Young People Ask . . .
What’s the Harm in Pornography?
“PORNOGRAPHY is everywhere; you walk down the street—there it is displayed openly on newsstands,” recalled 19-year-old Ronald. “Some of our teachers would bring it to school, reading it at their desks while waiting for the next class.” Yes, people of various ages, backgrounds and educational status are avid readers of pornography.
“Presently, eighteen million Americans—twice as many as there were fifteen years ago—are regular readers of ‘soft-core’ [pornographic] magazines,” revealed a popular magazine. Perhaps you have been tempted to look at erotic literature, pictures, cartoons or movies. Will it really do any harm? First, let’s examine why it’s so popular.
Why the Interest in Pornography
To ensure the continuity of the human family, God created us with a powerful sex drive, designed to be honorably satisfied within marriage. (Genesis 1:28) Upon your reaching puberty, many questions about sex, as well as conflicting emotions, surge through your mind. Some, to satisfy their curiosity about these newly awakened emotions, turn to pornography.
What effect does pornography have? “When I read girlie magazines and viewed the photographs it was exciting!” admitted Mark. This young man revealed the real reason for the vast popularity of pornography—it can intensely stimulate your sexual desires. In fact, the English word “pornography” comes from the Greek word pornographos—the ‘writing of prostitutes.’ These ancient writings described the sexual activity of prostitutes, no doubt for the purpose of arousing the passion of the readers. Mark adds: “I looked forward to new issues of these magazines because going through ones I had finished didn’t give me the same flush of excitement. It’s habit-forming.” But does that mean it’s a harmful habit?
Effects on You Now
One 15-year-old girl watched a “porno” movie with her friends. Afterward she bemoaned: “I disliked it because it made something so beautiful, private, and special so cheap and disgusting.” Yes, pornography has an overwhelming message: “Sex is purely for self-gratification.” This message is even more evident in today’s pornography that is saturated with rape and sadistic violence for sexual pleasure.
“Porno” viewers soon find that “milder” forms (soft-core) no longer are stimulating. They thus seek out pictures or movies that are even more gross. This can lead to truly debased views about others. As New York University assistant professor Ernest van den Haag wrote: “Pornography invites us to perceive others only as pieces of meat, as objects of exploitation for the sake of our own sensations of pleasure.”
The Bible shows that “because of the insensibility of their hearts” some even came “to be past all moral sense” and “gave themselves over to loose conduct to work uncleanness of every sort with greediness.” (Ephesians 4:18, 19) This didn’t happen overnight. For instance, the original Greek word for “insensibility” was used at the time to describe the slow healing of a broken bone. At first a weak sticky substance containing calcium gradually builds up on the broken edges; then it bridges the gap and in time hardens to become like stone. So, too, with those described by the Bible, slowly—little by little—their hearts were hardened until they became insensitive, without feeling. Would you want this to happen to your heart?
Effects on Future Marriage
Whether your eventual plans include marriage or not, pornography presents a warped, idolized view of sex. One could desire the fantasy world pornography offers and end up disappointed with one’s own mate. Why? Because real life is different. A young wife, who was an avid reader of pornography before marriage, commented: “Reading pornography caused me to desire with my husband the abnormal things portrayed in the books. This led to constant frustration and a letdown sexually.”
In a 1981 survey conducted among several hundred women regarding the effects of pornography on their rapport with the men in their lives who read it, nearly one half reported that it caused serious problems. It actually destroyed some marriages or engagements. The comments of one wife were typical of many: “I can only assume by [my husband’s] need and desire for sexual release with pornography that I am inadequate . . . I wish to God I were a woman who could satisfy him, but he prefers plastic and paper and his need has destroyed a part of me. . . . Pornography is . . . anti-love . . . It is ugly, cruel and destructive.” Yes, raw sexual appetite, fueled by pornography, is no more a sign of love than brutality is a sign of strength. A young husband admitted: “Pornography encouraged selfishness; I was very intent on satisfying just myself.” However, with some young people there is an even more important consideration.
Friendship With God
An increasing number of young people are intent on having a friendship with God. This enables them to elevate their thinking above the fantasies of illicit sex. So they try to heed the Scriptural advice: “‘Quit touching the unclean thing’; ‘and I will take you in.’ ‘And I shall be a father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to me,’ says Jehovah the Almighty.” Because of this heartwarming promise these young persons respond to the words of the Bible writer: “Let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit.”—2 Corinthians 6:17–7:1.
Reading pornography works directly against such efforts. Some of these Christian youths, who previously viewed pornography, were interviewed. They revealed that reading even an occasional sexy magazine had a desensitizing effect on their conscience. It led to self-abuse and even fornication. Confessed a young husband: “Erotic images constantly reappear. You have to fight to remove them.”—Colossians 3:5.
Breaking the Habit
“Many times pornography is in my direct line of sight, so I am forced to see it at first glance; but I don’t have to look a second time,” observed Darryl. So refuse to look where it is openly displayed or to be chided into pursuing it by classmates.
Avoiding it, however, is only part of the answer. “Whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well spoken of, whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is,” urged the apostle Paul, “continue considering these things.” (Philippians 4:8) Fix your mind on these. This takes effort! Yet wholesome literature, such as this magazine, that will enhance your respect for God and others will make it easier to “continue considering” these thoughts and strengthen your resolve. You will draw even closer to God as a friend.
It may take real effort to rid yourself of pornographic desire, but don’t despair. Never tire of begging our compassionate heavenly Father for help. Ask for his forgiveness when on occasion you may fail. “As a father shows mercy to his sons,” states the Bible writer David, “Jehovah has shown mercy to those fearing him. For he himself well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13, 14) Yet a person with the problem has to do his or her part, as 18-year-old Karen observed: “As an imperfect person it is difficult enough trying to keep my mind on things that are chaste and praiseworthy. Would it not be all the more difficult if I deliberately read pornography?”
Those who cherish a good conscience and a wholesome relationship with God and others feel as did the apostle Paul whose words The Living Bible paraphrases as follows: “Like an athlete I punish my body, treating it roughly, training it to do what it should, not what it wants to. Otherwise I fear that . . . I myself might be declared unfit.”—1 Corinthians 9:27.
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What you read can affect your heart