How would you react if someone told you that 15% of boys and 9% of girls in Canada had seen child pornography? 32% of boys and 18% of girls had seen online bestiality? 39% of boys and 23% of girls had seen sexual bondage?
This is no dystopian fiction. ARPA delegates heard these alarming statistics in a somber but passionate presentation on Prostitution and Pornography on Tuesday morning. Daniel Gilman, a social justice activist, pastor, and speaker with Strength to Fight, outlined how porn has infiltrated the hearts and minds of Canadians and and left extensive damage in its wake.
Gilman began with a chilling true story of how a university student, needing money, agreed to be featured in an adult magazine. Instead of the simple photo-shoot she agreed to, she was drugged and raped on camera, and the pornographic footage was used as blackmail to keep her silent. Years later, finally free from her abusers, a young man told her how much he enjoyed watching her porn shoots, specifically remembering that first, on-camera rape.
This is what porn looks like. It’s not a horrific exception; it’s the horrific norm. How do we know this? Gilman related that 88% of porn contains physical violence, and 49% includes verbal aggression. The question arises: doesn’t this violence take place in consensual, professional relationships? The answer is a resounding no, according to Gilman; based on the earlier testimony, and others, much of mainstream pornography is really the commercialization of human trafficking and sexual abuse.
Porn doesn’t just damage the actors; it also rewires the observer’s brain. Peer-reviewed, scientific research shows that consumers of violent porn have a higher tolerance for real-life, sexualized violence. Not only that, but porn itself is extremely desensitizing; consumers of non-violent porn have a higher tolerance for violence than people that regularly enjoy viewing non-sexualized violence! As troubling as this is, there are concrete steps we can take!
Newly-elected MP Arnold Viersen wants to establish concrete evidence of the harms of violent porn. His motion M-47 seeks to direct the health committee to study the health effects of depictions of violent and degrading sexually explicit material; he sees it as a both an issue of public health and of women’s equality. Gilman encouraged ARPA delegates to support M-47 by sending petitions to their MPs, writing letters, and most importantly by meeting with them in person. He equipped them with one particularly compelling point to raise with their representatives, urging delegates to communicate that “online sexual violence is not depictions of violence; it is violence”. (emphasis added)
Gilman finished his presentation with a powerful reminder that anti-porn advocates themselves must be free from porn use themselves if they are to be effective. He encouraged the audience to confess their failures, to cut off any access to porn, and to find someone who will hold them accountable. Christians need to renew their minds and combat the selfishness of porn with acts of love and service.
Gilman had begun his presentation calling pornography the “Siren” of our time, referring to the Greek legend of Jason and the Argonauts. The Sirens, who lulled sailors to their death with unbelievably beautiful singing, had seemed impossible to resist, just as porn can seem like an impossibly difficult problem. In the end, though, Jason and the Argonauts survived by bringing Orpheus, an incredibly skilled harpist, to fill the sailor’s ears with a more beautiful music than the Sirens. Gilman reminded the audience that for all those struggling with porn, the hope of the Gospel is the superior song, and the ultimate source of victory.
You can watch Daniel’s presentation here.