By Dermot Cottuli
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” The NIV puts it this way: “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint.”
In my first message I laid down a broad foundation emphasising the need to think well about our sexuality given the increasing pressure being brought to bear by society on the beliefs we hold as Christians about sexuality and its practice. As followers of Jesus we need to not just know how we should live our lives, but also why God said we were to live a particular way in the first place if we’re to engage effectively with a world that is increasingly losing sight of it’s moral foundations.
Two glasses of water
1 salt water + 1 fresh water
They look the same from the outside but have totally different effects on the person who drinks them. It’s a great object lesson to describe the difference between sex done God’s way and engaging in sex outside the boundaries He’s laid down.
I want us to take a look at a topic that clearly demonstrates the insidious nature of unrestrained sexuality. For those who secretly believe that anything goes and that you’re immune from the consequences of your actions you’ll hopefully find this message helpful, if not particularly comfortable. I want us to look at what happens when immorality is embraced by society and excepted as normal behaviour. When people choose to drink salt water as opposed to fresh water.
Australia, along with much of the world has been conducting a social experiment in unrestrained sexuality since the sexual revolution of the 1960’s. 20 years ago, that experimental revolution was turbo charged by the unprecedented delivery mechanism provided by the world wide web, and has deeply impacted our society as men women, boys and girls have suffered the fallout that occurs when human sexuality goes beyond the safety net provided by our Maker in His handbook the Bible. Now that might sound a little alarmist but as we’ll see this morning, the writing’s on the wall and its not the church that’s making the most noise about it. The ones leading the charge are the researchers, educators, social commentators, mums and dads and those who’ve been left to pick up the pieces of a worldview that promised freedom and sexual utopia but delivered devastation to those unlucky enough to be caught up in its lie.
In the past people would say to the church, “You’re just trying to stop me from having fun, it doesn’t hurt anybody.” “If it feels good we should be allowed to do it.” Taking their cue from popular media and Hollywood they felt confident that because it was promoted far and wide by “everyone” then surely their excesses couldn’t be harmful. And anyone saying different were open to being ridiculed and humiliated, often times publicly. And because of that a lot of Christians buckled, maybe not publicly but quite often privately in their own belief and practice.
We’re going to take a cold hard look at the fruit of immorality and if by the end of my message you’re not feeling a little shaken up then I won’t have done my job correctly.
If I were to ask you to point out to me in our society the number one proof that Sexuality without boundaries destroys lives you’d probably find it a bit difficult because much of what we’re talking about happens behind closed doors and gets glamorised by the media and modern literature. But if you were to say “The rise of pornography is the evidence”, I’d say “Go straight to the top of the class.” The proof is staring us straight in the face.
Pornography is the fruit of unrestrained Sexuality.
“Pornography, by its very nature, is an equal opportunity toxin. It damages the viewer, the performer, and the spouses and the children of the viewers and the performers. It is toxic mis-education about sex and relationships. It is more toxic the more you consume, the “harder” the variety you consume and the younger and more vulnerable the consumer. The damage is both in the area of beliefs and behaviours.”
DR. MARY ANNE LAYDEN
Director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology
Program at the University of Pennsylvania
The societal costs of pornography are staggering. The financial cost to business productivity in the U.S. alone is estimated at $16.9 Billion annually; but the human toll, particularly among our youth and in our families, is far greater.
According to Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D, psychologist and former Deputy Assistant Health and Human Services Secretary,
“Two recent reports, one by the American Psychological Association on hyper-sexualised girls, and the other by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy on the pornographic content of phone texting among teenagers, make clear that the digital revolution is being used by younger and younger children to dismantle the barriers that channel sexuality into family life.
Pornography hurts adults, children, couples, families, and society. Among adolescents, pornography hinders the development of a healthy sexuality, and among adults, it distorts sexual attitudes and social realities. In families, pornography use leads to marital dissatisfaction, infidelity, separation, and divorce.”
Here are some of the most credible statistics available today on internet pornography.
General pornography stats
- 35% of all internet downloads are related to pornography
- 25% of all search engine queries are related to pornography, or about 68 million search queries a day
- One third of porn viewers are women
- Search engines get 116,000 queries every day related to child pornography
- 34% of internet users have experienced unwanted exposure to pornographic content through ads, pop up ads, misdirected links or emails
- 2.5 billion emails sent or received every day contain porn
- Every 39 minutes a new pornography video is being created in the United States
- About 200,000 Americans are “porn addicts”
Youth pornography stats
- Teenagers with frequent exposure to sexual content on TV have a substantially greater likelihood of teenage pregnancy; and the likelihood of teen pregnancy was twice as high when the quantity of sexual content exposure within the viewing episodes was high.
- Pornography viewing by teens disorients them during the developmental phase when they have to learn how to handle their sexuality and when they are most vulnerable to uncertainty about their sexual beliefs and moral values.
- A significant relationship also exists among teens between frequent pornography use and feelings of loneliness, including major depression
- Adolescents exposed to high levels of pornography have lower levels of sexual self-esteem.
Family/Marital pornography stats
- According to the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families, 2010, 47% of families in the United States reported that pornography is a problem in their home.
- Pornography use increases the marital infidelity rate by more than 300%
- 40 percent of “sex addicts” lose their spouses, 58 percent suffer considerable financial losses, and about a third lose their jobs
- 68% of divorce cases involve one party meeting a new paramour over the internet while 56% involve one party having an “obsessive interest” in pornographic websites
Pornography is a visual representation of sexuality which distorts an individual’s concept of the nature of conjugal relations. This, in turn, alters both sexual attitudes and behaviour. It’s a major threat to marriage, to family, to children and to individual happiness. In undermining marriage it is one of the factors undermining social stability.
Social scientists, clinical psychologists, and biologists have begun to clarify some of the social and psychological effects, and neurologists are beginning to delineate the biological mechanisms through which pornography produces its powerful negative effects.
Studies have found that frequency of porn use correlates with depression, anxiety, stress, and social problems.
Although porn use promises to help users relax and relieve their stress, a growing number of studies have found that porn use is actually linked to poor mental health outcomes. This link is particularly strong when porn users engage in a pattern of “self-concealment,”—which is when they do things they’re not proud of and keep them a secret from their friends and family members. This pattern not only hurts their relationships and leaves them feeling lonely, but also makes them more vulnerable to emotional and psychological problems. For both male and female porn users, their habit is often accompanied by problems with anxiety, body-image issues, poor self-image, relationship problems, insecurity, and depression.
Even moderate porn use is correlated with shrunken grey matter in parts of the brain that oversee cognitive function.
German researchers recently found an association between the number of hours of pornography someone uses each week and less grey matter in their brains. Grey matter is the darker tissue of the brain and spinal cord, consisting mainly of nerve cell bodies and branching dendrites. It is associated with decision making and intelligence.
There are clear differences in brain activity between patients who have compulsive sexual behaviour and healthy volunteers.
As pornography use becomes an ongoing habit, the user has a whole new set of problems because addiction damages the part of the brain that helps you think things through to make good choices—the brain’s limit setting system. For more than 10 years, studies have shown that drug addictions can cause the brain’s frontal lobes to start shrinking. While “frontal lobe” sounds really technical, basically it’s the part of the brain that controls logical problem solving and decision making.
“Sexual tastes are moulded by an individual’s experiences and their culture. These tastes are acquired and then wired into the brain. We are unable to distinguish our ‘second nature’ from our ‘original nature’ because our neuroplastic brains, once rewired, develop a new nature every bit as biological as our original.” – Dr Norman Doidge, PhD
In a 2012 survey of 1,500 guys, 56% of them said their tastes in porn had become “increasingly extreme or deviant” the more porn they watched. This happens because as consistent porn users’ brains quickly become accustomed to the porn they’ve already seen they have to constantly be moving on to more extreme forms of pornography to get aroused by it. As a result, many porn users find themselves getting aroused by things that used to unsettle them or that go against what they personally think is morally right.
Porn use has been found to influence some users’ sexual preferences, leaving them wanting what they’ve seen onscreen and significantly less satisfied with sex in real life.
Many young adults never have the chance to learn what a healthy relationship is like before porn starts teaching them its version—which is typically filled with violence, domination, infidelity, and abuse. Since most people aren’t too excited about the idea of being in an abusive relationship, the sexual education that youth have gotten from porn makes it hard for them to connect with real romantic partners when they’re ready, and they find themselves unable to be turned on by anything other than images on a screen. As people get older and get into relationships, porn promises a virtual world filled with sex—more sex, better sex. What it doesn’t mention, however, is that the further a user goes into that fantasy world, the more likely their reality is to become just the opposite. Studies show that porn often leads to less sex and less satisfying sex; and for many users, porn eventually means no sex at all.
After being exposed to pornography, men reported being less satisfied with their partners’ physical appearance, sexual performance, and level of affection and express greater desire for sex without emotional involvement.
In one of the most comprehensive studies on porn use ever conducted, researchers found that after being exposed to softcore sexual material, both men and women were significantly less happy with their partner’s looks and sexual performance. Studies also have shown the porn users feel less love for their partner or spouse compared to those who don’t use porn.
Among the effects of the use of pornography are an increased negative attitude toward women, decreased empathy for victims of sexual violence… and an increase in dominating and sexually imposing behaviour.
A few years ago, a team of researchers looked at the most popular porn films—the ones bought and rented most often. From that group, they randomly picked 50 and analysed them. Of the 304 scenes the movies contained, 88% contained physical violence. On top of that, 49% contained verbal aggression. In total, only one scene in 10 didn’t contain any aggression, and the typical scene averaged 12 physical or verbal attacks. One scene managed to fit in 128. Viewing this type of dehumanising submission makes dominance seem normal and can set the stage for eventual acceptance of verbal and physical aggression.
The Department of Justice and the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children both recognise that pornography is an element that adds to the serious problem of sex trafficking.
Part of the lie porn producers want customers to buy into is that porn is legitimate entertainment made by glamorous people who are doing it because it’s what they want. This myth makes it OK for the user to enjoy it because the people they’re watching seem to be enjoying it. What users don’t know is that some of those people look like they’re having a good time because behind the scenes they have a gun pointed at their head, and if they stop smiling it will go off. Obviously, human trafficking is an underground business, making firm statistics hard to come by. But year after year new cases comes to life that are chilling. We learn of more and more situations where women are lured into human trafficking traps where they are drugged, kidnapped, raped – and the violence is videotaped and sold to businesses and stores who sell pornography across the world.
A meta-analysis of 33 studies found that exposure to either nonviolent or violent porn increased behavioural aggression, including both violent fantasies and actual violent assaults.
For porn users, even those who manage to avoid violent material, it’s difficult not to be influenced. Study after study has found that watching even non-violent porn is correlated with the user being more likely to use verbal coercion, drugs, and alcohol to push women into sex. And those who consistently look at non-violent porn are more likely to support statements that promote abuse and sexual aggression of both women and girls. Much of even non-violent porn portrays a power difference between partners where men are in charge and women are submissive and obedient.
The use of porn is a symptom of our society’s love affair with unrestrained sexual behaviour. The bible calls it sexual immorality and makes it very clear that living in that space will place you outside the Kingdom of God.
There’s an old saying that goes, “You can’t stop birds flying overhead but you can stop them nesting in your hair.” In our society it’s becoming increasingly difficult to avoid all contact with the visual portrayal of human sexuality outside of God’s prescribed boundaries, however we shouldn’t be throwing in the towel and just accepting whatever gets thrown at us. We need to make a stand and draw a line in the sand. The Bible talks about fighting the fight of faith – it also talks about the ongoing struggle between the Kingdom of darkness and the Kingdom of light.
The Apostle John in his first letter speaks of the fight we all face as we grow in our relationship with Jesus.
1 John 2:12-14
I am writing to you who are God’s children because your sins have been forgiven through Jesus.
I am writing to you who are mature in the faith because you know Christ, who existed from the beginning.
I am writing to you who are young in the faith because you have won your battle with the evil one.
I have written to you who are God’s children because you know the Father.
I have written to you who are mature in the faith because you know Christ, who existed from the beginning.
I have written to you who are young in the faith because you are strong.
God’s word lives in your hearts, and you have won your battle with the evil one.
In Pt III of our series on the Elephant in the Room I want to give you a biblical framework that will help you safeguard your thinking and protect your life from the pain, regret and the potential devastation that can occur when we live lives with no boundaries.
In the meantime for those who have been thinking that this message has come too late for you I want to remind you of a wonderful promise in the same Bible that speaks so strongly against sexual sin . . .
1 John 1:8-9
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.