I remember the day I sat with a father, listening to the heartbreaking story of his child’s porn addiction. What made this moment different from any other conversation I’d had before, was it wasn’t the father’s son we were talking about.
It was his daughter.
Who was sitting next to him.
She was weeping through the conversation as while she spoke of her first encounter and subsequent enslavement to a force that was destroying her life.
It seems that historically when we speak about porn addiction, we have primarily framed it as “just a male problem”. While it has never been just a male problem, in ways perhaps like never before, it is now an everyone problem. Porn is so prevalent that one wonders if freedom really is possible.
Porn sites receive more regular traffic than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined. 35% of all internet downloads are estimated to be porn-related. 64% of young people, ages 13–24, actively seek out pornography weekly or more often.
Perhaps more shocking than the statistics is the normalization of a hardcore pornographic ethic in mainstream popular culture.
Take for instance Blurred Lines. In the summer of 2013, Blurred Lines sat at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for 12 consecutive weeks, becoming the longest running number one single of 2013 and of the 2010s decade.
I’ll give you something big enough to tear your a#$ in two… Nothing like your last guy, he too square for you He don’t smack that a#$ and pull your hair like that
As youth workers, don’t we have a responsibility to respond to this type of abusive sexual ethic?
In fact, I would suggest that if you do not feel compelled to respond to pornography, perhaps youth ministry is not your calling.
Because porn changes the world, one adolescent user at a time.
And the change is dramatic and widespread. For example:
Porn changes how teens see themselves and others.
Instead of human beings made with dignity and value as image bearers of the Creator, people become physical objects to be used for personal pleasure.
Teens then see self control and self sacrifice in the pursuit of pleasure as impossible.
Porn rewires teen brains towards self-destructive compulsive behaviours.
Pathways in the brain will be reformed, making it seem like life is just about sex.
On a screen.
This keeps them from investing time, energy, and emotions in the truly significant parts of life.
Or even serving others.
Porn overwhelms teens with shame and drives them into isolation.
While people struggling with porn can be physically present, shame makes it difficult to really be emotionally present.
This creates a loss of intimacy and relationships, which leads to anxiety and poor mental health.
Have you ever stopped to wonder how much of the rise of anxiety could be traced upstream to the rise of pornography?
Porn destroys intimacy with Jesus.
Jesus never leaves us or turns His back on us. His love for us is constant. But our ability to experience that love and intimacy with Jesus is directly related to our willingness to entrust ourselves to Him and walk in step with His Spirit.
Pornography kills the ability to experience His presence.
Some of our teenagers will need professional counselling, and few of us have the training to provide that ourselves. But we can all journey relationally with others, and I hope the next number of blogs and the resources we have gathered, will give us some principles to do just that.
But before anything else, especially if you are concerned that purity is no longer possible in the world today, the words of Paul speak hope and life.
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honourable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5)
This is the antithesis of a pornographic worldview. According to Paul, purity means functioning with high regard for the holiness of God. You start by submitting to His good plan for sex. You build a passion to honour others. You sacrificially protect and care for the physical, social, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of others–not objectifying them. This is the life God calls us to.
A few weeks after I met with the young lady and her father, I unexpectedly ran into her again.
She was a completely different person. Instead of tears of sadness and shame, there was joy and freedom.
Her journey was far from over, but instead of despair, she now had hope. It was amazing. It made me think the Kingdom value of purity really is possible.
I am praying God would allow us to be a part of more and more stories like that.
Do you find it difficult to address the issue of pornography in your context as a youth worker? Why? Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem?
That’s why we have created a 7-session curriculum on pornography designed for use by small group leaders.
To help your students understand their own journey, understand the journey of unseen victims of porn, and understand the journey of confession, forgiveness, and wholeness because of the Gospel.
Think of a student in your ministry.
What could be the consequences of her life, if no one ever talks to her about God’s design for sex?
What if no one told him how porn is an evil counterfeit experience
What could be the consequences 10 years from now if no one shows him a better way?
What difference could it make for her family (now and down the road), if someone took the time to journey with her in a loving and gracious mentoring relationship, helping her experience the freedom she never thought possible?