Porn Addiction Research & Data
The more research is done on the effects of porn, the more harmful we learn it is.
There will always be “research” out there showing how porn has positive benefits. But it is important to know that the $100 billion a year porn industry has a lot of reasons to push this lie. The tobacco industry did the same thing when the research showed that smoking was clearly linked to lung cancer in the 50’s. But tobacco wasn’t regulated by the US government until 1992 when they prohibited the sale of tobacco products to minors. Why did it take forty years?
The tobacco industry paid their scientists to do research that called into question the legitimate research. Their goal wasn’t to refute the research but just to call it into question as inconclusive. Then they called for more research and continued their disinformation. By suggesting that results are mixed they could confuse the public while they are making billions on an addictive substance. The porn industry is doing the same thing trying to put out fake research to confuse people about the real research (see Does The Porn Industry Use “Tobacco Industry Tactics” To Hide The Dark Truth?). It was effective for the tobacco industry and the porn industry is banking on the same results. But, as we will see, the evidence on the harmful effects of porn are more difficult to hide.
In his book, Your Brain on Porn, Gary Wilson wrote, “Until recently, erectile dysfunction was rarely seen in men under forty. Now it is seen in teenagers as young as fifteen.” Why? Because of porn. He went on to explain:
“By the time they find a real partner, perhaps as much as a decade later, some guys discover they have trained intensely for the wrong sport. These young men had simply conditioned their sexual response to screens, isolating, constant novelty, shock/surprise, fetish porn and watching other people have sex… you become numb to real partners.”
The cover story of the April 2016 edition of Time Magazine was entitled: Why Young Men Who Grew Up on Internet Porn are Becoming Advocates for Shutting it Off. The article is about a group of twenty somethings that have porn induced erectile dysfunction. These men are saying that porn has ruined their ability to even have sex. This article went on to say that in 1992 only 5% of men under age 40 had Erectile Dysfunction (ED) but in 2014 the percentage jumped up to 33%. You may have thought that all those Viagra and Cialis commercials were for the old guys but apparently not. ED is actually a growing issue among teenagers. A Canadian sexologist study showed that of the 53.5% of teenagers who reported sexual problems, ED and loss of interest were the two biggest issues.
You have probably seen commercials for the Roman App? It was designed to help young men avoid the embarrassing conversation with their doctor about ED so now they can get Viagra or Cialias through the App. The cheaper, better and longer term solution to stop PIED is to stop watching porn. When many try to stop, that is when they realize they are addicted because they can’t. Porn promised sexual fulfillment but it actually takes away the ability to enjoy sex and in the case of PIED even the ability to have it at all.
In 1973 Dutch biologist, Nicolaus Tinburgen won the Nobel Peace Prize for his research of Supra Normal stimulus. A supernormal stimulus is an exaggerated version of the stimulus; something bigger and greater than someone would find in their normal natural everyday lives. His most famous experiment was with butterflies, where the males were attracted to the size and brightness of the female’s wings. So Tinburgen made cardboard butterfly wings that were bigger and brighter than the real wings and guess what, the male butterflies actually tried to mate with the cardboard wings.
Even when the female butterflies were present, the males ignored them and tried to mate with the cardboard. Pornography is a supra normal stimulus that is hijacking the minds of men and deceiving them to choose pornography over their wives. Just as the butterflies were deceived and grew bored of the real females, men are being deceived and become more stimulated by fake sex.
The husband who watches porn cultivates an appetite for new and different sexual partners so he naturally gets bored with his wife. The husband, who should be enjoying an increasingly satisfying sex life in marriage, starts chasing the cardboard of pornography. The natural comparisons he makes between porn and his wife only adds to his discontent. His ability to enjoy his wife sexually is greatly diminished. Whether you cultivate an appetite for harder forms of pornography or for more and different sexual partners or for self-sex, each of these has one thing in common: they make it more difficult to be content with one sexual partner for life the way God intended.
Satan wants to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10) your sexual satisfaction and porn is his tool of choice. Pornography promises sexual fulfillment, but actually takes away the ability to enjoy the real thing.
Shame is Toxic
Shame is different from guilt. Guilt says “I’ve done bad” but shame says “I am bad.” At the core of shame is self-loathing and a sense of worthlessness. A person’s shame declares some version of “I am not enough;” “There is something wrong with me,” “I am bad,” or “I don’t matter.”
Shame researcher Brene Brown defines shame as, “an intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.”
When a person believes they are worthless and have a sense of self-hatred, it is hard for them to receive love from God or others. This spurs isolation from both God and others which, in turn, multiplies the negative emotions that the porn addict has learned to medicate with porn.
Another harmful consequence of the shame that comes from a porn addiction is how it impacts a person’s religious service. Over a six year period, a study looked at impact of pornography on a person’s service and leadership in their place of worship. If someone did not watch porn, they had a 1 in 3 chance of serving in their congregation. But if they started watching pornography monthly their chances of serving shrunk to 1 in 10, and, if they were watching porn on a weekly basis, it went to 1 in 20. If they started watching daily, it went to almost zero.
This is exactly what the Bible talks about in Hebrews 12:1. It says, “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”. It’s not just that porn is keeping God’s people in sin, it is keeping them from running the race God has for them to run. We want to help people run free so they can reach their God given potential in Christ. God has a race for you to run but porn is keeping you from running it like you should.
Porn is an Addictive Drug
For many porn users, their bad habit has become an addiction. The physical structure of the brain is changed by prolonged porn use. Without addressing the brain-altering impact of porn, it is nearly impossible to change a person’s behavior. Understanding the body’s response to pornography is an important step in finding freedom from porn’s captivating hold.
The graph below shows the amount of dopamine estimated to be produced in the brain by different stimulants:
Sex is the highest natural reward of dopamine the brain gives. On the chart, there are three man-made stimulants estimated to produce more dopamine than sex: meth, cocaine and porn. Drugs like cocaine release unnatural amounts of dopamine into the body. So does meth. So does pornography. Dopamine ensures that the brain will remember and later crave the activities that led to the high. The bottom line is that drugs like cocaine, meth, and porn are all rooted in chasing a high that dopamine won’t let them forget.
Notice on the chart that nothing compares to porn in sustaining a high near its peak. This allows people to binge for hours at a time. Most porn sessions last minutes, but hours-long binge sessions are not uncommon. Users get a fresh hit of dopamine as they anticipate new and different sex scenes.
I interviewed several married men who had porn addictions in the past. I asked them, “What produces more dopamine: porn or sex?” These men all agreed that porn causes more of a dopamine rush even though sex is more fulfilling. One of the men commented, “I think the more sex I have with my wife, the more satisfying it is each time. Porn gives less satisfaction each time… or at least, it takes more porn to get the same dopamine effect.”
Porn is like candy. Sex with your spouse is like a five-course meal. Candy will give a quick sugar high, but compared to a five-course meal, it cannot satisfy or fulfill. Porn is the ultimate eye candy but it doesn’t rot teeth. It rots minds, souls, and relationships. When people consider the reality in the chart, no wonder teenagers struggle to resist getting such a dopamine hit. It’s not just about the porn, it’s about the craving for porn that the dopamine brings.
Porn Slowly Crushes Relationships
A study of thousands of Americans on the impact of pornography on relationships showed clearly that “pornography use is an indicator of poorer relationship quality”. Out of 31 measures of relationship quality, pornography did not positively impact any of them with one exception that was declared inconclusive. Porn was zero for thirty one on showing a positive impact on relationships according to the 31 measures taken. Porn is toxic to relationships.
Dr. John Gottman founded the world-renown Gottman Institute. All they do is study relationships. In the past, Gottman said pornography didn’t harm couples. He has completely changed his stance! He wrote an open letter retracting his earlier position. He is now against pornography in marriage. Gottman says, “use of pornography by one partner leads the couple to have far less sex and ultimately reduces relationship satisfaction. We are led to unconditionally conclude that for many reasons, pornography poses a serious threat to couple intimacy and relationship harmony.”
Two separate studies showed that over half of the divorces in the U.S. were caused, in part, because of pornography. Think of that. Of the roughly one million divorces each year in the U.S. half are caused, in part, by porn. One of the best predictors of divorce for a person is the depth of their porn habit. This does not bode well for the future since the younger generations which have deeper addictions to porn than any before it.
Dr. Samual Perry, a sociology professor at the University of Oklahoma surveyed thousands of couples over a six year period to determine the impact of porn on their marriages. What he found was staggering, when you think of the implications. When one of the spouses of a married couple starts watching porn, they are 2-3 times more likely to divorce in the next two years compared to the marriage that was porn free.
The Benefits of Living a Porn-Free Life
The benefits of breaking a porn habit are immense. When you quit porn, you quit sinning against yourself so you don’t reap the negative consequences in your brain, in your relationships and in your life. I want to start a list and encourage you to add to it yourself.
- More confidence. Without shame and the guilty conscience, you are more confident. Few things kill a person’s confidence like guilt.
- More sex and more satisfying sex. According to research and personal accounts, instead of increasing sexual enjoyment, porn often leads to less satisfying sex in the long run and, for many porn consumers, no sex at all.
- Closer relationships. When you are fully known and not hiding, you can be fully loved. Research shows that porn users report less love and trust in their relationships, and they are more prone to separation and divorce, and often see marriage as a “constraint.” From our National Survey of Christian Students, six out of ten admitted their porn use negatively impacted their relationships.
- You avoid Porn Induced Erectile Dysfunction.
- Makes for a stronger marriage or future marriage (if you’re single)
- You will view people as people instead of sex objects.
- Happier and less depression. When people watch porn, their brains have elevated levels of the pleasure chemical dopamine. This means that it takes more dopamine than usual to feel normal. The results are that the simple pleasures of life are not as enjoyable as they used to be.
- Quitting porn improves your leadership. For someone to quit porn, they must grow in their emotional awareness. This is essential for identifying and then addressing emotional triggers. This is why we built an App so people can check in daily and evaluate their emotions. When someone does this, they grow significantly in Emotional Intelligence. The more emotionally intelligent a person is, the better they are at relationships and in their leadership.
Besides these, there are significant spiritual benefits from quitting porn:
- Quitting porn increases closeness with Christ. “He who has my commandments and keeps them he it is who loves me… and I will love him and disclose myself to him” (John 14:21). The appetite we feed grows. Our desire for God and the things of God diminishes. Our survey showed that half of the students said their porn use decreased their desire to read or study God’s word.
- Porn use keeps us from loving God supremely. Porn use keeps God from revealing Himself to us the way He wants to. This hurts our fellowship with Christ. Our relationship is forever secure, but the intimacy of our fellowship is diminished. Any sin, including porn, we actively pursue is an affront to God and hinders our intimacy with Him. So quitting porn increases our closeness to Christ.
- Frees you from a harmful master: You deepen the porn pathways in your brain with each pursuit of porn. This makes breaking free more challenging. Porn use causes us to cultivate an appetite for more porn and more immorality. There are more consequences than we think.
- Quitting porn helps you fulfill your destiny to be more like Christ
God’s plan for every Christian is to make us like Jesus. His primary method of transformation? Renewing our minds. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” Romans 12:2. God reprograms our mind to make us like Christ. Porn is a toxic pollutant that undermines God’s work in our lives and builds the enemy’s strongholds in our minds. Don’t let porn undercut God’s work in your life to be like Christ.
Quitting porn makes you more usable. Nothing compares to being used by God to serve others and glorify Him.
This verse reveals some are prepared for every good work and some are not. Part of preparation is fleeing youthful lusts. Over half of monthly porn users from our survey said their porn use decreased their desire to serve in a spiritual capacity. The guilt, shame and feelings of hypocrisy that result from porn use destroy the confidence to lead spiritually. Quit porn and become more usable.
“The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much (James 5:16).
Our influence with God through prayer is affected by obedience. After writing about how a man can have his prayers ‘hindered’ because of how he treats his wife, Peter says, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” 1 Peter 3:12. Author E.M. Bounds captures this principle of scripture. “We must learn this lesson well that righteous character and Christ-like conduct give us a peculiar and preferential standing in prayer before God.”(7) Don’t allow porn to make your prayers less effective.
God’s word says, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith”. 1 Timothy 1:5. God’s desire for us is to live a life without the hypocrisy and shame that porn brings to a Christian’s life. This is the opposite of what a believer experiences when they are stuck in a porn habit.
Sin, like porn, doesn’t affect our position in Christ but it does impact our ability to experience the fullness of life in Christ. Quitting porn moves the believer from worldlines to godliness. From distant fellowship to intimacy with Christ. From a lack of influence to influence with God in prayer. From polluting the mind to renewing the mind. From being unusable to a degree to be usable. Living a life without the guilt, the shame and the lies. Porn is costing us more than we realize and quitting porn has more benefits than we think.
“The Freedom fight has been a huge blessing and weapon in my fight for sexual purity and has made all the difference. It has been almost a year and a half since my last relapse and the freedom is indescribable. It has really increased my intimacy with the Lord and helped shape my ministry. I feel as though I used to have a huge weight around my neck holding me back, but now it is gone. I am so thankful for the freedom and trajectory of purity God has used the Freedom Fight to establish in my life.” – Nathan
One significant benefit of stopping your porn habit is that you will do your part to stop fueling sex trafficking. Human sex trafficking is a form of modern day slavery. This trade has expanded around the world and in the U.S. Up to 300,000 Americans under eighteen are lured into the commercial sex trade every year. The demand for sex trafficking is fueled by pornography. Pornography and sex trafficking are inextricably linked, and in many cases, they are the same thing. A survey was conducted of women rescued from sex trafficking in nine countries. Almost half of these women said their traffickers made pornography of them while they were enslaved. One female survivor was forced at gun point to appear in a video that the porn industry awarded as a “sex-positive production.” In a later interview she said, “Every time someone watches that film. . . they are watching me being raped.”
One underage girl was missing for almost a year before her mother learned that sixty pornographic videos of her had been posted to multiple pornography platforms including Pornhub and SnapChat. Pornhub described the girl as a “verified model with valid ID.”
The idea that watching porn isn’t hurting anyone is a lie. Watching pornography fuels and, in many cases, causes the enslavement and rape of girls, boys, women and men. The collective billions of clicks to porn content directly fuels the demand for sex traffickers to make money selling videos to porn sites. Because rape porn is one of the popular genres of porn, traffickers who film rapes fit right in. Every visit received by these porn sites featuring trafficked victims is supporting the continued imprisonment of these individuals. Supporting the porn industry is supporting sex trafficking. This is why sex trafficking has grown as pornography has grown. Reported cases of human sex trafficking in the U.S. increased 842% in the past ten years. Thirteen is the average age someone enters sex trafficking in the U.S.
Find Freedom Through God’s Word
All truth is God’s truth. This is why, in addition to building our program on God’s word, we seek scientific understanding as we address the porn problem. Brain science, in particular, is essential to have an accurate view of what is taking place with a pornography addiction. Understanding emotions, like shame, is also important to have a full picture of the forces at work in a porn addiction. The same God who created the soul also created the brain and emotions. The Freedom Fight will continue to have a blended approach to addressing the porn issue that is biblical and scientifically informed. Sexual sin like porn impacts the whole person so the solution must be holistic.
Accountability is essential for people to reach their potential. This is why there is built-in accountability with those things we must succeed in like school and work. Accountability is even more important for an addiction that part of you doesn’t want to give up. Many alcoholics who join Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) commit to ninety in ninety. This means they attend an AA meeting every day for ninety days. They must immerse themselves in accountability and recovery. Accountability is essential especially in the early months and years. We created the FF App in part to make checking in with your accountability something easy to do each day. In two minutes or less, you check in and it is sent to accountability partners of your choosing.