(Warning: Extremely graphic content)
Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry isn't a prude. In fact, he used to roll his eyes at his Christian friends, who he thought were exaggerating the dangers of pornography. Not anymore. This Frenchman, who believes eroticism "is one of God's greatest gifts to humankind," no longer scoffs the feminists' warnings or puritan concerns. "I have become deadly serious," he says now. "The damage is real, and it's profound." And no one can walk away from his article thinking otherwise.
Debate the morality all you want, Gobry insists, but the science is absolute. People who say porn is as addictive as smoking aren't even doing it justice. These images are as addictive as smoking, yes, "except that what smoking does to your lungs, porn does to your brain." And the earlier you consume it, the more lethal the damage can be. We're talking about a complete rewiring of the brain -- where the body actually builds new nerve pathways just to drive a person back for more.
But pornography isn't like cocaine. It's much easier to binge. "Even decadent Roman emperors, Turkish sultans, and 1970s rock stars never had 24/7, one-click-away-access to infinitely many, infinitely novel sexual partners," Gobry points out. "The possibility of immediate, infinite novelty -- which, again, was not a feature of porn until 2006 -- means that a user can now keep his dopamine levels much higher, and for much longer periods of time, than we can possibly hope our brains to handle without real and lasting damage." Suddenly, it gets tougher to feel the "high." "You need more and more of your drug to get less and less of a kick; this is the cycle which makes addiction so destructive.
Fine -- so people are addicted, you might say. "But does that mean we need to freak out? After all, smoking and heroin will kill you, serious cannabis addiction will melt your brain, alcohol addiction will wreak havoc in your life -- compared to that, how bad can porn addiction be? The answer, it turns out, is: pretty bad."
Porn trains your mind to need porn to be aroused -- not another human being. FRC's Travis Weber and I talked about this on "Washington Watch" last week. There are literally thousands of stories of young men now who are coming of age after watching hundreds of hours of pornography. And their stories all share the same gut-wrenching theme: they're so hooked on porn that by the time they have girlfriends, they can't function sexually without it. "Which is why," Gobry warns, "we are witnessing a phenomenon which, as best as anyone can tell, is totally unprecedented in all of human history: an epidemic of chronic erectile dysfunction (ED) among men under 40. The evidence is earth-shattering." We've gone from less than one percent of ED in young men to as many as 37 percent today.
Pornography isn't just killing sex -- it's killing love. "A majority of women in one study described the discovery that their man uses porn as 'traumatic;' they not only felt less desirable, they reported feelings of lower self-worth." And in a world where 88 percent of pornography is violent, more young women are being asked to do things that abuse and brutalize them. To kick up the high, addicts need something more taboo. They're watching women "being caned and whipped until they are bruised and red... When the films have a storyline, it can usually be summed up with one word: rape. Or two words: brutal rape. It's one thing to be aroused by a sadomasochistic scene where the [woman] is shown visibly enjoying the treatment; it's quite another to be aroused by watching a woman scream in agony and despair as she is held down and violently raped."
Now, imagine a child watching this -- because they are. Either by accident or intentionally, kids are being exposed to these things believing that "the acts they see -- like anal and group sex -- are typical among their peers." Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, a mom in the Dallas area, wrote a horrifying column called, "When Sixth Graders Can Access Rape Porn on Their Smart Phones, School Becomes Toxic." In a letter to the principal, she talked about the boys in her daughter's class laughing at violent porn and joking about attacking the girls in the parking lot. "No 11-year-old should have to deal with, or even know, about things like this."
As a parent, I can't encourage you strongly enough to take this issue seriously. Yes, it's an uncomfortable topic. But it's a lot less uncomfortable than dealing with the sexual abuse, addictions, disease, and broken relationships that follow. If you don't know what to say, start here or here.
If you're an adult trying to escape this online world, it isn't easy. But it's also not impossible. Josh McDowell has a tremendous message of freedom for anyone struggling with this addiction that you can watch here. In fact, one of the reasons FRC started its Stand Courageous conferences is because we believe this is one of the biggest issues keeping men from being the spiritual head of their homes. Consider signing up for one our 2020 events in Louisiana, North Carolina, and Florida. Above all, pray. Pray for protection -- for your children, your marriages, our culture. Gobry's warnings are dire, but they may be exactly what parents and pastors need to hear.