This is a hard topic to talk about for many reasons. First, pornography is such a “no-no” in the Christian circle and it has become a shameful topic to even bring up. We also rarely think of pornography as a problem for women, let alone young girls—this is mostly a guy problem, right? And what if simply talking about pornography will make the temptation stronger?
Let’s be honest, it’s uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable to talk about something that is associated with shame, often abusive in nature, exploitative, a huge temptation/addiction in our world, and just down right hard to teach about. So, I am going to attempt to discuss pornography and teenage girls, and try to navigate the deep waters of this topic so we can accomplish our goal: guiding teen girls through a challenging subject in order to help them understand the harms of pornography and find victory over their sin.
Let’s first highlight four ways that pornography causes harm to teen girls:
1. Teen girls are are interacting with pornography and explicit sexual images.
More than ever, teens are being exposed and interacting with pornography. The average age of interaction with pornography is 11 years. Today, 1 in 4 internet searches are for pornography. 1 in 4! With direct access to pornography through their friends or own devices, or the sad reality that soft core porn has become the norm in regular television, this should not come as as surprise.
We may think of pornography as something that comes on late at night, or requires pay-for-view, but it is so common in our culture for everyday television shows to feature sex. Bob Thompson, a professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University says, “Up until the 70s, regular human beings had way more sex than people on TV because they weren’t having any sex at all. By the 90s people on TV were having way more sex than regular human beings.” This rapid change of what is shown has grown not only more frequent but more explicit, showing the more extreme sides of sex.
The Parents Television Council says “An unfortunate consequence is that it’s putting pressure on young men and women to engage in behaviors that would have been previously considered extreme and do things they may be uncomfortable with,” she says. “It’s putting an expectation on them to do things that are distasteful or uncomfortable to them, that they have to do it in order to fit in.”
2. Pornography is addictive and teens are the most susceptible to addictive tendencies.
Let’s look at what this exposure does to the teen on a purely neurological level. According to Researchers Love, Laier, Brand, Hatch, and Hajela (2015) “Viewing pornography, especially when it becomes compulsive in nature, activates the same underlying brain networks as alcohol and other drugs. According to The Council on Recovery, “Teen brains are the most sensitive to dopamine at around age 15 and react up to four times more strongly to images perceived as exciting.” “A teen’s brain is at its peak of dopamine production and neuroplasticity making it highly vulnerable to addiction and rewriting as their brain is not yet finished developing.” “When teens take part in stimulating or potentially addictive habits, such as pornography, there is a flood of dopamine in the brain. With repetitive increases of dopamine released into the teen brain it is rewired to crave the same effect.”
This reveals that teens are especially susceptible, both male and female, to developing addictive behaviors because they are at the peak of dopamine production. It also reveals that images or perceived excitement gain up to 4x stronger reaction in teens. To summarize, teens are more than ever exposed to sexual images, which desensitize them, and also links to their dopamine receptors, making them want more than before.
3. Pornography degrades women and confuses female self-esteem and value.
At the age where approval of their peers is of most importance, our culture shows that approval comes in the form of sexual experiences. This leads girls to be confused about where their intrinsic value comes from. Considering the unrealistic augmentation of female bodies on tv, magazines, and other images, they become convinced their bodies determine their value, which leads to low self-esteem issues.
Pornographic images give a false standard for girls to achieve, which ultimately leads to the degradation of women. Whether on tv or in porn, women are often portrayed as abused, neglected, forced, coerced, and seen as sexual experiences rather than humans with rights and intrinsic value. The standard is set by what is seen. Girls often create unrealistic expectations of themselves to be primarily sexual beings. They also believe their relationships require extreme sexual experiences in order to find legitimate love and value. This is what fosters the acceptance of and even expectation of unjust treatment of girls within relationships.
4. Pornography sets unrealistic expectations of relationships and is not the God-intended design.
All of these harmful affects of pornography whether soft or hard core porn lead girls to have a skewed view of healthy and thriving relationships. Not only is media exposure linked to teen pregnancy and sexual relationships outside of marriage, but it even sets the normative standard of a marriage relationship heavily on sexual experience. Teen girls are viewing performance as a primary method of connecting in a relationship, as well as the primary role they have in a relationship. Pornography is shaping teen perception of the “ideal” relationship, yet what researchers have discovered is that porn reminds you of all the potential sexual partners out there, which in turn may lower your dedication to the person you’re actually involved with.
It all seems a bit overwhelming to consider the amount of exposure and the scope of the influence soft and hard core porn have on teen girls. Please know this is not a hopeless situation. Some of the most important work we can do with teens is to talk to them. Talking and having real, honest and sincere conversations about what we have going on in the world is one of the best ways to help teens navigate the chaos.
If you discover that your teen girl is struggling with pornography, don’t freak out. Don’t shame her. Talk with her about the grace that Jesus extends for those who seek forgiveness and that He desires to remove her guilt. Follow through by getting her the counseling and accountability she needs to find freedom.
And remember: without good examples it is hard to believe that healthy relationships or victory over sin is possible or worth-while. We don’t need to get it perfect to be an example. But we can still live as healthy and positive examples for our girls, and talk honestly with them about unrealistic expectations they see around them. What is real and authentic will ring true to them: John 1:5 “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (emphasis added)
Chrissy Duke is a passionate follower of Jesus Christ who loves to share what God is speaking to me with other young girls and women! She is also a wife and a mother of two beautiful girls. Chrissy has a calling to help the marginalized be recognized, heard, and helped. She does this primarily through an organization called Beauty For Ashes Africa. They work to combat human trafficking in North Africa, where they have a transition home for at-risk girls! Chrissy loves a good cup of coffee in the morning, getting outside in nature, and being with family. Connect with Chrissy: Instagram // Website