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Christian Union
February 11, 2014

Events Educate Harvard Community about Misconceptions


While Sex Week at Harvard promoted tolerance and the "exploration of diverse and varied sexual activity," another group of students simultaneously held events that sought to warn the campus community about the dangers and misconceptions of pornography.

White Ribbon Against Pornography Week (WRAP) was sponsored by the Harvard Catholic Student Association, the Anscombe Society, The Knights of Columbus at Harvard, and Harvard College Faith and Action, a leadership development ministry supported and resourced by Christian Union. WRAP is a nationwide event organized by Morality in Media and cosponsored by hundreds of groups.

"Pornography corrodes one's ability to see the other as [another human being]," said Fr. Matt Westcott, Catholic Chaplain at Harvard. "It leaves one unable to love and promotes a selfish worldview that ultimately leaves one completely isolated. It is certainly not harmless. It destroys even the possibility of full relationships and a healthy sexual life within marriage."

WRAP at Harvard offered a week full of events, including the screening of the documentary Out of Darkness, which tells of a former porn star's journey to Christ, and presentations by speakers such as Dr. Peter Kreeft, an author and professor of philosophy at Boston College; Dr. Anthony Esolen (Harvard '81), an author and professor of English at Providence College; and Harvard alumnus Michael Brewer '07, a former supervisor of young adult outreach for the Knights of Columbus.

While not specifically scheduled to coincide with Sex Week at Harvard, Westcott called the timing of WRAP fortuitous, and believes it helped organizers make their point.

Brewer's message of "True Manhood in an Age of Empty Indulgence" resonated with sophomore Todd Jones, the student organizer of the event.

"His talk revolved around an ideal of virtue, and the way in which today's conception of manhood has corrupted that ideal," said Jones.

Both Westcott and Jones also see the corruption of virtue through pornography at Harvard, as it is on many college campuses.

"Harvard is just as awash in pornography and other harmful sexual practices as any campus," said Westcott.

Jones said that there is "almost an assumption" that most people view pornography on campus and knows men who have found themselves in an addictive grip.

"A solid majority of people our age, particularly men, engage in pornography with at least some degree of regularity," said Jones. "It's prevalent, it's damaging, and, for whatever reason, people don't give it the concern it deserves."

WRAP offered time to raise the concern, not by promoting any specific message, rather by inviting students to ask themselves, "Should I be doing this?"

"The first step was to make people realize that our viewpoint is legitimate, widely held, and worth consideration," said Jones.

Not surprisingly, campus response to the event was less than generous, with only marginal coverage in the campus newspaper, The Harvard Crimson.

"We had a little bit of 'official' coverage on campus, but it was largely negative," said Jones. "Individual students' responses, however, varied from scorn to excited support."

In The Harvard Crimson article, the writer refers to the Anscombe Society's "long and strange history of pretending that it is fundamentally acting in women's interests," and describes WRAP week as having "pat regurgitations of conservative norms."

However, to those who see opposition to pornography as conservative or oppressive, Jones says, it's actually just the opposite.

"Pornography can be as addictive to some people as hard drugs, and no addiction can claim to be a beacon of sexual freedom. In short, I challenge those people to quit. If they can't, then what was the true source of oppression all along? If they succeed, then they'll see for themselves how much happier they become."

Both Westcott and Jones cite the healing power and forgiveness that comes from Jesus Christ as a source of freedom from pornography, which can be isolating for those burdened with it.

"Faith in Christ can be the powerful reminder of solidarity that a pornography addict needs," said Jones. "The solution to pornography is solidarity, and faith is the best place to turn when fighting that fight."

Additionally, Westcott says that Jesus stands ready to forgive. "There is no sin more powerful than His mercy. Christ will provide the grace one needs to live as He calls. There is always hope," he said.

While the majority of the sponsoring organizations were Catholic, Wescott and Jones note that this is not a Catholic issue—or even a Protestant issue. However, in the absence of secular concern over the matter, Jones says, he and his peers are ready to take a stand against the pervasive nature of pornography.

"Harvard students are much more likely than your average group of Americans to support—not merely to tolerate—pornography on an intellectual basis," he said.
"Nobody else seems willing to represent the alternative viewpoint, at least publicly, so that task has fallen to us."