April 8, 2014 // Local

Notre Dame panel discussion exposes harms of pornography culture

NOTRE DAME — Four people who have been drastically affected by the epidemic of pornography shared their personal testimonies of the struggles they endured and eventually overcame in order to regain control and moral stability within their lives on March 31 at the University of Notre Dame. The panelists included Donny Pauling, a former pornography producer, Christina (Chrissy) Moran, a former pornography star, Sam Meier, a former pornography addict, and Beth Meier, Sam’s wife. The event titled “Porn: On Both Sides of the Screen” was co-sponsored by Notre Dame’s Institute for Church Life and Gender Relations Center.

Each speaker described the methods in which pornography worked its way into their life and almost ended up destroying them. Donny Pauling began the testimonies by revealing his own difficult relationship with God that led him to a very lucrative, yet immoral lifestyle. As the son of a pastor, he was taught to see God as very legalistic and rigid, and quickly grew resentful toward religion. His bitterness toward faith stayed with him through adulthood and into married life.

While at first he was only curiously attracted to pornography, after bringing a computer into their home he became gradually consumed by it. Not long after, he began living a secret life and started working part-time in the pornography industry. As a photographer and eventual producer, he became more and more skilled at manipulation, convincing young women that pornography was a career they really wanted for themselves and were well suited for.

He revealed that during his nine years in the business, he was responsible for bringing over 500 girls into pornography. He remarked that “although it brought these girls fame and wealth, not one of them ever thanked me for bringing them into this life, and many of them have been severely scarred by the experiences they went through there.”

His own marriage fell apart after he had an affair with an actress and he disclosed his double life to his wife. He began to see more and more the negative impacts all around him, especially in the women he worked with.

He shared, with deep emotion, that “after working with many of these girls, I began to see the light that had once been in their eyes go out and their soul start to die, as they were forced to do more and more extreme acts. On camera it might look like the girls enjoy what they are doing and enter into it of their own consent, but once the cameras turn off, no one sees that same young woman curled up in the corner crying or in shock because she is unable to comprehend what she had just gone through.”

However, it was not until an encounter with a Christian missionary group that his life turned around. At a pornography convention, he encountered people from the group XXXchurch, who dedicate their ministry to helping men break free from addiction, encouraging women to see that they are inherently loved, and sharing the healing power of forgiveness and reconciliation through relationship with Christ. This witness brought him to see Christianity very differently from that with which he grew up, eventually leading him out of the industry in 2006. He shared with those present that he has become very involved in his faith and is planning to convert to Catholicism this upcoming Easter Vigil.

Chrissy Moran then shared what led her to be a pornographic actress. As a young girl she was sexually abused, struggled through her parents’ divorce and dealt with the fallout of having an alcoholic father. As she grew older she was constantly looking for fulfillment in her relationships with men.

She shared, “I was looking for love, I wanted a family, and I felt unworthy if I wasn’t in a relationship.”

She confessed that she became addicted to sex because it was the only way she could feel connected to a man, even if for only a short time. She went from living with one man to another.

She began working in pornography in 1999 and enjoyed the money it brought, but still felt very broken. “I would continue to try to have relationships, but it was always with men who struggled with porn and I would wonder why I wasn’t enough,” she said.

Eventually, after working in the industry for seven years, without having experienced any type of authentic love, she encountered a man who shared the Gospel of Christ with her and showed her how she has been truly loved, forgiven and redeemed by the Savior of the world. Two days later she left the pornography business and sought to reform her life. After committing to a lengthy dating fast and purgation of destructive habits, she eventually found a strong, supportive Christian man who values her and treats her with dignity. They will be celebrating their one-year marriage anniversary this May.

Sam and Beth Meier met at the University of Dallas and were married in 2001, at ages 20 and 19, respectively. Sam had struggled with pornography since he was 12, but assumed it would not be much of an issue after marriage. However, after receiving a computer as a wedding gift, he quickly found himself becoming addicted to pornography.

Within a few months he began looking forward to when his wife wouldn’t be home so he could look at pornography as much as he wanted. Their sex life became more distant. He remarked on the irony of pornography, “porn begins with two strangers engaging in sex, but if you bring it into your marriage it eventually makes two strangers out of the husband and wife.”

He noticed that his sexual fantasies had led to flirting in the workplace and lack of chastity within his heart. While he did not have an affair, Beth became very upset and frustrated with Sam. She indicated that “his addiction and my anger led to a reversal of what a couple should be; he became emasculated and I was forced to take the lead in everything.”

She also began to feel inferior to the women he fantasized about and continued to question why she wasn’t ever enough for him.

After losing her job she gave him an ultimatum for their future, telling him “if this is what you really want in your life, I will not stop you, but you have to make a choice.” Sam wanted to work out his marriage, so he began attending Sexaholics Anonymous counseling sessions and learning more about brain chemistry to better understand his own addiction. He also became committed to daily prayer and frequent Reconciliation, as well as enrolling in the Covenant Eyes software program to keep him honest about his Internet usage. Beth also began to heal by listening to stories of other wives who had battled and persevered through having a husband consumed by pornography.

After years of therapy they have since built up a strong Catholic marriage, grounded in the sacraments, chastity and accountability. Sam now works at the My House organization in the Archdiocese of Kansas City to help families and marriages struggling with pornography, while Beth is a stay-at-home mom for their two sons and also facilitates a support group for wives who struggle with pornography addictions.

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