Pastor Kevin Sanders

"He must increase, but I must decrease." -John 3:30

Pornography and Imprinting

I usually mention this warning from Jesus when discussing the dangers of pornography:

“You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
-Matthew 5:27-28

One thing is clear from this passage: God is not silent or neutral when it comes to pornography. Today’s easy accessibility of explicit images and videos hasn’t changed His mind one bit.

I wrote about the dangers of porn in my first book (Just One Click Away, page 28). But I’ve since learned about another ironic consequence of porn addiction: the inability to have sex with a “real” woman.

The problem is related to a psychological phenomenon known as imprinting. We can look to the animal kingdom for a simplified demonstration. Hatching ducks, for example, will usually follow the first moving object they see. This is God’s design to ensure they always stay close to their mother. But they could just as easily imprint on any moving object they are exposed to during the first crucial hours of their lives—a human or even an inanimate object (like a remote-controlled car).

We humans are certainly more complex than ducklings, but the same general principle applies. Men in particular are hardwired to be visually attracted to women—this is part of God’s design. But our Creator never intended for us to experience sexual excitement from a computer screen. Porn can create unnatural neural pathways in one’s brain—the mind can get “rewired” in such a way as to prefer (or require) artificial stimuli for arousal.*

I’m not just talking about theory here. Countless marriages have been harmed by pornography addiction. In extreme cases the husband may prefer his addiction to making love to his wife—this really does happen.

My point is simple: Jesus knew what he what he was talking about when he warned us about sinning with our eyes and hearts. There’s no such thing as a harmless sin—especially where sexual purity is concerned.


*Mark Driscoll’s Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together has a chapter entitled The Porn Path.

*One group decided to create a website called This is Your Brain on Porn after noticing many porn addicts struggled with erectile dysfunction. I obviously don’t agree with the authors’ apparent worldview (evolution, etc.). Having said that, I find it remarkable that a completely “secular” group of psychologists have taken note of the harm done by pornography addiction.


  1. Excellent post. I also blogged about pornography recently,

    Porn wrecks your view of women and its a sin against your wife. This study and book confirms your article,

  2. Great post Kevin.

    Pornography is very harmful. I’m still dealing with the effects and images, and I’m a girl, and I’ve been saved for some time now.

    And what’s worse, is that even when I first saw my first pornographic image, I could feel something change within me. And I wasn’t even a Christian back then, but I knew something inside me had changed.

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