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What Porn Has Wrought

An important study on the devastating and far-reaching consequences of pornography was released recently by the Washington-based Family Research Council, under the title “The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Marriage, Family and Community.” The author, Patrick Fagan, is senior fellow and director for the Marriage and Religion Research Institute at FRC.

Pat and Theresa Fagan

Pat and Theresa Fagan Have 8 Grown Children

A Catholic husband and father of eight grown children, Fagan, 63, holds a doctorate in sociology from University College Dublin (Ireland). He spoke with Fathers for Good about his findings.

FFG: What does your study tell us about the prevalence of pornography use in our society?

Fagan: It is hard to know in exact numbers but it is very high, given that porn is the biggest sector of internet business, with 40% of internet users accessing pornography sites.

Men use it about four to five times as much as women. Teenagers use is least; men in their mid 30s to mid 40s use it most.

FFG: What is the main message in your study for men and fathers?

Fagan: Pornography undermines and may destroy a man’s capacity to enjoy intercourse with his wife. It subtly but powerfully changes a man’s view of women and causes him to develop a belief that “everyone is into” sexual liaisons with lots of others. In addition, pornography is a pathway to infidelity and divorce, and is frequently a major factor in these family disasters.

FFG: Talk about the effects on women and children.

Fagan: The biggest effect on women is the suffering they endure as wives of men who are addicted. Many not only become depressed but suffer great trauma. Both men and women see it as a serious form of infidelity. This is why men hide it and are ashamed to admit their addiction. It seems that porn may be the cause of or a major ingredient in about 60% of divorce cases.

Children suffer indirectly through the marital stress it causes. They can be traumatized and their sexual development warped or damaged if they come across their father’s engagement in pornography.

FFG: What practical steps can we take as men to protect against temptation?

Fagan: Flee from the first moment. Say a quick prayer, followed by a major distraction that engages your mind fully. Develop the habit of mortification, crowding out the “tares” by growing “wheat.” Seek spiritual direction and frequent confession.

For those addicted or developing the habit: join a group for sexual addicts. Any man tempted should set up a buddy system whereby his accessing pornography is immediately made known via email to his “buddy” (which could be his wife, pastor, best friend or doctor). is one program set up for that. There are others.

FFG: Is society helpless before the onslaught of porn or are there steps we all can take?

Fagan: We must insist with legislators that they protect us and our children. That is government’s first role. We could insist on a special internet that is porn free.

As parents we must monitor our children’s viewing and develop in them the habits of protecting themselves against it. Monitoring their viewing is key (see the research on this). Close family life and lots of talk and confidence from children in their parents are the great protectors. All that comes from basic good marriage and family work.

The full text of “The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Marriage, Family and Community” is available on the Family Research Council website.