Click below to hear the Catholics and Pornography Episode from the USCCB Made for Love podcast featuring DJ Hueneman.
A Template to Talk to your Child about the Harms of Pornography:
THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNION:
"Man is a relational being. And if his first, fundamental relationship is disturbed - his relationship with God - then nothing else can be truly in order." -Pope Benedict XVI 
Before joining a street gang, prospective members must undergo an extreme initiation ritual. Some rituals include being dowsed in urine and feces, being savagely beaten by fellow gang members, or even being forced to drink human blood.
Why would someone put themselves through such a dangerous and humiliating ordeal? Because human beings are hard-wired for intimacy, and when the relational requirement isn’t met, a suffering person will go to extremes to get it. Some people join gangs, some people visit prostitutes, and some view pornography.
Pornography offers intensity, not intimacy. To get real intimacy you have to flip yourself inside out and share your feelings with someone. How many times have you hidden your feelings from a loved one? Interestingly enough, some of the most intimate moments in my life involved conversations with friends and family. Satisfying intimacy doesn't require sexual intercourse.
Intimacy is about sharing the most vulnerable areas of your heart. Pornography only touches the shallowest part of the person…the flesh. It offers an illusion of intimacy because the naked participants appear vulnerable, but in reality, their ability to be vulnerable has retreated into their vaulted hearts.
Porn, coupled with masturbation, doesn't satisfy the need for intimacy any more than chewing plastic while watching the cooking channel satisfies hunger. Porn points to our loneliness and intensifies the desire for intimacy.
If you are really looking for satisfaction, you should pursue a loving relationship with Jesus. He is the one who truly satisfies our longing. He was pretty clear when He said:
“Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)
After someone falls to the sin of pornography the curtain is lifted, and they realize they have been duped and their search for intimacy was in vain. So stop searching for the infinite love of God in the temporary pleasure of pornography.
 Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, trans. Philip J. Whitmore 44
Breaking free from habitual porn use can seem like a lofty task. The path to sobriety requires a plan. Watch as Father Sean Kilcawley of Integrity Restored explains the 3 circle sobriety plan:
Get more information on Father Sean's work by visiting IntegrityRestored.com
Worried about your child deleting their Internet history before you see it? Here's a quick tutorial to disable the feature that allows them to delete Internet history on Apple IOS devices like iPad, iPod, and iPhone.
Step 1: Click on the "Settings" app.
Step 2: Click on the "General" tab.Step 2: Click on the "General" tab.Step 2: Click on the "General" tab.
Step 3: Click on the "Restrictions" tab.
Step 4: Set your 4-digit restrictions passcode.
You can now turn-off your child's access to specific applications. If you turn an application off it will no longer be visible on their phone. You can always turn applications back on.
You can also turn off their ability to download and delete applications.
You can control which websites they are allowed to access by clicking the "Websites" tab.
You can choose to allow all websites or you can limit access to specific websites.
Website restrictions can sometimes be overprotective. A non-pornographic website may occasionally get blocked. You can choose to allow specific websites by typing them into the "Add a website" tab under the "Always Allow" tab. You can also ban access to specific websites by clicking "Add a website" tab under the "Never Allow" tab.
by: D.J. Hueneman
D.J. is a former firefighter and paramedic turned author and speaker. He has spoken nationally and internationally on the topics of pornography, Theology of the Body, chastity, and the Catholic faith. He is the author of Plunging Pornography: A Catholic Bathroom Book.
Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her home. Porn was used as a tool to manipulate her. Hear her heroic story of survival.
Thanks to Fight the New Drug for putting this video together.
He was the most successful male porn star of all time. Watch his story of redemption.
Thanks to FightTheNewDrug for putting this video together.
What is it? The most popular video streaming site and application.
Why teens like it? Teens can upload and watch videos.
Parental concerns? Some videos contain pornographic material. It is very easy for kids to stumble upon pornographic or violent content.
Let’s face it. YouTube is everywhere. Unfortunately, pornography is everywhere too. YouTube can be a fun and educational video-streaming website, but it can also be the site that introduces your child to pornographic content. It’s sad that parents have to worry about their 8 year-old’s Minecraft videos leading them to porn. (There are YouTube videos labeled “Minecraft Porn” which display the popular videogame characters performing sexual acts.)
What can you do to protect your children from accidentally stumbling upon pornographic content via YouTube? Here are a couple practical options:
1.) Delete the YouTube app entirely off your child’s phone and block access to the website in the phone settings. Get step-by-step instructions for how to do this on apple devices by clicking here.
2.) Set up basic restrictions in the YouTube app or desktop site.
3.) Block the YouTube app, but allow them to access the YouTube site via a filtered internet browser. Click here for an easy free way to set up web filtering in minutes via OpenDNS. Click here for information on Covenant Eyes filtering and accountability software.
4.) Block the YouTube app and download the much safer “YouTube Kids” app. This app allows you to block adult content and set time restrictions.
5.) Don’t allow your child to have a cell phone.
6.) Smash your child’s cell phone with a hammer.
I hope these tips helped you make an informed decision about YouTube. Please share this with other parents and be sure to check out our colorful and creative resource to help parents speak to their children about the harms of pornography and the beauty of authentic love. God bless!
It didn’t matter who she was, I just wanted a girlfriend. The relationship ended in disaster because I was just using her to ease my insecurities.
St. John Paul II said, "Love for a person must consist in affirmation that the person has a value higher than that of an object for consumption or use." 
Every dating relationship ends in one of two ways: Marriage or Breakup. Dating without entertaining the idea of a future marriage is a lot like driving a car while wearing a blindfold. The car (and the relationship) will eventually crash and injure those involved.
Be careful not to rush into dating because of your own insecurities. It's better to be single than sinful. I’ve met happily married adults who’ve stayed single until college. IT’S OKAY IF YOU’RE NOT DATING YET. High school is a great time to develop friendships. Don't miss out on life-long friendships because you were too preoccupied with the dating scene.
 Karol Wojtyla (St. Pope John Paul II), Love and Responsibility (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), 42.
Talking to teenagers is a tough business. When parents attempt to discuss the topic of sexual purity with their teens, they’re often met with a comatose stare or a fit of rage. ARE THEY EVEN LISTENING?
Wait! Before you throw in the towel, you should read these survey results (of over 1000 teens) from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy:
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy has been annually surveying teens since 2001; and teens continually report that parents are the most influential people when it comes to sexuality. So don’t despair parents. You have the advantage to protect your teens from STDs, heartbreak, unplanned pregnancy, and sexual sin.
Now that you have a boost of confidence, go ahead and talk with your teen. Be wary of providing mixed messages. Mixed messages about chastity are often interpreted by teens as “Mom and dad don’t think chastity is important, so I guess sex is not that big of a deal.”
Take advice from the Add Health Study, which interviewed 90,000 7th-12th grade students. They reported that an important factor for teens to avoid early sexual intercourse was the perception that parents disapproved of teenagers having sex, even with contraception.  So be brave and be clear.
If you’re wondering how to start the conversation about the plague of pornography; check out this book for ages 13 and up.
2 Meeker, Margaret J. Your Kids at Risk: How Teen Sex Threatens Our Sons and Daughters. Washington, DC: Regnery Pub., 2007. 198-99. Print.
Should I break up with my boyfriend?
I was the kicker on a top ten nationally ranked high school football team. Unfortunately, I wasn’t great at kicking field goals, so the school paid for a former NFL kicker to give me some lessons. One thing I remember from those lessons was, “Inches down here mean feet up there.”
We spent a lot of time on my footwork because an inch difference in my foot placement could mean a foot difference in which way the ball goes.
The same is true with dating and marriage. Dating is the footwork for marriage and “Inches down here mean feet up there.” Little character flaws in a boyfriend could translate into big character flaws in a husband. You should be aware of the seemingly “little things” that could lead to a disastrous relationship. Check out Crystalina Evert’s “dump him” list.
Once upon a time, there was a meadow vole who was quite promiscuous in his behavior. He would mate with several voles and practically ignore his children. His cousin, the prairie vole, on the other hand, remained faithful to one female vole. So, scientists decided to give extra vasopressin (a hormone found in the prairie vole) receptors to the meadow voles, which have fewer vasopressin receptors.
"The results were remarkable. After the V1a receptor gene was introduced, the former playboys reformed their ways. Suddenly, they fixated on one female, choosing to mate with only her -- even when other females tried to tempt them," reported the BBC News.
The Role of Vasopressin
So, what does vasopressin do? And what does it have to do with humans?
The vole escapades interested scientists in researching vasopressin in humans. Although not much is known about its effects, many refer to it as the "monogamy molecule."
In an article entitled, "The Two Become One: The Role of Oxytocin and Vasopressin," Dianne S. Vadney wrote, "Essentially, vasopressin released after intercourse is significant in that it creates a desire in the male to stay with his mate, inspire a protective sense (in humans, perhaps this is what creates almost a jealous tendency) about his mate, and drives him to protect his territory and his offspring. The value of such tendencies toward the maintenance of marriage and family can easily be anticipated."
Economics professor, Jennifer Roback Morse wrote about vasopressin in her book, Smart Sex: Finding Life-Long Love in a Hook-Up World. She says that although men may have a desire to have sex with multiple women, vasopressin helps them to counteract this tendency. She writes, "The man's body tells him that having sex with a woman puts that particular woman into a new and different category. This is not merely an attractive woman: this is a woman who may give birth to his child. She is, therefore, different from other women. The sex act has changed her from a potential sex object to the potential mother of his children, with all that this implies. No matter how sophisticated we think we are, our bodies continue to respond to the sexual act in this way."
Dr. Morse adds that vasopressin causes men to be jealous toward a woman with whom he has been sexually active. It also causes him to be loyal. She gives the example of the vast majority of men who go to great lengths to provide child support for their children, even if they are not permitted to see them. "The view that most men, most of the time, have no attachment to their sex partners is a caricature, a cartoon version of reality. While it may be true that men attach to their sex partners less than women do to theirs, men are not simply looking for a sexual release, but attach to their partners somewhat differently than women attach to theirs," writes Dr. Morse.
What about oxytocin?
Oxytocin is a hormone released in both men and women. Because a response is enhanced by estrogen, women tend to have stronger reactions to oxytocin, which is "thought to be released during hugging, touching and orgasm in both sexes. In the brain, oxytocin is involved in social recognition and bonding, and may be involved in the formation of trust between people and generosity."
So, how does it effect sexual relationships? There are a couple of ways oxytocin affects us in sexual relationships that have ended.
Dr. Eric Keroack said, "Emotional pain causes our bodies to produce an elevated level of endorphins which in turn lowers the level of oxytocin. Therefore, relationship failure leads to pain which leads to elevated endorphins which leads to lower oxytocin the result of which is a lower ability to bond. Many in this increased state of emotional pain and lower oxytocin seek sex as a substitute for love which inevitably leads to another failed relationship, and so, the cycle continues."
Based on the work of Dr. Keroack, we also have this explanation:
"An interesting finding in oxytocin research is the likelihood that oxytocin inhibits the development of tolerance in the brain’s opiate receptors. The excitement of sex is partly credited to endorphins exciting opiate receptors. As a human relationship matures, fewer endorphins are released. If sexual relationships are well bonded, though, the oxytocin response maintains the excitement despite how few endorphins are released. This keeps excitement present between oxytocin-bonded couples.
"In the same way, though, these studies reveal the rationale behind an inability of some to stay bonded in seemingly good relationships. People who have misused sex to become bonded with multiple persons will diminish their oxytocin bonding within their current relationship. In the absence of oxytocin, the person will find less or no excitement. The person will, then, feel the need to move on to what looks more exciting."
Mary Beth Bonacci has a great summary of the normal effects of oxytocin and vasopressin: Oxytocin causes a woman to be forgetful, decreases her ability to think rationally -- and causes an incredibly strong emotional attachment to form with the man she is with. Men also produce some oxytocin during sexual intercourse. But their bodies also produce a hormone called vasopressin. Vasopressin, called "the monogamy molecule," kicks in after sexual activity, and its impact is to heighten a man’s sense of responsibility. It encourages that part of him which says, "My gosh, she may be carrying my child! I’d better get serious about life! I’ve got to get to work, to provide for this family!"
By Emily Macke. This post originally aired on www.thenewviewonsex.blogspot.com 2008
The hashtag #PornKillsLove continues to gain attention on social media platforms with the help of celebrities like Terry Crews(the muscle man from the Old Spice™ commercials). Mainstream media is starting to take notice of the sociological and neurological setbacks of pornography use.
Well, we can now add #PornKillsTheWill to the #PornKillsLove movement because porn may also scientifically kill our conscience.
“Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed.”(CCC 1778)
How does porn neurologically kill our conscience? One fancy word: Hypofrontality
The area of our brain responsible for willpower is called the prefrontal cortex. It bears the responsibility of determining the future consequences of our actions, sorting our desires, and impulse control. The teenage brain has underdeveloped prefrontal lobes, which may explain why some teenagers are such irrational risk-takers absent of willpower. I can remember times during my teenage years when my decisions were regulated by an eroded willpower. (Ex. The time my teenage friends and I almost drowned swimming in a raging creek during a storm. We were risk takers.)
Hypofrontality is a state in which there is a decrease in blood flow to the prefrontal lobes of the brain. Hypofrontality has been observed in schizophrenia patients and all manner of addictions. Scientific studies have confirmed that using porn over and over actually changes these areas of the brain, literally eroding our willpower and killing our conscience.
How do we bring a dead conscience back to life? (The 90 day challenge to strengthen willpower)
Well…unfortunately it looks like the “cold turkey” method is the most effective because willpower will be gained with each successful day the person becomes porn free. That is how we revive our conscience.
I remember volunteering my time at a large outdoor camping reserve in New Mexico building new hiking trails. It was back-breaking work. After several hours of working I realized that building new hiking trails was a slow process. When I asked the leader about what he did with the old trails he said, "We block them off and let the forest grow over them".
This is what happens to the recovering porn user's brain. Creating new neural pathways in our brain may be difficult, but it is the way to permanently rid ourselves of a pornography habit. As my hero, Matthew Kelly, says, "our lives change when our habits change." Permanently escaping the cycle of habitual porn use requires more than just not looking at porn. We need to form new positive habits and literally grow new brain by forming new neural pathways in our brain and block the old porn pathways off.
Sure it can seem tedious to let the old porn pathways dwindle, but they weren't formed in a day so they won't deteriorate in a day. It takes time. In the meantime we should be focusing on building our new healthy habit pathways that are replacing the old unhealthy paths. Let's explore how this would look practically:
Tom's old habit was to view porn on his phone while he used the restroom. He has since built a new healthy habit of reading an inspirational book while doing his "bathroom business" and leaving his phone out of the restroom.
Bob's old habit was to use porn as soon as he got home from school. He has since built a new positive habit of sitting at the kitchen table to work on his homework when he gets home from school.
Larry's old habit was to use porn when he was stressed. He has since built a new healthy habit of working out at the local gym when he feels stressed.
Barb's old habit was to turn to pornography when she felt lonely. She has since built a new positive habit of hanging out with friends when she feels lonely.
How long will it take to form these new habits and forget the old? Well it depends on how long the old habits have been formed. Some people can get very overwhelmed even thinking about escaping their porn habit. A number of experts like Dr. Mark Laaser recommend starting with a 90 day goal. (Of course the ultimate goal is permanently quitting porn use.)
Laaser says it is “entirely about neurochemical detox.” “It’s resetting the brain in terms of sexual expectations. Generally, the 14th day is the wall. As you get past the 14th day, things will get easier.” He says depending on how severe the habit has become, “your brain will go on a five-alarm fire in about seven to 14 days.” 
Yes that might seem like a huge goal, but you can do it! The important thing is to focus on the present.
Keep your eyes fixed on the goal and not the raging storm that may be going on as your porn neural pathways are starved out. You can rest assure that with each passing day you will be gaining willpower and reviving your conscience.
Remember when Peter walked on water with Jesus in the 14th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. Peter courageously walked on the water with Jesus, but he soon became distracted by the raging wind around him. As soon as Peter took his eyes off Jesus, he sank. The same is true with our recovery from sexual sin. Many people begin to fail because they focus their attention on their failures and not their successes.
If we take our eyes off Jesus we will sink. Don't you dare take your eyes off of Jesus! He alone can calm the storm so "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."
 www.covenanteyes.com/science-of-porn-addiction-ebook (pg. 33)
 Norman Doidge, The Brain That Changes Itself, pg. 94 (Penguin Books, 2007).
 RSV Bible Matthew 14:27
Why is internet pornography use so widespread? Well, because of the nature of the Internet. The late sex researcher Alvin Cooper, PhD, called this the "Triple-A Engine" effect: The accessibility, affordability and anonymity provided by the Web have put adult content right at our fingertips. Combine this “Triple-A Engine” with concupiscence, (which is our disordered inclination toward sin), and you get a powerful pathway leading to sexual sin.
Now, with a clear understanding of the reason why internet pornography is so successful, we can now develop a plan to defeat it. A successful football team takes time to study the weaknesses of their opponent and we should do the same with pornography. The “Triple-A Engine”, which explains the strengths of internet pornography, also shows us the areas of weakness. We could focus all of our attention on the accessibility portion of pornography, but I think another great place to start is the anonymity of Internet porn. Pornography use is typically brought to a screeching halt when it is no longer anonymous. Let’s look at three examples of this from the headlines:
1) The Adult Player App
This is an application that was available for Android™ devices that promised easy access to pornographic material. Instead of providing the pornographic material to the user, it hijacks their device and holds it ransom. This malicious malware has been deemed “ransomware” because it takes a picture of the user, locks their device, and threatens to expose the porn user to their phone contacts unless they pay a $500 fee. FBI sources state that this particular scam has grossed close to $1,000,000. 
I’m not advocating this malicious software approach to end pornography use, but it is interesting to see the lengths that some will go (paying $500) to keep their porn use anonymous. Similar to the devil, pornography thrives on anonymity.
2) The Ashley Madison Data Breach
This has been a major story in the headlines lately because of famous Christian Josh Duggar. Josh Duggar admitted to having a secret porn addiction which eventually led him to spending hundreds of dollars on the cheating website. I understand that when this evil came to light, there were, tragically, some suicides linked to the information leak. Sin never satisfies, it’s like drinking saltwater and unfortunately many buy the lie of porn and are pushed from adultery of the heart to adultery of the flesh. Although internet pornography promises anonymity, it is often eventually found out.
3 Jared Fogle –former Subway™ Spokesman
Sexual sin was running rampant in this man’s life while it remained hidden. The anonymity was abruptly shattered when the FBI showed up at his doorstep. They subpoenaed a lot of his digital technology including his cell phone text messages.
If we are really serious about fighting this giant known as pornography, I think we need to first embrace accountability with our loved ones.
“For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.” John 3:20-21
What an amazing gift it would be to give your wife or loved one the reassurance that you are striving to be a pure gift of self. Laying all your “temptation cards” on the table can be a heroic act of humility. One amazing way to do this would be getting an accountability software. Here are two great ones:
Covenanteyes-This takes an inventory of your web browsing and sends it to your accountability partner.
Webwatcher- This is an awesome software originally developed for employers to monitor their employees. This secret software completely takes the anonymity out of the “Triple-A engine” by taking screen shots of your computer, tablet, and phone and storing them on the accountability partner’s account.
Being free from sin is great, but being free from temptation of sin is even better. Remember the words of St. John of the Cross: “God desires from you the least degree of purity of conscience more than all the works you can perform.” Avoiding impurity is a big deal.
I realize some parents might not have grown up with the Internet, so it may be difficult for them to grasp the gravity of the pornography industry and the real possibility of kids being exposed today. Since the invention of the internet in the early 1990s, the pornography industry has exploded into a multibillion dollar industry.
This huge industry is continually growing. Every 39 minutes, a new pornographic video is being created in the United States and the Internet contains over 4 million pornographic websites.  Now we could go on and on with statistics telling how huge this industry is; and we could fall into despair thinking about all the ways we could try and fail to take down the goliath porn industry. Instead of trying to take the industry down, let’s focus on not letting the porn industry take us down.
As someone who was exposed to pornography at an early age –and became addicted to it for nearly 10 years – I understand how easy it is to get pulled into the world of pornography. The average age of pornography exposure is 11 years old and 9/10 boys are exposed to porn before they turn 18 years of age. Kids can be exposed to pornography from a friend or family member, but the internet has a wealth of porn traps set in place for the innocent. One sneaky technique used by the internet porn industry is focused on website domain names. Some porn companies use website names that a child might accidentally visit while searching for their favorite video game. Another common technique used by the internet companies is to buy recently expired domain names and put pornography on them. Here are 3 examples of this:
1. “Whitehouse.com” Someone purchased this website domain name and put porn on it. (The real white house website ends in .gov) This website caused myself and a number of my classmates to be exposed to porn in the middle of my Catholic grade school computer class while researching for a government project. The person who operated this site refused to take it down even after they received an official letter from the white house staff asking him to take the site down. The site was finally removed in 2004.
2. Boy Scout Troop 216 of Roanoke County had a troop website and they forgot to renew the domain name. The name went to auction and quickly was sold to someone who placed German pornography on it. 
3. Middletown, Ohio Youth Soccer organizers forgot to renew their website name and it was quickly snatched up and taken over by a Russian porn site. Needless to say, parents were quite shocked when looking for their kid's soccer schedule. 
Apparently this whole “domain game” has even got celebrities on their heels. Taylor Swift was recently reported to have purchased all the porn domain names that contained her name. She did this in an effort to get them off the market and not let the porn companies lead her fans astray. 
I think parents of junior high and high school age kids need to take a deep breath and come to grips with the possibility that their child has likely been exposed to pornographic material. Maybe your child is part of that ever shrinking percentage of teenagers that hasn’t been exposed, but honestly I talk with thousands of [Catholic] teenagers a year about this topic and a lot of 7th graders share the fact that they have seen pornography. Kids might find themselves trapped in a deadly cycle of sin that –quite honestly- they weren't looking for. Porn is actively searching for its next victim and it is very easy to stumble upon. Addressing this topic with our children is a must.
“A warm and communicative parent-child relationship is the most important factor [in reducing porn use among children].”
Do you have any questions about this topic? Please feel free to contact me by clicking here. (No name required to ask a question)
–Dr. Patricia M. Greenfield  (Children’s Digital Media Center and Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA)
1 J. Ropelato, “Internet Pornography Statistics,” Top Ten Reviews (2015) http://internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com/internet-pornography-statistics.html
8. Patricia M. Greenfield, “Inadvertent exposure to pornography on the Internet: Implications of peer-to-peer file-sharing networks for child development and families,” Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 25 (Nov/Dec 2004): 741-750.
What does authentic manhood actually look like? It’s common for guys (myself included) to find themselves chasing the “manhood mirages” of fame, sexual conquests, or financial riches, in a desperate attempt to prove their “manhood status” to others. These things are often pursued out of insecurity and -even if achieved- reveal themselves to be empty shells.
Without a clear example of authentic manhood we can fall into an identity crisis. I remember myself and my friends being led astray by the pop culture definition of manhood. I used to be extremely insecure and desperate to “prove my manhood” to others -especially to those men who supposedly fit Playboy’s definition of manhood-. Throughout my teenage years I tried to portray myself to others as the manly football player(I was the kicker…but hey I was also the 5th string wide receiver. So if 4 other people got hurt the coach knew who to call) I also played up the fact that I was the captain of the high school hockey team who set a record for the most penalty minutes in school history. I emphasized these activities while attempting to hide the fact that I joined the choir and was a member of the Boy Scouts because my friend -the culture- told me those activities were not “manly”. But I remember a teenage moment that unveiled the beauty of authentic manhood to me.
When I was a sophomore in high school I went over my friend’s house one weekend night. This particular friend was a positive influence on me. He came from a devout catholic family and had many siblings. His parents even owned a Jesus van (A twelve passenger van, the type of vehicle Jesus would have owned to drive the twelve disciples around). Because of my friend’s many siblings, there were often many different people over his house. During the night my friend and I noticed a cute girl in his backyard, so we approached her to talk. As the conversation unfolded, the girl shared the fact that she was in a relationship with a guy who was pressuring her to give her virginity to him.
Upon hearing this girl’s startling confession, I realized I had two options. I could put my tail between my legs and walk away without saying anything or I could risk the ridicule and defend this girl’s dignity. So I chose action instead of passivity. My friend and I tore into that guy by telling the girl what a scumbag he was. He didn’t love her he was just using and manipulating her! The girl’s face was literally beaming with joy in response to the fact that a guy would actually stand up for her dignity.
That was a moment in my life when I realized a key component of authentic manhood. Protecting. One essential characteristic of an authentic man is that he recognizes the value of woman and protects her. St. John Paul II said, “God has assigned as a duty to every man the dignity of every woman.” Men have to protect women’s dignity because every girl is someone’s daughter, sister, wife, or future wife. I had no clue that I would meet that same girl from my friend’s backyard later in my life. I met her 9 years later on the altar. I was protecting my future wife that night!
I saw a sign on a worksite that said, “Think. The life you save may be your own.” I changed that sign for the guys to say “Protect. The wife you save may be your own.” Men are hardwired to protect others, but we often fall short. Nothing can emasculate a man quite like passivity can. Do not be passive men! Adam was passive when he let Eve eat the forbidden fruit. Jesus Christ -who is the new Adam- resisted passivity all the way to the cross.
Now before you paint me out to be a saint, let me tell you the rest of the story. Defending a woman from being disrespected by another man turned out to be the easy part. The most difficult person to protect my wife from was myself. Because of our fallen nature we have an inclination toward sin. It’s easy for men to forget about himself as a potential user, but we should ensure that we be the first person we protect the woman from.
Men, what do you do when someone fails to recognize the value and dignity of a woman? Are you passive or active? Every girl, whether she is physically present or an image on a computer screen is our sister in Christ. She has tremendous value whether she realizes it or not. Are you an authentic man that protects?
 Pope John Paul II General Audience of Wednesday, 24 November 1982
I think it’s safe to say that our culture has an extremely shallow understanding of the meaning and purpose of sexual intercourse. This severe lack of understanding has led to some interesting sexual philosophies. In an interview printed in Cosmopolitan magazine (yes, me, a middle aged man, purchased a cosmopolitan magazine at the grocery store to research for this article) popular singer Rita Ora was quoted saying, “For me, sex is a form of getting to know a person—feeling someone’s skin.” 1 Secular culture tends to glorify such persons as enlightened sexual connoisseurs, but I only see tragically misled people who will grow increasingly more bored with their superficial understanding of sex.
But why is it that our culture is so obsessed with sex? I believe Sigmund Freud points us to the answer when he says, “We display outrageously and obsessively that which we do not fully possess or have deeply at our disposal.” In the absence of an authentic understanding of the meaning of sex, the culture is forced to replace sexual quality with sexual quantity. This widespread ignorance has plunged our society into a downward spiral of sexual addiction similar to a person who consumes large quantities of junk food devoid of nutrition. Society is robbed of the rich nutrition offered by the proper understanding of sex.
St. John Paul II spoke of the Sacramentality of the Body. [For the theology lightweights, like myself, a sacrament “emphasizes the visible sign of the hidden reality of salvation” (CCC 774 ).] So if the body is properly viewed as a sacrament, we can clearly see that the marital act points to the divine love of Christ for his Church. Here are the four things every Catholic must know about the authentic gift of sex:
1) It is Free.
During a Catholic marriage ceremony, the priest will ask the couple, “Have you come here freely to give yourselves to each other in marriage?” The couple responds appropriately by using their words to indicate that they are not being forced to marry one other. They then later communicate themselves as a free gift to one another by using the language of the body. Sex.
This vow uniquely reflects God’s free gift of love to us. During religion class, I would often wonder why Jesus didn’t throw the cross off his back and round-house kick the soldiers who were attempting to kill him. He didn’t do that because he gave his life as a free gift. Christ said, “I lay down my life... No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18) I
2) It is Total.
During the Catholic marriage ceremony, the priest will ask the couple, “Have you come here without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?” The couple responds appropriately by using their words to indicate that they are going to give their entire selves to the other person. No pre-nuptial agreements. No regrets. They are all in. They then later communicate themselves as a total gift to one another by using the language of the body. Sex.
This vow uniquely reflects God’s total gift of love to us. Jesus poured out every last drop of blood and water from his body for us. He made a total gift of himself and held nothing back. Christ said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13
3) It is Faithful.
During the Catholic marriage ceremony, the priest will ask the couple, “Will you love and honor each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives?” The couple responds appropriately by using their words to indicate that they are going to be faithful to the other person till death. They then later communicate themselves as a faithful gift to one another by using the language of the body. Sex.
This vow uniquely reflects God’s faithful gift of love to us. Christ said, “I am with you always to the close of the age” (Mathew 28:20)
4) It is Fruitful.
During the Catholic marriage ceremony, the priest will ask the couple, “Will you accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?” The couple responds appropriately by using their words to indicate that they are going to be open to the gift of children in their marriage. They don’t vow to have a thousand children, but they agree to not suppress their fertility. No birth control. They then later communicate themselves as a fruitful gift to one another by using the language of the body. Sex.
This vow uniquely reflects God’s fruitful gift of love to us. Christ said, “I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10)
Who knew that sex is a renewal of wedding vows? And who knew that those wedding vows are a reflection of the divine love of God for his people? Our God is an amazing God who gives us many subtle and hidden reminders of his love.
1 Greco, Patti. “Rita Ora is #Living Major.” Cosmopolitan. December 2014 Vol 257, No. 6: pg. 152
Janet E. Smith. Contraception, Why Not. Audiotape of lecture presented a meeting of the Catholic Physicians Guild at the Pontifical College Josephinum, Columbus, Ohio, May 1994
Is chastity a bunch of rules, or something more? Chastity is often confused with abstinence, which implies “not having sex”, but why would anyone want to follow repressive rules that promise no reward? I am a man who understands that authentic masculinity requires action. So the thought of “not doing something” immediately puts my manly sense on high alert. Chastity requires temperance, which involves the controlling and moderating of our desire for pleasure.
However you approach it; chastity will seem like a crazy concept if it is not viewed through the proper lens. What is this lens? L-O-V-E. Saint Bonaventure said,
“Chastity without charity is a lamp without oil. Take away the oil, and the light will not shine. Take away charity, chastity will no longer please.” (Theology light-weights, like myself, please note that charity=love.)
The virtue of chastity only makes sense when it is tied to love. It is essential to first provide a healthy dose of authentic love before talking, looking, or even thinking about chastity. Without a proper definition of love, chastity doesn’t seem worth the demands. I think this is why our culture looks at chastity as some kind of archaic idea, because we are confused about love.
Our culture often pushes many to think of love as a kind of “wonderful feeling”. I’m not against wonderful feelings, but love is more than that. St. John Paul II said, “Love is not merely a feeling, it is an act of the will that consists of preferring, in a constant manner, the good of others to the good of oneself.” I remember a time in my life when love was demanded of me:
I woke up to an odd noise that sounded like, “bahh”. I immediately turned to my wife to see if she heard the noise, but she was not in bed. Being in a groggy state, thoughts began to fill my head like, “My wife was just stolen by a goat”. But as I slowly awoke, I realized the sound was coming from the bathroom. I approached the bathroom to find my wife noisily vomiting into the toilet. You must know that I am someone who generally hates dealing with puke. I have willingly responded to many grotesque and bloody scenes while working as a paramedic, but my least favorite calls were the ones involving vomiting patients. I extremely dislike puke, but I love my wife. Do you think I walked into the vomit-filled bathroom and had wonderful feelings for my wife? Nope, but did I love her? Did I prefer her good to the good of myself? You better believe it. I helped her.
Without a proper definition of love, there is little reason to sacrifice pleasure. I witnessed the cultural confusion in action when famous professional football player, Russell Wilson, recently announced that he will be choosing sexual purity with his girlfriend. As you can imagine, this public declaration immediately confused members of the secular media. In fact, it sent some people into a rage, which they publicly voiced via social media. In an effort to bring clarity to the conversation, I dipped my toe into the heated social media discussion. I was immediately criticized by many who dismissed chastity as an irrelevant and childish “idea.”
Let’s untangle the chastity confusion. Why would anyone want to choose chastity, let alone, a famous football player who has instant access to sexual opportunity?
Being famous doesn’t erase Russell Wilson’s humanity. He has been in relationships before. He has suffered the pain of divorce. . Maybe his past heartaches have led him to notice the differences between real love and the counterfeit promoted by the culture. Perhaps he has come to the conclusion that sexual impurity clouds the ability to see a woman’s heart. One thing is certain; he is not choosing chastity because it’s easy. St. John Paul II said, "Chastity is a difficult, long term matter; one must wait patiently for it to bear fruit.” I understand why so many people were puzzled by this famous football player’s decision. Not everyone is willing to rise to the demands of authentic love.
John Paul II also stated, “Chastity is the sure way to happiness.” People choose chastity not because they enjoy following rules. They choose chastity because they know it will lead to authentic love and happiness. That is worth the sacrifice.
Hello my fellow parents. Let’s talk about “the talk”. I don’t mean to add pressure to your already hectic parental role, but YOU are the primary sex educator. Not the school, church, government, or media. It’s YOUR job. In fact, research indicates that teens are listening to their parents’ advice the most!1 You may be thinking, “but my kid isn’t a teenager yet!” Well…surprise! Forming a healthy sexuality starts way before the teenage years and kids need parental guidance. Here is a breakdown of when and how to approach the delicate subject of sexuality with your children. (The following are suggestions from myself and sexual education expert Dr. Meg Meeker. Her full article is listed in the footnotes.)
Pre-Pre-School (Typically Ages 3 and below):
Yes it starts this early! I don’t recommend telling your 3-year old about the mechanics of sex, but their opinions about body image are beginning to form. This is the time to start planting the “treasure seeds”. Tell your child that their body is a treasure. Reinforce your child’s beauty and be wary of any sarcastic comments that may make them think their body is bad. Dr. Meeker suggests changing the child’s diapers away from public view and to never act ashamed or embarrassed by your child’s body.
Even if you’re apathetic about your child’s modesty, I still recommend changing their diaper in private out of respect for others. (Even the smallest of dirty diapers can packs an odor punch with the potential to bring grown men to tears.)
Pre-School/Kindergarten (Typically Ages 3-5):
This is usually the time when kids have been potty trained and begin using the bathroom within a school setting. Talk to your child about proper bathroom procedures. It is important that they know who to ask for help if any “bathroom issues” arise. It may feel awkward saying this to your child, but they need the specifics. Who is allowed to see their private parts? (Their parents and the family physician.) Remember to emphasize the fact that we cover our bodies because they are good and not everyone is worthy to see them. The Princess and the Kiss by Jennie Bishop is a great children’s book that reinforces the value of chastity and self-worth. I highly recommend reading this book with your children.
Elementary School (Typically Ages 5-10)
You should continue reinforcing proper body boundaries with your child. This is a unique time where curiosity can get the best of children. (You show me yours and I’ll show you mine). It is important to let your child know that other kids are not worthy of seeing their private parts and if another child asks to see their private parts they should let you know. Always reinforce the concept that their body is good. Dr. Meeker says most children learn about the mechanics of sexual intercourse around age 8. This number may vary with each child. You are the parent so you have to be the judge of when to offer this information.
This is when “the talk” happens. Now, when most parents think of “the talk” they think of an extremely awkward 3 hour conversation over the dinner table. But it should not be a single event. I recommend asking questions like, “Are the kids at school talking about sex?” and let then listen and respond appropriately. One parent shared with me how he approached this subject with his son. He took his son on a camping trip and told him “Your body is an amazing and special gift from God. This is the first of thousands of conversations we get to have about this topic. I know other people are going to tell you things about your body and sex, but I will be the one to tell you the truth. Do not ever feel embarrassed or ashamed to come to me with your questions. I love you.”
Your kids deserve to hear the truth about sexuality from you. You love them and have their best interests in mind.
Junior High School (Typically Ages 11-14)
This is typically the puberty age. Your child may be dealing with significant stress as their body begins to change. One common way to ease their anxiety is to plan. You should make sure your child is prepared for these significant changes by providing them with the proper information. I suggest that the same sex parent provide this information to the child. If you are a single parent of the opposite sex, you may want to consider asking a close family member or mentor to help you.
Girls: I can’t imagine how terrifying it would be for a girl to start her period with no prior knowledge of what periods are. You may want to pack an emergency kit for her containing tampons and extra underwear. It may help her avoid an embarrassing situation and help her feel prepared. As we said before, proper planning can ease anxiety.
Boys: A great way to approach the topic of puberty with boys is to create an atmosphere of initiation. Ceremonies are important for masculinity. In his book Raising a Modern-Day Knight, Robert Lewis writes, “We need celebrations … to mark the passages from adolescence to manhood. Boys need manhood ceremonies that will live on in their memory-elaborate occasions that will ‘spike’ forever defining moments of the passage to modern-day knighthood. Your son needs them, Dad!” Puberty should be celebrated as a passage into manhood. Hygiene is an important issue to cover with young men. Many teachers find themselves having awkward conversations with their students about proper hygiene. Don’t leave it up to the teacher.
15 and Beyond…
This is when parents typically believe “the talks” should start, but quite honestly, they should have been going on for a while now. Shaping a healthy sexuality begins at an early age, but if you’re coming to the game late, don’t worry. Start now. Here are some tips:
Ask questions about their friends. Teens might be hesitant to personally open up to their parents, but they will often share things about their friends. By having your finger on the pulse on their friends’ activities, you can often gauge your own child’s activities. This also allows you to determine the positive and negative friends. You can take this knowledge and encourage your teen to hang out with friends who are the positive influences. Be careful not to specifically exclude certain friends, which might backfire. A great strategy to accomplish this goal is to befriend the “positive influence” friends’ parents. If you plan an event, you can extend an invite the positive friends and their parents, which eliminates the possibility of backfire that often comes with saying, “You can’t see those friends.”
Establish clear and consistent dating guidelines. Some parents will actually write a contract together with their teen and both parties sign it.
Establish a curfew and stay awake until your teen gets home. When they arrive home you can look them in the eyes and give them a hug. This allows you to screen them for any alcoholic or smoky scents.
Be careful not to speak to your child while in an emotional state. I have found that it is extremely beneficial for both parties to set aside a specific date and time to talk about any issues that arise.
Pornography exposure has reached epidemic levels. If your child has an internet device make sure you have proper security measures in place. CovenantEyes.com is a great software that allows the parents to see every website their child visits…even on smartphones and tablets.
Hang in there parents. You have a tough, thankless job. Keep calm and carry your cross. You are not alone. You can ask me specific questions and request resources by clicking the “contact” tab at PracticalPurity.com
1 Bill Albert, “With Once Voice 2007: America’s Adults and Teens Sound Off About Teen Pregnancy,” The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, February 2007, pp. 7–8, at http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/resources/pdf/pubs/WOV2007
Dr. Meg Meeker’s Website: https://megmeekermd.com/tag/sex-education/
I talk to thousands of teens and parents a year about sexual purity and I have seen some amazing parents who have strengthened my hope in humanity. However, I have noticed several common mistakes parents make when talking to their kids about chastity and sexual purity. Please spread the word to every parent, because you might save them from a lot of heartache. Here are 5 common mistakes parents make when talking to their kids about sexual purity:
1) Avoiding “The Talk” altogether.
I hear a lot of parents who think that their kids will never listen to them, so what’s the point of even trying to talk to them about sexual purity. Well, I hate to burst their bubble, but those parents are mistaken. Your kids are listening to you! In fact, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy asked over 1,000 teenagers what the most important factor was in shaping their decisions about sex. “My Parents” blew all of the other answers out of the water!1 So, no pressure parents, but you may be the number one influence on your kids’ sexual decisions whether you like it or not.
Kids cannot listen to silent parents and if parents fail to open the conversation of purity inside the home, kids will open the conversation outside of the home. Who are they going to ask? Their friends? Social media? The internet? The library?
These sources are often littered with misinformation. If our kids are not getting a sense of morality from their parents, then they will often turn to the internet. Google’s job is to provide fast information without discretion. I’m sure no one would argue that the internet has the potential to provide startling information. If you need proof, just do a search for “what is sex” and see what pops up.
Even our school libraries may contain books that provide pornographic “how-to” guides disguised as sexual education material. One teacher showed me a book recommended for elementary age kids that encouraged and showed gratuitous cartoon images of masturbation. Kids deserve to directly communicate with a loving, informed, and physically present parent. The in-person “sex talk” is a must have.
2) The single conversation “inoculation method”. Some parents think their child is going to get a full college athletic scholarship and then go on to make millions as a professional athlete. So, they enroll their kids in multiple select travel teams and sink hundreds of dollars into training camps. But when it comes to the topic of sexuality, the parents believe they can inoculate their child from sexual impurity by having only one conversation with their kid. Sure, sports are a part of many teens’ lives, but they often leave that behind after college and may never return to play organized sports. Sexuality is and will be a relevant part of the person’s entire life. How much more guidance should they need with all the intricacies of their sexual health? Certainly more than one talk. Distorted adolescent views of sexuality, love, and beauty often bloom into serious obstacles later in life.
In reality, “the talk” should encompass thousands of talks. Some parents believe they have to pack all the information about sexuality into one condensed talk. Instead, I propose that the first “talk” should aim to establish a constant line of communication between parents and child. The parents should then regularly use this line of communication that has been set in place to address sexual issues relative to the child’s age.
3) The “Wagging the Shame-Finger” approach (intentional or inadvertent).
The “sex is bad” ideology led to the sexual revolution, which has claimed many victims. Parents may inadvertently be paving the way for a mini sexual revolution in their child’s life with this approach. Hugh Hefner said himself that he started Playboy magazine as “a personal response to the hurt and hypocrisy of our puritan heritage.” It is very important for parents to pay attention to the way they approach the topic of sexuality, because some children may unintentionally interpret their parents’ intensity or tone to indicate that body, sexual desire, and sexual intercourse are bad. This type of mind frame may lead the child to believe that their own body is bad. We cover our bodies not because they are bad, but because they are so good and not everyone is worthy of seeing them. Focus on the fact that their bodies are a treasure to be kept safe for their future spouse.
Sex is an amazing gift from God that foreshadows the heavenly union with Christ, but it can be distorted. Dr. Gregory Popcak equates sex to a ripening fruit. Eating it before it is ripe can be harsh on our stomachs and alter the affliction for the fruit forever. Sex before marriage may bring about temporary pleasure, but it can distort the beauty and meaning of sex forever. Sex before marriage can never be a truly loving act where one is protecting the best interests of the beloved.
Sometimes religious people are labeled as anti-sex, but a study conducted by the University of Chicago, considered to be one of the most statistically accurate studies on sexuality, showed that Christian married couples were among the most sexually satisfied people in America!2 It is important to communicate that waiting for marriage to have sex is not about extinguishing love, but rather to set it ablaze.
4) Being too vague .
Be specific! In their book Raising Pure Teens, Jason Evert and Chris Stefanick stress the importance of the risk avoidance method as opposed to the risk reduction method when talking to kids about sex. Surely no parent would tell their teen, “Don’t drink and drive, but if you do…drive slowly.” This method doesn’t work in other areas of their lives and it certainly doesn’t work when talking to kids about chastity. Kids want specific answers. It is very easy for the parent to think that their child understands what they mean when they say something like “Be respectful.” But I have found that kids would rather have clear and specific instruction. If parents are clear and specific with their expectations for sexual purity, then their teen can never utter the words, “But you never said don’t do that”. Seven in ten teens agree it would be much easier for them to postpone sexual activity if they were able to have more open, honest conversations about these topics with their parents.3
So have courage and be specific because, even though they may not act like it, kids want the specifics of how to live a virtuous life. St. John Paul II said “Men must be taught to love, and to love in a noble way; they must be educated in depth in this truth, that is, in the fact that a woman is a person and not simply an object.” 4
5) Feeling like a hypocrite.
One extremely common action I see parents take is to subconsciously slap a label on their foreheads that says, “Hypocrite”. They deem themselves as unworthy to speak to their kids about sexual purity because of their own past mistakes. So, if you are one of the many parents who thinks “My spouse and I failed to save ourselves for marriage, so I feel like a hypocrite holding a higher standard for my kids.” Don’t stress. I understand your concerns, but this way of thinking is fundamentally flawed. What if Jared the Subway™ guy felt too guilty to encourage others to have healthy diets because of his previously poor eating habits? Subway™ would probably have gone out of business. (I can’t back that up.) But seriously, this way of thinking is a logical fallacy. The merit of the sexual purity message cannot be rejected based upon on its messenger.
Parents might be fearful to engage the conversation because they know the dreaded “Did you save sex for marriage?” question could fly out of their child’s mouth at any time. That sounds terrifying, however, there are a couple techniques you could use to ease the anxiety. You can bring up your past heartaches and share them with your teen. Using this approach often clears the air of curiosity and allows the parent to be in control of how much of their past they reveal. A great way to respond to this question is to emphasize forgiveness by focusing the attention on the present. You may say something like, “I have made mistakes in my life and I’m sure you have as well. We have a 0% chance of changing the past, but a 100% chance of changing the future.” This is a great time to bring up the healing power of God’s forgiveness through the sacrament of reconciliation. Have your child set specific goals for the future and talk about how chastity can help them obtain those goals. Chastity should be more about the rewards, not about the consequences.
So there you have it. I hope you can learn from these common mistakes. Please let me know if I can provide you or any parents with further information or resources. You can contact me at www.PracticalPurity.com by clicking the “contact” tab.
1 Bill Albert, “With Once Voice 2007: America’s Adults and Teens Sound Off About Teen Pregnancy,” The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, February 2007, pp. 7–8, at http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/resources/pdf/pubs/WOV2007
2 William Mattox, Jr., “Aha! Call It the Revenge of the Church Ladies,” USA Today, February 11, 1999 (usatoday.com).
4 Karol Wojtyla, The Way to Christ (New York: Harper & Row Publishers Inc., 1984), 38