The Rational Case Against Pornography

By James M. Rochford

Download a free lecture with ONE CLICK

It would be nice to begin with practical solutions for how to break a pornography addiction. Many Christians know that pornography is damaging, and they long for practical help in how to break their habit. However, others justify their porn habit by minimizing its spiritual or moral significance. Thus we should begin by making the case for why pornography is such an addictive and damaging sin in the life of the follower of Christ.

You can watch this lecture given by James in 2016 below:

How Widespread is Pornography?

CYWRncTWEAAZENNBoth Christian and secular thinkers agree that pornography is a rapidly spreading epidemic in our culture. Before high-speed Internet arrived in 2006, Americans rented roughly 800 million pornographic videos per year—roughly one in five of all rented movies. Paul writes, “Pornography far outpaces Hollywood’s slate of 400 feature films with 11,000 pornos produced annually.”[1] Secular authors Maltz and Maltz write, “There are more than 400 million pages of pornography on the Internet” and pornography generates “more than $97 billion dollars annually worldwide (an increase of 70 percent from 2003 to 2007). In the United States alone, porn revenue is larger than all combined revenues of all professional football, baseball, and basketball franchises.”[2]

After the advent of the Internet, this cultural disease literally went viral. Secular author Pamela Paul writes, “A 2004 study found that pornographic sites are visited three times more often than Google, Yahoo!, and MSN Search combined.”[3] Brian McNair—in his 2002 book Striptease Culture—claims that 50% of all Internet traffic is related to sex.[4] In 2015, one porn company (Pornhub) boasted that:

  • It streamed 75 GB of porn per second.
  • 3 billion hours of porn were watched from its site (2.5x longer than humans have existed on Planet Earth!).
  • 1,892 petabytes of bandwidth were used (a petabyte is one million GB). This is equivalent to filling all iPhones sold in 2015 with nothing but porn.

Another porn site (Paint Bottle) estimated that porn sites were viewed roughly 450 million times per month, which is more hits than Amazon, Netflix and Twitter combined. They claim that YouPorn streams six times more pornography than Hulu streams movies and shows. According to hotel stats, “Half of all hotel guests order pornographic pay-per-view movies.”[5] Christian counselor Mark Laaser adds, “Hotel chains report that in-room use of televised pornography increases during Christian conventions.”[6]

It is estimated that 20 to 30 percent of porn viewing comes from children.[7] Multiple studies have reported that children (on average) get their first exposure to pornography at age eleven.[8] Often, Christian fathers consider having the “sex talk” with their son, when they hit high school. Unfortunately for them and their kid, this is four years too late.

The Barna Group—in cooperation with Proven Men Ministries—produced these statistics in a nationwide survey (2014):

  • 64% of men view porn at least monthly.
  • The number of Christian men viewing pornography virtually mirrors the national average.
  • Eight in ten (79%) men between the ages of 18 and 30 view pornography monthly.
  • Six in ten (63%) men between the ages of 18 and 30 view pornography several times a week.
  • One-third (33%) of men between the ages of 18 and 30 either think that they are addicted or are unsure if they are addicted to pornography.
  • 55% of married men say they watch porn at least once a month, compared to 70% of not married men.
  • Eight in ten (76%) women between the ages of 18 and 30 view pornography monthly.
  • Two in ten (21%) women between the ages of 18 and 30 view pornography several times a week.

Other studies have shown that women are far less likely than men to view pornography. One study found that men are 543% more likely to look at porn than women.[9] Maltz and Maltz claim that three out of four porn users are men.[10] Neurological studies have found that thalamus and hypothalamus respond more to erotic content in men, than in women.[11] Moreover, since men have 10 to 20 times the amount of testosterone than women, this may have an effect on their allure to pornography, because testosterone relates to dopamine release in the brain—a natural brain chemical associated with pornography addiction.

Porn Increases Tolerance Toward Aberrant or Violent Sex

Picture10Pornographic films grow increasing more bizarre and aberrant to gratify viewers. Secular author Pamela Paul estimates that “25 percent of pornographic magazines showed some form of violence, ranging from verbal aggression to torture and mutilation, compared with 27 percent of pornographic videos. Usenet groups on the Internet depicted violence 42 percent of the time.”[12] Proof of this phenomenon rests in the fact that Playboy has stopped including naked pictures in its magazine. It simply can’t keep up with the sort of pornographic material on the Internet today.

Jennings Bryant and Dolf Zillmann demonstrated this phenomenon in a monumental psychological study. Bryant and Zillman (two professors at a northeastern university) collected 80 college students for a monumental study on the effects of porn on the mind.[13] They split the students into four test groups. In one group (called the “massive exposure” group), they showed 48 minutes of pornography spread out over the course of a week. They ran the experiment for six weeks, and at the end of the study, they asked the four groups a series of questions about sexuality. The results were disturbing:

  • The “massive exposure” group believed that three in ten Americans engaged in group sex. In reality, only one in ten engage in this practice.
  • The “massive exposure” group also estimated that twice as many people engaged in sadomasochism and bestiality. Paul writes, “According to their assumptions, 15 percent of Americans practiced S & M and 12 percent had sex with animals—gross overestimations of actual sexual practices, according to all available data.”[14] This was massively different from the other test groups, which thought these practices were far less likely. In other words, the regular porn viewers had a more distorted view of what is sexually “normal” than others.
  • The “massive exposure” groups “were significantly less likely to want daughters than those who had not.”[15] Why would someone want a daughter, when porn depicts women in such a degrading way?
  • 60 percent of the people who didn’t view porn considered marriage “an important institution,” while only 39 percent of the “massive exposure” group agreed.[16]
  • In the final session of this experiment, all of the test subjects were read a newspaper report about a young woman who had been raped, while hitchhiking. After hearing the gory details of the story, the students were each asked how much the criminal sentence should be for the crime in question. Interestingly, “Men who had viewed massive amounts of pornography recommended significantly shorter sentences for the man who committed the crime.”[17]

These Zillmann-Bryant studies were so persuasive to the academic world that it has been ethically hard for universities to repeat these experiments, because of their obvious adverse effects.[18]

Porn Dehumanizes Women

Picture9Pornographic websites regularly refer to women as “fresh meat,” “dirty,” “nasty,” or “filthy.” Women are called “whores” and “sluts.” Have you ever asked yourself why porn-makers use degrading language like this to refer to the women in porn? Secular author Gail Dines argues,

The process of dehumanizing a group as a way to legitimize and justify cruelty against its individual members is not something that porn producers invented. It has been a tried and trusted method adopted by many oppressors; the Nazi propaganda machine effectively turned Jews into ‘kikes,’ racists defined African Americans as ‘niggers’ rather than humans… Once the humanness of these individuals is collectively rendered invisible by their membership in a socially denigrated group, then it is that much easier to commit acts of violence against them.[19]

Porn-makers use this type of language for the porn stars, so that viewers can watch these women with a clear conscience (“She’s a dirty slut who wants it” versus “She’s a human being with value and worth.”). It’s no wonder that scientists have begun to engineer robots to perform sexual acts.[20] If we view the women in pornography as sub-human, why do we even need a human at all? This is the final step in a philosophy of sex that separates pleasure from personhood: robot relationships.

Picture2

Porn Creates Impossible Expectations for Women

When men use porn, they click from one beautiful body to another. They judge and critique the women, saying, “Her boobs are too small” or “Her butt looks flabby.” Yet this critical attitude doesn’t go both ways. The man never undergoes rejection or critique by the women he looks at on the screen. Thus instead of trying to become the right person for marriage, porn users develop an obsession with trying to find the right person. Of course, women cannot live up to the physical expectations of a porn star, but sadly, many try. Paul writes, “The number of eighteen-year-olds who got breast implant surgery nearly tripled, from 2,872 in 2002 to 11,326 in 2003—a far greater increase than the 12 percent rise in such surgery among adults overall.”[21]

Porn Impedes the Pleasure of Real Sex

Picture11As porn users habitually view porn, they become less and less aroused by it. Trying to satisfy our thirst through porn is like drinking a tall glass of saltwater. It might taste good going down, but it doesn’t satisfy. Paul writes, “In one study… men who were shown pornographic films for ninety minutes a day, five days a week experienced less sexual arousal and interest in similar materials with the passage of time.”[22] In a 2004 poll, 35 percent of men admitted that real sex had become less arousing, and 20 percent admitted real sex just couldn’t compare to cybersex.[23] Because the same kind of porn won’t satisfy men for long amounts of time, the porn industry has become more and more deranged in the movies and pictures that it produces.[24] Regarding men who were viewing porn, Norman Doidge (M.D.) of Columbia University writes:

Picture12[Porn users] reported increasing difficulty in being turned on by their actual sexual partners, spouses or girlfriends, though they still considered them objectively attractive. When I asked if this phenomenon had any relationship to viewing pornography, they answered that it initially helped them get more excited during sex but over time it had the opposite effect.[25]

Cambridge Neuroscientist Valerie Voon writes,

As a result of excessive use of sexually explicit materials, they had… experienced diminished libido or erectile function specifically in physical relationships with women (although not in relationship to the sexually explicit material).[26]

Japanese culture reflects these findings as well. Alex Martin—reporting for the Japan Times—writes,

Among males from 16 to 19, 36.1 percent said they were either uninterested or averse to sex, more than double the 17.5 percent who said so in the 2008 poll. Men between 20 and 24 showed a similar trend, jumping from 11.8 percent to 21.5 percent.[27]

Picture13As a case in point, John Mayer has slept with many of the most beautiful women in Hollywood (e.g. Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Simpson, Taylor Swift, etc.). And yet, in a recent interview with Playboy, Mayer explains how currently he prefers masturbation over sex with an actual woman (see the full transcript here—this is a transcript from a celebrity website—not Playboy. WARNING: The language in this transcript is incredibly raw):

MAYER: I’m a self-soother. The Internet, DVR, Netflix, Twitter—all these things are moments in time throughout your day when you’re able to soothe yourself. We have an autonomy of comfort and pleasure. By the way, pornography? It’s a new synaptic pathway. You wake up in the morning, open a thumbnail page, and it leads to a Pandora’s box of visuals. There have probably been days when I saw 300 vaginas before I got out of bed.

PLAYBOY: What’s your point about porn and relationships?

MAYER: Internet pornography has absolutely changed my generation’s expectations. How could you be constantly synthesizing an orgasm based on dozens of shots? You’re looking for the one photo out of 100 you swear is going to be the one you finish to, and you still don’t finish. Twenty seconds ago you thought that photo was the hottest thing you ever saw, but you throw it back and continue your shot hunt and continue to make yourself late for work. How does that not affect the psychology of having a relationship with somebody? It’s got to.

PLAYBOY: You seem very fond of pornography.

MAYER: When I watch porn, if it’s not hot enough, I’ll make up backstories in my mind. My biggest dream is to write pornography.

PLAYBOY: How did you become a self-soother?

MAYER: I grew up in my own head. As soon as I lose that control, once I have to deal with someone else’s desires, I cut and run. I’m pretty culpable about being hard to live with. I have had a good run of imagining things into reality. I’ve got a huge streak of successes based on my own inventions. If you tell me I’m wrong or that I’m overthinking something, well, overthinking has given me everything in my career. I have a hard time not looking at anxiety disorder as being like an ATM. I can invent things really well. I mean, I have unbelievable orgasms alone. They’re always the best. They always end the way I want them to end. And I have such an ability to make believe, I can almost project something onto my wall, watch it and get off to it: sexually, musically, it doesn’t matter. When I meet somebody, I’m in a situation in which I can’t run it because another person is involved. That means letting someone else talk, not waiting for them to remind you of something interesting you had in mind.

PLAYBOY: Masturbation for you is as good as sex?

MAYER: Absolutely, because during sex, I’m just going to run a filmstrip. I’m still masturbating. That’s what you do when you’re 30, 31, 32. This is my problem now: Rather than meet somebody new, I would rather go home and replay the amazing experiences I’ve already had.

PLAYBOY: You’d rather jerk off to an ex-girlfriend than meet someone new?

MAYER: Yeah. What that explains is that I’m more comfortable in my imagination than I am in actual human discovery. The best days of my life are when I’ve dreamed about a sexual encounter with someone I’ve already been with. When that happens, I cannot lay off myself.

From this interview, we see that living in a fantasy world when it comes to sex leads to dissatisfaction with actual sex: the sex is never as good as it used to be. By contrast, marriage continues to provide the best venue for sexual expression and happiness. Waite and Gallagher write,

Married people have both more and better sex than singles do. They not only have sex more often, but they enjoy it more, both physically and emotionally, than do their unmarried counterparts… 43 percent of the married men reported that they had sex at least twice a week. Only 26 percent of single men (not cohabitating) said that they had sex this often… 39 percent of married women had sex two or three times a week or more, compared to 20 percent of single women.[28]

Psychologist Martin Seligman writes, “Unlike money, which at most has a small effect, marriage is robustly related to happiness.”[29] He notes that the National Opinion Research Center interviewed 35,000 people over 30 years, finding that 40 percent of married people considered themselves “very happy.” Only 25 percent of single people could say the same thing.

No one is guaranteed a happy marriage. But we can start building a proper foundation for marriage before we enter into one. Sadly, many singles are steeping themselves in porn, setting themselves up for failure.

Porn Separates Pleasure from Personhood

The women in porn are always ready for sex. “No” is not in their vocabulary. They will do it however and whenever and wherever you want. Porn users don’t need to hold down a job, take a shower, or even brush their teeth to score with a woman on the screen. Of course, sex in the real world is not this way. This expectation for sex greatly hinders men from ever having a successful sex life in marriage. They enter marriage looking to treat their wives like the women in porn. This leaves their wives feeling like nothing more than a used Kleenex. Porn separates sexual pleasure from intimate relating, which leads to relational and sexual failure down the road.

Consider this chart from Maltz and Maltz which describes the differences between the sex depicted in pornography and a healthy sexual relationship. Many porn users can no longer distinguish one column from the other:

 

Do You Know the Difference?[30]

Unhealthy View

Healthy View

Sex is using someone

Sex is caring for someone
Sex is doing to someone

Sex is sharing with someone

Sex is compulsive

Sex is a natural drive
Sex is separate from love

Sex is an expression of love

Sex is emotionally distant

Sex is emotionally close
Sex can happen anytime

Sex requires certain conditions

Sex feels shameful

Sex enhances self-esteem
Sex is impulse gratification

Sex is lasting satisfaction

 

The sex in porn is not intimate and close. It’s robotic and emotionless. When have you ever heard the words, “I care about you” in a porno?

The Addictive Nature of Porn: Is Porn a Drug?

Picture15Behavioral scientist Simone Kühn and neurologist Jürgen Gallinat recently published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry (2014) in which they studied the physical effects of pornography on the brain.[31] They performed the study at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin with 64 healthy males (median age of 28 years old). They selected only those who watched an average of four hours of porn per week, which is relatively frequent, but not yet at addictive levels. They write,

We found a significant negative association between reported pornography hours per week and gray matter volume in the right caudate.

No region showed a significant positive correlation between [grey matter] volume and [hours of porn].

Even when controlling for Internet addiction, we found a negative association between [hours of porn] and the right caudate [grey matter] volume… similarly, the association was still significant when controlling for sex addiction.

Our findings indicated that [grey matter] volume of the right caudate of the striatum is smaller with higher pornography use.

Our results of the sexual cue-reactivity paradigm show a negative correlation between [porn hours] and the left putamen activation during sex cues compared with fixation. This is in line with the hypothesis that intense exposure to pornographic stimuli results in a downregulation of the natural neural response to sexual stimuli.

What does this study show us? Essentially, these findings demonstrate the effects of porn on the reward centers of the brain—effects entirely consistent with drug and alcohol addiction:

Prefrontal cortex. This regulates inhibition, attention, and future planning. It is associated with our “will power” and ability to control our natural impulses. The dysfunction of the prefrontal cortex has been connected with “inappropriate behavioral choices, such as drug seeking, regardless of the potential negative outcome.”

Striatum. This is called the “reward center” of the brain. The reduced grey matter in this region translates to decreased pleasure and an unresponsive reward process. The person becomes desensitized to normal rewards.

Dopamine. This is called the “pleasure molecule,” which relates to the reward center of the brain. Dopamine is produced when we seek out pleasure. The production of dopamine creates DeltaFosB, which is a “molecular switch” related to drug activity and addiction. It activates genes in the brain that physically and chemically change the reward center of the brain, encouraging the person to repeat a particular activity—in this case, porn consumption.

Picture7

As you can see, this study shows a strong relationship between porn use and brain function. Studies demonstrate that novelty increases reward-seeking and the release of dopamine in the brain. Thus with each “click” on the screen for a new image, dopamine releases in the brain, which eventually changes the physical structure of the brain itself (watch “Porn on the Brain” with Matt Daubney—the longest-standing editor of Loaded men’s magazine).


Behaviorist psychologists often use an intermittent reward system to sculpt the behavior of lab rats. When a rat doesn’t know how many times it needs to press a button or lever to get a treat, it presses the lever unceasingly. Porn use fits this same criterion. Maltz and Maltz write,

Online pornography has an intermittent reward system that rewards on a variable ratio schedule, meaning you never know just how many photos you will need to look at before you find one you want. The number keeps changing. This is the most potent method for shaping behavior. In scientific experiments, pigeons put on this type of random reinforcement schedule almost starve to death pecking at a single dot that might produce just one pellet of food.[32]

The excitement of finding the right picture or video keeps the porn user looking at porn for hours on end. Anecdotally, I’ve personally counseled men who have looked at porn for two or three hours straight without masturbating. This is sometimes referred to as “the thrill of the hunt.”[33] The porn user will continue to click from site to site to find an even sexier video or picture. Rarely do porn users frequent the Internet to simply watch a movie and immediately masturbate. Instead, they will prolong the experience for as long as possible.

Picture16This intermittent reward system leads to further and further sexual addiction. Thus, the withdrawal from porn can feel similar to withdrawal from drugs. By trying to break from their addiction, porn users will often feel “agitation, depression, and sleeplessness as detoxing from alcohol, cocaine, and other hard drugs. In fact, people in porn recovery take an average of eighteen months to heal from the damage to their dopamine receptors alone.”[34] While withdrawing from porn-use is clearly not as bad as withdrawal from drugs and alcohol, it still has the same features of withdrawal and addiction.

Current researchers regularly compare pornography addiction with drug addiction. Psychologist Todd Love (et al.) write, “Internet pornography addiction fits into the addiction framework and shares similar basic mechanisms with substance addiction.”[35] Likewise, Dr. Bonnie Phillips (et al.) write, “What we see in people addicted to porn is the same as what we see with people addicted to drugs such as cocaine, supporting the theory that addiction to porn really is an addiction, and not merely a bad habit. The most significant areas of change are in the control and pleasure centers of the brain.”[36]

Whatever you anchor your orgasmic event in (e.g. women screaming, lesbian sex, violent sex, rape?), you will desire to go back to that event to orgasm. Normal sex will not interest you anymore. Biologically, an orgasm is a powerful reinforcer. Maltz and Maltz write, “Powerful human bonding hormones, such as oxytocin and vasopressin, are released with orgasm. They contribute to establishing a lasting emotional attachment with whomever, or whatever, you happen to be with or thinking about at the time. The more orgasms you have with porn, the more sexually and emotionally attached to it you’ll become.”[37] Maltz and Maltz add,

Using porn also increases production of other ‘feel-good’ chemicals in our brain, such as adrenaline, endorphins, and serotonin. Unfortunately, by overloading your brain with pleasure chemicals, porn reduces your body’s own ability to produce and effectively release them under normal life circumstances. This is one of the reasons a porn user may find himself needing higher levels of sexual stimulation and excitement to become aroused and satisfied.[38]

Porn has addictive properties to it that are in many ways indistinguishable from hardcore drugs, incorporating aspects of three different types of drugs: stimulants, hallucinogens, and barbiturates.

Stimulants are sometimes called “uppers.” These types of drugs rev you up and get you going. Maltz and Maltz write, “The fact is that porn can have as powerful an effect on your body and brain as cocaine, methamphetamine, alcohol, and other drugs. It actually changes your brain chemistry. Porn stimulates an area of the brain known as the ‘hedonic highway,’ or median forebrain, which is filled with receptors for the neurotransmitter dopamine.”[39] When you feel depressed or lonely, stimulants can help change your feeling-state. Thus, there is a longing for these type of drugs (“When I get off work, I’m going to go home and get high…”); this same anticipation is found in porn use (“Before I go to sleep tonight, I’m going to get into porn…”). Porn users get “revved up” thinking about how they are going to get off. Maltz and Maltz write, “Some porn users tell us that the hunt and conquest feeling that blends with sexual arousal is even more satisfying than having an orgasm.”[40] When people engage in porn use, this produces dopamine. Maltz and Maltz write,

Dopamine is released when you get sexually aroused. It is also released by other pleasurable activities, such as kissing, intercourse, smoking a cigarette, or taking other drugs. Porn causes the dopamine production in your system to spike. This dramatic increase in dopamine produces a drug-like high some researchers believe is most similar to the high caused by crack cocaine.[41]

This is not an exaggeration. Dopamine is produced through stimulants like meth and cocaine. These same physiological effects are seen in porn use. In a 2004 Senate hearing, porn was compared to heroin, because of its addictive effects on the brain.[42]

Hallucinogens activate the part of the brain that engages the imagination and fantasy life. This same area of the brain is also engaged during porn use. While hallucinogens are not necessarily addictive, they do contribute to dependence. Watching porn is like peeling back the skull and stamping images on the brain that don’t go away. However, while a drug can be “detoxed” out of a person’s system, pornographic images do not leave the mind. The anticipation and excitement for porn has a cascading effect on the brain’s reward system.

Barbiturates are often called “downers,” which calm you down. Porn displays many of the attributes of barbiturate drugs as well. When porn is combined with masturbation, it acts on our system like a barbiturate, calming us down.[43]

Effects on Mental Health

Picture17Porn addiction leads to adverse effects in the life of the user. Michela Romana (et al.) from the University of Milan studied excessive Internet usage—the majority of which was porn usage. They found,

Internet addiction was associated with long-standing depression, impulsive nonconformity, and autism traits. High internet-users also showed a pronounced decrease in mood following internet use compared to the low internet-users. The immediate negative impact of exposure to the internet on the mood of internet addicts may contribute to increased usage by those individuals attempting to reduce their low mood by re-engaging rapidly in internet use.[44]

Lawrence T. Lam and Zi-Wen Peng write,

After adjusting for potential confounding factors, the relative risk of depression for those who used the Internet pathologically was about 2.5 times… that of those who did not exhibit the targeted pathological internet use behaviors.[45]

C.H. Ko (et al.) from Department of Psychiatry in Kaohsiung Medical University studied “2293 adolescents in grade 7 to assess their depression, hostility, social anxiety and Internet addiction.” A year later, they performed a reassessment. They found,

The incidence group exhibited increased depression and hostility more than the non-addiction group and the effect of on depression was stronger among adolescent girls. Further, the remission group showed decreased depression, hostility, and social anxiety more than the persistent addiction group.[46]

Furthermore, Belgian researchers found, “an increased use of Internet pornography decreased boys’ academic performance six months later.”[47]

Effects on “Porn Stars”

Many men justify their porn habit by saying: “Those women are paid to make porn, and they chose to be there!” However, this is too naïve (or cruel) of a view. Most of the women who make pornography have themselves been physically or sexually abused. Many of them were struggling financially or psychologically in a moment of weakness, when they were lured into this “business.” Mary Anne Layden, Ph. D. (director for Women’s Psychological Health in Philadelphia) states that somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of women in the sex industry have been sexually molested.[48]

51qlgVre1CL._AC_UL320_SR214,320_Porn-star Jenna Jameson tells the story of being knocked unconscious, gang raped, and left for dead at age 16 in her autobiography.[49] A few years later, she was violently raped by her boyfriend’s uncle. According to her, these were the circumstances that led her to enter into the porn business.

In a 2003 interview with Larry King on CNN, former porn-star Traci Lords explained how she was raped at age 10, and she self-medicated through the use of drugs and alcohol—later entering the porn industry.[50] One former porn star describes her experience in this way:

For two days I had to fast. I drank heavily one day prior before I did the movie. When I got on the set I felt really sick to my stomach. I wanted to turn around and run when I walked through the door and saw all the male porn stars and film crew standing there. I zoned out and wanted it to be over. I kept saying to myself, ‘This is going to be over in an hour. You can do it.’ I wanted to break down and cry but I hid behind my fake smile. During the movie I mentally and emotionally checked out and felt like I died. I don’t remember real well the pain and trauma I went through. After it ended, everybody wanted to take pictures with me and get my autograph. Here I am standing there with bodily fluids all over me and people wanted to take pictures with me. It was horrible. My body was sore the next couple of days and I wasn’t right mentally for two weeks after that. I wasn’t able to use to the bathroom right either. My internal system was totally messed up…

My nerves were shot, I couldn’t take it anymore, I was physically sick and had to go to the ER for a nervous meltdown, enough was enough. I didn’t care about my name anymore. I didn’t care about a temporary financial fix. I wanted to be a good Mother for my children and show them that life is not about the easy way out of things, but about the road less traveled. I left for the sake of my sanity and my soul.[51]

Another ex-porn star writes,

Porn was a horrible experience, having to stay in the same position while they re-did shots and having to re-do positions all the time. I wasn’t allowed to wipe anything off my face or body until they were done. It was really gross and really degrading as a woman, I had a very low-self esteem even though people constantly told me how pretty and sexy I was. I developed an eating disorder which I had to be hospitalized for several times. I think I am not able to have kids now because of all the physical problems I had. Sometimes I was pounded so hard I bled, my periods were always off key. I caught gonorrhea when I was 18 by another guy I was asked to have sex with on film without a rubber. I never caught anything from prostituting but did from doing porn.[52]

Many men argue that these women are getting paid for their work, and they are really no different than any other profession in our culture. But, if you really can’t see the difference between these horrific accounts and any other job, it’s hard to know what else to say! Could you imagine turning on the television to see your sister or daughter depicted in this way? These women are not objects; they are people made in the image of God. Moreover, it is a myth that porn stars are paid well for their “work.” In 1997, Eric Schlosser reports,

The highest-paid performers, the actresses with exclusive contracts, earn between $80,000 and $100,000 a year for doing about 20 sex scenes and making a dozen or so personal appearances. Only a handful of actresses—perhaps 10 to 15—are signed to such contracts. Other leading stars are paid roughly $1,000 per scene. The vast majority of porn actresses are ‘B girls,’ who earn about $300 a scene. They typically try to do two scenes a day, four or five times a week. At the moment, there is an oversupply of women in Southern California hoping to enter the porn industry. Overtime is a thing of the past, and some newcomers will work for $150 a scene.[53]

The vast majority of these women are lured into this work in a moment of weakness. But, unlike prostitution, their sexual act is watched over and over for decades to come. If they regretted their decision down the road, it’s too late. They signed a contract, and they were videotaped—unable to take it back.

Conclusion

Pornography is not an innocuous activity in the lives of men and women today. It is built on the foundation of a business that savagely exploits women, and it also has horrible effects in the lives of porn viewers. Some porn addicts are told by counselors to abstain from all orgasmic activity (even marital sex!) for a period of several months, so that their dopamine receptors can be restored to somewhere near normal.[54]

While these addictive dangers are very real, “when’s the last time you saw a Surgeon General’s warning on a porn product?”[55] Dines writes, “One thing is certain: we are in the midst of a massive social experiment, only the laboratory here is our world and the effects will be played out on people who never agreed to participate.”[56] Sadly, most people are not aware of the dangers, when they enter into porn (usually at age eleven!).

But there is hope! The Bible teaches that Christ can change us and give us freedom from these sorts of addictions (Phil. 1:6; 1 Thess. 4:3; Jn. 8:32).

What false beliefs about porn have you struggled with?

Do you resonate with any of the false beliefs that have been raised so far? What about these listed below? As you share these, offer rebuttals to each, showing why they are false:

“I’m not hurting anybody.”

“I deserve this.”

“It’s not that big of a deal.”

“Everybody looks at porn.”

“I’ll stop looking at porn when I have a girlfriend… or a wife.”

“It’ll be easier to deal with porn, when I’m having sex with my wife regularly.”

“I’m not looking at hardcore porn—just pictures.”

Further Reading

Dines, Gail. Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality. Boston: Beacon, 2010.

Gail Dines is a feminist activist and a professor of sociology and women’s studies. Dines has been criticized for being an extremely left-wing sensationalist. However, if you read her work, you’ll see that she is anything but poorly researched! I found her book to be a scathing, powerful critique of how porn is affecting the sexualization of our culture.

Gardner, Brian. Porn Free: Finding Renewal Through Truth and Community. Costly Grace Media. 2011.

Gardner’s book is a nice primer on battling porno. He gives a well-developed apologetic for the damaging effects of porn use, and he gives some helpful insights on how to battle porn.

Guinn, David E., and Julie DiCaro. Pornography: Driving the Demand in International Sex Trafficking. [Los Angeles]: Captive Daughters Media, 2007.

While I haven’t read this book, reviews point out that it persuasively argues the correlation between porn use and sex trafficking. As Westerners become more sexualized, this blurs the lines between what is normal and abnormal sexually. Also, consider this website, which argues this as well (https://againstpornography.org/Home_Page.html).

Laaser, Mark R. Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004.

Laaser’s book was pretty helpful on this subject. He himself is a recovering sex addict, and he offers good insight into the nature of sexual addiction. However, I didn’t find his solutions to the problem very helpful—as he simply covered Old Testament Bible stories that were supposed to help the person in recovery. The first half of the book, however, was an excellent treatment on the causes and nature of sexual addiction.

Maltz, Wendy, and Larry Maltz. The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography. New York: Collins, 2008.

As far as I could tell, Maltz and Maltz’s book was secular. While they refer to God in the later chapters, this seems similar to AA’s use of a “higher power” to help you with your problems. These authors are counselors in the area of sexuality, and they offer a good secular critique of porn and some suggestions for therapy.

McCallum, Dennis. Walking in Victory. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1994.

McCallum’s book is not a book on overcoming pornography, but it is one of the best books out there on spiritual growth—specifically taking up the importance of understanding our identity in Christ. More could (or should) have been said in this paper on this, but reading McCallum’s book will help with the thesis of taking up a grace-based perspective on spiritual growth.

Paul, Pamela. Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families. New York: Times, 2005.

Pamela Paul is a secular author, but not a feminist. She seems more like a conservative author. She frequently writes columns for The New York Times and other newspapers and magazines. She uses incredibly graphic language in her book on porn, which serves as a good secular critique of the effects of porn on society. However, it doesn’t offer counseling for solutions. She offers hundreds of personal stories—too many in my opinion—but these were helpful to drive home her point.

Struthers, William M. Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2009.

While I haven’t read this book, I probably should have. Struthers is a Christian neuroscientist from Wheaton College, who explains the effects of pornography on the brain.

Wilson, Gary. Your Brain on Porn: Internet Pornography and the Emerging Science of Addiction. Commonwealth Publishing, 2014.

You can also go to his webpage for further research (“Your Brain On Porn”). They write that this is a “secular” organization, and to them, “porn isn’t a moral issue.” Yet they give voluminous scientific research on the deleterious effects of Internet pornography. You can also watch Gary Wilson’s excellent Ted Talk called, “The Great Porn Experiment.”

[1] Paul, Pamela. Pornified. New York: Times, 2005. 54.

[2] Maltz, Wendy, and Larry Maltz. The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography. New York: Collins, 2008. 17.

[3] Paul, Pamela. Pornified. New York: Times, 2005. 60.

[4] Brian McNair, Striptease Culture (London, Routledge, 2002).

[5] Paul, Pamela. Pornified. New York: Times, 2005. 55.

[6] Laaser, Mark R. Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004. 105.

[7] Dick Thornburgh & Herbert S. Lin, Eds. “Youth, Pornography and the Internet.” Committee to Study Tools and Strategies for Protecting Kids from Pornography and their Applicability to Other Inappropriate Internet Content; Computer Science and Telecommunications Board; National Research Council, Washington, D.C. National Academies Press, 2002, P. 78. Web. 3 Dec. 2009. http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10261&page=R1.

[8] Maltz and Maltz write, “The fact is that most people have their first experience of viewing porn when they are, on average, eleven years old.” Maltz, Wendy, and Larry Maltz. The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography. New York: Collins, 2008. 25. See also, “Democrats Push for Age Limit on Web Porn: Report shows top porn consumers between the ages of 12 to 17” http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8730737/ns/nbcnightlynews/t/democrats-push-age-limit-web-porn/#.UIlV1m_A-So.

[9] Steven Stack, Ira Wasserman, and Roger Kern, “Adult social bonds and use of Internet pornography.” Social Science Quarterly 85 (March 2004): 75-88.

[10] Maltz, Wendy, and Larry Maltz. The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography. New York: Collins, 2008. 12.

[11] Karama (et al.) write, “Various lines of evidence indicate that men generally experience greater sexual arousal (SA) to erotic stimuli than women… Only for the group of male subjects was there evidence of a significant activation of the thalamus and hypothalamus, a sexually dimorphic area of the brain known to play a pivotal role in physiological arousal and sexual behavior. When directly compared between genders, hypothalamic activation was found to be significantly greater in male subjects.” Karama, S (et al.). Human Brain Mapping, 2002 May;16(1):1-13.

[12] Paul, Pamela. Pornified. New York: Times, 2005. 58.

[13] Jennings Bryant and Dolf Zillmann, “Pornography’s Impact on Sexual Satisfaction” Journal of Applied Social Psychology. Volume 18, Issue 5, April 1988. 438-453.

[14] Paul, Pamela. Pornified. New York: Times, 2005. 77-78.

[15] Paul, Pamela. Pornified. New York: Times, 2005. 80.

[16] Paul, Pamela. Pornified. New York: Times, 2005. 141.

[17] Paul, Pamela. Pornified. New York: Times, 2005. 89.

[18] Paul, Pamela. Pornified. New York: Times, 2005. 90.

[19] Dines, Gail. Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality. Boston: Beacon, 2010. 65.

[20] Hilary Hanson, “Robot Handjobs are the Future, and the Future is Coming.” Huffington Post (2013).

[21] Paul, Pamela. Pornified. New York: Times, 2005. 184.

[22] Paul, Pamela. Pornified. New York: Times, 2005. 83.

[23] Paul, Pamela. Pornified. New York: Times, 2005. 153.

[24] For a vicious critique of so-called “gonzo” porn, see Dines, Gail. Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality. Boston: Beacon, 2010.

[25] Doidge, Norman. The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science. London, England: Penguin, 2007. 104.

[26] Valerie Voon, et al., “Neural Correlates of Sexual Cue Reactivity in Individuals with and without Compulsive Sexual Behaviours”, PLOS One (2014). Cited in Gary Wilson, Your Brain on Porn: Internet Pornography and the Emerging Science of Addiction (Commonwealth Publishing, 2014).

[27] Alex Martin, “Young Men, Couples Shunning Sex.” Japan Times (Jan. 14, 2011).

[28] Waite, Linda J., and Maggie Gallagher. The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better off Financially. New York: Doubleday, 2000. 79.

[29] Emphasis mine. Seligman, Martin E. P. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. New York: Free, 2002. 55.

[30] This chart is abridged from Maltz, Wendy, and Larry Maltz. The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography. New York: Collins, 2008. 182.

[31] Simone Kühn & Jürgen Gallinat “Brain Structure and Functional Connectivity Associated With Pornography Consumption: The Brain on Porn.” JAMA Psychiatry. 2014; 71 (7): 827-834.

[32] Maltz, Wendy, and Larry Maltz. The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography. New York: Collins, 2008. 22.

[33] Paul, Pamela. Pornified. New York: Times, 2005. 75.

[34] Maltz, Wendy, and Larry Maltz. The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography. New York: Collins, 2008. 20.

[35] Todd Love (et al.), “Neuroscience of Internet Pornography Addiction: A Review and Update.” Behavioral Sciences. 2015, 5(3), 388-433.

[36] Bonnie Phillips, Raju Hajela & Donald L. Hilton JR. (2015) Sex Addiction as a Disease: Evidence for Assessment, Diagnosis, and Response to Critics, Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention, 22:2, 167-192.

[37] Maltz, Wendy, and Larry Maltz. The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography. New York: Collins, 2008. 23.

[38] Maltz, Wendy, and Larry Maltz. The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography. New York: Collins, 2008. 19.

[39] Maltz, Wendy, and Larry Maltz. The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography. New York: Collins, 2008. 19.

[40] Maltz, Wendy, and Larry Maltz. The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography. New York: Collins, 2008. 20.

[41] Maltz, Wendy, and Larry Maltz. The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography. New York: Collins, 2008. 19.

[42] “Addiction to porn destroying lives, Senate told: Experts compare effect on brain to that of heroin or crack cocaine.” November 19th, 2004. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6525520/ns/health-sexual_health/t/addiction-porn-destroying-lives-senate-told/#.T0GaI3lAKGU

[43] Maltz, Wendy, and Larry Maltz. The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography. New York: Collins, 2008. 20.

[44] Michela Romana (et al.), “Differential Psychological Impact of Internet Exposure on Internet Addicts.” PLOS One 8/2, February 7, 2013.

[45] Lawrence T. Lam and Zi-Wen Peng, “Effect of Pathological Use of the Internet on Adolescent Mental Health: A Prospective Study,” Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescents Medicine Journal. 164/10 (2010): 901-906.

[46] C.H. Ko, et al., “The exacerbation of depression, hostility, and social anxiety in the course of Internet addiction among adolescents: A prospective study” Comprehensive Psychiatry. 2014 Aug; 55(6): 1377-1384.

[47] Beyens, I., Vandenbosch, L., & Eggermont, S. (in press). “Early Adolescent Boys’ Exposure to Internet Pornography: Relationships to Pubertal Timing, Sensation Seeking, and Academic Performance.” The Journal of Early Adolescence (December, 2015).

[48] http://www.shelleylubben.com/articles/pornstarsandsexabuse.pdf

[49] Jameson, Jenna, and Neil Strauss. How to Make Love like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2004. 392-393.

[50] This is also written in her book Lords, Traci. Traci Lords: Underneath It All. New York: HarperEntertainment, 2003.

[51] http://www.thepinkcross.org/pinkcross-articles/june-2009/former-porn-star-elizabeth-rollings-story

[52] http://www.thepinkcross.org/pinkcross-articles/september-2008/former-porn-star-diamond-story

[53] Schlosser, Eric. “The Business of Pornography.” 2/2/1997. US News and World Report. http://www.usnews.com/usnews/biztech/articles/970210/archive_006163_10.htm

[54] Maltz and Maltz write, “This break from sex, lasting anywhere from several weeks to several months or more, can be extremely beneficial, if not necessary, for someone who is struggling to overcome a porn addiction.” Maltz, Wendy, and Larry Maltz. The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography. New York: Collins, 2008. 183.

[55] Maltz, Wendy, and Larry Maltz. The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography. New York: Collins, 2008. 13.

[56] Dines, Gail. Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality. Boston: Beacon, 2010. Preface.