I had a bit of a personal crisis when I saw this link from The Huffington Post titled, “Research Suggests that All Men Watch Pornography.” My first thought was that they could not have possibly talked to all men. I know this, because I do not watch pornography. This made me suspicious that the link was tied to a pornographic Web site designed to trick me, the last man standing, into accidentally seeing pornography in order to validate their research. (Or, more disturbingly, it could be that I am not actually a man because I do not watch pornography.)
Do not mistake my assertion for some kind of moral high ground. I have seen pornographic images before, and my mind is fairly full of sexual imagery that I have stored from various fantasies; I don’t really need pornography to qualify as a pervert. I do not think that this makes me abnormal, as the sexual drive is a gift from God. It’s just that I believe pursuing pornographic fantasy is like driving a car at high speed down the wrong lane.
I discovered that the title of the article was a bit misleading, as it suggests that all men currently watch porn. In fact, the research documented that they could not find any man who hadn’t seen it before. And that I can believe. It is possible that there is not a man in the United States over the age of 20 who has never seen pornography.
So how is a Christian man or woman supposed to respond to this research? I suppose that we could act shocked, as if we did not previously know that men like to look at naked women. Or we can pretend that a curious, 18-year-old boy with an Internet connection and no supervision would always refuse to click on that flashing picture of a buxom woman that popped up in the advertisement section of his e-mail account.
But the reality is, for a multitude of reasons—from our creation as sexual beings to the result of the fall and sin—men today like to look at naked women via pornography. We know why they do it, and we know that they do it. The question is why shouldn’t they do it?
The research shows that there is little reason for men not to indulge:
“Not one subject had a pathological sexuality,” he said. “In fact, all of their sexual practices were quite conventional.
“Pornography hasn’t changed their perception of women or their relationship, which they all want to be as harmonious and fulfilling as possible,” he added.
Before I can take this statement at face value, I have to wonder what “pathological sexuality” means. I wonder how they know that watching pornography hasn’t changed men’s perceptions of women or their relationships. Really? Their perceptions haven’t changed at all by watching pornography? Their expectations for sex haven’t changed? I find that difficult to believe.
Gary Wilson gave a great talk at TEDs titled “The Great Porn Experiment” on this very subject. (I highly recommend this talk to you. Highly, highly recommend it.) He used the information gleaned from this study, but he came up with a different answer: Porn does affect a man’s relationships, and it affects his ability to even have sex at all. But asking the man about it isn’t helpful. Why? Because asking a man who looks at porn about the negative influence it may be having is like asking a fish about water. It’s all he knows. Wilson goes on to say that “of all activities on the internet, porn has the most potential to become addictive.” And Gary Wilson is simply looking at this from the science side of things, not from a Christian perspective. (He may be a Christian, I have no idea. But that is not the nature of his talk here.)
The Bible, it turns out, is not trying to put a damper on our sexual enjoyment. Pornography inhibits in real life relationships. It causes people to suffer emotionally and physically. Sex was designed by God to be intimate, not anonymous. It was designed to cause us to value our lover, our spouse, as one with whom our pleasures are fulfilled. God knows that real skin, real kisses, real sex with our covenant partner is so much sexier than digital images that can never embrace us.