One of the most common questions we get is: what’s wrong with porn? When you spend most of your time helping people out of crippling pornography addictions like we do, the answer is obvious. But to many people, the answer is less apparent.
You may have heard things like "it's freedom of expression" or "it's consensual, so it's harmless." You may have heard people say, "it's natural." That last one is pretty easy to debunk. It's difficult to argue watching two people have sex is natural, given that a hundred years ago it would get you arrested.
Kicking a porn habit is not easy. In moments of particular temptation or frustration, you've probably thrown up your hands and said, "Okay, I'm by myself. I'm not hurting anybody. The people on screen are doing this consensually. In the end, what's wrong with porn?"
You've heard that it's bad for your mental health and for your brain chemistry. You've heard that it stunts your sexual development. You've heard it's immoral. You've heard a thousand ways porn affects you individually, but let’s talk about how your porn usage affects others.
The truth is, using porn is not a private affair. Even the things we do in private affect other people. This is especially true for porn. There is an entire $12 billion industry (in the United States alone) structured around that “private” act. Supporting this industry means supporting the systemic injustices in this industry. In your personal life, porn can also harm your romantic relationship, your family, and your friendships.
Watching Porn Perpetuates Abuse
Let's start with the big one.
There are many ideas floating around on the internet about the idea of sex work and protection of sex work. We think the desire to protect sex workers is quite noble, but our proposal for protecting sex workers is to end the industry altogether.
Once upon a time, we could say that porn viewership drifts to the extreme over time. To an extent this is still true, but the starting point is more extreme than it was a few years ago. One in eight of the videos shown to a first-time porn viewer is violent. That’s right. Porn site algorithms are now marketing violent videos to people who have never viewed porn before. This kind of violence is now characteristic of the porn industry, and it normalizes abuse.
It would be naïve to think that all of these scenes of violence take place in controlled settings with full and constant consent from all parties involved. A guy in a basement with a DSLR camera generally does not have an HR department to ensure protection of people in porn. It is now a well-published fact that websites like PornHub actively benefit from hosting content featuring minors and victims of sexual assault.
Even women who are willing to perform are often abused, manipulated, and discarded by those standing to make money off of them. The porn industry thrives on producing high volumes of content, often leading to the women in the videos getting cast aside if they contract an STD, ask for better working conditions, or even just get older.
Watching Porn Harms Your Relationship
It’s a joke how unrealistic pornography is. It is safe to say that no one’s sex life actually looks like a porn video. Since that’s the case, it seems strange to think watching pornography could be beneficial to your sex life. If porn doesn’t reflect the reality of healthy and loving sex, how could watching it lead to a healthy and loving sex life?
In porn, the sex begins and ends when you want it to. This is not how sex works in real life. Healthy sex is all about the other person, but in pornography, you are the focus. This warps your view of the purpose of sex. It will be more difficult during an authentic sexual act to love the other person well.
This dynamic could explain why married couples experience lower levels of marital satisfaction if one of the partners watches porn frequently. Even if you only watch porn a few times by yourself, you are still warping your view of sex as a means for your immediate gratification. This kind of thing can affect your current or future relationship.
Watching Porn Hurts Your Family
In addition to the difficulties porn usage can cause in a marriage, it can cause difficulty for your children as well. If you use porn and have children, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The constant fear that they will use your laptop to watch a video and happen upon a forgotten browser tab. Your fears are well-founded, since almost a third of adolescents who have seen porn discovered it accidentally.
If an adult in the house uses pornography, the likelihood of a child seeing pornography increases, and if that happens, it could severely stunt their emotional and sexual maturity. But even if you hide it perfectly and they never see porn, the environment fostered when a parent uses pornography can be damaging, too.
Consider this story of a father who chose porn over his own daughter. This man was intentionally harsh to his kids so they wouldn’t bother him while watching porn. He would miss their recitals and concerts so he could be home alone to watch porn. His private habit ended up having a catastrophic affect on his relationship with his kids.
It’s easy to look at a story like that and think your porn usage would never go that far. But it is an incredibly common to hear former or current porn users admit they promised they would never watch porn in public or when their girlfriend was over, etc., but when the temptation came, they couldn’t help themselves.
Whether you have a family or not, now is the time to kick the habit for the sake of your future family.
Watching Porn Changes How You See Others
On top of the systemic injustice and the harm done to your romantic and familial relationships, porn can harm your platonic friendships, too. If you have friends of the opposite sex, you know what I’m talking about. You may have noticed when your porn usage increases, you find yourself lusting after your friends.
This objectification is not coincidental. Porn trains our brain to view human bodies as objects to be used for our gratification, not as part of a human being. When you watch porn, you mentally separate the body on the screen from the person inhabiting it. As they say, practice makes perfect. Watching porn often creates a habit of separating the body from the person.
This is part of the reason why the #MeToo movement took place. Woman after woman came forward admitting that at one point she had been harassed, grabbed, or otherwise objectified. A person who does this has dissociated the body from the person. They are used to seeing a body (in porn or in real life) and using it for themselves. They have trained themselves not to see the person. That other person then feels a deep sense of betrayal or violation that can take a long time to work through.
If you use porn and train yourself to separate the body from the person, you run the risk of seriously harming another person. You also make it harder to develop deep friendships with members of the opposite sex. If you don’t easily recognize the person behind the body, it will be harder to get to know that person. This is why people who use porn often feel a sense of loneliness, even if they spend most of their time surrounded by people. Their brain is trained to see mere bodies.
The next time you are tempted to ask what’s wrong with porn, remember the social consequences. Using porn affects more than just your conscience the next morning. It actively affects the people closest to you in your life and the people you see on screen.
The good news is, you can still require your brain to work the way it was intended and undo some of these consequences. It takes time, but Covenant Eyes can help.
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