There are a number of very good premarital counseling programs aimed at preparing couples for married life. I’m a big fan of these and think everyone should go through some type of “expectation setting” before taking vows. However, one area largely ignored in many pre-marriage counseling sessions is an honest assessment of the damaging effects of pornography and how to stay protected. Couples are often married unprepared to effectively handle the excessive amounts of sexual influence in the world around us.
As a father of 2 boys and 2 girls this adds a new layer of concern. Like all fathers, I want the best for my kids. I want their marriages to be reflections of the gospel poured our between two people seeking to honor Christ with all they do. I want their interactions with their spouses to be open, honest and edifying. But certainly not least, I want their marriages to remain sexual pure and monogamous.
It’s with this in mind, that I propose a new way to help protect the marriages of our children from the dangers of porn, arguably the biggest threat to the institution of marriage in our day. This method, or proposal, is designed to be implemented before the marriage begins and will, hopefully, carry life-long effects. For the purpose of this discussion, I present in a way that is directed towards men, but the ideas and principles could be expanded to cover women as well. This is not a replacement of other pre-marriage techniques, but something that I think would compliment most existing programs very well. It might be radical, but it’s time the church started thinking radically about the epidemic of pornography.
My idea is this: If a young man would like to seriously pursue, or marry, my daughter, then I, as his future father-in-law, will become his primary accountability partner. I want to have direct, talks about pornography, sexual addiction and internet browsing history with the man who might one day marry my daughter. You do not to tell me of the high level of awkwardness that would become of our meetings. I am well aware; it’s intentional and I think will help the overall cause.
Let me explain a little further.
The Problem of Pornography
It seems like every few weeks another news story, blog or article is released telling of the damaging effects on pornography on the mind and marriages. One of the more telling reports comes in from The Christian Research Journal (Volume 34, number 5). Here it’s pointed out how pornography retrains the way the brain functions and processes how it becomes aroused and sexually pleased. The chemicals and memories that are made in the act of view pornography “produce a warped sense of sexuality and objectification.”
Pornography changes our sexual expectations and damages future marital relationships by creating new baselines for what’s sexual arrousing. These fantasies can then become the sexual standard for the brain. The problem is these new standards are unrealistic and unattainable. This is incredibly straining and damaging on a marriage, which is designed for all sexual fulfillment to come from within.
Consider these words from musician John Mayer in a semi-recent (2010) interview** where he makes some revealing comments about the effects of pornography in his life:
“Pornography? It’s a new synaptic pathway. You wake up in the morning, open a thumbnail page, and it leads to a Pandora’s Box of visuals. There have probably been days when I saw 300 [women] before I got out of bed…Internet pornography has absolutely changed my generation’s expectations…How does that not affect the psychology of having a relationship with somebody? It’s got to. “
That may not be ground breaking information to you. But what might be is that a recent study conducted by The Barna Group found that 55% of married men look at pornography at least once a month, and more than that, 95% of Christian men admitted that have viewed pornography at some time in their life. Let that sink in, 95%. Pair that with the fact that the average age that boys are introduced to pornography is 11 and we would be fools to think the problem is getting better. No, sadly, its only getting worse and the war for sexual purity is a harder fight than maybe it has ever been. You can read more about pornography statistics here.
A key factor in the escalating problem of pornography is the accessibility of it now, compared to 20 years ago. Pornography is so easy to access that even established pornography magazines, like Playboy, have lost their shock value and are having to rethink their entire format to match the addictive sexual appetites. No one cares about nudity anymore, you can get that anywhere. The sexual addicts want more. They need more. The CEO of Playboy, Scott Flanders, recently commented on the change, “You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s
just passe at this juncture.” Nudity alone is no longer enough to satisfy.
At heart of my proposal is basically discipleship. I want to meet with the suitor that wants to marry my daughter and truly get to know him in an atmosphere of gospel centered honesty about who we are in Jesus, in light of His work on the cross. I want to become good friends and learn about his strengths and struggles. I hope to be able to communicate what it means to be a good husband and what self denial looks like. I hope to use this time to communicate the many failures in my life and what I have learned. I hope to be able to establish very clear lines of communications and repentance. As the girls father, I will have a unique perspective on the pending marriage, personality traits and love languages.
Despite some difficult conversations about sexual and internet browsing history, our time would be aimed at who we are in Christ and what that means for repentance. One of the greatest allies we have in our fight for godliness is confession and repentance. Sexual sin often does the most damage when it is left unchecked, festering in secret. If left alone, it grows and becomes a disease that gets more and more twisted and perverted. Eventually, it will be found out. It will show its ugly head and cause gross amounts of damage.
Yet, if this young man is willing to openly communicate, through the awkwardness his failures with his would-be father-in-law, then how much more would he be willing to share his struggles with his wife and community. This honesty and freedom has to be present in our churches if we are going to fight the evil of pornography with any great success. Building the right habits before you take vows will surely yield fruit in the marriage. In fact, in the very first meeting I think I would make the point that as his accountability partner, I am more concerned with his honesty and repentance than a perfect browsing history.
This method may not be for everyone. I fully concede that it would require a very mature and understanding approach from both sides. I’m aware there are a number of other variables and considerations that I haven’t really covered. Those will need be thought out over time, in prayer. I admit this method is not bullet proof. But, I look at it as another tool to help protect my children and their marriages.
It’s probably worth adding that while this specific method is aimed at helping our children’s marriage, the principals in it are true for those already married. Confession, repentance and honest accountability are fundamental is breaking down the chains of sexual addiction. If you are addicted to pornography, help is available. Go to your local church leaders and begin the road of repentance. I urge you, seek repentance while it still may be found.
In closing, I want to be clear that above all books, counseling, programs and methods the greatest aid to fighting any type of sexual sin or addiction is the person of Jesus Christ. Nothing will ever replace the working of Christ in our hearts and the killing of sin.
So, with that, I submit this new-ish method of protecting our children’s marriages for your consideration and discussion. I am eager to hear your comments and thoughts on this proposal. Is this a terrible idea? Or do you think its time we consider more radical solutions to the problem of pornography?
** I have provided a link that references the quote as the original source of the quote is inappropriate for this article.