The world has gone through rapid change in the last 20 years. One of the greatest technological advancements of last two decades has been the widespread usability of the Internet. The World Wide Web has radically changed the way we communicate, do business, organize finances, purchase merchandise and services, and find information. This change has been so radical that some sociologists call younger men and women the “Internet generation.”
The Internet is a wonderful tool, a worldwide canvas for anyone to display their ideas. Never before has the world been so connected to information and news. Anyone can share anything. Anything . . .
Today, our teens face a new breed of temptation: Internet pornography. Sure, pornography has been around “since men drew on cave walls” but never before has the wall been so big and so accessible. A study in 2002 demonstrated that 70% of youth ages 15 to 17 reported accidentally coming across pornography online, and nearly a quarter of these said this happened “very” or “somewhat” often. In 1996 officials of the U.S. Department of Justice stated, “Never before in the history of telecommunications media in the United States has so much indecent (and obscene) material been so easily accessible by so many minors in so many American homes with so few restrictions.” Imagine what they might say today, over ten years later.
There are a number of factors to consider when looking at the gravity of this problem. Porn is highly addictive, and the Internet now delivers it at high speed into most households . . . just when you thought our teens had enough hormonal changes to deal with. Let’s look at some of the issues one at a time.
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The Gateway Drug
Why is pornography a problem? From a Christian perspective the answer seems obvious: it provokes lust. But above and beyond this, lust and sexual immorality are singled out in Scripture as having particularly devastating consequences. “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18). Modern science is beginning to unearth more of what God may have meant when these words were penned by the apostle Paul. Dr. Jeffrey Satinover summarized the power of pornography when he testified before a Senate subcommittee: “The underlying nature of an addiction to pornography is chemically nearly identical to a heroin addiction.”
When someone views pornography neuroscientists can observe how the brain releases dopamine. This is the primary hormone released during cocaine use. This is also the hormone that is naturally released in otherwise normal sexual or romantic encounters. When viewing porn the brain also releases oxytocin. This is a strong hormone that is also released the first time mothers or fathers hold their newborn baby or when lovers hold hands. Oxytocin creates a bonding effect. The brain simply can’t distinguish between viewing pornography and a sexual encounter, so these hormones are released. But instead of bonding to another person, the brain is bonding to pornographic images and opening the viewer up to a dopamine addiction. Pornography is essentially overexposure to erotic stimuli that exhausts our normal sexual responses.