The Covenant Eyes Podcast

Addressing the Damaging Effects of Pornography: A Discussion with Trent Horn

December 13, 2023 Covenant Eyes Season 2 Episode 66
The Covenant Eyes Podcast
Addressing the Damaging Effects of Pornography: A Discussion with Trent Horn
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Are you grappling with the harsh effects of pornography on your life or someone you care about? We discuss this topic with Trent Horn, a renowned apologist. We also take a hard look at the sinister side of the pornography industry, underscoring its alarming connection to human trafficking and the exploitation of the most vulnerable among us. In light of recent measures like Utah's ban and age-verification laws, we explore the role of platforms in regulating content and the responsibility we all share in tackling this issue. This episode promises to be a blend of thought-provoking dialogue and tangible advice on a topic often left unspoken. Step in for a necessary and courageous conversation on the harms of pornography.

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Rob:

Hey everyone and welcome back to the Covenant Eyes podcast. It's so good to be with you for another episode. I'm Brandon Clark, one of your hosts, joined by Karen Potter. Hi, karen, how are you today?

Karen:

Hey, brandon, I'm doing awesome, glad to be back in the podcast studio and, of course, we are talking about some amazing topics, like we always do, and we've got a really good guest coming in today. Welcome to our guest, trent Horn. How are you, and thanks for joining us.

Trent Horn:

I'm doing well. Thank you for having me.

Rob:

Trent, I've been a big fan of you for years. I used to work in Catholic radio, so I got to know you through Catholic Answers and, as a Catholic Apologist and an Apologist in general, I really appreciate your approach to topics. It's a very non-emotional approach. I think so often it can get so emotional in having conversations back and forth about things, especially like pornography. So for you to come at it from a reasonable perspective and taking the emotion out of the argument, I think is really important. I think when thinking about pornography too, you deal a lot with pro-life issues. When I read an article from a few years ago, I was like, wow, I really want to have Trent on the podcast to talk about this, because you made a strong statement at the beginning of it, and it was you would rather deal with the evil of abortion than the evil of pornography. And it was when you were talking about your friendship with Matt Fradd, who we know pretty well through Covenant Eyes. Why do you say that? Let's start there. Why do you say that particular statement?

Trent Horn:

Well, I think that whenever someone deals with evil, whenever they're trying to combat evil, they always have to take great care of their souls. One of my favorite quotes is from the philosopher Frederick Nietzsche. Of course, nietzsche, being a nihilistic philosopher, is someone that I have very little agreement with in many cases, except when he does get things right about if God does not exist. How depressing that would actually be. It's not something to really celebrate. What Nietzsche said was those who fight monsters must take steps to ensure they don't become monsters. I've seen people in ministry and other places who combat evil and they're so fixated against it it kind of warps them. When you're dealing with evil all the time. It's not good for your soul and I'm actually glad as a Catholic apologist I was once a pro-life missionary. It would be training just talking about abortion all the time, looking at images of abortion Frequently. I used to do work witnessing on college campuses with graphic images of abortion and it can wear you down over time. You have to take care of your soul in that regard. But I would much rather, I guess, if I had to compare the two having to deal with, like when I combat abortion and when I argue it, even if I have to view the effects of it. I've never tempted by it. It's never like I talk about abortion so much and I even look at the results of abortion. It's not like, oh, I secretly now wanted abortion or something. It's absolutely repulsive. But when you talk about pornography and you have to deal with pornography and even have to see effects of if you're researching it or things like that, it's like handling radioactive waste. You know you have to. There's always a source of danger there to be aware of. So I think that was one reason why I appreciate that, like when Matt was, when he was doing that full time and others, it takes a very strong will and resolve to do that.

Rob:

Yeah, it really does, and you know everybody who works for Covenant Eyes that I've met. A lot of people use Covenant Eye software themselves. You know not because they're necessarily always tempted to go back, but we really need to keep up those guardrails because it is easy to fall into the trap Now. At the same time, you said that you have compassion for people who have the compulsion to view pornography. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Trent Horn:

Oh, certainly. I think it's important to remember that whenever people are struggling with something, you want to be compassionate towards them and not become holier than now. Think about the parable that Jesus told about the two men who went to pray the public in and the tax collector. I give ties twice a week and thank you, lord, for not letting me be like this. This tax collector over here, what a bum right. And the tax collector just beats his chest and says Lord, at mercy on me, and he was the one who went away, justified. Now the man who thanked the Lord say thank you for not making me a tax collector. That's a. That was a good prayer. Everything he said was good. He said I do good things. Thank you, lord, for helping me to not be like one of these sinners. But the problem was he did not recognize his own need for God's mercy. That was the. That was Jesus' point in the parable. He could have said all that and then said but still, lord, have mercy on me, forgive me of my sins, the places where I fall short. That's where he went wrong. There's nothing bad in saying like if I was to say, lord, thank you for sparing me in my life, that I'm not a drug dealer, I'm not a pimp, I'm not a prostitute. Thank you, lord. But then act like you know that I be thankful I don't commit these evils. There's plenty of evils under the sun we commit every day and we ask the Lord for his mercy. So when people so certain people may not have a compulsion towards pornography, but everybody has their own sinful things that they are ordered towards. Maybe your compulsion is towards alcohol, or maybe the compulsion is towards working Like you like. Honestly, that's one of my compulsions. Like it's. Sometimes my wife and I have a fight and they're like I'm up to, I'm up till 2am working on something which is not good, like I'm tired, I can't serve my family well and like, if I'm in a bad mood, say, well, it's not like I'm drinking or looking at porn or something. Like yeah, okay, I'm not doing that, but like I'm still, you know, doing things that are actually not that great for me, I'm losing sleep, I'm being disordered. So everybody has compulsions to different things, and so to have to see that someone has a compulsion towards pornography, you don't want to say, oh, what a weirdo. Or all that's terrible to pervert. Understand, look, satan gets his grips on people in different ways. Our first reaction should be sorrow and compassion and asking the Lord how can I help this person be freed from the grips of this thing?

Rob:

Yeah, that's a. That's a really important point to bring up and I think, just for for those who are struggling, even those who are listening, who are struggling, you know just to recognition of we lead with compassion because many of us have been there ourselves with some Right, Like you were saying, some form of compulsion, and so it's sort of go ahead and I want to jump, yeah, I want to jump in here too.

Trent Horn:

And like when I say, like the compulsions that I have, I have all, all kinds of temptations. It's not like when I'm on the internet and I see something I could click on, I'm someone's like, I only like doing apologetics. That doesn't tempt me in the slightest. It's certainly quite tempting. You always feel that that's why, that's why it's hard. I wish, like I don't know, I wish maybe one day I could have this. Or like I just sit in my study and it's all mahogany bookcases with books and somebody else gets all the articles on the internet, so I don't have to go there. And then I just sit and I write and I type, and I never have to be on the internet again. Or someone reports to me here's a video someone did. I downloaded it and sent it to you. And maybe one day, of my platform, I can have a little assistant who does all that stuff and I'll be on the internet. But being on there, oh temptation, my friend. So that's why it's when you look at others, especially those who are in the midst of compulsion, where they feel like they can't get away from it, you don't want to think, oh, I can never be that person, because that's certainly not true, right, yeah.

Rob:

And then it becomes sort of like a woman at the well approach right, just meeting people where they're at.

Karen:

Yeah, you know, one thing I really enjoyed about the article that you wrote, trent, was that midway through the article you start talking a little bit about language and the importance of language, and you've given, you know, a couple examples. We don't say prostitute, you say sex worker to make it sound more dignified. You know, and you talk about how language really, and even you use the, you know abortion as an example, and you walk through some of that. Talk to us a little bit about how we talk about pornography and how we talk about things related to pornography and the language we use matters as we're. You know, we do want empathy and we do want to have compassion for people, but we do need to call it what it is as well, right?

Trent Horn:

Yeah, we do, and I think there is a growing movement. Probably one of the biggest examples there would be to refer to people who produce pornography as sex workers rather than prostitutes and pornographers. So, for example, one of the largest growing avenues for pornography is self-produced pornography through websites like OnlyFans. I mean, there was a time where if you wanted to get pornography, you had to go to an organization that was run by men that produced it and hired women and men to pose nude, to pose in sexual positions, and then they created the product and people consumed it penthouse playboy. Even when things entered the digital age, you know Cinemax, aka Skinamax, people would call it HBO, and then other pornographic video channels, things like that. The internet also really opened a door, though, for kind of self-produced things, and OnlyFans has really refined it for that, just like the internet created a revolution for self-produced content in general. Right, I mean, I don't really watch TV anymore. There's just YouTube channels of creators that I enjoy and I watch them, but of course it feels like every good thing that exists, there is some evil, pornographic version of it that is out there. So there is good to have independent content creators that create really interesting things to share with people, and there's a pornographic version of that, and so we have to be able to use that language to say that. You know, I'm an only I'm a model. I'm an Instagram model, I'm an OnlyFans model. Now, a model can be a dignified profession. It's not necessarily you don't have to be immodest Like. There are models that are hired for Catholic clothing companies to show what modest clothing looks like, and you want to pick models that are attractive and the clothes look nice on them. So there's nothing wrong with being a model. What is wrong is using your body to purposely sexually arouse others, and there are some people who do that because they can make money off of that. If you are trying to make money by sexually arousing other people, you are a pornographer. That is what you do, and if you don't like that, well then you can say okay, well, what's wrong with? What do you think about pornography? And so I think you're right. That the kind of language. So sex workers are prostitutes, not prostitution. But I also think that the habit of referring to Instagram and only fan models you're not a model, you're a pornographer. That's what you're producing.

Rob:

That's a really interesting thought and I think we see another issue come in in trafficking and we've seen that highlighted, of course, through the movie Sound of Freedom, talking about the child sex trafficking and a lot of that starts with the demand for pornography and I think you were talking about this in your podcast. When it comes to Pornhub and that actually being a trafficker people putting material on there of trafficking victims Can you dive a little bit into that?

Trent Horn:

Yes, so this is also this is an important element to discuss when we talk about pornography that one of the harms involved. It's not an intrinsic harm related to pornography because of what it is, but it is a practical result of it. That flow, the fact that this is an evil industry that traffics in evil, the evils will quickly multiply. Right, it won't just be producing the evil pornography. If you degrade human beings enough to see them as just sexual objects to buy and sell and manipulate, then you're going to do other things to harm those human beings. Right, you're going to basically coerce them to engage in sexual acts where they're likely to receive sexually transmitted diseases. You're gonna withhold pay from them. You have no qualms about withholding. If you withhold their dignity, why wouldn't you withhold their money if you can get away from it? And so some people will try to extract value from these objects. If you've created someone as an object, right, if you view them as a sexual object, then you'll be quickly tempted to treat them as an object in all respects, and so an object like if I have a book here or whatever it is, I'll pick sunglasses. I got my sunglasses here, but I don't want them anymore. I give them to somebody else. It doesn't matter what the sunglasses want, they're an object, it doesn't matter If I can make money off of them. Give them to somebody else, I keep them, whatever. So then trafficking quickly flows into the pornographic industry. That maybe someone has a conscience and say, yeah, I support this. I don't support making people do it against their will. But if you objectify people enough and already view them as less than human and I think many people who engage in pornography and they have a contempt towards those who take their clothes off and do the dirty deeds, if you will, and the others who make money from it. That's why so many people who are involved in the pornography industry would rather work for themselves, away from those people who already kind of hold them in contempt. It's like you're the people that do the dirty work. I'm just gonna, man, I'm gonna help to sell it and distribute it. I'm better than you, though I don't have to at least do that. So they go independently in that regard. So part of that involves trafficking women, trafficking in children, getting people involved in the industry so that they feel like they can't leave, they're addicted to drugs, cutting off their options for leaving, and then, of course, and the people you can manipulate the easiest are children, as we see in Sound of Freedom. They have no ability to fight or escape, and if they're, they eventually it's easier to break their wills and keep them in these horrible, awful situations. So you're going to have, of course, you're going to have defenders of pornography to say, well, that's the abuse, the way we use it in general, that's not what it leads. That doesn't make all pornography bad In a strict sense it doesn't. But you can show, look, this isn't a usual consequence that comes from this, and so it should call the whole enterprise into question, and at the very least, it's something to get people to start to reconsider being supportive of this industry. So that's why Pornhub because I mean pornography is something that very few people take pride in. You know so people who promote pornography a lot of other people just turn a blind eye to it, don't want to talk about it, so it's easy then for them to start slipping in. You know, well, we've got this 15 year old model. She's very, very attractive. People like her, nobody needs to know she's 15. Is she really that different from a 19 year old? And then you start having the justifications and the, the, the evils creep in and other people don't want to be associated with it and the evil Profligates Well, we've got porn. We got pornography that has rape fantasies. I don't know if this was entirely consensual, but does it really matter? Slowly but surely it accretes, and that's why porn hub had all of these things you could find on there so easily, and and pornography. They just lends itself to that kind of stuff.

Karen:

Absolutely really good points there. You know, another key area of when I was reading through your article, I just it kind of struck me. I mean, it was so basic, but you just called it out as it is. You know, if pornography was not such a big deal, why do people hide it? You went through just a list of things. Like, you know, if it's something you could get fired for at work, you know, then why would it be? You know, is it bad? Like, of course, we hide it because we know intrinsically, as people of faith, that it is not good and it is not right for us to be indulging in pornography. So I just thought that was really great. I love your matter of factness in the article. You go through several circumstances and situations like that when you were writing this article. Um, you know, what was kind of your, your motivation, what, what was it that you were hoping that your readers would take away from? This article is kind of a key takeaway.

Trent Horn:

Well, I think the article is actually a transcript of a podcast episode I did back in 2020, and that was during the controversy related to porn hub, I believe, when credit card companies were choosing to boycott the company, or people were Pressuring the credit card companies to boycott porn hub, to not process their financial transactions as a way to economically cripple them. Because porn hub as a platform was so unregulated it was allowing videos of rapes, video of child rape, things like that to be spread throughout the platform. Because porn hub is something it's user-generated content. People just upload and they'll say, oh, it's not our responsibility, we don't control what the users do. Well, hey, you're making money off people just uploading to this and you should be able to be held Responsible. It's not. It's like if I'm running a hotel and if I just walked down, if all I have to do is just kind of walk down the hall and I can hear children being raped in the rooms and I'm like, oh, it's not my responsibility, yet yeah, it is. Now you're culpable if you could just do something very simple to walk down the hall and see it. And for those who Were on porn hub, those who were running the company, all you had to do is just do a search Kid rape, child rape, rape scene. It's very easy to search and find these things and nothing was being done about it. So the whole platform Should be criminally investigated and at the very least hobbled economically. Because, you know, if you can't, most people like to pay for things with their, with their credit cards, and they want to use credit card. It's too much of a hassle for them and they might not Choose to consume that content. So that's why I was really encouraging people then to be able to explain why this is wrong, to explain the abuses, because they might talk to a friend who says well, I agree, child porn is bad, but I don't. It's got a lot of regular porn ounces a big deal. And the accent, by the way, I'm not saying the certain Geographic region of the country is for pornography, that's just my generic. I don't think porn's a big deal. Voice, so to say to them okay, well, we can talk about that, but can you see how this platform, where a lot of pornography is consumed, if it so easily leads to forms of pornography you agree, are evil? Then shouldn't the whole platform be called in a question, just like if you stayed at a hotel and there was child rape at that hotel. Maybe you probably wouldn't want to stay there anymore. You know.

Rob:

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And so, fast forward three years. We've seen porn hub take a hit. It's actually banned in the state of Utah. Now we're seeing laws passed in states like Louisiana for age verification for pornography websites, so we're gaining ground. The thing that I would like to consider, though, here is the consumer and the. The impact on the consumer and this is another point you brought up in the podcast was you know pornography and viewing Pornography and, like those who create pornography aside, when people the consumer uses pornography, searches, searches it out in some capacity. Maybe it's not every day, maybe it's like once a month or whatever it's still gonna have an impact on that person. Can you dive into that a little bit?

Trent Horn:

Sure, in choosing to view pornography, the person is creating new neural pathways in his or her brain and is conditioning themselves to be aroused or excited by a particular set of stimuli. And in doing that it's going to harm their ability to have relationships, not just relationships with their spouse or future spouse, but even relationships with people of the opposite sex or same sex, if that is the attraction that they have and that's the pornography they're looking up. So, for example, if a man is constantly looking up pornography of women and lusting after women, he's going to have a difficult time. Women will pick up on the fact that he's a little creepy and he's going to shift back into his leering gaze. That he does at all hours of the night, when he's hanging out with them during the daylight hours, so to speak. So it numbs you. It also makes you morally cooperate with this evil that even pornography industries, especially those that produce films and videos, things like that there's all kinds of abuse Women who are involved in this engage in so much sexual activity. It causes horrendous abuse to their very bodies, to their minds, their souls, and you're cooperating with that evil. So it's bad for your soul, not just your mind, not just your body and, of course, engaging the sin of lust. Jesus says that lust is as sinful as adultery, and adulterers are forever excluded from the presence of God. Is that what you want? Is that worth it? If you're so in love with pornography, when you're giving the opportunity for heaven and there's no porn there, you might want to choose something else besides that, but you don't want to condition your heart in that way. So there's physical, emotional, psychological and then, worst of all, spiritual harms for the consumer, and even if the spiritual harms aren't as big a deal to them which should be, though, just even the harms in this life and of having a stunt to development you're never going to be truly happy. It's like drinking salt water you can drink it and drink it and drink it, but you're still always going to be thirsty. There's no one who looks at pornography who says I got to the last image, I'm good, there's there, I'm done. Now I'm satiated. It is a sinful appetite that is insatiable because it's not ordered towards a particular good. It's just ordered towards internal pleasure, not towards a particular good like friendship or marriage or something like that. So it can never be satisfied and you end up being miserable because of that.

Karen:

I think our listeners are going to find a lot of value. I definitely showed my age by. I read the podcast, so my Gen X is showing here, apparently.

Trent Horn:

I didn't listen.

Karen:

I read it Sorry. Oh, my goodness, I'm so sorry about calling it an article. It's an amazing podcast.

Trent Horn:

No, no, no, it was transcribed. I always you know what's funny now I script out my podcasts and I really enjoy doing that. I cannot stand reading old transcripts of my podcast because writing an article is very different than speaking to someone in a podcast, but I'm glad you still enjoyed it in spite of a transcript that could seem a little rambly.

Karen:

Yeah, no, it was fine, it was good, but thank you so much for joining us. We're coming to a close for today's podcast and we do want to just kind of give our listeners. Is there any particular resources or websites that we should be directing our listeners to so they can learn more about you and your work?

Trent Horn:

Yes, I have a YouTube channel called the Council of Trent. It's also available as a podcast, but they can go and check that out. The Council of Trent C-O-U-N-S-E-L. My work is available also at Catholiccom.

Karen:

Awesome. We'll put that in the show notes for all of our driving listeners who don't have a pen and paper and can't multitask but they're not driving a Tesla, Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Brandon. In closing today, bring it home. What did you take away from today's conversation?

Rob:

Well, I just want to encourage our listeners to go check out this podcast either listen it or read it, if you're like Karen, and just go through all of the different things. What I love about what Trent has done is he laid out so many different arguments for why pornography is harmful. I think it's just good to get that overview, that full picture of what we're dealing with when it comes to pornography, because, as we have talked about, it's not just pornography. There are so many different impacts involved and consequences as Trent used that word consequences as a result of this evil taking place. That's my biggest takeaway. How about you, karen?

Karen:

Yeah, absolutely, I'm with you. I just really enjoy the way that he just is very matter of fact and lays it out. I think we need more of that. I think sometimes I'm very emotional, I'm passionate and I tend to lead with that, having those solid arguments that are rational and lack that emotion tied to it. It's good to have that, because then you can have really good dialogues with other people. I would encourage everybody to listen to the podcast and get involved and stay connected with Trent and his work.

Rob:

Yeah, so thanks so much for joining us again today, trent. It's been a pleasure To everybody tuning in for our podcast today. Thank you so much. Continue to watch each week as we bring you new guests, new topics. Leave us a review. Karen mentioned in a previous podcast we love five-star reviews. If you're interested in dropping one of those, or even let us know who you'd like to have on the podcast in the future. That's all for today. Thanks for tuning in and we'll see you again next week. God bless.

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