By the time the couple made it to my office, their marriage was already chaos. She had cheated on him, he had cheated on her, and neither seemed remorseful. The problem, as they saw it, was that the other was not satisfying them. The problem, as I saw it, was that they had each spent years consuming pornography. Frequently subjecting their minds to perverse pictures had created a pattern of thinking and of arousal. And my counselees are hardly the only ones in this predicament.

The sexual climate of our culture is dominated by the pornographic. The way most people think about sexual expression is tainted by lubricity. True sexual morality is seen as inane and archaic. Sex and sexuality are governed by the immoral, and the pornographic mindset has cornered the market on all sex. In short: we live in a Pornopoly.

This monopoly has affected everything from sex education in schools, to clothing styles for pre-teens, to the expectations of married men and women in their bedrooms. The porn problem is not contained to adolescent boys and their computers in mom and dad’s basement. It has spread, like a rapacious plague, across our culture and even into the church. Porn controls much sexual expression and sexual discussion in our culture.

For example: porn has deeply affected the way men relate to women. The average single man watches porn for 40 minutes, three times a week. That’s two hours a week, and 104 hours per year. The average male views porn for the first time at age 11, which means by the time he is 30 he will have watched almost 2,000 hours of pornography. For the average man in a relationship it is only slightly different. A married man, or man in a steady dating relationship, will watch porn 1.7 days a week for 20 minutes. Perhaps more alarming, 90 percent of men watch pornography. William Struthers talks about how this prolonged exposure to porn affects relationships. In his book Wired for Intimacy, he writes:

Because of these cognitive structures and the ability to store sexual images that are associated with sexual arousal and gratification, the minds of many men become hidden, personalized adult film studios. Any women they have seen and anyone else they can imagine are their performers. As porn and fantasy take control of the mind, it becomes a dream theater that is transposed over the waking world. Every woman they come into contact with is objectified, undressed and evaluated as a willing (or unwilling) mental sexual partner. She is rated on her imagined sexual proficiency and then either stored for later use or discarded as worthless. This mental consumption of a person is a violation of the image of God in each of us.

The frequent use of porn shapes the way a man views and relates to all women, not just those on his computer screen.

It affects the marital relationship too. Women admit that their husbands are asking them to do things in the bedroom that they do not feel comfortable doing, things that their husbands have seen in pornography. Men admit it too. They want their wives to look like and act like porn stars for their own enjoyment. Some men and women even find their marital sexual life boring after prolonged use of pornography. Like my counselees, they receive excitement from viewing porn that cannot be matched by marital intimacy. Porn has now come to alter not simply the single man’s sexual fantasies, but the married man’s sexual realities.

How to Respond

Whether we are discussing politics and the battle for “gay marriage,” or music and songs about “doing it like animals,” the Pornopoly framework plays a part in the discussion. The church must respond to this crisis, but how we respond is of crucial importance.

In many cases our approach to dealing with sexual sin has been to issue lots of warnings and to point our finger at those living in sin. That’s one approach, and it contains biblical elements. It was also relatively effective in centuries past. But as our culture has come to be so dominated by this degenerate view of sex, the church rarely makes much difference in the area of sexuality. Even within the church, the Bible’s views are rarely affirmed by the average attendee. We need more than a list of restrictions; we need a fully developed theology of sex. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Paige Patterson says:

Voices raised against this Epicurean madness are dismissed by postmodern society as “prudish” or “puritan” or “legalistic.” Indeed, Christians have sometimes failed to address sexual issues in a thoughtful and helpful fashion, giving instead the impression that Christian living is an endless series of prohibitions aimed at preventing any enjoyment in life.

Pastors and theologians must take the initiative to equip themselves and other Christians with a more fully developed Biblical theology of sex and sexuality. This will require more than a facetious sermon series about a pastor’s rooftop sexperiment. This will require us to be more thoughtful and thorough.

The Pornopoly has more control on our culture, our churches, and even on us than we realize. To battle against it will not require the church revert to an old-school sexual repression. After all, as the Creator of sex, God thinks it a good thing. We should think it a good thing too, but only as it conforms to his full design.

  • Ron Van Brenk

    Good article Dave,


    29. Of our desires some are natural and necessary, others are natural but not necessary; and others are neither natural nor necessary, but are due to groundless opinion.

    This “Epicurean madness” has considerable sanity to it. It seems to depend on what you consider “natural” (same-sex?) and “necessary” (only for procreation?).

    We are constantly reminded what is “natural” by God.
    And we are given a biblical mandate to indulge in this ‘natural desire’ as often as “necessary” to frustrate Satan- 1 Cor. 7:5.

    Pornopoly is neither “natural” nor “necessary”.

  • James Rednour

    All this is absolutely true, but there’s one aspect of pornography that you did not mention that is perhaps the greatest evil associated with it. When a person views porn on their computer, they have no idea if the women they are viewing are willing participants or sexual slaves. Many (most?) of the actresses in the porn industry have been kidnapped or have sold themselves into slavery and are nothing but chattel for the pleasure of men who view them as objects. There are virtually no Jenna Jamesons who are independently wealthy porn superstars. And every click or credit card payment made to satisfy a sexual urge just adds more incentive to continue this pernicious industry.

    • Mark Soni

      Well made point. Many people have this misguided view that sin, especially porn, is a personal destruction of the mind and soul. Pornography has consequences beyond the realm of marriages and singlehood…as many are bonded to making money off this sin. The actors/actresses themselves live a life that is hideously dark and destroyed by these acts.

      The story of Samson has always struck me a warning of how our natural desires, if constantly being given into because of their fallen nature, can destroy our view of sexuality and ultimately the view of our God.

      Porn creates the illusion of pleasure’s end result: satisfaction, but the lie creates destruction.

      This was not God’s design. The great irony is that within the Biblical view of sex, God is for our pleasure when He designed the goodness of sex, not against it.

    • LG

      By some estimates that I’ve read, for something like 80% of women in the sex industry, rape, molestation, or other sexual abuse was their first sexual experience, and that includes the so-called “porn stars” like Jenna Jameson, who was herself gang raped as a teenager. As you say, every click and credit card charge continues to trap women in a cycle of re-enacting their abuse for the titillation of those watching.

  • MomOnAMission

    Nothing good can ever come from the porn industry. Sexual intimacy is only to be shared within the context of a heterosexual marriage, and perverted voyeurism is never okay. Thank you for posting this, and thank you for bringing light to the dark fact that Christians are just as much entangled in this evil web as the rest of the world. If we are to be the light of Christ, this pervasive epidemic must be stopped. May God bless you as you continue to stand up for His truth.

  • Andrew

    Great thoughts.

    I do feel like I was left hanging at the end. Yes, we see this as a huge problem in our culture and in the church. Yes, we don’t need finger pointing “shame on you preaching” as the antidote… so do you have specific insights in how to deal with this in the church? Thanks.

  • Aaron Britton

    I wished for more “solutions” as well. . .but his last sentence is packed with meaning and is the core of the antidote here.

    We have to show how marital sex is better, more fulfilling, more real than anything the porn culture has to offer. We have to show how great it is to wake up with a woman that you know, that you’ve lived life with, and whom is a part of a beautiful give and take, sexual relationship.

    We have to show how that is less painful (emotionally and otherwise), brings out our true sexuality (not our fantasy, non-realism), and is only a part of what the amazing, wonderful word “intimacy” means.

  • Wyeth

    We Christians tend to be very good at shaming, condemning and ostracizing those caught in sin. I suspect many people remain in secret bondage to pornography for fear they’ll be utterly rejected by their “friends” in the church when their struggle comes to light. We’ve got to find a way to minister freedom and restoration without shame, condemnation and rejection.

    • me

      So the way to help them is to let them know that it isn’t as shameful as they might think? Don’t they already have the world telling them that it is just healthy sexuality?

      • Wyeth

        No, I never said “let them know that it isn’t as shameful as they might think.” If the person is a Christian, they already know their involvement with pornography is shameful, and their conscience already condemns them. The last thing they need is the church to pile on further guilt and condemnation. They need to know that there is some hope of getting free from this bondage (there is!), and they need to know that they won’t be abandoned and cast aside as some kind of untouchable by their fellow believers. Unfortunately, my observation and experience has been that many of my fellow Bible-believing Christians are all-to-ready to condemn and distance themselves from those who have sinned (especially if the sin has anything to do with sex), apparently forgetting that they only stand by God’s grace. It is THAT attitude which I believe is wrong, not reflective of the example we have in Christ, and contrary to Scripture (e.g., Galatians 6:1; Jude 22-23).

  • Jim Taylor

    Good stuff. Porn has become normalized and is an expected in our culture. I agree completely that the church has largely neglected a theology of sex. A couple of resources our church has produced on this topic:

  • Dan Martin

    This is an excellent article, and what you say in it is unquestionably true. I do think your argument would be stronger if you talked a bit more about what *healthy* sexuality is, and how it is different from the kind glorified in porn. Really, I’d say the objective of porn-fueled sex and that of marital sex are diametrically opposed. Sexual expression within a marriage is primarily a relational thing…which is not to say it doesn’t have a great deal of arousal and excitement and good vibrations, but that even those have a different focus.

    In porneia sex (porneia is the Greek word often translated “fornication” in the New Testament…and obviously the root of our word pornography: “written fornication”), the focus is on personal gratification, on desire based on lust, etc. In marital sexuality, on the other hand, the healthy focus is on giving pleasure to each other, and in celebrating the loving union. Self gets plenty of happiness and fulfillment out of marital sex too, but in the healthy marriage it’s almost a side effect instead of the main event. This contrast can be (somewhat inadequately) summed up in two different terms for the act: “making love” versus “having sex.”

    The sad paradox is that when, as you point out many couples do, the porneia model enters into the marital bed and the focus shifts primarily to each partner’s own desires, the relationship eventually cools and the fulfillment is lost.

    I believe a big piece of restoring healthy teaching on sexuality would be to re-cast it in the context of the loving, self-giving relationship that is the rest of biblical marriage.

  • Pingback: Pornopoly()

  • Cles

    The insidiousness of the trap of pornography is that it plays upon us as we are: we are sexual beings. We are such as God’s image-bearers. We are also fallen, sinful, sin-trapped beings. Then combine these truths with adolescence (an abnormal stage in human development, tied to our cultural and technological development) and you have this recipe for disaster cooking us alive. I agree we need a more thorough theology of sexuality. We also need to understand and incorporate into that theology the physiological character of porn/sex addiction (some of which is talked about in Struthers’ book mentioned in the article). A brain on self-served sexuality is essentially the same as the brain on crack. This fact is bolstered by the fact that more women are becoming porn/sex addicted than anytime before; see this article from Covenant Eyes: (this article ought to make you cry)

    There is dignity and depravity, potential for God-honoring sexuality and God-defying perversity in each one of us. The way we deal with this is through a gracious, safe, accountability where the right to be heard has been earned. The gospel is the only way out, but how we live it out and apply it in community is key, otherwise we are merely talking about gospel-concepts and not new life. Jesus’ character is such that He compromises neither truth (“Go and sin no more…”) nor compassion (“A bruised reed he would not crush, a smoking flax he would not snuff out…”). Just look at His dealing with the woman at the well in John 4 and look at her response to Him! There is hope, but we have to be willing to patiently, persistently and perseveringly enter together into the mess we are making of ourselves in this area the longer we remain silent about it!

  • Anar

    What about junk food vs. eating healthy? Isn’t that part of or a symptom of the problem too?

  • Steve

    I am a recovered sex addict. I was one for 20 years. I didn’t start using porn until I was 21 years old. It was an escape for me from years of mental and physical abuse growing up and having been sexually molested at age 10. I have been going to church since I was born. I almost never missed a Sunday church service. I prayed for years to rid myself of this terrible addiction. But, no one was ever able to give me a way out. I felt a lot of shame, but continued to use porn to escape from my problems. I loved God and the Lord, but I could not break free. It lead me to have an affair. It lead me to miss a lot of my kids events. I finally hit bottom and was about to lose my wife, kids, job, everything

    Then, God sent me an angel and a way out. I found SLAA, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. I started a 12 Step program and I found a wonderful sponsor who walked me through the program. I asked for a sponsor who was a Christian and that made the difference for me. I am thankful to say, as of today, I have been clean, pure and sober for 1 year and 2 months. I don’t want porn anymore, the desire is gone. Jesus restored my marriage, my home life, my job, all of it. I am being baptized in another month (I was as a baby, but now I am doing it as a sign of my being born again in Christ). I accepted Christ as my Saviour as part of my 3rd Step. I now sponsor others and am helping other men be free in Christ. The wonderful part of our program is that we are truly anonymous so that men will come forward and get help. I have never met my sponsor, everything took place over the phone. My sponsees have never met me. We don’t even know what each other looks like. But, I will always be indebted to my sponsor and I love him like a brother. We still talk 2 to 3 times a week. He is a father of five, was a sex addict for years. Porn, illicit affairs, you name it. He had two girlfriends for ten years that he hid from his wife. He found SLAA and has been clean and sober for 5 years, sponsors many men, has had his marriage completely restored, and is a great Christian man.

    Just for the record, women are not immune from this addiction. In a lot of on-line meetings that we have, 40% to 50% of the people attending the meetings are women.

    There is hope and there is a way out. It is complete surrender of your life to Christ. IT is the only way. God Bless!!

  • Mike

    Good article.

    A wonderful theology of sex has recently been developed by some in the catholic church. See books, tapes and DVDs by Jason Evert and his wife, who are gifted chastity speakers,( It focuses on the benefits of marriage, the beauty of what God has created, and the nature of the human person, embedded in “male-and-femaleness”. Sexuality is a reflection of God’s nature, where father begets son, and from their love proceeds holy spirit. “This is a deep mystery”, says St. Paul. Everts have an entire sex-ed program series, with workbooks, etc. Pastors and parents should consider reviewing and if they like it, using it.

    I am 63, and am finally understanding what I should have explained to my kids. I only wish this was out sooner.

    Other good books now available on this subject as well. Google ‘theology of the body’.

  • Mike


  • Pingback: porn addiction in women()

  • Pingback: Saturday Six-Pack (26) | Wandering & Wondering()

  • kevin

    Weighing in on the solution side of things. I don’t think that most people will care much for the solution because it cannot be effected in a week, month, or even several decades. At some point the only way for things to change is the perceived value of living in Christian community gives weight to conforming to the communities values. That takes time and effort, and actually from my tiny little precipice of history it seems to be impossible. Another thought (actually a complete squirrel chase away) that porn consumption could be directly related to age delayed pair bonding of our children. We begin to become sexual in our early teens but are expected to deny that part of our creation design until we are in our late 20s or 30s. I could go into it more, but you get the drift.