There were 42 billion visits to one porn website alone last year. Sunday is its busiest day and, although accessing pornography is a predominantly male pursuit, around a third of visitors to that site are women.
The sexual acts in pornography are a far cry from the risqué top-shelf magazines and videotapes of yesteryear.
We’re now exposed to graphic images that promote life-threatening sexual acts such as rape or choking a partner for pleasure. Sexting, revenge porn and unnatural body images are skewing what we consider normal. When we consume this content, we are purchasing someone’s humiliation and fear.
What evidence do we have for this digital public health crisis? The average age of someone accessing porn for the first time is 11. Our children are just a click away from hard-core pornography. Nearly 90 per cent of the most-watched porn scenes feature violence against women and 84 per cent of those viewings are via a mobile phone.
“The New Testament calls us to honour God with our bodies…”
The picture is just as bleak for adults. Online pornography is re-wiring our minds and sexual behaviour. A UK survey last year suggests 38 per cent of women under 40 have experienced unwanted slapping, choking, gagging or spitting during consensual sex, and as many as 10 per cent of Britons have been victims of revenge pornography.
We become excarnate when we consume pornography. That is, we are acting in a virtual world, outside of our physical bodies. In the cold light of day, we might excuse porn use as merely fantasy and entertainment. That the images portrayed are acted and fake, that no-one is hurt.
That can’t hold true. Masturbating to cruel, humiliating or ‘vanilla’ pornography rewires our brains away from sexual intimacy and connection to normalising something sinister. The New Testament tells us to honour God with our bodies and to love our neighbour as ourselves. We are sexual beings, but can consumption of pornography, violent or not, truly be honouring to anyone?
Is there such a thing as ethical porn, or are we all victims? In an era of performance anxiety and body-image issues for boys, girls, men and women, we are at risk of ruining our chances of healthy sex in a committed, loving and intimate relationship. The sort of intimacy that’s so beautifully described in Song of Songs.
What can Christians do? We need to talk openly and honestly with our partners, children and church families about porn before the pornographers do. Perhaps we need a long hard conversation with ourselves too. ¶