Internet Pornography and Abuse


Abuse Awareness Sunday this year focuses on internet pornography. If you haven’t considered the relationship between pornography and abusive relationships and actions in the church and in the home, it’s time to think again.

In the online article “Pornography Plague,” Kerby Anderson notes that, according to recent studies, exposure to violent pornography can lead to anti-social attitudes and behavior. “Male viewers tend to be more aggressive toward women, less responsive to pain and suffering of rape victims, and more willing to accept various myths about rape,” Anderson writes.

Anderson also cites a study, conducted by researchers Dolf Zillman and Jennings Bryant, which investigated the effects of nonviolent pornography on sexual callousness and the trivialization of rape. “They showed that continued exposure to pornography had serious adverse effects on beliefs about sexuality in general and on attitudes toward women in particular,” writes Anderson. “These researchers also found that massive exposure to pornography encourages a desire for increasingly deviant materials which involve violence.”

Anderson’s article also cites research that has shown:

  • Pornography skews a person’s understanding of what constitutes normal sexual practice.
  • Pornography can diminish a person's sexual happiness and cause people to be less satisfied with their partner's physical appearance, affection, curiosity, and sexual performance.
  • In jurisdictions with high circulation rates for pornography, rape rates were also high. And in jurisdictions with low circulation rates, rape rates also tended to be low as well.

Pornography Dehumanizes
Internet pornography is a big deal because it dehumanizes those who are portrayed in it. In his blog “How Porn Dehumanizes,” on the website, Mike Stonehill writes, “Pornography subtlety undermines male respect for women by detaching a woman's personality from her body, reducing her to a mere sexual commodity ... This in turn bores men and leads to dissatisfaction with their own wives and an inability to create a fulfilling, authentic sex life based on mutual respect for their female counterparts.” Men aren’t the only ones watching porn, however. devotes a section of its website to women viewers of pornography as well.

It’s time to start talking about internet pornography in the Christian community. If we don’t address the issues, internet pornography will continue to entangle many more Christian viewers in a web of harm and destruction. Many more marriages and families will suffer, and disrespectful relationships and violent sexual behaviours will increasingly become viewed as normal.

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I agree that porn dehumanizes those portrayed in pornographic media (written and visual), and leads to porn consumers dehumanizing those around them. But it also dehumanizes the one consuming it. Both parts of the dehumanization equation must be dealt with here. The driving force in the consumption of porn is (in my limited experience) shame-based loneliness. This shame-based loneliness is most often rooted in deep-seated personal pain and/or belief in one's utter worthlessness. The goal and solution is inner healing directed at dealing with the root of the problem.

As I've spoken with porn addicts I hear that shame is both the driving force behind porn addictions, and the fruit of the addiction: it's a downward spirial - actually more like a vortex, that few can escape without outside help. Calls to action, like yours here, while well motivated and rooted in facts, don't usually help, and for some increase the shame and may have a counter-productive result. "Trying harder doesn't work," are words I've heard more than once.

It would be helpful to discuss the issue of pornography on this forum in conversation with the fine folks at Quiet Waters, or with the folks at Restoring the Foundations (which I highly recommend). Perhaps others can name places that successfully help those with porn and other addictions to the list.

[BTW, I used the term "porn consumer" to mean someone who reads, listens to, watches pornography in any form. I'm using the word "consumer" as an analogy for eating & drking. I don't mean only those who buy pornographic materials.]

Hello Richard:

I am wondering if you could elaborate on your comment "Calls to action, like yours here, while well motivated and rooted in facts, don't usually help, and for some increase the shame and may have a counter-productive result." because it goes completely against my experince.

Thank you


Sure, I'll explain.

While the comments above may help one who is not addicted, nor prone to become addicted porn consumption, it won't help an addict any more than writing warnings on cigarettes keep nicotine addicts from smoking. The nicotine addict tells himself/herself - well, this one, all by itself, won't kill me; or they simply ignore the threats as not applying to them. This is called "magical thinking," and addicts are good at it. Addressing the mind alone, isn't enough. Further, when non-addicts quote such facts to an addict, and possibly expresses their outrage about such behavior, this also fuels the shame-based loneliness and serves to isolate the addict even farther from what is most likely to help them.

Since "trying harder doesn't work" pointing out why the addict should try harder doesn't help. It may serve to drive the addiction deeper into secrecy, or hold it at bay temporarily. But it doesn't deal with the heart issue behind the behavior. Further, pointing out how terrible porn is, or how harmful it can be to consume it, adds to the shame of one who is consuming porn out of shame-based loneliness. They end up feeling more shame, which makes them feel even more alone, underscores the feeling that "there must be somethign wrong with me," and fuels the addiction cycle.

The addict who stops his/her behavior temporarily without dealing with the heart issue that drives the behavior (perhaps after reading this article), needs to keep the behavior in check. This often requires a lot of internal energy. Typically, when the addict gets tired of "holding the lid on the pot," the lid comes off and they binge. Then they may tell themselves that they've at least got it licked 90% of the time, when in fact, it still consumes much of their internal energy, most of the time. They aren't really free.

The truth encounter that's needed here isn't about how bad their actions are, and how horrible the consequences are, IMHO. Instead, we need to deal with the heart issues that give rise to the behavior. Here's the truth a porn addict needs to know deep down, without room for doubt: Jesus has already dealt with all our sin and shame, we are forgiven and cleansed, stand before Him as holy, are never alone since He is always with us, and we have the Holy Spirit within us Who empowers us to overcome what we cannot overcome in our own strength. Beside that truth is the love and grace available to us by the Christian community (when the church is all she is meant to be). When we have a place (probably a small group of all men, or all women) where we confess our deepest shame and receive grace - not only from God, but also from brothers and sisters, the power of this addiction is radically reduced, if not broken.

At least that's my experience in helping men with this issue.

Thank you Richard for responding. 

While I disagree with your comment I appreciate that you took the time to elaborate on the comment for me to gain a better understanding.  Your comment gave me cause to go into prayer last evening on the topic and again today, with your elaboration I was able to go into prayer specifically on shame based hurts. 

Specific to the comment that “Calls to action, like this here, while well motivated and rooted in facts, don't usually help, and for some increase the shame and may have a counter-productive result.” God says in Ezekiel 44:23 “They are to teach my people the difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.”.  This being biblical the Safe Church leader is fulfilling this requirement of God by bringing knowledge of pornography and some of its effects to God’s people would you not agree.    

I am confident that this article can and will help the addict, the everyday congregant, the web surfer, and anyone else suffering in sin.  Not only can it help them it can not harm or have a counter-productive result because it is biblical. 

I applaud the forum guide Rachel for her courage in bringing the topic forward on several occasions now despite the lack of comments.  As noted previously in another forum, I find the Safe Church sharing of information to be one sided and a cause for concern as a Christian never the less, the topic is being promoted for discussion and I believe that is something to be hopeful with. 

Thank you, both, for your comments. Thank you, Shawn, for your encouraging words. While it may seem that our safe church discussions here on the Network are often one-sided, I do know that my posts are read by hundreds of people each week. It may be challenging for people in our churches to comment on some of these topics due to the stigma still attached to abuse and related subjects. Shawn, you are also right that the main intention of my blog post last week was to raise awareness of the potential harms involved in internet pornography. If people begin to view pornography, they should be aware that there are risks involved, risks that it could harm the viewer, his or her family and/or intimate relationships and it also harms those who are portrayed. It is true that warnings like mine last week highlighting the dangers associated with pornography are not going to deter an individual whose viewing of pornography has become a compulsion. These individuals should seek professional help, and I thank Richard for pointing out some resources.