The spread of pornography is having a destructive impact on society—especially on families.
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Modern families face unprecedented challenges: financial constraints, work-life imbalances, fractured educational, political and religious institutions, changing societal norms and poor overall health and wellness.
There is another ever-present threat: pornography consumption. Yet, given this topic revolves around sex, few are willing to directly discuss this problem.
But every father and mother must squarely face this issue. Explicit pornographic content is always only a few clicks or screen taps away and can be accessed as quickly and easily as sports highlights or a recipe.
Far too many still consider porn use harmless entertainment, brushing off any qualms about its morality or decency. There are still blogs and articles making awkward attempts to frame pornography as somehow a good thing, touting it as a stress reliever and a way to educate the public about sex.
However, the actual effects of porn are proving catastrophic—especially on families. Excessive exposure to it can lead to decreased relationship satisfaction between spouses, wrong attitudes toward sex, objectifying others, and a lack of intimacy and emotional connection between family members.
Scientists, psychologists and other experts are now reevaluating the social and psychological effects of porn use and coming to terms with them.
“Pornography negatively impacts society by deconstructing families, traumatizing children, and creating mental and physical health issues for individuals suffering from addiction,” the July 2021 Family Research Council report “Pornography and Its Consequences” stated.
The true consequences of indulging in pornography can no longer be ignored.
Pornography has always been contrary to God’s plan for families. From the start, He intended for a man and woman to marry and to have sex within that union to produce children (Gen. 2:24; 1:28).
Sex itself is not the problem—God created it. From His perspective, however, the sex act was meant to be a private affair between husband and wife, not a public display to titillate the masses.
For current and future generations to gain a godly understanding of family relationships and sexuality, it is critical to tackle the growing porn epidemic.
Technology and Pornography
All of the quality of life increases that the internet age provides come with a price: The proliferation of and easy access to sexually explicit materials. According to Fight the New Drug, a nonprofit organization committed to raising awareness on pornography’s harmfulness, porn sites receive more traffic in the United States than Twitter, Instagram, Netflix, Pinterest and LinkedIn combined!
One of the most popular pornography sites claimed 42 billion visitors and 39 billion searches in 2019. This equates to 115 million visitors per day, nearly 5 million per hour and almost 80,000 per minute, all from just one site.
Pornographic internet traffic exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Recovery Village, a rehab center that helps people with various addictions, reported there was an estimated 25 percent increase in pornography traffic due largely to pandemic-induced lockdowns and extended periods of remote work.
The porn industry continues to be an ever-expanding multi-billion-dollar enterprise with a reach spanning the globe. In 2015, the industry generated an estimated $97 billion globally. The industry is believed to generate even more money today. Many of the most popular porn companies use the “free content” approach of many social media companies, generating advertising dollars by monetizing harvested data from its users. Other outlets offer subscription-based options that promise exclusive services such as live-streamed content or ad-free viewing.
No matter the business model, pornography sites get many millions of views daily to the delight of content creators and advertisers.
These numbers are expected to skyrocket as virtual reality and artificial intelligence technology open the door to newer, even more addictive forms of content creation. It is estimated that VR pornography alone will be a $1 billion business by 2025.
What does all this mean for families?
According to a study in the Journal of Sex Research, married people who start watching pornography are twice as likely to divorce as those who do not.
Children suffer even more. The “Pornography and Its Consequences” report showed that from 2018 to 2019 pornography depicting minors increased from 45 million images to over 69 million images. An astonishing 67 percent of children featured in these types of materials report that their biological parents or guardians were their abusers.
Pornography is like a drug for the brain. Tests show a similar reaction between those viewing porn and those on alcohol, cocaine or nicotine. Pornography’s addictive nature can partly be attributed to a rush of dopamine, a hormone in the body that brings feelings of pleasure and reward.
For many, pornography is an escape from the stress and anxieties of everyday life. For others, it is an outlet for sexual dissatisfaction or the result of past experiences or trauma. Regardless of the reason people are drawn to pornographic content, both those directly involved in the industry and those viewing it as a twisted form of therapy or entertainment suffer greatly.
Porn use within a family can lead to a plethora of mental and physical health issues that all affect the family dynamic. These issues include depression, anxiety, loneliness, erectile dysfunction in males, physical maladies such as eye strain, back problems, sleep problems that come from extended sessions of viewing pornography, and much more.
Excessive porn use can tear families apart emotionally. It can cause lasting damage to spousal and parental relationships and invite negative feelings of jealousy, envy, guilt, shame and regret among family members.
Porn use damages the trust and emotional connection between people, which fights the fundamental purpose of marriage. While viewing porn has traditionally been associated with men, research shows that porn use among women continues to increase.
Once pornography use takes hold in a marriage, it can lead to a decrease in sexual stimulation and an overall loss of interest in intimate contact between spouses. There is a decrease in sexual desire, a warped perception of human sexuality and resentment and suspicion among mates.
If not stopped, porn use can lead to infidelity and eventually divorce.
Pornography is also extremely damaging to children. The damage can be a result of them being innocent bystanders forced to witness the impact of pornography on their parents, or children and teens can themselves be caught in the cycle of porn.
Youngsters exposed to pornography are more likely to suffer from loneliness, depression, anxiety and sleep disorders. Being exposed to a wrong view of sex at such an early age can lead to promiscuity and hedonistic behavior later.
Children and teens can also form a distorted view of sex and marriage. Pornography often portrays an unrealistic, and sometimes even violent, version of sex that can be exponentially damaging to young, impressionable minds.
Any family member watching pornography long-term can lead to desensitization and a craving for more perverse content. Porn addicts are more likely to engage in abnormal and even deviant sexual behaviors: sexual aggression, loose sexual activity and even criminal activity such as prostitution and rape. These activities can lead to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, out-of-wedlock pregnancies and abortions.
An obsession with pornography can cause users to focus all their attention on porn to the neglect of relationships, work and family.
In short, porn is an undeniable and destructive force within a family.
God’s View of Sex
God created sexual pleasure, yet this was always to be experienced within the parameters He designed. Doing anything contrary to this always causes problems.
In I Corinthians 6:18, God commands us to “flee fornication,” calling it a “sin against [one’s] own body.” Fornication means sex outside of marriage. When people have sex outside of marriage, they hurt themselves and others.
For anyone who thinks fornication is no big deal, this extended list of other lust-driven desires condemned by Scripture puts it in perspective: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest [obvious], which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21).
Most have no idea that wrong forms of sex—adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness—are on a list with idolatry, witchcraft, wrath, murder and drunkenness!
Jesus Christ Himself shows that this includes consuming pornography: “You have heard that it was said by them of old time, You shall not commit adultery: but I say unto you, That whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matt. 5:27-28).
Looking at women (or men) to lust after them is the undeniable purpose of pornography! According to Christ, adultery can be either having actual sex with a non-spouse or lusting after them in the heart. If a person does either, they are cheating on their current or future marriage partner.
God did not intend sex to be shameful. He is not anti-sex. He told the first man and woman to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the Earth” (Gen. 1:28). While it is not directly recorded in the Bible, God would have explained to this first couple the proper use of sex.
Sex within marriage is a God-given act of unity, a sign of commitment, and an expression of love and pleasure between a husband and wife. Pornography sabotages the beauty of this divinely ordained act.
Sexual stimulation outside of God’s plan for marriage and sexuality turns the purpose of marriage and family on its head.
The porn world is dark and seductive. Beneath its glittering veneer lies a sinister truth: men and women are reduced to mere sex objects, with their worth determined solely by their physical appearance and willingness to perform.
In pornography, sex is all about self-gratification and instant satisfaction. It has little to no regard for the pursuit of spousal fulfillment or any notion of love. Instead, it encourages infidelity, promiscuity and the exploitation of others—all in the pursuit of pleasure.
Yet notice how God wants individuals to treat others: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Phil. 2:3-4, New International Version). This applies to human interactions in general, as well as within a marriage and family.
Those who are addicted to porn often feel disconnected from God. It is near impossible to maintain and cultivate a spiritual relationship with Him when the heart and mind are filled with impure thoughts that directly violate God’s will.
Ultimately, pornography undermines Christian morals and integrity, leaving individuals and families feeling spiritually and emotionally drained.
With God’s help and guidance, families can win the difficult battle with pornography.
To succeed, each family member must understand God’s view of sex. Parents must learn this first themselves and then teach it to their children. Our book Sex – Its Unknown Dimension plainly lays out what the Bible has to say on the subject—as well as how to impart this to daughters and sons.
The book states: “Where then can men find this missing spiritual knowledge, so sadly lacking in all the publications that stress only the physical aspects of sex? Generally these are focused on the supposed endless means and techniques to titillate and to maximize sexual pleasure. God knew there must be a source that clearly—plainly—reveals and defines morality and proper human conduct…the true understanding of this unknown dimension is found in the Bible—the Word of God. No other source reveals it.”
Beyond this crucial foundation of knowledge, families should engage in daily rituals that bring everyone closer. Find activities to do as a family. Show that fun is possible without always being tied to technology.
Parents must also be proactive in monitoring their children’s internet use, setting boundaries so kids are not exposed to pornography. And because it is virtually impossible to keep all exposure to pornography away from their kids, parents should have age-appropriate conversations with their children about porn and its negative impact.
Adults should also be honest and open regarding technology use. Husbands should be open with their wives if they are struggling with porn and vice versa. As difficult as it can be, the spouse learning of the other’s difficulty with pornography should not overreact in response. Be willing to forgive the offending spouse, remembering how merciful and forgiving God is toward your own shortcomings.
Being a healthy, well-balanced individual goes a long way to help avoid the dangers of pornography. Exercise is a great way to release tension and improve your physical and mental health. Family or individual activities and hobbies can include things like going for a walk, playing a sport or completing a puzzle. Eating healthy meals also helps to reduce stress and improve moods, as does getting enough sleep.
Family members must be there for each other in times of difficulty to decrease the likelihood of turning to porn for comfort or relief.
One way to avoid or overcome the depression, anxiety and loneliness that can lead to porn use is for the family to focus on serving others. Come together to participate in acts of service, kindness and compassion. Get involved with others in your local community. When families come together for a greater purpose, they can overcome nearly any challenge.
Pornography is a public health crisis, ravaging society and wreaking havoc on the mental and physical health of many. But families are not without hope. They can survive by taking a stand against consuming inappropriate content.
The battle against wrong sexual desires can be difficult. Yet, by developing a strong relationship with God to understand His view of sex and maintaining strong familial bonds, you can ensure pornography does not have a negative impact on your family.
To learn more, visit rcg.org to read these three free publications: Sex – Its Unknown Dimension, You Can Build a Happy Marriage and Train Your Children God’s Way.