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General Conference

The Shocking Information the Porn Industry Doesn't Want You to Know

The physical, psychological, social, and spiritual damages behind the illusion of pleasure

Brazil | Vanessa Arba

She is not like other drugs. The user does not need to leave the house or open their wallet to acquire it; just one click on the screen and there it is, ready to use. Although it is not a narcotic substance, studies prove that pornography has similar effects on the human brain, and equal potential to cause addiction. Still, society seems to ignore that it is a public health problem and treats its consumption as a tolerable and harmless behavior.

Carrying the memory back several years ago, “everything related to sexual debauchery” – which is the primary concept of pornography – was presented in images, videos and reserved films, which were difficult to access. Today, this type of content is explicit in songs, clips, commercials and movies considered suitable even for children.

Unsurprisingly, the pornography industry is one of the most profitable, moving billions of dollars a year and outpacing major entertainment empires in the world, as shown by Yahoo Finance.

As for the audience, its increase accompanies other societal trends and tendencies, such as the increasing accessibility to technology and the internet and even the pandemic. A survey released by U.S. security company Netskope reveals that consumption of pornographic content grew 600% in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period last year; this is a reflection of the mass migration of workers and students to the home office system in the pandemic scenario.

Early Exposure

Unfortunately, in the midst of this audience are, yes, children. Scholars recognize that they are exposed to pornography at an earlier age than ever before. Today, the average age at which one has the first contact with pornographic content is nine years old. This is also the approximate age at which children usually receive their first cell phone as a gift. This is not a coincidence.

According to Psychopedagogist Glaucia Korkischko, Director of the Ministry of Children and Adolescents of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in South America, this early contact results from the lack of follow-up on the part of parents and the lack of instructive conversations on the subject. “Whether in the family, at school or at church, children like to play and get attention. If they have good activities and a good chat, there will be no interest in perversions in the sexual field”. On the other hand, the damages of this type of content on the child's mind are immense. “The biggest one is the distortion of reality. Exposure to pornography promotes eroticization, not education, and encourages abusive performances”, warns Glaucia.

For the psychopedagogues, sex education is a very broad topic, which involves the entire identity of the child, and not just a part of it, such as the sexual organs. “This instruction should talk more about who the child is, how God formed him and how he can protect himself, [rather] than about sex. A quality sex education between parents and children, teachers and students, leaves an open path for dialogue and forms healthy and successful adults. Of course, there are indications about what is and what is not appropriate to teach a child about sex education based on their age, but the basic rule is to respond to the curiosities of each stage, without delving into themes that the child does not yet need to know. The context in which the child is growing must also be evaluated.”

The Illusion of Pornography

In his article on the subject, published in the 2015 edition of Quebrando o Silêncio magazine, Journalist Michelson Borges draws attention to another aspect of this subject: the physical and psychological consequences suffered by those who work in the pornographic industry. He cites testimonials from former porn actresses about the abuse, humiliation and violence they suffer on recordings, the sexually transmitted diseases that affect them, in addition to the lies that they are told to guarantee their performance. Many of them end up resorting to the use of drugs and alcohol to get the filming done, which leads to addiction and all of its consequences. Freed from this reality, today some of these actresses militate against the pornographic industry, exposing their ailments and appealing to the population not to support this market by their viewing of it. 

A Spiritual Question

According to Theologian Rafael Rossi, “For Christians, the standard of sexual conduct is established in the Bible, and can be summed up in purity of life (1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Corinthians 6:13). Sex is a gift from God to human beings. Therefore, it must be understood as something special and that exalts human dignity. On the other hand, pornography trivializes and vulgarizes sex, in addition to creating an illusion that destroys the moral and spiritual foundations. Those who consume pornography enter a prison thinking they are free.”

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is essentially against any form of abuse, violence or behavior that causes physical, psychological or spiritual harm. It is under this framework that the Quebrando o Silêncio campaign works, which highlights a different theme every year, alerting and instructing society about different related problems and solutions. The 2015 edition addressed, above all, the subject of pornography. The materials can be found on the campaign's official website.

An Addiction Like Any Other

Psychologist and Physiotherapist, Eliane Melo consistently receives testimonials from Internet users who are suffering from damages of pornography addiction. It is part of her job to help these people to solve this and other problems related to sexuality in light of the Bible and science. In an interview for this article, she expresses the perceptions that her experience with this audience have brought her:

What are the main complaints presented that relate to addiction to pornography?

There are a few scenarios. Considering the Christian audience, first we have single people who use pornography as a means of dissipating sexual energy. They have the feeling that when they get married, they will naturally channel this energy into sexual intercourse with their spouse. This is a mistake, because the harms of pornography consumption are carried into the marriage.

Here comes the second scenario: married people, who have generally consumed pornography even before marriage, who today cannot be sexually happy with their spouses because they have become used to excessive stimulation. Thus, coupled with sexual performance problems, they lose interest in real relationships.

Other losses are in the social sphere. To give vent to the addiction, people isolate themselves, spend more and more time in seclusion; this triggers depression, anxiety, irritable behavior, and many people end up losing relationships and even jobs because of it.

Are there studies that prove the effects of pornography on the body and mind?

We live in a hypersexualized society, which normalizes everything that is sexual, such as masturbation, pornography... And this brings some difficulties for research. One of them is to get a control group, which, in this case, would be an audience that has never used pornography, to be compared with another group that consumes it regularly. So, comparative studies are lacking.

But there is research that allows us to understand the effects of pornography on the brain, especially its addictive potential. Scholars compare its effect to that of cocaine, or heroin, because the same brain areas are stimulated. In all these cases there is a large release of dopamine, which is related to the pleasure and reward circuit, and the user is enormously prone to addiction. It turns out that when a person decides to get rid of a drug, he can clean his system. In the case of pornography, as it concerns images, it will not be possible to banish them from memory.

These studies also show the progression of addiction. To continue to be satisfying, a person needs more and more intense stimuli, so he or she spends more and more time accessing pornography or looking for heavier and heavier content.

How is it possible to identify pornography addiction?

This addiction has different levels and characteristic behaviors. A first sign is that the person becomes irritated when reading or listening to criticism or comments about the harm of pornography. Another sign is that she is afraid that people will discover her attacks and feel uncomfortable if this happens, because she recognizes that there are social harms in this habit. Also, when she wakes up thinking about it, wondering at what time of day she will access pornography, and starts planning the moment to be alone for that. At more severe levels of addiction, the person already prefers pornography to real intercourse, because he has become used to these stimuli, or, even after intercourse, he feels the need to consume pornography in order to feel completely satisfied.

If the person identifies one of these symptoms in himself, it means that he already has some degree of dependence. Understanding the concept of addiction is very important because, if you look closely at it, all of us at some point have had contact with pornography, but that doesn't mean we're all addicted to it.

Is it possible to get rid of pornography addiction?

Yes. Like any other addiction, "detox" is a slow and difficult process, but it is totally possible.

What are the steps to take to quit this addiction?

Recognizing it is the first step. And [above] I've already listed the symptoms of addiction. We can only transform something in ourselves when we recognize the need for change.

Another step is knowing how to identify the mental triggers that lead to pornography consumption. It can be frustration, stress, anger, rejection… Situations that the person doesn't know how to deal with, so he goes in search of something that replaces this bad feeling with pleasure. So you need to map these triggers.

They should also replace the habit with other pleasurable activities, such as physical activity, reading a book... The person may think: "What did I like to do before that I ended up substituting with pornography?" And take it back.

Another step: share the situation with someone you trust. When another person knows of the weakness, they can be a support in the healing process. Together they can develop strategies to avoid triggers. It is important to remember that this person will only be a support, and never responsible for the release of the addiction.

In many cases, professional help, such as that of a psychologist, will be needed. There are also supporting bodies and ministries, such as the Instagram profile @omalqueeunaoquero. These communities are full of people who also struggle with addiction, and can share experiences and strategies. It is important to feel that you are not alone in this battle.

Finally, a very important point is that one should not try to “wean” from pornography. For example: if the person spends 10 hours a day consuming pornography, now they will spend 8, then 6…; rather, an abrupt break is needed. The secret folders where it stores its content, the websites it accesses, the groups it receives and shares this type of content in, all of this should be permanently banned.

You talk a lot about God's purpose for human sexuality. What would that purpose be and why does pornography not fit into it?

God designed sex for reproduction, but also for pleasure. But not a solitary pleasure, or that hurts, or that impairs the perception of one another. God thought of sex together, with mutual pleasure, respect, complicity, togetherness and emotional intimacy. In pornography we see the opposite of this;it perceives selfishness, isolation, addiction, strictly physical pleasure, humiliation, infidelity, guilt, objectification of the other and the idea of ​​an easy pleasure, even coming from bizarre things that can harm the body and health. So pornography is a total distortion of the divine ideal. And that's what Satan always does: he misrepresents something that was a gift from God to us.

This article was originally published on the South American Division’s Portuguese news site

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