Am I a Bad Person for Watching Porn?

Pornography is a hotly debated subject in today’s society. There are folks with loud opinions on both sides of that argument, from those who say you ought to be free to explore your sexuality in whatever way pleases you to those who feel that watching five minutes of porn will land you an eternity in fiery pits of hell. So… what are you supposed to think? Let’s start with the fact that you clicked on this article, which means you have either watched or are considering consuming pornography and are feeling unsure about whether it’s the right decision. There are a lot of good reasons for you to be careful of pornography, as research shows that it’s highly addictive as well as linked to feelings of loneliness and depression, not to mention the damage it can cause within your relationships. Let’s take a look at a few reasons to rethink consuming pornography.

All other factors aside, the biggest problem with using pornography is the same problem with any other addictive behavior or substance: at its core, it’s an escape from reality. The reality may be that you’re bored, you’re lonely, you’re unhappy with your partner, or you’re simply after the boost of dopamine that watching something graphic can give you. Regardless, it’s never healthy to repeatedly escape your circumstances rather than confront them head-on. Running to that escape over and over will undoubtedly take a toll on your mental health.

Experts have noted that many people with porn addictions have likely returned to pornography so often because they already battled with depression, whether they knew it or not. Because of the dopamine and serotonin your body produces when it’s aroused, consuming pornography may become a form of self-medication. Unfortunately, as with drug addiction, your brain also becomes desensitized to pornography over time, forcing the user to watch more often and longer in order to achieve the same feeling of comfort as before. This leads to the consumer dedicating more and more of their time to pornography, isolating themselves from friends in family, taking risks in order to watch it in public or at work, losing interest or attraction toward their actual romantic partners, and thinking constantly about their next “fix” or opportunity to consume pornography. The person addicted to pornography essentially becomes more and more isolated, and isolation is incredibly detrimental to our mental state and to our relationships because it creates emotional distance when the exact opposite, emotional intimacy, is often a core need for the user in the first place.

Other Potentially Harmful Factors of Pornography Use

Most porn is a reenactment of someone’s sexual fantasies, and while a certain amount of sexual curiosity is healthy and normal for the average adult, not all sexual fantasies are harmless. Do your research on the link between human trafficking and the underground pornography scene, and ask yourself if the content you’ve consumed may have been filmed nonconsensually. Sadly, there is so much money to be made in the pornography industry that there are those who force kidnapped or underprivileged subjects to perform for the camera whether they want to or not, and you should be extremely mindful of the possibility that while you’re viewing a “scene,” the person holding the camera is threatening the life of the actor.

Even perfectly legal porn sites will offer different genres of pornography, many of them violent or purposefully pretending that one or more of the actors is underaged. Whether the performers are consenting adults or not, it’s also harmful to your brain to become desensitized to sexual violence and the idea of sexual attraction to a minor. There have absolutely been reported cases of sexual assault of a child due to the assailant’s consumption of porn that fetishizes children. Again, you need to ask yourself, why in the world do you need to watch something that sexualizes children and/or violent behavior? You run the risk of becoming desensitized to that in the future, which is ultimately a mental health issue, because it decreases your capacity for empathy and connection.

Spiritual Perspective

The Bible also warns about feeding your mind what’s healthy for you and your relationships, saying that “food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food” because even if something is lawful, it’s not necessarily good for you. Along those lines, pornography is often both legal and readily available, but that doesn’t mean it’s the healthiest choice for your brain or for your relationships. Jesus himself remarks a person looking at someone lustfully has “committed adultery in his heart,” which aligns with what other research warns about pornography use causing emotional distance between you and your partner. 

The Bible is also clear, however, that we have help when it comes to temptation and will never be faced with more than we can handle. And for those who do continue to struggle, there is forgiveness and redemption through God’s grace. Don’t be discouraged if your struggle with pornography addiction is ongoing, and reach out to someone at TheHopeLine if you want to talk more about how to stop and what God’s forgiveness looks like.

Replace the Habit With a Healthy One

Now that you know the risks involved in consuming pornography, the question becomes, what do you do with these feelings and urges? First, don’t despair! You are not alone in the desire for physical and emotional intimacy, nor is it abnormal to be curious about sex. You are NOT a bad person. Instead of feeling ashamed of yourself, go to a counselor, either at school or with the help of your parents, and talk to them about what drove you to pornography in the first place. Talking to someone, rather than keeping this struggle a secret, can make the whole issue feel less overwhelming.

Even if you talk to someone, you’ll probably still get the urge to return to porn. One article on PsychologyToday refers to a reliance on pornography as a “maladaptive coping strategy,” which means that it has become a crutch for the user to lean on rather than healthily dealing with feelings of emotional distress. In addition to seeking accountability, counseling, and support, it may also be helpful for you to choose a healthy habit or two that you could turn to when you inevitably feel the urge to consume pornography. Here are a few ideas of behaviors you can replace a pornography habit with:

  • Exercise or play a sport. Not only would this be a good distraction, but it’s also good for your mental health. An increase in endorphins helps fight depression, and the social aspect of most sports can help you feel less lonely and isolated.
  • Start a “side hustle.” Do you have a hobby or a subject in school you’re really good at? Make a website, an Etsy shop, or put up fliers. Sell your products or offer tutoring services. It’ll take up a lot of your time, you’ll meet new people, and you might even make a little spending money while you’re at it.
  • Volunteer at a local shelter or investigate organizations that help to fight human trafficking. Give back to the community, and devote the time you used to spend online to help people who are struggling to get by.

Build an arsenal of defensive maneuvers so that whenever you hear that old familiar voice calling you to put your computer on “Incognito Mode,” you have a friend you can call, a support group you can trust, and another activity you can choose to do instead.

Go Easy on Yourself

You are human, and to be human is to have imperfections. Whether your vice is drug addiction, pornography addiction, binge eating, or caring too much about what people think of you, you are worthy of love. At TheHopeLine, you can talk with someone who will treat you with love and kindness, regardless of what questions you have to ask, so reach out to us today if you’re still struggling with your thoughts on pornography and mental health.

People can wind up trapped in porn through many different ways. Here are 6 lies pornography tells us

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