Apologetics

Talking about the Porn Myth

Matt Fradd is the host of the popular podcasts Love People Use Things and Pints with Aquinas, as well as the author of The Porn Myth: Exposing the Reality Behind the Fantasy of Pornography, a nonreligious response to the commonly held belief that pornography is a harmless pastime. Hank Hanegraaff recently invited Matt onto the Hank Unplugged podcast to talk about The Porn Myth. Here is an edited brief snapshot of their talk.


Hank Hanegraaff: You say that the real problem with pornography is not that it shows too much but it shows too little of the human person. Expand on that.

Matt Fradd: Right. The problem with porn is not nudity. The human body. What is the human body? It expresses the mystery of the human person. It is not an animate provider of pleasure, like a steak or a keg of beer. We do not inhabit our bodies. We are our bodies. So, to exploit the body is to exploit the person. If the body was worthless, you could not degrade it. When you say, “You degraded her or him,” it presupposes that she or he had some grade to begin with. It is precisely because the body is good that porn is wicked.

The same thing with sex. Sex is good. If it were not, you could not make it ugly. You cannot make mud ugly. Sexual desire is good. Well, whose idea was it anyway? In God’s first commandment to humanity, Genesis 1:28, He says, “Be fruitful and multiply” (NKJV). I do not think He meant grow grapefruits and invent calculators. He meant have sex and fill the world. It is precisely because sex, sexual desires, and nudity are so powerful, beautiful, and good, which is why I love taking my children to museums. I want them to see beautiful naked art that expresses the mystery of the person.

Porn does not do that. For all of its exposure, porn always ends up suppressing and obfuscating the personhood of the performer. Porn says, “I don’t care about her thoughts, dreams, her past, or what happened to her when she was young. All of that would get in the way of what I am attempting to do here.” In a sense — this might sound a little hyperbolic, but I think there is a point here — porn does what death does. It separates with knife-like precision the mind, the person, the soul — however you want to put it — from the body. Think about a Playboy centerfold or something like that; she does not have to be alive. “It does not matter to me, I do not care about her,” says porn.

It seems to be that if there was ever a behavior in which you would engage with wherein the personhood of the other should be recognized and affirmed, it ought to be the marital embrace. That is precisely what is not affirmed in pornography. That is why it is so ghastly.

All of that said, I do not want people listening to think that I am coming down hard on them, because pornography feels great. It is very pleasurable. It makes me feel powerful, masculine, strong, and in control. Of course, many young women struggle with pornography, and they might say something like, “Well, it makes me feel desired, and pleasurable.” Sometimes we can only begin to overcome something when we admit we like doing it. I can remember hearing an alcoholic saying he was able to begin to break free of alcoholism only when he admitted he loved getting drunk but that it was killing him. So, he had to make a choice.

I think we have to be honest about the worm at the end of the hook, as it were, the thing we go after, the thing we get from it, but then very soberly admit that we do not want to be these sorts of people. Like, I do not want to be the kind of husband who has to creep away from my wife late at night to have an intimate encounter with my iPhone. I do not want to have to diligently delete my history files so my kids do not find out dad’s a porn addict. That is not the sort of person I want to be. I do not want to be remembered as the guy who consumed this much porn every day, even if the church had nothing to say on the matter, or Scripture had nothing to say on the matter. It is just not who I want to be. I want my life to be good, true, and beautiful. I want my sex life to be good, true, and beautiful.

It seems to me, and all the research seems to be backing this up, that if you want to be sexually dissatisfied, then pornography is the way to go. That is what leads to sexual ugliness and falseness. There you go. I am ranting now.

Hank: No, you are not. I love what you are talking about. I was thinking as you were talking, Matt, that my good friend, Joe Dallas, he lived a gay lifestyle for many, many years, and I do not know anyone on the planet today that knows more about that subject and delivers it in a more compassionate and compelling way than he does. I was thinking about some similarities with you, in that you are not talking about something that you do not know anything about; you have experienced this from an early age. You know precisely how it enslaves; therefore, there is a passion coming out in your speaking and writing. It not like you are ranting or rambling. You are passionate and for a good reason.

Matt: Thank you. I hope it is a coherent rant, if nothing else. I, like almost every male on the planet, have seen pornography. When I was twelve and thirteen years old, my best friend’s mom — he was a single-parent child, and she was not married — would buy us porn. She would drive us down to the movie store, she would buy us VHS tapes, and even buy us hard liquor. At the age of twelve, here we are drinking vodka, pretending to like it, watching porn. That was me twelve, thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen years old. My parents had no idea about it. This was before the time of the internet. That was the world I was immersed in. I never felt comfortable with it. I liked doing it. But, I always felt this was not particularly masculine behavior. It was not until I was seventeen years old that I encountered the person of Jesus Christ when I decided I did not want to live like this, and that I should not be living like this. Thus began the long road to recovery.

Of course, recovery is not something that happens in an instance. It is not something that happens to you. I think too often we treat recovery like that. When will I be free? But, as Christians, our goal is heaven, and sexual purity is part of the fuel that is going to help us get there, if you want to put it that way. But, it is better to think of recovery as a daily choice that I make by my actions.

Hank: I think when dealing with the Christian life, it is not just heaven at the end of the rainbow; rather, it is that Christ came to give us life that is life to the full in the present. If you are engaging in these behaviors, there is something that happens to your soul. There is something that is so dissatisfying and debilitating in the present that you cannot experience life that is life to the fullest.

Matt: I could not agree more. This is one of the reasons I am so passionate about this topic. I feel like one of the things that prevents the seed of the gospel to penetrate the hearts of men and women, part of that, is they are up to their eyeballs in degrading pornography. How long can one keep within one’s mind that the human person is good to which the only proper attitude is live while at the same time subject myself to body-punishing, women-hating porn? I am not going to be detailed here, but if people are listening and they have not seen pornography since the 1980s, it is something very different. Today, most porn sites have rape categories, shame categories, and this is the first thing children are exposed to. It is not the whole Playboy centerfold thing that we might remember from our youth. It is one of those obstacles to the reception of the gospel, and that is why I am passionate about it.

Hank: It really rewires the brain as well. I thought that was one of the great insights in The Porn Myth. It is not new, but you have certainly hammered home the point that there is neuroplasticity in the brain, and that pornography actually ends up, in a very real way, rewiring our anatomy.

Matt: Right! This is not scare tactics. This is not hyperbole. This is what the data shows. As I sit here, I believe there are thirty-nine peer-reviewed neuroscience-based studies on porn use, and everyone supports the addiction model. I know people, especially in the Christian community, might feel a bit uncomfortable with the term addiction, thinking it is a word people use to escape culpability, or it is overused, and I agree with that, but just because a word can be abused does not mean it cannot be used appropriately.

What we are seeing is all sorts of things; like there was a study that came out in 2014 at the Max Planck Institute in Germany — it is like the Harvard of Germany. They discovered that to the degree in which one was looking at pornography, there was smaller parts of the brain, the brain becomes desensitized so you feel that you have to continually watch more deviant forms of pornography to feel normal, which leads all sorts of things like anxiety, erectile dysfunction, and premature ejaculation.

With all of this, you have been wondering why you have been seeing more commercials for Viagra lately. There might be a good reason for that. Again, this is not a scare tactic thought up with by some Christian group. These are people like Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, who is the clinical urologist at Harvard Medical School, or Dr. Norman Doidge, who wrote the book The Brain That Changes Itself. These are not Christian people, but they are saying without a doubt we are seeing a huge spike in erectile dysfunction in young men because their brains have become so accustomed to pixels on a screen that they do not know how to interact with a real-life person.

You might get married one day only to discover that it is not working because you have burnt your brain out on this stuff. That is real. That is scary. It should be scary because it is bloody well true.

There is my friend Gary Wilson. He is an atheist. He runs the website yourbrainonporn.com. It is a great website that compiles all the data coming out of academia that you can go read for yourself. Again, not science fiction but science.

For this reason, more people are turning against porn. It is sort of like the tobacco apologist back in the 1990s who tried to tell us that there is no connection between smoking and cancer; you say that today, and any teenager is going to laugh at you or think you’re joking. Something similar is happening here. I think the culture is beginning to turn against porn because when everybody is either themselves addicted to porn, struggling with porn to some capacity and sees the negative effects, or loves somebody who does, it becomes more and more difficult to believe the worn-out mantra from the porn industry that this is just fine behavior for well-rounded adults, and do not get carried away, and so forth. It is just a joke.

To listen to the full interview, click here.

For further reading, please access the following articles:

What’s the Problem with Pornography?” by Hank Hanegraaff

Darkening our Minds: The Problem of Pornography among Christians” by Joe Dallas

Sexual Sanity for Women in a World Gone Mad” by Ellen Dykas

The Effects of Porn on the Male Brain” by William M. Struthers, PhD

Please also consider the following books:

The Porn Myth: Exposing the Reality Behind the Fantasy of Pornography by Matt Fradd

The Game Plan: The Men’s 30-Day Strategy for Attaining Sexual Integrity by Joe Dallas

Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain by William M. Struthers

Apologetics, In the News

Porn and Despair: Hugh Hefner’s Legacy

I mentioned on the September 28, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast the passing of Hugh Hefner. Hefner, of course, was the founder of Playboy. He died at the age of ninety-one. I wanted to say a little more about Hefner in that as I was reading the newspapers this morning, I saw the media still continues to extol his legacy. I think about Pamela Anderson who said, “Outside of my family, you are the most important person in my life,” or Larry King who remembered Hefner as “a GIANT in publishing, journalism, free speech and civil rights.” Dennis Rodman said he was “an Icon of all Icons” and “#GameChanger.” Norman Lear said, “A true explorer, a man who had a keen sense of the future.” Kim Kardashian weighed in, saying she was “honored to have been a part of the Playboy team.” Bruce Kluger in USA Today said, “So long Hugh Hefner, thanks for the glorious gig…My girlfriend hated it, but what could be better than writing about the Playmate of the Month.”

Not all reviews, however, were positive. David French wrote an incredible article that underscores the bitter fruit of Hefner’s life’s work. The bitter fruit that helped poisoned American families. In National Review, the article entitled “Hugh Hefner’s Legacy of Despair.” While I will not read the entirety of the article, I do want to refer to some of what David French correctly wrote. French says,

Hugh Hefner didn’t invent pornography…Hefner, however, played his part, and the part he played was immensely destructive to our nation’s cultural, moral, and spiritual fabric. Hefner mainstreamed porn, he put it in millions of homes, and he even glamorized it — recasting one of America’s most pathetic industries as the playground of the sophisticated rich. He then grew to a ripe old age, consorting with women young enough to be his granddaughters. He was America’s most famous dirty old man.

And now he’s dead…

It’s hard to calculate the damage he did, but the cultural rubble is all around us. My generation is perhaps the first to grow up with easily accessible porn…

The effects have lasted a lifetime. Boys grew up believing they were entitled to sex on demand, and the sex would always be amazing… They learned that monogamy was confining, that promiscuity was liberating, and that women should always be hot….

How many families have broken to pieces when a wife discovers her husband’s secret addiction and realizes that she’s not enough — that she’s never been enough…? How many men have grown to hate themselves for their psychological dependence on the saddest of habits? The testimonies from porn nation are devastating….

To see men become addicted to porn is to watch character formation in reverse….They lie habitually to cover the extent of their habit…even when their wives are allegedly “open” and sexually liberated…The screen alone is never enough, the wife is never enough, and the addict so often seeks mistresses, prostitutes, or both.

Another family breaks. More lives fall into despair….

And yet, the secular, progressive guardians of our public morality — you know, the people who think you’re a horrible person if you don’t recycle or if you use the wrong pronouns — all so often don’t just tolerate but celebrate the sexual “liberation” that is part and parcel of porn nation.

So many A-list celebrities spent time at the Playboy Mansion…Our president has. The evidence is on his office wall.

French concludes his article by saying, “When I think of Hugh Hefner, yes I mourn, but I mourn because the bitter fruit of his life’s work has helped poison the families of people I know and love. He is gone, but his legacy lives on. And his is a legacy of despair.”

One of the consequences of autonomy on the part of humanity where we rationalize God out of existence is that we sacrifice truth on the altar of subjectivism. Ethics and morals are no longer determined on the basis of objective standards but rather by the size and strength of the latest lobby group. As a result, we have no enduring reference points; thus, societal norms are now in the present reduced to matters of preferences.

Obviously, one of the most devastating consequences of the repackaging of Satan’s age-old deception is the sexual revolution. I was talking to Mary Eberstadt on a Hank Unplugged about the sexual revolution. It lies at the root of many of the ills that we are facing in society today. Its bitter fruit is toxic and poisonous. Unfortunately, even in the pulpit, America has capitulated, but certainly in the secular community.

I once heard that noted evolutionist Sir Julian Huxley when asked why people so embraced the theory of evolution had a quip, which is quite memorable, he said it is because the concept of a creator God interferes with our sexual mores. As a result, we have rationalized God out of existence. To us, He became nothing more than the faint and disappearing smile of the cosmic Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. Now, I think of that response. It is pithy. It is memorable. But it eloquently captures the spirit of the evolutionary paradigm. Once you take God and relegate God to the status of a Disney character, what you have in return is freedom from all constraints. The ability to make up your own rules.

Hugh Hefner glorified sex in the media. It has been glorified as well in movies and through music. It is glorified by Madison Avenue. Not in the way it was intended to be glorified. One of the greatest gifts that God has ever given to humanity has been perverted. Today, we only have one rule, and that is Life has no rules. It is all a part of attempting to rationalize God out of existence in order to do away with His laws of morality, which is as absurd as voting to repeal the law of gravity because people have fallen off buildings and bridges and boats. Obviously, even a unanimous vote cannot change the deadly consequences for someone who later attempts to jump off of a ten-story building. My point here is simply to say that we cannot violate God’s physical or moral laws without suffering, disillusionment, destruction, and even death as consequences.

— Hank Hanegraaff

For further related reading, please access the following:

What’s the Problem with Pornography? (Hank Hanegraaff)

The Effects of Porn on the Male Brain (William M. Struthers, PhD)

Darkening our Minds: The Problem of Pornography among Christians (Joe Dallas)

Sexual Sanity for Women in a World Gone Mad (Ellen Dykas)

The Normalization of Premarital Sex: Satan’s Master Stroke? (Elliot Miller)

“You Shoulda Put a Ring on It:” Witnessing to Cohabiting Couples (Joe Dallas)

Sex, Lies, and Secularism (Nancy Pearcy)

Sex, Lies, and Christianity: Reclaiming Biblical Sexuality (Melanie Cogdill)

Defiling the Undefiled (Joe Dallas)

Single in Christ and a Sexual Being (Ellen Mary Dykas)

Modesty, Objectivism, and Human Value (Richard Poupard)

The following books are recommended titles for an apologetic’s library on the devastating effects of porn on culture:

The Game Plan: The Men’s 30-Day Strategy for Attaining Sexual Integrity (B827) by Joe Dallas

Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain (B1087) by William M. Struthers

This blog is adapted from the September 29, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Addressing Feminist Porn

There was an article in USA Today on June 7, 2017 entitled “Can Porn Be Feminist?” It was written by Patrick Ryan. I will share a little of the article with you and make some comments. The reason I am going to do that is this is not some sidetrack. Some obscure kind of a problem that we are facing. No. This is a pandemic problem in the culture and the church. For example, “last year,” according to the article, “women accounted for 26% of all traffic worldwide” for a particular very popular pornographic site. The idea is that porn is for men but increasingly it is ruining anthropology in general.

The article goes on to say that “Porn made with feminist values ‘is about showing an authentic representation of human sexuality,’” and “Oh no,” says the author, it turns out that “women like sex just as dirty, kinky and exciting as men do.” Lane Moore, Cosmopolitan’s former sex and relationships editor, says that “There’s a huge market for (feminist porn).” I am going to get that cashed out for you in just a second. Feminist porn means porn according to feminist standards. She says, “I have friends who run a lot of sites…and have a huge audience.”

“According to a survey of 24,000 women,” a pretty big survey, “18% say they watch porn daily.” Then catch this statistic, “63% watch weekly or a few times a month. Eighty-nine percent say they watch it without their partners, while 34% say they tend to select videos featuring participants they can relate to.” Moreover, “TV comedies…are created by women, and feature empowered female characters casually discussing — or in the act of — masturbation and watching porn.”

Bottom line, according to the article, here is the take away, “people are trying to normalize (watching porn)” and then three chilling words, “as they should.”

But, they should not. In reading the Benedict Option, this is one of the subjects Rod Dreher touches on. He points out that the moral and spiritual damage from porn is obvious. Porn dehumanizes. It destroys the image of God in the faces of its performers. It turns and it trains users to see others as depersonalized objects for sexual pleasure. It destroys the connection between sex and love. Lot of bad news.

What is news, however, is that neuro scientists have discovered that pornography use has devastating effects on the brain. Watching porn floods the brain’s pleasure centers with dopamine, and the more one uses porn, the more one has to use it, and the more extreme versions of it. Why? You got to get more and more extreme to get the same dopamine effect. Pornography literally rewires the brain making it very difficult for long time users to be aroused by actual human beings.

This is a pandemic issue in the culture today and I want to bring it to your attention. There are solutions and those solutions are thankfully available through the ministry of the Christian Research Institute. I wrote about this in The Complete Bible Answer Book Collector’s Edition Revised and Updated. We also did an article by Joe Dallas entitled “Darkening our Minds: The Problem of Pornography among Christians,” which should be up on equip.org. Do remember that Joe Dallas wrote a book called The Game Plan: The Men’s 30-Day Strategy for Attaining Sexual Integrity. This is an issue that has to be addressed, because it is an issue that is destroying relationships not only outside the church but also within the church.

— Hank Hanegraaff

For further study, please see the following:

What’s the Problem with Pornography? (Hank Hanegraaff)

The Effects of Porn on the Male Brain (William M. Struthers, Ph.D)

Darkening our Minds: The Problem of Pornography among Christians (Joe Dallas)

Sexual Sanity for Women in a World Gone Mad (Ellen Dykas)

Recommended books:

The Complete Bible Answer Book Collector’s Edition Revised and Updated (B2027) by Hank Hanegraaff

The Game Plan: The Men’s 30-Day Strategy for Attaining Sexual Integrity (B827) by Joe Dallas

Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain (B1087) by William M. Struthers

This blog adapted from the June 12, 2016 Bible Answer Man broadcast.