In an effort to normalise pornography, there are people who point out that it’s been around since ancient times. That might be true, but porn today is like nothing the world has ever seen.
Pornography is now everywhere. It’s available on almost every screen and smartphone on the planet. In the West, what was once scandalous and shrewdly stocked in the newsagent or video store is now fodder for billboards, and makes for vanilla viewing on prime time TV.
Would you believe that pornography is a US$97 billion global industry? Porn’s unstoppable popularity might be why so many in the mainstream are unwilling to talk about the damage it’s doing.
Like so many aspects of the sexual revolution, our decades-long experiment with porn has provided us with mountains of research about its culture-wide impact.
Its links to mental health problems, sexual dissatisfaction, infidelity and even crime have led American lawmakers to declare porn a public health crisis in 16 states.
“Porn’s not hurting anyone” has to be one of the biggest lies ever perpetuated. In case you needed convincing, consider these ten reasons that pornography is tearing us apart.
1. Porn makes people miserable
Like so many other vices, people often turn to pornography to relax and relieve stress. But a growing body of research links porn to a cluster of worrying mental health outcomes.
A survey of almost 800 college students found a significant link between regular pornography use and depressive symptoms, including low self-worth. Strong correlations between porn and loneliness were uncovered in another study.
A meta-analysis of fifty studies found that men who consumed pornography were much less happy with not just romantic relationships, but relationships in general.
Unlike alcohol, tobacco or other addictive drugs, pornography isn’t a physical substance—it’s power is a passing image, video or idea.
But brain scans reveal that its effect on users is almost identical to a heroin or cocaine hit. Pornography hijacks the brain’s reward system. When users keep going back for more, it puts the amygdala under stress so that it enlarges, affecting emotional processing and decision-making.
One of the most detailed studies of pornography ever conducted found that, having viewed ‘soft-core’ porn, both men and women were less happy with their partner’s sexual performance.
Doctors today report a growing epidemic of young men suffering from erectile dysfunction. This condition, which once mostly affected older men, is now a reality for countless young guys who have become so accustomed to the constant variety and excitement of internet porn that they can no longer perform without it.
In summary, pornography is scientifically proven to make someone a bad lover in every conceivable way.
4. Porn destroys marriage
Many reading this will know first-hand accounts of porn’s devastating impact on marriage. But pornography’s impact on marriage is more than anecdotal.
Research has shown that the younger that boys are when they first see porn, the more likely they are to be using it later in life. And among youth, internet pornography is statistically linked to sexual activity at younger ages, multiple sex partners, group sex, and other risky sexual behaviours.
Porn harms children in other ways too. Every week, over 20,000 images of child pornography are posted to the web. And since 2002, more than 10,500 victims depicted in child pornography have been located and identified.
6. Porn drives violence against women
In a post-#MeToo world, and with so much talk of gender equality today, it’s hard to fathom why there’s so much silence around the harm porn does to women. The research on this couldn’t be clearer.
Recently, a team of researchers looked at 50 of the most watched porn films. Of the 304 scenes in these movies, almost half contained verbal aggression and a staggering 88% depicted physical violence. This led the researchers to conclude that “mainstream commercial pornography has coalesced around a relatively homogenous script involving violence and female degradation”.
When the brain’s reward centre is stimulated too much—as is the case with a regular porn user—it can make what was once exciting seem dull. This in turn can prompt people to seek out more extreme types of pornography.
In 2012, a survey of 1,500 males was conducted. They were asked if their tastes in pornography had grown “increasingly extreme or deviant” the more they had watched porn. An alarming 56% said yes.
Porn use has also been shown to influence what users consider to be abnormal. One study showed that people who watched significant amounts of pornography considered violent sex and sex with animals to be twice as common as what those not exposed to pornography thought.
In fact ‘rape culture’ has been a big discussion point in recent years, especially on college campuses. The premise is that rape is more likely in an “environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalising or trivialising sexual assault and abuse.”
It’s confronting to realise that this is not just a developing world problem.
Officially, sex trafficking is defined as a “modern-day form of slavery in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion”. On that definition, this includes the shockingly common cases of young girls in western nations who have been lured into a modelling career only to end up on porn sets.
The USA’s Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children both flag pornography as a contributing factor to the problem of sex trafficking.
There’s also an infinite feedback loop between porn and sex trafficking. Traffickers get ideas from pornography and make their victims watch it in order to produce more of it.
Over the last decade, the fair trade movement has had enormous success in helping people consume products that haven’t involved slavery or other forms of abuse. It’s time our culture awoke to the same phenomenon taking place with pornography.
9. Porn decays society
Recent statistics on porn use are confronting.
In 2015, 4.3 billion hours of pornography were watched on a single website. That’s half a million years of viewing time.
If it’s true that, as we’ve seen, porn can be linked to misery and addiction and deviance and violence and human trafficking and so many other ills—then clearly porn is decaying our society.
10. Porn offends God
All we’ve looked at so far has been horizontal—how pornography affects the user and fellow humans. But the most relevant piece of information in the pornography puzzle is that porn offends God:
“God shows His anger from Heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness… God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies.”
~ Romans 1:18, 24
Contrary to popular opinion, this isn’t because God is mean. It’s because He has a heart full of love for everyone He created. He knows what’s best for us, and He knows that pornography is anything but that.
The good news is that God also made a way for every individual to be free of the scourge of sin, including pornography. He did this by sending Jesus.
“God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
~ 1 Corinthians 5:21
Freedom and cleansing is found in Jesus. At the cross, Jesus took on all of our filth and sin. And in turn, He clothed us in His perfect righteousness. He offers His help and His presence to all who want to walk in freedom.
Given how widespread pornography has become, it’s likely that everyone reading this has been hurt by porn in some way—whether as a victim, an addict, or collateral damage in a relationship.
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