It occurred to me today that while I’ve tangentially mentioned the topic of pornography, I’ve never focused on it for more than a few sentences at a time. I think that’s partly because it’s a rather taboo topic in most circles, and it’s partly because it’s quite easy for me to assume an “everyone knows this is wrong” attitude about it. But the fact of the matter is, porn exists, people consume it, and it destroys them.
I do mean “destroy,” too. A plethora of studies have come out detailing the horrifying damage pornography does to its consumers. Brains are rewired in a pathology identical to drug addiction. Men experience porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED), unable to engage in intercourse with a flesh-and-blood woman because their erection is dependent upon the stimuli offered by images. Partners view each other as objects instead of equals, mirroring the degraded humanity on display on the screen. Worse, people begin to see themselves that way, as things to be consumed upon lusts instead of people to be loved. Real sex has been replaced by fake sex along every step of the way.
Professionally-produced porn also gives rise to amateur pornographers. People record their exploits in the bedroom. Teenagers exchange naked pictures of themselves to an alarming degree. Indeed, “Trade nudes?” is now a fixed feature of the dating scene. (Whence modesty? Sigh.) But the proliferation and consumption of pornography has shown what we now consider acceptable — and not only acceptable, but also required. Think of how many suffer varying degrees of body dysmorphia, whether obsessing over how they don’t look like the porn stars or who have full-blown body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). People fail to realize no one can maintain a perfect look; with the advent of image editing software, it’s further safe to say that even the performers who look like that don’t really look like that. Yes, on every level, pornography is a lie, but it’s an attractive falsehood for so very many.
This being a theology blog, we need to crack open the heart of porn and see what it truly does on the spiritual level. First, etymology time (because, hey, I’m a linguist) .We all know the “-graphy” part, so let’s look at “porno-.” This comes from the family of Greek words conveying sexual immorality in its various guises: porneia. Porneia is sometimes taken to denote specific sins such as adultery or fornication, but it’s really more of an umbrella term. Biblically speaking, anything violating the sexual ethic of the Leviticus Holiness Code (chs. 17-26) is dubbed porneia: incest, adultery, bestiality, intercourse during a woman’s period, sex with someone and their close relative, same-sex intercourse, prostitution, and fornication (with these being explicit in the text and others being included by implication). Any of these acts is porneia, is immoral and prohibited. Recording any of these (and others) creates pornography. So why would it be acceptable to watch others sin for your own pleasure?
To willfully steep your soul in the sins of others is bad enough. But no one watches porn for the excellent writing and superior cinematography. Porn is a channel, a conduit for lust and myriad other sins. Combine that with its addictive nature, and you have a recipe for programming yourself to sin. Christ frees us from bondage; don’t run back to your dark chains.
Porn forges more chains than addiction and lust, however. Sin becomes habitual — and then it becomes a craving. You desire sin, deliberately want to violate the will of God. It alters your worldview, changing people into sex objects instead of beloved children of God. But studies show habitual porn consumption leads to harder, darker porn. The cycle of objectification intensifies both on-screen and off until a real person somewhere screams in agony, being treated as a subhuman tool for perverted pleasure. And people buy such filth.
I think that’s the one thing that bothers me most about porn: there’s a market for it.
As time progresses and consumption increases, the soul shrinks inside of you in horror at what it’s done. It has to. Souls were made for eternal life and goodness, not for absorbing sin and twisting it into a perceived good.
So what can we do?
First, let’s admit pornography is sinful, morally wrong. Remember: it is a package of lies designed to incite sin by selling the sins of others. In this way, the only difference between prostitution and pornography is the camera: someone is getting paid to have sex either way.
Next, recognize the importance of a Christian anthropology. Those people in the video? The ones walking down the sidewalk? The one in the mirror? All are made in the image of God. Each bears the stamp of the divine. You cannot treat the divine image as an object for your consumption. Think of Christ dying for them. Think of God’s deep and abiding love for them. Recognize their equality with you and afford them love and respect.
Third, bear in mind the effects of prolonged exposure to porn: PIED, emotional/mental/spiritual trauma, addiction pathology, etc. It is damaging on every level, and that damage doesn’t disappear just because you enjoy what hurts you.
Lastly, if you’re caught in a porn addiction, seek help. Install filters like Covenant Eyes or K9 on your computer to block sites. Seek counseling or therapy. Join a support group. Get an accountability partner to keep you on track. Get involved at your church. Pray.
And seek Jesus above all else.
Additional information on the dangers of pornography can be found at Fight the New Drug.