Science and Porn: What Are You Risking If They’re Wrong?

Most of us have convictions. I’m not talking about the kind handed down from judges and juries, but a fixed, or at least firm, belief in what is right and wrong, okay and not okay. We use these convictions to help us navigate decisions, figure how to spend our time, raise our kids, contribute to society, etc. They become a compass to keep us headed in the direction we want to go.

It’s great when we can talk about the beliefs we hold and why we hold them. We can learn from one another, and even if we do not end up changing our minds, we have the opportunity to understand the perspective of the other person. But all this takes listening.

What do you risk if the science on porn is wrong?

Sometimes we get so tied to our convictions that it seems as though our convictions hold us instead of us holding them. We identify so strongly with our set of beliefs that we consider an attack on our beliefs to be a direct attack on us: our being, our character, our intelligence. As a result, we shut down pathways of communication, and thus, restrict the flow of information we need to continue testing our convictions. I truly believe, if they’re good, they’ll hold, regardless of those who disagree.

The real question is about risk, not science.

I want you to know before you continue reading this article that my conviction is that porn isn’t good for us. I wish so much that all the scientists and researchers agreed with me.

But they don’t.

As of right now, there are points of disagreements about porn and whether or not it causes harm to the mental, emotional, and physical self. There are debates on whether porn is the cause of addiction or a symptom of another problem. There are still some things that we don’t yet know about its effects, especially long term. In my research for this article, I’ve pretty much found that you can find a researcher or a scientist who can back up your belief, whatever it is.

If you love porn and don’t see anything wrong with it, there is a scientist or researcher who will back you up.

If you hate porn and want to see it eradicated from the planet, there is a scientist or researcher who will back you up.

It seems like a waste of time to pit our scientists and researchers against each other, doesn’t it? Then, we’re not really listening, but dueling. Arguing. One-upping. Shouting. Whatever you want to call it.

The real question goes beyond science and research. The real question is about risk and quality of life. What if we had a conversation about that? Now, this is just my take, shaped by my own personal life and the stories others have told me, but let’s look at two hypothetical scenarios:

Scenario 1: Porn ends up not being harmful.

You gave up porn and it turns out the scientists and researchers who have drawn conclusions that porn is harmful were wrong.

Risk level: Low to Moderate

Effects: You gave up something unnecessarily. You were disappointed and felt you went through all that work for nothing. Perhaps you sought out something else to bring you pleasure, numbness, or a high that is harmful: drinking, drugs, or casual sex.

Scenario 2: Porn actually is harmful.

You kept using porn and it turns out the scientists and researchers who have drawn conclusions that porn is harmful were right.

Risk level: High to Extreme

Effects: Multiple.

  1. Your desire for sex with your actual real-life partner decreased.
  2. Your spouse found the porn and withdrew from you because s/he felt insecure about her/himself and your relationship.
  3. Your desire for extramarital affairs steadily increased, leading to an actual extramarital affair.
  4. The occasional event of looking at porn grew into a real-life addiction. This means you managed to re-wire your brain for porn. The chronic consumption of porn led to a build up of a brain chemical called Delta-FosB, which triggered specific genes, which led to changes in your synapses. This led to cravings, compulsions, and sexual dysfunctions, which then continued to fuel your over-consumption (i.e. you got trapped in a cycle that is very hard to break). You became highly sensitized to porn, but pretty much desensitized to everything else.
  5. You developed erectile dysfunction (if you’re male).
  6. You lost interest in your job, your hobbies, your family, and your friends.
  7. Your tweens/teens found your porn stash on your computer. They are now struggling with porn addiction and/or they can’t understand why you were constantly choosing porn over them.
  8. Your desire for porn kept the porn industry alive. You furthered the demand for sex-trafficking victims, 44% of them under 17 years old.
  9. “Entry-level” porn stopped working for you. You had to watch harder and harder stuff to get off. Women stopped being women in your mind, but became something to be beaten, used, and degraded. This viewpoint came across to your spouse and your kids, neither of whom you have relationships with anymore.
  10. Some of the porn featured children, even if they looked like adults. You got caught with child porn on your hard drive and landed in jail.

These may look extreme and some of them are, but real people have experienced these outcomes. They remain a possibility for anyone who uses porn. This means, if you use porn, you are at risk, even if you think you have a handle on it. Often we think we are stronger than we actually are because we discount the strength of what we’re fighting to prevent.

I know there is inherent risk in most everything we do. Even leaving your house is risky. You could get hit by a truck and die, yes. But if you stayed in your house and never left, what would the real quality of your life be?

I believe you can have real quality of life without porn. There are fantastic things on this planet that are real and life-giving. Real relationships. Real beauty. Real joy in hobbies, nature, and employment. Are there risks involved in all of these? Yes. But the possible rewards are equally great, if not greater.

So, is it worth the risk to give up porn? Is it worth the risk to keep it in your life? Can you put all your trust in a scientist or a researcher that says porn is okay?

Remember, at one time some said cigarettes were safe.

Consider all the risks—of both giving it up and continuing to pursue it—keeping in mind, these risks aren’t limited to only you. Rather, your decision will affect your spouse (or your future spouse), your children, sex-trafficking victims, even our society as a whole. Porn always, always affects more people than just the user.

If you want to start the journey to quit porn, check out these articles: