Why should men join the fight against pornography?
I’m excited to tell you today.
It’s Keith (Sheila’s husband) on the blog today. This month the theme is about pornography and the terrible effects that it has on marriages and the people in those marriages. In a way it feels like it has been Men’s Corner throughout the month with all the male voices giving such fantastic contributions including Hugh’s heartfelt and practical post on getting out of porn addiction as well as Connor’s excellent articles about the disturbing links between pornography and sex trafficking but also about how to fight porn without letting panic derail us. All great stuff! And of course I have something on my heart that I wanted to share about this topic as well, so let me chime in, too!
The average age of first exposure to pornography is 11.
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Why is porn sinful and why should we fight against it?
That is the main thing I want to talk about. Not surprisingly, I have a very similar approach to Sheila when she started this month’s focus on pornography by dissecting why pornography is a sin. In her podcast two weeks ago, she talked about the concept of trying to look at all sin (including pornography) not as a list of ‘do’s & don’ts”, but as part of the cosmic battle – that is, whether we are working for God’s kingdom or against it.
I think the church is finally getting out of the trap of blindly following a bunch of rules and realizing that the point is to follow Christ in building His kingdom. That’s why He taught us to pray “Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth even as it is in heaven.” God’s plan is to reconcile all things in heaven and earth to Himself in Christ. Now that is a rallying cry that I can get behind and get excited about.
For too long we in the church have focused solely on the “Thou shalt not” approach to the issue of pornography.
The church has seemed to portray the fight against pornography as simply “God says it is wrong, so we shouldn’t allow it.” Unfortunately, all that has done is gotten the church labelled by those outside it as uptight, prudish and against sex in general. I think we all know the “God says it” argument doesn’t hold much power in society any more. But more than that, I think we can all acknowledge that even among believing Christians this message hasn’t been a silver bullet to fix the problem, either. I mean, consider the huge numbers of Christian men and women currently battling with pornography.
Do we honestly think they don’t already know God sees it as wrong?
I have talked with men who struggle in this area. They are acutely aware of God’s view of pornography and simply reminding them about it doesn’t help.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying pornography isn’t wrong, or that we shouldn’t care what God thinks about it! I just think we need more than that argument alone to fight this beast.
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Like every other sin, pornography is a corruption of God’s good creation.
Sin often takes us away from – and robs us of – the greater good that God desires for us, by promising an easier path than the one God has laid out. Before I describe how pornography does that specifically, let’s talk about a problem we have fallen into in modern society without even knowing it, that has created an environment where porn can thrive. I call it the culture of excess. Basically, we have gotten to the point where we take everything to the max all the time.
Bigger is always better. More is always preferable to less. And frankly, we don’t even realize we think this way because it is the water we swim in. Think for a minute about the simple joy of biting in to a freshly picked apple. “Well,” says the TV advertising announcer, “That is nothing compared to the apple taste that will blow your mind with our new Apple Explosion Drink with Extra Apple Flavour!!!” The basic concept is that it doesn’t matter what it is that you want, there is more of it out there, you deserve it and YOU CAN HAVE IT NOW!!!!
In contrast, Jesus’ kingdom principles teach contentment and warn about excess.
“Godliness with contentment is great gain.”
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not an aesthetic; I don’t think it is specifically wrong to enjoy nice things. It just seems to me that with our modern society “dialed up to 11” on everything all the time, we can so easily miss out on the simple pleasures in life. I think that is what Paul is getting at when he says in the next verse “for we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”
Every day, every moment is a blessing. However, in the same way that a person who has destroyed their ears with loud music can’t hear the subtle notes in softer pieces, I worry that our constant excess has slowly sapped our ability to see the small blessings we receive every day. And even worse, I worry we are nearing the point where a freshly picked apple might honestly be seen as second best to a chemical cooked up in a lab. Once we cross that line, we will have lost something precious and probably irreplaceable in the transaction.
And I think sex & pornography are like that. God has given us a wonderful gift in human sexuality. It is intimate, pleasurable, awkward, funny, frustrating and sublime all at once. But in its truest form it requires two people working together, accepting and treasuring each other, understanding and responding to each other, being vulnerable and trusting each other. There is a tremendous beauty in that, but it is certainly not easy – mostly because by definition it involves another person. We have to be vulnerable. Things might not work out. We might feel silly. They might reject us for a variety of reasons.
In contrast, pornography promises all the “buzz” without the “zap”.
In other words, the temptation of pornography is that you can have the “high” of sexual experience without the time and energy and potential for embarrassment or rejection that a human mate brings. After all, the women in pornography are always ready to say yes to whatever you want (or you scroll to the next site!). They never reject, never have their own irritating desires and wants, never make you feel silly or small. Of course that could be tempting! Who doesn’t want to feel validated in such a personal and intimate way? But do we not see how fake that ultimately is? You are sacrificing the possibility of a real relationship with a person and exchanging it for a fake relationship with an image!
In his sermon on the mount, Jesus talked about two gates or paths in life (Matthew 7:13-14). It seems to me that when it comes to sexuality, you can chose the “narrow gate” version of sexuality where the “way is hard” – because it requires navigating a relationship with your spouse, considering her needs as well as your own and mastering your own feelings and desires. Or you can fall effortlessly into the “wide gate” version of sexuality, where the way is easy because it is all about you and it doesn’t require any work or (perhaps worse) vulnerability on your part.
We all know where each path leads. The “narrow” path sexuality can have its bumps in the road, but it leads to increasing intimacy with your wife and can result in tremendous fulfillment. In contrast, no one is ever truly satisfied with pornography, because it is a counterfeit of what we are truly seeking. I have heard so many stories from men who have had their lives ruined by porn. What initially caused heart-pounding excitement inevitably loses its thrill and ultimately even becomes boring. To get the same level of arousal, one needs more intense stimuli and more varied content, taking you down darker and darker pathways. What started as feeling in control of your sexuality ends up feeling like your sexuality has been completely hijacked. And the longer you keep exposing yourself, the more you lose the skills and abilities to carry on an actual relationship in real life! So when you finally want to have a satisfying relationship with someone, you just can’t!
Porn hurts women, plain and simple
My hope is that if we can begin to see pornography as a counterfeit of true sexuality, we might be motivated to fight against it more. To be honest, though, that is not what personally keeps me away from pornography. For me, the key issue has always been the fact that pornography hurts women, pure and simple. Connor brought us face to face with some sobering facts about porn and sex trafficking in his post and frankly those things keep me up at night. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a woman trapped in that life, with no other options. It doesn’t take much research to find story after story of women trapped in modern-day bondage, forced to participate in these activities without consent under threat of violence or because they have absolutely nowhere else to go.
It is tragic on so many levels. That’s what I think of if ever I am tempted to go to sites like that on the internet. How could I possibly contribute to such pain? I want to be like Jesus and Jesus says the strong should help the weak, not exploit them. I don’t want to be adding to the demand for this stuff; I want to be on the side of making it go away! I remember the first time I saw a video from an organization fighting human trafficking. The verse at the bottom of the screen was Job 29:17 – “I broke the fangs of the unrighteous, and made him drop his prey from his teeth.” That resonated with me. I want to be a fang-breaker. Ever since then Sheila & I have sought out and supported several anti-trafficking initiatives worldwide.
Plus we should not forget the collateral damage to women in general that results from the ideology that the pornography industry is putting out there (which would be a whole post in itself). I have already talked about how seeing women purely as objects of sexual desire is dehumanizing and sinful in a previous post. Pornography has always done this in spades, but even worse, over time the porn industry has followed a trajectory into more and more overtly misogynistic and violent themes. As I said above, humans are always looking for the bigger, the better, the next thing. And so pornography over time has pushed the edge farther and farther into darker and darker areas, all the while changing societies expectations and understanding of what is normal. And real women pay the price.
And we all – men and women alike – need to stand against it.
I would even argue that since men are the chief consumers of pornography, we men who do not agree with what the porn industry puts out there have a particular duty to speak up and counter that message. Let’s let women know in no uncertain terms that not all men think like that. I am the father of two daughters. I want them to grow up in a world where they – and all women – feel safe and valued. To me, being involved in the fight against pornography is one of the primary ways I can do that.
And I encourage you, my brothers, to join the fight as well.
Sheila here. I know so many men, like my husband, who are valiantly fighting this fight for us. What can we say to show others (and even women, too) that this is a fight worth joining? Let’s talk in the comments!