3 minute read

Elizabeth Smart and the Hell of Pornography

Last Updated: August 28, 2016

Chris McKenna

Chris McKenna is a guy with never-ending energy when it comes to fighting for the safety and protection of children. He is the founder of Protect Young Eyes, a leading digital safety organization. Chris practices his internet safety tips on his four amazing children and is regularly featured on news, radio, podcasts, and most recently on Capitol Hill for his research. His 2019 US Senate Judiciary Committee testimony was the catalyst for draft legislation that could radically change online child protection laws. With expertise in social media usage, parental controls, and pornography use in young people, Chris is highly sought after as a speaker at schools and churches. Since 2016, Chris has worked with Covenant Eyes creating educational resources to help individuals and families overcome porn. Other loves include running, spreadsheets, and candy.

Maybe you’ve seen the video by now. On August 19, 2016, Fight the New Drug released an exclusive interview with Elizabeth Smart, now 28, with new details about the horrors of her 2002 kidnapping.

On the night of June 5, 2002, Elizabeth, then age 14, was sleeping next to her sister in their Utah home, when a man cut through her bedroom screen and kidnapped her with a knife to her throat. Her captor led her to a makeshift campsite less than two miles from her home in the mountains. There, his wife had Elizabeth change out of her pajamas, and he informed Elizabeth that she was now his wife.

pornography living hell

Over the next nine months, while Elizabeth’s parents frantically searched for their beautiful daughter, her captor raped her daily, forcing her to drink alcohol and perform horrific acts for his pleasure. In Elizabeth’s own words:

Looking at pornography wasn’t enough for him. Having sex with his wife after looking at pornography wasn’t enough for him. He just always wanted more.

He would just sit and look at it and stare at it, and he would just talk about these women, and then when he was done, he would turn and look at me, and he would be like, “Now we’re going to do this.”

A Living Hell for Elizabeth

There’s a reason her abductor couldn’t stop. Nothing fires up the brain’s reward system like sexual arousal. Unfortunately, the brain doesn’t discriminate when it comes to the source of the arousal. Whether it’s from pixel or real people, the brain fires up and releases a firework display of chemical activity. The problem with pornography is it hyper-stimulates the reward center, as consumers of porn click from screen to screen, releasing copious amounts of dopamine and giving the brain an unnatural high.

The brain eventually fatigues, limiting the release of dopamine, leaving the viewer wanting more but unable to reach a satisfactory level of stimulation. This is called desensitization, leading the viewer to seek out more depraved types of pornography in order to get the same arousal.

In short, pornography created an insatiable neurological appetite that played itself out on an innocent teenage girl. According to Elizabeth, “Pornography made my living hell worse.”

I wish this were an isolated story. One that we only have to hear one time. But, sadly, young girls are continually kidnapped, captured, lured, and tricked into a joining a rampant global sex trade. Pornography fuels sex trafficking and sex trafficking fuels pornography. They exist in a twisted symbiosis.

Elizabeth Smart has found the strength to become an outspoken child safety activist since her ordeal and has publicly talked about it extensively. But, an untold number of voiceless female child victims have no system to support them or to extract them from their hell.

Porn is a Brain Changer

In our free e-book, Your Brain on Porn, author Luke Gilkerson explains five ways that porn warps our brains. Research performed by Dr. Dolf Zillman of Indiana University and Dr. Jennings Bryant of The University of Alabama supports the assertion that pornography lowers our view of women.

The study took 160 college-age students (80 males and 80 females) and divided them into three groups.

  • The first group, the “Massive Exposure Group,” was shown 36 non-violent pornographic films over a six-week period.
  • The second group, the “Intermediate Exposure Group,” was exposed to 18 pornographic films over a six-week period.
  • The third (control) group, the “No Exposure Group,” was shown 36 non-pornographic movies over a six-week period.

After viewing these films, the participants were asked a wide range of questions on social issues.¹ One question asked the participants to rate their overall support for women’s rights. Men in the Massive Exposure Group showed a 46% drop in support compared to the No Exposure Group. And among women participants, this drop was an alarming 30%.

Here’s an excerpt from the e-book:

In an increasingly sexualized culture, it is women who are often the most dehumanized as they are constantly rated for the size, shape, and harmony of their body parts. Often pornography, and even mainstream media, portrays women as people who are glad to be used and objectified. It isn’t surprising to find women increasingly devalued in our porn-saturated culture.

“Free porn” is a misnomer. Pornography always costs somebody something. And it’s the women and girls in our culture, surrounded by boys and men with porn expectations, who often end up paying the highest price.

In the case of Elizabeth, she paid a very high price for her captor’s pornography addiction. But, she has found the strength to speak for those who have no voice. May her example be a testament to many that a world without pornography would be a much better world to be in.


(1) Dolf Zillmann and Jennings Bryant, “Effects of Prolonged Consumption of Pornography on Family Values,” Journal of Family Issues 9 (4), 1988.