CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Porn Wars

Sep 28, 2013

Just a few decades ago I and others were regularly warning about the dangers of pornography. But the almost universal response back then was ridicule, scorn, mockery and derision. We were said to be holy rollers, wowsers, killjoys and worse.

We were accused of all sorts of things, including censorship, fascism and, shudder, Puritanism. I remember one lengthy interview with an Age journalist which seemed legit. Yet the next day there was a big spread in which I was made to look the buffoon. It was a real hatchet job in which most of the article was spent on attacking me and saying what a jerk I was for being concerned about porn.

But an interesting turn of events seems to be occurring. More and more we are seeing others speaking out against porn and its harm. And plenty of these voices are not at all religious. And even some of these warnings are appearing in the mainstream media.

Three recent examples of this can be highlighted here. The message of the first should come as no surprise to anyone following this subject. It has to do with the addictive nature of porn. Religious folks will immediately agree: of course sin is addictive. The more you sin, the more addicted you become to it.

But here is a secular article in a secular newspaper saying the same thing. It begins, “Compulsive users of porn show the same signs of addiction in their brain as those hooked on booze or drugs, according to researchers. The brains of young men who are obsessed by online pornography ‘lit up like Christmas trees’ upon being shown erotic images, a pioneering study has found.

“The area stimulated – the part of the brain involved in processing reward, motivation and pleasure – is the same part that is highly active among drug and alcohol addicts. The Cambridge University research, the first of its kind in the world, coincides with a survey which revealed that watching porn online is the norm for boys as young as 13.

“Campaigners have also warned that increasing porn use among teenagers warps their view of sex and prompts boys to treat girls as sex objects. However, until now the actual effects of pornography on the brain have been unclear. Dr Valerie Voon, a Cambridge University neuroscientist specialising in addictions, studied 19 self-confessed compulsive pornography users. The men, aged 19 to 34, had tried and failed to break their habit and had lost relationships and jobs as a result.

“All fed their habit using online porn. When they were shown erotic video clips, a part of their brains lit up called the ventral striatum. It is the same part of the brain that springs to life when a drug addict sees a dealer or an alcoholic sees an advert for drink.”

The article goes on to discuss a new documentary called Porn On The Brain presented by Martin Daubney. I have written about this one-time porn magazine editor elsewhere: billmuehlenberg.com/2013/06/26/more-defections-from-the-porn-industry/

Indeed, my second example features Daubney even further. This is how that article begins: “The moment I knew internet pornography had cast its dark shadow over the lives of millions of ordinary British teenagers will live with me for ever.

“I was sitting in the smart drama hall of a specialist sports college in the North of England with a fantastic reputation. Before me were a group of 20 boys and girls, aged 13-14. Largely white, working class children, they were well turned-out, polite, giggly and shy.

“As the presenter of a Channel 4 documentary called Porn On The Brain, airing next Monday at 10pm, I’d been invited to sit in on a forward-thinking class led by sex education consultant Jonny Hunt, who is regularly asked into schools to discuss sex and relationships. To establish what these kids knew about sex – including pornography – he had asked the children to write an A-Z list of the sexual terms they knew, no matter how extreme.

“Most of these children had just hit puberty and some were clearly still children: wide-eyed, nervous, with high-pitched voices. Some of the girls were beginning their first forays into make-up. Several wore braces on their teeth. Everybody was smartly turned out in school uniform, and the most anti-authority statement in the room was a tie worn deliberately short. A One Direction pencil case lay on a desk. These were clearly good children, from good homes. So far, so very, very ordinary.

“But when Jonny pinned their lists on the board, it turned out that the children’s extensive knowledge of porn terms was not only startling, it superseded that of every adult in the room – including the sex education consultant himself. ‘Nugget, what’s that?’ asked Jonny.

“’A nugget is a girl who has no arms or legs and has sex in a porno movie,’ chortled one young, pimply boy, to an outburst of embarrassed laughter from some, and outright revulsion from others. The adults in attendance were incredulous at the thought that not only did this kind of porn exist, but that a 14-year-old boy may have actually watched it. But the more mundane answers were just as shocking. For example, the first word every single boy and girl in the group put on their list was ‘anal’.

“When questioned, they had all – every child in a class of 20 – seen sodomy acted out in porn videos. I was stunned they even knew about it – I certainly hadn’t heard of it at that age – let alone had watched it and as a result may even have wanted to try it. One 15-year-old girl said, ‘Boys expect porn sex in real life’. And one boy – to choruses of approval – spoke of his revulsion for pubic hair, which he called a ‘gorilla’.”

Daubney finishes with these words: “Ultimately, the responsibility lies with us, the parents. The age of innocence is over. Like many parents, I fear that my boy’s childhood could be taken away by pornography. So we have to fight back.

“We need to get tech-savvy, and as toe-curling as it seems, we are the first generation that will have to talk to our children about porn. We have to tell our kids that pornographic sex is fake and real sex is about love, not lust. By talking to them, they stand a chance. If we stick our head in the sand, we are fooling only ourselves.”

My third example comes from the Huff Post of all places. In it Lauren Dubinsky, Founder of Good Women Project, writes about “What I Wish I’d Known Before Watching Porn”. Here is part of what is on her wish list:

“I wish that 10 years ago someone had educated me on pornography. What it is, what it does and what it reaches in and destroys in the hearts, minds and bodies of men and women.
I wish that someone would have told me that researchers have suggested it sabotages your sex life.
I wish someone would have explained how dopamine, the chemical that is released every time you experience pleasure, drives you to return to what provided that feeling before.
I wish someone would have told me that the kind of pornography you’re most turned on by is usually linked to a corresponding hurtful event in your life, further injuring your brokenness.
I wish someone would have told me pornography would normalize things I wasn’t emotionally or physically ready to handle in my relationships with men, making me feel like I had no options or control over my sex life, filling me with much regret and physical pain.
I wish someone would have told me I would begin to objectify men, build up images in my mind and think of sex day in and day out, to the point where I couldn’t remain focused on anything else.
I wish someone would have told me it would make me feel less valuable to men and bring up insecurities for years in the bedroom.
I wish someone would have pointed out pornography can establish your sexuality completely apart from real-life relationships, causing huge problems in your intimacy with real significant others.
I wish someone would have explained what ‘sexual anorexia’ was and that countless young men are unable to get erections because they’ve been watching porn since they were around 14 years old.
I wish someone would have told all the men I’ve dated that the porn they are watching is keeping them from being turned on by me, ultimately destroying our relationship.
I wish someone would have told me that the dopamine and oxytocin being released from my watching certain types of pornography would cause me to question my sexual orientation, which in turn cost me relationships with friends.
I wish someone would have told me it would subtly create a ‘victim’ mentality in my mind, causing me to be even more sensitive than I already was to catcalls, whistles, and even sincere compliments.
I wish someone had talked about how women watch it too, so I wouldn’t have had to spend years living under the shame that comes with being ‘the only one’ and thinking there was something wrong with me.”

So, the word is finally starting to get out there: porn harms, big time. Perhaps all the grief and attacks I and others had to endure on this issue years ago were worth it. Perhaps we helped pave the way for a new generation of folks to come out and say the same thing. Whether it is all getting to be too late now is another matter. But at least we are now getting clear warnings.

www.heraldsun.com.au/lifestyle/relationships/brain-scans-prove-porn-is-as-addictive-as-alcohol-and-drugs/story-fni0dql5-1226725142000

www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2432591/Experiment-convinced-online-porn-pernicious-threat-facing-children-today-By-ex-lads-mag-editor-MARTIN-DAUBNEY.html

www.huffingtonpost.com/lauren-dubinsky/porn-addiction_b_1686481.html?utm_content=buffer0cba9&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=Buffer

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7 Responses to Porn Wars

  • Great article, Bill. And now that apparently 7 in 10 men and 3 in 10 women are infected with this disease, it’s time we turned our attention more to sorting it out instead of sweeping it under the carpet. It’s such an ugly word. I could probably count on my two hands the number of times I’ve heard it mentioned in church in the past decade. We need people who are dedicated to mentoring and seeing people helped, because I know several men out there who are desperate for help and can’t bring themselves to go and share their problem with anyone because of the shame. Really honest and interesting comments by the woman you quoted about the many effects of porn that people don’t even realize. What a curse it is on our world.

    Dee Graf

  • Pornography is so easy to access.  It is so easy to deceive yourself and justify yourself for watching it.  It is so easy to keep indulging in it a secret.  And yet, it is so destructive.

    Surely the Scriptures speak regarding addictions such as this:

    All things are wearisome, more than one can say.  The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. (Ecclesiastes 1:8 – NIV)

    A discerning person keeps wisdom in view, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth. (Proverbs 17:24 -NIV)

    Then he (Jesus) said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 – NIV)

    May we truly heed these warnings, deny ourselves and avoid it.

    Sid Avery

  • It is so sad, hurtful and painful to observe someone view porn. Even sadder when it is a ‘person’ preparing their ‘message’ to share the next day at church.
    It happens that pastors, leaders, moral crusaders are not immune from viewing porn.
    Judith Bond

  • Pornography is destructive indeed.

    Before my two boys reached puberty I read a wonderful book with them, “Preparing your son for every man’s battle”, by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker.

    Neither of our boys had been baptised as infants as I wanted them to make the decision themselves when they had understanding. When I read the introduction of the book to my older son he looked very anxious and grabbed me by the arm saying “Dad, I’m going to need all the help I can get. Can I be baptised?”

    If only other men could have as much foresight as my son showed. The line “there’s no harm in looking” is a lie. If we watched through someone’s bedroom window what is now shown on TV we would be arrested. This is an insidious evil and we can not win the battle in our own strength. Thankfully Christ can set us free from every bondage.

    Richard Jardine

  • ‘If we watched through someone’s bedroom window what is now shown on TV we would be arrested.’ Richard, you hit the nail on the head, not only TV, the internet, certain magazines, and many other forms of medium. For us true Christians, God of course sees all things and is watching us all the time, yet despite that knowledge we still look at porn, its addiction is that strong. We all need ‘all the help we can get’ as your son so wisely requested.

    Fred Merlo

  • http://www.settingcaptivesfree.com

    is such a helpful course for those battling with sexual impurity.
    Demonstrating how God’s glory, grace, and the cross are the only real antidote to all sin.

    It also has courses for all sorts of other addictions, such as alcohol, gluttony, homosexual attraction, etc…

    Jeremy Hopwood

  • I can certainly attest to the destructiveness of porn. A failed marriage that died of neglect, ineffectual family life. And that was pre internet…

    My cure/therapy basically was abstinence. To remove the cause of excitation and allow the dopamine and oxytocin to settle down… and that is abstinence from any ‘solitary’ sexual preoccupation. That takes time and many lapses – Tag that with a conviction that God is merciful and you live within his approval and kindness and he will help you along the way.

    Better times now. A new opportunity to do better with a second wife. But my lads! they are very much a product of the internet culture. I waded through a moral frogpond in my youth – they are adrift in an ocean!

    Good comments from Dubinsky. Great comment from RJ!

    Will Coleman

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