Pornography: America's Public Health Crisis

August 15, 2018

Chuck Swindoll called it the “greatest cancer in the history of the church.” Not too many years ago, pornography was often difficult and costly to obtain. People would go to XXX stores or order through the mail. Today we face a far different scenario. With the advent of the internet, pornography is available for free to anyone at the click of a button. Untold millions have been enslaved by addiction to pornography. And while proponents of easy-to-access pornography claimed it would satisfy sexual drives and reduce rape and human trafficking, the data is proving otherwise.

The amount of pornography on the internet is simply staggering, and the statistics of those who view it are even worse. According to the Josh McDowell Ministry, there were 14 million pornography webpages in 1998. By 2018, that number had exploded to 2.3 billion. This number represents 26,000,000 porn sites that are “just one click away.” In 2017, one porn site had over 91 billion views, over 27 billion of which were viewed by children. Last year, one of the top porn websites had 23,000,000,000 (that’s billion) visits. According to Fight the New Drug, sexual scenes nearly doubled on American TV shows between 1998 and 2005. Another statistic from Fight the New Drug said that porn viewed on one website in 2016 would fill 194,000,000 USB sticks. That’s enough to wrap around the moon.

Exposure to pornography is starting at earlier and earlier ages every year. The average age for exposure to pornography is now 11 years old, with some researchers saying it could be as early as age 8. In fact, 90 percent of 8 to 16-year-olds have viewed pornography. Another study cited by Josh McDowell found that 93 percent of boys and 62 percent of girls had viewed pornography during adolescence, profoundly shaping the development of a child at one of their most vulnerable stages. In the U.S., 47,000,000 porn videos are viewed by 7 to 14-year-olds every single day. Even more disturbing, the largest consumer of internet pornography is 12 to 17-yeard-olds.

It also appears that parents are failing to shield their children from pornography. A stunning 75 percent of children and teens said their parents had never discussed internet pornography with them. According to a study by the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families in 2010, 47 percent of families in the United States reported that pornography is a problem in their home. Nearly 90 percent of children and teens say that no one in their lives is helping them avoid pornography, and 54 percent of those said they couldn’t even think of anyone who could help them.

Since it’s becoming more and more common for pornography addictions to start in the home, it’s no shock that those addictions are carrying over into college and young adulthood. In fact, 90 percent of college men and more than 60 percent of college women in the U.S. saw porn before age 18. Among college men, 87 percent view pornography, 50 percent of those weekly, and 20 percent of those daily or every other day.

Pornography addictions aren’t just limited to college or the home—it has completely inundated the church. Among those who identify as born-again Christians, 55 percent look at pornography at least monthly. Of men in the church, 60 to 72 percent are porn addicts. Even 50 to 58 percent of pastors are porn addicts! Among pastors, 57 percent of senior pastors and 64 percent of youth pastors admit they have struggled with porn either currently or in the past. One youth minister said that 90 percent of the kids who come to him for help are from Christian homes but are addicted to pornography. And apparently the church isn’t doing much to help with pornography addictions. In fact, 93 percent of churches have no ministry program to help those struggling with porn.

The statistics of pornography use are equally disturbing among men and women. Among married men, 55 percent view pornography. Between 70 and 80 percent of young adult and middle-aged men view pornography at least monthly. Among women, one in three view porn, and 56 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds actively seek out pornography.

Pornography addiction is wreaking havoc on our society. According to Josh McDowell Ministry, 40 percent of “sex addicts” get divorced, 58 percent suffer considerable financial losses, and about a third lose their jobs. Of all divorce cases, 56 percent involve one spouse having an “obsessive interest” in pornographic websites. Pornography use increases the marital infidelity rate by more than 300 percent. In the U.S. alone, the financial cost of pornography use to business productivity is $16.9 billion annually.

It’s arguable that pornography has destroyed more lives and families than alcohol or drugs. While not a tangible substance, pornography acts just like a drug—it’s addicting and its users want more and more. But what makes pornography unique from other drugs is that addicts don’t just want more of the same, they want different forms of porn. According to Josh McDowell, pornography addicts will gradually seek out more perverted forms of porn, eventually going to that which they once thought unconscionable.

One of the biggest lies purported by pornography advocates is that it is an end in itself, that it will control man’s sinful cravings for more sexual pleasure. Just the opposite is proving to be true. In fact, there’s significant evidence that consuming pornography actually leads to sexual violence. Once a person views a certain amount of pornography, what might have once been unconscionable to the viewer is now seen as normal. Eventually, a porn addict’s brain will equate beating, name-calling, and other forms of violence he has seen in videos with sexual arousal. One study found that those with higher exposures to violent pornography were six times more likely to rape someone than those who had lower exposures. According to Fight the New Drug, “study after study has shown that consumers of violent and nonviolent porn are more likely to use verbal coercion, drugs, and alcohol to coerce individuals into sex.”

Fight the New Drug also cites studies revealing that porn consumers are far more likely to be accepting of group sex or dangerous sex acts than are those who don’t consume porn. Additionally, pornography addicts are more likely to be less compassionate toward sexual abuse victims. Eventually, a porn addict may seek to act out the acts he has seen in pornography. Because most sexual partners don’t want to participate in such vile acts, porn users will often seek out prostitutes. One survey of former prostitutes found that 80 percent were shown pornographic images of what the customer wanted to act out.

Pornography is also one of the main contributors to human trafficking. Nearly a quarter of human trafficking victims are trafficked for sex acts. According to Fight the New Drug, “a child growing up in a home where pornography is regularly consumed is far more likely to be trafficked at some point in his or her life.” Fortunately, public policy leaders are finally starting to recognize the undeniable link between pornography and human trafficking. In fact, Minnesota recently passed a first-in-the-nation bill that “adds language to include the use, prevalence, and involvement of pornography in the crime of human trafficking to the list of data that may be collected.” Utah passed a resolution in 2016 declaring pornography a “public health crisis.”

From a policy standpoint, there is much more that needs to be done to address the pornography crisis. But real change must start in the church, the home, and the heart. Churches must play a greater role in preaching against pornography and providing help to those who need it. Josh McDowell said that “the person suffering the most in the church is the spouse of a porn addict.” Parents must step up and protect their children on the internet and television. And any spiritual leader who struggles with pornography needs to get help immediately. A pastor addicted to porn cannot effectively lead his church nor can a dad his family. Speaking at FRC’s 2017 Watchmen on the Wall, Josh McDowell said this: “It’s easier to build strong children than to fix broken adults…I’d rather put a fence at the top of a cliff than an ambulance at the bottom…if the watchman is sick, his people will be sick.”

Remember that pornography is a counterfeit, a false substitute for what God has ordained for marriage. It will never bring satisfaction but only withdrawal, heartache, and eventually destruction. Porn rewires the human brain in such a way that it is extremely difficult to reverse its effects, even with years of going without looking at porn. While the tendency is to hide one’s addiction to pornography, the only way to lessen its grip is to be open about it with a trusted counselor or small group. Pornography addiction is merely a symptom of a problem that goes far deeper, a problem that can only be solved through much prayer, spiritual counseling, and professional help. So if you or someone you know is addicted to pornography, take the necessary steps to get help. Do it for yourself, your family, your church, and your country.