Helping Christians with Porn Addictions

We all have something about ourselves that we don’t like, that we want to change, or that we’re embarrassed about. That’s just part of life. But there are sins that threaten to swallow us, that seek to absorb us, and that change the person we were meant to be. Those sins often lead to guilt and shame. Most often, the sins we feel the most shame and conflict about are sexual sins.

Sexual sins are pervasive. And though we live in a world that likes to teach that we can do anything we want with our bodies, our faith teaches that God’s plan is something very different than that way of life.

When God created the first man and woman, He created them in His image. He created them to complement each other, to have a natural intimacy, to enjoy monogamy, and to love each other unconditionally. This intimacy is born of mutual love, mutual respect, the giving of self, and so much more. This is the kind of relationship that God wants for us. Why? Because we learn about God’s love for us when we act in that love toward a spouse.

As Pope John Paul II said in talks that became collectively known as The Theology of the Body, “The body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God, and thus be a sign of it.”

When sin entered the world, people began to believe it was their right to do whatever they wanted, especially with their bodies in regard to sexuality. Today, they mock the concept that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Pleasure has become a deity of its own. And people hold fast to the notion “as long as I’m not hurting anyone, it’s fine.” This “me” outlook overshadows all understanding that sexual sins often damage a person’s own self-esteem, their partners, their families, and even their faith.

Then along came a multi-billion-dollar industry to capitalize on these sexual desires.

 

The Prevalence of Pornography

As of January 2022, four of the top 25 websites in the world are porn sites:

top-ranking websites worldwide in january 2022

Similarweb.com

 

Pornhub, which ranks third in most popular porn sites, often compiles and disseminates data for the year regarding usage, trends, and so on. According to the 2021 data, “The United States continues to be the country with the highest daily traffic to Pornhub.” The average American who goes to Pornhub stays on the site for nine minutes, forty-four seconds.

Pornhub’s 2021 data didn’t review all of the same data that its 2019 report covered (and it only did a tech review in 2020), but according to the 2019 review:

There were over 42 billion visits to Pornhub, which means there was an average of 115 million visits per day. One-Hundred-Fifteen Million – that’s the equivalent of the populations of Canada, Australia, Poland and the Netherlands all visiting in one day!…

There were over 39 billion searches performed, which is 8.7 billion more searches than last year….

In 2019 there was a record amount of video uploads, over 6.83 million new videos were uploaded to Pornhub. To put this in perspective – if you strung all of 2019’s new video content together and started watching them way back in 1850, you’d still be watching them today!

Its report gives all this information with an air of pride and excitement.

The majority of people who engage with Pornhub are under 34 years of age, with men significantly more likely to visit the site. Yet women still comprise a significant portion of viewers. According to the 2021 report: “2021 saw the proportion of female visitors grow to 35%, an increase of 1 percentage point and +5% growth compared to 2020.” In the US specifically, 67% of the visitors to Pornhub are male, while 33% are female.

 

But What about Christians?

Christians are not immune to the allure of pornography. A 2014 pornography survey done by Proven Men, a group that helps men overcome porn addiction, found that “the number of Christian men viewing pornography nearly mirrors the national average”:

  • 97% have viewed pornography
  • 64% view porn at least once a month
  • 37% look at porn several times a week

 

male Christian porn addiction statistics

 

Further, according to Covenant Eyes (a company that describes itself as “the pioneer of Internet and Screen Accountability™ software, empowering members to maintain their online integrity”):

  • 1 in 5 youth pastors and 1 in 7 senior pastors use porn on a regular basis and are currently struggling. That’s more than 50,000 U.S. church leaders.
  • 43% of senior pastors and youth pastors say they have struggled with pornography in the past.
  • 64% of Christian men and 15% of Christian women say they watch porn at least once a month.
  • Only 7% of pastors report their church has a ministry program for those struggling with porn.

 

Christian porn addiction stats

 

However, according to the Barna research group, which conducted a survey in 2015, “Practicing Christians are more than three times less likely to use porn than other teens and adults (13% compared to 42%).”

Regardless of the exact numbers, it’s obvious that porn has an allure that many people—including Christians—struggle to say no to.

 

Devastating Effects of Porn

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense.

While many porn websites (like Pornhub) generate excitement for porn, we know the truth. Porn hurts people. It treats people like objects for pleasure. It gives the person who watches it a skewed vision of the true nature of sexuality. It leads to unhealthy desires, unhealthy attitudes about a sexual partner, and even the inability of men to become aroused in real-life situations.

african woman using a laptop

Furthermore, porn hurts our relationship with God. In a 2017 study entitled “Seeing Is (Not) Believing: How Viewing Pornography Shapes the Religious Lives of Young Americans,” researchers found:

More frequent pornography viewing diminishes religious service attendance, importance of religious faith, prayer frequency, and perceived closeness to God, while increasing religious doubts. These effects hold regardless of gender. The effects of viewing pornography on importance of faith, closeness to God, and religious doubts are stronger for teenagers compared to emerging adults. In light of the rapidly growing availability and acceptance of pornography for young Americans, our findings suggest that scholars must consider how increasingly pervasive pornography consumption may shape both the religious lives of young adults and also the future landscape of American religion more broadly.

The more a person becomes drawn into the world of porn, the larger the wedge is inserted between her and God. And those who know that porn viewing is wrong begin to feel shame. Their disgust with themselves leads them to think that God has stopped loving them because of this sin. This self-loathing can then lead to increased porn usage, as they try to replace the intimacy and love of God and others with fabricated lust.

But God will never forsake you.

 

There Is Hope and Forgiveness in God

In 1 Corinthians, we read: “No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10.13).

And Proverbs tells us: “Those who conceal their sins do not prosper, but those who confess and forsake them obtain mercy” (Prov. 28.13).

Proverbs 28.13 on forgiveness

There is no disputing God’s love. It’s a love we cannot even fathom. Because of this immense love, He will forgive us if we seek forgiveness.

The first step to living a life without a reliance on porn is to admit how destructive it has become. Whether you are married or single, you must acknowledge that it hurts you and all of your relationships—with your partner, with your children, with God, and even with your friends.

Just as it keeps you from true intimacy with your spouse, it keeps you from an intimacy with God.

But you can overcome the reliance on pornography and have a truly beautiful and amazing intimate relationship with God. How? You must work toward strengthening that relationship over time through prayer and through your actions.

 

How Can I Overcome My Struggle with Porn Usage?

First, pray. Talk to God and ask for His help in overcoming the desire to watch porn. Have an honest conversation with Him about your struggles. The temptation will likely come and go, so prayer must be your constant companion. Then seek forgiveness in confession.

You can also befriend saints such as St. Mary of Egypt, who lived a life of prostitution. Mary was never forced into this life. In fact, she liked this life so much that she often didn’t charge the men she was with. Mary would say later how consumed with lust she felt. One day she found herself with a group who was going to enter a church to celebrate a feast day. As she attempted to walk through the door of the church, she felt blocked by an invisible force. She tried three times to enter, but could not. After much frustration and shame, she realized it was her sin holding her back. She repented and spent the rest of her life in prayer and seclusion in the desert, where she overcame her temptations.

Painting of St Mary of Egypt by Domenico Fetti. St Mary of Egypt can be a great help to the Christian with a porn addiction.

St Mary of Egypt ~ Domenico Fetti

 

In addition to Mary of Egypt, another saint to befriend when you need help conquering feelings of lust is St. John the Long-Suffering. He, too, felt those feelings. In fact, he was so tormented by them that he became a recluse in a cave, spending 30 years there. Legend has it that at one point, he even dug a pit and buried himself up to his shoulders.

When we examine the lives of saints, we realize that they are human, just like we are. They had the same kind of temptations. They struggled. They had demons they had to fight. But they didn’t give up! With the strength of God, they persevered. They overcame. And now they are with God fighting for you.

Just as Mary and John went to the desert to be closer to God, we also have someplace we can go. We can go to Adoration. There we can sit before the Blessed Sacrament in absolute quiet. We can be still. We can pour out our hearts. We can tell Him our shame, our sadness, and anything else. Then we open our hearts to Him. We listen for His words, His mercy, His guidance.

In addition to prayer and seeking the intercession of saints, there are some practical things you can do to help curb the temptation to watch porn. These include installing internet filters on your devices to block the porn sites or having an accountability partner to help you stay away from certain sites. But the most important thing you can do involves changing your mindset. Speaking with a counselor or priest on a regular basis is of utmost importance.

 

When You Need Help

When you cannot handle the urges yourself, seek help from compassionate people who care and understand. There are many Catholic groups with members who know the struggle. They want to help you.

CatholicCounselors.com has a program called CONNECTED: Recovery from Pornography. This is “an Internet-based group counseling experience designed to help men recover from the obsessional use of pornography and the damage it does to our mind, body, soul, and relationships.”

Other Catholic organizations have online or in-person counseling for both men and women with porn addiction. These include:

In addition, many parishes have their own programs. If you want something local or in-person, contact your diocese or parish priest.

 

Final Thoughts

Pornography hurts. It hurts individuals. It hurts relationships. It hurts families. And it hurts our relationship with God. Christians are not immune to the temptations of the world. In fact, some might say we are even more prone to temptation, as the devil seeks out those who are close to God in an attempt to ruin the relationship.

Christ taught us that “a thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy” but that He “came so that [we] might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10.10).

In Christ, we can have the intimacy we desire. We can have the love we need. We can have goodness and joy we crave.

He is beckoning. Let us resolve to go to Him and sin no more.



2 Comments

  1. Rhonda on February 11, 2022 at 8:01 PM

    This is good. Sad but good. I’m wondering if you have any articles geared to college students. My son is going to be a freshman in the fall and i am worried aobut all he will be exposed to.

    • HLI Staff on February 17, 2022 at 2:13 PM

      Great question, Rhonda. I’ve passed along your suggestion to our education team. We do have a number of articles focusing on pornography (search “pornography” to see them all), and it’s a growing list. Here’s one geared specifically to teens: https://www.hli.org/resources/teen-porn-addiction/.

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