Porn Affects You, Even if You Don’t Look At It

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Pornography has gotten a lot of attention today as news broke of Hugh Hefner's death. Every life leaves a footprint – some larger than others. The founder of Playboy magazine has indeed left a legacy. Much of the world is celebrating the “sexual freedom” he introduced to our world. Instead, my heart grieves. I’ve seen the impact of pornography on men, women, and children. This type of “freedom” is really bondage. 

A recent survey revealed that approximately 85% of men interact with pornographic material on a monthly basis. Early exposure and addiction to porn is rapidly increasing, with boys and girls getting hooked before adolescence. We are learning more about the negative impact of pornography on people’s sexual and emotional health and relationships. We know that porn kills intimacy, but we are now learning that pornography is sabotaging relationships before they even begin. Whether or not you’ve ever used porn, it is impacting you. Why? Because the wide use and acceptance of pornography has changed sexual norms and expectations in our culture. 

Whether you are married or single, it’s important for you to understand how pornography has impacted the way you and those around you think about sex. 

Porn has decreased the value of sex

I’ve been studying the research of sociologists Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker in their fascinating book Premarital Sex in America. They explain that sexuality doesn’t happen in a vacuum, but romantic relationships are impacted by the attitudes and beliefs of the culture. 

Regnerus and Uecker observe that women have always set the “price” for their sexuality. When a man’s sexual desire drives him to a woman, she gets to determine what she requires for her sexuality. She is the sexual gatekeeper. According to God’s design and many past cultural norms, the “price” for a woman’s sexuality has been for a man to make a lifetime commitment to love and provide for her. 

Pornography has given men a sexual outlet that requires nothing from them. Regnerus and Uecker write, “the ubiquity and perceived quality of digital porn has the capacity to sexually satiate more men—and more often -- than ever before…. If the porn-and-masturbation satisfies some of the male demand for intercourse—and it clearly does—it reduces the value of real intercourse” (p99). 

In other words, men are less willing to sacrifice and commit to a woman for access to her body. Because the value of sex in our culture has decreased, women (and girls) feel like they cannot demand commitment for sex. They are more willing to give sex for a couple of dates or even for a few hours of attention. Hence, the hookup culture and the increasing trend to live together instead of getting married. 

While a woman might enjoy non-committed sex in the moment, the long-term impact of many sexual partners will likely impact her for years to come. God designed a woman to bond with a man through sexual intimacy. When a woman is involved sexually outside of marriage, she is likely to experience guilt, regret, temporary self-loathing, rumination, diminished self-esteem, a sense of having let yourself down, discomfort about having to lie or conceal sex from family, anxiety over depth and course of the relationship and concern over the place of sex in the relationship (p137). Having sex outside of a committed relationship or with multiple partners over a lifetime is associated with poor emotional health in women. Regnerus and Uecker write, “Even getting married doesn’t erase the emotional challenges for women who have had numerous sexual partners in their lifetime” (p149).  When men use porn, women are set up for loneliness, regret, and the pressure to compromise their spiritual and emotional health. 

Porn has changed expectations of what’s normal 

Even within marriage, we can see the impact of a culture that has embraced porn and sex with no attachments. One of most common questions I get asked about sexuality addresses young marriages in which men are not interested in sex. I hear from an increasing number of young wives who are devastated to be asking for sex, wondering why he isn’t initiating. While there are many possible reasons for this trend, without a doubt the greatest culprit is porn. 

When young men have grown up looking at pornogrphy and sastifying their desires through masturbation, they learn to view sex as a consumer. I should get what I want, when and how I want it. Sex is about obtaining pleasure, excitement and a release for personal benefit. Porn doesn’t demand anything from a person, but exists to immediately cater to every sexual fantasy. Porn trains a person’s sexual response to be impatient, selfish, and always demanding something more exciting than what you experienced last time. 

Transfer those beliefs to a sexual relationship in marriage and you have a train wreck. Having sex with a real person who has feelings and her own sexual needs means you have to be patient, understanding, and unselfish. Most sex within marriage will be “normal” (no toys, strange positions, role playing, and bizarre fantasies) and will not cater to an appetite for something more. It will take years and hard work to build true intimacy as you explore the gift of sexuality together. Instead of working toward this magnificent goal, the man (or woman) involved with porn will probably go back to a sexual release that demands nothing. 

While porn may appear to demand nothing, it eventually steals everything. We were not created for a series of extreme sexual experiences. We are designed for authentic intimacy, celebrated and expressed through sex with a real person who is committed to loving you for a lifetime. I have never met a man or woman who is truly satisfied with porn. Porn use may be “normal” but that by no means suggests it is healthy. 

What you can do

While this blog post isn’t exactly uplifting, I hope and pray that it challenges you to confront the acceptance of porn in your life, in your marriage, and in our culture. Using pornography (including erotic books and movies) is not just a personal choice. It is a decision that impacts the people and even the culture around us. 

At Authentic Intimacy, our desire is to equip you to confront counterfeit intimacy for the purpose of building the real deal.

 

Follow Up Resources from Juli: 

Podcast  #124: Why You Need to Address Pornography In Your Marriage and Home

Podcast #97: 12 Secrets of a Hot Mama

Blog What Should You Do If Your Husband Looks at Porn?

Blog Pornography & Our Kids

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  • Lindsay Mundil

    Lindsay Mundil

    Thank you Juli, for helping to open our eyes to the damage created by porn. How I wish more people understood this!
  • Matthew Reed

    Matthew Reed

    As a man, I totally agree with this article. Porn is easy for men, so it's just easier than trying to have a relationship. But, what about Christian men who do NOT look at porn, and yet their spouse does not care to have intimacy with them on a healthy frequency level? As stated in the article: watching porn is "normal" but it is certainly not healthy. Likewise, having a poor intimate relationship can also be "normal" in many relationships, but it is not healthy. What do you suggest for those couples where the men do not watch porn, but yet the woman in the relationship does not care to take care of his needs?
  • stacey Palmonari

    stacey Palmonari

    Great blog, with wisdom all throughout it. I allowed my first husband to draw me into watching porn with him...big mistake....of course. My thoughts were affected very quickly. The enemy used my marriage bed as weapon, to destroy something so very beautiful. At the age of twenty-five, I had already been married for seven years to my high school sweetheart. We had three precious daughters together at this point, and we were Christians. Pornography made a lasting impact on my life - BUT GOD has cleansed me and set me free.
  • Greg Donner

    Greg Donner

    The touch truth is that whole topic of sexuality is just painful on multiple levels, and the church's austere silence about sexual issues is driving more and more people into porn by the day.
  • Pauline Stott

    Pauline Stott

    I couldn't agree more. The Betrayal Trauma Recovery community has taught me so much about this. I can't recommend the podcast enough. For any women going through this, BTR is the best support group I've ever experienced.
  • matthew upson

    matthew upson

    Juli, I am a photographer and once and a while a bride or couple wants me to take boudoir photos for their anniversary. Or a pregnant woman wants to strip to her underwear to show off her pregnant body. An Elder at a church told me I should not take photos for those sessions as they were pornographic. This confused me because the church believes sex within marriage is Godly, and I did not see an issue if the photos were for the couple. I really would like your honest opinion on this subject. TIA!

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Breaking Free from Sexual Addiction
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For example, after exercising, your body often gets flooded with endorphins that release stress and make you feel great—a.k.a. the "runner's high." A lot of your body's natural rewards are associated with sexuality. The body's response to sexual excitement and passion is stronger than practically any other natural experience. I believe God designed powerful sexual feelings and rewards to draw us into relationship. If we never had sexual drives and feelings, who would ever want to get married? As Paul alludes to in 1 Corinthians 7, sexual desire is a primary reason why we are drawn to marriage. An addiction occurs when we learn to go after the reward without doing the work that the reward is designed to be linked to. Sexual pleasure is designed to be a catalyst and reward for the hard work and risk required in relationship. Enjoying great sex over many years of marriage requires commitment, communication, humility, and effort. 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