For four days this week I have had the privilege of hanging out with some of the coolest teens you will ever meet. I am at the University of Waterloo, Ontario attending what is called YLC (Youth Leadership Conference) for the LDS church. There are nearly 600 youth in attendance.
In observing these kids I can see that individually they are each shy, anxious and worried about life in one way or another. But they are also exceptionally bright, fun, exuberant and strong. Together they are a force to be reckoned with. The combined creativity and imagination among these youth is astounding!
United in faith, they start each of the four days together in devotional, including song, prayer and inspirational messages. The evenings are taken up with dances and a variety night, showcasing the extraordinary talents of these young people.
Throughout the day this force of energy commits to providing service in the community, participation in sports and recreational activities and attends additional workshops that are designed to provide them with the tools and knowledge to make the best of their teenage years
This year the organizers of the conference chose to address the subject of pornography. I was thrilled that they asked me to put together a 45-minute workshop for the youth. To be certain, it was a daunting task but one that I would not have turned down in a lifetime!
The message I hoped to leave these remarkable teens with was this: despite the fact they are bombarded with sexually explicit material every day, they have the greatest influence and the greatest opportunity to change the conversation in their generation. If they will stand together in this fight against pornography, they can create a powerful counter-revolution to the porn industry.
My task was to arm them with knowledge and understanding about pornography and the sobering effects it has on those who use it. Together we discussed these key points:
- Understand that a person is not defined by his habits and compulsions but pornography will leave a person feeling shameful, worthless, and alone.
- Understand that all people are biologically designed to be attracted to sexualized imagery and the porn industry is specifically targeting young people.
- Pornography triggers emotions in the brain, which may initially make you feel good, but ultimately leaves you feeling alone and powerless
- Pornography floods the brain with the same chemical rush you can get from illicit drugs.
- Pornography begs you to want more. Your brain attempts to use the chemical rush it gets from viewing pornography to cope with other stressful situations in your life such as anxiety, depression, loneliness, and even fatigue or hunger.
- Pornography hardens the heart against love and promotes gender stereotypes and violence against women.
- Pornography is jealous and consumes the mind leaving little room to explore other passions.
- Pornography use can lead to serious addiction and should be considered a public health concern, like smoking, drugs and alcohol.
We learned that the porn industry is counting on us to remain silent and alone in our struggle, so that they can maintain consumers for life. We also learned if we have a habit of viewing pornography, we should reach out to the important people in our lives to help us break the cycle of use.
Pornography is a leading contributor in fractured family relationships. It promotes early, extreme, and often risky sexual practices among young people. It encourages the perpetuation of rape culture and violence against women, children and vulnerable men. Pornography leaves it users with emotional trauma due to low self-esteem and feeling of isolation. Pornography fuels sex trafficking and slavery worldwide.
The porn industry would have us believe their right to freedom of expression supersedes others’ rights to make informed individual choices. However, teens deserve to hear both sides of the equations. When we give them all the facts we are trusting them to reject pornography based on individual judgment and their own clear understanding of the social costs that pornography leaves in it’s wake.
Based on my experience with these amazing youth, we have a generation ready to change the conversation. They are force to be reckoned with!
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