February 10, 2013

The Dark Descent of Pornography

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By Aaron Gaglia (@AaronGaglia)

Recently, Anna Broadway, author of “Sexless in the City: A Memoir of Reluctant Chastity” called for Christians to pray for buyers of sex and users of pornography. She got the idea from seeking God on how to pray. “I asked God how I could pray for men, [and] got the idea to pray for men who pay for sex or are involved in pornography and that sort of thing.” This event begs us to take a closer look at the effects pornography and buying sex have on the user—to see that those who prey upon those with no voice have themselves already fallen prey to the Evil One.

Since very little material is available on Christians who buy sex and the church is very outspoken against pornography, we will focus on the sin of pornography. I will then connect these thoughts to buyers of sex.

A cursory look at the internet will reveal there is no shortage of books and websites to help those within the church who look at pornography. At some churches, especially in gender specific meetings, this is the go-to topic when giving an example of a sin someone might struggle with. Pornography is condemned because it is a distortion of God’s plan for sexuality–turning sex into a selfish act of hedonism rather than the act of mutual-giving in the context of marriage that God intended it to be.

Though there are countless Christians who are haunted by guilt over this sin, I submit to you that Christianity has become desensitized to the gravity of the sin due to the prevalence of it within the church and the private nature of this sin. Below, I hope to show the true evil of pornography by exposing it for what it is.

Let’s begin by noting that sexual sin is described as a unique type of sin by the Apostle Paul.  In 1 Corinthians 6:18, Paul explains an exhortation to flee sexual immorality with these words: “Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” As sexuality is such a powerful force that affects, drives, and informs our psyche and emotion, if we distort sexuality then inevitably there will be psychic and emotional consequences. As sexuality is intended to be experienced in line with a deep spiritual and emotional connection, the experience of it outside of this context will have damaging effects.

The unique severity of sexual sin is shown by the extended treatment that it is given in the Proverbs. Young men are continually urged to flee from the adulterous woman. Perhaps one of the most severe warnings is found in 6:32-33: He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away.” Sexual adultery is to destroy yourself and your family. It is to reject shalom and embrace discord both within and without.

In addition, we need to understand the Biblical idea that depravity begets depravity. Romans 1:18-27 describes the downward spiral of an individual who rejects God and embraces an idol. God keeps giving him over to deeper expressions of his innate depravity. Though the expressions of depravity are not solely of a sexual nature, it is worth noting that two of the “stages” are solely focused on sexual immorality. Furthermore, Proverbs 27:20 says, “Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man.” The insatiability of our gaze coupled with the slippery slope that is depravity makes for an insidious combination.

Now let’s translate this understanding of sexual immorality in general to pornography specifically. Pornography is the act of gazing upon and fantasizing about women and men engaging in sexual behavior. It is vicariously engaging in sexual activity and receiving sexual pleasure via media. With pornography, the eyes and one’s mind play a much more key role in the receiving of pleasure than in actual sexual activity. In addition, since the act of viewing pornography is an individual act, many of the damaging effects of sexual sin are veiled and not as apparent.

Though there are some differences in the effects of pornography and actual adultery, pornography does not differ in the fact that it can ruin marriages and totally destroy one’s inner-health. There is a major difference in perception though. Many buy into the lie that pornography is a sin that only affects the individual’s relationship with God and that there is no real impact on their relationships and very little impact on them as an individual. In many ways, the perception of pornography is that it is a sexual sin without consequences. The impression is that one can have all of the pleasure of sexual immorality without the consequences.

Lastly, an important aspect of pornography is the breadth and degrees of it available. With the internet porn is readily available to anyone who wants it. And there is an incredibly wide spectrum ranging from nude photos of adults to bestiality to violent child pornography.

The fact that the eyes and mind are fully engaged coupled with the fact that it is a vicarious experience of sex makes the progression of depravity in porn that much more dangerous. If you talked with a group of Christians who either currently look at pornography or previously had, the majority would tell you that their sin led them to look at things they thought they would never look at. I am not saying that most people that look at porn look at child pornography; but I am saying that porn feeds a lust that cannot be satisfied and continually needs more intense and depraved images to bring satisfaction. Porn does not make an individual into a casual viewer who watches when they have a chance, but instead distorts the individual into an addict who needs those images to feel whole and content.

This sin breeds closet hedonists—ones who become more and more devoted to psychic sexual pleasure. They continually engage in vicarious acts of deep selfishness and objectification while all while acting as selfless spouses, compassionate pastors, and caring friends. Yet even more nebulous is the self deception involved in pornography. The secret nature of this sin allows the individual to turn a blind eye to the devastating current and future effects this sin has on their relationships, view of humanity, and their psychic health.

Just as pornography dehumanizes the actors, it also dehumanizes the viewers. The viewer is stripped of his soul, of his emotions, of his love, and is reduced to pleasure alone. In these moments of passion, the things a Christian would normally decry, he now glorifies, he worships. These moments of unrestrained hedonism eventually deaden the soul and mind. These moments of hedonism eventually haunt one’s normal life, plaguing individuals with thoughts they wish they could escape. It translates into distance in relationships, distorted desire, intense guilt and even more intense urges. It damages them and others at a psychic and relational level. It ruins marriages and cause deep scars that take a long time to heal. And sadly the effects of pornography do not end once you quit the habit. Those images burnt into one’s mind do not just go away over night. That coupled with the guilt, shame, and emotional damage make porn a sin that takes time and diligence to heal.

Yet sadly some do not just stop with pornography. These comments from infamous serial killer, Ted Bundy provide some insight into the mind of one who translates pornographic images into action. Ted Bundy, a man who raped and killed many women, asked for an interview with Christian Psychologist, James Dobson, the day before he was executed. In this interview, he talked about the role that pornography played in leading him down the dark road of murder and rape. In this interview he commented on a common addiction of serial killers. He said, “I’ve lived in prison for a long time now, and I’ve met a lot of men who were motivated to commit violence. Without exception, every one of them was deeply involved in pornography – deeply consumed by the addiction.” He talked about how dangerous pornography, especially violent pornography, was for a society.

Though it is wrong to scare people into not looking at porn by saying they are going to become serial killers or become buyers of forced prostitutes, it is important to realize the dark places pornography takes people. Porn is not a harmless evil. It is ruining individuals and families continually. And tragically, it is fueling modern day slavery. Some people don’t just stop with images, but translate their sick fantasies into reality. Porn users and buyers of sex have one big thing in common, they are enslaved to a desire for aberrant sexuality that is unbridled and is destroying them.

As we have seen, those who view porn and buy sex are in desperate need of prayer. They need prayer for God to reveal to them the graveness of their sin, and for grace  to turn from their sin and be healed. Furthermore, they need prayer for the healing of their mind, relationships, and distorted desires. They need to realize that this is not a private sin, but has the potential to destroy them and their families.

Any reader who finds himself drowning in this dark world, I urge you to repent and turn to Jesus, the Giver of Life. Jesus died and rose again to make sinners whole—to forgive them of their sins and give them new life. No matter the gravity of your sin, Jesus offers you redemption and healing. He tells you to come and get healing. He will give you life eternal and freedom from your sin. As Christ oftentimes brings us healing through community, I urge you to also seek help from fellow Christians who can help you to put to death this sin and follow Christ. You cannot do it on your own. You need Christ and His community.


  • Dan H

    Very good article. Aaron. Given the present state of the culture, you’re swimming against the current, but that’s what Christians are called to do. The idea that consensual sex harms no one has definitely taken hold, but certainly Paul and the author of Proverbs knew better than that. Despite the depravity that Paul would have seen in locales like Corinth and Rome, he would still be shocked at the 24/7 availability of porn and “sex workers” in America. I think he would also wonder why, in a nation where so many identify themselves as Christians and church attendance is high, that this situation could exist. Are we Christians in name only, with no influence at all on the culture around us? So it appears. A bad situation, and it won’t get any better because many so-called evangelicals urge us to lower our standards.

    • Sara Anderson

      Great article and and excellent analysis, Dan.

  • http://edinburgh.academia.edu/JonGreig Jon Andrew

    Good summary of the problem, concur with Dan H. It might also be helpful to point out the psychological effects that online pornography and that kind promiscuity brings about. Places like yourbrainonporn.com are really effective with pointing out the particular areas pornography seriously corrupts and destroys. (Also, intriguingly, it’s a secular-run site as far as I see; helps to show that others who are non-Christian also see the serious, demented dangers of it.) Most of all, there is help out there that people can find—between counseling, support groups, and most (I imagine and hope—at least that I’ve known) good Catholic/Orthodox priests and Protestant leaders. It isn’t the sort of thing you can just brush aside in your mind—each person who struggles with this NEEDS to address it openly for himself and take care of it as soon as possible. As you say at the end, Aaron, Christ is there to meet us. We, especially as Christians, need to seek Him out with every effort we have in seeking salvation and purification in this life.