Jump-Start Men’s Health Month by Quitting Porn

On May 31, 1994, President Bill Clinton signed into law a bill that established National Men’s Health Week, to be observed June 12-19. What began as a week-long emphasis soon morphed into an annual Men’s Health Month, observed throughout the month of June to heighten awareness of men’s health issues and encourage men to live healthy lifestyles.

An unmistakable aspect of men’s health is sexual wholeness and mental well-being. Nothing stands as a greater threat to this than the use of pornography. Still, those of us on the front lines hear it all the time: “A little porn is not a problem! Who is it going to hurt?”

Over the past three years, There’s Still Hope has ministered to porn addicts in 14 countries. As of this writing, I am leading men from six countries through my 90-Day Recovery Plan. And I still have yet to hear one man who has achieved freedom from pornography say, “Looking back, my use of porn did no harm.”

The fact is, porn-free living is central to men’s holistic health—physically, relationally, mentally, and spiritually. Let’s break that down.

Physical Health

The repeated use of pornography presents a major threat to a man’s physical health in at least three ways.

First, emerging research is confirming an alarming connection between porn use and erectile dysfunction. Known as PIED, porn-induced erectile dysfunction is a real and present danger. A 2014 study by Cambridge found that among porn users, 60% developed ED with their sexual partners, but not with porn.

Addiction expert Robert Weiss reports the following stories from men who use porn:

“I get super hard when I’m looking at porn, but when I’m with a real woman, I struggle to get and maintain an erection.”

“When I’m having sex with my wife, I’m thinking about porn. Otherwise, I just can’t get up. I think I might prefer porn sex to real sex.”

The Bible specifies the unique danger of sexual sin: “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).

Second, porn use creates brain fog. In her column, “Watching Pornography Rewires the Brain to a More Juvenile State,” Rachel Anne Barr writes, “Porn use has been correlated with erosion of the prefrontal cortex—the region of the brain that houses the executive functions like morality, willpower, and impulse control.”

Third, porn presents a threat to men’s physical well-being by promoting a sedentary lifestyle. My personal experience, working with men and attending 650 recovery meetings, is that it is not unusual for porn users to set out to watch internet porn for just a few minutes, only to become hooked for six to eight hours in one setting.

Relational Health

Three sets of data have found that the likelihood of divorce is doubled for American men who use pornography. Another extensive study has confirmed these results. In 2018, a sample of 1,500 young adult porn users found that porn use is associated with lower sexual satisfaction.

Porn use destroys more than marriages. Children of porn users are damaged to depths that cannot be fully measured for decades, as a result of their father’s infidelity, time wasted on his habit, and difficulty being “present” with his kids. Additionally, it is not uncommon for porn use to affect a man’s relationships with those at work. When discovered, his porn use may cost him his job, career, and reputation.

Mental Health

One overlooked effect of consistent porn use is the damage it brings to one’s mental health. The common traits I see in porn addicts are depression, anxiety, detachment, anger, and hopelessness. I have yet to meet the man who said his porn use sharpened his mind, increased his self-esteem, and brought peace and tranquility.

Dr. Kevin Skinner published an article for Psychology Today on November 3, 2011, titled: “Can Pornography Trigger Depression?” His summary: “My research with more than 400 people who voluntarily took my assessment indicates that people who regularly view pornography are experiencing more depression than the general population.”

Until finding firm footing in their recovery, my clients frequently suffer from such isolation and pain that they are unable to get out of bed, maintain any serious relationships, or enjoy a productive day, void of feelings of hopelessness and desperation. While no therapist or addiction professional can promise that recovery will guarantee complete mental health for a client, we can promise that a person addicted to porn will never experience lasting mental health apart from the healing of recovery.

Spiritual Health

No serious reading of Scripture can question its stance on sexual purity. Nothing can reverse the miracle that takes place when “two become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). To disrupt the course set forth in creation (one man for one woman for one lifetime) is to disrupt one’s relationship with the Creator himself.

I often lean on my experience in three realms: (a) pastor for 31 years, (b) sex addiction professional, and (c) child of God. From each of these perspectives, I know that whenever we live outside of God’s intended plan—sexually or otherwise—this creates three unhealthy spiritual dynamics. For the sake of this discussion, I will choose the use of pornography as an example of all three.

Porn use creates separation. “Your sins have separated you from your God” (Isaiah 59:2). A person cannot live in sin and maintain his spiritual connection.

Porn use creates frustration. Paul confirmed that while living in sin, “I have the desire to do what is good but cannot carry it out” (Romans 7:18).

Porn use creates stagnation. Paul spoke of “the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds” (Hebrews 6:1 NLT). When engaged in any ongoing sin, our spiritual lives stagnate.

Is there hope?

You are not reading this by accident. You need help. More than that, you want help. As a man committed to your personal health—during and beyond Men’s Health Month—you know in your gut that your porn use has to stop. No matter the size of your struggle, the size of your God is greater. I suggest two fundamental ways to find hope.

First, you need accountability. Iron really does sharpen iron (Proverbs 27:17), two really are better than one (Ecclesiastes 4:9), and we really do need to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). You need a brother with whom to walk this journey. You need to install Covenant Eyes on all your devices. You need accountability.

Second, you need a group. There are a lot of them out there. Our ministry will be launching groups next month, using my new One-Year Life Recovery Plan. Find a group and join it. Your health depends on it.