4 ways porn changes us

Several days ago as I was driving to a meeting, a segment on NPR caught my attention. It was a thought-provoking piece, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. They were discussing the prevalence of pornography and its impact on individuals and on our culture as a whole.

In the intro, All Things Considered host Ailsa Chang reported that PornHub, the largest free porn site, has over 100,000,000 visits a day, mostly from Americans under the age of 34 — people who have always had easy access to porn.

As a longtime pastor and counselor, I’ve seen the destructive nature of pornography up close. I’ve had friends and colleagues lose their families and their ministries because of their own personal struggles with porn. I’ve struggled with temptation myself, more often than I’d like to admit. And I know I’m not alone. Pornography is a daily temptation for millions of men and women of all ages and backgrounds.

People get involved with pornography for all kinds of reasons: curiosity, comparison, fantasy, escape, shame, compulsive thoughts, and sexual abuse, just to name a few. According to Webroot Cybersecurity, some 40 million Americans regularly visit porn sites. And they watch a lot of internet porn. Consider these stats:

  • 28,258 users are watching pornography every second.
  • $3,075.64 is spent on porn every second on the internet.
  • 35% of all internet downloads are related to pornography.

Indeed, even when reporting the latest news website ratings, Drudge Report often finishes the headline with ‘Porn Dominates.’

PornHub reports that in 2017, there were:

  • 28.5 billion annual visits to the website
  • 81 million daily average visits
  • 25 billion searches performed
  • 50,000 searches per minute
  • 4,052,542 videos uploaded
  • 68 years worth of content uploaded
  • 3,732 pentabytes of information transferred (enough to fill the memory of every iPhone on Earth)

You can read the latest (2018) 43-page report from Covenant Eyes by clicking here. It’s truly eye-opening and would be worth your time to at least scan.

I have long known that pornography is a major problem in our society. In fact, my doctoral dissertation was based on a project that focused on developing ministry for those addicted to porn.

As NPR reporter/producer Kat Lonsdorf talked with a couple of porn actors, it became crystal clear just how pervasive the problem is — and just how deeply it has impacted not just individuals but the culture at large.

In thinking about the issue, I’ve identified four major areas of impact that are somewhat interrelated:

Porn misleads us about what is natural and normal. Porn director Jacky St. James told NPR, “A lot of people that are growing up on porn somehow feel that what they’re seeing is what they should be doing instead of really discovering what they want.” She adds that what viewers see on their screens is ‘not real’ in the sense of true connections. “These are two sometimes strangers having sex and doing what usually a man told them to do.” Essentially, porn changes our expectations about sex — so much so that many people, especially young men, actually prefer porn over sex with another person. Think about the implications of this for marriage.

Porn affects our self-esteem. Let’s face it: from the sensual covers of romance novels to steamy on-camera actors, the people portrayed in porn are almost always incredibly attractive. Repeated exposure to such perfect-looking people can deepen our insecurities, harm our body image, and magnify our own perceived physical flaws. I’ve listened to many women tearfully explain how they feel inadequate and unable to measure up to the people their partners see in porn. Men increasingly experience similar hang-ups and self-doubts as well.

Porn causes us to objectify people. Pornography is designed to be an escape or fantasy for those watching it. In many cases, it’s ultimately created to generate clicks and revenue. But not all porn is created by consenting adults. It often involves under-aged children and teens who are victims of human trafficking. In these cases, people created in the image of God become little more than a cheap thrill for those who gawk at photos or watch and re-watch videos.

Porn complicates or destroys opportunities for true intimacy. God designed sex as something to be enjoyed by a man and woman within the context of marriage. For many people, sex is not about intimacy and connection but about fulfillment of selfish desires. Author Ed Wheat, on the opening page of his book Intended for Pleasure, writes of men often having ‘misconceptions of God’s view of sex’ which result in a ‘hurried physical act without tenderness or pleasure.’

Pornography is not going away; it’s here to stay. So are its devastating effects on individuals, marriages, families, churches, and communities. If you’re a parent who has not had frank, age-appropriate discussions about porn with your kids, then what are you waiting for? With the average age of exposure steadily decreasing, we must be proactive in educating, communicating, and monitoring our kids’ devices and online activities.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking porn doesn’t affect you. Even if you don’t personally view porn, there are people in your life who do. And the way it changes them invariably impacts their relationship with you.

You can read or listen to the eight-minute NPR report here.

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