We Need More Porn in Church!

What did I say? I said, “We need more porn in church!” More specifically, we need more discussion about porn at church. Before I became a counselor, I was a pastor. For 22 years I married couples, buried the deceased, led meetings, preached, taught Sunday School classes, did fund raising, and a multitude of other tasks too numerous to mention. I also provided counsel to many struggling with addictions of various sorts…including addiction to pornography. 

But one thing I was rarely encouraged to discuss was the impact of pornography. In the last church I served as pastor, I used the word “masturbation” in a sermon. At the conclusion of the service, I was told in no uncertain terms, that I was not to talk about that topic again. The rationale was that “masturbation and sexuality was a family matter and that the proper place to discuss that was in the home. Parents should talk to their children about that, not pastors, and certainly not in church.”

Not that I would disagree, healthy discussion about sex in the home is essential. But given our culture, and given the rarity of discussions at home, we need more education in our religious organizations.

That was over 10 years. I’m afraid that little has changed. I now attend a “megachurch” and do not serve in any leadership capacity. In our church, I’ve noted sexual purity is discussed once or twice a year. In my humble opinion, as a counselor and addictions expert, many churches are missing a great opportunity to address a growing need.

Consider the impact of porn on the brain…

Early exposure to pornography has a negative impact on the development of adolescents. With the advances of neuroscience, we now understand factors influencing brain development as never before. For example, the neurotransmitter dopamine is key to brain functions such as movement, motivation, reward, punishment, and learning. Due to dopamine’s key role in how pleasure is experienced, it is linked to addiction (more info).

Pornography was less accessible when I was a teen. Friends, siblings, or parents were the source of print material. In today’s digital world teens and even children have access to high definition videos of graphic sexual acts. Today there is access to harder, more explicit forms of porn from the privacy of one’s home computer, notepad, or smart phone.  Sabina, Wolak, and Finkelor wrote an academic article in 2008 noting that 93% of boys and 62% of girls were exposed to online pornography during adolescence. According to this study, “boys were more likely to be exposed at an earlier age, to see more images, [and] to see more extreme images (e.g., rape, child pornography).” For the still developing adolescent brain this is like an hit of crack cocaine and the result is a brain that is “wired” to seek more of. Check out http://www.yourbrainonporn.com/ for more info.

How we learn…

Two theories about how people learn are “Social Learning Theory” and Script Theory.” The basic premise is that as individuals observe things in life (whether real or via the media) they develop mental “scripts” that serve to guide behavior. Scripts help us develop an expectation of how things will act. As a result we can predict outcomes of behavior. For example, based on prior experiences, I can predict that if I walk into a furniture store a salesperson will quickly and perhaps even aggressively, help me find a piece of furniture and offer to arrange quick, easy financing. (My apologies to readers who make their living in sales.) These learning principles apply to how teens learn about sex. If their primary means of getting information about what it means to be sexual is by watching pornography, or even watching less graphic depictions of sexual activity as portrayed on TV, their expectations about what it means to be sexual will be based on attitudes, behaviors, and values that do not reflect what most parents what for their children.

What are the consequences?

Others have discussed the consequences of early porn use:

  • Men have a tendency to look at women as “parts” thus objectifying them (see article in Scientific American).
  • Harris and Barlett have made a lengthy, but readable, summary of research on the Effects of Sex in the Media available online. Key points suggest porn use leads to:
    • Heightened sexual arousal
    • A tendency to become desensitized to violence among viewers
    • Skewed perspectives regarding gender differences
    • Values that diminish the value of women
    • Relational difficulties, including seeing one’s partner as less desirable
    • Increased likelihood to experiment sexually

Hear this!

Once again, I state my case for the need to address these issues in the church. Why? Because someone is teaching your children! Harris and Barlett cite a 1998 Time/CNN poll that noted that 29% of teens identified the media as their primary source of information about sex. Friends accounted for 45% of their sex education. Only 7% cited parents and just 3% cited formal sex education as their primary source of information about sex. Our children and teens need sane voices that talk about sex as a wonderful gift from God. Healthy sex is a good thing. Let’s not let others ruin it for our children.

 Thanks for stopping by.

 

Tim

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