscuity among the party crowd, but his victim pointed out that partying was not what destroyed Turner’s dreams. Sexual assault was.
The Whole Picture
In the midst of this moral momentum is the invitation for people to open their eyes a little wider to see that the Brock Turner case didn’t happen in a vacuum. Our culture helped to shape his world. Under the persona of a law abiding, kind, model son and student, there lurked an unconscionable sexual predator seeking to satisfy his own lusts by using a woman he did not know and still shows no concern for. Just like porn.
Peter C. Kleponis, Ph.D., a marriage & family therapist certified in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Sexual Addiction, and the author of Integrity Starts Here! A Catholic Approach to Restoring Sexual Integrity, said in an interview with the Register: “What made Brock believe it was okay to sexually exploit and rape a young woman at a party?” He pointed out that Turner was alleged to have taken pictures of the victim’s breasts and emailed them to friends. According to Kleponis, our culture of pornography has promoted behavior like that.
Pornography Encourages Abuse of Women
The Sexual Utilitarian Philosophy is a big part of pornography, according to Kleponis. “It is the belief that it is okay to use others for one’s sexual pleasure,” he said. “In pornography there is no love, respect, or intimacy. It’s nothing more than people using each other.’ He explained that this belief has become very common among young people. “Many are developing relationships simply for the purpose of having sex,” he said. They’re called ‘friends with benefits.’”
Sex is seen as nothing more than a recreational activity. “Pornography promotes this belief because it is all about using people,” Kleponis said. Scenes in pornographic videos usually depict one or more men using a woman sexually and all are having a good time. This can easily lead a person to believe that this is what sex is supposed to be.”
The second damaging belief promoted by pornography is the Rape Myth, Kleponis said. Men feel justified sexually assaulting/raping women believing that women fantasize about being dominated and actually enjoy being exploited. “Men come to believe this because this is what they see in pornography,” he said. “The fact is that no healthy woman ever fantasizes about being raped. However, this is what men come to believe women want.”
In the Brock Turner case, Kleponis said seeing a woman inebriated may have appeared to Turner as an easy opportunity for sex. “Because of the Sexual Utilitarian Philosophy, he may have believed it was okay to use her regardless of the state she was in,” he said. “That may also account for the photos he allegedly took and shared with friends.”
The Rape Myth, Kleponis said, may have led Turner to believe she would enjoy being used sexually without consent. “These beliefs may have also influenced his family’s response, especially his father [who stated to the judge that 20 minutes of action did not justify prison time],” Kleponis said. “Even if it was only 20 minutes, any form of sexual abuse is traumatizing to the victim and can change their life forever.”
Kleponis stated that the people disgusted by the Brock Turner case should be just as upset by the degradation of women in pornography because it all stems from the same lack of regard for women. “It is an industry that profits off the exploitation of women,” he said. “Most get into it because they believe they have no other choice. It’s either do porn or end up on the streets. Many have long histories of abuse. “
How Our Culture Fosters Sexual Predators
Kleponis said we should all be outraged by pornography because it contributes to women being sexually abused and even raped. Ultimately, pornography turns women into sex toys for men, Kleponis explained. “There is no love, respect, or intimacy in such relationships,” he said. “Pornography does not depict healthy sex or relationships. It’s all about men using women for their own selfish pleasure. “
In addition to educating people on the dangers of pornography, Kleponis said we must educate them on God’s plan for healthy sexuality and relationships. “Here is where St. John Paul’s Theology of the Body and Love and Responsibility documents are invaluable,” he said. “They provide a clear roadmap for a healthy and happy life. Men need to stand up and treat women as ladies, not sex toys. Women also need to ban together and demand that men stop exploiting them in pornography.” In this way, Kleponis said that the Turner case can help people recognize that the depravity of pornography that leads to thinking women can be used as mere objects to satisfy a man’s sexual desires.
For people trapped in the grips of an addiction to pornography, Kleponis encourages them to seek help. His book Integrity Starts Here! A Catholic Approach to Restoring Sexual Integrity can be used in union with therapy, or as a way for an individual to being healing.