Pornography and the single Christian
‘Porn isn’t just a problem for men,’ said the email. ‘I’m female and I admit I sometimes look at porn. I don’t like myself much for it, but it’s so commonplace. Is it really such a big deal?’
There have been many reports of Christian men, and even church leaders, struggling with pornography. But research suggests that porn is increasingly a problem for Christian women, too. It’s even been suggested that it can be more of a problem for Christians than the general population, due to the frustrations of abstaining from sex outside marriage. My old university lecturer, who studied the social effects of pornography, once said, ‘Show me a porn addict and I’ll show you an evangelical Christian!’ I sincerely hope that was hyperbole.
When I posted an appeal on my Facebook page for people to share their experiences and opinions on porn, I was again flooded with stories of anguish and torment, from both men and women. This is especially a problem for the ‘internet generation’, who were widely exposed to pornography during their sexually formative teenage years – whether they wanted it or not.
So yes, I do think it’s a big deal – but perhaps not just for the reasons you’d expect.
Personally, I don’t have a major issue with seeing nudity – some of our greatest works of art, often created for the glory of God, leave little to the imagination. But porn involves real people, often very vulnerable people, submitting to dreadful indignity and frequently abuse, due to financial desperation, drug addiction or by force. Don’t be fooled by the gloss and enthusiastic ‘acting’. For a high percentage of porn actors and actresses, their self-worth has already been destroyed by childhood sex abuse. They have learned that their bodies aren’t their own and, since others take it for free, they feel they might as well get paid for it, especially if they have few other options.
But porn isn’t just bad news for the actors – it’s also bad for users. In pornography, women especially tend to be portrayed as objects existing to serve men’s wishes, or enjoying degrading and dangerous activities (the same is true of young, vulnerable men, more often in gay porn). The activities routinely shown can have a very damaging effect on how we view and experience people, relationships and ourselves. Even tamer varieties of porn generally show the opposite of what makes for good sex in real life, so it’s the worst possible source to ‘learn’ from.
Sex therapists report that using porn can warp our sexual responses, leading to problems with lack of arousal, premature climax and inorgasmia (inability to climax). Marriages are destroyed when people become conditioned to be more aroused by the fake sex in porn, with its endless variety and extreme acts, than by making love with their spouse. I’ve known marriages to end because one partner deprives the other sexually while using pornography instead.
‘I’ve struggled with pornography for 20 years,’ confessed one of my Facebook followers. ‘It had a detrimental effect on my last relationship due to my premature climaxing. I’m now committed to abstaining from sex until marriage, but I’m afraid I’ve ruined my sex life with my future spouse. While I find porn arousing, I’m increasingly disgusted by it, because it involves so many young people.’
‘My use of pornography has left me depressed and broken,’ said another. ‘I feel guilty for supporting a terrible industry, but it’s so hard to resist and has led me into dark places and dangerous activities. No decent Christian would want to marry me if they knew the truth.’
I really, truly don’t want to pile guilt and shame on anyone who is struggling. However, I do believe porn is evil and destructive, and I encourage you to flee from it. The following resources may help: Covenant Eyes and DirtyGirls Ministries. Specialist individual addiction counselling may also be required. And when you’re tempted, remind yourself that each person you see in pornography is a real human being, most likely a vulnerable one – beloved and precious to God, and deserving of respect, dignity and care.
I’ll give the last word to another of my followers, who I believe views pornography as any healthy person should: ‘When I’ve seen porn, I’ve found it repulsive and distressing. I don’t find it erotic seeing men and women being reduced to pieces of meat. I think porn is addictive, corrosive and destructive.’ Hear, hear.
*You can read parts 1 and 2 of this 4-part series on dealing with sexual frustration as a single Christian here and here.
Next month: Is erotic literature just ‘porn for women’?