By Jonathon Van Maren
I’ve been giving presentations on pornography for a decade, and during that time I’ve heard a thousand versions of the same heartbreaking story. A young boy stumbles across porn on a computer, smartphone, iPad, or some other digital device. The primal power of the sexual imagery that he does not fully understand but pulls him in nonetheless captures his imagination; draws him back over and over again; and eventually, renders him an addict.
The average young man with a long-standing porn addiction, in my experience, first watched or saw porn in Grade 6. In the past several years, however, I’ve increasingly encountered young people who got hooked on porn at younger and younger ages. Once I spoke with got addicted at age 8; another who shared his story with me started at age 5. At age 15, struggling to get free, he’d already been looking at pornography for a decade. The porn industry robbed him of his childhood, which he will never get back.
Imagine that for just a moment: From kindergarten to the tenth grade, pornography dominated his life.
I’ve been covering the normalization of sexual violence by pornography in this space for several years now, and the evidence of how porn deforms the mind and twists healthy views of sexuality beyond all recognition has been mounting almost by the month. A generation of young people are getting their views of sex from porn — and the porn they’re watching is not only degrading and dehumanizing, but also violent and sadistic.
The latest development in this unfolding cultural tragedy was reported by The Guardian early this month. In a recent survey by the children’s charity Barnardo’s, which worked with 382,872 children, parents, and caretakers in 2020–2021, staff observed “a rise in the number of children participating in acts they have seen in pornographic videos, despite feeling uncomfortable or scared.” Children, the report says, see porn nearly everywhere — on the bus, in school bathrooms, in the hallways — and as young as age seven.
Banardo’s staffers are sounding the alarm, stating that pornography is incredibly destructive to child wellbeing, with one child sex abuse expert noting that it is turning into a crisis.