Porn: Can We Talk about This?

I recently turned 41. Calling to wish me a happy birthday, my mom reminded me (again!) that when I was born, my grandparents were visiting family in the Netherlands. My dad sent them a telegram to tell them that all went well: “Mother and baby are doing well. Stop. His name is Aaron Isaac. Stop.” Seriously. They sent a telegram. Today, it could have been a text, an email, a Snapchat, a Facebook post, an Instagram photo, a call from a cell phone with an international calling package, or any other number of tech tools to get the word across the Atlantic. The message could ping off a satellite in space and be across the world in less than a second.

Communication technology has moved at a torrential pace in the last half century. Some of it is beautiful in the potential it holds and the opportunities it creates. For example, I communicate with close friends in West Africa over crystal clear cell phone calls with absolutely no time delay. I can access any of over 1 billion websites on the internet in seconds from my handheld smartphone, including providing updates to my own ministry website. Or I can donate money to a pressing global crisis via a simple text message. Information and communication are so close at hand, and, as a result, so is the possibility of faster global transformation.

But life-giving transformation isn’t the only thing readily accessible. Sadly, I can also access any of the thousands of webpages containing pornography just as quickly and easily. Rapid access to information can lead to activities that steal rather than give life, and so, tragically for many, our ability to navigate the difference between the two always lags behind real life experience. In other words, when it comes to porn, our children are society’s crash-test dummies who the world is only beginning to learn from. Through my experience as a college chaplain, meeting regularly with 18- to 23-year-olds and leading workshops and soliciting feedback from thousands of middle and high school students, I am completely convinced that porn is this generation’s version of smoking.

What do I mean by that? Soon after the invention of the automobile, we learned rather quickly that everyone should be assessed in some form or another before being given a 3,000-pound mass of steel that can hurtle down highways at high speeds. Someone could get hurt! However, we regularly, and without much reservation or education, place literally billions of webpages worth of information (and misinformation) in the hands of our kids at younger and younger ages. As a result, the average age of first exposure to hardcore pornography is now less than 11 years old (Duke, “‘Epidemic’ Growth”). (And notice I said hardcore porn, as in bestiality, group sex, rape, incest, or worse.) Our kids are digitally experiencing what they do not even have the vocabulary to describe yet.

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