Porn Should Not Be an Easy Punchline

I love science fiction. Modern science fiction writers and shows have a way of holding a mirror to society to reflect areas of concern. But the seriousness of pornography has seemed to elude this genre, as well as most other popular shows and movies. Porn is seen as “just one of those things” which people, mostly men, do.

For example, in the movie Parenthood, Keanu Reeve’s character normalizes kids watching porn, saying, “That’s what little dudes do.” Or take Spider-Man: Homecoming. When asked what he was doing in the library alone, Ned hides the fact he was helping his superhero best friend and responds, “Uh… Looking at porn.” The list of examples that normalize porn use could go on and on.

An Easy Punchline?

Pornography has been relegated to an easy punchline which provides the script with a needed moment of laughter to ease a tense situation. This perpetuates the lie that pornography is no big deal and is in no way addictive.

Covenant Eyes’ founder and CEO, Ron DeHaas, envisions a world where porn is not just a comedic tool to lighten the mood, and he’s challenged our organization to change culture’s perception of pornography.

Those of us on staff have taken this mission to heart and daily seek to encourage people around the world to break the chains of pornography addiction. In my time with Covenant Eyes, I’ve talked to many people in desperate situations. Whether they are an addict themselves or the spouse of an addict, the conversation is generally the same. Shame. Hopelessness. Hurt. Pain. Loss.

When Hugh Hefner died, Ron DeHass referred to Hefner’s legacy as a regime of death because of the negative impact his gateway drug has had on millions of impressionable lives. How many adults can trace their first exposure to porn back to a Playboy, Penthouse, or Hustle magazine? (Author’s note: My hand is up.) These simple tools have laid the groundwork to influence generations to come. Hefner’s legacy is a culture which thinks nothing of devaluing women, human sexuality, and the sanctity of the marriage and the home.

“A Death Has Occurred”

Recently, I witnessed a turning point in the cultural war around pornography which came from a voice I would not have expected. The event, which might have been missed by many, is worth noting.

You may know Seth MacFarlane as the creative mind behind Family Guy and American Dad! As his work to date demonstrates, he might be the last person to be part of a culture change such as this. But, in an episode of his latest show, The Orville, which is billed as a Star Trek spoofhe tackles the taboo subject of porn addiction.

One of the main characters, Bortus, starts exhibiting unusual patterns of behavior. He lies to get out of work and lies to his spouse to avoid family time. Being on a small exploration vessel in the 25th century, there aren’t many places for someone to hide. Bortus finds himself drawn to the ship’s holographic simulator, a futuristic form of virtual reality, where he interacts with pornographic simulations. Each visit becomes more intense, until eventually he seeks out a new simulation that pushes the envelope even further.

Eventually, his spouse and the ship’s senior staff discover his indiscretion. In counseling, he admits his addiction started after a heated disagreement with his spouse in the previous season. He shares that he sought the simulations as a means of escape from the hurt he felt at home.

When a colleague asks him how he felt visiting the simulations, he responds,

“It is a call from deep within… It feels as if nothing else in the world matters but satisfying the urge and achieving the goal my body has demanded of me. Then, as quickly as it began, it is complete, leaving a worn-out shell in its wake. And the only feeling I am left with, the only thing I know, is that a death has occurred.”

“A death has occurred.” Those words stand in stark contrast to the comical rhetoric of the nervous character saying, “Uh… Looking at porn.”

As a recovering addict, I would say death is the best word to describe it. Slowly, a person’s best qualities start to die off. Each time you give in to the temptation, another piece shrivels until all that remains is an angry shell of the person you once were.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s not too late to rejuvenate the shriveled pieces and rebuild your life.

I know science fiction isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I’m also sure there are elements of The Orville with which many may not agree or like. And that’s ok. What is important is that we take time to recognize the victories in life, no matter where they come. This recent episode of The Orville is one of those cultural victories.

It’s good when governments pass legislation saying pornography is a public health hazard. But when a member of popular entertainment compares porn addiction to death, that is a sign someone is seeing the big picture. Seth MacFarlane and his team at The Orville have taken a stand in the battle against porn addiction. For that I say they deserve a huge “Thank You.”


Jeff Welch is a husband, father of two kids, resident science fiction junkie, and recovering porn addict. He is part of the Covenant Eyes Customer Service Team and is passionate about keeping people protected online.