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April 14, 2016
Sacha Sewhdat

Time Magazine’s cover on April 11 reads: “PORN: Why young men who grew up with internet porn are becoming advocates for turning it off.”

Earlier this year, we spoke to Craig Perra, renowned men’s sexual health therapist and founder of themindfulhabit.com, about the culture of pornography, sexual addiction, and the Church. Some of that exchange is excerpted below.  It has been edited for clarity and brevity.


Sacha@CONTEXT: What is the average child’s first exposure to human sexuality like right now?

Craig Perra: Most children will see people having intercourse before they kiss a girl. Before they hold a girl’s hand. Before they look into her eyes and write love notes. Before that awkward touch in the movie theatre, they’ve already seen graphic hardcore pornography.  

Your head should explode now. Everybody who is over 30 years old, they’re head should explode.  

So we have to ask ourselves, what impact does that have on their sexual-spiritual development?

Sacha@CONTEXT: Every two weeks, you get a certain type of call. Can you tell us about that?

Craig Perra: Yeah, this is the hardest part of what I do. When kids call it’s so sad and highlights why talking about this is so important. Every two weeks, on average, I get a call and I pick up the phone and say ‘Hey! this is Craig Perra from the Mindful Habit, blah blah blah’ and right away, you know what a child’s voice sounds like.  Let’s stop for a second and think about the significance of them calling me.  

What does that mean? That this 12-year-old fell into pornography and has become consumed by it to such a place that they realize that they need help.  Then, they’re smart enough to know that they can google to find help.  Then they call.

So this boy calls, and I try to talk to him a little bit.  I don’t really work with children and I need to be concerned when I’m talking to a child but I want to point them in the right direction.  I introduce them always to Fight The New Drug which is a wonderful website that helps teens with their pornography problem. Then I ask them, ‘Can you talk to your parents about this?”  The two people in their lives that they need to talk to about this.  

No.

I promise I will explain to your parents how this is not your fault, how you didn’t do anything wrong, how this is natural so we can start having a conversation with the two people who I know love you.  Can we do that?

Click.  

That’s hard.

Sacha@CONTEXT: How can somebody who has really deeply held beliefs still be true to those beliefs but also get in touch with understanding the culture and where it’s heading?

Craig Perra: My program is a secular one but most of my clients are deeply religious men. The nature of the question highlights the problems that the religious communities are facing.

Human sexuality in the most religious circles - Evangelical, LDS, Catholic - is proscriptive: don’t do it!  Save it for somebody you love in the context of a committed, long term, monogamous relationship after marriage.  That means nothing to the child. Nothing.

Religious communities: you have to go there.  You have to educate your kids, making room for failure.  Failure is an integral component of success.  Well guess what? Every time I touched myself, I was burning in the eternal hellfire of damnation!  

What do you think that does to a child?  Because they’re going to touch themselves.

You tell them not to masturbate, why?  What is it about this respecting and honouring the body?  If you want these boys to be successful, you have to give them the framework to be successful instead of telling them not to do something.



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