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Porn Addiction in the Christian Community: Why Are Rates so High?

For the faithful, porn addiction is about how guilty they feel when they do it.
 
 
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Photo Credit: Cathleen A Clapper / Shutterstock.com

 
 
 
 

The following first appeared in The Fix. Also on TheFix.com:  Down for the Count: The Discipline of ModerationWomen Are Not PowerlessWhy Living a Life Online Can Lead to Addiction

Standing out boldly against a bright yellow background, the tall red capital letters hover above the highway shouting their promise of sexual stimulation to oncoming motorists:  ADULT VIDEO!  But as turned-on drivers downshift toward the X-rated invite, they can’t avoid seeing another sign. On it, the familiar face of a bearded, long haired man looks down with gentle, disapproving eyes. Alongside the portrait, another set of capital letters warns that “Jesus Is Watching You.” 

Catholic leaders in San Juan County, New Mexico installed that billboard as a shame-inducing admonition to porn shop patrons – you may be able to hide your “sinful” behavior from other people, but not from God!  

Because of the belief that the Almighty watches everything we do (reflected in Bible verses such as Jeremiah 16:17, “My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes”) and the traditional church teaching that non-marital sex is immoral, many devout Christians agonize over their experiences with pornography. Feelings of guilt may explain why people with strong religious convictions often believe they are addicted to porn. 

In a piece titled  “I’m a Christian Addicted to Porn” for the magazine Christianity Today, Shaun Groves describes the torturous shame he felt after enjoying sexually explicit media: 

“The pleasure faded. And in its wake I fought pounding waves of regret and guilt. I felt a million miles from good, a billion light years from God. I'd often think back to how I saw that first picture of a naked woman. I had used a stick to keep it away from me. I felt like God had the stick in his hand now, poking at me from a distance, trying not to get any of me on him.”

Joshua Grubbs watched students go through similar anguish during his undergraduate years at a conservative college. So, as a doctoral candidate in psychology at Ohio’s Case Western Reserve University, Grubbs was excited to explore the link between religious values and perceptions of porn addiction. 

Grubbs' research team surveyed three representative groups of adults (including undergrads at both a public and a religious university) about their viewing of adult material over the Internet. The study, Transgression as Addiction, concluded that "religiosity and moral disapproval of pornography use were robust predictors of perceived addiction to Internet pornography while being unrelated to actual levels of use among pornography consumers."  

In other words, people who object to graphic sexual entertainment for religious reasons are more likely to see themselves as addicts – no matter how much porn they actually watch. "We were surprised that the amount of viewing did not impact the perception of addiction, but strong moral beliefs did," Grubbs said of the findings which were published in February in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.  

Gospel music superstar Kirk Franklin thrust the issue of Christians and porn addiction into the limelight ten years ago by revealing his personal obsession with sex videos and magazines. Appearing with his wife, Tammy, on the conservative Christian TV show  The 700 Club, Franklin opened up about the all-consuming hunger that threatened his marriage and made him feel like a hypocrite in his ministry. He talked about greedily consuming porn in private – especially when he was on the road. He talked about trying to get Tammy to watch porn with him. Franklin also claimed that his addiction took hold suddenly, when he was a small child. “There's always the boy who has the big brother who has the magazine under his bed. That's how it starts. So the first time I ever saw one, I was around 8 or 9. I saw my first magazine, and from there I was addicted,” Franklin said.

 
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