Defeat Lust & Pornography A curious young man looking things up with his phone.
Defeat Lust & Pornography 7 minute read

Porn and Curiosity: Porn’s Allure and How to Address It

Last Updated: December 2, 2022

Pornography has a way of sparking curiosity⁠—even if we believe we should look away. And sadly, that curiosity has led many people into deep bondage to porn. Here are some comments we’ve received:

“This will be first time I’m saying anything about my porn issue, it all started out of curiosity, I’ve been hearing pornography but didn’t know exactly what it was, so I took my mom’s phone then, I didn’t have one googled it, saw the list of sites and that was it, I was around 14 years then.”

“I don’t know how it started for me, other than maybe seeing some brief sex scene in a movie accidentally, and then curiosity and internet access got the best of me around 12 years old. From there, I learned all the wrong ways to view sex, and thus began a 11+ year struggle and hypocrisy, shame.”

“I am a 18 year old girl who has watched porn on and off for roughly 4 years now. It started as curiosity, I would watch it because I’ve never seen anything like it before…”

“I was an 8 year old cub scout collecting magazines for returning Vietnam POWs when I was exposed to pornography. Natural curiosity led to the loss if innocence and I never fully recovered.“

Let’s look more closely at the relationship between porn and curiosity, why we can’t help being curious about porn, and some suggestions for dealing with curiosity in an appropriate way.

Curiosity Itself Is Good (Even About Sex!)

Curiosity provides the fuel for most of the positive change in the world. Research into curiosity has found a strong positive relationship between curiosity and learning, scientific discovery, wealth accumulation, and much more. This is especially the case for children and young people.1 God made us curious creatures with an amazing capacity to identify and solve mysteries.

As part of that, God created people as sexual beings with inherent sexual curiosity. The biblical expression “knew his wife” means “had sexual intercourse” (Genesis 4:1, 4:17, 4:25, etc.). It implies that sexual curiosity is the precursor to sexual intimacy.

Why You Can’t Help Being Curious About Porn

Not surprisingly then, in The Porn Phenomenon, the Barna Group found that the younger people are, the more likely they are to view porn out of curiosity. 42% of teens and young adults indicated curiosity as a motivator, compared to 38% of older millennials, 31% of Gen-X’ers, and just 21% of Boomers.2

While children and youth are most likely to look at porn from curiosity, they aren’t the only ones who do. Curiosity is a frequent motivator for adult porn use.3 This is especially the case for young people who grow up with traditional sexual ethics. Many adults feel like pornography is a safer outlet for sexual exploration.

Curious Brains

But the pull of pornography goes even further. Our brains are wired to not just notice sexual imagery but to take a neurological photograph. When you see porn, it gets “tattooed” on your memory. These deeply ingrained memories can trigger further curiosity.

Another part of porn’s appeal is the brain’s natural tendency to seek things that are novel. And that, some neuroscientists claim, is precisely where the danger lies. Rather than providing answers for legitimate sexual curiosity, the novelty of porn perpetuates itself. The more you see, the more you want to see. And the internet is happy to oblige your wildest fantasies. Rather than satisfying curiosity, it creates an insatiable desire for more.

For more of the brain science behind this, check out our free ebook, The Porn Circuit, by Covenant Eyes author Sam Black.

Harmful vs. Helpful Responses To Sexual Curiosity

If sexual curiosity is innate (and good!) then how should we deal with it? If we rule out simply giving in to the impulse to look at porn, what’s left? How do we deal with questions we ourselves have, or the curious questions put to us by our children?

Harmful Responses to Sexual Curiosity

The typical response to sexual curiosity among Christians has been simple: ignore or repress it. Unfortunately, this is deeply unhelpful and counter-productive. Many adults who struggle with pornography addiction grew up in homes where things like sexuality and pornography were never discussed. Some even report being rebuked or shamed for asking questions about sex.

Consequently, when they encountered porn, they didn’t have a good framework for distinguishing this from biblical sexuality.

Even parents who do address sexual curiosity and the issue of porn usually don’t spend enough time on it. Author John Fort says that discussions about pornography need to be ongoing to combat the constant barrage of temptations that our kids face:

“My own story illustrates the need for frequent conversations about pornography… I was caught with pornography as an early teenager, and my dad finally talked to me. That one talk helped for maybe two weeks before I started viewing porn once more. Neither of my parents ever spoke about pornography with me again.”

(You can read John’s whole article here.)

Children will have more and more questions as they become more aware of their sexuality. If parents or other trustworthy adults aren’t approachable with these questions, they will most likely turn to less reliable sources of information⁠—like the internet.

Helpful Responses to Sexual Curiosity

If suppressing or ignoring sexual curiosity is not helpful, how should we respond to it? First, we need to distinguish between genuine sexual curiosity and lust. Pornography appeals to lust—an inordinate desire for what doesn’t belong to us, and indulging that desire (James 1:14-15, Matthew 5:28, Ephesians 5:5). While curiosity about sex can easily turn into lust, it is good to be curious about our bodies and how God designed them (James 1:17).

So then, we should acknowledge and seek to answer questions about our sexuality. But where we go (or in the case of children, where we encourage them to go) for answers is crucial.

  • Parents
  • Pastors
  • Reliable friends
  • Mentors
  • Counselors
  • Therapists

The best person to talk to will vary depending on your situation—a teenager, young person about to get married, an adult, a widower, a divorcee, etc. The point is, there are appropriate people to ask your questions in whatever situation. They can help you without fanning the flames of lust like porn does.

Dealing With Curiosity From Porn Exposure

If you’ve seen pornography and it has sparked your curiosity, the solution is not to ignore this or simply try to forget it. That probably won’t work. You need to find a safe person to discuss what you’ve seen and how it made (or still makes) you feel. This will help you process the experience.

On your journey away from porn, we recommend having an ally who supports you and won’t shame you. At the same time, they won’t encourage your curiosity to turn into lust.

How to Find an Ally Who Can Really Help You.

Curiosity as a path to understanding addiction.

Counselor Jay Stringer offers a surprising suggestion for addressing porn addiction: Curiosity may provide the key to unlocking your struggles. How so? There are a couple of ways.

Most obviously, if you shift the focus of your curiosity from pornography itself to why porn has such a grip on you, it will provide you with tools to break free. The ebook above (The Porn Circuit) sheds light on the brain science of porn. You can also learn to understand your triggers and how to avoid them.

You may also be curious about the stories of other people who have battled and won against porn addiction. The more you leverage your curiosity, the more motivation you’ll have for your own victory journey.

But curiosity goes a step further. Stringer says it can reveal the deeper wounds of our hearts that often keep a person trapped:

“Internet search bars and browser histories expose your sin, but far more, they reveal the unaddressed and therefore unresolved stories of your life. Sexual fantasies are roadmaps. They pinpoint the location of your past harm and highlight the current roadblocks that keep you from freedom.”

So, if you’re curious about what to do next, check out the blog post from Dr. Doug Weiss, How to Quit Porn: 6 Essentials Steps.


1 George Loewenstein, “The Psychology of Curiosity: A Review and Reinterpretation,” Psychological Bulletin 116 (1994): 75. Accessed at https://www.cmu.edu/dietrich/sds/docs/loewenstein/PsychofCuriosity.pdf.

2 Josh McDowell Ministry, The Porn Phenomenon: The Impact of Pornography in the Digital Age (Ventura, CA: Barna Group, 2016).

3 Beáta Bőthe, István Tóth-Király, Nóra Bella, Marc Potenza, Zsolt Demetrovics, Gábor Orosz, “Why do people watch pornography? The motivational basis of pornography use,” Psychology of Addictive Behaviors 35 (2021): 172-186. doi: 10.1037/adb0000603.

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