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Is Porn Bad?: 10 Things to Consider Before Watching

Last Updated: September 26, 2022

Keith Rose
Keith Rose

Keith Rose holds a Master of Divinity degree and BA in Sacred Music. Keith worked with the Covenant Eyes Member Care Team for 15 years. He has also served as a Bible teacher, pastoral assistant, and music director at his local church. He's now the editor of the Covenant Eyes blog and the author of Allied: Fighting Porn With Accountability, Faith, and Friends. He lives in Hendersonville, North Carolina with his wife Ruby and daughter Winslow.

How bad can it be—everyone watches porn, right? It’s your own choice whether you want to or not, it doesn’t hurt anyone else. If you don’t like porn, just don’t watch it.

These are common ideas today. But scientific research has found just the opposite. It tells us exactly why pornography is bad and why it’s a good idea to stop watching it today. As we look at the evidence, we’ll evaluate whether porn is good or bad from a number of different angles.

Is porn bad for you?

The first question, and the one most people are probably concerned with, is whether watching porn is bad for you personally. Examining the research, we find at least four major problems.

Bad for Your Mental Health

Many studies have found a close correlation between watching porn and a host of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. Author Sam Guzman writes:

“One study of college students found that pornography use more than three times per week was correlated with higher rates of depression. A similar but different study conducted with college students found that compulsive pornography use was associated with an increase in negative mental health conditions, including depression… Researchers studying Swedish adolescents found that teens who viewed porn regularly were twice as likely to experience depression. And in 2019, a study found that excessive pornography use was associated with increased rates of depression in both men and women.”

Likewise, a 2020 study of university students found that lifetime porn users reported significantly higher rates of severe anxiety.

Bad for Your Brain

Advocates for porn have argued that the psychological harm of porn is subjective, and we can’t know for sure what’s happening. “It’s only bad for you if you think it’s bad.”

However, advances in neuro-imaging technology have revealed that porn actually hurts your brain. Dr. Valerie Voon is a Cambridge neuroscientist whose research has been cited by thousands of other scientists. In 2013, Dr. Voon led a study that examined brain scans of porn users. Her findings shocked the world: porn can damage your brain like drugs or alcohol.

What exactly does it do? Porn shrinks your brain. It weakens the part of your brain that you use for making decisions and reprograms it to crave porn. You can read more about this in our article, Brain Chemicals and Porn: How Porn Affects Your Brain.

Bad for Your Sexual Health

Even beyond the evidence from psychological research and brain scans, porn causes physical problems as well. Namely, porn has been found to be connected to various sexual dysfunctions.

Here, we’ve outlined the scientific evidence for porn-induced erectile dysfunction. This has been a growing problem among young men, accelerated by the availability of high-speed internet and smartphones.

Likewise, a growing body of evidence indicates that vast numbers of women also experience porn-induced sexual dysfunction. For more, see The Link Between Porn and Sexual Dysfunction

Bad for Your Integrity

Perhaps most seriously, porn habits tend to live in secret. Porn use, especially for those who believe it’s morally wrong, often goes hand in hand with hiding or covering up behaviors. This breakdown of integrity is both morally bad and bad for your emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

Human beings thrive when they live open and honest lives. When we secretly do things we’re ashamed of, like watching porn, it shatters our sense of well-being and further deepens our shame.

Is porn bad for your relationships?

Many would argue that even if porn is an unhealthy choice personally, it’s still my decision. After all, porn is already out there; what difference does it make to anybody else whether or not I look at it? So goes the thinking. But porn isn’t just bad for you—it’s bad for your relationships and the people around you.

Bad for Marriage

Porn devastates your romantic relationships. That’s why some organizations have started using the slogan “porn kills love.” Far from being some kind of aphrodisiac, we’ve seen the sexual dysfunction that porn can bring to couples. However, even where there are no overt porn-induced sexual performance issues, porn undermines healthy romance.

In her article on Porn in Marriage: It’s Harmful Effects on Relationships (And How to Heal), Covenant Eyes author Abby Wilmarth notes that some experts found porn to be a factor in more than half of divorce cases. She writes, “There has been some debate over how accurate this statistic is–but even if it were a factor in only 25% of divorces–with 782,038 divorces in 2018, that’s 195,509 marriages that ended at least in part because of porn.”

Not only is porn bad for marriage, but it’s also bad for the possibility of getting married. We reference studies in 6 Ways That Watching Porn Affects Relationships:

“[H]igher levels of pornography use in emerging adulthood were associated with a lower likelihood of marriage.” Others have found that, “Internet pornography use frequency correlated with low sexual desire. Of those who consumed Internet pornography more than once a week, 16% reported low sexual desire, compared with 0% in non-consumers (and 6% for those who consumed less than once a week).”

So then, if you’re watching porn, it’s bad for your chances of either getting married or staying married.

Bad for Families

It follows that if porn is bad for marriage, it’s going to have a trickle-down effect to families. Porn is breaking up families, as we saw from the divorce statistics. Therapist Dr. Jill Manning testified before the senate:

“When a child lives in a home where an adult is consuming pornography, he or she encounters the following four risks:

1. Decreased parental time and attention

2. Increased risk of encountering pornographic material

3. Increased risk of parental separation and divorce

4. Increased risk of parental job loss and financial strain”1

The bottom line is that porn is bad for families.

Bad for Your Relationship With God

Covenant Eyes has been helping people overcome pornography for over 22 years. When we ask our members why they come to us for help with porn, one of the most consistent reasons we receive is “to help my relationship with God.”

Particularly for Christians who believe that porn is a sin, porn is bad for your relationship with God. Why is this? Covenant Eyes author Lisa Eldred writes:

“God has called us into a holy and perfect communion with Himself. The most basic way to love God is to obey him (John 14:15), and adultery is called out in the Ten Commandments as a sin (Exodus 20:14).

Okay, but porn is just looking at other people, right? It’s not actual adultery, is it?

Take what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount: “But I say to you that anyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). What is porn if not looking at someone on the screen with lust?”

 Author and speaker Matt Fradd says, “The problem with pornography isn’t that it shows too much, but that it shows too little of the human person.” Here we come to the essential reason porn is wrong: porn is unloving. Porn reduces people who were made in God’s image to mere objects for consumption.

This hurts your relationship with God because God is love and made us to love one another. 1 John 4:8 says, “The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

Is porn bad for society?

We’ve seen ways that watching porn is bad for individuals and families, but the effects are more wide-ranging than this. Porn is bad for society in at least three distinct ways.

Bad for Businesses (Work Lost)

Employees watching porn at work costs businesses massive amounts of money. According to research compiled a decade ago, 28% of employees were viewing porn on work computers, costing companies in the USA an estimated 16.9 billion dollars in annual productivity costs.2

Newer research suggests that upwards of 50% of people are watching porn at work.3 At Covenant Eyes, we’ve spoken with people who have lost high-paying jobs because they couldn’t stop using porn at work.

Prominent trial lawyer Dr. Wendy Patrick is no stranger to the legal implications of porn in the workplace. She writes:

“[Researchers have] found a positive link between viewing pornography and intentionally unethical behavior. They noted that unethical behavior in business contributes to a wide variety of harmful outcomes for organizations, including conspiracy, fraud, and other types of self-serving conduct by employees.”4

Porn is bad because it hurts the workplace.

Bad for Sexual Violence

Porn normalizes sexual violence. Studies have repeatedly shown a connection between watching porn and desensitization to violent sexual acts and even abuse.  

After reviewing this research, Matt Fradd concluded, “[T]he more porn one is exposed to, the more likely one is willing to trivialize rape.”

Our friends at The National Coalition on Sexual Exploitation found that even mainstream porn normalizes sexual violence.5 A survey of pornographic websites found incest and underage sex among the most popular categories. Recent investigations have found vast amounts of non-consensual content being marketed as “harmless adult entertainment.”

Bad for Human Rights

Closely related, porn perpetuates MANY human rights violations. We have written in various places on the close connection between porn and sex trafficking. Testimonies from former porn stars reveal that porn actors and actresses are often pressured into performing, and many abuse drugs and alcohol to cope with the psychological devastation of sex work.


1 Jill Manning, “Pornography’s Impact on Marriage and the Family: Testimony before the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights in the Committee on Judiciary, United States Senate on November 9, 2005,” accessed at https://www.heritage.org/testimony/pornographys-impact-marriage-and-the-family

2 Webroot, “Internet Pornography by the Numbers; A Significant Threat to Society,” accessed at https://www.webroot.com/us/en/resources/tips-articles/internet-pornography-by-the-numbers

3 Aaron Holmes, “More people seem to be watching porn on work devices — and it’s a cybersecurity problem for employers,” Business Insider, May 6, 2020, accessed at https://www.businessinsider.com/more-people-watching-porn-on-work-computers-coronavirus-remote-work-2020-5

4 Wendy Patrick, “The Impact of Watching Pornography at Work: The effect of adult content on productivity, integrity, and professional ethics,” Psychology Today, September 25, 2021. Accessed at “https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/why-bad-looks-good/202109/the-impact-watching-pornography-work

  • Comments on: Is Porn Bad?: 10 Things to Consider Before Watching
    1. Carl

      I removed [a program that allowed me to circumvent Covenant Eyes and blocked access to it]. I was only cheating my self and my relationship with The God who loves and cares for me, I kept seeing my sin in front of myself all the time and it was not helping me but allowing an avenue to sin. You can’t Fool God he will find you out Christian and if you really love God/Jesus you will be tested, the Holy Spirit will seek you out until you come back begging for forgiveness. Thank You Covenant eyes.

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