Homosexual Porn Conflicts in Youth: Parental ResponsesRICHARD FITZGIBBONS
Catholic parents are often shocked and deeply troubled when they discover a son or daughter has been viewing homosexual pornography or when they are informed by an adolescent son or daughter that they are homosexual.
This paper provides scientific and clinical information that can be helpful to parents to essential issues about SSA that have rarely been communicated to youth. We will look at statements often made by youth and helpful responses.
As our first approach, let us consider the common false assertion that the scientific evidence proves homosexuality to be genetically determined. The knowledge of the correct scientific information can be the foundation for a helpful responses to adolescents.
Today, there is a consensus that there is not a genetic or hormonal origin of homosexuality. A 2008 American Psychological Association publication  stated, "although much research has examined the possible genetic, or model, and developmental, social and cultural influences on sexual orientation no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles. . .."
Also, if homosexuality were genetically determined, identical male twins would be 100% concordant for this condition. A study  from the Australian twin registry found that only 11% of identical twins with SSA had a twin brother who also experienced SSA.
A common assertion expressed by youth to parents is that, "I have always felt this way so I must have been born homosexual." Research demonstrates a number of psychological conflicts in males with SSA, particularly weaknesses in confidence. The absence of close male friendships, an abusive older brother or a distant father relationship in early childhood can give rise to intense loneliness and male insecurities. Same sex attractions can develop unconsciously as an attempt to escape from this emotional pain.
In our clinical work over the past 34 years, we have found that the most common cause of same-sex attractions in males is an intense weakness in masculine confidence that is associated with strong feelings of loneliness and sadness. This insecurity arises from a number of factors, including same-sex peer rejection in early childhood as a result of a lack of eye–hand coordination. This challenge in boys interferes with male bonding in sports and with secure same-sex attachments. Other origins of male insecurity and sadness are an emotionally distant father relationship, a poor body image and, finally, sexual abuse victimization.
Several major research studies of adult and adolescent males with SSA have also demonstrated low self-esteem as being a major conflict in their lives. The first study from the Netherlands of 7,076 adults demonstrated that lesser quality of life in men was predominantly explained by low self-esteem.
In a 2010 Israeli study of ninety homosexual and 109 heterosexual men with mean age of 26 and with no significant differences with respect to country of birth, ethnic origin, education level, military service, or participation in psychotherapy, homosexual young adults scored lower on the self-esteem measure and higher on narcissism compared to their heterosexual counterparts.
A 2011 UK study of 10,000 adolescents was notable for boys with some same-sex experience reporting less self-esteem and more experiences of forced sex.
Other causes of male same sex attractions are a mistrust of women arising from conflicts with a controlling, angry, and overly dependent mother or from significant rejection by females.
A number of questions about psychological development can help the youth to grow in self-knowledge about their SSA. Initially, these questions can be met with a certain resistance, anger and insistence that "I have always felt this way." This initial response is common in helping people attempt to grow in self-knowledge.
An approach we take with males is to ask them who their best male friend was in first through third grades and to name the male friends who came to play at their home. Frequently, the response is a defensive reply that the good friends were female. In time an understanding often grows in these males that they did experience a deep sadness, male insecurity and anger because of the lack of close male friendships. Growth in self-knowledge helps them to appreciate that they are unconsciously trying to fill inner void for male friendships or for a close father relationship.
When asked what attracts them to other males and to SSA porn, the response often is that "I wish I had that person's body" or "He has certain male traits/strength that I feel that I lack."
An effective response to parents can be that of requesting that their son work on developing a stronger male confidence and closer male friendships with chaste males which is a major goal of the Catholic group for SSA, Courage.
Many females with SSA dated when young but never had a relationship with a male whom they could trust. The loss of trust in males is a leading cause of SSA in women in our clinical experience.
In our clinical experience the most common origin of SSA in females is a mistrust of males originating primarily from conflicts with fathers who are excessively angry, alcoholic, abusive, or highly narcissistic. The next conflict present in women is a weak feminine identity that can arise from a lack of secure attachment in the mother relationship, peer rejection and peer loneliness or a poor body image. Also, struggles with an inability to establish a loving relationship with a man can lead to intense loneliness and an attempt to escape this sadness through a homosexual relationship.
A 2010 study of 7,643 women between the ages of 14 and 44, drawn from the National Survey of Family Growth conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that women who grew up in households where their biological fathers were absent were three times more likely to have had homosexual partners in the year prior to the survey than were women who grew up with their biological fathers.
Important questions to ask young females with SSA are: How did your father treat your mother? Was he loving toward her? How did your father treat you? Is your mother an affectionate and affirming mother? How have males/females your age treated you? Do you appreciate your female gifts and beauty?
Again, initially, these questions can be met with a certain resistance, anger and insistence that "I have always felt this way." This initial response is common in helping people attempt to grow in self-knowledge.
With growth in self-knowledge many female youth with SSA come to recognize that they are afraid to trust males because of hurts with their fathers or with other males in their lives; that they yearned for more comforting love from their mothers; that they went through a phase of great loneliness for close female friendships; that they did not fully appreciate their female goodness and beauty; that they harbor deep mistrust and anger toward those who have hurt them.
Daughters can become angry with their parents and express a belief that they resent the attempts to "change" them. The parental response is that their goal is that their daughter understand more the serious health risks and instability in the lifestyle and that they address their emotional pain/psychological conflicts.
Many youth will assert to their parents that SSA does not go away. Research demonstrates that this is not true and their SSA is fluid in the youth as the following research studies demonstrate. This research leads many parents to request that youth not make any definitive statement about their SSA during their adolescence.
Dr. Laumann's research at the University of Chicago has shown that "sexual orientation has found to be unstable over time in both males and females." Lisa Diamond reported in her book, Sexual Fluidity, that "more than two-thirds of the women in my sample had changed their identity labels at least once after the first interview. The women who kept the same identity for the whole ten years proved to be the smallest and most atypical group."
The Savin-Williams and Ream 2007 study on the stability of sexual orientation demonstrated that the idea that adolescent same-sex attraction will always become adult same sex attraction is quite incorrect. The changes are overwhelmingly in the direction of heterosexuality, which even at age 16-17 is at least 25 times as stable as bisexuality or homosexuality, whether for men and women. That is, 16 year olds saying they have an SSA or Bi- orientation are 25 times more likely to change towards heterosexuality at the age of 17 than those with a heterosexual orientation are likely to change towards bi-sexuality or homosexuality. Seventy-five percent of adolescents who had some initial same-sex attraction between the ages of 17-21 ultimately declared exclusive heterosexuality.
When youth with SSA claim that there is no difference between the health of those who engage in same sex activity compared to martial sexuality, the following studies can be cited that demonstrate the serious medical and psychiatric health risks associated with the homosexual lifestyle that are rarely presented to youth. Pediatricians, mental health professionals, physicians, nurses and school counselors have a clear legal responsibility to do so and parents, family members, educators and clergy have a moral responsibility.
Well-designed research studies published in leading peer-reviewed journals have shown a number of psychiatric disorders to be far more prevalent in teenagers and adults with SSA. These include major depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts and sexual abuse victimization. Many of these studies were done in countries where homosexuality is widely accepted, such as in New Zealand and the Netherlands.
Youth have the right to know the recent research that demonstrates the high risk of males acquiring cancer in the homosexual life style. A major study published in the journal Cancer in May 2011 revealed that men with SSA in California are twice as likely to report a cancer as heterosexual men. Most troubling was the median age of onset of cancer in the men with SSA - 41 years old.
A 2012 study of young adults from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent, Wave 3, of youths aged 18-27, revealed that Gay/lesbian and bisexual respondents had higher levels of psychopathology than heterosexuals across all outcomes. Gay/lesbian respondents had higher odds of exposure to child abuse and housing adversity, and bisexual respondents had higher odds of exposure to child abuse, housing adversity, and intimate partner violence, than heterosexuals. This was a nationally representative survey of adolescents included gay/lesbian (n=227), bisexual (n=245), and heterosexual (n=13,490) youths, ages 18-27.
GLB youth who self-identified during high school report disproportionate risk for a variety of health risks and problem behaviors, including suicide sexual risk behaviors, multiple substance abuse use, victimization. In addition these youth are more likely to report engaging in multiple risk behaviors and initiating risk behaviors at an earlier age than their peers.
A 21-year longitudinal study of a birth cohort of 1265 children born in Christchurch, New Zealand with 1007 evaluated at age 21 demonstrated significant differences between homosexual and heterosexual youth in regard to suicidal ideation, attempts and two or more psychiatric disorders as shown in the chart below.
A 2008 study found the HIV new-infection rate in the US 40% higher than estimated. Boys who begin to engage in sexual activity with males at an early age are more likely to become HIV positive or contract an STD. Intensive condom education has failed to prevent infections. According to Dr. Philip Alcabes, an epidemiologist at Hunter College, "It looks like prevention campaigns make even less difference than anyone thought."
A study of young men aged 17–22 who have sex with men found that 22% reported beginning anal sex with men when aged 3 to 14; of these, 15.2% were HIV positive. Of those who began sex when they were 15 to 19, 11.6% were HIV positive. While of those who began sex with men when they were 20 to 22, only 3.8% were HIV positive. It is clear that every year that a male with SSA delays sexual involvement reduces his risk of HIV.
Research has shown that in youth suicide risk decreases by delaying self-identifying as a homosexual. One study demonstrated that suicide risk among youth with same-sex attractions decreases 20 percent each year they delay labeling themselves as gay.
Parents and youth can also benefit from a number of resources including the documentary, Dr. Peter Kleponis' new book on adult pornography, Intergrity Restored: A Catholic Guide to Pornography (available August 2014) and A Young Man's Journey: Healing for Young Men with Unwanted Homosexual Feelings, Floyd Godrey, et al., 2012.
Youth have the right to know of other studies that also demonstrate a link between SSA behaviors and the incidence of cancer.
In the past 3 decades, anal cancer incidence has increased 39% in women and 96% in men in the United States. In the general US population, anal cancer incidence remains higher among women than men (1.8 vs 1.4 cases per100 000 annually), but the incidence is especially high among men who have sex with men (MSM; 35 per 100 000).
Indeed, data suggest that anal cancer incidence among MSM may be similar to or higher than incidence of cervical cancer among US women before the introduction of cervical cytology screening in the mid-1950s. Incidence estimates for HIV-infected MSM are even higher and vary from 45.9 per 100 000 person-years in meta-analyses to 78.2 per 100 000 person-years for US AIDS Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results data. (D'Souza, G., Rajan, S., Bhatia, R., Uptake and Predictors of Anal Cancer Screening in Men Who Have Sex With Men. Am J Public Health. 2013).
A 2004 study revealed that the high proportion of tumors with detectable HPV suggests that infection with HPV is a necessary cause of anal cancer, similar to that of cervical cancer. Increases in the prevalence of exposures, such as cigarette smoking, anal intercourse, HPV infection, and the number of lifetime sexual partners, may account for the increasing incidence of anal cancer in men and women, (Daling, JR, et al. 2004).
Although tobacco- and alcohol-associated head and neck cancers are declining in the developed world, potentially human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated oropharnygeal cancers are increasing. In Australia between1982–2005, there were significant annual increases in tonsil (1.39%) and base of tongue cancers in males (3.02%)) and base of tongue cancer in females (3.45%).
It is an unsupported claim when youth assert that there is no difference between same sex relationships and marriage. It can be helpful to cite the following research on the high prevalence of abuse in SSA relationships.
A 2002 study of lifetime abuse victimization revealed that 7% of heterosexual males reported being abused whereas 39% of males with SSA reported being abused by other males with SSA. Other research on homosexual relationships demonstrates similar findings.
A 2007 study published in the edition of the Journal of Urban Health, which is published by the New York Academy of Medicine, has found that over 32% of active homosexuals report that they have suffered "abuse" by one or more "partners" during the course of their lives. Fifty-four percent (n?=?144) of men reporting any history of abuse reported more than one form. Depression and substance abuse were among the strongest correlates of intimate partner abuse.
Another 2014 study from Australia revealed that it was significantly more likely that depression was mentioned in the cases of LGBT suicides than in non-LGBT cases. LGBT individuals also experienced relationship problems more often, with relationship conflict also being more frequent than in non-LGBT cases.
St. Thomas Aquinas has described love as wishing the best for the other. Parents certainly think and feel this for their children. Loving parents do not wish to have their child enslaved by porn or by a lifestyle associated with severe medical and psychiatric illnesses, as well as a lack of fidelity and loyalty.
The compulsive use of pornography can meet the criteria for addictive diseases identified in the DSM V. These include craving, interpersonal problems, neglected major roles, tolerance, withdrawal, much time spent using, psychological problems, activities given up, use larger amounts for longer periods of time and dependence.
Again, when parents recommend a mental health consultation in regard to SSA pornography, or SSA, a common response from youth is "I don't want any one to try to change me." An appropriate parental response after the possible origins of the SSA porn use have been uncovered is to recommend that, "We think you have significant emotional pain because of hurts in your life with peers or with a parent or with confidence, loneliness, social anxiety or a poor body image and we don't want you to be a prisoner of your past. We want to see your emotional pain decrease and we want you to have good healthy same sex friendships."
The goals of therapy are to help the person identify and work to resolve the underlying causes of his or her SSA, which often includes low self-esteem, sadness, loneliness, anger and anxiety. Mental health professionals who treat males with unwanted same sex attractions often find that treating conflicts in male confidence to be an essential aspect of successful therapy. Therapy is initiated to treat emotional conflicts that are associated often with promiscuous sexual behaviors regularly includes a spiritual component, as in the treatment of addictive disorders.
Since many males, in particular, with SSA have a history of hurts with and loneliness for good same sex friendships, parents should attempt to explore ways of meeting friends, including teen Church groups. The resolution of anger with rejecting peers is essential to diminishing anxiety and to building trust and confidence in same sex friendships. The parental coaching of youth to work on forgiving peers who have inflicted hurts is essential to the diminishment of emotional pain.
Catholic parents also can communicate that they are aware of studies that demonstrate the emotional pain that contributes to SSA can diminish and with it the use of SSA pornography. Success depends on many factors, including the professional expertise of the mental health professional, the relationship between therapist and client, length of treatment, presence of significant support for treatment, and the presence of other psychological problems, particularly addictions.
Dr. Jay Wade at Fordham University published a 2010 research study that showed that men with unwanted SSA can experience healing by developing healthy non-sexual relationships, i.e., friendships, with other men. They also reported a decrease in homosexual feelings and behavior, an increase in heterosexual feelings and behavior, and a positive change in psychological functioning.
Spitzer's study of 200 men and women who had sought professional help to deal with SSA and who were out of the lifestyle for five years found that 64% of the men and 43% of the women subsequently identified themselves as being heterosexual. Contrary to the claims made by the opponents of therapy, they did not experience an increase in psychological conflicts as a result of therapy.
Dr. Spitzer commented on his study, "Depression has been reported to be a common side effect of unsuccessful attempts to change orientation. This was not the case for our participants, who often reported that they were 'markedly' or 'extremely' depressed [prior to treatment] (males 43%, females 47%), but rarely that depressed [after treatment] (males 1%, females 4%.). To the contrary, [after treatment] the vast majority reported that they were 'not at all' or 'only slightly' depressed (males 91%, females 88%)."
In addition participants in Spitzer's study were presented with a list of several ways that therapy might have been "very helpful" (apart from change in sexual orientation). Notable were feeling more masculine (males) or more feminine (females) (87%) and developing more intimate nonsexual relations with the same sex (93%).
Although Dr. Spitzer has asked the journal to withdraw this study from the journal, he failed at the time of the request to give full information: He was harassed for years by political advocates of same-sex "marriage." Despite this lack of disclosure of the abuse he suffered, Dr. Spitzer did not have his request granted by the journal.
Again, weaknesses in feeling confident were major conflicts identified in research studies and in clinical work. Parents can facilitate growth in confidence in youth who struggle with SSA porn by encouraging them to be thankful daily for their God-given, special male or female gifts and by asking them to work on healthy same sex friendships which can diminish the loneliness, insecurity and anxiety that can drive pornography use.
The young field of positive psychology is helpful for youth who struggle with SSA. This field recognizes through research studies and clinical work the benefit of virtues in addressing significant emotional pain. For youth with intense social anxiety due to peer rejection when young growth in the virtue of trust is essential in establishing healthy same sex friendships. As healthy male friendships grow, loneliness and sadness decrease and confidence increase. The need to escape into pornography then markedly diminishes over time.
Growth in the virtue of gratitude for one's special God given gifts at each life stage also increases confidence that in turn diminishes social anxiety further.
Next, the virtue of forgiveness is essential to resolve the anger with those who inflicted hurt in childhood and adolescence. Those most often identified are male peers who were emotionally distant and, worse, critical, and a distant or angry father. Youth are given the option of forgiving in one of three ways. The first is cognitive forgiveness in which the person decides to forgive in order to diminish his/her emotional pain. The second is emotional forgiveness in which one truly feels like forgiving an offender. The third is spiritual forgiveness in which one gives one's anger to God through prayer or through the sacrament of reconciliation.
The forgiveness process can begin with spiritual forgiveness when there has been severe peer or parental rejection such that the person relates an inability to forgive. Forgiveness can fluctuate between these three methods and often needs to go on for many years in order to free one from being in the words of St. John Paul II, "a prisoner of one's past."
Empirical research demonstrates that each time forgiveness is used, not only does anger diminish, but also the sadness and anxiety associated with it. In addition, forgiveness increases confidence.
When tempted to view porn, we recommend the youth ask himself/herself, "What am I trying to escape from?" Then, we suggest they try to think, "I want to forgive anyone who may have caused by my inner turmoil." Often then, the conflict becomes more conscious and is often that of loneliness, a lack of confidence, stress or a poor body image. Communication with a trustworthy parent or friend can assist in this struggle as well as modifying the first two steps of AA and reflecting that, "I am powerless over porn use and the conflicts that drive it and I want to turn them over to God."
Compulsive and addictive behaviors can be difficult, if not impossible, to overcome without a spiritual component in a recovery program. The Catholic Church offers the group Courage for those with same sex attractions that focus on weekly meetings and growth in chaste friendships and in a deeper friendship with Jesus.
A 2009 doctoral dissertation on Courage demonstrated the effectiveness of Courage for those who participate. It showed that an increased rate of chastity is negatively correlated with psychopathology: an increased rate of chastity is positively correlated with happiness; the time in Courage is positively correlated with a history of increased religious participation, and extended participation in Courage is positively correlated with chastity. (www.couragerc.net)
A 2014 hopeful study was of 195 teenagers who were court-referred to a 2-month residential addiction treatment program. It found that increased daily spiritual exercises (DSE) were associated with greater likelihood of abstinence, increased prosocial behaviors, and reduced narcissistic behaviors, (Lee, M.E., et al. 2014).
Youth who experienced severe peer rejection in childhood are helped by spiritual direction with a focus on growing in a deeper friendship with the Lord at every life stage. Spiritual directors also encourage a deeper trust in Lord in regard to friendships which can decrease the social anxiety that can interfere with self-giving in friendships.
Those who experienced rejection in the father relationship benefit in spiritual direction from growing in a loving knowledge of God the Father or St. Joseph as the other loving father at every life stage.
In those Catholic females with a unmet need for comforting female love from hurts in the mother relationships or female friendships benefit from spiritual direction with a focus on Our Lady as the other loving and comforting mother at every life stage.
As the inner loneliness/sadness, insecurity, poor body image and social anxiety decrease through growth in Catholic spirituality, the attraction to SSA porn diminishes and over time can resolve. This journey requires courage, perseverance and patience.
Parents can protect their children from what they know is not good for them, that is, internet pornography, by employing currently available programs to monitor the internet use. Many parents rely upon programs that monitor children's computers, such as www.covenanteyes.com, and I-phones, Androids and I-pads, such as https://play.google.com/store/apps/developer?id=Dynamic+Catholic.
Parents whose children struggle with SSA porn have a responsibility to be informed about the science related to SSA. Youth today who show conflicts with SSA porn and SSA are being met with silence. Given all of the research from so many different angles showing the negative consequences for physical and psychological health, this silence is now showing itself as an act that violates the rights of youth because it fails to respect the youth's free will decisions by censoring vital information.
The knowledge about the emotional origins of SSA porn and the treatment available can protect youth. There is every reason to be hopeful that SSA porn use in youth can be effectively addressed with the help of informed parents.
Richard Fitzgibbons, M.D. "Homosexual Porn Conflicts in Youth: Parental Responses." Institute for Marital Healing (July, 2014).
Reprinted with permission of the author.
Richard Fitzgibbons, M.D. is the director of the Institute for Marital Healing in West Conshohocken, Pa. He is the co-author with Robert Enright, of Helping Clients Forgive: An Empirical Guide: An Empirical Guide for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope, 2000, American Psychological Association Books. He co-chaired the task force of the Catholic Medical Association that produced the document, "Homosexuality and Hope." His website is maritalhealing.com.
Copyright © 2014 Richard Fitzgibbons
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