When my husband and I were engaged, our pastor guided us through a fairly rigorous premarital assessment and counseling process. While our profile placed us in a category likely to succeed in marriage, our pastor might have addressed struggles so many couples encounter, like porn or abuse. Equally troubling, none of my graduate or seminary courses mentioned porn.
Even now, fifteen years later, Christians hardly discuss the topic. Given the prevalence of porn use among Christians and its abusive impact on marriages, it is stunning that I’ve never heard a sermon on porn. Nor has the topic been raised in adult education or addressed widely in egalitarian resources. Yet porn is one of the most lucrative industries on earth, and for decades it has damaged Christian minds and relationships. This is why it’s time for CBE International, and all Christians, to speak about porn in clear and definitive ways.1
Christians consume porn at nearly the same rates as non-Christians,2 contributing to what may be the “fastest-growing business of organized crime in the world, receiving more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined.”3 Generating over an estimated $6 billion in 2018 alone,4 57 percent of men and 22 percent of women seek out porn at least monthly.5 Studies show how porn undermines intimate, mutually satisfying sexual relationships,6 and users have higher rates of marital infidelity and divorce.7
These are only a few of the surface-level facts about porn use. As we dig further, it gets much worse. Let’s be clear: porn dehumanizes, objectifies, and abuses women and girls. Does porn consumption foster the abuse of girls and women? The short answer is yes. Porn use fosters not only sex-trafficking but also intimate partner violence.8
In porn, male domination, gang rape, strict gender roles, and sexual violence perpetrated on younger and younger females elicits sexual arousal, feeding the market for sex slaves.9 The raping of youth is filmed and sold on the dark web—a massively lucrative industry with a majority of male users.10 Porn users are, therefore, complicit in sex trafficking.
Knowing all of this, how can Christians respond?
First, we can challenge power and dominance as Jesus did, devoting ourselves all the more to serving (Luke 22:24–27). Second, we can learn from and imitate the powerful male-female leadership teams in the Bible and throughout church history. Third, we can build empathy by listening and giving platforms to people we have historically silenced—the world’s women. Fourth, we can appoint leaders not because they are male, but because they demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23).
As we navigate a pornified world and church, we keep our eyes open, our minds informed, and our conversations candid and frequent. And we pray without ceasing.
This article is from “The Problem of Porn,” the Autumn 2022 issue of Mutuality magazine. Read the full issue here.
- Much of this content was published in my chapter, “Human Flourishing: Global Perspectives,” in Discovering Biblical Equality: Biblical, Theological, Cultural & Practical Perspectives, ed. Ronald W. Pierce, Cynthia Long Westfall, and Christa L. McKirland (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2021), 633–34.
- Penny Starr, “Pornography Use Among Self-Identified Christians Largely Mirrors National Average, Survey Finds,” CNS News, 27 August 2015.
- Marlo Safi, “The Porn Industry and Human Trafficking Reinforce Each Other,” National Review, 1 August 2018.
- Ross Benes, “Porn Could Have a Bigger Economic Influence on the US than Netflix,” Quartz, 20 June 2018.
- Josh McDowell and Barna Group, The Porn Phenomenon: The Impact of Pornography in the Digital Age (Ventura: Barna Group, 2016), 33.
- Amanda M. Maddox, Galena K. Rhoades, and Howard J. Markman, “Viewing Sexually-Explicit Materials Alone or Together: Associations with Relationship Quality” Archives of Sexual Behavior 40, no. 2 (2011): 441–48.
- Samuel L. Perry and Cyrus Schleifer, “Till Porn Do Us Part? A Longitudinal Examination of Pornography Use and Divorce,” The Journal of Sex Research 55, no. 3 (2018): 284–96.
- Haley McNamara, “Three Ways Domestic Violence Is Connected to Pornography,” National Center on Sexual Exploitation, 1 October 2018.
- Safi, “The Porn Industry.”
- Dusan Trickovic, “21 Intriguing Dark Web Statistics in 2022,” Website Builder, 28 Feb 2022.