A beautiful young lady sat crying in my office one day, because after two years of marriage she had only been intimate with her husband twice. He only wanted to be intimate with himself. It took too much effort for him to engage with a real person. She didn’t know what to do.

As a Christian counselor, I see the impact of pornography on marriage, on self-image, and on child safety. It is also a contributing factor in depression. Although I am writing from a Christian worldview, this will not be an article against porn based strictly on moral issues. Instead, I want to discuss the effects that I have seen porn have on the viewer.

I’ve heard the argument more than once, “What harm does it do? I’m sitting by myself with my computer and not hurting anyone.” But to the degree that pornography has hold of the heart, will be the degree that it damages the heart. Let’s consider the harm it causes to the one who sits passively, yet actively watches.

It’s All About Me

Relationships are hard work and requires patience, understanding, forgiveness, vulnerability, honesty, commitment, and sacrifice. Sexuality was designed to be borne out of relationship. It was designed for more than just procreation or simply reaching an orgasm. It was designed for mutual enjoyment through the giving and receiving of self; not simply just a taking. The viewer participates, but they participate passively and it doesn’t require a giving of self. It leaves the viewer stunted emotionally and socially, believing that sexuality is ‘all about me’.

Rewards without Earning

When you haven’t done the relational hard work, but receive the reward, it shapes a person to be without the understanding of the value of the reward. It’s like a person who wins the lottery and receives millions of dollars without any work behind it. They can easily become spoiled and arrogant. I’ve heard it said that most people who win the lottery are ruined by the winnings because it creates an opportunity to be consumed by their addictions, they try to buy friendships with wealth, and they become lost in the comforts of life. Even a person of wealth must have purpose and work to give them understanding of the value of the gift they have received. Sexuality without relationship leaves the participant insecure and lonely, believing they deserve the reward without earning it.

Living in an Emotional Lie

Part of the emotional draw of porn is that it makes the viewer feel wanted. You can actually be a jerk, thinking only of yourself, and still be wanted. Or you can be a power-hungry abuser, and still be wanted. Or you can be a nice person and do good to the poor and less fortunate, but risk zero vulnerability, tenderness, or compassion in real relationship, and you can still be wanted. The problem with this is that when you return to reality, relationship requires vulnerability, tenderness, and compassion. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be wanted. But when that desire is satisfied through a fantasy or lie, the person is trying to find fulfillment in their own way and on their own terms. Filling the desire of being wanted with a fantasy is like trying to fill a hole with air.

Emotions are a powerful thing. People act and react from an emotional place regardless of what they believe is true. It’s simply what we do. People are meant for relationship but porn leaves the viewer, who has a need for deep human emotional relationship, in an emotional vacuum while believing they have been fulfilled.

The Hero Without Ever Getting Out of the Chair

Herein lies a problem with both porn and many video games; the viewer gets to be the hero without ever getting out of their chair. The story revolves around them. Imagination is compelling and is a part of being made in the image of God. Imagination done well should reflect His character of creating, building, and caring for the land. But, imagination done badly puts self as the central figure of the story, making the world revolve around them. Unfortunately, when heroism is mainly in the imagination, it leaves the story-teller believing that heroism involves no risk.

Muddled Masculinity and Femininity

Porn feeds the lie that ‘masculinity’ is found in self-fulfillment, pleasure, and sexual conquest. It also feeds the lie that ‘femininity’ is found only in sexuality. When God established ‘manhood’ he gave both man and woman the task of being fruitful and multiplying. They were to work the garden, name the animals, and care for the land. Masculinity was established as his dominion thrived to become everything it was meant to be. Femininity was established as she helped in the work. When manhood is grabbed after at the expense of the dominion, when it rapes and pillages the land for self-gratification, it establishes a dominion in direct opposition to what they have been created for. Porn’s affect on woman is it abandons her true value to nothing more than her sexuality. Porn’s affect on man is it abandons masculinity while believing he has played The Man.

Dehumanizes the Heart

When a person uses another person for their own pleasure, purposes, or gain, they become an object for self-gratification. As time goes on the only way to continue in this is to think of them as less than human…without their own desires, pleasures, or pain. This is how Nazi Germany was possible. This is how any slavery is possible. And this is how pornography is possible. The person’s heart that repeatedly dehumanizes another person for self-gratification increasingly becomes hardened to the well-being of others. It leaves the one who uses people believing that others should serve their pleasures.

Addicted Heart

Porn is highly addictive but not because of a desire for sexuality. It is addictive because it puts the viewer in control, powerful, and on the throne to be worshipped. It’s an addiction of self-centeredness. The centrality of self (self-image) can then affect every relationship they have; spouses, children, workmates, friends, and drives a grandiose view of themselves. This addiction can also be a driver for depression when the world doesn’t actually consent to the viewer’s inflated self-image. But here’s the kicker, it leaves the addicted one unable to believe their own lie of an inflated self-image, because they actually know who they are.

The Way Out

What harm does porn do? It does great harm to the one who views it, as it wraps a web around the heart in a false world, with false emotions, creating a false understanding of self, and sets up a false god.

The way out is not easy and requires risk, commitment, and sacrifice. To break free other people must know and hold the struggler accountable. Safeguards must be created to eliminate temptations, even if it’s inconvenient. Sites like this one can help https://www.xxxchurch.com. These are often necessary steps to take. But, a person cannot break the bondage of this addiction simply by admitting they have a problem, confess when they have slipped again, and try harder in self-reliance to control the deed of participating through fantasy. The way out begins with confession of self-centeredness, using others for gain, and the desire to be the center of the universe. Then turn to head into real and vulnerable relationships, where risk is taken and the possibility for rejection is real. Freedom is found in learning to honor and respect others in all relationships. It is found in bringing the true self to relationships, offering real sacrifices, and giving to others. But, not giving in codependent ways, looking for a payback, because this again is looking for a benefit for self. Rather, giving to others what they need without recognition. This is called love and love never fails. The results are real relationships, real emotions, and a real understanding of self and the world around you.

*Shari Hall is a on-line Biblical Mentor who concentrates on working with those who struggle with addiction, abuse, depression, grief, and codependent relationships. For more information regarding on-line services, go to ‘Ministries of Project Hope’ tab and the ‘Mentoring Services’.