7 Inconvenient Truths about Pornography

For the past few years, I have been speaking and writing about the dangers of pornography. Although I have read dozens of books about the effects of porn, I recently heard Matt Fradd discuss it on Unbelievable? radio and decided to pick up a copy of his recent book: The Porn Myth: Exposing the Reality Behind the Fantasy of Pornography. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. In fact, it’s now my top recommendation for a book of its kind.

Incovenient Truths Pornography

Without using Scripture or religious argumentation, and relying upon dozens of recent studies, Fradd makes the case that porn is damaging to individuals, relationships, and society as a whole. He is not out to censor porn, but to educate people so they can live more healthy sexual lives.

Fradd deconstructs twenty-four popular myths about porn. In this post, I will simply list seven of the most common myths, and then provide quotes from his book in response. Obviously, if you want further support for these points, you will need to get the book.

Myth 1: “Porn celebrates sex.”

Pornography is as much a celebration of sex as gluttony is a celebration of food. In both instances, that which should be appreciated isn’t appreciated at all but is twisted into something unhealthy and dangerous. By placing sex—any kind of sex—into the medium of pornography. we gorge the masses on industrialized, commodified sexuality. This does not celebrate sex at all. It cheapens it (39).

Myth 2: “Porn is for mature adults.”

Which activity sounds more “mature” and grown-up: making love for a lifetime to one real flesh-and-blood woman whom you are eagerly serving and cherishing, despite all her faults and blemishes (and despite your own), or sneaking away at night to troll the Internet, flipping from image to image, from one thirty-second teaser to another, for hours on end, pleasuring yourself as you bond to pixels on a screen? (35)

Myth 3: “Porn viewing is a selfless act.”

In bonding with a real person in the act of sex, there is at least the potential to treat sex as a self-gift to another, not merely as a selfish act (27).

Myth 4: “Porn doesn’t affect people.”

Pornography doesn’t ramp up a man’s sex drive; it discourages empathy…Porn shapes a person’s concept of beauty…overexposure to erotic stimuli actually exhausts a healthy young man’s sexual responses—making him, in a sense, impotent without the use of fantasy (45-46).

Myth 5: “Porn and art are the same.”

The word “pornography” contains the Greek word porne, meaning “prostitution” or “prostitute.” Like prostitution, pornography a specified desired end: sexual stimulation in order to produce a completed sexual act. True art is not produced for this purpose, to substitute for a prostitute (51).

Myth 5: “People who look at porn aren’t contributing to the porn industry.”

By merely browsing porn sites, spending hours on end racking up page views, you are contributing to porn’s profits. For many of the pages you visit, cost-per-impression advertisers are padding porn’s deep pockets. The more you add to a website’s popularity, the more money porn companies make (90).

Myth 6: “There is no connection between porn and sexual slavery.”

Porn is marketing for sex trafficking in two powerful ways. First, it serves as direct online and offline marketing as pornographers use pornographic images to draw buyers. Second, porn has an influence on the culture at large, whetting men’s appetites for sex that few women are willing to give—unless they are paid or forced (114).

Myth 7: “Marriage will cure porn addiction.”

Married life no more cures a porn addiction than winning the lottery cures a gambling addiction…Pornography displays extramarital sex as exciting, and that display can lead the viewer to accept extramarital sex as normal…Pornography makes one feel that extramarital sex, or sex outside of a committed relationship, is acceptable (143).

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

[1] I fully realize that I am not adequately defending each of these premises in this post. If you want to see further documentation and argumentation, check out The Myth of Porn.


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13 replies
  1. John B. Moore says:

    There’s some truth in each point you make, but you ruin it with gross over-simplification.

    One important fact to keep in mind is that pornography is extremely diverse. You can find anything out there if you look, and that includes tasteful, artistic pornography for mature adults. If you only see “industrialized, commodified” porn, then you’re going to the wrong places.

    There may indeed be a connection between some porn and sexual slavery, but we already have laws against this. Are you advocating stronger enforcement? That would be good, but it doesn’t help the cause to suggest that all or most porn performers do so unwillingly. That’s just silly.

    • Marc Mollenthiel says:

      He gave a disclaimer that his intention was not to defend the premises adequately here, He is simply stating them and slightly giving an introduction to the angle which the defence would be taking. He also gave an indication that “If you want to see further documentation and argumentation, check out The Myth of Porn”. Your criticism seems highly relevant in general but if you indent to really interact with the material you ought to check out the actual arguments and interact with them there. Attacking these would be similar to beating on a straw man. Seeing that this is a list of conclusions you could try to demonstrate that the conclusions themselves are contradictory in which case your criticism would be valid but to attack the reasoning behind them in a place where they were not intended to be presented probably is not the best place to rest you highly relevant and appreciated criticisms.

      • John B. Moore says:

        My main point is that pornography is extremely diverse, but the so-called myths listed above make no mention of that. Instead, the arguments all seem like “porn is this” and “porn is that.” You just can’t generalize that way.

        Does the book include a sensitive analysis of different types of pornography? Or does it make broad assumptions lumping all pornography into one thing?

        Hey, if you send me an ebook through my blog, I will publish and extensive review.

      • Sledge says:

        Hi John, pornography is something that draws you in, like a good TV drama. You simply cannot stay in a “good pornography” zone can you? Do you have evidence or statistics to back up such a claim? I see it as kinda like crime… You start small and work your way up, except that pornography is highly addictive and trashes relationships in many cases.

        In terms of the morality of pornography, well, how we come to understand this is going to be highly worldviews dependant. If I was to return to atheism and hedonism, then I would use pornography and not care about the morality because our bodies and brains are just atoms. But as a Christian, and one who sees body as physical and mind as spiritual, and us also being spiritual beings, I see pornography and sexual fantastic as something that is highly destructive in more than just a physical dimension.

  2. Michael Welch says:

    As a pastor, and frankly as a man, I know how dangerous and destructive pornography is. It is something I want all men to steer away from, and to live healthy lives with their mates. I have found a difficult “real world” subject that I don’t believe the Christian church has really dealt with adequately however. The movies and books and advise that seems to be prevalent about this subject deals with men, how they treat their wives, and what they need to do to get their own lives in order to have a healthy sexual relationship. However, I have found the number one impediment to this is that their women don’t want to have sex anymore. Plain and simple…especially after child bearing years and into middle age. Among the men I counsel and the men I know as friends or aquaintances, Christian and non Christian alike, I would say 90 % of them have no or little sex lives with their spouse. It is a real world problem that is difficult to solve and leaves these men vunerable to pornography. I have listened to story after story how difficult it is for them to have the kind of relationship they desire. I have counselled talking it out with their partner, go through counselling together, praying through it, even serving their spouse. But ultimately, how do you solve the real problem of essentially a sexless marriage? Thank you.

    • Tracey says:

      This is an interesting question. One of the reasons is, do these men marry the woman most suitable to them? Was her sexual-appetite the same as his, will be, loving a person/partner is not enough, from a woman’s view, one has to be attracted to him and, “like,” him, if not it’s a no go.
      These marriages are easy to spot, as there is this, wall-distance, and there is a uniform-clothing look about the couple, so they become, partners of a marriage, not in a marriage.
      In short, nil or little romance, a relationship without romance is like, never eating healthy food, sooner or later the results of an unhealthy diet will become evident, regardless of who you are, there really are no exceptions. So they the couple stay in the marriage for, money, for children, for looks, but not because they like each other, sad.
      Woman these days, are very masculine, in attitude, in appearance, in demeanour, they, railroad, and almost, bristly they are not fun, dowdy.
      However men are, not without their, undesirable attributes, after a period of time, the, effort just dissolves, the real turn-off; for women is, neediness, it’s very creepy, honestly it is, pawing away just to see if, “any chance for any?” eww.
      Hint: men, don’t become her proxy, “son,” this is very off putting, no joke, we as woman/mothers have spent years looking after the tribe, and we don’t want more, and don’t be too available to easy, remember your a MAN, simple.
      I am a single parent now, and I can tell you, those marriage on the fast-track to divorce are so easy to spot.
      So what not to do: don’t drag everyone to the shop on…..for everything, go on your own/or her own, and if you;men don’t want to go, then, DON’T GO, there is nothing worse than seeing, the whole family, in a shop, and the wife/partner, with a look of thunder on her face, tell her to go on her own, she is more than capable, I did with my husband, I stayed home and he went and bought the groceries;why, because I hate grocery shopping, I prefer to clean the house-I like cleaning, I know who I am, and,
      don’t forget your a, MAN, first, not a child-still-growing, you’ve done that.
      What am I saying, this, you don’t have to stick to each other like, glue, this is a sure recipe for loosing your IDENTITY, no doubt about it, you actually have your own identity.
      Don’t turn your bedroom into a second-childs bedroom, it’s your bedroom, so keep it like that, children will easily become your WHOLE focus, and then they will, LEAVE HOME, and you’ll be there without any IDENTITY left, I’m not kidding.
      What did you do before you were married, this is who YOU, are, what music did you listen too?
      what food did you like, what events did you go to, did you belong to any clubs PRIOR to getting married, this is who you WERE, we she, your wife/partner meet you.
      I love music, like now I am listening to , Ambrose, ‘Your the biggest part of me,’ I play music all the time, I always have always will, I wear what I like, just like I did when ever, I do what I like, I retain my identity.
      I have seen so many marriage limp along, heavily waited by the child/ren in the marriage, whereby the child/ren are the reason, these two people met, got together, and the truth is, no they (child/ren), are not the reason the two adults were attracted to each other, they, the child/ren are the result of, not the reason why.
      Women many times as mothers, simply stop being, the beautiful, attractive, sensual feminine beings they are, they just stop. So wake up and live.
      Remember to have fun, in each others company, be a little illusive, unobtainable, have that, ‘look of assuredness,” but the man, and the sexless marriage should be not in your life.

      Treat he like a lady.

      • Andy Ryan says:

        “One of the reasons is, do these men marry the woman most suitable to them? Was her sexual-appetite the same as his”

        But the Christians arguing here are all against sex before marriage, so how are men supposed to find this out before they commit to marriage?!

        That said, you ignore that people’s priorities and desires change over time. One member of a partnership may find their sex drive changes a fair bit after having children. Most women, at least, are exhausted for much of the first six months, year or more of becoming a mother.

    • Andy Ryan says:

      Your candour is to be applauded. I’m guessing that for many of these men, pornography is a less dangerous and less destructive alternative to extramarital affairs.

  3. Tracey says:

    So who in the family are you ok with working in the porn industry.
    And just how generous will you be when you find out its your…………..and the types of porn?
    Very few people are that, morally generous, very few.

  4. Andy Ryan says:

    “Which activity sounds more “mature” and grown-up: making love for a lifetime to one real flesh-and-blood woman whom you are eagerly serving and cherishing, despite all her faults and blemishes (and despite your own), or sneaking away at night to troll the Internet”

    Why does it have to be either/or? Both are possible. Also, ‘X is more mature than Y’ doesn’t mean Y isn’t mature. That said, I’m not sure that ‘Porn is for mature adults’ is really an argument people use to defend porn. I’d have thought it’s used in the context of ‘Porn should NOT be viewed by minors’, which is a different meaning of ‘mature’.

  5. John B. Moore says:

    I really appreciate the comment by Michael Welch above. It’s a fact that many women stop wanting sex while many men keep on wanting a lot of sex. You should not try to have sex with your wife when she is unwilling, right? So what are you going to do? Why did God give men this persistent sex drive and then tell men to be abstinent?

  6. Susan Tan says:

    Porn is terrible because it undermines moral purity. It is a huge area of unfaithfulness and it is possible that a Christian shouldn’t even discuss this topic at all for fear of corrupting other people’s morality and/or stumbling a brother.

    If you have to research it’s negative effects then the anti-porn advocate Judith Reisner knows a lot on this topic but some things are better left alone because why risk searing your own conscience to try and save the consciences of other people who are already seared and refuse to be saved?

    I used to debate on LGBT sex topics and liked to research a bit on the psychology of religion and the human brain so I became quite aware after researching into some of the specifics of them that those scientific facts validated the biblical account.

    Helen Fischer is an anthropologist and has a TED video about a study she did on the female brain in love that essentially validates Genesis 2.

    The marital sexual bond is sacred and holy but it is breakable if we can’t learn to follow God’s directions in the Bible. Personally, I think communication is usually the number one culprit in marriage problems because poor communication creates trust issues and trust affects a marriage in multiple ways. God always says for the woman to respect the man and the man to love the woman. I suppose that is because those are the primary social needs of each gender. But if you think about each person whether male or female both need love and respect. So where will the cracks in the marital relationship occur that lead to an unhealthy sex life? In the communication…blaming, complaining, finding fault, misinterpretation, etc. That is why people seek out counselors for help in interpreting all the miscommunciation. The sexes interpret actions differently and personality type compounds all this so either reading a counseling book for yourself or even better seeking counseling would be the best way to go unless you are really good at mending broken fences all on your own. Cloud and Townsend have an excellent book called “God Will Make A Way”. They are Christian counselors and they explain how human beings suffer from interpersonal boundary issues. So this also could come into play with communication issues. People come from different families and families raise their children differently and what one party might take offense at another party wouldn’t or they wouldn’t know they had committed a interpersonal boundary violation because of the way they were raised. Culture can also come into play because people from different cultures also interpret things differently.

    Research into the biblical topic on the eye gate. Jesus warned about our eyes. With our eyes we learn to covet as Hannibal Lecter said and he must have learned that from Jesus. Our eyes and ears left unguarded open us up to temptation so you have to be like Joseph and run from Potiphar’s wife i.e. temptation unless you have finally learned godly self control and/or really love your spouse so much that you don’t even notice others.

    Right now the television has been training people not to run. We sit and view for long periods of time things Jesus would tell us to pluck our eyes out over and that puts unholy things in people’s minds. They are entertaining unholiness and act like they are oblivious to it. That is worldliness. It will sneak up on you if you don’t keep your heart with vigiliance and take every thought obedient to Christ.

    Joseph didn’t have the Holy Spirit to gift him with self control so he ran and people today might have to run too until they can learn to master their own human weakness. That is self control. The ability to be content in all circumstances like Paul said he had finally obtained.


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