For years I was addicted to pornography. In an earlier article, I described four particular lies that skewed my view of God and sexuality, and the truth of Jesus Christ that quite miraculously set me free from my addiction. Now, I want to address four more lies that porn told me that further disrupted my understanding of God and myself, and twisted my views about beauty, intimacy, and relationship. Anyone using porn is hearing these same lies.
I seldom had to justify my porn use to anyone (see my earlier article). Most of the time, I justified it to my own conscience. One justification came from porn itself; I was simply enjoying the beauty of women and sex. What could be the harm in that?
As it turns out, lots. The models and actresses in porn are indeed beautiful; they are created in the very image of God (Genesis 1:27) after all. But, if my interest had really been just to appreciate the beauty of the human form, I could have visited a museum or picked up an art book and viewed innumerable artistic studies of God’s creativity in painting and sculpture. Instead, I objectified God’s creation by using these women for my own sexual gratification. To make matters worse, most porn actors, female and male, struggle with some kind of addiction or shame and hide deep brokenness just beneath the surface. The porn industry is also riddled with abuse, coercion, and violence. Users like me, far from merely enjoying the beauty of women and sex, become a party to these problems.
Pornographic videos and stories strongly imply that a man’s virility, and even his personal worth, can be measured by the size of his penis. This is a lie that I never actually believed, but the pervasive advertisements for various enhancements indicate a lot of men do believe it. If a man is not large in that area, porn says, he cannot hope to satisfy a woman and doesn’t deserve her respect. As God’s creation, however, we have intrinsic value because of who God is, not in what we do, have, or can achieve.
Porn tells similar lies about women; to be beautiful and really please a man, a woman must have large breasts. Men who fall for this lie enter relationships and marriage with unrealistic expectations and put unfair pressure on women. Sadly, porn has been given more and more opportunity to lie directly to women as well as men; Fight the New Drug, an anti-porn activist website, reports that as many as one-in-three women view pornography at least once a week. These lies about breast size can fuel body shame, eating disorders, and the sexting epidemic among young people.
This fixation on body parts and size makes idols of what God intended to give pleasure and undercuts the blessing God gives us to enjoy and be enjoyed in the intimate context of marriage. In Song of Songs, the Lover delights in the beauty of the Beloved, but his delight arises out of his joy in her whole being (Song of Songs 7:1-9), not merely her parts, even if he does list them each by name.
I once saw a newspaper headline, “Man sues best friend for stealing wife.” In a rocky patch in their marriage, a couple invited the husband’s best friend into their bed as a way to increase intimacy between the two of them. This is a common trope in pornographic fiction, often disguised as true stories with “and-we-lived-happily-ever-after” endings. In porn, relationships pose no boundaries; everybody's free to do whatever makes them feel good in the moment. In fact, or so the lie goes, sharing each other around can somehow increase our appreciation for one another and make the relationship happier.
But, the truth is so much more wonderful than the lie. In Genesis 2, God established marital intimacy with room for only two, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:24-25). Even in the Old Testament, when God seemed to tolerate polygamy, not a single account of plural marriage in the Bible describes a happy situation. To God, three’s a crowd in the marriage bed. That’s what the couple in the newspaper discovered; instead of increased intimacy, the wife left her husband to be with his best friend.
I was a near daily user of porn. Still, I would have denied that such regular usage had any effect on my personality, perspective, or attitude. The scales about porn’s effect on me popped out of my eyes when God gave me grace to quit porn cold turkey. During my divorce, I returned to church and re-committed myself to Jesus Christ. One Sunday, I went home from church and spontaneously threw my stash away. I never looked back. My own little miracle from God.
But, even in the joy of my new freedom, I began to realize how deluded I had been, how I’d acted out on what I’d been taking in. I remembered seeing mainstream models and thinking they should be nude. I recalled insinuating sexual topics into conversations with female coworkers, always in the guise of serious discussion. Or, how I had become dissatisfied with the sexual relationship in my marriage because of porn’s influence. My heart broke when I understood that my use of porn throughout my marriage had been a form of adultery (Matthew 5:27-28). These were “Wretched-man-that-I-am!” days for me (Romans 7:24a). Thankfully, in my rekindled faith, God’s grace penetrated my grief and I understood I was not that wretched man anymore. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25).
Our culture is very conflicted about pornography and its impact. But one thing is certain, porn lies. It does not glorify God or his creation; it exploits and objectifies what God created to beautiful and good. It reduces the value of God’s image bearers to the size of their anatomical parts and undermines the sacredness of marriage. Porn impacts the user’s perspective and shows up in their attitude. Against these lies stands God and his truth about who he created us to be: his children with life abundant, free from the bondage of sin.