Are You Angry Enough to Quit Porn?

How do you feel about being tricked? Lied to? Manipulated?

I’ve never met anyone who told me, “I was deceived all those years ago, and it felt so good when I found out! I love how my life turned out after I was duped.”

A classic hustle in Thailand is the “Thai gem scam.” A coordinated group of locals targets a gullible tourist. They lure him with the promise of a great deal on priceless gemstones at an amazing price. With visions of flipping rare Oriental treasures for a huge profit back home, the target unknowingly becomes the main character in a carefully scripted play. Like a master fisherman lures a fish onto his dinner plate, the native cast members lead the foreign profit-seeker into a purchase he will always regret.

How would you feel if you lost thousands of dollars in a scam like this? Anger? Outrage? I imagine you would. You’d want justice. And more than anything, you’d be certain never to fall for anything like it again.

The Porn Industry Scam

Hundreds of millions of people are lured by a worldwide scam into a life they will always regret. I’ve fallen for it myself, and you may have too. The pornography industry rakes in tens of billions of dollars by exploiting humanity with predatory deceptions.

And many of us are falling for their lies at younger and younger ages.

I grew up before the Internet (yes, there was a time), so my first exposure to porn at about eleven years old was by finding hidden magazines. The allure of “adult” entertainment worked on me—not just the sexual pleasure, but the promise of adventure, the affirmation of my fragile male ego, and even the excitement of my ongoing search for more.

Little did I know that the organized effort of a cadre of predators created a world where I could be lured into porn by those magazines. Or that governments were duped into legalizing the mass distribution of porn by protecting it as “Free Speech.” Or that women and men were tricked into a life of exploitation and abuse in front of cameras by the promise of fortune and fame. And especially, that the industry leveraged persuasive propaganda to pornify the world.

Big Porn’s Godfather

It’s likely that someone would have turned porn into the acceptable and mainstream product it has become, even if Hugh Hefner had not built the Playboy empire. But it’s hard to imagine a more successful pornographer than Hef himself.

R.M. Schuchardt wrote an insightful article documenting the rise of Hefner for Playboy’s 50th anniversary in 2003. Pre-Hef, porn was a truly “dirty” pastime, only accessible to people willing to buy “grainy black-and-white picture cards and stag reels … in an underground market.”

For Hef’s vision to be successful, he’d have to reshape society with powerful propaganda. Schuchardt says:

“What pornography needed to be profitable on a mass scale was to be removed from the sexual ghetto and brought into the living room. It needed someone to adopt it, domesticate it, and teach it manners. As a mythmaker on the scale of Walt Disney, Hugh Hefner did for porn what Henry Higgins did for Eliza Doolittle [a reference to the movie My Fair Lady].”

As an adman, Hefner saw the need to package sexuality into aspirational categories and tell a story about it that placed men in the narrative itself in a way that was not just acceptable but downright desirable. Thus he packaged himself as a Victorian gentleman at the hunting lodge.

Credit Hefner with popularizing the mythology that this was “adult” entertainment for “men,” adding the same aura of pseudo-sophistication that is still exploited 50 years later by bars that call themselves “A Gentleman’s Club.”

So while catering to our basest desires, Hefner sold the lie that staring at photos of airbrushed young women was something a “gentleman” did. But to do that, he had to twist the definition of “gentleman” from the chivalrous, faithful, responsible man who sought to protect a woman’s honor, to one of eternal adolescence with a focus on his own pleasure regardless of the cost to others. Hef’s false new role model, a pornified view of manhood, enabled him to spawn a worldwide dynasty.

But the carnage left in Hefner’s wake reveals the truth. When men aspire to be like Hef’s definition of a “gentleman,” everyone is devalued: men, women, and especially children. In a world desperate for virtuous heroes, Big Porn follows Hef’s lead and lures us into vice.

Hugh Hefner birthed an industry that succeeds by deceiving us into a false vision of the good life. How does that make you feel?

Free Speech?

For porn to really permeate our society, it would have to overcome the pesky legal barriers crafted by a more moralistic and religious citizenry. It’s hard to imagine today, but the production of pornographic movies was illegal in California as late as 1987. But in the landmark case of People v. Freeman, what started as the prosecution of a pornographer ended with a Supreme Court ruling which essentially legalized the production of hardcore porn across the country.

How did the pornographer accomplish such an impressive bit of legal wrangling? By co-opting the cherished American first amendment promise of free speech.

Of course, neither Adams, Jefferson, nor Franklin had porn in mind when they forged the longest-lasting constitution in the world. Franklin said, “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” Free speech protects our right to criticize the government and keep leaders accountable—that’s the inheritance U.S. founders died to leave us.

But Big Porn’s flagship lobbying group flaunts its victory over the founders in its deceitful name: the Free Speech Coalition. They’ve facilitated the legalization of prostitution, rape, assault, and even apparent (or actual) sex with minors, as long as there’s a camera rolling to transform the crime into “speech.” Never mind the victimization of performers and the harm to all of the viewers who become desensitized and even celebrate brutality in the name of “free speech.”

Did you know that the pornification of society came by twisting fundamental American rights? That the freedom bought by the blood of generations of American soldiers is mocked as a license to sell porn? How does that make you feel?

Targeting Kids

With an average first exposure to porn anywhere from 8-11 years old, we know that the porn industry is targeting children. Yes, Big Porn would deny it, but they’d be lying. We know they target kids because all kids are targeted, and no business model succeeds by accident.

I’m sure if you’re struggling with porn now, it’s because you started when you were a kid. That’s the story of nearly everyone I talk to, including myself.

Children are naturally curious about sexuality, and rightly so. What’s wrong is that Big Porn exploits our innate desires by catechizing us with their distorted view of sex. We learn to desire what they want us to desire, and we are set up for a life of addiction to their wares.

“The question,” Christian apologist Josh McDowell says, “is not ‘Will my kids see porn?’ but ‘How will they handle it when they do?’”

He’s right. The vast majority of kids have had some exposure to pornography before they leave home. Many seek it out, but even if they’re not looking for porn, porn is looking for them.

As a dad of four daughters, I have always hated the thought that the pornified world wanted to prey upon them, either as porn consumers or by sexualizing them for exploitation.

The reason you fell into porn in the first place is that Big Porn preyed upon you. The reason your kids will fall into it is that porn is hunting them. They are the prey.

How does that make you feel?

Be Angry, and Do Not Sin

I’ve shared the intentional, strategic, and predatory nature of the porn industry with you for one reason: to make you angry. Yes, angry. Righteously indignant.

Indignant that the industry has warped the God-given beauty of human sexuality into an inferior, counterfeit substitute. Upset that Big Porn is clothed in nothing but a tattered blanket of Free Speech, or rather an upside-down redefinition of Free Speech that America’s founders would never recognize. And angry at the corruption of innocent children, including yourself as a child.

Many of us have been taught that anger is sinful, so we default to being passive or we stuff our feelings in order to avoid blowing up. Others overreact at the slightest offense and are known for a short temper. These harmful extremes aren’t the anger I’m hoping to inspire.

Anger is like fire. Out of control, it destroys homes, neighborhoods, forests, families, and cities. But contained in a fireplace, fire gives comforting warmth. Or, when fueling a kiln, fire hardens pottery or purifies precious metals.

The God of the Bible gets angry when people fall into things he calls sinful. Why is he angry? He’s angry for the same reason a mom is angry when her child runs into the street after being told ten times not to: love. When those we love are in harm’s way, whether by their own actions or the behavior of others, anger can be a loving response.

Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry, and do not sin” (ESV). I used to think this verse meant that a certain level of anger is okay, but my anger shouldn’t boil over into sinful behavior.

But I’ve recently realized that there is a kind of anger that inspires us to overcome sin— a righteous anger that leads us to positive action. A level of indignation that propels us to right wrongs, especially the wrongs perpetrated upon us by the predatory porn industry. We can “not sin” by being angry enough at the forces behind our temptations to resist them, by the power and grace of God.

The Fire That Fuels Your Recovery

I remember the last time I gave in to porn in 2006. I had confessed my prior failings to my wife, and it had been quite a while since I had fallen. But this last time something snapped in me. It was different. I believe God showed me what I was risking, missing out on, and in danger of losing because I kept falling for this temptation.

With my feelings of remorse, regret, and fear, I felt a growing level of anger. Anger at the way I had been exploited. Anger at the spiritual warfare aimed at destroying my marriage and my intimacy with God. And anger that my hopes and dreams were at risk because I was the target of a predatory industry, empowered by a “roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

This righteous indignation, along with accountability, spiritual disciplines, and the grace of God, has kept me on a porn-free journey all of these years.

What about you? What is porn costing you? What areas of your life are at risk because you keep falling into Big Porn’s perfectly baited traps?

If you’re not walking in freedom, it’s time for you to be upset about that. Not with the anger of self-shaming, but with the anger of a superhero who rises up and says, “Not today, villain. Your evildoing days are over. I’m done letting porn hurt me and those I love!”

Then, let your anger motivate you to fight like your life depends on it—because it does. Invite allies into your life to help you overcome this enemy. Add the hero’s weapon of Covenant Eyes to every device in your life. And once you’re on your way, help others fight their battle with porn and join you in a life of freedom.

If enough of us respond to Big Porn’s deceptions with this kind of life-changing and enemy-defeating anger, we can win. And even more, we can change the course of history by fighting for a future where no child is lured by the traps that used to ensnare us.

In my book, [Un]Intentional: How Screens Secretly Shape Your Desires, and How You Can Break Free (now a brand-new audiobook), I share many more ways technology is used to manipulate us for the profit of predatory industries. I also offer a grace and truth-filled way to freedom that has helped me and many others to overcome. I hope that you will read it and use it as another weapon in your fight against porn!


Doug SmithDoug Smith is a lifelong software developer, Bible student, and most importantly, a dad to four wonderful daughters, and the husband of award-winning author Lyneta Smith. Doug is the author (and audiobook narrator) of [Un]Intentional: How Screens Secretly Shape Your Desires, and How You Can Break Free. He is also honored to serve the Covenant Eyes mission as an Android developer.