When I was thirteen years old, I was riding my bike around the neighborhood when I saw in an alley some pieces of paper that caught my eye. I stopped my bike and bent down to pick up what turned out to be a magazine.
As I took a closer look, I had my first view of one of the most destructive things in the world—porn.
And you know thirteen is actually incredibly late now, right? As the availability keeps growing, the average age of first exposure keeps declining. The most conservative estimates say kids first see porn around eleven, and many sources are claiming it’s as young as eight today.
Kids are more likely to first see porn before they have even lost all their baby teeth.
For me, it wasn’t long before I was fully consuming, watching, and seeking after it with no restraint. My addiction lasted until the middle of college. Even though the word addiction is accurate, I cringe to use it. When I was a teenage boy, every other teenage boy I knew watched it or talked about it regularly. It was a common topic of conversation, no different from discussing what we had for lunch that day. Which, in hindsight, this is part of addiction’s power; it isn’t usually called “addiction” by everyone.
When I started walking with Jesus in college, however, all of a sudden I had to confront the fact that I wasn’t created for this distortion of sexuality.
This was clear pretty quickly from reading the Scriptures and hearing God’s vision for sexuality straight from the mouth of Jesus in the Gospels.
Rewiring had to happen.
Detangling had to take place.
And the more I pulled back the curtain and tried to trace the distortion’s origin, the more I ended up looking at that four-letter-word.
There were monster-like qualities in me that were directly related to my use of pornography. I became incredibly selfish. Fast tempered. Had a horrible view of women that played itself out in every single relationship before Alyssa.
Porn can be cancer.
It is unequivocally destructive to souls, marriages, relationships, jobs, and personal lives. In the last three to five years, research has shown that porn and technology, like our smartphones and social media, are rewiring our brains and messing with our brain chemistry. Think about that: it’s not just something we choose to do, but it’s doing something to us. Literally.
It’s not a stretch to say we are remaking humanity in some regard, and not in a good way. We are fundamentally rewiring the human race. And the biggest hit we are taking—not only with porn or technology but also in how they interact with each other—is the death of intimacy.
This is why porn can be so destructive.
It’s the very antithesis to intimacy. It inherently kills any ability for true love and intimacy— what we were created for. True, life-giving intimacy. Vulnerability. Nakedness. Being fully known and fully loved at the same time. And porn by its very nature cannot give that.
Intimacy is based on trust.
True intimacy involves an exchange. Someone offers vulnerability, and the other honors that vulnerability. Then the other person reciprocates that vulnerability, creating a beautiful cycle. And that bond is exclusive and hidden; it’s only for the two people to behold and be a part of. But it’s the very antithesis of intimacy when one person in the relationship is secretly inviting others into that space through porn. Hundreds, if not thousands, of women’s faces and naked bodies are brought into the bedroom with the husband and wife.
And because intimacy inherently needs vulnerability, porn by its nature cannot give that.
It’s one person, not two. And it’s a computer screen, not another human being. It’s getting the release of dopamine without vulnerability. You can’t be vulnerable—and thus can’t experience intimacy—because there’s no one else there. It’s hiding and short-circuiting God’s true design for sex.
Few people know what it means to be intimate anymore and not just in our sexuality but platonically speaking as well. It’s why whenever I’m out with friends and there’s an awkward silence, we pull out our phones. We look down. We don’t understand what it means to be known. In fact, I think we are terrified of being known, not realizing that’s exactly where joy is hiding.
It’s why we bounce around different friend groups. The minute someone might get close enough to begin to know the true us, we move on. It’s why we play out most of our problems on social media—because it’s the perfect platform to put our best foot forward while never having to share the hard stuff.
We have a long road in front of us, and this issue is multifaceted and complex, but one thing that would serve us well is getting to the root of the issue: objectification.
I think everyone is objectified in our culture.
It’s one of the symptoms of sin. But I think women endure a worse and more intense version of objectification.
Our culture teaches us that women are commodities. Objects. But they are not slaves to the male gaze. The problem with porn is it has completely commoditized sex. Sex is no longer something sacred; it’s simply a consumer good.
We’ve made an orgasm something you can buy online, usually at women’s expense.
Sadly, objectification of women happens in many different spheres of the Christian world too. For example, when I’m combating porn or trafficking or lust, some of the most common things I hear people say are, Don’t look at that. Don’t you realize that’s someone’s daughter? That’s someone’s wife? That’s someone’s sister?
The problem is, that’s tethering a woman’s identity and worth and value to her relationship to a man. It’s saying she only means something because of who she is related to.
But the truth is, a woman isn’t valued because she’s someone’s daughter; she’s valued because she’s someone.
Nothing can bring more dignity than realization of a person’s humanness. The sacredness of skin and bone and air and lungs and life. There’s glory there. Residue of the very breath of God, breathed into us from the beginning of time, meaning any assault on us is by its nature an assault on our Creator, since we bear His image. Let’s never forget that. And restoring that can help kill the objectification culture. By the way, the cousin to this is a pastor always talking about his “smoking hot wife.” No. Please stop.
Sometimes it’s incredibly subtle. I have a two-year-old daughter named Kinsley and a six-month-old son, Kannon. Before we had Kannon and it was just Kinsley, people would say the strangest things. Sometimes when people would see me as a dad with a daughter, they would joke and say, “Sorry” or “Congrats, but I bet you can’t wait until you have a boy.” As if somehow a girl is JV. Just a stepping-stone to something greater. I mean, what does that even mean? It’s as if they are saying that the peak of procreation and the glory of a father is having a little human with a penis. (And yes, I just said the P word. Surprised me too.)
And frankly, even in the Christian world, when it comes to our best deterrents or paths to healing, we still don’t realize we are implicitly doing the same thing.
I read a statement online that said “success happens when a guy looks away from porn not because of shame, but when they have such a high view of women that it’s nearly impossible to get arousal from their exploitation.” We need to replace the no with a better yes.
The only way to create lasting behavioral change is to provide a superior pleasure.
It’s like a desert. If I’m in a desert and a toilet bowl magically shows up, I’d drink that water, and I’d love it. Might make me sick the next day, but I would. But if I’m back home in Washington, where I was raised, and I’m thirsty, I don’t go to the toilet. I go to the kitchen. And when I’m walking by the bathroom to the kitchen, I don’t have to white-knuckle it: Don’t drink, don’t drink, don’t drink. The superior option suppresses my attraction for the toilet water.
Might we be people who not only say, “Hey, that’s going to hurt you, and that’s not a good option” but also say, “This is better. Come this way. Come find life. Come find beauty. Come find wholeness. Come find intimacy. Come find vitality. Come find mystery.”
I believe Jesus was the true human one, the prototype of new creation, and if we truly want to know what it means to be human, too, we follow Him. He never raised a hand to a woman. He never was aggressive or coercive or objectifying toward a woman.
In fact, the way Jesus interacted with women was downright scandalous because of how He treated them. At that time in the first century, women couldn’t even testify in court, because they weren’t considered credible enough. But guess who Jesus decided to reveal His resurrection to? His resurrection—the most earth-shattering moment in all human history? Yeah, that’s right—He revealed it to women.
And according to John, guess who Jesus chose as the very first person to tell that He was the Messiah, the Promised One they’d been hoping for, for hundreds of years? Yeah, a woman—a Samaritan woman, at that, belonging to an ethnic group that during that time was seen by the Jews as half-breeds, lower class, and distorters of the truth.
And guess who the Gospels record and put into good light as the only ones who didn’t abandon Jesus during His arrest and crucifixion? Women.
Because progress won’t be made until we not only say no but also say yes.
Progress won’t be made until people understand that porn can’t deliver what we’re created for. It can’t teach us that giving is better than taking, vulnerability is better than hiding, and covenant is better than contract.