The Darkness of Porn and the Hope of the Gospel

TIME magazine has published one of the saddest, most horrifying cover stories I have ever read. It is not horrifying like the carnage of war. It’s horrifying like the carnage of a culture that is committing slow-motion suicide. The essay documents a civilization-wide calamity on a scale that we have not seen before.

The title of the article is “Porn and the Threat to Virility” by Belinda Luscombe. I am not linking to the article here simply because the cover art for the magazine and at least one of the images within the article are too explicit to share. Indeed, the article is itself fairly explicit and definitely NSFW. Having said that, the article reads as a coolly rational look at modern porn use among males, even though it seems unaware that it is narrating a civilizational crisis.

At the heart of the article is the contention that there is a backlash against internet pornography among young men who have been heavy users throughout adolescence and adulthood. Luscombe writes:

A growing number of young men are convinced that their sexual responses have been sabotaged because their brains were virtually marinated in porn when they were adolescents. Their generation has consumed explicit content in quantities and varieties never before possible, on devices designed to deliver content swiftly and privately, all at an age when their brains were more plastic—more prone to permanent change—than in later life. These young men feel like unwitting guinea pigs in a largely unmonitored decade-long experiment in sexual conditioning.

The rest of the Luscombe’s article recounts what these young men have been consuming for the last decade and what the results have been in their adult relationships with real women. Many of them are simply unable to experience a sexual response with a real live woman. They are only able to respond to pornography. In fact, they prefer pornography.

But it is precisely here that the picture gets really dark. Pornography has been a ubiquitous fixture in their lives for the better part of a decade. Two dates are important to remember in this discussion. In 2007, broadband internet reaches over 50% of American households. In 2013, smartphone ownership exceeds 50% of the population. That means that at some point around 2007, more Americans than not had access not simply to still images but to free video images of people engaged in sex acts. By 2013, more Americans than not had access to video porn at any time and at any place through their smartphone.

The average age that a young man first encounters pornography is 11-13 years old. That means that countless young men have spent the better part of the last decade with access to moving porn. For many of them, everything they have learned about sex has come from pornography. Their sexual preferences have been shaped by this content.

And what about this content? It is not an accident that Playboy magazine stopped publishing pictures of nude women last year. There is no market for that anymore. And it’s not just because of the new internet delivery method. It’s because these young men aren’t interested in simple images of naked women. Their tastes are much darker and perverse. In fact, I do not feel I can in good conscience relay some of what Luscombe reports in this article. Suffice it to say that the norms of Leviticus 18 are turned upside down for those steeped in porn. Everything forbidden in Leviticus 18 is free and normal for countless young men who have been marinating in porn for the last decade.

One of the most striking aspects of Luscombe’s article, however, is the complete absence of a moral framework. The big question is not about whether one ought to use porn or not. The big question is whether or not porn use is a “public health crisis.” In other words, the main problem with porn is not moral or spiritual but that it keeps men from fornicating with lots of women. That is why the title of the article is “Porn and the Threat to Virility.”

This article is the latest evidence of our diminishing ability to speak about sex in moral terms. We are at a place in our culture in which sexual morality has been reduced to consent. Our society has embraced total sexual license. If anyone suggests any other moral norm beyond consent, they are dismissed as a puritanical, repressive throwback. And that is why Luscombe’s article—even after narrating the devastating consequences of porn use—cannot bring itself to condemn pornography as a moral evil. And that is what is so sad about this article. It documents a real problem in our culture, but it has very little to offer by way of remedy.

I am not being hyperbolic when I call porn use a civilizational calamity. The sexual revolution promised us more sex and more pleasure. It has actually delivered to us a generation of men who think of women as objects to be used and abused for their sexual pleasure. It has not given us men who know what virtue and honor are. It doesn’t teach men to pursue their joy in self-sacrificially loving and being sexually faithful to one woman for life. It teaches young men to use women for sex and then to discard them when they become unwilling or uninteresting. This means that it has given us a generation of young men completely unprepared for marriage and for fatherhood.

It’s not merely that so many young men are unprepared for marriage. They are unprepared for dinner and a movie. We have sown to the wind. We are reaping the whirlwind—especially our daughters, who are less likely than ever to find a man who hasn’t been corrupted by this.

As a Christian and as a pastor, I feel the weight of all of this. I know that porn use is the pastoral challenge that defines our generation. This brokenness is all around us and among us. It is the burden of far too many of the men sitting in our pews. I don’t know of any other problem that has done more to subvert manhood and marriage than porn use. It is killing us.

The TIME article closes with this poignant word from a lifelong porn user:

When I think about it, I’ve wasted years of my life looking for a computer or mobile phone to provide something it is not capable of providing.

He is right about that. Porn cannot deliver what it promises. It is like the Turkish Delight that the White Witch uses to entice Edmund. It tastes good for a moment, but it leaves a young man hollow and hungry. It doesn’t deliver joy. It brings longing and discontent and a hunger that can never be satisfied. If you keep going back for more, it will kill you in the end.

The only way to counter this darkness is with the light of truth. We were not made for illicit sex. We were made for God. And what so many people are seeking in illicit sexual pleasure can never be found there. No matter how deep you go into the rabbit hole of porn, you aren’t going to find “it.” You will just become a shell of what God made you to be. By pursuing darkness, you become darkness.

The only way out of this is to realize that God made us and our sexuality for a purpose. God made us for Himself—to know Him and to be known by Him. He wants us to see that the only way to think correctly about pornography is within the moral universe that He Himself has created. That means understanding pornography as a great evil that can only be broken through the power of the gospel.

Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners—including porn users. He offers forgiveness of sins through his sacrificial death on the cross. He offers eternal life through His own resurrection from the dead. And he promises power over porn through the indwelling Spirit. Where this power prevails, porn must flee. That is the moral and spiritual renewal that we desperately need. And it is one that I am praying will be realized by every person reading this.

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Recommended Resource: The best book I know on the gospel and breaking the power of porn is Heath Lambert’s book Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace. If you are in the throes of this struggle, you need to read this book.

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UPDATE – April 11, 2016:

Over at The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf has written a pointed response to my argument. He contends that porn-use may not be so bad for us after all.

My former student Samuel James has relieved me of the obligation to respond to Friedersdorf. James shows that the social-scientific data marshaled by Friedersdorf is not compelling, and it doesn’t really address the moral and spiritual concerns that I am raising.

Rod Dreher has weighed-in thoughtfully and has a round-up of the conversation here.

I don’t believe in accidents. I have been preaching through 2 Timothy at my church, and it just so happens that the same week all of this unfolded, I was scheduled to preach on 2 Timothy 2:22, “Flee youthful lusts…” And so yesterday, my sermon on this text was titled, “Pursuing God, Not Pornography.” You can download it here or listen to it below.

76 Responses to The Darkness of Porn and the Hope of the Gospel

  1. Jess Connell April 4, 2016 at 3:49 pm #

    It’s all heartbreaking. So many young men (and women) being devastated by this… entering into marriage with so much baggage and filth to sort out. I’m thankful for truth like this that spotlights the reality for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

    Thanks for putting this together so the Body can benefit from it.

    • Michael Burns April 12, 2016 at 11:19 pm #

      Michael Burns
      The Time article seems to focus on the negative physiological effect of porn. In that it does well. Sadly, the article in the Atlantic avoids the real nastiness of porn by trying – pathetically – to talk about a decrease in rapes in the past few years. I wish Mr. Friedersdorf could be shown that we live in a country in which major cities “white-wash” their crime statistics. I wish that someone could give Mr. Friedersdorf some transcripts of pastors’/priests’ interviews with young women whose husband are impotent without pornography or are being forced to imitate sexual behaviors as portrayed in porn. These twenty-something women are either stuck in a sexless marriage or a creepy one. (I know it would be impossible to ever get such a transcript for confidentiality sake.) I work at an all boys school. I wish Mr. Friedersdorf could watch me plan lessons; I have write them in such a way so as not to provoke snickering. This is based on my concerns over the possible perverse nature of context words that used to be innocuous.

      The naïve and the ignorant need to see that pornography is not just interrupting intimacy, marriage, and relationships; it is also hampering education.

  2. Ian Shaw April 4, 2016 at 4:12 pm #

    Viewing porn affects the brain in the same way that heroin does. It is hard to break the chains but there is freedom in Christ.

    • Dan April 6, 2016 at 10:02 pm #

      I agree with Ian… And the problem is not only that it is addicting but that nowadays the adverage age of first encounter is no longer 11 to 13 years old but it is now being shared among the elementary school kids and it is getting to the 2nd and third graders, boys and girls. These children are definitely not prepared to deal with the dopamine-addictive nature of the porn, especially when it is presented as fun and what everyone else is doing. And because responsible, mature adults are not there (cannot be there) to help the children deal with it the instant it happens the children literally become entrapped in the self gratifying and self centered view of sexuality. They get diverted from learning what they need to learn, that a sexual relationship is all about committing oneself to giving the whole self selflessly to their spouse. Instead the unfortunate children only see sexuality as a means for self gratification or alternatively as a means to validate themselves by being sexually active with their peers or others in their social structure.

  3. Jon Warren April 4, 2016 at 5:32 pm #

    Amen Denny. Thank you for showing that this is more than a mere ‘virility’ issue. People’s souls are at stake and their only hope is in Christ and forgiveness offered through His sacrifice. We must be willing to preach this to our culture.

  4. Rob Wallace April 4, 2016 at 9:49 pm #

    As a Grandad, I am in the natural, fearful of the world my Grandkids are starting to navigate. There are so many more subtle and tempting opportunities lying in wait for this next generation that were not around when I was a teenager. Men, develop meaningful relationships with those that are following you through on life’s journey, so that you can mentor and guide them through the minefield that’s before them. Our Grandaughters need to be able to sift out those that have been polluted by this deception and find men of character that have walked a different path.

  5. Gus Nelson April 4, 2016 at 10:08 pm #

    It’s not just porn, either. The ubiquity of moving images of all kinds that parrot reality or create an alternate reality (like the current crop of action video games) can have a similar kind of seductive appeal. Certainly porn is the darkest creature of this technological age, but young men are learning similar lessons from other sources. We’d all do ourselves a favor to go digital-less for periods of time, just to hit the “refresh” button – kind of like the Sabbath year in Leviticus.

    • Colleen Kuhlmann April 6, 2016 at 1:26 pm #

      Amen Gus! So true….coming from a teacher – there are too many video games out there being played by both boys AND girls that may not be as dark and demonic as pornography. However, many of these games have abusive language along with graphic violence, which can eventually be a GATEWAY to Pornography! Many parents want their kids “out of their hair,” so if they are busy on their Game Tablets….the parents are content, they don’t have to deal with their children! What has become of the “Family Unit” is so depressing….we are becoming the Days of Noah and Sodom and Gomorrah!

    • Ginny Bain Allen April 8, 2016 at 9:18 am #

      How I wish we could push the “refresh” button on this dark world!

      • Bonnie Mathews April 9, 2016 at 10:52 pm #

        Didn’t he tell Noah he wouldn’t do that again.

    • Marla April 8, 2016 at 11:43 am #

      Yes. Amen gus. I took the devices away from my kids last week and we had such a peaceful week.

  6. Christiane Smith April 5, 2016 at 7:54 am #

    ‘The Hope of the Gospel’, yes

    it is said in my Church that there is no evil on Earth for which the Gospel of Our Lord is not a healing answer

    Isaiah 42:16
    “I will lead the blind on their journey;
    by paths unknown I will guide them.
    I will turn darkness into light before them,
    and make crooked ways straight.
    These things I do for them,
    AND I WILL NOT FORSAKE THEM ”

  7. Sarah April 5, 2016 at 6:20 pm #

    I am a newlywed of 14 months, with a brand new baby, and a marriage in shambles. I am 25 years old, and I am already struggling with a hopeless marriage in the wake of 15+ years of my husbands life being addicted to porn and self-pleasure. We (women) are not made to be able to combat this. We don’t understand it, we can’t comprehend it, but we CAN comprehend the devastatingly painful effects it has on us, our identity, our self worth, and our trust. We simply can’t compete, and, as much as our husbands tell us it’s “not personal” it is. To us, it’s extremely personal. I am so sad to think of my husband as a child, stumbling upon this evil that has enslaved him and brought so much heartbreak and struggle to our marriage

    • Jane Mwangi April 6, 2016 at 3:27 am #

      May God heal you all. Is consistent counselling or rehabilitation an option?

      • Sarah April 9, 2016 at 9:47 am #

        We were already going through marriage counseling before I found out this was happening again. Since then, I have stopped attending marriage counseling, and he is going alone. I feel that No amount of counseling will fix us until he is ready to be fixed, or helped.

        • Helen April 13, 2016 at 6:48 pm #

          Sarah, you are not alone. There are those who understand. I have been there and there is hope! My husband and I have been very blessed by the Pure Desire Ministry’s For Men Only and Betrayal and Beyond (for Women) Groups and curriculum and the more recent Conquer Series. I recommend them both to you. I learned so much in the Betrayal and Beyond Group and my life with God has deepened incredibly as a result. It was hard to go at first but there is healing in community when God is in it. My prayers are with you!

    • Laura April 6, 2016 at 10:03 am #

      I will be lifting up you and your family in prayer.

      • Sarah April 9, 2016 at 9:37 am #

        Thank you Kimberly!

    • Allie April 6, 2016 at 12:10 pm #

      No matter how much you feel alone, you are not. There are many women (and men) struggling in marriages with this problem. I will praying for your family. Recruit help from your local church and Christian friends. If they don’t see a problem, find new ones. The sad truth is that you can’t make him change his behavior unless he wants to change. You CAN surround yourself with people who will pray for your marriage, encourage you, and remind you of your worth and identity when it feels like you have none.

      • Sarah April 9, 2016 at 9:56 am #

        Thank you Allie! I have been blessed with a great group of friends from our church who are very encouraging to me. Our church is very transparent about these types of things, and, sadly, porn seems to be such a big issue amongst the 20-30yr olds. We aren’t hush hush about it. We talk about it and pray about it. Each time I feel like we have overcome this I let my guard down, and I find out he has been doing it again. It feels like a slap in the face, especially since I have a new baby. My body isn’t anywhere near what it was when we got married little more than a year ago, and my self worth has all but disappeared. I appreciate your comment!!!

    • rickmckain April 6, 2016 at 2:44 pm #

      Dear Sarah, I was scrolling through some of the responses and trying to decide if I would comment on Denny’s blog article. I read yours and my heart was saddened. I’ve worked in the field of helping men with this problem for almost 20 years. I would google Mark Laaser Ph.D. and get on his website. He is a psychologist and a Christian and has what he calls “Intensives” for treating men with this problem. He is a fine man and I know him personally.

      • Sarah April 9, 2016 at 9:45 am #

        Thank you very much! I will definitely look him up. I appreciate your comment!

    • Catherine April 6, 2016 at 5:11 pm #

      Hi Sarah, may be able to help you get in touch with some people to help sort through this with Christ. Praying for you until then. Feel free to email me. Ciarallo_c@hotmail.com
      In Christ,
      Catherine

    • Michael Hales April 7, 2016 at 5:43 am #

      I am saddened to read of your situation. While he is correct stating that his problem does not stem from anything you did or are doing now, this problem deeply affects the lives of everyone around. I know it is a very tough situation to pull himself out of, but as a husband and father, he has a God-given responsibility to do everything he needs to do to be free of this vice, not the least of which is seeking help from God Himself. He knows each of us individually and has the power (and the desire) to heal us from the worst of addictions. Advise him to seek professional help, along with sincere faith and prayer. I will also pray for you both.

    • Hany April 7, 2016 at 6:13 pm #

      Sarah my heart goes out to you and your family. In Christ there is freedom, but it’s not imposed, he must want it. It won’t be an over night process, but a long struggle. He must begin this struggle immediately for the sake of his family, and you must persevere in forgiving him of his falls. With love nothing is impossible. You are in my prayers.

    • Elizabeth April 7, 2016 at 6:38 pm #

      Sarah, My husband confessed a pornography addiction to me on last February and I have never been more broken. Until then he was the man I respected most and someone I absolutely NEVER would have expected this out of (even after being married to him for nearly a decade). I felt like we had a great marriage and he is highly respected in our church and community, but this is the one sin he had managed to hide for years. He was totally humbled and ready to be done with it, but I had never been more hurt. I never would have thought I would consider divorce-I was going to make my marriage last no matter what, but I wasn’t sure we were going to make it because I couldn’t even stand to look at him. We have 2 small children and I could barely pull myself together to care for them the first few weeks. What helped us tremendously was finding a mentor couple in our church, and it turned out they had been through something very similar. They came alongside us and prayed with us and were available around the clock those early days. We also went to couple’s counseling and a bit of individual counseling too. The book my husband found most helpful for understanding and breaking the addiction was “Every Man’s Battle” by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker. The last year has been a roller coaster and there have been moments that I have felt like I could barely stand. I have read several places that wives of men addicted to pornography often have symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (and there are triggers EVERYWHERE). Even though I never would have believed it at first, it absolutely does get easier with time and our marriage is so much better now than it has ever been because there is nothing at all between us. Your husband is telling the truth when he says it isn’t personal (but I definitely understand your frustration with him saying that!). My husband never connected the sin to me (which doesn’t make any sense to me). You have done nothing wrong and it isn’t up to you to fix the problem either. Your husband needs accountability in the form of a support group or male friends that will call him out on his addiction. Our counselor, who specialized in sexual addictions, also recommended locking down access to any electronics with a password that my husband didn’t know. It is a pain at times, but obviously very helpful. There is so much hope for you and your marriage, and I am so sorry you are experiencing this. You are definitely not alone!

    • Kimberly April 8, 2016 at 6:10 pm #

      Sarah, I would echo what Elizabeth said about the “Every Man’s Battle” book. My husband is a recovering internet porn addict and that book was very helpful in his struggle. He did repent of his sin and made a public confession prior to us meeting and getting married. The first few years of our marriage were hard, he would stumble and lie, but for some reason I would always find out. I tried my hardest to confront him in a loving, biblical way, but that usually went out the window if he lied to my face about it. He hasn’t stumbled in a number of years, part of that is due to the grace of God and part of that is due to the measures we’ve put in place. He agreed to let me have full access to everything in his digital world, including access to his email. I also requested that we have content filtering software installed on all the computers in the house. We share all of our video accounts like Netflix so I can see the history of them. One of the biggest things we changed was me controlling all the finances. I can see everything that has been purchased and where. He also received one on one counseling before and after we were married and I made him confess to his mentor about his slip ups. But, the most important thing I did was forgive him. It was hard and still is hard to extend the kind of grace the gospel teaches. I have learned so much about myself in all of this as well. I do suffer a lot from paranoia over this and general low self-esteem, I already struggled with feeling like I wasn’t good enough for people and then put the pornography on top of it! I learned that I am not in control, God is. I learned that God loves me and I am His. My identity does not lie in my husband’s sin or my self-worth, my identity is in Christ and what was accomplished on the cross. As time has marched on we have matured and it has become much easier to have a good marriage. It sounds like there are several people on here who are willing to be prayer partners with you and even a sounding board if needed. Please let one of us know if we can be of any help to you during this time.

    • Wendy April 9, 2016 at 3:29 pm #

      Sarah, your marriage may be broken and struggling but it is not terminal. With Gods grace and help you can move thru these first difficult and disappointing years towards more open communication, honesty, realistic expectations, and embrace your role as a wife to serve and forgive the very human man that you married. I speak from experience and we’re celebrating 22 years this summer. Starting marriage with secrets and baggage which could only be covered with lies for awhile until the ugly truths reveal themselves…. It’s a very tough road. Choosing to trust without any evidence to support that choice can only be done thru the strength of God in your life. But, chains can be broken in the power of Jesus. Your husband … He can still choose to walk in the ways of the Lord, get back up when he stumbles and is far more likely to do that with a godly wife at his side. I will pray for you and your fears and your heartaches which I know very well. May God be your joy and your strength.

    • Paul Coneff April 10, 2016 at 4:50 pm #

      I would be glad to share with you one chapter from my book: The Hidden Half of the Gospel: How His Suffering Can Heal Yours, sharing (1) Rick’s story of freedom from a 20-year addiction to porn (2) Amber’s story of the pain and betrayal due to her husband’s affair – while she was pregnant, along with (3) Her husband’s story of confession, repentance leading to a restoration of their marriage. paul@straight2theheart.com (I wrote the book with stories like these as a Marriage and Family Therapist seeing the damage done by this addiction, which is devastating for the individual AND the domino effect on those around the person addicted to pornography).

      Jesus, who was “made like us in EVERY way…tempted like us in ALL points…suffering as He was tempted so He can help us” (Heb. 2:17-18; 4:15) chose to be tempted with the same kind of negative thoughts or beliefs BEHIND the behavior…so He could not only forgive these sins, but also offer freedom FROM these sins.

      Many Christians are confessing their sinful fruit, which is important, while they do not realize the importance of dealing with the belief systems BEHIND their negative feelings and behaviors.

      As we identify our negative thoughts AND we identify where Jesus’ suffered so He could be tempted in a similar way, overcome these temptations by trusting in His Father, He is able to offer us HIS victory and HIS purity, along with offering HIS healing for you and the incredible pain you have experienced. With appreciation for your honesty and authenticity in sharing the damage done to you by your husband’s addiction to porn.

    • Eric H. April 17, 2016 at 11:56 am #

      Eric H.
      Sarah… I am a former Bible College student and former youth pastor. I am married for 10 yrs with 2 kids. I am a sex addict and only now just started admitting it. And just now I started believing I am not sober and need sobriety. I started intensive counseling recently and I am beginning to see that there really can sobriety and freedom away from sex addiction and there really is non sobriety and a shrouded mind with non sobriety. Pornography is/has been the overwhelming avenue I have used in sex addiction. It has 1. Caused me to retreat from life due to the shame of being an addict and 2. Caused me to seek heightened experiences because just plain old sex or plain old regular porn just won’t do anymore. The addiction is real for me and I am seeing others with real hope and freedom and I am beginning to walk there myself. Please continue to hold out hope for your husband if there is still time. There is freedom and hope for him, you and your marriage. I am new to sobriety but very old in hiding and shame and feeling lost and helpless in my own damaging behavior. I am seeing hope in others and there is hope for your marriage.

  8. Ray Burston April 5, 2016 at 6:34 pm #

    “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

    So many of us Christians have permitted our witness to be shot to pieces by pornography. How can we ever be credible witnesses for Him again?

  9. Alycia Christine April 5, 2016 at 10:54 pm #

    Porn isn’t just a snare for men. Most of the romance book industry makes its money through the titillating sex scenes and the unrealistic “love” scenarios portrayed the genre’s books. Fifty Shades of Grey is just one of MILLIONS of such books–several of which, you can find in any local Walmart in the country. And it gets worse. Fiction inside and out of the romance genre is becoming more and more saturated with sex scenes and sexual situations. This includes material that is often considered suitable for young adults… As a Christian female author working primarily in the fantasy and science fiction genres, this is the war I fight against every single day.

    • Alisa Tilley April 6, 2016 at 2:38 am #

      Thank you for being willing to fight. Thank you for not allowing your narratives to engage in that filth. Thank you for standing up. I will search out your books Alycia. Thank you. 🙂

  10. Lance Carlson April 6, 2016 at 11:03 am #

    Thank you for writing this article. Over the past 3 years I have been going through an intensive study into purity in Christ. The whole desire of the study is purity in thought and action with specific steps taken against porn through understanding and fully accepting what Christ has done for me, accountability with other men, and consistently fighting against my desires to go back against what I have built into my brain.
    Truthfully the “porn age” started in the mid-late 1990s when the Internet came of age. I know I will battle for the rest of my life to restore what my mind lost. Yet, the hope of the Gospel is what has done the most. Through the study my focus has shifted completely from myself to Christ. Yes, I am human, but the temptations come less and the focus on Christ consumes my mind in His Word. Everything truly does start to fade away when Jesus is the true focus of my heart.
    Every man that thinks he does not need to take a serious look at the porn issue should stop and think. It isn’t any accident that the church is leading the fight against what has happened to the minds of millions of men. If you think you cannot help then you are wrong. Just talking to a porn addict and listening to them share about their life is worth a lifetime for the addict. A porn addict would rather shut themselves in a room and isolate themselves because they feel no worth for society. But deep inside, every time they look at the moving images they want to escape and there is no way out in their minds. It takes the Supernatural to break through and provide the healing. You might be the start of the healing process!

    Lance

  11. Jane April 6, 2016 at 7:59 pm #

    I am posting hoping to reach out to other women like me or to men who might, just might listen. 6 weeks ago I found out the man I’ve been married to for 14 years has a pornography problem. I had no clue. Think me clueless, stupid, whatever, what I really am is heartbroken and devastated and looking around at shattered dreams. See, he was caught by IT people at work. We also have three children together. He wants to change. But how am I to learn to trust again? How is he to learn to be interested in me rather than the porn? How am I to feel good about allowing that to happen? I feel so cheap, so used, so cast aside. I want to love him. But every time he is late getting home, I wonder if he’s left. Husband’s, don’t do this. I plead with you. It will never be enough and you will never be satisfied. You will continue to damage your family, perhaps irreparably. Don’t fall for something so cheap, that does not love you and offers you nothing. As the wife who is lying on the floor sobbing trying to figure out how to get up, please, please, please. I beg of you to take care of your family. Get whatever help you need to kill this demon inside.

    • Alexandra April 6, 2016 at 10:21 pm #

      Jane, I found out a year ago that my husband of 9 years was a lust/sex/pornography addict. We have 2 kids. I was clueless too, most of us partners are, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. We trusted someone who was supposed to be trustworthy and that is right and good. Know that you aren’t alone and there is recovery and healing to be found in this terrible situation. I would plead with both you and your husband to participate in a 12 step group… and get counseling from a qualified sexual addiction therapist. Trust can be rebuilt over a period of years. My husband has changed so drastically that I am beginning to be able to have a measure of trust again. God bless you.

    • Michael April 7, 2016 at 4:59 am #

      I was in the same boat as your husband for several years. We became roommates instead of a married couple. I knew I needed to stop but the addiction was so powerful I knew in my mind and my heart that I would never have the power to resist it, and I didn’t for about 10 years. Then one day I was going through something unrelated that humbled me and drove me to kneel down and pray for help. I felt a powerful, peaceful feeling come over me that not only strengthened me through the current trial, but it literally healed and changed me spiritually. The cravings were immediately gone and it no longer had a hold on me. That was about 2 years ago and I have not wanted to go back to it since. Things are much better between my wife and I and I have been greatly blessed to not have lost her during the whole ordeal. I know that faith in the atonement of Christ can heal us no matter how entrenched we are. He is the answer to this crisis.

    • Lorena April 7, 2016 at 2:49 pm #

      Jane please google bloom for women and there you will find help, no matter whether your husband chooses to get better or not, you can! You are suffering from betrayal trauma. i have been there, there is hope. It takes a long time but it is better than the alternative of feeling constant pain with no relief.

    • A loving husband April 8, 2016 at 4:43 pm #

      Jane, I am heartbroken over your story. As a man, I hope my words are not looked down on for not being the “wife’s” perspective.
      Ten years ago (today actually 🙂 )I married the most bright beautiful woman I have ever met. On the night of our marriage, I confessed to her that I had been dealing with a pornography addiction. It broke her heart. Much like your story, it destroyed her. For years, she told me that she felt like she had been cheated out of a good marriage, that she felt trapped, and that she would never have married me had she known. All of the light and beauty I fell in love with, I almost completely sapped from her.
      Ten years later, she is my grace and mercy from God. I don’t deserve her. That’s what grace is: God gave me something I didn’t deserve. Ten years today, I am “free” from the darkness of my sin. I quoted that because I can NEVER allow myself to become complacent again. I must always be on guard. Here are some things I have learned:

      I can NEVER be alone. Obviously that’s impossible. What I mean is I must always have her with me; a picture, a loving, encouraging text, our wedding song, etc.
      2. Everything must be in the open. She must have access to my profile my browsing history my email accounts: everything. This also means she has to trust that I will reveal any “incognito” windows I open.
      3. Pornography forever colors sexual intimacy. It defines what it is, how it feels, etc. That stops only when open dialogue about the acts I viewed and how she feels about what she wants is freely allowed.
      4. Prayer. If he doesn’t do it, get up at 530 in the morning or go to bed later. Spend one hour talking to God.
      I understand how much a burden this places on you. You did not sign up for this. However, he NEEDS you. He needs you to be a spiritual helper for him. One of the things I love most about proverbs 31 is that it’s not just about the woman. The man who sits at the gate and is revered and respected by the community only does so because of the support that she provides him. The Bible says that the man is supposed to be the spiritual leader of the household , but if the man is in sin , he needs spiritual support to come back to a right relationship with God.
      I speak as a man. I speak as a man who has an intimate knowledge of this dark horrible disease. I hope that my words are accepted as such. God loves you, and God loves your husband. Draw the line. ZERO tolerance. Accept no other answer. Treat him with kindness and understanding.
      My prayers and best wishes are with you and your relationship.

  12. Haley April 6, 2016 at 9:09 pm #

    I totally agree with this article, but I wish you had not restricted it to only young men. I am a young woman who was sucked into pornography at a young age and is now engaged to be married to a wonderful God-loving man and am afraid of all the ways my previous porn addiction will affect my marriage. I am still fighting the battle. Just don’t think it’s only men sitting in those pews ashamed of their previous/present porn addiction. But Praise Jesus that he is the ultimate healer, and can save me and everyone else from this treacherous sin! Thanks for posting this article, further opening my eyes to the devastating effects of porn.

  13. Grace April 6, 2016 at 9:45 pm #

    Such a great article! Thank you for being a man standing against this. I’m a Christian and pornography was the demise of my first, sweet marriage. My ex-husband was heavily addicted and it truly is a tsunami that is hitting our culture and I can personally say everything about it is heartbreaking.

  14. Kendra Perrine April 7, 2016 at 8:56 am #

    I have volunteered with Family Life ( a Christian group) ,to help in Marriage Conferences
    I would Pray with women, of any concerns in their marriage, or Families . We also would Pray over any Prayer Request by a card filled out by the couple or husband and wife. (Confidence ). The BIGGEST problem in Most Marriages was that either one or BOTH were into Porn!! It was a Major Problem my, and we found that women are as into Porn as men are!! Very sad.

  15. Shannon S. Doherty April 7, 2016 at 11:23 am #

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for addressing this topic! My husband and I started an organization on the front lines of human trafficking and rescue women who are being exploited in various countries. PORN IS THE FUEL of the human trafficking industry. It is the source of the outrageous demand for prostitution that has never in history been seen before. It is why none of our daughters or sons are safe. It is why I see empty eyes behind brothel windows in Amsterdam. Please, let’s do all we can to throw this conversation WIDE OPEN!
    Our org is called Dignata, because Jesus restores dignity to women who have been used and discarded. He also restores dignity to men who are trapped in sexual addiction. Jesus is the only solution!

  16. juebbing April 7, 2016 at 12:53 pm #

    I have 3 sons, my oldest is not yet 6. I’m doing everything in my power to pray over them, for them, against this heinous, demonic influence, but my greatest fear as a mother is what has happened to so many of my friends and my brothers in Christ will be their defining struggle, too. It’s real, it’s deadly, and it’s eating this culture alive. St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle…

  17. Belinda Luscombe April 7, 2016 at 1:42 pm #

    Dear Mr. Burk,
    Thanks for bringing my article to the attention of your readers. I was brought here from an article in The Atlantic. As you can see from your comments, and as I say in my story, while virility is not the biggest issue people have with porn, it is a significant and undercovered one. I take issue with your characterization of the story as having no moral framework. To me, truth is a moral framework. Bringing light into a dark subject is all the moral framework needed. Moreover, if the beliefs you subscribe to are true, and humans are not built for this kind of intimacy, then there will be some evidence of malfunctioning in human intimacy mechanisms as a result. These young men’s tales of woe may indeed be that. Lastly, I’m always disappointed when intelligent people who comment on stories don’t link to the actual stories. It feels a little unfair, because readers rely only on what you say about the piece. (You have issued a warning that it’s frank so that people can choose to follow the link or not.) It also feels like as you might say “muzzling the ox while he’s threshing the corn.”

    • Denny Burk April 8, 2016 at 12:55 am #

      Ms. Luscombe,

      Thank you for taking time to offer feedback. I appreciate it very much. I agree with you that “truth is a moral framework,” and so your point is well taken. Your article does shed light on a rather pervasive aspect of men’s lives, one that too often goes unspoken about. So thank you for highlighting the issue and for the serious reporting. I am grateful for that. I am sorry for not saying as much in my blog post.

      It is very unusual for me not to provide links to stories I discuss. I intentionally did not provide the link this time for a couple of reasons. My main concern had to do with the images in the print edition of the TIME story. Both the cover and the initial image in the story were unnecessarily provocative. I didn’t want to provide a link on my site that might get someone into a rabbit hole of temptation. I may be overly cautious on this, but that was my main concern. My secondary consideration was the fact that the article is behind a paywall, so it seemed to be a moot point anyway. If someone would be willing to pay for the article, I figured they could do the Google search to find it.

      When I spoke about the lack of a moral framework, I specifically had in mind what used to be the normative connection between sex and marriage and childrearing. The link between sexuality and the covenant of marriage has been completely severed in our culture. That means that the norms that used to guide male sexuality into constructive pathways are no longer there. These norms that used to be pervasive have all but evaporated. They are certainly out of fashion. So much so, that I doubt a writer could assume such a moral framework and still land a cover story in TIME magazine. In any case, I think the deterioration of sexual/marriage norms have had long term deleterious effects on manhood in particular. And that is my concern and what I see to be a civilizational calamity.

      Again, thanks for taking time to give feedback, and thank you for your article. I really appreciate it!

      Sincerely,
      Denny

  18. Steve April 7, 2016 at 2:29 pm #

    Amen to everything which has been said here. I’d just like to add that Jesus, only by His Grace & Power, healed me from my addiction of porn, so those who are in the middle of this, take heart, don’t lose sight of our Savour’s true power and Love for us! HALLELUJAH!
    I wanted to recommend two amazing website which Ive come across over the last few years which I think will support those affected with this topic. One based in UK – thenakedtruthproject.com and undoneredone.com based in US. May God Bless you All for sharing and supporting changing the global culture towards the true beauty of our created beings.

  19. Helmut April 7, 2016 at 4:05 pm #

    Another great book on that issue is “The Road To Grace” by Mike Genung. A very personal but also very profound book about sex addiction, what it does with men, how biblical principles help us to live our sexuality in a healthy way, and how God’s love and grace can set us free from this destructive desire.

  20. Unknown April 7, 2016 at 8:23 pm #

    Reading these posts helps me know I’m not alone. We don’t talk about it but we should. I feel the same as you guys do. Every moment wondering what he is doing when I’m not home. Wondering what he is looking at on his phone. Does he look at it at work…..at home….sometimes my every though is consumed with questions. And of course asking questions leads to conflict…..when I just need some kind of comfort that this will all go away……married almost 2 years and I just discovered he was watching porn a few months ago. I thought It was me…..makes me (us) feel dirty, sad, and well self esteem is out the window…..i wanna be all he needs.He still “wants” me and I’m thankful that are relationship still has passion but I feel more insecure than ever……thank you all for posting…..it helps me relate and feel a type of comfort…..to be educated by people who have been though this and who still our going through this. I hope we can all find comfort and peace some how.

  21. Jim April 8, 2016 at 12:26 am #

    I am in my middle age of life and have struggled with porn for most of it. Even before the Internet. It was harder to find then but other kids in the neighborhood had a few magazines they’d gotten from their dads. I’m doing better now but there are so many triggers everywhere. It’s like what I imagine it would be like for a heroin addict if somehow heroin were infused into air and drinking water and food. You simply cannot escape it. My life has been one long depressing episode of disappointing myself, my wife, and my God with the thoughts and deeds that come from it. I often wish I could personally find and kill every purveyor and vendor of it even though I know ten others would pop up to take their places in the market. I both wish and dread for the Lord to come and burn this wickedness off the earth. Wish because it might bring others relief to be free of it. Dread because I would be part of the burning. I fear it is too late for me to be with the Lord with the number of tears I will be held accountable for in spite of repentance. I feel there is no more grace for me because I’ve been given too many chances and too much knowledge of the Lord and have too little to show for it, even with grace.

    • Denny Burk April 8, 2016 at 1:02 am #

      Dear Jim,

      The prophet Isaiah says that “the Lord’s arm is not too short to save” (Isaiah 59:1). There is no place so dark that God cannot find you. If you are willing to confess the evil of porn (and it sounds like you are), that is a good start to making your way back. What is needed after that is repentance and faith–turning away from your sin and trusting in Christ alone to save you from your sin. Repentance may be hard, but it will be worth it. You may have to face tough consequences for sinful decisions, but it will be worth it.

      Thanks for reading, and don’t give up. Turn from the darkness. You don’t have to stay there.

      Blessings,
      Denny

    • Lorrising April 10, 2016 at 12:05 am #

      Jim, my husband and I are also middle aged (in fact late middle aged) and he struggled with a porn addiction for many, many years. Your words about disappointing yourself, your wife and God really struck a chord as he had numerous setbacks in beating that addiction but we both feel it is something that with God’s help he has conquered AND more importantly it’s something he could never have conquered alone. Something about your post made me think that you are still trying to do this yourself rather than relying on Jesus and I can only encourage you to constantly return to Him. The way to ultimately win this battle is through the constant and recurring “renewing of your mind”. My thoughts and prayers are with you. To quote a silly movie “never give up, never surrender” ????

  22. Michael P. Gormaly April 8, 2016 at 7:53 am #

    The focus of this article and the lack of any moral component seems ironic and very much reflective of the existential disconnect in our “cultural priorities” which it calls political correctness rather than morality when you consider it’s hyper focus on the objectification of women, violence against women, and the necessity of equal rights and equal treatment of women. This is especially true when you consider that pornography is the biggest and fastest growing industry on the internet. That’s a lot of destroyed lives that are the object of these boy’s/men’s addiction (though I question whether any of these boys ever become men–it’s not their virility that’s mainly threatened; it’s their personal/emotion growth).

  23. Ginny Bain Allen April 8, 2016 at 9:52 am #

    I truly believe that the main reason men in Christ’s Body struggle with the sin of pornography is due to the emaciated lack of teaching on a husband’s most important responsibility on earth: the spiritual leadership of his wife. David Platt confronts this issue in his excellent book entitled Counter Culture. How illuminating it would be for every pastor across our nation to PROPERLY regularly teach what is one of the most crucial lessons of the Bible. The genuine teaching of husbands being willing to lay down their lives for their wives. The instruction for husbands to love their wives as Christ loves His Church – to cherish them. The focus on SO THAT NOTHING WILL HINDER YOUR PRAYERS as stated in 1 Peter 3:7. When a husband is living in such a way as to be willing to lay down his life for his wife, there is no time or energy left to delve into porn. And what wife wouldn’t eagerly follow a husband who was sacrificially loving and serving her!

  24. Spenok April 8, 2016 at 12:40 pm #

    Another great book for this topic is “Every Man’s Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Temptation. One victory at a time.” By Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker.

  25. Roane Hunter, Sr. April 11, 2016 at 10:56 pm #

    Thank you for this excellent article. My wife and I are Christian Counselors (both LPC) and we both hold dual clinical certifications as Sex Addiction Therapists (CSAT & CCSAS). I have been in recovery from my own sexual addiction for over 26 years. We have been trying to sound the alarm on this since we first started our own recovery work and now as professional counselors. The silence in Christiandom has been deafening and now the Church is suffering the consequences as a result. There is great hope when people are willing to admit they have a problem and get help from those who know how to help. Getting connected with other men and their spouses in groups that deal with this specific issue can heal a man and wife first, and then a marriage. It is a soul issue as it affects every part of our being – heart/spirit/will, mind, body, social/relational – with trauma and shame driving it all deeper. The hope is in the true Good News of the Gospel – learning to live connected in authentic, intimate community with God and with others! A great resource for churches is The Conquer Series – our story is featured on their Blog at http://www.conquerseries.com/one-mans-journey-how-i-went-from-addicted-to-porn-to-helping-others/

    Thanks for helping sound the alarm!

  26. Wretched Man April 13, 2016 at 10:17 am #

    There are a (very) few individuals who are speaking out against porn on moral grounds. Unfortunately, their voices are rarely heard. Pornography is intensely destructive not only to the viewers but to the subjects. A recent TedTalks discussed this from a secular point of view (http://youtu.be/gRJ_QfP2mhU). Honestly, very few even care to hear then anymore and their advice, like the one on the link ends with the same moral bankruptcy and slavery to sexual sin in another form.

    I have struggled with porn since I was first introduced to it by my brother when I was in grade school in the 1980’s. Back then it was Playboy, Hustler, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, and the JC Penney catalog. As a technology professional I saw as porn went from ASCII cartoons to jpg’s to animated gifs to pay walled sites to full video and now to free amateur video, animated cartoons, child porn, thousands of sub genres, and “safe search” on search engines designed to hide porn use. Every television show now flirts with porn scenes. On HBO, Netflix, and Amazon Prime they actively develop shows with more and more licentious storylines. Men (and increasingly women) are being exposed to more and more porn in more and more degrading fashion. It’s a constant battle in our company to stop porn from being constantly viewed on the desktop. Twice in the last decade we’ve been forced to report child pornography to the police.

    Personally, I struggle with this sin on a daily basis. Some days are better than others, but every day is an absolute battle. At times I’ve given up fighting, questioned my salvation, and fallen into despair. It’s like being a heroin addict living in the midst of poppy fields. With mobile devices I’ve looked at porn at work, I’ve even looked at porn while laying in bed next to my sleeping wife. In the morning I see the stupidity of it all, pray for forgiveness, and dread the next night.

    I am utterly powerless to defeat this sin in and of myself. It’s too easy to do because it’s always available when I am at my weakest. Just a click away. There are no “simple” solutions like “get a filtering service” or “turn off the Internet” or “get rid of your smart phone” since I need technology for my job and frankly I have a plethora of ways to bypass any security in a matter of seconds. And let’s be honest, the problem isn’t the technology, it’s my heart.

    The church has been of no help. I’ve heard pastors rail against porn from the pulpit. I’ve seen seminars and Bible study groups that offer no real help other than more guilt trips. I’m full of guilt already. I’m overflowing with more than thirty years of guilt! I’ve seen dozens and dozens of tracts, books, and other resources all saying the same useless things. I do not share my sin with others because I’m tired of hearing the same pointless advice from those who have either never been drawn into this sin or not defeated it themselves.

    In the end I am left in desperation. My only hope is a divine work in my life to take this sin from me. If more than 30 years of fighting and trying every piece of advice isn’t enough on my part then what more can I do to save myself from this sin? Romans 7:14-24 is not theoretical for me, it is the reality of my daily life. Wretched man that I am…

    But I don’t give up. I still pray for that divine miracle. I still trust that somehow God will pull me through and save me from this sin too. I keep fighting even though I know my own efforts are useless. Who will set me free from this body of death? Not me. Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. He is my only hope.

    • Jane April 14, 2016 at 2:56 am #

      You fight constantly… I think that is a victory in itself….may you never give up and may your strength be constantly renewed. I think you are not a wretched man..you are forgiven, loved and in the end you will receive your just reward. God bless and keep you

    • Paul Coneff April 14, 2016 at 9:24 am #

      If you want to e-mail me (paul@straight2theheart.com) I would be happy to share one story from my book, about a man who had a 20-year addiction to pornography. The principles are Biblical and practical and they are taught in the context of the man’s story – including his struggle, his pain AND his victory.

      So its a very holistic perspective, sharing the messiness of life combined with real hope from real life struggles. The story is from my book “The Hidden Half of the Gospel: How HIS Suffering Can Heal Yours” sharing how Jesus “was made like you in EVERY way… suffering being tempted so He could help you” (Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:15), including HIS real life temptations, HIS being abandoned by those closest to Him, HIS being betrayed, denied and cursed by HIS disciples, stripped naked, physically, verbally and mentally abused by groups of men in power over Him, tempted to numb HIS pain when He had lost lots of water and blood and His nerves were on fire after being nailed to the cross, and crying out “MY God, MY God, Why have You forsaken Me?”

      This is a “Rubber–Meets–the–Road–Savior” who knows what its like to feel pain, to know the pull of temptation, and to know the power of His Father’s presence to carry Him through.

      And Jesus did NOT do that so we could do it. Jesus did it because we can’t gain victory in our how strength. In fact, Jesus said He could do nothing in His own strength and that we can do nothing in our own strength. We need other men in our lives (and women need other women). Celebrate Recovery is also a very good resource for Christian recovery groups. And Rick’s story in my book can share with you one story of the struggle, the pain, the shame of porn addiction. But it does not stop there…it also shares his victory. With prayers that you find the resources you need, including others who are also in the growth process, allowing yourself to receive God’s grace through the many avenues He has to heal you and set you free.

  27. Monica April 14, 2016 at 5:34 am #

    My ex husbands porn addiction and secrets led to our divorce and separation of our beautiful family with 4 kids.

  28. Sarah Siegand April 14, 2016 at 10:05 am #

    Thank you for summarizing this article so well. My husband and I work to educate parents in the prevention of porn exposure and addiction (and other dangers online – parentswhofight.com). Just one year ago, I felt like I was trying to wake parents up to convince them of the problem. Most of our presentations were persuasive, with stats and plenty of warning bells. But I have seen in the last 12 months more and more people waking up to the problem. Now we are able to spend a greater amount of time in our live presentations talking about solutions and hope. I am watching culture shift before my eyes. Even though the TIME article does not provide solutions, it does give the church a great springboard to impart hope for those who are bound!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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