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Porn's Impact on Men: Disastrous


Man Watching Videos On Computer

Disclaimer: This article discusses pornography and sexuality in honest terms. Some details are upsetting, and reader discretion is advised.


There’s no easy way to start an article about pornography. It’s an uncomfortable, difficult topic - one that I’m sure many of us would prefer avoiding altogether. The truth, however, is that we need to talk about porn, because in the hyper-sexualized world we live in, it’s a virtual certainty that you or someone you know well has dealt with or is currently engaging in regular porn usage. Maybe you’re reading this as a man who wants to be free from porn, but are at a loss as to why you keep returning to these illicit images no matter how hard you try to quit. Maybe you’ve been freed from the power of porn yourself, but want to better understand the nature of the problem so you can help other men. Maybe you’re a wife or girlfriend who’s been harmed by your partner’s porn addiction. Maybe you’re not a Christian and you don’t understand what’s so bad about porn - or maybe you are a Christian and you still don’t understand why so much is made of this topic.


Whatever your background and experience with pornography, my goal in this article is to give a brief overview of some basic facts about porn usage, make the cause against porn through providing a survey of the negative effects of pornography, and share resources that you or someone else can use to break free from the bondage of porn. (While men and women both view porn, I’ll be dealing most specifically with the nature and effects of male porn usage in this article.)


Facts About Pornography Usage

  • Approximately 57% of men aged 30-49 view pornography at least monthly, compared to 44% of men aged 18-29 and 50-64[1].

  • Both men and women view pornography, but the available data consistently indicates that a higher amount of men view porn at a higher level of frequency than women. The Institute for Family Studies found that men in casual dating relationships were 42 times more likely to view porn at least weekly than similarly situated women, with roughly equal gender disparities among seriously dating, engaged, and married couples[2].

  • Boys are often first exposed to pornography in their “tween” or young teen years - one study found that the average age of initial exposure was less than 10 years old for boys. Importantly, the study found that only 10% of boys were originally introduced to porn due to directly searching for this material[3].

  • Men who attend church regularly view pornography less frequently than those who attend infrequently or never. However, rates of porn use have been increasing among church attenders and non-attenders over the past 50 years[4].


Porn and Perception of Reality

Pornography inherently depicts a distorted form of sexual activity - rather than a private act of loving intimacy between a husband and wife, porn treats sex as an impersonal spectacle for public consumption. In regards to men, porn substantially disorients their perception of women’s sexual desires - per The Gospel Coalition, porn perpetuates the notion that “1) All women at all times want sex from all men; (2) women enjoy all the sexual acts that men perform or demand, and; (3) any woman who does not at first realize this can be easily turned with a little force[5].” This, of course, is not true - God created sex as a means for husbands and wives to love and turn towards each other, but porn propagates the lie that sex is primarily about the gratification of the male physical desire. Men who consume pornography will likely struggle to love their wives effectively in the sexual arena and to truly enjoy marital intimacy in accordance with God’s design. At its worst, porn use can even increase the extent to which men are sexually aggressive towards women - research has found that higher rates of porn consumption are correlated with increased levels of sexual violence and coercion within sexual relationships[6].



The Addictive Qualities of Porn

One of the most troubling realities of pornography is its potentially addictive nature - boys and men who begin to use pornography often find themselves unable to stop doing so on their own willpower, even if they want to. Porn addictions can vary in severity (ranging from compulsive use every few months to multiple times a week), and whether compelled porn usage is a clinical “addiction” in the same vein as a drug or alcohol addiction is beyond the scope of this article. Even still, the available research is clear - pornography possesses addictive qualities that can make stopping usage extraordinarily difficult.


Sexual activity causes the brain to release a “cocktail” of chemicals - the essence of these chemicals is the dual effect of (1) reinforcing sex as an enjoyable experience and (2) developing a particular bond with a specific sexual partner. Viewing pornography also triggers both of these effects, but instead of developing a sexual bond with an actual person, your brain is developing a bond with the images on your screen.


Pornography is hardly a neutral form of sexual release that can easily be disregarded once another sexual outlet becomes available - your brain can develop a neurological dependency on porn that is not easily overcome. Per Covenant Eyes,


“Cambridge researcher Dr. Valerie Voon found that the brains of porn addicts look a lot like the brains of drug addicts, both displaying similar damage to the frontal lobe.”

Porn’s addictive nature is at its highest for boys (and girls) who are exposed at a young age, given that the brain before puberty is in a highly impressionable stage of development. Research suggests that 50% of men exposed to porn as children will eventually develop an addiction[7].


Porn and Sexual Functioning

Given pornography’s potentially addictive and brain-altering nature, it’s no surprise that men who use porn might find themselves desiring or enjoying sex outside of porn less, or less able to perform sexually when desired. The research on the relationship between pornography and sex drive is mixed, but there is a general recognition that porn can be an aggravating factor among men who report a low libido[8]. A growing body of research is also pointing to porn as an underlying cause of the significant growth in cases of erectile dysfunction in men under 40[9][10].


The main problem with porn isn’t its impact on sexual performance, but rather that it is sinful and harmful to all parties involved (more on this below). However, it is worth noting that a medium that is predicated on providing an outlet for sexual pleasure seems to have the opposite effect over time. God created sex to be a highly pleasurable experience to be enjoyed within the confines of marriage, but when we stray from this design, it’s no surprise that we are less able to experience sexual pleasure as God intended.


Porn and Shame

Whatever damage porn does to the body of the viewer pales in comparison to the damage it inflicts on the heart and soul. Whether we consciously admit it or not, in our heart of hearts we know that looking at porn is a violation of God’s design for sex, which means that porn leaves a trail of guilt and shame in its terrible wake. Importantly, it’s not only self-identified Christians or religious men who feel this way. A clinical study of men seeking treatment for porn/sex addiction found that only 30% of participants were religious, and those who were religious did not cite this as the main factor in their decision to seek help. More than half of the participants in the study “spoke about self-disdain and self-degradation to the point that they stopped respecting themselves. Typically, they had feelings of self-disgust, shame, and even suicidal thoughts[11].” (Importantly, these feelings about porn can perplexingly lead to additional porn usage, which leads to more shame, which leads to more porn…see this article for more information about “The Shame Cycle.”)


The point of sharing this research isn’t to deny the Biblical case against porn, but rather to note that feelings of shame about porn usage don’t ultimately come from arbitrary external standards, but because we know that it goes against God’s good design for our sexuality.


Porn as a Marriage Destroyer

In addition to the harm that pornography does to the viewer, it should go without saying that porn can deeply wound the wives and marriages of men who use it. A national poll commissioned by Brigham Young University and the Austin Institute for the Study of Family found that the presence of pornography usage within marriage was correlated with lower levels of “relationship stability, commitment, and satisfaction”, and that a significant number of dating women reported worrying that their partner was more attracted to pornography than they were to them (a fear that would seem likely to carry over to marriage as well)[12]. Another study found that men who start watching porn double the chance of their marriage ending in divorce, a linkage that University of Oklahoma sociologist Samuel Perry suggests is a function of causation rather than mere correlation[13].


At its core, viewing porn is totally inconsistent with the marriage vows we make to our wives – we trade sexual intimacy within the exclusive covenant of marriage for fake “intimacy” with images of women on a screen, leaving our spouses to grapple with feelings of distrust, insufficiency, and betrayal. (If you’re not married and are struggling with porn use, hopefully the previous section on “The Addictive Qualities of Porn” has convinced you that this is an issue you need to resolve before you get married.)


Porn and Sex Trafficking

As we’ve seen, the impact of porn on those who view it is and their loved ones terrible - but the impact on those who are being viewed is even worse. Perhaps the darkest reality of the porn industry is that it preys on women who are current or former victims of the sex trafficking industry or other forms of sexual abuse. While this is not necessarily known to the viewer, porn regularly depicts women who are engaging in non-consensual sexual acts - sometimes because they’re aspiring models or actresses being manipulated by “movie producers” who have made misrepresentations and false promises, or sometimes simply because they are trafficking victims who are being abused and having it recorded for public consumption. On one popular porn site, the word “teen” was one of the top ten most searched terms for six consecutive years - any pornographic material involving minors is inherently non-consensual. There is simply no way around the awful fact that, if you view porn, there is a high likelihood that you are virtually participating in and enabling the abuse and exploitation of the woman on the screen[14][15].


Men, this has been a heavy, somber article, and it’s possible you are experiencing some strong feelings of guilt and anxiety having read this. In one sense, this is a good thing - pornography is terrible, and we need to feel the weight of its awfulness in order to begin steps of true repentance and change. But men, please hear me when I say that Jesus stands ready to forgive you for your porn use and any other form of sexual sin. The truth is that all of us have fallen short of God’s standard for sexual desire (Matthew 5:28) and are in need of Christ’s forgiveness for these and all our other sins - something that he is enthusiastically ready to provide (1 John 1:5-10, Isaiah 30:18). But Jesus doesn’t just want to forgive you for viewing porn - he wants to free you from the bondage of pornography altogether. True freedom from porn is possible, and any suggestion you have heard to the contrary is a lie from the devil himself. The key, however, is that you can’t quit porn on your own willpower - you need help. You need to come alongside other men who will help you unpack the truth of God’s word and use it to facilitate the healing and freedom you need to leave porn behind for good.


Not sure where to turn? Here are four of just a few resources that can come alongside you in seeking freedom from pornography.


Heart Groups

Heart groups are an extension of Heart of a Man’s ministry - they are small groups of men who are learning to speak “the language of the heart” and unpack/heal from emotional brokenness from previous life events or circumstances. Many men who have participated in Heart Groups have found that working through and applying Biblical truth to their emotional baggage has eliminated the underlying cause of their porn usage. If you’re interested in joining a Heart Group, contact Taylor Moore at taylor@heartofaman.org.


Conquerors Groups and 7 Pillars Groups

Both of these groups are an extension of College Park Church’s “Soul Care” (counseling) ministry, and are designed to aid men seeking to say “no” to sexual sin and “yes” to sexual integrity. Learn more and reserve your spot for the next group here.


Covenant Eyes

If you’re not in the Indianapolis area, Covenant Eyes is an accountability program that has helped over 1.5 million people experience victory over porn. This would be an excellent tool to use in concert with an accountability partner or church support/counseling group.


Men, we were made for so much more than porn. If you’re struggling and want to be free, today can be the day that you take the first step towards repentance and healing. Will you?

[1] How Prevalent is Pornography? - Institute for Family Studies [2] The Porn Gap: Gender Differences in Pornography Use in Couple Relationships - Institute for Family Studies [3] Gender and Childhood Pornography Exposure - Defend Young Minds [4] The Truth About Conservative Protestant Men and Porn - Institute for Family Studies [5] Porn is Not Harmless. It’s Cruel. - The Gospel Coalition [6] The FAQs: Pornography as a Public Health Crisis - The Gospel Coalition [7] Why is Porn So Addictive? 4 Reasons It’s Tough to Resist - Covenant Eyes [8] Let’s talk about low libido - Mayo Clinic [9] Is Internet Pornography Causing Sexual Dysfunctions? A Review with Clinical Reports - National Library of Medicine [10] Does Porn Contribute to ED? - Psychology Today [11] Why do I feel shame from watching porn? - CovenantEyes [12] Pornography Use Is Becoming an “Acceptable” Sin – The Gospel Coalition [13] Divorce Rates Double When People Start Watching Porn - Science [14] The Relationship Between Porn and Human Trafficking - End Slavery Now [15] Porn and Human Trafficking: The Facts You Need to Know - The Exodus Road

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