Sunday, June 12, 2011
The Harm Pornography Causes
SEXUAL material of all kinds is easily accessible through television, movies, music videos, and the Internet. Is this relentless intrusion of pornographic, sexualized imagery harmless, as many would have us believe?*
Pornography's Effects on Adults
Despite what its defenders say, pornography has profoundly negative effects on people's views of sex and sexual behavior. Researchers at the National Foundation for Family Research and Education concluded that "exposure to pornography puts viewers at increased risk for developing sexually deviant tendencies." According to the report, "the rape myth (belief that women cause and enjoy rape, and that rapists are normal) is very widespread in habitual male users of pornography."
Some researchers say that the repeated use of pornography can interfere with the ability to enjoy and participate in normal marital intimacy. Dr. Victor Cline, a specialist in treating sex addiction, has noticed a recurring progression in the use of pornography. If left unchecked, what starts as casual viewing of pornography can eventually lead to an escalation to more hard-core, aberrant material. This, he claims, can lead to deviant sexual acts. Behavioral scientists agree. Dr. Cline reports that "any type of sexual deviation can be acquired in this way . . . and that it cannot be eliminated even by massive feelings of guilt." Eventually, the viewer may try to act out the pornography-based, immoral fantasies, often with devastating results.
The course of this problem may be gradual and undetected, concluded Cline. He states: "Like a cancer, it keeps growing and spreading. It rarely ever reverses itself, and it is also very difficult to treat and heal. Denial on the part of the male addict and refusal to confront the problem are typical and predictable, and this almost always leads to marital or couple disharmony, sometimes divorce, and sometimes the breaking up of other intimate relationships."
The Damage to Young People
Some researchers say that exposure to pornography can affect the natural development of a child's brain
Statistics show that the primary consumers of pornography are boys between the ages of 12 and 17. In fact, for many, pornography is their primary source of sexual education. This has very disturbing ramifications. "Teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS," notes one report, "are completely nonexistent in porn, giving a false belief that there are no adverse consequences to behaviors depicted in pornography."
Some researchers say that exposure to pornography can also affect the natural development of a child's brain. Dr. Judith Reisman, president of the Institute for Media Education, concludes: "Health-based neurological observations about the instinctual brain-imprinted response to pornographic sights and sounds indicates that viewing pornography is a biologically significant event that overrides informed consent—and that is harmful to children's [moldable] 'plastic' brains because it compromises their grasp of reality and thus their mental and physical health, their well-being and their pursuit of happiness."
The Effects on Relationships
Pornography shapes attitudes and influences behavior. Its messages are enticing primarily because they are fantasy and thus presented as more exciting than the real thing. (See the box "Which Message Will You Accept?") "Individuals using pornography set themselves up for unrealistic expectations leading to damaged relationships," notes one report.
Pornography can destroy trust and openness, essential qualities in a marriage. Because it is primarily viewed in secret, pornography use often leads to deception and lying. Mates feel betrayed. They do not understand why their marriage partner no longer finds them desirable.
Pornography use causes serious spiritual damage. It can become a real impediment for an individual seeking to have a relationship with God.# The Bible links sexual appetite with covetousness and idolatry. (Colossians 3:5) The one coveting something desires it so much that it becomes the dominant thing in his life, eclipsing everything else. In essence, those addicted to pornography put their sexual desire above God. They thus make an idol of it. Jehovah God's command states: "You must not have any other gods against my face."—Exodus 20:3.
Pornography can destroy trust and openness in a marriage
Pornography destroys loving relationships. The apostle Peter, himself a married man, urged Christian husbands to assign honor to their wives. A husband who fails to do so will find that his prayers to God are hindered. (1 Peter 3:7) Would secretly viewing indecent images of women be treating one's own wife honorably? How would she feel if she found out? And what would the God who will bring "every sort of work into the judgment" and who makes "an estimate of spirits" think? (Ecclesiastes 12:14; Proverbs 16:2) Could one who uses pornography have any reason to expect that his prayers would be listened to by God?
The insistence on selfish gratification at all costs is inherent in pornography use. Hence, viewing pornography is unloving. It undercuts a Christian's fight to maintain chastity and a clean moral standing before God. "This is what God wills," wrote the apostle Paul, "that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you should know how to get possession of his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in covetous sexual appetite . . . , that no one go to the point of harming and encroach upon the rights of his brother."—1 Thessalonians 4:3-7.
Pornography especially exploits women and children. It demeans them and robs them of their dignity and rights. One who uses pornography participates in and supports that exploitation. "No matter how good a . . . man thinks he is," point out researchers Steven Hill and Nina Silver, "his tacit approval of pornography makes him at best [insensitive], at worst misogynistic, toward the very person he professes to care about."
The struggle to break free from pornography should not be underestimated; it may be a difficult battle. Says Dr. Victor Cline, who has treated hundreds of sex addicts: "Promises don't work. Good intentions mean nothing. [A sex addict] literally cannot do this by himself." A prerequisite to successful treatment, according to Cline, is involving the mate, if the person is married. "It goes faster if both are involved," he claims. "Both are wounded. Both need help."
If the person is single, often a trusted friend or family member can be a pillar of strength. Regardless of who is involved in the treatment, Cline has one unalterable rule: Talk openly about the problem and any relapses. "Secrets 'kill you'," he says. "They create shame and guilt."
Breaking Free of the Pornography Habit
What if you are presently struggling with an addiction to pornography? Can anything be done to break free? The Bible provides hope! Before coming to know Christ, some of the early Christians had been fornicators, adulterers, and greedy persons. "But you have been washed clean," noted Paul. How was that possible? He answered: "You have been sanctified . . . with the spirit of our God."—1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
Never underestimate the power of God's holy spirit. "God is faithful," the Bible says, "and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear." Indeed, he will provide the way out. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Fervent prayer—persistently setting your problem before God—will produce results. His Word encourages: "Throw your burden upon Jehovah himself, and he himself will sustain you."—Psalm 55:22.
Fervent prayer will produce results
Of course, you have to act in harmony with your prayers. You need to make a deliberate and heartfelt decision to reject pornography. A trusted friend or family member can be an invaluable aid, providing needed support and encouragement to stick to your resolve. (See the box "Getting Help.") Remembering that such a course of action is sure to please God can help you stay committed to your course. (Proverbs 27:11) In addition, knowing that your viewing pornography offends God can also serve as an added impetus to giving it up. (Genesis 6:5, 6) It will not be an easy struggle, but it is one that can be won. The pornography habit can be broken!
The dangers of using pornography are real. It is harmful and destructive. It corrupts those who produce it and those who use it. It is an insult to men and women, a danger to children, and a practice that should be rejected.
* For a detailed discussion of the dangers of Internet pornography, please see the series of articles entitled "Internet Pornography—What Harm Can It Do?" in the June 8, 2000, issue of Awake! pages 3-10.
# For a discussion of the Bible's view of pornography, please see the July 8, 2002, issue of Awake! pages 19-21.