There is Nothing ‘Adult’ About Pornography

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April 6, 2018
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There is nothing mature, nothing adult-like, about performing sexual acts with strangers before a video camera. Or watching those who do.

By Rob Schwarzwalder, a Senior Contributor, The Stream, April 3, 2018

Rob SchwarzwalderStephanie Clifford is known more commonly by her stage name, “Stormy Daniels.” She is also often billed as an “adult film star.”

She is not.

There is nothing “adult” about pornography. It is the abasement of personhood by adults. There is nothing “mature” about this.

This is not about Ms. Clifford’s lawsuit against President Trump, about whether her claim of adultery with him is true or false (sadly, I suspect it’s true). It’s about a culture whose men are preoccupied with unrestricted sexual activity and a desire to hide its ugliness.

Pornography Leads to Divorce

In 2004, psychologist Dr. Jill Manning testified before the U.S. Senate that more than half of all divorces — roughly 500,000 annually — end because of what she called “obsessive” viewing of pornography.

What if that estimate is off? As another psychologist, Dr. Kevin Skinner notes, “if even 25 percent of (these) 500,000 divorce cases are due to porn, that is 125,000 marriages [ending] each and every year that are a direct result of pornography.”

This is hardly evidence of adulthood, let alone of male maturity.

No Need for Marriage

Historically, marriage has been a sign that a person has good judgment, and has the capacity to commit maturely to a relationship and to start a family. If that’s so, how does our culture measure up?

In 1960, 68 percent of women were married or cohabiting (few were doing the latter). Only 17 percent lived with their parents. In 2014, only 35 percent were married or cohabiting (far more of the latter than in 1960) and 29 percent were living at home.

And what of men? In 1960, 56 percent of men were married or cohabiting. As of 2014, it was 28 percent. Seven percent fewer than were living with mom and dad.

Why? Because young men can get sex easily and frequently. Because they can make enough income to have their cars and their freedom without restraint. Because they can bury their loneliness and aimlessness beneath hours of video games, movies, and, yes, explicit depictions of sex.

A Porn-Saturated Culture

Pornography is part-and-parcel of this entire approach to life. In a recent study conducted at the University of Nebraska to evaluate the effect of pornography on men’s attitudes toward women, researchers found that “the average age of first exposure was 13.37 years of age with the youngest exposure as early as five.” And “a 2009 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health … found that 85 percent of adolescent males and 50 percent of adolescent females had been exposed to pornographic material.”

The effects of pornography? Higher rates of divorce, as noted. It alters the brain, creating an addiction; “neuroscientists are beginning to map” the biology of this addiction. Pornography also “engenders greater sexual permissiveness, which in turn leads to a greater risk of out-of-wedlock births and STDs.”

The corruption of pornography infects so many young men either because they don’t have fathers or because the fathers they do have are unwilling to treat them like men or, frankly, act like men themselves.

Pornography saturates the culture. Researchers Arina Grossu and Sean Maguire have written that “young adults ages 18-24 are the most frequent consumers of pornography. Almost six in 10 young adults seek out porn either daily, weekly, or monthly. A little over one third of teens consume pornography at these rates as do almost three in 10 adults ages 25 and up.”

Again, this is not the behavior of maturity but of unchecked lust, dehumanization, addiction. Of profound and enduring moral and psychological immaturity.

“Mature in Christ”

The corruption of pornography infects so many young men either because they don’t have fathers or because the fathers they do have are unwilling to treat them like men or, frankly, act like men themselves. Men who will hold their sons accountable, who will demand that they stop serving tables and living on electronics and assume the role of a lifetime — adulthood.

The Bible calls the people of God to become mature — complete, whole, and wise. “We proclaim Christ,” wrote Paul, “warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we might present everyone mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28).

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In Greek, “mature” is the idea of something that has been brought to completion. This is why Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), when His atoning work on the cross was done. He had accomplished the full payment for our sins. It was done. Finished. Completed.

This is the end toward which God is continually transforming followers of Jesus, that we might be complete in Him. Finished products of His grace and truth, His holiness and love.

Our Culture Needs Saving, And Our Sons Need Counsel

To come full circle, there is nothing mature, nothing adult-like, about performing sexual acts with strangers before a video camera. Or watching those who do.

Pornography is inviting because of the pleasure it promises and the privacy if offers. But its end, for single and married men, is the way of death. And the reality is that there would be no market for the “Stormy Daniels” of the world if more men, especially Christian men, would act maturely.

As he lay dying, King David told his young son Solomon, “I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said. “So be strong, act like a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations.”

This is the tough but tender counsel a wise father gives a son. Strength. Courage. Submission to God and His Word. It is counsel fathers need to give, and practice, more. Unless they do, the immaturity and selfishness we are quick to decry will become even more entrenched in a society that celebrates sexual pleasure over God.


Rob Schwarzwalder is a Senior Contributor at The Stream and a Senior Lecturer at Regent University. Raised in Washington State, he lived with his family in the suburban D.C. area for nearly 25 years until coming to Regent in the summer of 2016. Rob was Senior Vice-President at the Family Research Council for more than seven years, and previously served as chief-of-staff to two Members of Congress. He was also a communications and media aide to a U.S. Senator and senior speechwriter for the Hon. Tommy Thompson, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For several years, he was Director of Communications at the National Association of Manufacturers. While on Capitol Hill, he served on the staffs of members of both Senate and House Armed Services Committees and the Senate Committee with oversight of federal healthcare policy.

Rob is focused on the intersection of theology, culture and politics. His background in public policy has been informed by his service on Capitol Hill, the private sector and various Christian ministries. His op-eds have been published in numerous national publications, ranging from TIME and U.S. News and World Report to Christianity Today, The Federalist and The Public Discourse, as well as scores of newspapers and opinion journals. He has been interviewed on National Public Radio, Fox News, and other leading television and radio programs. Rob’s scholarly publications include studies of such issues as fatherlessness, pornography, federal economic policy and national security.

Rob has done graduate work at George Washington University and holds an M.A. in theology from Western Seminary (Portland, Ore.) and an undergraduate degree from Biola University. He and his wife of 35 years, Valerie, make their home in Virginia Beach and have three children.