Note: This is part one of a five part series on pornography

Part I: My porn addiction
Part II: Porn, devil or an angel?
Part III: Three ways to kick porn out of your life
Part IV: The fight for sexual sanity in a world awash in porn
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art V: The pointlessness of pornography

November 26, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - It was in the mid 90s that we began to hear a whole lot about this new thing called “the Internet,” which could answer all of mankind’s deepest questions. At around the same time I hit puberty and began to spend my time moping about pondering the age-old riddle of what, exactly, women look like underneath their clothing.

Evidently at some point I put two and two together and punched the appropriate keywords into the prehistoric version of Google, with spectacular results. So far so good, and if it had stopped there, the experiment might have been innocent enough. But there was a catch. Like most who have played the peeping Tom with porn, I found that my curiosity wasn’t satisfied. On the contrary. I had only learned what this woman looked like. But what about all the others? Obviously I needed to see a few more examples.

And thus was an addiction born.

For the next ten years or so, I would fight a sometimes-desperate fight with this devil – for devil it is – with occasional successes, and more failures than I care to remember. And but for the grace of patient and loving parents, the influence of a remarkable woman who is now my wife, and a resurgent relationship with an all-merciful God, I shudder to think down what dark paths it might have led me.

I confess that it is not easy for me to make this admission. The most enthusiastic evangelists of the sexual revolution are wont to argue that the solution to shame and guilt is to speak more openly and casually about sex, as we might about the weather, or our health. Never mind that no one is convinced, because in our heart of hearts we know that sex is not the weather, is not our health – that it is something infinitely more strange, more powerful, more beautiful, and that no amount of chattering about it will ever completely deaden that sense of shame that comes from abusing it for our own selfish ends.

However you slice it, a porn habit is a rotten thing.

But there is a kernel of truth in the lie. Shame, when buried in our psyches, can become as a worm in the core of an apple, eating away at us from the inside. For many years, I believed that I was essentially alone in this fight, that I was one of a rare breed of villainous good-for-nothings who was so enticed by this forbidden fruit. It was only much later that I learned that I was but one of millions of my generation who had unwittingly stumbled upon the magic lamp and summoned the evil genie, with the power to grant us our most private fantasies, and who demanded nothing in return but our innocence, our self-respect, our freedom, and our happiness.

We all know the figures, and so I will only mention a few of them: that the average age of exposure to hardcore pornography is now 11 years old; that around 25% of all internet searches are for pornography; that 70% of men aged 18-24 visit porn sites in a typical month; that pornography use among women is growing astronomically. 

These statistics suggest that my story is not extraordinary. On the contrary, they suggest that it is the same story shared by many, even a majority, of my peers. It is the norm. For this reason some may accuse me of over-exaggerating, pointing out that what I have called my “addiction” was no worse than what many of my friends and family went through, and that it is simply a normal part of being a teenager. In a certain sense this is true, if by “normal” you mean what most people are doing. But, in the first place, it is certainly not normal from a historical perspective. Every teen in history has had to come to grasps with his or her sexuality, and some have done so with more and some with less success. But only a small fraction of teens have ever been faced with the challenge of developing a healthy sexuality while being deluged by a sea of porn. Truly there is, in the whole history of the world, no precedent for what we are now witnessing – the ready availability of explicit, hardcore pornography on demand, in private, even by children.

And, in the second place, it is not “normal” in the sense that it is healthy or “harmless.” Porn is no longer Playboy. The porn which is available on the internet, what your average teenager is viewing, is “hardcore” in a way that the older generations simply cannot understand. It is full of vicious and violent perversions that have absolutely nothing to do with a healthy sexuality, while even the tamer “erotica” is full of explicit depictions of sex that are unrealistic and damaging. And thanks to high-definition video, as well as painfully easy access, this new porn is highly addictive, especially to the unformed adolescent psyche. I speak as emphatically as I do because I have since climbed to a clearer vantage point, and can look back at what I saw with a certain objectivity. And what I see terrifies me. Though, thank God, I have gained a certain freedom from porn, I can now see how profoundly it poisoned my imagination, and how in many respects it robbed me of my adolescence, and may very easily have robbed me of my adulthood as well.

And the problem is only getting worse.  With the Internet creeping even into our pockets through our smart phones, and with porn increasingly spilling over into mainstream culture, it has become more and more difficult to drown out its siren call.

In such an atmosphere silence is fatal. My generation, and the generation just reaching adolescence, cannot afford to receive their information on sex exclusively from those who stand to profit from their addiction. And when addiction does strike, they cannot afford to feel that they are fighting the battle alone, or, even worse, fall prey to the lie that there is no battle, that porn is “normal,” even “healthy.”

And so, we who have fought and are fighting this fight must slough off the natural embarrassment that surrounds all things sexual and speak up: not, as the pornographers may hope, in order to normalize our addiction or rationalize it away, but in order to provide encouragement to one another and to affirm this truth: that pornography is a plague upon our generation, a devil in our veins, and that it must be exorcised before it reaches our heart and destroys our capacity to love once and for all.

Note: This is Part I of a five part series on pornography. View part II here: Porn, Angel or a Devil?