Samuel Perry recently released a book called Addicted to Lust: Pornography in the Lives of Conservative Protestants. The work has received an enormous amount of media attention. If public discussions of it are any measure, readers might come to the conclusion that conservative Protestant relationships are being ruined by a scourge of misplaced shame over pornography use.

But the book itself is far more sedate in its claims. (CT’s review can be found here.) Perry, a sociologist of religion, uses extensive qualitative and quantitative data from numerous sources—including interviews he conducted with conservative Protestant pastors and believers—to argue that pornography has been uniquely damaging to the relationships of conservative Protestants.

Among other claims, Perry asserts the idea that Christian pornography use is barely different than that of nonbelieving neighbors. In a recent interview in The New Yorker, he remarked that,

With conservative Protestants, you have this fascinating paradox of a group of people who hate pornography morally. They want to eradicate it from the world. And yet, statistically, they will view it slightly less often than your average American. And so you have this paradoxical situation of a group of people who collectively hate it, and yet, as individuals, they semi-regularly watch it. Especially the men. What are the consequences of that kind of incongruence in their lives?

Here and in Addicted to Lust, Perry misreads the evidence. He focuses on denominational identity and beliefs and so suggests that conservative Protestants view slightly less pornography than other Americans. But when I cut the data by religious identity and religious attendance—that is, actual religious ...

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