“The National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that in 2008 there were 1.9 million cocaine users. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, there are an estimated 2 million heroin users in the United States, with some 600,000 to 800,000 considered hardcore addicts. Compare these numbers to the 40 million regular users of online pornography in America.
Neurological research has revealed that the effect of internet pornography on the human brain is just as potent—if not more so—than addictive chemical substances such as cocaine or heroin. In a statement before Congress, Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, physicist, and former Fellow in Psychiatry at Yale, cautioned:
With the advent of the computer, the delivery system for this addictive stimulus [internet pornography] has become nearly resistance-free. It is as though we have devised a form of heroin 100 times more powerful than before, usable in the privacy of one’s own home and injected directly to the brain through the eyes. It’s now available in unlimited supply via a self-replicating distribution network, glorified as art and protected by the Constitution.
Though pornography, in one form or another, has been around for most of human history, its content and the way people access and consume it have drastically changed in the past few decades with the advent of the internet and related technologies.
There are three main reasons internet pornography is radically different from earlier forms: its (1) affordability (K. Doran, Assistant Professor of Economics at Notre Dame University, estimates that 80% to 90% of porn users view free content online), (2) accessibility (24/7 access anywhere with an internet connection), and—most importantly—(3) anonymity. Those three factors combined with internet pornography’s experiential depiction of real people performing real sex acts while the viewer observes has created a potent narcotic—in the most literal sense.
Yet many would argue that pornography is merely “speech,” a form of sexual “expression” that should be protected as a constitutional right under the First Amendment.
The question of First Amendment rights is undeniably the ultimate hurdle to clear from a legal standpoint—and I take up that question in tomorrow’s Public Discourse essay. Today I begin my analysis from a scientific perspective, because recent neurological findings have exposed internet pornography to be something much, much more than mere “speech.””
John Piper says this in response:
“Physical reality affects the heart. And the heart affects physical reality (the brain). Therefore, this horrific news from brain research about the enslaving power of pornography is not the last word. God has the last word. The Holy Spirit has the greatest power. We are not mere victims of our eyes and our brains. I know this both from Scripture and from experience.”
As someone who’s been classified as an addict in another realm in the past, I know these words from Piper to be true. The Holy Spirit has, not a greater power, but the greatest power. That is where we find rest, peace, and the severing power from what enslaves us. And it should be said that the most formidable and cruel master is our own desires of our hearts.