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Pornography’s Devastating Impact – Rewired Relationships

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Pornography’s Devastating Impact

Rewired Relationships

Pornography is entering the mainstream. You need to know about its effects!

Learn the why behind the headlines.

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Picture a consummate business professional. He can always be counted on by colleagues to “close the deal.” He is sharp, well-spoken and organized. He has a wife and two children, and works hard to build a solid foundation for them.

Out-of-town trips require him to travel for days at a time. When away, he sincerely misses his family and they miss him. During these trips, he makes a point to call home and talk to them. He asks his oldest daughter how her day went and “tucks” his youngest daughter in bed. He typically ends the call speaking to his wife. He reminds her of the best time to pick him up from the airport, tells her he loves her, says goodbye, and hangs up.

What now?

Glancing at the remote control on the bed, he suddenly feels a rush. He has experienced this before. Turning on the television, he recalls the immediate access he has to channels filled with make-believe realms that fulfill his fantasies, all of which are easily attainable from the convenience of his hotel suite. The next day, he emerges from his room and no one is aware of what he has watched.

This scenario is a long way from the sleaze and scandal associated with pornography in decades past. Today, many indulge themselves in this form of entertainment, some with little or no guilt before, during or afterward.

In its varying degrees, pornography is everywhere. A study by the organization Concerned Women for America (CWFA) revealed, “Hotel chains such as Marriott and Hilton earn about $190 million per year from in-room pay-per-view porn videos.”

The report continued: “According to The New Wall Street, ‘[B]ased on estimates provided by the hotel industry, at least half of all guests buy adult movies’…‘Estimates by analysts cited in the Los Angeles Times suggest that adult features generate approximately half of total hotel pay-per-view revenue in the United States, approximately $250 million annually.’”

Through the Internet, porn is also readily available on desktop computers, laptops and smartphones. Because of this, the nonprofit organization Family Safe Media reported that every second $3,075.64 is spent on pornography, 28,258 Internet users view pornography, and 372 Internet users type adult terms into search engines.

Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images
Catering to demand: Advertisements for an adult emporium are visible on a street in the Pigalle district of Paris, France (Jan. 12, 2011).

The expanded availability of illicit materials means that its audience is also greater. The average age a child is first exposed to Internet pornography is 11 years old. And a staggering 90 percent of all 8- to 16-year-olds have viewed porn online—most of them while doing homework!

In fact, viewing pornography actually rewires the brain: “Pornography’s growth has been extraordinary; it accounts for 25 percent of video rentals and is the fourth most common reason people give for going online,” author Norman Doidge wrote in his book The Brain That Changes Itself.

He added: “Softcore pornography’s influence is now most profound because, now that it is no longer hidden it influences young people with little sexual experience and especially plastic minds, in the process of forming their sexual tastes and desires. Yet the plastic influence of pornography on adults can also be profound, and those who use it have no sense of the extent to which their brains are reshaped by it.”

The issue extends beyond pictures and videos as pornographic prose routinely finds its way into homes through “romance” novels and other innocent-looking volumes. Upscale shops cater to married couples looking to spice up their love lives. Partners looking for thrills can easily enter these environments, which are designed to be clean and welcoming.

Socially conservative groups decry the entire industry as an offense to traditional religious and social values. Feminists say the practice demeans and/or harms women. Yet these voices can be likened to a gentle breeze opposite gale force winds.

Although previously seen as taboo, as time goes on and pornography becomes more entrenched into mainstream society, many are asking: “Is it really all that bad?”

“Sex Sells”

Almost everyone has heard the phrase “sex sells.” Sex in media—ranging from partial nudity in music videos and fashion shows, to soft-core advertisements, to hard-core pornographic movies—is a proven concept that lines the pockets of companies and individuals.


The mindset of some businesses, including many common corporate names, is demonstrated by an underwriting representative from the financial securities sector, as reported by CWFA, “‘I’m not a weirdo or a pervert, it’s not my deal. I’ve got kids and a family. But if I can see as an underwriter going out and making bucks on people being weird, hey, dollars are dollars. I’m not selling drugs. It’s Wall Street.’”

In describing the porn industry’s quest to find new, efficient media for their products, USA Today reported: “Online pornographers have been among the first to exploit new technology for more than a decade—from video-streaming and fee-based subscriptions to pop-up ads and electronic billing. Their bold experimentation has helped make porn one of the most profitable online industries, and their ideas are staples at Fortune 500 companies.”

Watching America’s most popular sport, football, on its biggest stage, the Super Bowl, with family illustrates the extent of the sex-and-advertising connection. From the tightly clad entertainers in the opening segment to the cheerleaders’ seductive movements to the partially clothed half-time entertainment to the sexually suggestive commercials—sex is everywhere.

The average citizen is joining in on the action and cashing in on pornography’s profits as well. Brick-and-mortar outlets are no longer a requirement to turn a profit. Many websites showcase “amateur porn”—home videos of regular people engaging in sex—and charge subscription fees to access such video collections. YouTube and similar social media sites also allow or link directly to explicit material.

Just how big is the pornography business? The following statistics were collected by Family Safe Media from a number of credible sources. Though somewhat dated, the nonprofit organization provides the most comprehensive look at a subject for which it is generally difficult to collect data.

  • Total porn revenue worldwide: $97 billion.
  • Total porn revenue in the U.S.: $13.33 billion. This exceeds the combined revenues of ABC, CBS and NBC.
  • Daily pornographic search engine requests: 68 million—25 percent of total search engine requests.
  • Internet users who view porn: 42.7 percent.
  • Pornographic websites: 4.2 million—12 percent of total websites.
  • Pornographic pages: 420 million.
  • Worldwide visitors to pornographic websites: 72 million monthly.
  • U.S. adults who regularly visit Internet pornography websites: 40 million.
  • Men who admit to accessing it at work: 20 percent.
  • Women who admit to accessing it at work: 13 percent.

This overexposure and societal desensitization has resulted in pornographers pushing the envelope through ever-more bizarre content to hold the attention of their audience. This attests to society’s growing obsession and carefree attitude toward the “adult” industry—and its concrete place as a highly profitable venture.

Historical Context

Viewing such material is far from new. The term pornography combines the Greek words porne, meaning prostitute, and graphein, meaning to write. Hence, it technically can mean “to write about prostitutes.” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as any depiction of erotic behavior in material intended to cause sexual excitement.

According to Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia: “The ancient Greeks used pornographic themes in songs in Dionysian festivals, and ancient Romans painted pornographic pictures on walls in the ancient city of Pompeii. Pornography was also prevalent in some ancient Eastern cultures, such as those of India, Japan, and China…”

The Naples National Archaeological Museum in Italy is famous for its vast collection of sexually explicit objects excavated by archaeologists. The bizarre nature of the items and their elaborate details show the extent to which pornography was part of Roman culture.

The invention of the printing press further helped the spread of pornographic materials. By the 18th century, the “production of written and visual materials to appeal to audiences of all socioeconomic levels and sexual tastes” was common, Encyclopaedia Britannica stated.

Because of the intense demand, pornography became a viable business. Britannica stated that when “Queen Victoria came to the throne in Great Britain in 1837, there were more than 50 pornographic shops on Holywell Street (known as ‘Booksellers’ Row’) in London” (emphasis added).

While the public’s taste for pornography appeared to wane in the Victorian Era (1837-1901), it really just took another form. Prominent artists created works that turned what was technically pornography into more of an art form. These “culturally refined” nudes were considered classy and tasteful. This trend made sexually explicit material palatable to the upper class and scholars who would have otherwise found such subject matter morally reprehensible.

Despite efforts to redefine and expand the industry, overt pornography soon came under legal scrutiny. The Obscene Publications Act of 1857, considered the world’s first statutory law criminalizing pornography, gave British courts the power to seize and destroy offending material. America followed suit with the Comstock Act of 1873, which also included a provision banning obscene materials from being sent through the mail.

While mainstream society continued to view pornography negatively until the beginning of the 20th century, like alcohol during Prohibition, outlawing it only seemed to encourage interest. As with the printing press, further technological advancements were adapted to allow ease of access to such material.

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica: “Pornographic films were widely available no later than the 1920s, and in the 1960s their popularity enjoyed a massive upsurge. The development of videocassettes in the 1980s and digital videodiscs (DVDs) in the 1990s enabled the wide distribution of pornographic films and further encouraged their use because they could be viewed in private.”

Britannica later stated: “Pornographic images and films became even more widely available with the emergence of the Internet in the 1990s. The pornographic industry became one of the most profitable on the Internet. Apart from providing a vast marketplace for commercial pornography appealing to many diverse tastes, the Internet also encouraged many amateurs to post images of themselves…The use of webcams opened the industry even further to amateurs, allowing individuals to post live depictions of themselves, often for fees.”

Coming up with a distinct and concise definition of pornography has generally been difficult due to its somewhat subjective nature. In 1964, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart encapsulated this point well when, while attempting to come up with an adequate description for obscenity for a court case, he wrote, “…I could never succeed in [coming up with a shorthand description of hard-core pornography]. But I know it when I see it…”

While technology and the pursuit of profits have served to greatly increase pornography’s current impact and level of popularity, what about its effects? Is it really a harmless form of entertainment?

Unintended Effects

There is a saying, “A tree is recognized by its fruit.” Usually an allusion to a person’s character, this phrase is helpful when judging the “fruit” or impact of something, in this case pornography—and ultimately deciding whether it harms its viewers.

Consider. Pornography is meant to increase sexual excitement, leaving people wanting to fulfill what they view. An “I want more” mentality takes hold. This craving for sexual gratification can lead to increased encounters (as well as unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, and even cervical cancer), and sex-related crimes (child molestation, sexual assault and battery, rape, etc.). Pornography is a clear-cut case of feeding the “lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes,” as one of the oldest books that details the purpose of sex, the Bible, states in I John 2:16.

Pornography unnaturally elevates sex in the mind. While some married couples view illicit material as a way of enlivening or enhancing their own sexual relations, it instead creates the opposite effect, causing a viewer to compare his sex life to that of those on screen—where all things appear much more glamorous and arousing. In effect, he becomes disinterested in his spouse, or is driven to further sexual experimentation to keep up with the scintillations provided by porn.

Viewing such material also leads to sexual addictions and further perversions. For example, porn sites often link to other sites depicting other types of sexual perversion: child porn, homosexuality, bestiality, masochism, sadism, rape and other abominations.

Pornography has also been linked to incest and child molestation. Police often find porn on an offender’s computer or in his home. Data from a study published in the Journal of Family Violence showed that 85 percent of men convicted of possessing, receiving or distributing Internet-based child pornography admitted to sexually abusing a child at least once—with the average offender molesting 13.5 victims!

Clearly, the expansion of pornography is creating a more sexually aggressive society of individuals who have opened themselves up to a new interpretation of what sex should be. These results cannot simply be written off as innocent byproducts of a harmless industry.

Impact on the Family

As negative as these results are, porn has a further devastating impact on families, as reported by Deseret News.

“Dorothy Maryon, a licensed professional counselor with the LifeSTAR Network in Salt Lake City who specializes in counseling the spouses of those who compulsively view pornography, said it is a betrayal for women to discover their partner has been looking outside the marriage for sexual gratification—even on a computer screen.

“‘I can’t overemphasize the trauma part of it,’ said Maryon. ‘It changes the way they view their partner. The damage that has been done changes the way they view themselves…It creates a relationship for her that feels very unsafe,’ Maryon said. ‘She wonders what is real. She doubts her own intuition, her own judgment…It throws her faith into crisis. She views her body differently. She asks herself, “How can I compete?”’

“Maryon said most women don’t distinguish between an affair, an escort service, and pornography. One client, trying to help Maryon understand the scope of her husband’s betrayal, said she knows of men who have only ‘been with one woman.’ Then she added, ‘My husband has been with thousands.’”

Pornography often leads to divorce. Some married couples who view it go on to adulterous relationships. This fact should come as little surprise when considering what Jesus Christ said in the gospel of Matthew when defining adultery: “You have heard that it was said by them of old time, You shalt 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).

In this passage, Jesus makes it unmistakably clear that indulging in pornography is a form of adultery.

This reality is vital to understand because some make the mistake of seeing pornography as an innocent alternative to engaging in an extramarital affair. Yet studies of the brain have shown that the mind does not readily differentiate such real versus imagined experiences. Therefore, to the brain, there is virtually no difference between viewing pornographic material and an actual sexual encounter with another person, especially when recalling the experience.

Men tend to make up the largest consumer base for pornography. They account for 72 percent of visitors to pornographic sites compared to 28 percent being women. This is partly because men tend to be more visually stimulated as compared to women.

Pornography, however, is no longer just a problem for men. A growing number of women are also becoming addicted to porn. According to statistics, about one in three who visit pornographic websites are women—bringing the number who viewed pornography online monthly to 9.4 million, according to Family Safe Media.

Realize these staggering numbers only refer to viewers. They do not address the actors in film and video productions, and the negative impact pornography has on them, including the possibility of contracting AIDS.

Clearly, pornography is anything but “harmless entertainment.” It is warping and distorting the purpose of sex—turning it into a means of satisfying one’s lusts. In all, it creates a lack of natural human emotion and feelings.

Partaking in porn has many side effects that most simply overlook in pursuit of their own pleasure. Yet pornography has much deeper consequences than even its staunchest opponents realize. To firmly grasp this, one must first understand there is a supreme and divine purpose for mankind.

Overarching Purpose

Mankind’s true purpose of existence is connected to the gospel found in the Bible. Many people in and out of mainstream Christianity have heard of this term and there are nearly as many interpretations of its meaning as there are people interpreting it.

This gospel (or good news), which reveals God’s awesome purpose for creating mankind, is not readily understood by the average person. Jesus confirmed this: “And He said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables…” (Mark 4:11). Not only is the true knowledge of the gospel a mystery to most, but the understanding of it must be “given.”

According to God’s Word, every human being has a “spirit.” (This is not to be confused with the Holy Spirit, which is a gift from God as stated in Acts 2:38.) The following verses make this clear: “But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty gives them understanding” (Job 32:8). Also “…the Lord … stretches forth the heavens, and lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him” (Zech. 12:1).

It is this spirit that separates human beings from animals. Animals function through God-given instinct, which is like being pre-programmed to perform certain functions. Mankind, on the other hand, operates through the power of the mind (another way to describe this human spirit). It is this mind or spirit that imparts judgment, reasoning and creativity into human beings.

As brilliant as is the spirit in man, unlike God’s Spirit, it has limitations. It does not give life to a person nor does it have its own consciousness. It takes information from the body’s sensory organs—eyes, ears, nose, tastebuds and skin—and enables a person to interpret it accordingly.

The other significant limitation of the spirit in man is that, by itself, it can only understand physical knowledge. The mind of a man cannot properly interpret spiritual knowledge from God. Incidentally, this explains why so many are confused or find it difficult to properly interpret Scripture.

Paul explains further, “…the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God…But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor. 2:11, 14).

It is the Holy Spirit of God dwelling in a person that allows him to begin to understand “the things of God.” This includes understanding the “mystery of the kingdom of God.”

God, who is Spirit (John 4:24), reveals that He is expanding His Family by reproducing Himself through human beings. Within God’s overall plan of salvation, man can eventually be born into the kingdom of God and be composed of spirit just as God is.

This is part of what Jesus explained in the familiar yet generally misunderstood account in the book of John. Christ said that even though someone is born once to a fleshly (or physical) parent, it is also possible to be “born again”—only this time to a Spirit parent (John 3:8).

(While it is not the purpose of this article to detail this fascinating understanding, request Editor-in-Chief David C. Pack’s free booklet What Does “Born Again” Mean? You will be astounded at the true meaning of this often misused phrase.)

The realization that God is reproducing Himself sets up the opportunity to begin understanding the lasting negative effects of pornography.

Why Sex?

God, as the Creator of all things, created sex for a purpose. It is the product of much planning and forethought. Like all of His Creation, upon completion, sex was deemed “very good” (Gen. 1:31).

One obvious purpose for sex is reproduction. All animals engage in various forms to produce offspring. Human beings were given this ability by God, who also attached a command to it: “…Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth…” (Gen. 1:28).

God, however, did not stop with this instruction. In the book of Genesis and other Scriptures, He also instructed mankind about the proper uses of sex—including its place in a proper marriage relationship. The pornography obsession ruins this connection.

Sex, when viewed as it was intended, is a profound expression of love between a husband and wife. This is not an act of selfish, “what’s in it for me” behavior with the label of “love” attached to it, but instead is the giving of one’s self to satisfy his or her spouse. Sex was created to be a pleasurable experience and a gift from God to mankind, which was created “in His own image” (Gen. 1:27).

Pornography warps one’s view of sexual relations. It turns contact with the opposite sex into pure sexual gratification. It corrupts a viewer’s understanding of the proper use of sex. Instead of expressing love between a husband and wife, it is twisted into an act of self-fulfillment, regardless of the other person’s needs or wants. No wonder pornography has such a negative impact on marriages!

God set up the family unit as the basis for a healthy and prosperous society, and to demonstrate how He interacts with mankind. God, as the “Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 6:9) certainly knows the importance of domestic relationships. He designed the family unit to model how He reproduces and eventually leads His children. The expression of love toward one’s spouse through sex illustrates the spiritual reproduction process and His willingness to give of Himself for the benefit of others.

It should not be difficult to see how pornography distorts the true purpose of sex. Instead of a means to express love in a monogamous, committed, marital relationship, sex instead becomes a way for an individual to indulge in his own pleasure at the expense of his mate and family.

Pornography’s True Impact

As has been seen, pornography destroys relationships. It turns sex into merely a means of satisfying one’s lusts. Instead of carrying out sex the way God designed and appreciating what it parallels, people have continually sought to redefine it—bringing about a new morality in which any and every form of sex is accepted (and new forms are always welcome).

To learn much more about God’s purpose for sex, its intended role in a marriage relationship, and information about proper “sex education” for your family, read David C. Pack’s thorough book Sex – Its Unknown Dimension.

God designed sex as a beautiful act within marriage and as a way to draw couples together. It is a gift that God—the Creator and Designer of all things—gave to mankind to engage in as He intended. 

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