In ancient times, pornography was “writing about prostitutes.” (See the ATQ article Is Sexual Sin and Temptation a Bigger Problem Today Than It Was in the Early Church?) Today pornography is a multibillion dollar industry that is spreading a wide net by providing sexual arousal on demand.
1 Unlike most cultures that restrain and channel eroticism and sexuality so that a people’s energy isn’t squandered through dissipation and compulsive sex, modern culture is drenched with sexual images, sexualized. It is so obsessed with short term sensual pleasure that sexual self-control and chastity tend to be popularly viewed as manifestations of mental or emotional disorder.
Paul’s warnings against intercourse with a prostitute in 1 Corinthians have been too easily overlooked in respect to pornography.
All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 2 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-20 NIV)
If large numbers of evangelical Christians began using cocaine on a regular basis, we wouldn’t be surprised when many of them developed serious problems relating to cocaine addiction. Yet although pornography is as addictive as cocaine, legal, and available anonymously, we are surprised—even shocked—that large numbers of Evangelicals are pornography addicts.
“Porn is not swallowed or rubbed on the skin. It enters the body directly through your senses, such as your eyes and ears. This gives it a direct link to your central nervous system, specifically, the pleasure centers in your brain. Porn provides instant arousal, a real enticement in these days of “give it to me now!” The physiological changes that happen when using porn happen almost immediately: your heart beats faster, your breathing gets shallower, and you start to feel a throbbing in your genitals.” 3
Pornography provides a high-quality counterfeit of the sensual ecstasy of sex. Rather than experiencing sexual and emotional pleasure as part of a meaningful relationship with a real person, the pornography addict deceives his own body to substitute arousal through illusion and fantasy for real relationship.
For many centuries Christians have contemplated the impersonal religious prostitution associated with fertility religions in other times and places with rightful abhorrence. Yet they largely overlook the fact that a new form of “fertility worship” has moved in to fill the void of loneliness and meaninglessness in our rootless culture, and that the modern form is far more subtle, insidious, and addictive than those of the past.
Physiological effects of pornography are as great (or greater) than actual sex with a prostitute. 4 Sex with a prostitute involves a degree of realism, and more likelihood of remorse, sympathy, or disgust. Pornography has all of the perfection of illusion, with no physical-relational strings attached.
The social and familial consequences of overstimulation and obsession with sexual pleasure are “coming home to roost”. Until recently “conventional wisdom” about pornography held that it was either harmless or beneficial as a means of overcoming “sexual repression.” Today many secular psychologists are acknowledging the escalating effects of rampant pornographic addiction and describing its symptoms and effects.
- We are so awash in pornography these days that most of us don’t recognize it anymore. Of Internet users in the United States, 40 percent visit porn sites at least once a month. The number rises to more than 70 percent when the audience is men aged eighteen to thirty-four. The Internet has long been a driving force for the porn industry, pushing the bounds of access speed, streaming downloads, and file sharing. Now the cell-phone industry hopes porn will do for it what it’s done for the Web — make it very, very rich. The pornography industry brings in between $10 billion and $20 billion in the United States alone, and around $60 billion worldwide. (Hard numbers are hard to find, since cable giants and hotels chains are loathe to publicize their take from the skin industry.) That’s more than all professional sports. It’s three times more than Google, Yahoo, and MSN make in a year—combined. (quoted from “Not Your Father’s Pornography” by Jason Byasee). Back To Article
- Because they are “sins against the body,” sexual sins utilize the body’s powerful instinctive drives to create degrading forms of addictive behavior that wreak havoc both for the sinner and everyone within his/her sphere of influence.
The Bible exalts human sexuality within marriage. It uses the image of husband and wife to portray the intimacy that exists between Christ and the church (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:21-33; Revelation 19:7), which is why Paul describes sexual sin with special concern. By means of sexual sin, the human will becomes the instrument by which the body’s reproductive instincts are misdirected to destructive ends, and, in turn, the body’s wholesome physical drives become complicit in enslaving the human will. The personal and social repercussions of sexual sin are extreme. Back To Article
- “Studies have found that just by being exposed to graphic sexual material, males . . . and females [become sexually aroused]. The reactions are instinctual. Porn is so powerful as a sexual stimulant that the physiological changes can happen automatically even when the viewer doesn’t like the idea of porn or feels uncomfortable with some of its content. In terms of triggering a sexual response, our eyes see no difference between sex on the screen and sex in real life. So as far as your sexual arousal system goes, when you are watching porn, you are there. . . .
‘Oh come on,’ you’re probably thinking. ‘How can porn be like a drug? I can’t smoke it, drink it, or shoot it up.’ But the fact is that porn can have as powerful an effect on your body and brain as cocaine, methamphetamine, alcohol, and other drugs. It actually changes your brain chemistry. Porn stimulates and area of the brain known as the ‘hedonic highway,’ or median forebrain, which is filled with receptors for the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is released when you get sexually aroused. It is also released by other pleasurable activities, such as kissing, intercourse, smoking a cigarette, or taking other drugs. Porn causes the dopamine production in your system to spike. This dramatic increase in dopamine produces a drug-like high some researchers believe is most similar to the high caused by crack cocaine.” (quoted from pages 18 and 19 of The Porn Trap, The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography, Wendy and Larry Maltz). Back To Article
- “As we mentioned earlier, watching porn stimulates the release of powerful chemicals, such as dopamine and testosterone. These chemicals not only relate to sexual arousal and pleasure, but also are released in real life when someone is sexually attracted to and falls in love with someone else. In addition, powerful human bonding hormones, such as oxytocin and vasopressin, are released with orgasm. They contribute to establishing a lasting emotional attachment with whomever, or whatever, you happen to be with or thinking about at the time. The more orgasms you have with porn, the more sexually and emotionally attached to it you’ll become.
“A relationship with porn can act like an affair. It can take time and energy away from an existing intimate relationship. People who use porn often operate with the same kind of secrecy and deception as someone having a sexual affair. When a porn user is confronted by a partner, there is often denial, lying and attempts to cover up the wrongdoing. Without realizing it, maintaining a “love affair” with porn can become more important than staying connected to someone in real life. Also, if you use porn regularly, the mental images and scenarios of porn can keep playing in your mind during sex, making it hard to feel connected and intimate with the real person in your life. (The Porn Trap, The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography, Wendy and Larry Maltz, p. 23.) Back To Article