The following are my notes from a training session I led at a meeting of volunteers for a youth ministry. We discussed the pervasiveness of porn, its devastating effects, and how to help someone struggle against this sin. Hopefully some of the links are beneficial to you, as well.
The Problem of Porn
Why Does Pornography Matter?
Pornography would matter, if for no other reason than the staggering number of people who access it regularly. Asking if pornography matters, in this sense, is like asking if Facebook matters or if cars matter. It’s important to understand simply because of its ubiquity.
- 13% of all internet searches are for erotic content; that number jumps to more than 1 in 5 for mobile searches.
- 20% of 16 year olds and 30% of 17 year olds have received a sext.
- 66.5% of young men and 48.7% of young women said viewing pornographic materials was an acceptable way to express one’s sexuality, according to a 2007 study. [Note: this is before the introduction of the smartphone.]
- While women and girls are a growing market for pornography, men are still 543% more likely to view pornography.
- 9 in 10 internet pornography users only access free material, yet internet porn is still a 3 billion dollar per year business.
- Among boys, 90% are exposed to porn before age 18, 83% have seen group sex online, 69% have seen same sex intercourse online, 39% have seen sexual bondage online, 32% have seen bestiality online, and 15% have seen child pornography.
- For girls, 60% are exposed to porn before the age of 18, 57% have seen group sex online, 55% have seen same sex intercourse online, 23% have seen sexual bondage online, 18% have seen bestiality online, and 9% have seen child pornography.
The following effects are associated with direct exposure to pornography as a child or adolescent:
- –Lasting negative or traumatic emotional responses. –
- Earlier onset of first sexual intercourse, thereby increasing the risk of STDs over the lifespan. –
- The belief that superior sexual satisfaction is attainable without having affection for one’s partner, thereby reinforcing the commoditization of sex and the objectification of humans. –
- The belief that being married or having a family are unattractive prospects. –
- Increased risk for developing sexual compulsions and addictive behavior. –
- Overestimating the prevalence of less common practices (e.g., group sex, bestiality, or sadomasochistic activity), and developing an accepting attitude toward such.
- Other points: long term behavior, increased risks of sexual violence, use into adulthood leading to reduced job productivity, inability to form real relationships with women...please take the time to download and read that full covenant eyes report! Also, look at a couple of the further reading articles.
Is the human brain affected by pornography?
- The human brain is an organ that constantly is changing itself; the use of pornography “builds highways” along particular routes upon which it will want to travel again.4
- As William M. Struthers of Wheaton College explains, “Men seem to be wired in such a way that pornography hijacks the proper functioning of their brains and has a long-lasting effect on their thoughts and lives.”
In a fallen world, pornography becomes more than a distraction and a distortion of God’s intention for human sexuality. It comes as an addictive poison.
Viewing pornography is not an emotionally or physiologically neutral experience. It is fundamentally different from looking at black and white photos of the Lincoln Memorial or taking in a color map of the provinces of Canada. Men are reflexively drawn to the content of pornographic material. As such, pornography has wide-reaching effects to energize a man toward intimacy. It is not a neutral stimulus. It draws us in. Porn is vicarious and voyeuristic at its core, but it is also something more. Porn is a whispered promise. It promises more sex, better sex, endless sex, sex on demand, more intense orgasms, experiences of transcendence.
Pornography “acts as a polydrug,” Struthers explains. As Dr. Patrick Carnes asserts, pornography is “a pathological relationship with a mood-altering experience.” Boredom and curiosity lead many boys and men into experiences that become more like drug addiction than is often admitted.
Why men rather than women? As Struthers explains, the male and female brains are wired differently. “A man’s brain is a sexual mosaic influenced by hormone levels in the womb and in puberty and molded by his psychological experience.” Over time, exposure to pornography takes a man or boy deeper along “a one-way neurological superhighway where a man’s mental life is over-sexualized and narrowed. This superhighway has countless on-ramps but very few off-ramps.
Pornography is “visually magnetic” to the male brain. Struthers presents a fascinating review of the neurobiology involved, with pleasure hormones becoming linked to and released by the experience of a male viewing pornographic images. These experiences with pornography and pleasure hormones create new patterns in the brain’s wiring, and repeated experiences formalize the rewiring.
And then, enough is never enough. “If I take the same dose of a drug over and over and my body begins to tolerate it, I will need to take a higher dose of the drug in order for it to have the same effect that it did with a lower dose the first time,” Struthers reminds us. So, the experience of viewing pornography and acting out on it creates a demand in the brain for more and more, just to achieve the same level of pleasure in the brain.5
- The Greek Word from which pornography is derived is the word pornea and is used 25 times in the NT. Related words occur another 30 times. Is this subject serious to God? Galatians 5:19, Ephesians 5:3
- We don’t have time to go through this here, but one of the most helpful things for me personally was building my own understanding of relationships, sexuality, what it means to be male and female, what it means to be made in the image of God, etc.
- Sex is meant for procreation, pleasure, and as an act of covenant union. Paul picks up the last of these three in Ephesians 5:31-32 and says it refers ultimately to Christ and the church. Which means that using porn (along with any other act of sex outside the Biblical pattern) is ultimately an act of blasphemy.
What Can We Do About It?
- The good news is, neuroplasticity works both ways. If porn pathways aren’t reinforced, they’ll eventually disappear, so the same brain mechanisms that lay down pathways for porn can replace them with something else.6 The damage is done by porn is real, but it is also doesn’t need to be the final word. Romans 8:1
- Don’t shy away from this topic in conversation with teens!
- If you overhear or are told outright by a teen that they use pornography, don’t be surprised. Look at the numbers, it can’t be surprising to us if these kids (or our kids) are included.
- Also, don’t downplay it. Though everyone is doing it, it remains a big deal. We still don’t see the long term effects this is going to have on our society as a whole. And the effects on the individual are devastating, and if not repented of, damning.
- So, be calm, but clear. This is not freaky or unusual, but it is unhealthy and dangerous on multiple levels.
- If a kid is looking for help, accountability, etc, be that for them! Pray with them, encourage them, check up on them. Long Obedience!
- What is the only way toward change? Point them to Christ.
- Warnings only get us so far, as important as they may be. We need a new affection.7 Matthew 5:7
- Rid of my Disgrace, Justin and Leslie Holcomb (Crossway, 2011)
- God, Marriage, and Family, Andreas Kostenberger (Crossway, 2010)
- Human Trafficking: Modern Slavery in Iowa, Storm Lake Tribune, http://www.stormlakepilottribune.com/story/2399091.html