Sean McDowell | February 12, 2019

Porn is the New Norm

Porn is the New Norm

SeanMcDowell.org

There were two pop culture events last week that made it clear pornography is the new norm. The cultural debate about the morality of porn is virtually over. It has been generally accepted as ubiquitous and morally benign.

How can I make such a claim? One reason is that it is now acceptable to laugh about porn use, whereas it is not culturally acceptable to laugh about rape, sex abuse, or sexual harassment. There is nothing culturally taboo about laughing at porn or at the effects porn use has on other people.

Consider two examples.

First, Devour frozen foods sponsored a “Food Porn” Super Bowl commercial last week. The ad featured a man portraying all the typical behaviors associated with porn addiction, such as being secretive and anti-social. But instead of being addicted to porn, he was addicted to food.

The commercial implies that Devour frozen food is equally as enjoyable as watching porn. The reality is that porn actually destroys relationships and physically reshapes the structure of the brain in a fashion that harms lasting intimacy. So, in one sense, the commercial is right: Like frozen food, porn is a cheap substitute.

The main point here is simply that we now have commercials intended for family viewing that make light of porn. The commercial only works if people get the joke. And clearly, they do, because porn is the new norm.

Second, the 73-year old singer Dolly Parton is the 2019 recipient of the Grammy’s MusiCares charity honors award. She was honored at an event featuring singers such as Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Chris Stapleton, and others. In her acceptance speech, she compared seeing contemporary artists perform her music with watching porn:

"It's been such a thrill for me tonight to see all these great artists that are singing songs that I've written or been a part of," she said. "Watching them is sort of like watching porn — you're not personally involved, but you still get off on it."

"At my age, you take anything you can get," she cracked.

My point here is simple: We have come to the cultural moment where porn is accepted as the new norm. Debate about the morality of watching porn is largely over. The wider assumption is that everyone is looking at it and that it is not harmful to relationships. And it is fine to joke about it.

Research backs up this point. According to a 2016 Barna Report, nine out of ten young men 13-24 say that how they talk about porn with friends is encouraging, accepting, or neutral.[1] Teens and young adults rank not recycling as more immoral than viewing porn (56% vs. 32%).

Porn is here to stay. There’s no going back on the technology that makes it so widely accessible, anonymous, and acceptable. One of the biggest questions is whether or not the church will resist this part of the new moral revolution.

Will the church stay faithful to Scripture, or will it bend to cultural pressure? Will porn use become as acceptable in the church as divorce? I sure hope not. But only time will tell.

[1] The Porn Phenomenon, Barna Report 2015 p. 24.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, the National Spokesman for Summit Ministries, a best-selling author, popular speaker, and part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.