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Pornography: "Adult" Entertainment Is Definitely Not for Adults—or Youth

Recent decades have seen an explosion in pornography. It's big business, grossing $10 billion in the United States alone. But that's only a tiny part of the story.

by Melvin Rhodes

You can't have it both ways. If companies are willing to spend millions on advertising to promote their products because advertisements influence people to buy, then pornography must also influence people's minds. If looking at an image of a commercial product makes people want to buy it, then pornographic images must influence people's behavior.

Peep Show sign Porn is big industry. Trade in the "bodies and souls" of human beings (Revelation 18:13) has become one of the biggest growth industries in our modern prophesied economic system. Consider:

"Porno is far bigger than rock music and far bigger than Hollywood.

"Americans spend more on strip clubs than they spend on theater, opera, ballet, jazz and classical-music concerts—combined.

"In 1972 the total retail value of all the hardcore porno sold in America was estimated at $5 million to $10 million. By the late '90s Americans spent $10 billion per year on mediated sex" (Martin Amis, "Sex in America," Talk magazine, February 2001).

Southern California's San Fernando Valley is home of the booming U.S. pornographic-film industry, producing more than 10,000 titles a year that are shown all over the world. America produces 80 percent of the world's porn.

A brief history of porn

Pornography has been around for thousands of years. But in the last three decades it has boomed, partly because of liberal legislation in Western democracies that removed barriers to production and distribution, and partly thanks to technological advances that have made it easy for tens of millions of people to access porn who previously would never have done so for fear of being found out.

Now, thanks to the Internet, people can readily see porn without being seen.

According to one report, 21 million Americans visit at least one of the 60,000 pornographic Internet sites once a month or more.

A recent survey by Focus on the Family showed that 18 percent of churchgoers—almost one in five—admitted to having an addiction to porn. The rate among non-believers is no doubt even higher, since many people see nothing wrong with pornography.

In an irony bordering on the unbelievable, in three decades Americans have embraced pornography as a constitutional right while making school prayer a crime. Is there any way that the nation's founding fathers intended things to be this way when they wrote the Constitution more than two centuries ago?

Many have fallen victim to the arguments put forward by reformers in the late '60s that opened the floodgates to such widespread acceptance of porn.

Denmark was the first Western nation to legalize the publication of pornography, in 1969. After a decade of societal change that had started with the birth-control pill and continued with the liberalization of sexual and divorce laws throughout the Western world, the Danish parliament decided that pornography was harmless and would, in fact, result in fewer attacks on innocent girls by sexually frustrated men.

In a television documentary on the History International channel aired in November 2000, Danish parliamentarians responsible for the original decision said they never imagined that their 1969 determination would lead to what we see now. The title of the program—"Letting the Genie Out of the Bottle"—summed up the dilemma we find ourselves in. Once pornography was made legal, there was no stopping the downward slide that was sure to follow.

The legislators' intent had been to give men "relief" at home through looking at erotic pictures. Now, 30 years later, depictions of every imaginable sexual act are widely available—even to children, on the Internet.

An especially troubling trend is the emergence of groups dedicated to the legalization of pedophilia—sex between adults and children—which, at this point at least, is still illegal.

Some time ago a newspaper in Lansing, Michigan, reported that the fastest-growing segment of the Michigan prison population was white males over 60 years of age, almost all incarcerated for sexual molestation of children. The reason for the sudden increase? Pornography. Just as commercials for junk food make people want to eat more, viewing pornographic materials makes the viewer crave to sample the real thing.

Hidden story of ruined lives

Pressured Pornography corrupts more than just the person viewing it. Relationships with the partners of porn viewers are also negatively affected.

Many men (and women) want something more imaginative from their partner as a result of viewing porn. When nothing more imaginative happens, the resultant dissatisfaction with the relationship can lead to divorce, with the lustful partner then pursuing a promiscuous way of life while desperately seeking sexual fulfillment.

The continual emphasis on sex influences every purchaser of porn into believing that sex is everything—more important in a relationship than anything else. Society has told an increasing number of people for the last three decades that sex is all important and the solution to everybody's problems. The reality is that an overemphasis on sex leads to an emotional void in relationships and an ever deeper spiritual void.

Such empty pursuits leave no time for developing the spiritual dimension in a person's life. There is no time for God when spare time is devoted to porn or to the sex-saturated music, movies and television programs that pass for entertainment.

Most people addicted to pornography and sex don't realize it, but they desperately need help. That help is often available from specially qualified counselors or competent therapists with sound value systems. More important, help is always available from God Himself.

When writing to the brethren at Corinth, the apostle Paul listed several sins—including those of an explicitly sexual nature—that could exclude people from the Kingdom of God. He told them: "And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11). God led the ancient Corinthians to overcome and abandon their old ways.

As with so many addictions, the difficult first step is admitting the problem (even to yourself) and being willing to seek help in changing.

The effect on participants

What about the effect on the men and women who participate in the porn industry?

It's legal to work in the porn industry at 18, an age when few people are mature enough to understand the negative consequences of getting involved in a degenerate way of life.

Every year representatives of the "adult"-magazine industry descend on university campuses inviting attractive young people of both sexes to pose for provocative photos for their publications, thereby enabling them to graduate with considerably lower college bills. Many become "exotic dancers" in strip clubs, earning far more than they could by working in the retail trade or a restaurant. Others move west looking for fun and money in the "adult"-movie business.

How long do they last? "Some girls are used up in nine months or a year," a former performer-turned-director candidly admitted in the Talk article. "Nearly everyone has STDs," said Chloe, another star. "I had ten different venereal diseases during my first year in the industry." A significant number of porn stars have died of AIDS.

The emotional consequences may be worse than the physical. A woman with the professional name of Temptress, a successful porn actress, said: "I don't have relationships anymore. They make life unstable. The only sex I have is the sex I have on screen."

An industry photographer observed that most actors and actresses he has met in the porn business were addicted to drink or drugs and hinted at revulsion over selling their bodies. Interestingly, almost all participants said that they had been sexually abused as children. The photographer himself went from being an eager voyeur to a participant and, eventually, a psychiatric patient.

Our modern obsession with pornography began with photos of nude women in men's magazines. Today's ostensibly "adult" movies depict every sex act imaginable. The downward spiral continues, now including sexual perversions and violence too horrendous to describe here.

Sexual obsession and the Scriptures

This isn't the first time a society has been obsessed with sex.

The reason for the great flood of Noah's time was that "the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart" (Genesis 6:5-6).

Having failed to learn the lesson of the Flood, the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, two ancient cities God destroyed by fire, met a similar fate "because their sin [was] very grave" (Genesis 18:20).

In principle, Jesus Christ equated viewing pornography with adultery, the breaking of the Seventh Commandment: ". . . I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28).

Jesus explained that sin begins in the mind, with our thoughts. So, as far as God's Word is concerned, viewing pornography and committing adultery are both sinful and violations of God's law. The mental damage, the corruption of our minds, is accomplished by pornography even if these illicit thoughts are not physically acted upon.

Men especially are easily attracted by what they see, and deliberately observing nude women—whether in person, in print or on movie, television or computer screens—often will sooner or later lead to immoral sexual acts. Our ancestors understood this even if they sometimes went overboard in the other direction. Prudery is not the answer to controlling illicit sex.

Banner Additional passages in the Bible condemn two of the sexual practices found in today's pornography—homosexuality and bestiality (Leviticus 18:22-23). Research shows that pornography has contributed to an increase in homosexual sex.

God adds: "Do not defile yourselves with any of these things . . . For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it . . ." (verses 24-25).

An end-time prophecy

The apostle Paul prophesied that "in the last days perilous times will come" (2 Timothy 3:1). In that time, he wrote, "men will be lovers of themselves . . . without self-control . . . [and] lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" (verses 2-4).

Pornography by its very nature encourages self-centeredness. Rather than focusing one's sexual thoughts on one's marriage partner, porn fixates the mind on sexual lust and the prospect of a temporary sensual thrill. Such diversions from the commitment of the marital relationship will lead only to an absence of self-control and, in far too many cases, other immoral acts that break the Seventh Commandment.

We should heed God's instructions and warnings and avoid all pornography. It is possible to avoid it. In the United States, family-friendly Internet services can screen out so-called adult material. Not subscribing to cable and satellite premium channels will reduce the likelihood of viewing pornography. Cutting down on or eliminating television and movie viewing will reduce your exposure to what is usually termed "soft porn," avoiding wrong sexual messages so common in most popular entertainment.

Pornography is almost always a private obsession. Individuals who view pornography, even those who are married, typically do so in secret. This fosters hypocrisy. While appearing to be respectable to others, addicts pursue their obsession in secret. But God sees everything. Ultimately we answer to Him. "For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light" (Luke 8:17).

We should take to heart Paul's words in Philippians 4:8: ". . . Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things." Pornography is none of these things.

Literature recommendations: What is the purpose of the laws and moral principles laid out in the Bible? Are they simply restrictions on our fun, keeping us from having a good time? Are they hopelessly out-dated? Few really understand why God gave the instructions He gave. Be sure to request the free eye-opening booklets Making Life Work and The Ten Commandments. YU

About the author:
Melvin Rhodes works in the editorial department of the United Church of God and pastors a congregation in Lansing, Michigan. This article previously appeared in the Good News magazine.

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