Welcome to Family Policy Matters, an engaging and informative weekly radio show and podcast produced by the North Carolina Family Policy Council. Hi, this is John Rustin, President of NC Family, and we're grateful to have you with us for this week's program.
It's our prayer that you will be informed, encouraged, and inspired by what you hear on Family Policy Matters, and that you will feel better equipped to be a voice of persuasion for family values in your community, state, and nation. Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. Our guest today is Matt Fradd. Today, Matt joins us to discuss his newest book, The Porn Myth, which provides a non-religious response to the commonly held belief that pornography is harmless, or even potentially beneficial to society.
And as is customary with topics of this sort, we will certainly endeavor to keep our conversation G-rated, but I do want to let parents know that portions of today's program may not be suitable for younger listeners. And with that, Matt Fradd, I want to welcome you to Family Policy Matters. It's great to have you on the show. Great to be here.
Thanks for having me. Well, thank you, Matt. Now, Matt, you argue, I know, that a few things in our society are more concerning than pornography. With all that's going on in our culture and in the world around us, help our listeners understand why you place this issue of pornography at such a high level of concern for us.
Right. Well, ever since the advent of the internet, pornography has become accessible, affordable, and anonymous in a way that it has never been before. Because of that, porn use has skyrocketed, and certainly since the advent of tube sites in about 2006, many people are beginning to speak out about the deleterious effect that pornography is having in their lives.
Not just religious people, but atheists, agnostics, and people of all different walks of life. What we used to think was that in order for a substance to be addictive, it had to be something external to the body that you put into the body, like nicotine or heroin or whatever. But since neuroscientists started looking in the brain, it's kind of changed how we think of addiction, right?
So that it's not necessarily about the substance and how it's brought into the body. It's really about the sort of mechanisms it triggers in the brain. So as I sit here today doing this interview, there are currently 33 neuroscience-based studies on porn users. And every single one of them supports the addiction model, right? It tests to the fact that there are these sort of addictive traits taking place in the brain, which leads to a whole constellation of problematic things. Now, Matt, what is the number one myth about pornography that you encounter?
And how do you refute that myth as you're talking to people and communicating about it? Well, I think today in our culture, we've really canonized choice, haven't we? It's like choice is more important than what's right, what's good, what's noble. And so people will often say, well, people have a right to do whatever they want.
And I usually respond by saying, well, people can, of course, do whatever they want. But it's prudent before engaging in an action that may have deleterious effects that one takes stock of the possible negative consequences that might be brought about through that, through engaging in that behavior. And so I really try and educate people and show them that consuming pornography can lead to less satisfying sexual life. It can lead to things like sexual dysfunction. It can lead to sexual aggressiveness.
And it can even lead to shrinkage in different parts of the brain, as 2014 study showed. So these are the sorts of things I wish somebody had told me back when I was 17 and 18 and engaging in this sort of material. I just thought, like everyone else thought, that this was harmless entertainment and that if you were against porn, you were somehow anti-sex. Now, I know you talk about a movement called Fight the New Drug, and you've already spoken about this a little bit. But I know that you and some others are beginning to refer to pornography more as a drug because of the, as you've already discussed, some of the traits there. Are there more aspects of pornography that relate it to a drug addiction like alcohol, illegal drugs and things of that nature?
Right. Well, certainly pornography isn't a drug in the sense that, you know, no one's injecting it, no one's inhaling it, that sort of thing. But what pornography consumption does is elicit powerful neurotransmitters in the brain, which the brain can become addicted to. And so very few drugs are addictive, right? In order for a drug to be addictive, what it must do is something very specific. It must boost a neurotransmitter called dopamine in the reward center of the brain.
So what drugs do, they don't create anything new in the brain, rather they amplify or decrease existing mechanisms in the brain. So all mammals have a reward system in the brain. It's that thing that gives us a craving to engage in behaviors that are either life promoting or life enhancing.
That's why, you know, we get that big feeling of, I got to have that hamburger or I got to work out today. So what pornography does is it boosts that dopamine in the reward center of the brain and a down regulation takes place. So the reward center begins to numb itself because of the overstimulation. Dopamine literally begins to atrophy and the person is quite honestly in a state of dopamine craving.
So in order to boost the levels of dopamine up, you know, just to feel normal, this is why people looking at pornography find that they have to view more pornography and very often more deviant or harder forms of pornography just to get the same high. Interesting. And that's what these scientific studies are showing more and more evidence of, correct? Right.
Yeah, absolutely. There's three main characteristics of addiction. Those would be sensitization, which is the sort of Pavlovian theory where one is easily triggered. There's sensitization, which means one grows accustomed to the sorts of things one is participating in and they no longer do it for them anymore.
So tolerance builds up and then there's what's called hypofrontality where the reward center of the brain and the prefrontal cortex, that managerial center of the brain, aren't communicating as well as they ought. So we're seeing the same signs of addiction in pornography use as we do in other addictions. That's very interesting. Now, Matt, you do spend several chapters of your book, The Porn Myth, exploring the relationship between pornography and feminism and I found this to be quite interesting. It's not unusual to hear one group saying that pornography is empowering for women while another group at the same time would argue that it is demeaning and degrading toward women. Help us sort through that a little bit.
Yeah, I think whenever we try to engage with someone who we disagree with, it's always important, I think, that we do our best to try and understand them. And so what might the feminist be saying when they try to say pornography can be liberating? I think what they might mean is, you know, this old Victorian idea that men enjoy sex while women endure it isn't true.
And perhaps, you know, in their estimation, sometimes that's the way we have looked at sex. And so some women would like to say, no, I can take charge of my sexuality. This can be a liberating thing for me to do. If I find it liberating, then it's liberating. But so the first thing to say is no one's saying we want to go back to this sort of Victorian puritanical era where the sight of a woman's ankle could cause scandal.
That seems to me to be clearly unhealthy. But that doesn't mean that pornography is therefore liberating to women. Well, Matt, we often hear, in addition, about the moral concerns about pornography and how it degrades women and objectifies human sexuality.
But what are some of the non-religious arguments for choosing real love over porn, as you discuss in your book, The Porn Myth? Right. So I'm going to say something that sounds like it's out of the middle of a Hallmark card. Because of that, it might be tempting for us to dismiss it.
Here we go. I think we've been made by love, to love and for love. And as a Christian, I think that's theologically accurate that we have love as our origin, love as our vocation and love as our destiny. And therefore, if we don't get love right, we won't get life right. The more we participate in activities and behaviors that are contrary to love, the more senseless our life will become. So what is love?
Well, Aquinas would say love is willing the good of the other for the sake of the other. But it seems with pornography consumption, at least, something contrary to love as at play, it seems to be merely a matter of use, in which I'm not interested in the interior life of this particular performer, her hopes and dreams, aspirations and so forth. She's very replaceable. She's just a collection of body parts.
And therefore, I use her for a noble end. And so for that reason, I think no porn use can ever be justified. Certainly, if one uses pornography compulsively, it'll have more of a deleterious effect on them.
But even moderate consumption leads to negative effects as well. And so if we want to have a beautiful life, if we want to have a beautiful sex life, then we should quit porn. I really think, and I'm not trying to be hyperbolic here, if one is for science and pro-love, then those are two very good reasons one ought to seriously consider being anti-porn. Well, Matt, your book, The Porn Myth, concludes with a message of hope, very similar to what you're speaking about. Hope for protecting our children, hope for healing damaged relationships, and hope for breaking addiction for those who may be addicted to this activity. What message of hope would you like to leave our listeners with as we conclude our conversation today?
Yeah. Well, let me say three things. One to the consumer, one to the spouse of the consumer, and then one to the parent. To the consumer, maybe you're a man, maybe you're a woman who consumes pornography. I just want to say you aren't your sin. You're not the bad things you've done. You're not the things you might be addicted to, that you are a beloved son and daughter of God.
And God is certainly not scandalized by your behavior. He loves you and he knows what you're seeking, right? And what you're seeking isn't to, you know, hurt people or to reduce them to body parts. You're looking for relief. You're looking for stimulation and excitement and joy and so forth.
And they aren't to be found in pornography. And so just as a brother, I would say trust in the mercy of God. And then have the strength to consider the possibility that you might be being called to go to, say, therapy or a 12-step group to get this issue under control. To the spouses of the porn users, I would say don't undermine or downplay rather the trauma that your spouse's pornography use has taken on you. This is something therapists are calling betrayal trauma.
And so to recognize that you've undergone a lot and you need healing just as much as your spouse needs healing as well. Thirdly, to the parents, I would say listen to me. If you're going to buy your child an electronic device and almost all electronic devices with screens access the Internet, you must monitor that device.
If you're not willing to monitor it, don't buy it. Because I think you and I as parents will be held accountable on Judgment Day for what how we have raised our children. If we must put good filtering and accountability on all of our devices or else what we're doing is giving our children essentially portable X-rated movie theaters. And it's really not their fault when they end up becoming addicted to this stuff. And so just a word of encouragement to parents, you know, give your kids an internal filter for the unfiltered world in which they live and love them. And don't get angry with them because if you do that, they're never going to come back to you again and maybe share that they're struggling with this sort of stuff.
Well, Matt, thank you for those words of encouragement, how important those are. Now, where can our listeners go before we end to find your book, The Porn Myth, and to learn more about the science and resources available to those who are struggling with this in their own lives or who may be the spouses, parents or children of those who are struggling? Yeah, so I'd say people can go to Amazon. I should also let people know that I don't make a cent from any book purchase people might make. We've decided that all the royalties will go to a group in San Diego that helps support sexually trafficked women. So in buying the book, you'll not only educate yourself, you'll be supporting that wonderful apostolate called Children of the Immaculate Heart. As far as for more research, I'd say go to our website, IntegrityRestore.com. Subscribe to our podcast and then you'll learn a lot more.
Very good. Well, I certainly want to encourage our listeners to avail themselves of these great resources, the book, The Porn Myth. Matt Fradd, with that, I want to thank you so much for joining us on Family Policy Matters and for your great work to restore integrity and real love in our world.
You've been listening to Family Policy Matters. We hope you enjoyed the program and plan to tune in again next week. To listen to this show online and to learn more about NC Family's work to inform, encourage and inspire families across North Carolina, go to our website at ncfamily.org. That's ncfamily.org. Thanks again for listening and may God bless you and your family.
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