Faith and Family: Protecting from porn — Pornography ‘No. 1 issue facing Christian men,’ threat to ‘marriages, homes and the Church’comment (0)
May 29, 2014
By Carrie Brown McWhorter
What’s the harm in looking?
When I was a teenager I started looking at girlie magazines with my friends. I told myself that it was OK to look at the pictures as long as I didn’t act on the feelings they stirred in me. I always thought this was just a fun fantasy — something that made me more grown up. After all, don’t all men look every once in a while? Recently though, I decided to check out some porn websites online. I figured it would be a one-time thing but I keep going back to those sites. I am afraid I may have a problem. What can I do to get these pictures and thoughts out of my head?
Forty years ago, few would have predicted the unprecedented amount of sexually explicit materials available to the average person. With the push of a button or the click of a mouse in the privacy of the home, a man, woman or child can view graphic images that once were reserved for seedy adult theatre screens or “skin” magazines.
In 1964, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously described the threshold test for obscenity by declaring, “I know it when I see it.” Increasingly, however, people of all ages are exposed to so much sexually suggestive and often explicit content that they are becoming desensitized to the dangers. It is a growing problem both outside and inside the Church, according to Jay Dennis, pastor of First Baptist Church at the Mall, Lakeland, Fla., and leader of the national anti-pornography movement Join One Million Men. In fact Dennis calls pornography “the No. 1 issue facing Christian men” and a threat to “marriages, homes and the Church.”
While some may still think of pornography as a fringe industry, statistics say otherwise. According to Covenant Eyes, a company that makes Internet accountability and filtering software, the pornography industry generates $13 billion annually in the United States, $3 billion of which is online content. Estimates suggest that 68 percent of men and 18 percent of women in the United States use pornography at least once a week.
Christians are not immune from pornography. Covenant Eyes estimates that at least half of all men and 20 percent of all women in America’s churches are struggling with some level of pornography. Dennis estimates that the number of men in the Church struggling with addiction to pornography could be as high as 8 in 10 men and as many as 5 in 10 pastors.
Seeds of addiction
“It is taking men out, taking them out of a place of spiritual leadership in their homes and in their churches,” Dennis said.
The seeds of addiction are often planted early in life. Men in recovery often cite early experiences with magazines like Playboy and Penthouse as their first foray into the world of pornography. For too many, those first furtive glances eventually evolve into behaviors that cross the line from bad habit into addiction.
“I would continue to go over and over back to the Internet just looking for something more to fulfill my fantasies and pleasures,” said Kevin C. in a video testimony for the Join One Million Men effort.
Another man, Alan, describes his use of pornography as a “downward spiral into what would become a full-blown sexual addiction.”
The average age of first exposure to pornography is 11. Dennis says the question is “not if but when” a boy will be exposed to pornography and warns parents to prepare for that eventuality.
Though men are more than 500 times more likely to look at porn than females, studies are showing increases in the use of pornography by women as well. Unlike men, who prefer images and graphic sex sites, women prefer erotic stories and romance sites, according to Covenant Eyes.
“Serotonin, endorphins, oxytocin — just looking at pornography is firing on every single neurotransmitter that we know about that is pleasurable,” said Marnie Ferree, a specialist in the area of women with sexual addiction and founder of Bethesda Workshops, a Christian focused sexual addiction recovery program located in Nashville. “Pornography is a one-stop shop for everything neurochemically that feels good.”
In a recent survey of women who are part of the online community of Dirty Girls Ministries, an online support forum for women with sexual struggles, almost half of the women who responded said they started “habitually and compulsively” watching pornography online when they were 13 to 17 years old. When asked to rate how well their parents taught them about the purpose of sex and prepared them for sexual temptations on a scale of 1 to 7, almost 90 percent gave their parents a 3 or below.
Hundreds of statistics point to the use and dangers of pornography to individuals but the consequences of pornography use on the family are perhaps most alarming.
According to sociologist Jill Manning, author of “What’s the Big Deal About Pornography? A Guide for the Internet Generation,” pornography consumption is associated with increased risk of marital distress, including infidelity, separation and divorce and a devaluation of monogamy, marriage and child-rearing.
Tommy Smith regularly counsels people whose lives have been torn apart by a life consumed with pornography. He has even worked with children who have found their father’s pornography in the home.
‘A very real problem’
“Pornography addiction is a very real problem and we need to raise awareness and let people know it is OK to come forward and discuss their struggles,” said Smith, a licensed professional counselor with Pathways Professional Counseling, a ministry of the Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries.
While some men refuse to acknowledge their use of pornography as sin, many men recognize the sin in their lives but feel alone in their struggle. Their guilt and shame may cause behaviors that further damage their relationships with family and friends, Smith said.
“Individuals struggling with pornography may eventually isolate themselves in order to keep their secret, fearing that someone will find out what they are doing in their private lives,” Smith said. “Slowly but surely a secret like this will start to have big consequences on one’s relationship with God and others.”
That was the case with Greg Oliver, a former worship pastor who struggled for many years with pornography and sexual addiction (see story, page 6).
“Shame became a huge driving force in the struggle. As a Christian I knew what I was doing was wrong,” Oliver said. “Because I believed that no one could know what I was struggling with, I wore a constant mask. There was too much to lose.”
Men and women looking at their computer screens may feel like they are not hurting anyone else but pornography is much more insidious, according to Smith.
“The pornography industry and the sexualized entertainment industry are tearing apart our homes and marriages as well as damaging the self-esteem of young girls and boys,” Smith said. “Our young people are the victims and will pay a steep price.”
Protecting your family
1. If there is any pornography in your home, destroy it immediately. Your child will find it if you have it anywhere.
2. Install Internet filtering and accountability software on all home computers, tablets, cell phones and games.
3. Cancel premium cable TV channels and set clear boundaries on what is acceptable and not acceptable to watch.
4. Help your child choose good friends. You do that by choosing your child’s friends’ parents, parents who share your values.
5. Set clear cell phone rules and boundaries.
6. Periodically look at your children’s browser history, texts and cell phone photos.
7. Review the apps your child has downloaded to a phone or tablet.
8. Monitor your child’s friends on social networking sites and keep their sites private.
9. Ask your child if he or she has been exposed to pornography.
10. Define the consequences of your child viewing pornography.