By: Shane O’Neill
4 min read
Mental Health, Porn Stars, and Teenagers
Sex is assumed in most relationships these days. And when it comes to porn, it’s nearly as difficult to avoid porn, as it is easy to find it. And that shapes our relationships, as well as our intimacy. But before it impacts our relationships, it first impacts us. And we are a generation plagued by the suffocation of mental health.
Mental health is at an all-time historical low, with suicide at an all-time high. And the numbers are only getting worse.
Many of us look at porn stars as though they have the best lives in the world. After all, if we’re supposed to make a career out of what we love, who wouldn’t want to get paid for pleasure?! And yet, last year, five porn stars ended their lives within a three-month span of time. But even saying that allows us to create some distance. We’re not porn stars. Yet, so many of us live in the darkness of mental health. Our anxiety and depression are symptoms which tell us we’re experiencing something so very similar to the emptiness of a porn star.
A quick google search shows hundreds and hundreds of young girls who have killed themselves because of loneliness, girls who had nude snapchats shared around and were to shamed to keep living. They shared their bodies to be known but it only left them exposed and empty.
Mental Health and Culture
Porn has done more to us than we know.
We dress to emphasize our looks, we have eating disorders because image is everything, we long for intimacy so we hide in dark rooms alone and find the right person to fantasize about. These are cultural realities, the standard we live at, yet weaved throughout it all is the influence of porn. Sex is remarkably powerful. It is the closest intimacy we can have with another human being. And yet, people, porn stars and teenagers alike, are experiencing such loneliness that they hope death will be a better companion than life.
This carries raw implications for us:
“Oxford social anthropologist J.D. Unwin discovered that when a highly developed culture undergoes an increase in sexual freedom, a collapse of that culture follows within three generations. The historical data reveals this pattern with “monotonous” regularity.”
But there’s something underneath that research.
Mental Health and Loneliness
That research shook me when I first read it. And here’s the hard truth underneath it all: our cultural addiction to porn is a cultural longing to be known. We want love, we want intimacy, we want commitment, and porn offers all of that. Porn is always there when we need it, in whatever way we need it. And yet we’re lonelier than we’ve ever been before.
We won’t ever love rightly unless we learn to love ourselves rightly, or to be loved rightly. The reality is, we can’t give what we don’t have. We long to be known, yet we pursue being known by hiding. And so we’re lonely and mental health continues to haunt us. We’ve replaced pleasure for real passion, and lust for love.
There’s a path out, and that path isn’t actually a difficult one to see. The path is to be known. Stop settling for easy intimacy and work to know the people around you. Know the people around you without ulterior motives. Know them for them. Give up the demon that entices you and then condemns you for being enticed.
We even have a guide on this path.
Jesus and Loneliness
There’s a beautiful phrase in the book of Hebrews: For we do not have a high priest [Jesus] who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.
Whenever I’m in a hard place I ask Jesus how He has experienced what I’m going through. The answer we get about loneliness is a shocking one:
Jesus had best friends. They traveled with him for years and they knew Him, who He really was. Yet in His loneliest moments they left Him. Before His death, He stayed up all night in anguish. Jesus asked His best friends to stay up with Him, but instead they slept. The next morning, He was arrested as a criminal and they claimed to not even know Him. And so He died alone, hung shamed and naked, exposed for all the world to see. Utterly. Alone.
Longing to Be Known
Jesus went through the way of loneliness so that He could be with you in your loneliness. He walked that path all the way to death so that He could walk with you away from loneliness and into life. Jesus sits with you in your pain, and silently He weeps with you.
Jesus has experienced the mental health pain of depression, anxiety, and death. Yet He’s the only one who wasn’t consumed by them. He knows the way out, and He knows you.
Our cultural cry to be known is being met with the empty response of pornography. As we cry, God cries with us. But unlike porn, He offers the response of being eternally known, rather than being eternally alone. It seems time for us to respond to a different master. I’m just not sure how much longer we’ll last if we allow our cry to be met with emptiness.
Our cry to be known is being met with two different responses. Which will you embrace?
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Shane James O’Neill is the Editorial Director for Proven Men Ministries. He is currently working on a graduate degree in apologetics at Liberty University’s Rawling School of Divinity.