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UNL professor discusses porn’s impact on evangelical Christians


The group most likely to report negative outcomes after porn consumption are religious men and many of them believe they are addicted to it, a UNL sociology professor said Friday.

Research from Kelsey Burke, associate professor of sociology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Trenton Haltom, a PhD candidate, explored perceptions and beliefs surrounding pornography addiction among Evangelical Christians.

“Our emphasis is on how pornography addiction becomes meaningful in this cultural world that we live in,” Burke said. “We place our specific emphasis on how this is related to men and constructions of masculinity.”

A big point of contention is the combination of church and pornography. According to some Christian Evangelical men, pornography addiction and redemptive masculinity has been a problem for them in their lives.

Several states have declared pornography as a public health crisis and have passed or considered resolutions addressing it. One of the first states was Utah in 2016, where the Republican Party’s campaign platform included pornography as a serious threat to many lives. According to worldatlas.com, 73 percent of religious adults in Utah are Christians.

The emergence of pornography addiction began appearing in 2010s as the internet became a larger part of popular culture.

As broadband access increased, websites like Pornhub, a site hosting free pornography, exploded in popularity.  Pornhub releases statistics yearly for traffic they see. One of the statistics: it would take 115 years to view all the videos uploaded to the site in one year.

As the prevalence of online porn rose, so did Christian message boards about pornography addictions. Burke was initially interested in Christian sex advice and encountered countless stories about pornography addiction.

Sex and sexuality are not anything new in religious concerns. Burke said Christians use “medicalized language” to connect their religious ideology with the sinfulness of a physical compulsion affecting their brains.

Burke and Haltom’s research was not to determine if pornography addiction was real but to make a deep dive into how individuals make sense of pornography addiction and their experience with it. They went into faith-based support groups who helped those who identified with pornography addiction. They interview 35 individuals who said they were religious.

Burkes cited a sociologist, Sam Carey at the University of Oklahoma, that pornography consumption was greater for men. Pornography addiction affect religious men more than any other group.

This is where the idea of Redemptive Masculinity comes into play.

For many of these men, admitting they have an addiction is a sign of weakness to them and their manhood. Sociologists Tristan Bridges and CJ Pascoe use the phrase hybrid masculinity to suggest that men of race, class and sexual privilege can manage subordinate forms of masculinity while maintain a privileged status.

“We us this phrase, redemptive masculinity, to describe the specific type of hybrid masculinity that uphold the cultural association between hegemonic masculinity and pornography consumption,” Haltom said.

Many of the men in the support groups cited that non-religious culture has made it a challenge for them to quit pornography while their religious ideas say they can overcome their natural urges for pornography.

“The prevailing secular attitude as received by the respondents is that pornography is not that big of a deal,” Haltom said. “But it’s precisely because pornography is associated with stereotypical ideas about masculinity that religious respondents described quitting porn as going against the status quo.”

It isn’t just religious men who avoid porn. Some secular men also push for no viewing of pornography. Some follow an online community called NoFap, meaning no masturbation.

Burke and Haltom said there is still more to learn about how some men view pornography addictions.

“Their stories affirm their manhood and bolster their religious legitimacy, enhance their sense of agency and accomplishment and also secure their positions of privilege,” Haltom said.

Senior at University of Nebraska-Lincoln studying journalism with a focus on photojournalism. I’m a part of UNITE as social outreach. I participate in other events and organizations that are associated with the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center. I’m an active photographer, my specialties include sports and feature photography. I enjoy biking, board games, and reading.