Last Sunday I spoke at our church on the subject of Pornography. Pornography has been around for centuries, but it has never been so widespread and prolific as it is today. Today we have the internet. That means any child, teen or adult can instantly stream on to their computer, phone or tablet, graphic sexual images and videos, without anyone knowing about it.
How bad is it? It’s really bad. And it’s not just the religious moral right who are concerned. Health professionals and educators concerned, because they see how it’s messing up peoples’ lives. Doctors and neurosurgeons are concerned because they are seeing what porn is doing the brain.
Porn Facts & Stats
If you think I’m overstating or overplaying this in some way, have a look at some of these statistics. These are the most recent I could find. They are all based on credible studies carried out in 2016 and 2017.
- In 2016, people watched 4.6 billion hours of pornography at just one website (the biggest porn site in the world). That’s 524,000 years of porn or around 17,000 complete lifetimes.
- 61% of pornography is watched on a mobile phone. In the United States that is as high as 70%.
- The average age of first exposure to Internet porn is 11 years old.
- Pornography has typically been considered the domain of men, but its use is rising among women. Today, 33% of women aged 25 and under go searching for porn at least once per month.
- 62% of teens and young adults have received a sexually explicit image. 41% have sent one, usually to their boyfriend or girlfriend.
- 36% of young adults watch pornography to get tips or ideas that they can apply to their own sexual relationships.
- 96% of young adults are either encouraging, accepting, or neutral in their view toward pornography.
- 64% of Christian men and 15% of Christian women view pornography at least once a month.
- Out of 1351 pastors surveyed, 54% said they had viewed internet pornography within the last year, and 30% of these had visited within the last 30 days.
Porn and the Brain
It gets worse. Pornography is also highly addictive. Counselors knew this, as they began seeing the very same traits in the people they were counseling as drug addicts. Neurological research has revealed that the effect of internet pornography on the human brain is just as potent – if not more so, than addiction to cocaine or heroin.
And here’s how it works: deep inside the brain, there’s something called a “reward centre.” You’ve got one. Your dog has got one. The reward centre’s job is to release “pleasure” chemicals into your brain whenever you do something healthy (like eating tasty food or doing a workout). The “high” you get from that chemical rush makes you want to repeat the behaviour. Thanks to your reward centre, your brain is hardwired to motivate you to do things that will improve your health and chances of survival. It’s a great system… normally. The problem is, the brain can be tricked.
When addictive substances are used (like drugs or tobacco), they give the brain a “false signal.” Since the brain can’t tell the difference between the drugs and a real, healthy reward, it goes ahead and activates the reward centre. An important chemical is released called dopamine, which makes the brain start developing a craving for the fake reward. So the consumer keeps pursuing more and more of whatever it is he is craving.
Continued exposure to porn, especially for long periods of time, releases surge after surge of dopamine, giving the brain an unnatural high. The brain eventually fatigues, limiting the release of dopamine, leaving the viewer wanting more but unable to reach a level of satisfaction. This is called desensitization. Everyday pleasures begin to lose its lustre – including sex – and the viewer expands their pornographic tastes and seeks out more novel or harder pornography to get the same arousal. In her article, “Pornography: The New Narcotic”, Morgan Bennett writes:
Think of the brain as a forest where trails are worn down by hikers who walk along the same path over and over again, day after day. The exposure to pornographic images creates similar neural pathways that, over time, become more and more “well-paved” as they are repeatedly travelled with each exposure to pornography. Those neurological pathways eventually become the trail in the brain’s forest by which sexual interactions are routed. Thus, a pornography user has “unknowingly created a neurological circuit” that makes his or her default perspective toward sexual matters ruled by the norms and expectations of pornography.
Supply cannot keep up with demand. The porn user goes back, craving more graphic and deviant sexual content in order to re-awaken the craving to “feel the high.”
We must take this issue seriously. We cannot treat it lightly. And it’s not just the so-called ‘hard porn’ that’s the problem. It’s the sexualization of just about everything we see; the movies we watch, the books we read, the images on magazine covers and billboards etc. We live in a porn-saturated society.
Something better than Porn
Let me tell you about something better than porn. Porn cheapens sex. It makes it dirty and grubby. That’s not how God views it. God sees sex as something beautiful and wholesome and good. Take a look at this passage from Genesis chapter 2:
“The man gave names to all the livestock, to the birds of the sky, and to every wild animal; but for the man no helper was found corresponding to him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to come over the man, and he slept. God took one of his ribs and closed the flesh at that place. Then the Lord God made the rib he had taken from the man into a woman and brought her to the man. And the man said: This one, at last, is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called “woman,” for she was taken from man. This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:20–24)
Here we have Adam alone in this beautiful creation God has made. He has no one to share it with. So God puts him to sleep, takes a rib from his side and forms the perfect helpmate – a woman (which means in Hebrew, “taken out of man”). Adam wakes up and the Lord says, “Birthday present Adam.” Well, he takes one look at her and his heart races. And there in the garden, a brand-new union is formed, a union that is physical, emotional, spiritual and sexual. It is called one flesh.
“One flesh” is the relational and physical union of two human beings – male and female where they become one in their hearts and their minds and their souls and their bodies, in a covenant relationship. And in this relationship, sex – the act of lovemaking is not just a physical act. That’s what the world wants to make it. It says, “It’s purely physical. It’s just like eating or drinking.” You can’t look at sex that way. You can’t separate it out as just a physical act. It doesn’t involve one part of you; it involves ALL of you – mind, body, soul and spirit.
Sex was God’s idea. He created it. It is God’s good gift to mankind. Stay within the parameters God designed for it and it is not just good, it is beautiful, wonderful and fulfilling. Go outside the parameters God set for it and it’s not the same. It’s not designed for that.
You say, “Well I’m in a committed relationship with my boyfriend or girlfriend and we’re enjoying sex. I’m sure you are. But you’re settling for less. And God can’t bless it. Sex was intended for a covenant relationship and in that relationship, a man and a woman say to each other, “I don’t just feel things for you, I’m committed to you. I made a promise to God to stick with you. Feeling or no feeling, good sex or bad sex, I’m in. I’m not going anywhere.” When that kind of commitment is reciprocated, the result is something more wonderful than any mere sexual encounter can promise.
Hope for the porn addict
So what hope is there for the porn addict? What hope is there for the person who has saturated their minds with graphic images so that even if they were to stop, they have enough in their heads to torment them for a lifetime? What hope is there for the person who is wrestling with deep feelings of guilt and self-hatred?
God doesn’t hate you. He hates your sin, but not you. And he has a provided a wonderful remedy for you.
Jesus was like us in every way, but without sin. He lived a perfect life, which included a perfect sexual life. He never had one lustful thought or took one lustful glance. When he went to the cross, he took upon himself the punishment for our sins – all of them, even the most shameful sexual sins. The bible says that “He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:21)
So, what does that mean for the sexual sinner? It means this: God made Jesus, who never looked with lust, to be an adulterer and a porn addict for us, so that in him we might become sexually pure. So whatever you’ve done, whether it’s fantasizing, looking at porn, sexting, one-night stands, Jesus took all of it. And when we put our trust in Jesus to save us, God writes on our account PAID IN FULL.
That doesn’t mean we stop sinning. From that point on there is an internal struggle – the flesh against the Spirit. Every time we face temptation we need to make a decision, to follow the Spirit or the flesh. The flesh promises temporary pleasure but leaves you empty. The Spirit promises lasting satisfaction and leaves you full. Jesus said this:
“Whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again. In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up in him for eternal life.” (John 4:14)
Porn promises much, but never delivers. Jesus promises to meet the deepest longings of our hearts. He promises what porn can’t deliver. Only when you come to him in faith, and keep coming to him, will your soul thirst be fully quenched. That’s how you win the battle over lust – by fighting fire with fire. When you see that what Jesus promises is far more satisfying and liberating and exhilarating than the cheap thrill of sexual pleasure, you’re on the way to being finally set free.
 Judith Reisman, “The Science Behind Pornography Addiction,” U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation, November 18, 2004.
This post was based on a sermon on Pornography. It is part of a Hot Topics series we are working through at our church. You can listen to the full audio on our website here. You can also listen to the discussion forum that followed here.
You might also want to have a look at this video from Fight the New Drug website. It’s a story about Matt Harrow who was exposed to pornography at a young age and had a serious struggle with porn for many years. After meeting the love of his life and having a wonderful honeymoon, he thought the problem was cured. Then one day, when his guard was down, he fell and found himself in a dark hole once again.
Here are some helpful resources for keeping porn-free:
Here’s a book I highly recommend for those who want to be set free from pornography: