After the death of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner a few weeks ago, pornography made its way out of the shadows and into the spotlight. Public response was divided: some saw Hef as a champion of sexual liberation, while others slammed the mogul for destroying lives.
It’s rare that someone’s death divides society so dramatically, but when it comes to the founder of a multi-million-dollar pornography empire it’s no surprise. Which is why I was shocked when I found the middle ground taken by a church pastor. And not just any pastor. It was Craig Gross, the founder of anti-porn movement XXXchurch.
Gross’s entire career is based around the concept that “Jesus Loves Porn Stars”, and he has spoken to countless people in the sex industry about the dangers of pornography and how to overcome addiction. If anyone was going to glory in this hit to the Playboy empire, I would expect it to be him.
Gross had taken his own tour of the Playboy mansion years ago and had heard from an inside source that Hef kept a copy of Rick Warren’s faith-based book The Purpose Driven Life beside his bed. It gave him the congenial respect to post this in response to Hefner’s death:
“I don’t know if Hef is looking down on us right now or not, but my faith is just big enough to hold on to the hope that this brilliant mind who started at Esquire and went on to build an empire was smart enough to pick up that [Christian] book on his shelf and possibly could have found his true purpose.”
Gross’s choice to reach out to those affected by Hugh Hefner’s death rather than dispense morality-based judgment is the calling card of a new generation of anti-porn crusaders. And while crusaders may sound like strong language, it’s appropriate. Because this fact-based movement, which listens to people’s stories, observes how porn changes the brain, damages relationships and harms children, believes they are fighting what could be the most damaging drug of our times: pornography.
As in the magazines you used to sneak out of your parents room as a kid. Except now porn isn’t just in print: it’s online. And technology has exacerbated porn to the point where it is more efficient, violent, cheaper and more accessible than ever before. This means young people are increasingly accessing porn—the median age they first see it is 11, and boys aged between 14–17 years are the most frequent under-age consumers of porn.
But porn isn’t just damaging the lives of children, it’s also impacting adults. In 2006, a study found that 82% of 18–49-year-olds looked at pornographic magazines, 84% viewed pornographic films, and 34% viewed pornography online. Experts anticipate this has risen in the last decade.
“As porn becomes more violent and degrading, so do the real-life requests of boys and men,” Michelle Brock told Relevant Magazine, reflecting on what she learnt after creating the anti-porn documentary Over 18.
“One mum in tears, told us her 14-year-old daughter had been asked by several guys in her class for naked pictures of herself which would then get traded between boys during recess.”
Filmmaker Justin Hunt heard about even more tragic behaviour in children when he was making his film Addicted to Porn: Chasing the Cardboard Butterfly. Narrated by Metallica frontman James Hetfield, the cultural significance of the film is almost unprecedented.
“[Porn is] getting down to very, very young kids and it’s poisoning the roots of community and of family and of society,” Justin tells Warcry.
“We’re not just talking about what the actual act of doing or watching pornography is doing, but how it ripples out. With technology, a lack of public education, more porn as they get older—then they get into relationships and they expect it to be like that and it’s not. Then the family falls apart, and it all goes back to way back to when they were looking at porn as kids.”
Addicted to Porn documents the thoughts of experts famously for and against porn, and how porn is perceived by people across the globe. Notably, it also delves into a heart-wrenching case study of a mother whose marriage to her sweetheart fell apart due to his life-altering addiction to pornographic content.
“She began to explain to me the depth of her husband’s addiction—she wanted to poke his eyes out, because when he looked at her, she felt the projection of all these naked women on her,” Justin shares.
This is a human issue. You don't have to have a certain set of beliefs to acknowledge that you can't be pro-porn. ~ FIGHT THE NEW DRUG
“[Previously] I couldn’t fathom that that would be a reason someone would get divorced…it just became very apparent that this was doing damage, and someone needed to step up and do something about it.”
Pastors, musicians and directors aren’t the only ones stepping into the ring to take on porn—young people around the world have also taken on the fight.
Fight the New Drug, a non-profit, non-religious movement started by a group of college kids in 2009, uses science, facts and personal accounts to educate people about the harmful effects of pornography. They are adamantly “pro-love and pro-healthy sex” which is why the facts they share are so compelling.
“We want to educate as many people as possible so that they can have a real shot of finding love before porn impacts their lives,” the organisation tells Warcry.
“Pornography can rewire reward pathways in the brain and become addictive, contribute to a variety of mental and emotional disorders like depression and anxiety, can warp one's sexual template and inhibit the ability or desire to connect with a real partner.”
Fight the New Drug aren’t afraid to highlight the connection between porn, human trafficking and sexual exploitation. In fact, they regularly feature blogs about previous porn stars in an effort to destroy the facade that porn is just harmless fun.
“This is a human issue. You don’t have to have a certain set of beliefs to acknowledge that you can't be pro-porn,” they say.
“You don't have to be a woman to recognise that porn is more often than not incredibly degrading and violent against women. You don't have to be a man to struggle with pornography. You don't have to be any particular race, religion, gender, sexual orientation to care about what the multi-billion-dollar porn industry is doing to our culture.”
Few topics are as polarising as pornography, but wherever you sit, consider this your invitation to learn more. Because when it comes to the facts, the truth is that temporal pleasure is creating a lifetime of pain for countless people—maybe even you.
To learn more, visit fightthenewdrug.org. Addicted to Porn: Chasing the Cardboard Butterfly is available now on iTunes.