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August 10, 2011Culture, Leadership

Pornification: Just the Facts

These posts come from a lengthier article I wrote for the Assemblies of God Enrichment Journal. The entire issue is worth your time and you can access it here. Read the first two parts of the series here.

Sexual lust has been present with us since the early days of humanity. But in our modern era we are faced with free, 24/7, private access to images not fit to describe. The Boston Globe online notes:

"Not too long ago, pornography was a furtive profession, its products created and consumed in the shadows. But it has steadily elbowed its way into the limelight, with an impact that can be measured not just by the Internet-fed ubiquity of pornography itself but by the way aspects of the porn sensibility now inform movies, music videos, fashion, magazines, and celebrity culture." [Boston Globe]

Of people who use the Internet, 43% visit pornographic websites. Some 40 million Americans are regular visitors to porn sites, with pornographic downloads represent 35% of all Internet downloads. Of the 40 million regular visitors, 33% are woman, while 70% of men aged 18-24 visit porn sites monthly. [Gizmodo reference below] It's not just adults. "Sex" and "porn" are among the top 5 most frequently searched terms for children under 18. Only 3% of adult websites require verification of age before viewing and some of those merely say, "Are you over 18? Click HERE if yes." [Online Education]

The passion for pornographic images and the corresponding consequences have been around since the beginning of recorded civilization. Phone porn and sexting did not create the pornification phenomena but does enhance the problem. By the way, in a 2009 Harris Survey, 19% of teens surveyed have engaged in sexting. Sexting is defined as "sending, receiving, or forwarding sexually suggestive nude photos through text message or e-mail." Boyfriends and girlfriends received 60% of these messages that were sent by mostly teens under the age of 18. As troubling is the fact that 11% of these sexting teens sent pornographic messages to strangers [Trends & Tudes].

We live in a confused culture filled with moral ambiguities and flawed solutions. The heart without God is the same as it has always been. What we are exposed to is no doubt is more sophisticated than the sexual images drawn in ancient times. But all are symptoms of deeper issues of the heart. People created porn for the same reasons people consume porn--because life without God and other healthy relationships leaves us all very empty.

The use and history of the word "pornography" goes back to the 1850s. The literal meaning of the word comes from the Greek "porne" or "prostitute" and "graphein" or "to write" [Dictionary.com]. So the elements of sex, print, and commerce come together to produce a highly addicting and destructive cultural force. Wendy Erin Foster's thesis at Texas Tech University observes how the pornification of America has affected schools producing what she terms "raunch attitudes." She quotes an interview with "Anne," a teen from Head-Royce private high school in Oakland, California says about sex, "It's an ego thing. We talk about it like at lunch on the patio; people think it's cool. It's competitive: who can hook up with the most guys and who can have sex... like my friend is having her eighteenth birthday party and she wants to have strippers there." [Levy, A. Female Chauvinist Pigs, quoted in Foster, Wendy Erin. Pornification of America: The Bacherorette Party as Symptom of Raunch Culture]

What is deemed as "pornographic" has been debated in U.S. culture for years reaching the U.S. Supreme Court on multiple occasions. One famous case, Jacobellis vs. Ohio (1964) led to an oft-repeated statement by Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart. He took the position that a French movie shown in Ohio was not pornographic. He refused to clarify what he considered hard-core pornography but and added "But I know it when I see it and the motion picture involved in this case is not that." If anything, Justice Stewart understated his confession [Wikipedia Article]. We Americans "know it when we see it" and we see it all too often. For the follower of Christ it is no help that the government sees a difference between pornography and obscenity, the latter being offensive to local community standards. Obscenity might get you jail time, but plain ole sinful porn can be bought with a loaf of bread at the corner store.

Although accurate statistics on the sale of pornography are difficult to attain, it is estimated to be a 100 billion dollar a year business worldwide. In the U.S. alone 13.6 billion dollars will be spent on porn this year. The technology revolution has created a porn revolution. People of all ages have anonymous access to all types of porn including 24.6 million pornographic websites, 12% of the entire internet total. Around 25% of all internet searches are porn related (68M each day) and 35% of all downloads are pornographic. [Gizmodo]

Each second in the U.S. $3,075 is spent on porn. In that same second 28,000 Internet viewers are looking at porn. Even more staggering is the fact that every 39 minutes an adult sex video is being produced. ["Porn: The Business of Pleasure." Melissa Lee. A CNBC Original Season 1 Episode 15.15 July 2008] The adult video industry will have 800,000,000 rentals this year. The United States is the fourth largest porn purchasers in the world behind China, South Korea, and Japan [Onine Education]. Again, we see it all too often.

As if the millions of people who frequent porn sites monthly were not enough, 34% of other Internet users have experienced unwanted exposure to pornography through pop-up ads, misdirected links or emails, some of the 2.5 billion pornographic emails sent daily. On the extreme end of pornography consumers are those among the 116,000 searches each day for "child pornography." [Gizmodo]

Pornography is everywhere and leaves scars in many place. So, the obvious question is, "What do I do about it?"

There are many excellent resources and I will mention some in the next few weeks, but let me mention Tim Challies' E-book on the subject. The title is exceedingly helpful and points to the bigger issue: that this is a toxin and requires detoxification because pornography twists and distorts love and sex. Challies explains some of the warping:

Sex is tender. Do you see tenderness in pornography or do you see violence? Sex is sweet. Do you see sweetness in the pornography you watch or is it degrading? Sex is selfless and giving. But isn't pornography all about the getting and about the conquest? Is it not about having my needs met now? Sex has boundaries. But doesn't pornography suppose that anything I feel or anything I desire is acceptable simply because I desire it? Pornography scoffs at boundaries.

Tim's whole book is worth a read (but for adults only). In the meantime, I will be talking more about this problem on the Janet Mefferd show this afternoon. You can listen all over the country, or click on the link to listen online. I will be on between 3-:3:30 central time.

You can follow the jump to see some additional stats. Feel free to suggest other resources and share your story in the blog comments. The blog comment rules have been suspended and anonymous posts are allowed.

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