The dangers of porn threaten entire societies—even though some foolishly call pornography a harmless or even helpful diversion. But you don’t have to be its victim.
It can start out so “innocently.” Just a glance, a quick look—a jolt of excitement. And then another look. A moment of curiosity turns into a fascination. It pulls you in, until you are sinking in a quicksand of shame and guilt. One time becomes two, then three. One minute becomes an hour. A momentary diversion becomes a habit that recurs over months and years.
This is the pitfall of pornography, which is nothing less than an addictive drug. Every month, 70 percent of men aged 18–34 visit websites dedicated to pornography, which make up 12 percent of the Internet itself. And it’s not just a problem for men; roughly 17 percent of women are addicted to porn. And 90 percent of children aged 8–16 have seen some—in fact, boys aged 12–17 are porn’s most frequent consumers. With every second that passes by, 30,000 people are viewing porn, and roughly $185,000 is spent on porn every minute—leading to at least $10 billion spent on porn each year (“Revealing Statistics Re: Pornography Addiction,” FHE Health, January 15, 2023).
What is going on? Is there hope for the millions who are being swallowed up by a lifestyle of lust?
Pornography has been called “The Public Health Crisis of the Digital Age” (Psychology Today, April 15, 2021)—and rightly so, because it affects the brain in exactly the same way that illicit drugs do. When a person views pornographic material, the brain is over-exposed to pleasure chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and epinephrine. The brain rewires itself to accommodate the extra chemicals, building up first a tolerance and then a dependency, first wanting the pleasure chemicals and then “needing” them. Pornography is a drug epidemic—and it has taken the world by silent storm.
Just as with any other addiction, thousands brazenly profit from its victims. To protect their multi-billion-dollar industry, pushers of this perverted “self-expression” unabashedly fight attempts to curb illicit material, no matter how vulgar or debasing it may be. Media portray it as harmless fun. Some misguided counselors even encourage couples to watch porn to help solve marital problems—a tragically destructive mistake.
Some will argue that looking at a few erotic images is no big deal—a “victimless crime.” But what about the people—overwhelmingly women—who sell themselves, or are sold, to fuel the porn industry? And what about the addicts themselves? Are they really satisfied by a habit that chains them to a cycle of uncontrolled lust followed by a downward spiral of self-loathing?
A growing body of research shows the devastating effects of pornography on those who fall under its spell: increased chance of severe clinical depression, feelings of loneliness, difficulty establishing and developing relationships, loss of jobs, financial difficulty, marital infidelity, and divorce. Perhaps the most surprising effect of porn is that it causes many addicts to lose their ability to enjoy or even engage in real sexual intimacy. And that’s not all, as the anti-porn organization Fight the New Drug describes:
[One] study found that frequent pornography consumption was significantly related to greater depression, anxiety, and stress as well as poorer social functioning. And in yet another study, researchers at Columbia University, Yale University, and UCLA, found a link between compulsive pornography consumption and poorer mental health, low self-esteem, and poor attachment in relationships (“5 Ways a Porn Habit Can Harm Your Mental Health,” May 29, 2023).
So, what is the solution?
Thousands of years ago, the patriarch Job wrote that he was very careful about where he allowed his eyes to stray: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman?” (Job 31:1). Proverbs 6:23–25 continues, saying, “The commandment is a lamp, and the law a light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life, to keep you from the evil woman…. Do not lust after her beauty in your heart, nor let her allure you with her eyelids.” The Apostle John echoed the same warning: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15–17). Sexual lust and covetousness are not new at all, but a very old temptation that has brought down many “strong men” (Proverbs 7:26).
The Apostle James explained how temptation occurs and where it leads: “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (James 1:14, King James Version). The next verse says that lust leads to sin, and sin leads to death (James 1:15). What type of death does pornography cause if it is never overcome? Death of your character and self-esteem. Death of trust and integrity. Death of honor and self-confidence. Death of enjoyment of healthy relationships. And, ultimately, death in the lake of fire, the “second death,” where the “cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars” will be burned up (Revelation 21:8). God does not want anyone to die, but rather to repent and live. “‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways’” (Ezekiel 33:11). God hates porn because it destroys the lives of His children, whom He wants to have in His Kingdom.
If you are hooked on porn but want to change, there is good news—you can. But first you must understand that you have a powerful enemy—Satan, the devil, who does not want you to change. He has deceived the whole world and led people into sin (Revelation 12:9). And the Apostle Peter warns us to be aware of his attacks. He said, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world” (1 Peter 5:8–9).
Satan capitalizes on shame. He wants addicts to feel overwhelmed. If you are addicted to porn, Satan wants you to feel that you are the only one battling such a problem. He wants you to feel alone, isolated, and unworthy of God’s forgiveness.
But nothing could be further from the truth. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:13–14).
God wants us to be free. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). He continued, “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (v. 34). Paul echoed the same teaching: “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16). God wants us to be free from the chains of sin, and become “slaves of righteousness for holiness” (v. 19). He wants us to have “fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life” (v. 22).
If you have been enslaved by sexual lust but want to be free, turn to God with all your heart—everything you have. He hates porn, but He does not hate you. Submit to Him in every part of your life. All of it belongs to Him anyway, because He made you. Humble yourself before the ever-living God. As James writes, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:7–10).
Ask God to grant you repentance, and to have a real relationship with Jesus Christ. Your Savior felt the temptations of the flesh, yet He never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). He overcame temptation, and He can give you power, through His Spirit, to overcome. “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). In other words, there is hope to overcome.
If you really want to overcome addiction, you will need to make some concrete changes in your life. You will have to stay away from environments that put you in compromising positions (Proverbs 7:25). If old friends cause you to fall into old habits, it is time to find new friends (Proverbs 1:10). Your old acquaintances may not be thrilled by your new standards (1 Peter 4:4)—but freedom from addiction and the prize of eternal life are worth the sacrifice.
God does not just counsel us to resist immoral conduct—He says to flee far from it (1 Corinthians 6:18). Learn your addiction “triggers” and develop behaviors and habits to replace porn. When do you fall into temptation? When you are under stress? Depressed? Bored? When you have not been praying or studying, and are not close to God? By knowing yourself, and analyzing the patterns of your behavior, you can be better equipped to know when you are in danger, and take steps to avoid “falling off the cliff.” For the porn addict, those steps likely include Internet filters and accountability partners—people you can trust who can check up on you from time to time. It is worth it.
The ultimate solution to addiction is greater spiritual depth and purpose—a deeper relationship with God. And to really overcome forces as powerful as addictions, we need God’s help. As Paul wrote, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, King James Version).
Porn is not an insurmountable enemy. But victory requires commitment to yourself and your relationships. As author Matt Fradd wrote in The Porn Myth: Exposing the Reality Behind the Fantasy of Pornography, “We stand against pornography in order to stand for the honor of the human person. Anytime we capture the image of another—be it for artistic purposes or for entertainment—the display of that image should lead others to celebrate the mystery and the depth of humanity, not encourage them to treat the person as a cheap assembly of body parts” (“Introduction,” 2017).
The Christian life is a fight all the way to the end. “But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life” (1 Timothy 6:11–12). If you are struggling, do not lose heart. Jesus Christ living in you can change your thoughts. He can change your life—but you must make the choice.