Now and then, I see pornography statistics in one source or another — the percentage of people using porn, the amount of money spent, the number of hours consumed, and more. Although I’ve long recognized porn as a huge problem, the stats never fail to surprise me in some way.
Maybe it’s how young people are when exposed. Maybe it’s how much free porn is now available online. Maybe it’s the percentage of people who believe porn is a morally acceptable practice.
Why exactly am I surprised? Because the damage is so clear for anyone willing to look at statistics, studies, and marriages impacted by porn. If you’re using pornography, it’s time to stop. Here are just five reasons why:
1. It messes with your brain. There is absolutely no doubt that watching pornography alters your brain function. Brain research and measurable outcomes are clear. Viewing porn retrains your brain to see sexual imagery as the main way to achieve sexual pleasure, to desire greater and greater variety and even cruelty as part of the experience, and to objectify potential partners.
Strong effects are seen with as little five hours per week. Unfortunately, some view five hours in an afternoon. If you really want to know how pornography is messing with your brain, check out Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain by William M. Struthers, Your Brain on Porn (free ebook from Covenant Eyes), and/or this TED Talk: The Great Porn Experiment by Gary Wilson.
2. It makes real sex less satisfying. I cringe every time some secular “expert” suggests a couple watch pornography to kick-start their sexual intimacy. Because the real data show a very different result. Those who engage in pornography tend to miss out on the more meaningful and fulfilling experience of sexual pleasure with their mate.
Pornography focuses on imagery and the physical aspect of sex, and it contains many myths about sex. Users, therefore, become less satisfied with the real thing — expecting sex to look like what they see on screen (or read). Their disappointment can lead to seeking greater and greater highs, all the while missing that true sexual fulfillment isn’t all about increasing your physical pleasure quota. Rather, sex involves a real person (your spouse); includes mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects; and satisfies when it represents a commitment and relational intimacy.
3. It encourages abuse. If you’re viewing porn, you need to think very carefully about how your consumer habits influence those who put out the product. A lot of abuse occurs in the porn industry, and our societal support has a detrimental effect on those involved. Think of it this way: If a lot people attend cock fights, more roosters will fight and die (one reason it’s illegal here). Likewise, the more people who watch porn, the more porn actors will be injured, contract sexual diseases, and take drugs to numb their senses. (See Why Do Women Pose for Porn?)
Plus, the prevalence of minors being used for porn imagery has greatly increased. Make no mistake: The increasing demand for porn will be met in part by kids under age 18. Sex traffickers are more than willing to use their victims for pornography. I believe the vast majority of people would cringe at the idea of involving children in the making of porn, but it happens whether the larger population is aware or not, because of high demand and ease of anonymity.
4. It dishonors your spouse. I was once in a wives’ prayer group in which one woman claimed her husband’s pornography habit didn’t bother her because “that’s what men do.” But you could tell that it did bother her, that her husband constantly looking at other women sexually conveyed a message — a message that she wasn’t enough. Just sitting here thinking about her, my heart aches.
When you gaze longingly, lustfully, sexually at others, you dishonor your spouse. You send a message that they aren’t enough to arouse and satisfy your sexual desire. I’m not talking about a stray thought of a gorgeous person passing you by on the street, but the dwelling of your mind on someone else and using that to titillate your sex drive. Porn is definitely in the category of allowing someone besides your spouse to arouse you sexually. And what does that communicate to him or her?
Frankly, most of us have enough built-in insecurities that having to compete for attention with a porn star is a big ol’ slap-in-the-face. Spouses should be reassuring of their focus and love and commitment to one another, and one another alone. There’s a reason why the song “I Only Have Eyes for You” hit the top Billboard charts three different times. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your marriage partner had this attitude?
You are here and so am I
Maybe millions of people go by
But they all disappear from view
And I only have eyes for you
5. It is a sin. If we go looking for a commandment that simply says, “Thou Shalt Not View Pornography,” you’d be right to say there is no such thing. But short of an outright statement like that, the Bible can’t get much clearer that pornography is not God’s intention for sexuality. So let’s take an honest, no-excuses approach to whether porn is sinful.
“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28
“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” Hebrews 13:4
“I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman. For what is our lot from God above, our heritage from the Almighty on high? Is it not ruin for the wicked, disaster for those who do wrong? Does he not see my ways and count my every step?” Job 31:1-4
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5
That’s just a sampling. Moreover, many scriptures talk about guarding our hearts and our minds, so we remained focused on the things of God. Yes, the “things of God” include sex — with your spouse as He designed. But involving a third party, even in the form of an image, detours from His path. Pornography is simply wrong.
Let me add that many people approach this subject with a “what can I get away with?” attitude — wanting to know how far they can go before crossing some imaginary line. The better question is: How can I honor God with my sexuality? Then seek that higher goal.
That’s five reasons why pornography needs to get off your computer or other device and out of your life. There is a better way. Do what’s necessary to seek that better way.
What negative impact has porn had in your marriage and your life? What other reasons can you name to stop using porn?