Whether parents, speakers, or community leaders are willing to accept it or not, pornography has become an alarming problem in our homes and communities. With the rise in technology and a society which emphasizes instant gratification without consequences, this vile disease pervades many, if not most, Muslim households today. Instead of brushing the problem under the rug, it is our obligation to analyze and understand its reality as well as the kind of spiritual, psychological, and social damage it inflicts upon its users.
The Pornography Industry
Understanding the broad scope of the pornography industry is the first step in protecting the fabric of our society. The adult film industry is composed of millions of members worldwide with billions of dollars in funding. Lobby groups work in Washington, DC, with the government to help promote the industry. What many Americans fail to realize is that the pornography industry has a greater effect on the economy than the Hollywood industry. From a revenue standpoint, the pornography industry brings in roughly three billion dollars more yearly than the Hollywood film industry!
Pornography has become such a profitable business that mainstream cable companies have used it as a source for additional profit. A report from CBS' show 60 Minutes documented the amount of profit pornography is bringing in for cables companies. In 2002, Comcast made nearly 50 million dollars off of pornography sales. That 50 million dollars brought in by Comcast doesn't pale in comparison to what DirecTV is rumored to have brought in, which some suggest is around 500 million dollars. In addition to cable companies, hotel chains have profited immensely from offering pornographic films. Pornographic films are purchased by nearly fifty percent of hotel guests, and account for almost seventy percent of in-room profits.
The advent of the Internet has allowed pornography viewership to skyrocket. There are now a whopping 420 million web pages of pornography on the Internet. With pornography being readily available, maxed out credit cards have made it more difficult for users to quit.
By the Numbers...
$3,075.64 – The amount of money spent on pornographic films every second
28,258 – The number of Internet users viewing pornography every second
39 Minutes – How often a pornographic film is created within the United States
2.5 Billion – Number of pornographic emails sent per day
$ 97.06 Billion – Global revenue for pornography, more than Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Apple, and Netflix combined
800 Million – Number of pornographic films rented annually
Effects of Pornography
In November of 2004, a Senate subcommittee hearing took place in which a panel of experts testified about the ill affects of pornography. Experts likened pornography to cocaine because of the similarities in effects both have on the brain. It is proven to damage human relationships and lead to abusive behavior towards one's partner because of its demeaning depiction of women.
Addictiveness of Pornography
Supporters of the pornography industry claim pornography addiction to be a myth and deem it as abuse instead. They fail to recognize the greater psychological effects pornography has on the user than street drugs. For example, one of the most dangerous street drugs is cocaine. Eventually the user overcomes the addiction, and the effects of cocaine are completely ousted out of the user's body. Where pornography differs is that once the user becomes addicted and eventually overcomes the addiction, the pornographic images stay within the brain for the rest of the user's life. This is why many Psychologists believe pornography is the most concerning thing to Psychological health today.
The effect pornography has on the brain is very similar to that of street drugs. The same neurotransmitters released during drug use are released when a user views pornographic images. Neurotransmitter like dopamine, which is responsible for providing the brain with sensations of enjoyment, is released to the same extent when cocaine is used. Others including serotonin, which causes a relaxed feeling, and norepinephrine, which causes the user to remember the prior stimulations, are also released when pornography is viewed.
As with drugs, pornography viewers develop tolerance with pornographic images. Users of pornography usually start watching "soft core" pornography and over time this type of pornography doesn't provide the user with the same sensations. The user switches to more demeaning and extreme forms of pornography and possibly ends up viewing child pornography or even videos depicting homosexuality or bestiality to get the right "fix".
Increase in Sexual Activity
Of all the affects pornography has on the user, this is the most prominent. Studies have proven that when children view pornography at a young age, they are very likely to engage in sexual activities at a younger age. Partaking in sexual activities at younger ages has directly correlated with a host of other issues. Teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases have drastically increased. To add, teens have copied dangerous sexual activities from adult films, and this has led to serious health issues such as throat, tongue, and mouth cancer.
Damaging of Relationships
A recent study composed of 350 divorce lawyers showed that two-thirds of the lawyers surveyed felt that the Internet pornography had a significant role in divorces. As men begin to view pornography, they begin to develop the unrealistic mindset that their wives must have the perfect physical appearance and be willing to satisfy their most depraved fantasies. As a result of extensive pornography viewing, men become disinterested in their spouses, and as a result damage their relationship and leaving their household fragmented. Some females try to keep pace with the absurd physical expectations of their husbands and eventually develop insecurity towards their physical appearance and risk performing demeaning and dangerous sexual acts, further harming their relationship.
Increase in Violent Behavior towards Women
Over time a viewer begins to develop tolerance to the same stimuli and eventually will turn to more demeaning forms of pornography. More specifically, "hardcore pornography" is said to have the most adverse effect on the user, because the user has a tendency to act out what they see in these films. Since it may be inappropriate to get into details of this type of pornography, the user after watching this type of pornography is more likely to engage in sexual violence geared towards women. One statistic showed that viewers of hardcore pornography were six times more likely to rape an individual. An extreme example was of serial killer Ted Bundy, who killed tens of women in the 1980s. Bundy was given the death penalty in 1989. Many believed that Bundy's admitted addiction to pornography had a serious role in his killings of women.
Advice for Brothers
If viewing of pornography is beginning to spiral out of control, then it is necessary to seek professional help. Practical steps to potentially overcoming pornography usage are discussed below.
First and foremost, one has to have a positive outlook, and understand that overcoming a habit of this nature takes time.
Keep yourself occupied with other activities, such as playing sports or reading a book. Staying occupied and avoiding spare time lessens the chance of negative thoughts entering one's mind.
Surround yourself with the right crowd of individuals, because being around the right group of people, including family and friends, is a support network within itself.
Discuss your issue with a trusted friend who is also able to monitor your actions.
Place Islamic reminders such as printed Qur'anic verses or Hadiths in rooms where pornographic videos are viewed, just to remind you of the consequences of viewing such videos.
Fasting extra days is something highly recommended by all scholars. Fasting has a tendency to curb individual's sexual urges.
Perform Salat at its prime time, and regularly perform Salat al-Layl (Night Prayer).
At the start of the morning, recite Ayat Al-Kursi five times.
Developing Taqwa is of the utmost importance. Taqwa maintains the individual's ability to be aware of one's actions and refrain from sinful behavior.
Advice for Parents
It is imperative that parents establish a pragmatic Islamic atmosphere within the house. The dangers of society are not a reason to completely alienate our children. Parents should always be vigilant of their children's actions as well as their surroundings. Parents must maintain a strong line of communication with their children.
Since the largest group of Internet pornography users are of the ages between 12-17, it is important to have a talk discussing the dangers of pornography. Openly and candidly discuss the spiritual and psychological damage that pornography causes with your children.
Place computers in areas in which they are clearly visible within the house. Don't allow Internet browsers that have private browsing modes, such as Safari. These modes allow the user to browse the web without the history ever being logged.
Install website filters on computers that block out inappropriate websites.
Take advantage of cable companies' parent-control settings that allow parents to block programs based on their ratings.
The effects of viewing pornographic films don't differ from the typical street drug, and many psychologists deem pornography to be the most dangerous thing to psychological health today. It's time we took the initiative to educate ourselves, our families, and society about the countless ills of pornography.