On Friday evening, I attended a screening of Over 18, a hard-hitting documentary aimed at combatting pornography addiction among children and teens. It’s goal was to provide a wake-up call regarding the extent of pornography’s terrible social impact and to encourage the establishment of laws requiring meaningful age verification to prevent minors’ access to pornographic material. Interviews with porn stars and producers and people recovering from pornography addiction painted a gruesome picture of what this industry is doing to our society.
If you’ve ever thought that pornography addiction couldn’t affect one of your children or grandchildren, think again. One boy spoke frankly about how he had become addicted. In his case, his parents, both Christians, had forbidden the use of electronic devices in the children’s rooms. And the boy and his sister were both home-schooled. So he had developed his addiction to pornography at the dining room table with his younger sister sitting across from him and his mother, less than a few feet away. If he could become addicted, anyone could!
It was clear from listening to the interviews of former porn stars how the industry has victimized them. The women expressed pressure to do more and more violent acts in front of the camera in order to appease fans and earn what they interpreted as their love and acceptance. Drugs were often used to cope and off-screen lives were marked by brokenness. Having sold their bodies on-line, they live with the realization that they can never erase those images. One talked about the reality that her children’s friends will one day be able to Google her and see her obscene past free in high-definition video. The stories were heartbreaking.
Perhaps more troubling was the correlation between porn viewing and violence toward women. According to one study, an incredible 88% of scenes in porn films contain acts of physical aggression. In an Australian survey of 600 girls and young women aged 15-19 in Australia, many described the reality of sexual bullying and harassment that are a part of daily life for many girls. Seventh grade girls asked questions about bondage and many of them, having seen Fifty Shades of Grey, wondered whether a boy who wants to hit them or tie them up is just showing that he loves them.
Naomi Wolf says, 'The young women who talk to me on campuses about the effect of pornography on their intimate lives speak of feeling that they can never measure up, that they can never ask for what they want; and that if they do not offer what porn offers, they cannot expect to hold a guy. The young men talk about what it is like to grow up learning about sex from porn, and how it is not helpful to them in trying to figure out how to be with a real woman...For the first time in human history, the images’ power and allure have supplanted that of real naked women. Today, real naked women are just bad porn.'
The goal of the documentary Over 18 is ultimately to eliminate minors’ access to pornography through laws and credit card-based age verification. Because of that, it was short on answers for families looking for help. But with 64% of Christian men and 15% of Christian women saying they watch porn at least once a month, clearly this is a huge problem that needs addressing.
Two solutions they did propose were humanizing the victims and talking about the problem. Talking about the lives that are being destroyed on either side of the screen is an important first step. “Would you be okay if that was your sister or mother?” was a question that one father asked of his son. And hearing a 14-year-old boy say, “If you’re addicted, the best thing you can do is tell someone,” was touching. When shame is allowed to fuel the addiction’s power, it can’t be beaten. In addition to the answers Over 18 put forward, I would highly recommend the internet accountability software, Covenant Eyes. We’ve had it installed on all of our family’s devices and it provides complete transparency anytime anyone of us accesses the internet. The battle for our minds is too important not to win.
In awe of Him,