Christian Concerns: Pornography and you

Before we get into the body of the article, I would like to issue a trigger warning for sexual assault, explicit content, abuse, and domestic violence. While these topics are important and relevant for the topic at hand, if you in any way are triggered by these topics, this article is not for you. 

The articles that I have written in the past that have left me the most fulfilled have been my Christian articles. Whether politics, the church or biblical truths, all have tapped into topics I felt called to talk about on my platform. When I was challenged to write a column, one on Christians was the right choice. 

Some of you want to explore religion but don’t feel welcome at church. Some people have had super negative experiences with Christians. Some were told that you have to be perfect to be a Christian.

I am here to tell you that no matter your past, your present or how you feel about Christians, you are welcome here.  

That being said, this will be a recurring staple of my tenure as an opinion editor. Bi-weekly I will be publishing this column talking about biblical truths, Christian politics and commenting on culture through a biblical worldview. 

If you have any issues, questions, or anything else under that umbrella that you would like me to address, you can email me at Please enjoy. 

This is part two of an article I published last week on how the pornography industry profits off the suffering of others. The second half of this article will be about the other thing that bothers me about pornography: how it affects humans.

As I have previously stated, if you have watched pornography or currently watch pornography, I harbor no ill will toward you or judgment whatsoever. What you do in your time is none of my business, and I don’t mean to come from a high horse saying I have never done wrong.

I am a human being, which means I, unfortunately, make mistakes. That being said, I believe it’s wrong to watch it, and I believe it is harmful and not nearly as innocuous as we as a society believe it to be.

I think it is far too normalized. It is harmful to the people who are part of the production of the videos and the viewer. This article simply talks about the same thing I covered last week, except the viewer’s perspective instead of the human in the video.

The science

In part one of this article, I briefly touched on some of the effects this medium has on your brain. The effects of pornography are actually really similar to that of a drug. Last semester, I took a substance abuse class, so I am fairly familiar with that process.

Essentially, when you watch porn, you trigger a response from the award response in the brain, which releases dopamine, the happiness hormone. Over time, as you watch, your brain will need increased dopamine to elicit the same response because your brain builds a tolerance to the excess dopamine.

What’s sad is in researching this topic, we have just started scratching the surface of what pornography may do to our brain and how it may affect our relationships.

This means to get the same “high” from the first time you watched pornography; you will need to watch more in quantity, more extreme content or sometimes both. Additionally, watching pornography at a young age is more damaging as your brain develops. The reward centers in the brain in teenage brains are two to four times more powerful than that of an adult brain.

Essentially, these pathways are formed much quicker, making it much more difficult to stop watching once you start. Watching from a young age also makes you much more at risk for developing a sex addiction and for developing other sexual disorders.

Research shows that desensitization to pornography has been linked to more anxiety and depression than those who do watch porn. Whether the porn feeds the anxiety and depression, or the anxiety feeds the porn viewership, I can’t say.

Some research has linked porn viewership to eroding of the prefrontal cortex, which influences impulse control. What’s sad is in researching this topic, we have just started scratching the surface of what pornography may do to our brain and how it may affect our relationships.

In a neuroscience weekly article, they said this, “The much greater irony is that while porn promises to satisfy and provide sexual gratification, it delivers the opposite.”

Personal experience

I haven’t watched porn, and I do think it inhibits my ability to some extent to be able to understand what this addiction looks like for people who do struggle. I find that people don’t love to talk about this subject matter. This may be why some of the research is mixed on this topic. I interviewed a friend of mine, who will remain anonymous, about their experience with a pornography addiction.

My friend didn’t have to answer anything they didn’t want to, but I felt that having someone willing to share how pornography affected them was instrumental in demonstrating the point I am trying to make. Think of it as a case study.

“I hated myself. I felt dirty in all senses of the word. I didn’t want this sin in my life, but somehow I kept coming back to it.”

Also, I would like to point out the irony that even though I conducted this interview before, I wrote the above portion of this article. This case study points out many of the things research shows us when we view pornography.

Q: What age were you when you began watching porn?
A: “I was 14. As they say, curiosity killed the cat.”

Q: How did that affect how you thought about sex?
A: “Unfortunately, I began viewing it from a pretty impressionable age, so my view of sex was basically formed by pornography. By the time my parents got around to halfheartedly mentioning it, I already knew how the whole thing had worked — at least from the physical side of things.

Graphic Credit | Cassy Tweed

I let them believe that my knowledge came from the one sex-ed day in my seventh-grade science class and was so embarrassed about the ordeal that I wouldn’t let them discuss it with me. I wish I’d asked them my questions, as embarrassing as it might’ve been because my view of sex might’ve been formed correctly.

In addition to rewiring my brain’s view of sex, I had to rewire my view of people. Because of porn, I started objectifying people. They could be total strangers, and my first thought of them was how they’d look in the bedroom. It was completely dehumanizing, and I hated it.”

Q: What made you realize it wasn’t healthy?
A: “I always knew it was unhealthy. Not only was I a Christian, but I grew up in a Christian household, so I knew that what I was doing was wrong. However, I did try to justify it to myself, saying things like I wasn’t hurting anyone, it wasn’t really affecting me, I could stop whenever I wanted and I was only doing it for carnal reasons — it wasn’t affecting my heart, mind or life.

I knew that I was lying to myself. There were a number of reasons that, when taken together, made it impossible to ignore the wrongness of porn. Science shows how it messes up your mind.

The Bible gives a clear outline of what sex should be (and porn is not a part of that), I didn’t know if the people on my screen were consenting, and I felt terrible about it. I know feelings are an arbitrary unit of measurement but put with everything else, there was no denying that what I was doing was wrong.”

Q: How did it affect your feelings about yourself?
A: “I hated myself. I felt dirty in all senses of the word. I didn’t want this sin in my life, but somehow I kept coming back to it. I hated myself for doing it, for coming back to it each time I said I wouldn’t, and for not living up to the standards that I’d set for myself.

It seemed like every corner I turned was someone or something reminding me of the shame I carried. It’s funny how the very one (Satan) who tempted me to sin in the first place was the same one shaming me for it.

On top of the self-hatred I inflicted on my own, I rejected compliments people gave me. When my parents told me how proud they were of me, I’d think that if only they knew what I did in secret, they wouldn’t be saying that.

But I didn’t want them to think less of me, so I continued to keep my sin secret. Had I said something, they might’ve been able to help me — consequences and all — but I took the longer and much more painful road to recovery instead.”

Q: When did you realize that it was an addiction?
A: “The lengths I went to, the risks I took and the fact that it consumed my thought life made me realize I was addicted.”

Q: How did you stop watching it?
A: “I got to the point where I couldn’t handle the shame I carried anymore. I confided in a trusted mentor at a summer camp who prayed over me. The fact that someone else knew motivated me to stop. I didn’t want to see them the next summer and have a bad report (because I knew they’d likely ask me about how I was doing).

Soon after that, I think I watched it twice, but I gave myself some grace, knowing that going cold-turkey is incredibly difficult. Then I turned to literature, which is still a form of pornography, but at least the images weren’t right in my face.

I sort of view that phase like a smoker using nicotine patches — it’s still addictive and dangerous, but it’s a tamer version. Eventually, I got fed up with that because it still carried a level of shame that I hated, and I deliberately stopped.

I came up with ways to escape the temptation. I knew the times and places I was most tempted in and avoided putting myself in a vulnerable position. If I absolutely had to be in those places, I would get up and do something active like jumping jacks, or I’d start cleaning. “

Q: Do you think about sex differently now?
A: “After I made the decision to quit watching, I had to completely rewire my brain to view sex in a biblical light. Instead of sex being a tool for satisfaction, I had to learn that it’s much more than that.

If used correctly, it’s a reminder of the commitment between a husband and wife — that no matter how ugly, old or silly one gets, the other will still cherish them and vice versa. After many years of training my brain not to objectify people, I can now say that that’s not even close to my first thought about a person upon meeting them.

If an intrusive thought does jump into my mind on rare occasions, I immediately push it out and replace it with something else. But it took a long time to get to this point, and I could’ve completely avoided all of it by staying away from porn.”

Q: What would you tell someone who is still struggling in their relationship with sex and pornography?
A: “It’s very difficult to quit cold-turkey. I tried several times, and nothing worked until I built up the courage to tell someone. I know it’s something incredibly shameful to admit, but there’s something about the process of confessing that helps release the shame you carry. When you’re no longer bound to shame, it’s a lot easier to get the help you need.”

God and sex

Finally, I want to talk about sex. Sex is a good thing. I think many Christians, and a lot of people in general, are raised in homes that don’t talk about sex or talk about sex in a very negative way. The reality is God invented sex, and he made our brains enjoy the act.

He created people and commanded us to “go out and be fruitful.” Sex is God’s gift to humanity, and we shouldn’t shame people for having sex. That being said, there is a context in which we are to receive this gift. I do believe in waiting before marriage to have sex. I think that having sex before marriage ends up causing more hurt, especially if that couple doesn’t work out.

Graphics Credit | Cassy Tweed

Pornography is not what God designed sex for. It was meant to be an incredibly intimate act. Sex is about procreation, but it’s also about more than that. The Bible says in Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

This idea of becoming one flesh is that you can know someone so well that you become one with them. Your heart and soul become so intertwined that you can’t separate them. Pornography steals some of that away from it by its nature, removes the love from the act and strips away the intimacy. Pornography will affect how you view sexual relationships, and it can cause harm.

Sex outside of marriage is a sin, and I feel pretty confident in saying that pornography doesn’t depict sex the way God intended it. It can make partners feel inadequate, especially if your first time having sex is informed by pornography, which is not always realistic. If you don’t tell your partner you watch pornography, it can also cause some distrust once they find out that you are watching it and you were not honest.

Pornography can also cause people to be less aroused by their real-life partners and has been linked to causing erectile dysfunction in men. All this to say, pornography may seem harmless, and it is not. It actually can cause harm to real-life relationships, and we as human beings are always better of living life how God intended for us to experience it than trying to do things our own way. At least, every time I have chosen not to do something God’s way, I have regretted it.

What do you do

So let’s say theoretically, you read this article, and you may decide for ethical or personal reasons that you don’t want to consume pornography anymore. What do you do?

First, tell someone you trust. My friend said that in fewer words, they started to get better and heal when they opened up to someone else they trusted about what was going on in their heart.
Sin doesn’t survive the light. The sin of pornography is one that thrives in darkness and secrecy. It loves using shame to eat people alive. And I don’t think that it’s the actual viewing of pornography that does the most damage.

I think the shame of knowing the harm it can cause others and what you are doing to yourself is where the shame comes from.

There is an unhealthy shame, and there is a healthy shame. The shame tells you that you are worthless, unworthy of forgiveness and dirty and unlovable isn’t healthy, and I think viewed from this angle, the idea that this shame is unhealthy isn’t a bold claim.

You are a worthy, valuable, lovable human even if you do watch porn. I don’t think our value as humans comes from our actions. Don’t let the shame prevent you from getting help if that is what you know you need.

Pornhub had over 35 billion visits in 2018. And while I can’t find more updated data, we do know pornography viewership has only become more popular during a pandemic. You are not the first person to struggle with watching porn; you’re not the first person addicted to it. You are not alone. You can reach out to someone you trust, and there are resources out there at the tip of your fingers should you wish to access them.

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