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

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