This blog was adapted from the first episode of the second series of our podcast, DriveTime.
There is a story that is being worked out around us and within us. In Genesis 1 and 2 we find God made all things and made them good. The very beginning of scripture reveals this truth. “God saw all that He had made and it was very good.” – Genesis 1:31.
But the story also includes humankind’s rebellion, which resulted in all things being broken and distorted. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. . .” – Genesis 3:6-7
We are broken people living out a broken and distorted sexuality.
This truth must not escape us. It is especially important for us to remember as we dive deep into the issues surrounding pornography. There is a constant battle for what God declared as good and what satan does to distort and bring destruction.
Pamela Paul writes in her book pornified: “The pornification of American culture is not only reshaping entertainment, advertising, fashion, and popular culture, but it is fundamentally changing the lives of more Americans, in more ways, than ever before. We are living in a pornified culture and we have no idea what this means for ourselves, our relationships, our society.” Porn surrounds us 24/7. Some of it is undercover and hidden while some of it lurks out in the open. It is easy to say as a culture and even individually we have become desensitized to some of the images and content that we now consider common and accept it by saying “it’s just the way it is.”
This is the reality of the world we now inhabit.
The average age of first exposure to pornography is now 11 years old. For many years it was 12 years old but with the advent of the smart phone we are finding that there is a correlation between first time smart phone ownership and pornography exposure. Parents please don’t let this pass by you. Smartphones are the place where first time exposure happens the most and setting up healthy boundaries before they ever get the phone is important!
But we need to also pay attention to who pornographers target most. Historically, we’ve thought children 12-17 were the targets of most of their advertising. But that is not true. Yes, they are the largest group viewing pornography but not whom they target most. That group belongs to boys ages 5-9! Please note: This is not because they are sexually aroused by the material but because they are curious about the human body.
Going just a step further, in 2015, 32% of teens admitted to intentionally accessing nude or pornographic content online. Of these, 43% do so on a weekly basis.
Finally, by age 18 over 90% of boys and over 60% of girls have been exposed to online pornography.
Which requires us to say this – the porn epidemic is not only a “guy issue.” Girls ages 18-25 are the fastest growing group of those looking at pornography.
At this point in the conversation, it’s crucial that we take the time to actually define pornography. We can think we are talking about the same thing and realize how one person defines porn might not be the same as the next person. Therefore, being on the same page is important.
Let’s start with a couple of definitions for adults. We really like the way Tim Chester in his book Closing the Window: Steps to Living a Porn Free Life defines porn – “Anything we use for sexual titillation, gratification, or escape – whether it was intended for that purpose or not.”
Focus on the word ANYTHING. Sometimes we try to fit pornographic images or writing into a box but this definition says ANYTHING, which means it might be different from one person to the next but it is clear about its intent.
One other definition to discuss comes from Harvest USA – They say pornography is “anything the heart uses to find sexual expression outside of God’s intended design for relational intimacy. It is anything that tempts or corrupts the human heart into desiring sexual pleasure in sinful ways.”
Obviously these definitions might not make sense to your kids, especially if they are younger. When trying to share what pornography is with younger kids, consider these key points: First, let your children know that pornography includes pictures of people without clothes on. Second, it may make you feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or sick to your stomach (might also say words like “gross” or “weird”). On the flip side it may also feel exciting – which can be very confusing to have both feelings at the same time – but it is possible!
Now that we’ve defined pornography, let’s talk about how it negatively effects us. Researchers are finding that pornography influences more than just behavior. Pornography also reshapes the brain, breaks down relationships and has an impact on the community.
Pornography Harms The Brain
Studies have found that exposure to pornography between 9 and 13 is linked to high-risk behaviors. This is mostly due to how the brain processes the information it receives and an inability to separate fantasy and reality as it relates to sexuality.
Watching porn lays down new neural-pathways in your brain. The more you use, the stronger the neural-connections and the more difficult it is to stop. This means your brain can actually begin to rewire itself causing an individual who habitually looks at pornography to get lost in the fantasy.
It Destroys Relationships
In real life, real love requires a real person. Research found that after men are exposed to pornography, they rate themselves less in love with their partner than men who did not see any porn. On top of that, another study found that after being exposed to pornographic images, people were more critical of their partner’s appearance.
Several studies also show that partners of porn users often report feeling loss, betrayal, mistrust, devastation, and anger when they learn that the other half of their committed relationship has been using porn. Many even show physical symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Porn is a product. It makes you miss out on the best parts of actual relationships.
It Impacts Community
So often we can think of pornography only really impacting the user. But that causes us to forget the impact on family, friends, spouses, significant others, and on and on. It also does not take into account those who create and participate in making pornography. Their own experiences are often flooded with drugs, diseases, rape, and abuse. Many victims of sex trafficking are used to film pornography.
Porn’s reach has gone beyond the magazine and dingy store fronts. It is all around us and it is having a dramatic impact.
One last thing:
If porn is seen by kids it is important to let them know this should never be kept secret. For more on secrets and surprises please be sure to check out the third episode of DriveTime, Series 1.
DriveTime is a tool for you as a parent to get equipped, so you can better engage the world your son or daughter inhabits.
Check out further discussions around parenting and all the reasons you should be encouraged on our podcast, DriveTime. Available now where ever you get your podcasts, or right here:
Jason Soucinek is the Executive Director and founder of Project Six19. Dedicated to talking honestly about matters of sex, sexuality and relationships. Jason has spent more than a decade engaging audiences of all ages and backgrounds.
Walt Mueller is the founder and President of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding and has been working with young people and families for over 35 years.