“Dear friends, I warn you as ‘temporary residents
and foreigners’ to keep away from worldly desires
that wage war against your very souls.”
-1 Peter 2:11
I once held firmly the belief that all men watch porn. All through high school, I had never met a male who denied watching porn. I had accepted it as the norm. Whenever my female friends expressed their frustrations after “stumbling” upon a few suspicious URLs found on their boyfriends’ laptops, I convinced them to shrug it off because I, myself, was convinced that it was something perfectly inevitable for all men.
I didn’t understand why these girls had to make it seem like such a big deal. It was just porn, you know, like a routine haircut, a dose of cough medicine, or a cigarette smoke after a long day—not that I knew what that was like. I only ever saw people smoking around me and only ever heard of people watching porn. I was detached from those things personally, but my mind was conditioned into thinking that it was normal. And normal was good.
This perspective worsened when I became involved in a few serious relationships with men who viewed pornography as something normal, just like I did. It became so cringingly “normal” to me that at one point, I actually decided to give it a try for myself. What’s the big deal? They’re just videos of normal people, my high school brain had thought.
My first time watching it out of curiosity was terrifyingly embarrassing, even though no one was around. I felt my cheeks flushing red as I scrolled through all of the most vulgar, self-deprecating thumbnails and titles that made my inner feminist wince. I was not a Christian at the time, and although I’d like to say that as soon as I encountered God I had never watched another video again, that was not the case.
You see- cringing and intimidating as those videos were, they also gave me a sick sense of satisfaction for having tackled the topic of porn all by myself. Me—a girl—watching porn! How taboo. I wanted to see what those guys were all googly-eyed over—what their rite of passage entailed. I wanted to be their equal—to finally, with confidence, say that porn is not a big deal and that there is nothing to fuss over, ladies.
But before I knew it, porn had seeped into my perspective on love, trust, marriage, and the tipping balance beam between men and women. After experiencing porn for myself, I found it difficult to trust any male figures in my life. The porn videos were not ‘just videos of people doing each other,’ like I had thought. They were much more disturbing and head-cockingly aggressive than that.
I noticed that there were so many different, twisted categories to each porn site that I’d curiously visited. It occurred to me that people actually developed fetishes for these shocking, pedophilic categories of porn. There was no way I could ever look at another boyfriend, pastor, or male friend the same again. The thought of pastors retreating into their dark offices to watch these girls get yanked and pulled and beat like animals made me want to puke. And the thought of husbands—men who have vowed in front of a hundred family members and friends to commit to their wives for the rest of their lives—apathetically opening up a tab on Google Chrome after a usual fight with their spouses made me never want to commit myself to a marriage covenant.
What I didn’t realize, however, was that many girls around me, like myself, had secretly watched these videos as well. Porn was never an exclusive space for men.
Let’s just courageously put this out there: Porn is a HUGE DEAL. It is a huge deal not because of how it gives us such a quick and string-less satisfaction, or how it reenacts all of our sickest fantasies, but because we have integrated it so deeply into our minds and our culture that this corrosion—this addictive, abusive corrosion—should be the norm. Like rust, pornography corrodes our image of what is inherently good.
The human body is so beautiful—made to fit into each other like a symbol of unity and commitment. When two people come together, it is the ultimate emblem of trust and covenant. Porn distorts that image. It makes that image seem silly, naïve, and unsexy. Who wants the mess that comes with commitment when you could just open a tab and watch the best angle of sex that technology has to offer? Those who are broken, addicted to lust, and fearful of a deeply committed relationship with a real human being, that’s who. Sex was designed to be enjoyable and functional, but porn takes what it is beautiful and enjoyable and chokes, jabs, and beats it into a bruised and bloody pulp.
So, here is the truth about pornography: Pornography is, at its core, filmed prostitution. In a TEDTalk with Ran Gavrieli, he explains that Porne is short for the Greek pornographos, which depicts prostitutes. In ancient Greek, a brothel would be called a porneion. Graphein means “to write” or to document. So the etymology of the word pornography literally means, “documenting prostitution.”
When we open a tab and go on these harmful, malefic websites, we are contributing to the abusive and misogynistic industry of prostitution. Don’t be naïve like my high school self and think that such a thing should be supported because the porn actors and actresses have the ‘right’ to exercise their freedom of occupation. Porn comes in categories, and each one sicker than the last.
The reason for all of these humiliating, pedophilic, and violent categories within porn is because there is a demand for sick novelty. Can you imagine? As if the staged penetration wasn’t objectifying enough, our brains became so desensitized to ‘mild porn’ that there is now an innumerous supply of child pornography, BDSM, and a host of other wildly aggressive and tear-jerking categories of porn, ready for pre-teens, husbands, fathers, wives, girlfriends, daughters, and sons to consume freely. It’s a sickening reality. I agree wholeheartedly with Gavrieli when he says, “Porn is not an embodiment of freedom of speech or freedom of occupation… No. It’s an embodiment of sex-exploitation, working side by side with human trafficking, raping, pimping, [and] solicitation.”
In biblical terms, porn is synonymous with sexual immorality. I personally feel that it actually epitomizes sexual immorality. If you are in a relationship with a significant other and you are giving into your addiction to porn, you and your significant other should identify it for what it is: you are addicted to sexual immorality. It is as clear as day. Just because “everyone does it” does not nullify the essence of what it is. You are a consumer of online prostitution. It is that serious, and so it should be treated with the appropriate severity.
I’m not saying this to condemn you in hopes that you’d go wallow in shame, but so that you could feel the urgency to confess openly with your significant other and then go seek spiritual and emotional counseling with someone that you trust (ideally, a professional). I know that for many people, the addiction to pornography worsens during the depressive or stressful stages in their lives. This is because when we are at our weakest points, we tend to run to the easy, quick fixes. Porn is unbearably easy to access and so tempting, just like how all addictions are. I get it. I really do understand your struggle, but this is something you should not tolerate in your life. It is both morally and spiritually wrong, and it will do physical and emotional harm to you and/or your partner.
LiveScience published an article explaining how even watching porn in moderation could lead to brain shrinkage, the same way alcoholism and depression shrink certain areas of the brain (Ghose, 2014). Psychology Today offered a reliable and horrifying article suggesting how the addiction to pornography decreases our commitment in a relationship and could lead to real-world cheating (Streep, 2014).
There is a verse that always gets to me. It says, “You say, ‘Food was made for the stomach, and the stomach for food.’ (This is true, though someday God will do away with both of them.) But you can't say that our bodies were made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:13, emphasis by me) Thank God for claiming our bodies as his own. We were bought at such a high price, so why should we give ourselves to sin so cheaply?
I encourage those who struggle with pornography to take a stand for your true identities. You are the sons and daughters of God, and you do have the willpower to quit this corrupted habit if you commit yourself to the Lord. Perhaps the most important first step is to seek help from your spiritual counselors. From my personal experience, I don’t think that merely reading about the subject would do the most help. Confessing it to others, on the other hand, does a much better job at keeping us accountable to our goals. I hope with all of my heart that you will experience the liberation from pornography and declare that you’ve triumphed over a powerful addiction. I will end with a prayer, taken from the apostle’s encouragement in 1 Peter 2:9-11. Let’s pray together.
Dear Lord, I want to experience life the way you intended it. I don’t want my mind to be twisted anymore. I don’t want porn to hijack my self-control.
I know I am not like that, for you have chosen me. I have been adopted into your royal family, a holy nation; your very own possession. As a result, I can show others your goodness, for you have called me out of the darkness and into your marvelous light. Once, I had no identity as a person, but now I am a part of God's people. Once, I received no mercy, but now I have received your full mercy. Dear God, I pray that I will be like a temporary resident and a foreigner to this world, so that I could keep away from worldly desires that wage war against my very soul.
In Jesus’ name, amen.