Why Christians Need To Stop Watching Porn (And It's Not What You Think)

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Christians and pornography: the church's 'dirty little secret.' For the past decade, statistics from XXXchurch.com and elsewhere have continually suggested that a huge percentage of Christians and their leaders "struggle" with porn use and addiction. Books have been written, men's events, accountability groups and entire conferences have even been held on the issue. People often claim the church doesn't talk about it but I'm not sure that's true any more. One thing is certain however: the problem doesn't seem to be going away.

Often when we talk about porn in these many contexts, we focus on the sexual sin involved. No-one really likes to talk too explicitly about what we mean when we talk about porn 'use', but clearly we're not just talking about a purely visual experience. The trouble with this however is that it reduces the problem of porn to a wrestling match with our own sexual self-discipline. And while that's still a problem worth addressing, it's certainly not the only aspect of the porn industry that the church should be concerned about or engaged with. There are some pretty serious issues of injustice involved which not only mean Christians should break the hold of porn, but that we should also be at the forefront of campaigning against it.

Pornography is exploitative, particularly of the actors (of all genders) involved. These 'performers' are regularly coerced into doing things with which they're uncomfortable, or even in some cases, to which they haven't consented. Drug use is widespread, often in order to help the women involved get through the pain and degradation of what's involved. Allegations abound of trafficking victims being forced to appear in porn, and of people being filmed during sex without their consent or knowledge. Despite our culture's best attempts to normalise hardcore pornography since the Internet revolution began, the industry behind it remains a seedy, abusive viper's nest.

In an interview with US anti-porn campaign Fight The New Drug (not a religiously-motivated movement), a woman who was coerced into appearing in a pornographic film talks explicitly about the way that she was treated on set, and describes the experience as rape. She recalls attempting to pull out of the film at the last minute, but says she was pressured into continuing. She then suffered a horrendous, painful ordeal in which she was physically beaten and then raped, despite begging the 20+ film crew to make it stop. At one point she recalls: "I looked over to make eye contact with the producer and beg him to stop... I was sickened to see his pleasure as he watched my abuse."

This is the ugly truth of Internet pornography. This woman's rape was filmed and uploaded to the world's most popular Internet porn site, where she can do nothing to prevent it being watched, millions of times over. Many Christians will undoubtedly have watched her ordeal. We should not kid ourselves that porn is some sort of 'victimless sin.'

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It's time the church changed the narrative around pornography. For too long we've been paralysed by the self-obsessed cycle of the perennial porn 'struggle', when that's not the biggest issue. Far more than that, we should be horrified that sex – a beautiful, God-ordained idea designed to be the pinnacle of a loving relationship – has been reduced and degraded to an ugly and often misogynistic weapon. We should be devastated by this woman's story, and by the knowledge that her case is far from unique. Fight The New Drug claim that her story represents countless others from performers who are too scared to speak out for fear of reprisals. 

There's so much more to say: about how the prevalence of porn is radically reshaping young people's expectations around sex; about how advances in neuroscience suggest that pornography can have a devastating effect on your ability to form relationships; about the role of organised crime in porn; about how porn totally undermines gender justice, and allows a racist, sexist, abusive paradigm to thrive. Porn is so much more problematic than an individual's personal porn problem.

Don't stop watching porn because you feel guilty about it. Stop because porn ruins lives far beyond yours. Stop because it's one of the most destructive forces at play in modern culture. And don't just stop; let's fight back.

The interview at Fight The New Drug (reader discretion advised) can be found here.

Martin Saunders is a Contributing Editor for Christian Today and the Deputy CEO of Youthscape. Follow him on Twitter @martinsaunders.

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