In our day and age the presence of pornography is nearly unavoidable. The average age a child first views porn is 11 years old.
Griffin Hotz (’24) is an anomaly. His family was protective of what he and his siblings could access, so his experience with pornography came later in life.
It was no less devastating.
“The damage gets done so quickly,” he said, “and what may be sort of a curiosity thing at first quickly can turn into an addiction. That’s how it was for me.”
Through the support of his family and peers, Hotz was able to come out the other side. “I was able to open myself up to a point where God could work in my heart,” he told me.
For other young men (and women), however, pornography continues to be a daily struggle.
What is a Porn Addiction?
Reid Swetland is the Associate Dean of Campus Engagement at Gordon College and is a clinician at the Center for Student Counseling and Wellness. Despite the ongoing debate about whether porn can be considered an addiction, there is a lot of neuroscience research he said, which “indicates actual brain changes that are consistent with the stimulation that comes with the release of chemicals that are natural in the body, that pushes it kind of into the category of addiction.”
Multiple studies agree with Reid. Research shows that regular pornography use physiologically affects the reward center in the brain by releasing high concentrations of the chemical dopamine. Over time, porn rewires the brain, creating feedback loops that lead the consumer to seek out more ways to trigger a pleasure-high.
Increased porn usage has a reinforcing effect, weakening the ability of the brain to keep the cravings for it in check. Consistently viewing pornography turns into a self-defeating cycle, oftentimes becoming an addiction.
Swetland believes that at the heart pornography is an addiction to the self. It is “another manifestation of selfishness,” he said, “I am putting my personal gratification needs ahead of anybody else at the expense of other people being exploited and objectified.”
For Young Men Especially, Pornography is a Pressing Issue
Pornography use among young adults is not uncommon. 65% of young men and 18% of young women report watching pornography at least once a week. In the church, the statistics are not so great either. 54% of self-identifying Christian young men report having looked at porn monthly, and 14% admit to viewing it daily.
Jacob Jackson (’23) and Griffin Hotz co-lead the Gordon College Men’s Ministry, and from their experience, know exactly how pornography can impact young men who struggle with it—whether or not it is an addiction.
“When I was younger, I was definitely watching porn and I definitely had what some might call an addiction,” Jackson confessed, “in my fight against it, kind of coming out of the shadows, I needed to really reassess what was important to me.”
Pornography made Hotz feel like he was living a double life.
“I claimed to be a Christian, and I’m doing all these Christian things,” he said, “and yeah, I’m struggling with this secretly on the side.”
What’s going on in the life of the person struggling with porn, Hotz said, “is incredibly harmful to them going into their future and to the people around them, and is, in fact, sinful and morally wrong.”
Daniel Erickson (’24), one of the co-leaders of Gordon College’s Addiction Support Ministry, concurs with Jackson and Hotz on pornography’s negative affects.
“It distorts how young men also young women, and older men and older women, view sex,” he said, “It changes their expectations, and especially the younger that it starts, the more distorted someone’s view of sex is going to be.”
For Erickson, his porn addiction led him to seek out sex and experience the emptiness of that lifestyle. “Coming into my sophomore year,” he said, “God worked a lot to help me to understand that I was broken.”
Admitting that he had a problem led Erickson to find support from the people in his life. Unfortunately, for many other young men, shame is a barrier to coming clean.
Research shows that while guilt can motivate someone to change their viewing habits, shame fuels greater pornography use.
“Pornography involves the monetization of shame,” Swetland lamented.
You Are Not Alone
Feeling isolated is one of the most difficult obstacles for a young person wrestling with porn, especially when the struggle is accompanied by a deep sense of shame.
But pornography is not an issue someone has to walk alone, especially at Gordon.
“The Center for Student Counseling and Wellness, Residence Life, certainly the chapel office, and the Addiction Support ministry, offer a variety of forms of support for people in ways that are accessible for them,” said Swetland.
It is important to access these opportunities, he added, because “the only way to work through the shame is to actually take steps to become more externalizing in talking about the behavior.”
“I think finding support through their peers and mentors and resources, and people who’ve already gone through this and have come through victorious is one of the things that can happen simply by discussing it and being open with what’s going on.”
Hotz and Jackson host Men’s Ministry every Monday night in the Lion’s Den from 7:15 to 8:45pm. Its purpose is to act as a support system and provide accountability, Jackson said.
“I think that’s really important to offer that to men to know they’re not alone, that there isn’t someone too far.”
The Addiction Support Ministry also serves as a support system. Its purpose, Erickson told me, is “to provide a safe place for people that acknowledge that they are either addicts, recovering addicts, or struggling with something to talk about it.”
“I’m not the first guy to go through that,” he said, “there are many men, many women in heaven, many men, many women on earth that have walked through that and are still walking through that, and would love to walk through that with others. Myself being included.”
“Freedom” is the theme for the Addiction Support Ministry this year, Erickson told me.
“We know that freedom comes by letting others in, letting Christ in first, and letting others walk alongside you.”
He encourages anyone wrestling with porn to attend their meetings. The group meets every Wednesday in McDonald 212 from 7:00-8:30 pm. “It’s a confidential space,” he said.
Hope for the Road Ahead
What hope is there for someone struggling with pornography?
“It’s a message that I’m living,” said Hotz, “you can find your way out of this, but you’re not going to do it standing, you’re going to do it on your knees before God. So let yourself be worked on by him, and open yourself up to his work in your life.”
When Christ cleanses us of our sins and calls us into new life, Jackson explained, “he means that and that’s not something that he’s just doing, idealistically. You know, our God is greater than that. Our Messiah is greater than that. And he’s come to save, and he’s come to call.”
“If you’re called in Christ towards obedience, then there is an aspect of humility,” Jackson said, “if you want hope, humble yourself and realize, this is God working, this is not me. And that he calls you out of that darkness.”
Categories: Student Life