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Porn: the silent epidemic

Studies have shown that the average North American teenager views online pornography for the first time at the age of 12.

Throughout my teens and early 20s I recall passionate sermons from youth ministers calling for sexual purity. The speaker was often someone who got married shortly after high school. Although well intentioned, I felt many youth pastors were out of touch.

Protect your heart, love waits for marriage, let God write your love story, I kiss dating goodbye! These are phrases I heard over and over again. But the reality is that university takes longer, student loans are bigger, and marriage comes later.

This generation will contend with economic and cultural trends that previous generations have never considered.

During high school and college I was strong in my convictions. I avoided sexual sin like the plague. One day in my junior year of college my friends asked me to come up to their dorm room. On the computer screen were pornographic images that repulsed yet intrigued me.

The temptation of pornography crept into my life. The anonymity and speed of the Internet made it so easy. I justified it as a means to an end. I soothed my conscience. In my mind porn was helping me maintain my abstinence from sex.

As I fell deeper into it, I began to realize that so many single adults were facing similar struggles. I hardly knew a young man who had not seen porn on the Internet. Youth pastors, leaders, committed disciples weren’t immune. It was the silent epidemic.

As a culture, we are just beginning to grapple with the consequences. When people view porn, it increases the exploitation of others. The subjugation of young women, mostly from disadvantaged backgrounds are funneled into dehumanizing roles with little regard for their emotional and physical well-being. In many parts of the world this has created an entire industry of human trafficking.

It can be hard for us to connect the dots between our personal choices and the world we live in. On a greater scale pornography distorts our popular perception and appreciation for beauty.

There have been numerous studies that have shown how the portrayal of women in media has a negative impact on body image. This creates a destructive culture of perfection. In an article published in Pediatrics & Child Health Debra K. Katzman M.D. states that modern media “promotes unrealistic standards that are impossible to achieve.”

And according to Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair the over-sexualization of young people in our culture robs them of childhood.

On a personal level, pornography complicates our relationships. True intimacy is replaced with shallow and unrealistic expectations of beauty. A recent article published in GQ entitled “Why you should quit watching porn” and the new Don Jon movie starring Joseph Gordon Levitt explores the emotional destruction that pornography creates in the life of people. Serial dating, narcissistic behaviour, and a culture of hooking up become normalized.

I always thought of myself as a good guy, but pretty soon I was “fooling around” with girls. Justifying it every time, because I was still a virgin by choice. I convinced myself that I was alright with God because I had not crossed the line.

During my dating years, God convicted me that purity was much more than not having sex. In my mid-20s I became fed up with myself. I wanted to rid myself of all the images that filled my head with unrealistic expectations of my future spouse.

I wanted to see her for who she was, not a figment of my imagination.

For nearly three years prior to meeting my wife I renewed my commitment to keeping my eyes and heart away from shallow attempts at intimacy. I made it to the marriage alter with my virginity intact.

Being married is wonderful, but it certainly doesn’t make you invulnerable to temptation. It doesn’t solve all of your problems, and it doesn’t mean that temptation will go away. The habits you carry with you before marriage will follow you.

Sexual purity is not only about protecting your eyes and your heart. It means protecting others as well. It begins with the habits you develop early.

A good place to start is being honest with yourself and with God. We must be open with our struggles. We can’t hide our sin; others must know there is hope. And your choices do not exist in a vacuum. They have consequences.

A broken world begs for redemption. We can’t do it on our own.

That is the beauty of the gospel.

Flickr photo (cc) by Matthew T Rader

Kona