"You cannot assume porn is not an issue for Christians and that you won’t have to deal with it," writes Caitlin Jankiewicz. "However, just because it’s not talked about, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist and won’t affect your relationships. In general, sex isn’t talked about in church circles, so addressing a subject like porn can be challenging."
Up until that moment, watching porn was only spoken about in hushed tones in the hallways of my high school. It was always the weird, slightly creepy guys, the ones whom most of the girls knew to avoid.
But Nathaniel wasn’t like that. He was always up front at church, singing with the praise team. He was involved in children’s ministry and gave chapel talks. He seemed like the perfect Christian guy. When he told me, Nathaniel was so upset over this “struggle.” I wanted to be accepting. I appreciated his honesty and felt I could trust him because of it. He was a good guy; he just had a problem he was “struggling with.”
At the time, I had no idea how serious this revelation was, and navigating the relationship thereafter was a whole different ballgame. At its heart, the use of pornography is a betrayal of the intimacy that God intended to be shared by two people. Beyond that, it trains and reshapes users’ minds to see their current or future partner as an object to satisfy their needs and, in many cases, leads to violence and abuse.
I’m just going to pause here to give a disclaimer. I have never struggled with a porn addiction. However, porn is far from being just a “guy issue.” What I have to share here I have learned from navigating relationships with guys as a young woman, so that’s the perspective I will be drawing on to pass on the concrete advice that I wish had been given to me.
First, you cannot assume porn is not an issue for Christians and that you won’t have to deal with it. In general, sex isn’t talked about in church circles, so addressing a subject like porn can be challenging. However, just because it’s not talked about, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist and won’t affect your relationships.
Statistics show that the use of pornography within Christian circles is nearly on par with that of the rest of the world. The average age of first exposure to pornography is 11. By 14, 94 percent of children will have seen porn. Seventy-six percent of young Christian adults aged 18–24 years old actively search for porn. Porn is a massive, massive issue in the church for both men and women.
Second, no matter how good his intentions, if porn is an active part of his life, you are likely to get hurt. One of the things I struggled with most was where to draw the line for past or current porn use in a potential partner. Should he have never touched it? Should he be one-year clean? Is it okay to date him if he’s still addicted but wanting to change? The answer will be slightly different for every person but, as a rule of thumb, if you’re going to date him, porn should be very clearly not a part of his life anymore.
So, how do you know if a porn addiction is in the past? Lengths of time between use are useless if the internal work and recovery is not done. If he’s serious about overcoming his addiction, it’ll show up in his life. He will change the things he watches. He’ll install blocker software and avoid certain websites. He’ll talk to trusted mentors and/or seek professional help. He’ll become more open about the topic, and will talk to others without anger or shame. He’ll lean into his relationship with God. Most of all, you won’t have to poke and prod him to take these steps. He will take an active role in his own recovery.
A very wise person once told me that a man who has worked through and overcome a porn addiction will have developed strong character traits, such as self-control and patience, and can actually sometimes be a better partner than someone who has never battled porn. That doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges, but God can transform people’s lives in amazing ways, working evil for good. If you have met a wonderful person who has porn in their past but has completely overcome it, fear not. You may have met a keeper.
Caitlin Jankiewicz grew up in Michigan and is currently in her first year of teaching high school at Hills Adventist College in Sydney, Australia.