National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Web of Pornography Spreads in the Land

BY Jim Cosgrove

April 12-18, 1998 Issue | Posted 4/12/98 at 1:00 AM

 

It was a long way from her Christian upbringing in suburban Chicago to topless dancing, but Maggie couldn't seem to avoid it. Her father, a police officer, had an addiction to pornography and began molesting Maggie when she was nine years old. The abuse continued for years, despite family counseling. Maggie's mother was aware of the molestation, but feared the loss of income if her husband went to jail.

"I had pretty much no say,” Maggie recalled recently. “I didn't feel like my body belonged to me.’

Ultimately, she went to live with her grandparents. Maggie's parents helped pay for her college studies following the move, but her emotional problems continued after the abuse ended.

"I couldn't stand to be touched,” Maggie explained. “I really felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown.’

She returned home when she failed out of school. Soon after, her father resumed his sexual advances.

"I knew I could tell him no,” she said, but that would mean leaving home. Maggie knew of no way to make a living.

She began stripping at a local club to support herself, and quickly learned that she could get almost anything she wanted through sex. In four years, Maggie “worked” in four different states, while progressively increasing her alcohol intake. During that time she also became pregnant and had an abortion. Though she had left behind a bad situation at home, Maggie realized she was on the same dead-end road.

"My life had no meaning,” she explained. “I just didn't care about anything or anybody.’

An acquaintance told her about Citizens for Community Values, a group that offers help to women who are caught in the sex industry. They provided medical aid for an abortion-related infection, paid Maggie's immediate bills, and helped her find a new job at a bank. Today she has a Christian boyfriend and offers to help other women in similar desperate situations.

"It's not glamorous,” Maggie remembered of the sex trade. “It's drugs; it's prostitution; it's degrading to men and women.’

Claudia Parlow, who staffs Citizens for Community Values in Memphis, Tenn., has seen the desperation and frustration of women in Maggie's situation.

"The girls have no place to go,” she said. “There is so much damage…. They don't even want to spend time by themselves.’

Parlow prepared a manual for the outreach group after interviewing 26 of the young women Citizens for Community Values had helped. Her research identified a clear pattern. “In almost every single case … they'd been molested in their childhood,” Parlow said.

Keith Fournier, president of the Washington-based Catholic Alliance, said, “The sex industry seeks to enslave women by stripping them of their human dignity and reducing them to a collection of body parts.’

‘The sex industry seeks to enslave women by stripping them of their human dignity and reducing them to a collection of body parts.’

Fournier, a permanent deacon and an attorney who also heads Deacons for Life and Family International, continued: “Pornography and strip clubs have been as addictive for some individuals as drugs, alcohol and gambling have been for others.’

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, pornography “offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others…. It is a grave offense” (2354).

U.S. News and World Report featured a 1997 cover story on the problem. The facts point up a disturbing trend:

l Strip clubs doubled from 1987 to ‘92. There are currently about 2,500 such businesses with yearly incomes ranging from $500,000 to $5 million.

l It is estimated that Americans spent from $750 million to $1 billion on telephone sex last year.

l Americans also spent approximately $8 billion on various forms of pornographic magazines, videos, live sex or peep shows, and soft-core cable TV sex (more than the total spent for regular box office movies and all recordings.)

Enough is Enough may be contacted by phoning 703-278-8343, or visit its web site at http://www.enough.org

l More than 75% of convicted child molesters admit to the use of pornography.

l Incest is the subject of one of the most popular video series in America.

l Twenty-nine percent of forcible rapes are against children under the age of 11.

"We live in a sex-saturated society. It's more than just addiction,” said Gene McConnell, vice president for the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families. “Pornography isn't an $8 billion a year business without some dedicated customers,” he added.

McConnell knows first hand about the problem. He suffered a series of molestations from age six through 12. Later, he became “dependent” upon pornographic magazines.

"Girlfriends,” he recalled, “reacted with fear and disgust to my pornography-inspired advances.’

His experiences at a Christian camp helped him become committed to religious values and suppress the porn habit. He enrolled in college, was married, and started a roofing business. Family stress and money problems, however, took him back to adult book stores.

"I would hide money from my wife to spend on pornography,” he explained. “Finally I was forced into bankruptcy.’

He moved his family to California for a fresh start, but the addiction worsened. His interest increased for sadistic pornography, and he began to frequent massage parlors and pay for prostitutes.

His passion gave way to “thoughts of raping a woman,” and he nearly acted on the impulse. Though he regained his senses before fully attacking a woman, the woman reported him to the police and he was arrested. He spent time in jail, but refused to blame himself for his addiction.

The turning point came after his release, when he “suddenly saw my situation as God saw it,” McConnell recalled. God helped him face the truth. The problem was his own. There was no one else to blame.

He has since developed a 12-step sex-aholic group at his church and helps others who find themselves trapped in sexual addiction.

"Pornography has a profound impact on a person,” McConnell said. “Ask a serial rapist or other sexual criminal what could be done to stop them from committing more crimes. Many of them will tell you to take away their pornography.’

Enough is Enough may be contacted by phoning 703-278-8343, or visit its web site at http://www.enough.org

The National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families may be reached at 513-521-6227, or via the Internet at http://www.nationalcoalition.org

Citizens for Community Values may be contacted at 513-733-5775. Its web site is at http://www.ccv.org

Clay Renick writes from Martinez, Georgia.