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The Harmful Effects of Pornography: A Counselor's View

 Without a doubt, I have had more clients come to counseling for pornagraphy issues than any other single issue. They have come in to explore how pornography affects their marriage, spiritual life, emotional health, and more. My purpose here is not to write a research paper, but I simply want to give you this counselor's view of some of the harmful effects of pornography. Hopefully this will keep someone from beginning down the road to extended pornography use, and maybe someone who is already on that road will decide to seek help to get off it. For those of you who have realized you were on the road and are fighting to get off it, hopefully this will fuel your fight and increase your motivation even just a little bit. Here are eight consequences of pornography use that I have seen up close.

  1. Porn is risk free, so it makes you feel that love and romance comes without risk. Porn promises pleasure without risk or vulnerability. In reality, to love and pursue another person is risky. You may be rejected, or they may not respond as you hope. If you experience the false love and false acceptance that porn offers, you may become unwilling to risk for the real thing. Despite deep loneliness, you may settle for the false intimacy of porn instead of pursuing true intimacy. 
  2. Porn is all about you, so it makes you feel that sex ought to be all about you. You do not serve and seek to make another feel wonderful in the fantasy world of porn. In porn, everyone on the screen exists to make you happy. However, sex in a healthy marriage involves serving and seeking to make another feel loved and cherished. 
  3. Porn separates the physical and emotional, so it requires you to learn to separate the physical and emotional. I have heard many spouses say, "When we are sexually intimate, it seems that there is no emotion involved." You do not know and care for the one who is on the screen. In the porn world, you learn to be aroused and experience some form of sexual fulfillment without true emotion and love involved. You have to disconnect the emotions from the physical during porn, and it is often difficult to re-connect the two.  
  4. The men/women in pornography are always ready, so it makes you feel that patience and self-control are not needed. In reality, sex in marriage is not always able to happen. Maybe one spouse is sick, too tired, or away from home for a season. Maybe a baby was just born and the new mother is recovering physically. Children in the house sometimes don't sleep when they ought to sleep. No matter what the reason, sometimes your spouse will not be physically able or ready at the moment you are. In the world of porn, sex is always available and waiting on you. If you have lived in this world for any length of time, this makes patience, understanding, and self-control more difficult in marriage. 
  5. Pornography is not your spouse, so it hurts your spouse. Your involvement with pornography will make your spouse or future spouse feel as if they are not enough. They will feel as if you are not pleased with their attractiveness and ability. This breeds insecurity, anger, distrust, and hurt. This will likely make your sex life in marriage more difficult, because sex is intimate and vulnerable. When you spouse feels insecure and hurt, they will lack confidence in your care for them and in their ability to satisfy you. 
  6. Pornography is unrealistic, so it leaves you disappointed with reality. Those who perform in pornography are typically young, have a certain look, and have a certain level of physical ability. If you have much exposure to pornography, you may be disappointed with the amount of excitement, eroticism, and creativity in your marriage. After all, your spouse is not as flexible, experienced, and wild as a porn star, and you are not either. 
  7. Pornography teaches us that men/women are objects, so it will cause us to objectify others, including our spouse. You have to view those performing in pornography as objects. You would not want to be looking and thinking about someone's daughter, son, mother, or father in the way that you are when looking at porn. So, you objectify the people and make them objects for your pleasure. Once you do this, it will creep into your other relationships. You will begin to see others, including your spouse, as less than people. You will see them as objects that exist to please you. 
  8. Pornography often results in shame, so it causes you to hide from God and others. Many who view porn are ashamed. They struggle to look their spouse, a friend, or a pastor in the eyes when they talk about their porn usage. We learn in Genesis 3 that shame causes us to cover up and hide. This affects your relationship with God, your spouse or future spouse, and friends. 
I have not gotten into other worthy reasons for rejecting pornography, which would include but not be limited to sex trafficking and the treatment of pornography workers. The above eight reasons are simply some that I see and experience every week in the counseling room. If you have not been exposed to porn, please spare yourself and your spouse or future spouse the damage. If you are involved in porn, flee from it. Do not seek to control it in your life, but kill it and eradicate it. There is no formula for a surefire way to quit looking at pornography, but here is a starting point to a well-rounded and holistic approach.

Behaviors, Beliefs, & Emotions

  • Behaviors - When and where do I typically look at porn? What accountability can I pursue to help me? What practical steps do I need to take to make it less likely that I will have easy access to porn? What behaviors happen just before I look at porn? 
  • Beliefs - What lies do I believe that result in my porn use? Do I believe I cannot experience satisfaction and joy without sexual fulfillment? Do I believe I can experience true love in the world of porn? Do I believe porn is harmless and will not hurt anyone? Do I believe that I must have sexual release, and therefore I deserve to be able to look at porn if my spouse is not desiring sex as much as I desire it?
  • Emotions - What am I seeking to escape from by using porn? If you were not seeking to escape from reality, you wold not find yourself going to a fantasy world. Are you feeling _____ and seeking _____ in the fantasy world of porn?
    • Are you feeling BORED and seeking EXCITEMENT in the fantasy world of porn?
    • Are you feeling STRESSED and seeking RELAXATION in the fantasy world of porn?
    • Are you feeling DEPRESSED and seeking HAPPINESS in the fantasy world of porn? 
    • Are you feeling LONELY and seeking CONNECTION in the fantasy world of porn?
    • Are you feeling INSECURE and seeking AFFIRMATION in the fantasy world of porn?
Do not only confess and repent of the act of looking at porn. Confess and repent of the false beliefs you are believing that fuel your porn use. Confess and repent of seeking escape from emotions instead of trusting God to be your comforter, your strength, and your help in time of need.
Finally, if you trust in Jesus as your only hope in life or death, you have been forgiven and are forgiven. You will face consequences, but you are not condemned. You are a child of God with the Spirit of God dwelling within you. With dependence on God, stand up and fight!
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