The Five “As” of Porn Consumption Today

It’s no secret that pornography is a HUGE issue in our culture today. People seem to be finally waking up to its destructive effects. I get asked give my talk, “What’s the Big Deal with Pornography?” as much (or more) than any other topic. Utah recently declared pornography a public health hazard. Even Time magazine ran a cover story on April 11, 2016 about a generation of young men who feel their brains and relationships have been sabotaged by porn.

And yet there are many parents, pastors, teachers, and other influencers who have still not dealt with the issue. It’s time! To properly address the “pornification” of our culture, it is helpful to see how radically porn consumption has changed in the past few years. Specifically, here are my Five “As” of how porn use has changed with the advent of modern technology:

1. AGGRESSIVE: To compete for viewership and money, porn producers have turned to increasingly aggressive content. In her article for Time, Peggy Orenstein notes:

“Producers of porn have one goal: to get men off hard and fast for profit. That means eroticizing the degradation of women. In a study of behaviors in popular porn, nearly 90% of 304 random scenes contained physical aggression toward women, who nearly always responded neutrally or with pleasure. More insidiously, women would sometimes beg their partners to stop, then acquiesce and begin to enjoy the activity, regardless of how painful or debasing.”[1]

2. ACCEPTABLE: Porn consumption simply doesn’t have the stigma it used to have. As a whole, porn use is much more acceptable than in the past. In fact, according to the recent Barna/Josh McDowell Ministry study, teens and young adults rank not recycling as more immoral than viewing porn (56% vs. 32%).[2] Further, 9 out of 10 young men 13-24 say that how they talk about porn with friends is encouraging, accepting, or neutral.[3]

3. AVAILABLE: “It’s all mainstream now!” That’s what Zack, Seth Rogan’s character, says to his best friend and intended love, about pornography, in an effort to get her to make a pornographic film with him in the 2008 film, Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Technological advancement has indiscriminately allowed people of all ages to encounter and consume sexually explicit content. Mobile devices have passed computers as the most common means of accessing pornography. And virtual porn is just emerging.

4. ANONYMOUS: In the past, people had to buy a porn magazine from a real person, such as a worker at a video store or a clerk. Today, any one with a cell phone can anonymously access endless free images with just a few clicks. People can now watch pornography entirely alone without any human interaction at all.

5. AFFORDABLE: Pornography used to cost money. People accessed porn through books, magazines, videos and other mediums that required some kind of fee. Even though the porn industry will make over 100 billion dollars this year worldwide (more than Apple, Google, Netflix, Microsoft, EBay, and Yahoo combined),[4] much is still free.

Porn use has clearly changed since generations in the past. And my guess is that this trend will only continue. What can we do? Talk about this with someone. Write a blog. Give a talk. Share your story, like my friend Mike. Forward this blog. Create a YouTube video. The only way we can give people hope is by speaking truth. Revelation 12:11 says, “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Now is the time. Even though this is an uncomfortable topic, we must have the courage to address it. This includes you and me.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 15 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.


[1] Peggy Orenstein, “How porn is changing a generation of girls,” Time, April 11, 2016, p. 47.

[2] Barna, July-August 2015

[3] Porn in the Digital Age, Barna Report (April 6, 2016)

[4] Forthcoming: John D. Foubert, Ph.D., How Pornography Harms: What Teens, Young Adults, Parents & Pastors Need to Know (2016).

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25 replies
  1. Rich says:

    Porn is evil! I remember the night I confided in someone close to me. I told him I was going on a 250 hour fast – water only! When I got home, I checked my e-mail. I was confronted with a porn invitation. I had never accessed porn at any time, nor had I ever received an invitation. It was so clear to me that the devil was using the porn inducement to dissuade me from my fast to seek God and His plan for my life. It takes me three days, 72 hours, to crucify my flesh, i.e. my carnality. Was I tempted? Of course! Did I capitulate? NO! But, it just goes to show you the devil is clever. He is a thief, and has come to kill, steal, and destroy. Was I successful in seeking God and His plan? You betcha!

    Reply
  2. John Moore says:

    It’s really hard to generalize about porn because there are so many different kinds. Not all is “aggressive” by any means. If you look for porn that’s gentle and respectful of women, you can easily find it.

    If you insist on looking at “aggressive” porn, then maybe the badness is just in you. Don’t blame porn for your own sinfulness.

    Reply
    • Greg says:

      So you’re response is that some porn is ok, when it’s not “aggressive”, or it’s really just that person’s sinfulness? It just seems that you’re legitimizing porn as a convenience to your enjoyment of it… or maybe you’re speaking for the masses? As if to say that watching people have sex can be ok, solely because its a feeling you’ve enjoyed before. Yet, sex is truly an expression of relationship between two people, and to believe in God, and that He gave us this pleasure in terms of a sacred relationship between man and woman, it seems disconnected that we find the pleasure in watching others do so. You use the word sinfulness as if you believe that sin exists, but don’t see the disconnect that porn gives from relationship. Ironic that we might watch others play the part of such an intimate relationship and feel pleasure, all while being alone. And yet maybe another might say they enjoy porn while being with another, yet where is that connection to that other person, if you’re focus is those acting it out in front of a camera? Have we all forgotten the notion that we might be so lucky to find another person that we could treasure, personally and intimately, and share only that love within as they do with us?

      Setting the “aggressive” point aside, since it’s not just about aggressive, still leaves us with the remains of your thought to, “don’t blame porn” for our own “sinfulness”. You may agree not to blame porn, but we shouldn’t just excuse it either… as if to say, “well, it’s just a part of culture”. I’ve had a point in my life of watching porn, and I can see the effect of how I’ve seen women because of it. Sensual and respectful? I disagree… It still leaves man viewing women as the pleasure they seek, rather than the person that they actually are. That’s the intent of porn, no matter how you see it, whether you’re a man or woman… Porn doesn’t glorify any type of relationship, other than the one within yourself. The one that pleases your mind. The one that satisfies the self. So strange that the base pleasure of sex is intended to be relational, yet porn revolves around the self.

      I could personally say as a similar analogy only, that alcohol and tobacco aren’t that different, having enjoyed them both in my life as well. Yet, was there a time in my youth that I’d never had a cigarette and/or chewing tobacco, that my body longed for it? Of course not… Yet, did I let the allure of it draw me in without being any the wiser to its value or lack thereof? Of course I did. I look back now, having quit tobacco and rarely having a glass of wine, and consider that the best moments of each was the longing of them in mind and the satisfaction of fulfilling that void I created. They really only ever fed a desire I built in myself. Talk about a freedom from something once you can see that and let it go. You say don’t blame the bad things, and I say understanding of a better life of good things without bad things. I don’t need to blame porn, tobacco or alcohol for my ignorance in a time where I desired those things. I don’t even need to blame culture, albeit the place where those desires are nurtured within the youth. But we have the opportunity to inspire youth, or anyone who will listen, to a better way. One that values people. You might say freedom of choice, but shouldn’t choices be made with some degree of wisdom? I may have used tobacco and alcohol and just a supporting example in my own experience, but I do believe sex is sacred and there’s a value to understanding that it’s completely relational and should not be trivialized, and I would be honored if I could help my children understand and appreciate seeing it in such a way, and for that matter again, to anyone willing to consider it. Of course, that’s just my opinion. Peace!

      Reply
      • Andy Ryan says:

        “Yet, sex is truly an expression of relationship between two people”

        It can be, but who says it has to be?

        I don’t agree with the the analogy of sex to alcohol. I had a sex drive before I’d ever had sex. I didn’t have an ‘alcohol drive’ before I’d had my first drink.

        Reply
        • Greg says:

          Fair enough, Andy. I say that as I believe that it should, based on that it consider it a little more sacred than just a feeling. And agreeably, the intent of the analogy was not a complete parallel, but for me there were comparisons. Why do you suppose you had sex drive before you had sex? If I believe in God, and I consider sex as something sacred, is it possible your drive is part of that in you? Was it given to you with the notion of a desire to watch others do it, or for you to enjoy with just yourself…

          And it’s a good point on the alcohol drive before having a drink…. But then why have the first drink? Just out of curiosity.

          Reply
          • Luke says:

            Greg said:“But then why have the first drink? Just out of curiosity.”

            Greg are you justifying your question, or answering it? 😀

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “Why do you suppose you had sex drive before you had sex?”

            It’s an interesting question, Greg!

            It could be taken two ways:
            1) Why do I have the belief that I had a sex drive before I had sex
            2) How do I explain the existence of a sex drive before I had sex

            To the first, because I had sexual desires. It was something I wanted. I was aroused by thinking about it, by seeing women etc

            To the second question, you have to consider that we’re all the descendants of a long line of people with sexual desires, stretching back tens of thousands of generations. And the same goes for every mammal. If you had six siblings, the one who had the greatest sex drive would most likely have the most children out of the six, and the so on for their progeny. It’s like taking a litter of dogs and breeding for the one with the longest fur, and then doing the same with THAT one’s litter and so on. You’re going to get increasingly long-haired dogs.

            That’s basically happened with every animal on the planet and with man. And the same in reverse: the people with low sex drive wouldn’t have kids to pass on their low sex drive!

          • Greg says:

            That’s fine, but you’re just hinging everything on evolution without any regard that there’s more to us than just molecules in motion. I could ask you why love another or commit to another, but for you, that would likely just lead to response that it comes from the sex drive, among other things. Or as I recall, the possessiveness of man.
            And I realize how much you’ve hinged your whole viewpoint on my reference to “sacred”. I can only clarify that as saying that I do happen to think that the relationship is sacred and should be valued and that sex is apart of that relationship. So if you choose to hinge your whole argument on my use of sacred, then it’s better that I explain why I see it as such. People are more important than sex, and sex is really only a compliment to them. If you choose to see man or woman as nothing more than just products of nature, then we’re really just arguing our philosophical viewpoints. And considering neither one of us intend on changing our viewpoints, there’s little point in continuing. Just do the world a favor and try not to treat women like just a product for your satisfaction, based on that’s all they are through the evolution of man. Have a great day!

          • Andy Ryan says:

            “That’s fine, but you’re just hinging everything on evolution without any regard that there’s more to us than just molecules in motion”

            When did I do that? You asked what explained our sex drives, I gave an answer. When did I say we were just ‘molecules in motion’? I don’t even know what that means – everything we can see and detect in the universe are ‘molecules in motion’, with the addition, I guess of photons too. The word ‘just’ here seems a huge understatement given that it includes everything in the universe – kind of like saying ‘All you want to eat is food, and all you want to drink is liquid’!

            “I could ask you why love another or commit to another, but for you, that would likely just lead to response that it comes from the sex drive”

            Not at all. My answer referred purely to the sex drive and nothing else. Any other inference you read into that is just that – an inference.

            ” Just do the world a favor and try not to treat women like just a product for your satisfaction”

            Is this addressed to someone else? Maybe you’re meaning this for Toby. When did I say anything to suggest to treat women that way or think they should be. I might as well say “Greg, please do the world a favour and not slaughter gorillas in order to make your friends laugh’!

          • Greg says:

            I have to admit that looking back, part of my response to you was maybe intended for Toby. You’re right about that. In reading your last response explaining sex drive, you are explaining it through evolution and natural selection, correct? So would it be correct that you see man as simply a product of that… no more, no less? And you’re right, I shouldn’t presume that your explanation of sex drive should infer how you see love and commitment. So tell me how you see love and commitment. Do you see it as explained through tens of thousands of generations, or is there something more in man where love comes from?

      • toby says:

        Ironic that we might watch others play the part of such an intimate relationship and feel pleasure, all while being alone.
        If you see someone eating a piece of pie, should you feel ashamed that you salivate and want a piece of pie?

        Reply
        • Greg says:

          Well, I think sex is bit more sacred than pie, don’t you? If you’re boiling down the value of sex to just a feeling, similar to eating dessert, then we don’t really have any common ground. I see it having more value than that.

          Reply
          • toby says:

            Well, I think sex is bit more sacred than pie, don’t you?
            Maybe more than apple pie, but not more than key lime or a derby pie topped with bourbon whipped cream.

            And, no, when I think of sex I don’t think of it as sacred. I think that comes from years of inculcation that all forms of sex are dirty unless you have some sort of ceremony that can suddenly make it clean. All of this likely stems from an ancient culture where women became the man’s property after marriage and men get possessive and jealous if someone tries to play with their toys. Add to that gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, herpes, etc and you can see why a woman being a virgin was prized. All of this plus more combined to make this false notion that sex is sacred.

            So, no, pie can be on par with sex. And we do children a great disservice when talking to them about it and the importance of sex in relationships gets minimized. Many relationships end due to sexual incompatibility, one partner desiring the other more than the other’s sex drive allows. It’s important in bonding and maintaining bonding and to ignore this, to overtly oppose sex education—as some do, is to bow to ancient dogma built on possessiveness.

        • Greg says:

          Well, key lime pie is awfully good. You got me there. And sorry if the term sacred was a little too dogmatic. I believed in God, and if I thought that having a relationship had enough value, that my love and respect for that person meant that sex with them was our shared experienced, that was the extent of it being sacred. I can appreciate if you see it differently, but it would seem that maybe we both agree that sex shouldn’t necessarily be trivialized or over exaggerated.

          And yes, there are a lot of issues in relationships, with sex being one of them, but I’m sure you’d agree incompatibility isn’t summed up by either people choosing to save themselves, or people having premarital sex. With porn being the original subject here, I don’t think it serves as educational, and whether you agree or disagree, I don’t think it has a positive effect on how we view our relationships.

          Reply
          • toby says:

            With porn being the original subject here, I don’t think it serves as educational, and whether you agree or disagree, I don’t think it has a positive effect on how we view our relationships.
            On the contrary I think it’s very educational. It can serve to teach someone different ways to pleasure they’re lover, it can teach about the mechanics of sex, it can teach a person about their own sexual desires. All of these things are positives are they not?

            Can you see how horrendous the outcome becomes by placing sex into the sacred? Look no farther than the muslim world. The sexual repression is so great that they feel that women should cover their entire body except their eyes and hands. By seeing an ankle or knee of a female a man might be consumed with sexual desire and be off down the road to hell. Or at least some might think so. They have an idea that a man and woman are never alone, the devil is always with them trying to get them in the sack with each other. I believe this is where elevating sex to the sacred leads and it all comes from ancient ideas that should be cast off.

          • Greg says:

            How convenient for you that you would think it’s educational. Obviously you’re only here posting comments to be argumentative. And it’s not like our bodies can’t figure out the mechanics of sex. Andy in other comments describes how sex drive is built into us, yet by your discussion we need to figure out the mechanics. We’ve been figuring out the mechanics for generations… do you really think by porn, that we’re fine tuning it? I don’t think so. Society isn’t seeing a greater commitment to the relationships we’re in, and I personally don’t think that porn has helped that. You know Toby, if you feel more sexually liberated from watching porn, by all means, keep doing it. Neither one of us are about to change our viewpoints obviously. I wish you the best.

          • Andy Ryan says:

            ” Andy in other comments describes how sex drive is built into us, yet by your discussion we need to figure out the mechanics”

            To be fair, Greg, feeling hungry doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to know how to cook!

            My own position is that porn is probably not good for us, by the way. I suspect that the ‘education’ it gives young people is actually misleading and distructive.

            And I may have a dirty mind but one of the ‘A’s I was expecting in the article didn’t appear!

          • Greg says:

            Agreed, Andy. But then again, being hungry doesn’t always require you to cook. It basically requires putting food in my mouth. Just ask my wife, who hates cooking… haha. Anyway, everyone’s pretty much figured out that food goes in the mouth, when the stomach says “I’m hungry”.

            Andy, I appreciate your input and this last response. Personally, and although I realized ours was a bit of arguing, my main point would be the same as yours. I couldn’t be more honest than to say I used to like it and I get the allure of it, and yes, happen to have a bit of dirty mind. In the end, it’s not essentially good for us and like you’ve noted, probably would be misleading for youth.

            Thanks again for your honesty and the discussion.

          • toby says:

            How convenient for you that you would think it’s educational.
            I don’t think it’s a question of convenience, but one of nuance. To paint porn with one broad brushstroke–BAD–is succumbing to dogma and fear.

            Andy in other comments describes how sex drive is built into us, yet by your discussion we need to figure out the mechanics.
            A drive yes, the how and why no. In a country where a lot of people hear the words “sex education” and start shaking their heads and shouting “no, no, no” it can be useful for sex newbies who are embarrassed about having to ask.

            Society isn’t seeing a greater commitment to the relationships we’re in, and I personally don’t think that porn has helped that.
            I don’t think porn has anything to do with that at all. That’s more to do with people actually wanting to seek out people that they are compatible with, someone that makes them happy, instead of being locked into marriages that make them depressed.

            You know Toby, if you feel more sexually liberated from watching porn, by all means, keep doing it.
            Wow. I don’t know how you gleaned that I watch so much of the stuff. I think you need to readjust your sensors and drop the notion of “you just want to sin!” I’m just saying that porn isn’t evil and has it’s place. there are some people who have the genetic predisposition to become addicted to anything and to them porn might be something to avoid.

            Do you honestly think that people watching porn–and doing what a person does when they do—actually want to be doing that over being with another person and doing it?

            Or take this hypothetical: suppose a married christian couple likes to film themselves having sex, then they watch it together and they also watch it alone. Is that still bad?

  3. Jimmy says:

    I remember watching a LOT of porn as a young man (I’m not young now). I’m a grown adult now, I watch porn on occasion and sometimes my wife and I watch it together. We have a fabulous marriage of over 20 years, two healthy (mentally and physically) children. Porn is like many other things, it can be abused, and obsessed over. Porn isn’t the issue, it’s the people consuming it. It’s by far not only men that consume porn. Plenty of women do also.

    Reply
    • JC says:

      Have you told your healthy children that pornography is part of your healthy marriage? Or is that a secret? If you are giving porn a pass, have you given the gift of porn viewing to your son or daughter and told them, “When you get married, introduce your spouse to these websites so that you can watch others have sex instead of giving yourself completely to each other only!” I would say that you have accepted a poor substitute of what sexual activity really is in a marriage and you have avoided being a man, who leads his wife and family to a higher standard in their relationships. A bad compromise has turned into an ingrained, acceptable behavior for your marriage. If you as a husband would stand out against porn use in your home, personal, and marriage life, I bet you would see what a healthy, loving, committed marriage really can be like. But you cannot do it on your own strength because you are addicted after watching porn your entire life. Trained people can help.

      Reply
      • Jimmy says:

        “Have you told your healthy children that pornography is part of your healthy marriage?”

        No, my children are too young at this point to understand sexuality at all, they’re prepubescent. Once they reach puberty though, I will certainly explain this subject to them.

        ““When you get married, introduce your spouse to these websites so that you can watch others have sex instead of giving yourself completely to each other only!””

        My wife and I are in no way keeping some part of ourselves from each other. Porn is a small part of our sexuality, it’s just good for a change sometimes. We both learn some things we like and don’t like and it opens up some communications we might not have otherwise had. I think my wife would agree completely, porn has had a positive effect and been a positive experience for both of us.

        ” I would say that you have accepted a poor substitute of what sexual activity really is in a marriage and you have avoided being a man, who leads his wife and family to a higher standard in their relationships. A bad compromise has turned into an ingrained, acceptable behavior for your marriage”

        I would say you have no idea what you’re talking about. My wife and I have fabulous, rewarding sexual activity in our marriage. I don’t lead my wife anywhere to anything, we lead our family together and it works wonderfully. We have been together for nearly 25 years, clearly, you’re mistaken in your evaluation of my marriage and my family. Perhaps you are married to a women that needs to be lead, but I am not.

        ” If you as a husband would stand out against porn use in your home, personal, and marriage life, I bet you would see what a healthy, loving, committed marriage really can be like. ”

        I have no intention of standing against porn in my home, personal, or married life. It’s been a wonderful addition (for a long time), we’ve both seen it as beneficial and it’s caused no issues at all. I am in a very healthy, loving, and committed marriage now for a long time. You’re making assumptions clearly that you know nothing of.

        “But you cannot do it on your own strength because you are addicted after watching porn your entire life. Trained people can help”

        Do what on my own strength? I’m not addicted to porn in any way. I admit, that I did watch a lot more porn as a young man before I was married, since having a wife and children, I just don’t have a schedule that permits much time for it at this point in my life. I live in a wonderful relationship, with a wonderful lady, who also happens to be a degreed professional in marriage and family therapy as well as being education in human development.

        Clearly, you’ve jumped to a LOT of incorrect conclusions. I can see that perhaps I didn’t go into enough detail in my original comment. I just didn’t know what to add at the time. Perhaps this comment clears it up a bit.

        Reply
  4. Illuvitus says:

    The comments here are instructive. Pornography is so ubiquitous that it now has -defenders- making a case that it can be viewed virtuously. Sex is a sacred act; it creates life and consummates marriages. To the guy who said that calling it “sacred” is a side-effect of treating it as dirty, nothing could be further from the truth. The opposite is true. Sex is is treated as something so insignificant that the term “dirty” can’t even apply. It’s nothing more than a pastime.

    Pornography is the medium of lust. It drives men and women to desire things they can never, and it never satisfies.

    Reply
    • Bill says:

      Other than Jesus wanting to regulate what goes on in our bedrooms, I’m not sure what is wrong with lust. Lust is like hunger – just a normal product of our human nature. And like eating, sex is one of the great joys of human life. Why do Christians insist on hanging so much baggage on it?

      Reply

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