I got an email from an old camp friend: “We need to talk. Can we go for lunch?”

I hadn’t seen him in ten years. He knew I was a documentarian, but I had no idea what he wanted to talk about. We went out for lunch, and he cut straight to the point. “I’m a youth worker in my home church,” he said. “I’m working with thirty young men, and they all have porn addictions. We need your help.”

So, he started raising doc money, and I started asking people: “How old were you the first time you saw porn? What was it? Where were you? How did it make you feel?”

I first saw porn at ten years old. I was babysitting, the kid was asleep, and it was a stormy night. I was watching the NBA All-Star Game. My hand was nowhere near the remote control. Lightning must have hit the cable box, because all of a sudden I was watching the Playboy channel. And they didn’t get the Playboy channel.

So, being a godly, faithful, Christian ten-year-old boy, I immediately turned it off.

Then I ran to the front door to make sure no one was coming before running back to resume watching. I watched for maybe five or ten minutes, not understanding what was going on. Then, suddenly, it switched back to the basketball game.

I didn’t see porn again until I was eighteen or nineteen and I had moved out of my parents’ house. By then, I was trying to make better choices. And, as I soon discovered, my cerebral cortex was starting to develop in order to protect me against addiction, so I didn’t get hooked on porn.

But all that being said, if I’d had porn in my pocket — if I’d had a cell phone with instant access, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, to free, unlimited, hardcore pornography — how would I not be addicted to pornography today? How would any kid, with exposure so young and easy repeat access, not get entirely hooked on porn?

So we made a documentary on porn. It’s called Over 18, and we’ve already done hundreds of screenings around the world. The stories we’ve encountered are grim. The official stat is that 90 percent of boys and 60 percent of girls see porn before age eighteen, and the average boy sees porn for the first time at age twelve. That means for every fifteen-year-old who sees porn for the first time, there’s a nine-year-old like Joseph, the young star of our film.

Joe started watching porn at eight years old, after he clicked on a pop-up on a video game he was playing. He was soon addicted to ultra-violent Internet pornography. It’s taken years of recovery for Joe to wean off of porn and start to treat women with dignity and respect. Sadly, Joe’s story is pretty average.

Every night as we toured our film, we heard stories of kids seeing porn at ridiculously young ages. Most men I meet first saw porn between the ages of seven and eleven. One chicken farmer’s eight-year-old son found hardcore porn when he searched for the word chicks. We’ve heard stories of people seeing porn as young as two or three years old from porn-addicted parents, older siblings, babysitters, or the Internet. We’ve heard multiple stories of kids as young as eight — third graders — having porn parties. It should not come as a surprise to us when young men assault a girl when they make the high school or college football team.

I’ve never had anyone come up to me at an event and say, “My ten-year porn addiction has been amazing for my marriage,” or, “My fifteen-year porn struggle has been brilliant for my faith.” But my wife, Michelle, does have women come up to her in tears, describing the violent and degrading sex acts that men request from them, with no difference between the Christians and the non-Christians. We hear countless stories of addiction and divorce. I had a teenage girl come up to me and ask, “What do you do if you know your dad is addicted to pornography?”

The truth is that pornography is taking down our generation. We’re all walking around with instant access to sin. It’s an overwhelming temptation — it would be like stuffing a pack of cigarettes in a kid’s pocket and telling them that smoking is bad for their health.

Not only is pocket porn now accessible 24/7, but hookup like Tinder and Grindr are making it incredibly easy to act out sexual fantasies at the swipe of an app. It’s changing the way we’re dating and doing relationships. Churches are stacking up with Christian single females, while their male counterparts are presumably playing video games and surfing porn and hookup sites. Vanity Fair believes that Tinder and the hookup culture has led to the end of dating. Why commit to a long-term relationship when you can click for sex? As Mrs. Doubtfire said, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”

We don’t yet know the long-term effect of porn and hookup sites on culture, but we can reasonably imagine that it won’t be a net gain for our hearts and bodies. When porn becomes the sex ed curriculum, people can get hurt. Women, especially young girls, aren’t typically prepared for porn-levels of aggression, and young men are given an unrealistic expectation of their performance, too. Sex bereft of commitment will always be weighed and found wanting. The rejection of marriage and family has never ended well.

As media gets more sexualized, porn will continue to get more violent as a way to differentiate itself from mainstream culture. Today, the lines are virtually blurred — in our experience, boys as young as eight already get together to have porn parties. Should it catch us by surprise when football teams get in trouble for sexually assaulting college girls? They’ve been preparing for it for years.

I always knew that porn was bad, but now after making Over 18, I’m here to report: porn is the worst.

But here’s the thing: My wife and I are super pro-sex. We’re just convinced that porn is not pro-sex. It commodifies and profits from the human form. It turns people into voyeurs. Digital stimulus is causing addiction, ruining careers, wrecking marriages, creating porn-induced erectile dysfunction, and causing aggression toward women. Committed sex is about loving, giving, and serving. Porn sex is about taking, dominating, and controlling. Sex is like a fire — it’s amazing in a campfire, but it’s horrible in a forest fire. And our world is on fire.

We need to get serious about implementing meaningful age verification on the Internet as a way to prevent porn addiction in our children. We need to get serious about protecting ourselves with tactics and accountability so porn doesn’t ruin our lives too. We need to help one another cultivate intimacy and sexual expression that embodies our beliefs: that people are made in the image of God, that they have value and worth and deserve our respect and love. Porn offers a false image, and we have the opportunity to restore the real picture of God’s love to humanity.

An excerpt from Bearded Gospel Men by Jared A. Brock. Jared is the author of A Year of Living Prayerfully, Bearded Gospel Men (download free chapters here) and The Road to Dawn. He lives in a forest trailer with his wife, Michelle. Together they have travelled to over 30 countries and have spoken in more than 100 cities around North America. Visit Over18doc.com to arrange a screening of the porn doc.
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