Friday, November 09, 2018

Religious Jews and Pornography

Rabbi Shmuel Maybruch
Pornography use is up. More people are in to it than ever. The reason why that is - should be obvious. The ease of access and the ability to hide it opens up far more opportunities than ever.

This was one of the early complaints by rabbinic leaders about internet use. Porn access had become so common and so destructive to marriages and families that back in its early days some rabbinic authorities tried to ban the internet entirely.

As time went on, the more realistic rabbis realized that this was not a  solution to the problem so they advocated filters be installed on all electronic devices that would automatically block any site that contained porn – or anything remotely resembling it.

That realistic approach seems to be the status quo position of most mainstream religious leaders today. The focus now by most religious leaders of all Hashkafos is on addiction to hand held devices like smart-phones. Porn seems to have gone on the back burner. But it has not gone away. Quite the contrary.

It would be nice is filters were the solution to porn addiction. But clearly filters are not the answer. People that want to view porn can easily bypass those filters – if they even have them.

Rabbi Shmuel Mayburch has sent me a post he wrote that should be a wake-up call to the religious community. Therein he blows up 3 common myths about the use of porn.

1) If We Had More Sex, We Would Have Less Porn.

2) Religious Couples Don’t Have Porn

3) Pornography Use Is a Spouse’s Private Business

It turns out that none of these assumptions are true. In fact  - as it applies to religious people, the opposite might be true. Here is the pertinent excerpt: 
In my practice, I see individuals both in relationships and not committed that are devoutly religious and struggle with pornography use.
This is borne out by an astounding study. A group of researchers analyzed Google search terms on a state by state basis. They found a clear trend. States that are generally identified as more religious and fundamentalist had a higher prevalence of pornographic search terms on Google.
Think about that: the more a state identified as religious, the greater amount of sexual terms were searched for. Another group of researchers was incredulous, so they independently replicated the same study – and found the same results.
The first researchers then found something else even more amazing. They anonymously surveyed citizens of the states that demonstrated high pornography use. Although the respondents were anonymous, most people replied that they did not use pornography. Imagine that! In the states that were clearly using porn, people did not admit it, even anonymously.
It seems to indicate that religious communities see two things with regards to online pornography: increased use and decreased honesty about it.
Clearly, increased religiosity does not indicated less pornography use. It appears to sometimes indicate the opposite.
There has always been an assumption that those of us that are God fearing Jews would be less likely to access porn. After all, sexual activity is severely regulated by Halacha. All kinds of fences are built into our way of life to preclude being enticed by porn. Including in some of the more extreme cases where pictures of women are excluded from any form of publication. Where women are told to dress in a ways that will least empathize their sex. Where Tznius in women’s clothing has become the highest priority. Where the separation of the sexes is a forgone conclusion in as many places as possible. And yet with all that built in protection designed to distance ourselves from our sexual desires, the exact opposite seems to be happening.

This is not to say that we should God forbid abandon Halacha. However, what it does say is that we do have a problem that needs to be addressed in other ways. Because clearly those protections do not work. At least not for everyone.

Rabbi Maybruch thought this information would be useful to the observant community and that it should be disseminated as widely as possible.  I agree. Denial is a river in Egypt. Knowledge is power. I urge everyone to read his post in full. It is located here.   If we are going to have any chance at solving a serious problem affecting more people than ever, we need to know as much about it as possible. 

Rabbi Shmuel Maybruch,MSis a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), dating and relationship coach, and experienced rabbi. He holds a B.A. in psychology from Yeshiva University and a Masters from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work. He was also formerly S’gan Mashgiach Ruchani in Yeshiva University and was the founding Rabbi of the Shenk Shul of Washington Heights. He studied in Yeshiva Shaar Hatorah and then in Yeshiva University’s Katz Kollel and advanced Wexner Kollel Elyon. He currently resies in Israel. (Updated 11/10/18)