***TRIGGER WARNING*** Know that, though there is no explicit detail in this post, some of the statistics could be triggering to individuals, so be aware whilst reading this if you know that an article about pornography could trigger you.
I want to preface this post by saying that researching this topic and raising awareness about its damaging effects is somewhat of a passion project of mine – as weird as that might sound. My greatest goal in researching this is to help offer freedom – to offer hope – especially to those struggling with it because it’s destructive, whether we know that from personal experience, heard stories, or seen family and friends decay at the hands of its horrors – porn is all-consuming and all-destructive. The church needs to talk about it more, because as the statistics are showing, casual or habitual pornography viewing is becoming the norm rather than the exception. So, I start out this post by sharing some facts about porn and then begin to talk about what it looks like to begin pursuing freedom from it because you are not defined by your addiction or your guilt or your shame – you are defined as a child of God. Period. And with that being said, here is the science of and hope available concerning pornography addiction.
Pornography is described by Merriam Webster’s Dictionary as, “printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.” It is highly addictive and decreases normal sex drive and general relational intimacy. Chemical shifts within the brain take place even at moderate levels of pornography viewing.
Woah. Slow down – we’re talking about what now?
Porn – yes, porn – is one of the most destructive things facing our society today.
Now, this is not a guilt trip – this is a reality check of how common and accepted porn is and what it looks like to reach out for help and change how we talk about porn in the church.
I would argue that everyone has been exposed to porn by the time they’re out of their teens because the internet is filled with it – it’s unavoidable at this point. Statistics show that “93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to Internet porn before the age of 18” (Sabina, Wolak, & Finkelhor, 2008), but I would argue that that number is not covering nearly the amount of people who have experienced pornography – I would say 99.9% would be a more accurate number for both genders. Do you have social media? Have you ever seen a movie? Have you ever read a book? You’ve been exposed to porn in one way or another, whether intentionally or not – and, like one of my friends pointed out, most people who haven’t are probably living under a rock (or are just really, really fortunate or under the age of 10).
Baseball isn’t America’s past time anymore because “every second 28,258 Internet users are viewing pornography,” (Pure Hope). We are dramatically underwhelmed by knowledge of the reality of porn’s wide-reaching effects.
Men are often discussed in the conversation of porn, but what about the rising number of women struggling with this secret addiction too? Over 30% of people watching pornography are women and that number is on the rise. Along with this statistic, I had an interesting conversation with one of my youth pastors the other day about how women are most often exposed to porn – books – often teen books read at a very young age. Notice that porn isn’t described as only visual? I can recall the times I’ve encountered scenes in books that have, honestly, scarred my mind because they are pornographic scenes – just like those generally addicted to visual pornography often claim to find themselves haunted by some of the images they see. Descriptions and depictions of sexual things strike the same chord of interest in us. Those book statistics aren’t recorded. The porn problem is so much bigger than we realize – both inside and outside of the church.
“Be careful little eyes what you see. It’s the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings.”
This line from a Casting Crowns song sums it up quite nicely – and, unfortunately, I think most of us have fallen victim to reading that line again to doing a double take on that picture or watching that movie again. No matter the severity, exposure is damaging – different levels of damage, yes, but damaging nonetheless.
What about movies? Just that one sex scene is okay, right? Well, from what my mind has experienced, and what the data has proven, I would like to argue with that. Recently, I heard a sermon where a pastor spoke about this – allowing ourselves to even have this small exposure to porn going on is setting us up for failure, especially those who have struggled with sexual addiction at any level. And in the hyper-sexualized world we live it, that seems nearly impossible, and maybe it is, but that doesn’t mean we can’t hold one another accountable – that doesn’t mean we can’t take a stand for what real love looks like.
And if you’re still not convinced that pornography is damaging, take a look at this statistic presented by Fight the New Drug, “Even moderate porn use is correlated with shrunken grey matter in parts of the brain that oversee cognitive function.” And even more than that, brains suffering from severe pornography addiction take on a similar appearance to that of a brain addicted to cocaine. But healing is possible – our brains are amazing at repairing themselves, but steps have to be taken to start that healing process.
And another thing about the effects of porn, it doesn’t only impact the user – it effects relationships as isolation and pornography viewing become habitual, real love doesn’t just take a back seat, eventually it’s completely flung from the proverbial car of one’s life as virtual “substitutes” become seemingly too addicting to give up.
“…porn promises a virtual world filled with sex—more sex, better sex. What it doesn’t mention, however, is that the further a user goes into that fantasy world, the more likely their reality is to become just the opposite. Studies show that porn often leads to less sex and less satisfying sex; and for many users, porn eventually means no sex at all,” (FTND).
Guys – let’s be real – sexual material and arousal are super easy to come by – you don’t even have to go looking for it – it’s just there. And as the church, a group completely submersed in the “importance” of how we look on the outside, has many members who are decaying on the inside because of this secret sin.
Jesus said some pretty harsh stuff about legalism and outward appearance while dying inwardly:
“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:27-28)
We tend to be okay with secret sins because only we know about them, but that’s not true – He knows too. But you know what? He died for our shortcomings, for the things that rack us with guilt. He said this very harsh thing because He loved the Pharisees, because He loves the hypocrites – you and I – so He wanted to be very clear about how well He knows us.
He died for the decay inside our white washed tombs.
Because He also said this, “…they (the accusers) slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, ‘Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?’ ‘No, Lord,’ she said. And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I. Go and sin no more.’” (John 8:9-11)
Our decay ends where His unending grace begins if we accept it.
But that doesn’t mean we won’t still struggle.
Did you know that “most pastors (57%) and youth pastors (64%) admit they have struggled with porn, either currently or in the past?” (Kinnaman 2016) Did you know that pornography use in hotels increases exponentially during pastoral conferences compared to, say, a regular business conference? The church is drowning in secret sexual sin – decaying in our facades of perfection. WE WEREN’T DESIGNED TO LIVE THIS WAY.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
Abundant life – are you living in that? Are you struggling with secret addiction? REACH OUT BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO FIGHT ON YOUR OWN. We were created for community and fighting against anything in secret is unnatural as per our design.
“And they have defeated him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.” (Revelation 12:11)
Share your story, share your shame because then it’s power will be taken away and redemption will come riding in in waves of grace and freedom because when you’re battling with others, when your letting God battle for you, nothing is too big to be overcome by Him. Satan doesn’t want you to share your story because your story can provide breakthrough, not only for you, but for other people. Testimony is a domino effect, and sharing your struggles and story knocks over that first domino.
So, if you’re struggling, reach out to someone who is safe for you. Reach out to a mentor or close friend and don’t let this live in the dark.
Check out an internet blocker like http://www.covenanteyes.com/ – it really takes accountability to the next level and is a great way to begin walking towards healing.
And take a look at getting help through Fight the New Drug: Get Help – FTND is one of the leading organizations in porn research and recovery today.
Get in to the Word! Go to Jesus because He is the only thing that bring true, complete healing! He died for our shortcomings for goodness sakes! Let Him hold you in your struggles, but get in to community so you have other believers who can help share your burden.
You are so far from alone in this fight.
“Healing is here, healing is here, healing is, and I receive it. Healing is here, healing is here, healing is here, and I believe it – freedom is here, freedom is here, freedom is here, and I receive it. Freedom is here, freedom is here, freedom is here, and I believe it.” (Deluge)
Your story is so not defined by pornography. You are so, so much more than that.
Fight the New Drug. (n.d.). Retrieved November 10, 2017, from http://learn.ftnd.org/
Kinnaman, D. (2016, June 19). The Porn Phenomenon. Retrieved February 12, 2018, from https://www.barna.com/the-porn-phenomenon/
Lee, M. (2016, January 26). Here’s How 770 Pastors Describe Their Struggle with Porn. Retrieved February 12, 2018, from http://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2016/january/how-pastors-struggle-porn-phenomenon-josh-mcdowell-barna.html
pornography. 2017. In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved October 26, 2017, from https://www.merriam-webster.com
Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved February 12, 2018, from http://purehope.net/resources/statistics/