Sep 12, 2019
What’s The Big Deal With Pornography!?!
This blog was adapted from the first episode of the second series of Project Six19’s podcast, DriveTime.
There is a story that is being worked out around us and within us. In Genesis 1 and 2 we find God made all things and made them good. The very beginning of scripture reveals this truth. “God saw all that He had made and it was very good.” – Genesis 1:31.
But the story also includes humankind’s rebellion, which resulted in all things being broken and distorted. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. . .” – Genesis 3:6-7
We are broken people living out a broken and distorted sexuality.
This truth must not escape us. It is especially important for us to remember as we dive deep into the issues surrounding pornography. There is a constant battle for what God declared as good and what satan does to distort and bring destruction.
Pamela Paul writes in her book pornified: “The pornification of American culture is not only reshaping entertainment, advertising, fashion, and popular culture, but it is fundamentally changing the lives of more Americans, in more ways, than ever before. We are living in a pornified culture and we have no idea what this means for ourselves, our relationships, our society.” Porn surrounds us 24/7. Some of it is undercover and hidden while some of it lurks out in the open. It is easy to say as a culture and even individually we have become desensitized to some of the images and content that we now consider common and accept it by saying “it’s just the way it is.”
This is the reality of the world we now inhabit.
The average age of first exposure to pornography is now 11 years old. For many years it was 12 years old but with the advent of the smart phone we are finding that there is a correlation between first time smart phone ownership and pornography exposure. Parents please don’t let this pass by you. Smartphones are the place where first time exposure happens the most and setting up healthy boundaries before they ever get the phone is important!
But we need to also pay attention to who pornographers target most. Historically, we’ve thought children 12-17 were the targets of most of their advertising. But that is not true. Yes, they are the largest group viewing pornography but not whom they target most. That group belongs to boys ages 5-9! Please note: This is not because they are sexually aroused by the material but because they are curious about the human body.
Going just a step further, in 2015, 32% of teens admitted to intentionally accessing nude or pornographic content online. Of these, 43% do so on a weekly basis.
Finally, by age 18 over 90% of boys and over 60% of girls have been exposed to online pornography.
Which requires us to say this – the porn epidemic is not only a “guy issue.” Girls ages 18-25 are the fastest growing group of those looking at pornography.
At this point in the conversation, it’s crucial that we take the time to actually define pornography. We can think we are talking about the same thing and realize how one person defines porn might not be the same as the next person. Therefore, being on the same page is important.
Let’s start with a couple of definitions for adults. We really like the way Tim Chester in his book Closing the Window: Steps to Living a Porn Free Life defines porn – “Anything we use for sexual titillation, gratification, or escape – whether it was intended for that purpose or not.”
Focus on the word ANYTHING. Sometimes we try to fit pornographic images or writing into a box but this definition says ANYTHING, which means it might be different from one person to the next but it is clear about its intent.
One other definition to discuss comes from Harvest USA – They say pornography is “anything the heart uses to find sexual expression outside of God’s intended design for relational intimacy. It is anything that tempts or corrupts the human heart into desiring sexual pleasure in sinful ways.”
Obviously these definitions might not make sense to your kids, especially if they are younger. When trying to share what pornography is with younger kids, consider these key points: First, let your children know that pornography includes pictures of people without clothes on. Second, it may make you feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or sick to your stomach (might also say words like “gross” or “weird”). On the flip side it may also feel exciting – which can be very confusing to have both feelings at the same time – but it is possible!
Now that we’ve defined pornography, let’s talk about how it negatively effects us. Researchers are finding that pornography influences more than just behavior. Pornography also reshapes the brain, breaks down relationships and has an impact on the community.
Pornography Harms The Brain
Studies have found that exposure to pornography between 9 and 13 is linked to high-risk behaviors. This is mostly due to how the brain processes the information it receives and an inability to separate fantasy and reality as it relates to sexuality.
Watching porn lays down new neural-pathways in your brain. The more you use, the stronger the neural-connections and the more difficult it is to stop. This means your brain can actually begin to rewire itself causing an individual who habitually looks at pornography to get lost in the fantasy.
It Destroys Relationships
In real life, real love requires a real person. Research found that after men are exposed to pornography, they rate themselves less in love with their partner than men who did not see any porn. On top of that, another study found that after being exposed to pornographic images, people were more critical of their partner’s appearance.
Several studies also show that partners of porn users often report feeling loss, betrayal, mistrust, devastation, and anger when they learn that the other half of their committed relationship has been using porn. Many even show physical symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Porn is a product. It makes you miss out on the best parts of actual relationships.
It Impacts Community
So often we can think of pornography only really impacting the user. But that causes us to forget the impact on family, friends, spouses, significant others, and on and on. It also does not take into account those who create and participate in making pornography. Their own experiences are often flooded with drugs, diseases, rape, and abuse. Many victims of sex trafficking are used to film pornography.
Porn’s reach has gone beyond the magazine and dingy store fronts. It is all around us and it is having a dramatic impact.
One last thing:
If porn is seen by kids it is important to let them know this should never be kept secret. For more on secrets and surprises please be sure to check out the third episode of DriveTime, Series 1.
DriveTime is a tool for you as a parent to get equipped, so you can better engage the world your son or daughter inhabits.
Check out further discussions around parenting and all the reasons you should be encouraged on Project Six19’s podcast, DriveTime.
Sep 12, 2019
4 Ways To Porn-Protect Your Home
This blog was adapted from the fifth episode of the second series of Project Six19’s podcast, DriveTime.
One thing – no one solution will protect you 100%. We don’t live in boxes and there is going to come a time where pornography makes its way into your families life. The hope, however, is to mitigate its influence and impact as best as possible. Make Sure Your Kids Know Your Values. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does my family have a view of sexuality founded on the truths in scripture?
- Do my kids know I value these same truths when it comes to sex, sexuality, and relationships?
- Do my kids have an understanding of what pornography is and how to reject it immediately if they see it?
- Do my kids feel comfortable talking with me about all things related to sex and sexuality?
- Are you giving a lecture or engaging in questions and dialogue when you discuss these subjects with your kids?
If you’re able to answer yes to most or all of these questions you are well on your way to porn-protecting your home.
Block Access Points
What are you doing to block access to pornography? Communication is by far the most important tool when protecting your home but it doesn’t hurt to have some tools that help you stop porn from ever entering your home.
Recognize where the points of access are in your home. These include a variety of locations – most of them found online. The obvious culprit is going to be mobile devices. Having a game plan for when your kids receive their first device should be well thought out. Remember, the most common point of entry for first-time porn exposure is through mobile devices. So knowing how they will be used before they are ever in your kid’s possession is important.
If your kids already have a device then be sure to use the parental controls on the device. Also, limit the number of apps they can have on the device at one time. This better helps you (and them) manage what is coming and going. I might also consider removing the browser, social media channels, and YouTube from the phone till you feel they are ready.
Encourage your kids to be open and honest with you about what apps they use on their phones or tablets. For some families, a “no secret password” policy works, where family members either forego the use of passwords on their devices or share their passwords with you, the parent.
From time to time, take an inventory of which apps your family members have downloaded, what they seem to spend the most time on, and what the purpose or content of the app entails. If necessary, use a service like OurPact, which allows you to set time limits, block calls from strangers, and more.
You might want to also consider Netflix, Hulu, and other similar accounts. Most services have filters or kid-friendly channels. Hulu has parental controls, so does Netflix, Amazon, and Sling. Take the extra time to set up filters and controls to keep your family safe.
Consider How You Spend Time With Your Kids
Often we spend time with our kids on our terms at the places we choose. However, this may take away opportunities for us to enter their world and learn about other points of access.
For instance, video games are a popular way kids spend time playing. Sit down and play the games with your kids, or at least watch them play. This will help you make sure the game complies with your family standards. Also, be smart about which games you let your children play. Use the ESRB rating system (“E for Everyone,” “T for Teen,” etc.), but be sure to use it wisely. Even a Teen rating on a game may not be suitable for teens in your home.
The same could be said of books, music, or television shows. Take time to enter their world and listen to what they are hearing and watch what they are seeing.
Finally, there are some great new filters for the home that help you manually control content on each of the devices connected to your internet. One of those is Circle by Disney. This deviceconnects to your router and allows you to filter content on every device connected through WiFi. This will also allow for TIME LIMITS on certain apps, such as social media, YouTube, and Minecraft.
Another filter is Koala safe. This deviceallows you to establish a child-safe WiFi network. When your child’s friends come over they can use the child-safe WiFi password to connect. The filters and limits previously established on this child-safe network will be applied to the friend’s device or phone as well.
There are many others and finding the one that works best for you and your family will be important. But do it before it’s too late.
DriveTime is a tool for you as a parent to get equipped, so you can better engage the world your son or daughter inhabits.
Check out further discussions around parenting and all the reasons you should be encouraged on Project Six19’s podcast, DriveTime. Available now where ever you get your podcasts.
Jason Soucinek is the Executive Director and founder of Project Six19. Dedicated to talking honestly about matters of sex, sexuality and relationships. Jason has spent more than a decade engaging audiences of all ages and backgrounds.
Walt Mueller is the founder and President of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding and has been working with young people and families for over 35 years.
Mar 27, 2017
The Public Health Crisis No One Wants to Fund
Have you heard? Pornography is now being considered a public health crisis in three states with several more considering this option. South Dakota, Utah, and Virginia are among a growing number of states whose lawmakers who are saying that children are being exposed to porn “at an alarming rate,” while noting that it is also “linked to a lessening desire in young persons to marry.” The measure in Virginia goes further and calls for more “education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level in order to address the pornography epidemic that is harming the people of the Commonwealth and the nation.”
Although this is great news we must understand the many realities that have lead to this moment in history. For much of the last decade organizations like Fight the The New Drug and ministries like XXX Church have spoken of the many ills of porn. However, up until recently no one really listened. Yes, sexual imagery has always been available but never to the extent it is today.
Porn is anonymous, free (or very affordable), and more accessible than ever before.
Divorce, sexual assault, depression, anxiety, a dismantling of trust between partners, and unrealistic expectations of the love partner are just some of the many results from habitually viewing pornography. These results have ended marriages and destroyed others before they even started.
I am grateful that so many are starting to realize the harm pornography brings to our society, but I worry it’s not amounting to much more than words.
Most of this legislation is nothing but gestures of kindness. It expresses a concern but no funding mandate, no programs they are making available, or offering any solutions to ending the cycle of distribution pornographers have created over the last several decades. Porn is being declared as dangerous with few actionable programs in place to battle exposure or addiction.
And the church is not in any better of a position to answer the call in addressing the issue of pornography.
In a 2016 Barna Group research study commissioned by Josh McDowell Ministry, church leadership indicated that this problem is much bigger than it was 20 years ago, yet only 7% of pastors said they have a ministry program for those struggling with porn.
Churches should be the hospitals in this health crisis, but very few have something to offer when it comes to sexual discipleship.
A few years ago we asked several lead pastors from around our region how often they addressed issues related to sex from the pulpit. On average the topics of sex, sexuality, and pornography were addressed 1-2 times every three to four years. This blew me away.
The church is struggling to offer support in this area.
Recently we hosted a lunch with over a 100 church leaders addressing this very issue with my friend, Walt Mueller. During our time together I realized that its not because church leaders don’t want to address it. Rather, they lack the tools. Seminary prepared many of these men and women for sharing scripture but not the resource or expertise to dive into the sensitive landscape we now find ourselves in when it comes to sexuality.
Let us use the momentum of states like Utah, South Dakota, and Virginia to create a measure for own congregations.
Initiating such vulnerable conversations can be a major hangup for most leaders, but by simply speaking about the impact pornography is having in your church will open up opportunities for change and healing.
Take steps to develop tools that shed light on this conversation.
The churches greatest resource is its people. Often we think we need the hottest or greatest sermon series or program to create change in our congregations. And there are some great organizations and programs that are incredibly helpful in this journey! But I’ve learned that the best thing we can provide someone struggling with pornography is a community that is willing to sit down, listen, and give direction. Every church has people that can do this!
Recognize that we sometimes need trained professionals to help us.
There is absolutely nothing wrong in seeking outside help. Because this issue has become an epidemic we need to understand there will be times a community of people will just not be enough. Fortunately there are several qualified counselors in every community to help. Don’t be afraid to admit if something is over your head.
What else do you think the state or church could do to end this public health crisis?
Dec 16, 2016
Why It’s About More Than Virginity
For too long, conversations around sexual purity have included virginity as the supreme example of Christian values.
Even those outside of the Christian faith have declared the same thing; writer and feminist Jessica Valenti says the church’s obsession with virginity is hurting young women.
And you know what? I agree.
Popular culture exploits a woman’s sexuality both before and after they have sex. It is a non-stop reality for almost every female in our culture. And it is modeled most in today’s pop stars.
The rise of Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus are perfect examples. Each of them used their “sexual innocence” to win over parents of pre-teen girls. In the years that followed both wrote a book about their devotion to God and to waiting until marriage to have sex. Virginity was the key for parents to label each pop star worthy of praise and thus good role models for their daughters
Unfortunately, the church has mimicked this behavior.
For too many Christian women virginity has become the answer – the moral quick fix – to their salvation. You can be vapid or even unethical, but as long as you’ve never had sex, you’re a good person worthy of praise and admiration.
We are seeing a backlash against the purity culture that many grew up with in the 90’s and early 2000’s. Most of this frustration has not been pointed toward waiting itself but rather how this message was communicated.
For years, the typical messages of sexual purity were focused on regulating behavior rather than helping people condition their heart to truly follow Christ. It was more about what you didn’t do than what you could do with your body and your mind.
Women have become the sexual gatekeepers in our church and outside of it. Often conversations on modesty have placed the emphasis on what the women wear and do rather than the entire community. Thus, women have been responsible for men’s sexual behavior.
And this is absolutely insane.
While many have rightly taught that waiting to have sex is about much more virginity, there remains a reverse message that a girl or woman who has had sex is now “damaged goods” unworthy of the pure love of a good Christian man. The end result is a message that denies the power of God’s grace to heal, forgive and transform. And the reality of all of this is that we are all “damaged goods” in need of God’s forgiveness, whether we are virgins or not.
For too many years the church has responded to the culture’s definition of sex by saying “No!” Collectively we have failed to look at God’s definition of sex, which is intended to bring unity and oneness, and rather limited the conversation to a matter of, “How far is too far?”
Research has proven that when the commitment to wait is attached to something beyond themselves, like a desire to follow Christ, they are more likely to find success in waiting. And they are also more likely to recover well if things don’t go as planned.
That is why our identity in Jesus Christ is so important.
He makes us completely whole again so that we might fully love without shame. This is why virginity is not important, but living with sexual integrity (being wholly obedient to Jesus with our sexuality) is. In Christ the old has gone, the new has come, and we are a new creation created in Christ Jesus to give ourselves in love as He did. That is our identity. That is what really matters.
Virginity should only be the by-product of a devotion to God and His design for sex, not the identifier.