February 15, 2023 | Written by Suzy Bates

Hey parents,

We are wrapping up our church-wide series on sexual wholeness, whew!

I’ll be honest, when it comes to parenting, I have yet to see one subject matter totally wreck parents more than the topic of sex and sexuality in relation to their kids.

And I have yet to experience any subject matter totally wreck ME as a parent more than the topic of sex and sexuality in relation to my kids!

In Pulpit Rock Student Ministries (PRiSM), we’ve had a rhythm of doing a series on this subject once a year. In the past, we’ve often referred to this series as The Talk(s). Which is brilliant because one of the biggest paradigm shifts our generation of parents needs to make is to realize this subject matter needs more than one talk!

That’s likely exactly what we all got as kids. THE TALK. One talk.

One talk about the birds and the bees and no one ever brought it up again. Goodness, no wonder we are riddled with anxiety about this subject when it comes to our kids! So much is at stake. And we just want to prepare them well.

The good truth about this is that our kids need more than one talk. They DESERVE more than one talk! They need parents who are brave and willing to go there with them, and talk about all the things. They are going to talk about these things with somebody! We want it to be with us, their parents.

We’ve been teaching a version of the sermons on Sundays in PRiSM on Wednesday nights, with our 7ththrough 12th graders. During our second week of the series, PRiSM pulled away from that week’s content and I spoke to them about pornography.

As anxious as I was about it, it went really well! And the responses from students were just beautiful. Gut-level honesty and really healthy questions and conversations happened that night as their small groups processed things together after the talk.

As we debriefed the content of the message and how well it was received, we realized it might be helpful to put it out there to you as a resource.

Maybe your student wasn’t able to be there and you wish they could receive the content somehow. Maybe they WERE there and you could use some help engaging with them about what they learned.

In the hopes that this is helpful to you and the conversations you will have with your kid(s), I’ve paired down my talk and have included it here.

Before turning this post over to the content from that talk, I just want to encourage you with something:

Your kid(s) don’t need you to be perfect. They just need you to be present! Show up with them on these topics. Share your stories. Share your regrets! Share what you’ve learned over the years. Admit to them how hard this journey of sexual wholeness can be. Let them know you’re there for them when they have questions.

You’ve got this.

Here’s my talk from Wednesday night February 8th. I hope it’s helpful.

We are right in the middle of our Sexual Wholeness series and I’m so glad you came back!

This Sexual Wholeness thing? It’s a lot of conversations. It’s not just one conversation.

This stuff is so important, and there’s so much to it, it’s really complex……because WE are complex!

So a huge goal of ours is to normalize talking about these things.

Well guess what. Buckle your seat belts because tonight we are going to talk about pornography.

And we’re going to try to be as normal as possible here.

Let me start with something VERY, VERY important.

Every person in this room is on a journey of Sexual Wholeness. All of us. Whether you’re 12 years old or 52 years old. You don’t ARRIVE at sexual wholeness when you become an adult. Or when you get married.

The journey of sexual wholeness is a lifelong journey. And you should never have to walk that journey alone. Because it’s a tough enough journey to walk…..and it can be simply catastrophic if you’re walking that journey in isolation.

So right out of the gate here, we are going to get over ourselves, and any embarrassment we might have over words like pornography and masturbation….because you know why?

You are worth someone talking to you honestly about this. You deserve someone talking to you honestly about this. And I’m not going to avoid it just because it’s uncomfortable.

You deserve the truth and you deserve to not be alone trying to navigate these things.

I want to be relatable to you guys. I know I’m like an old lady up here….I’m a MOM. I’m a PASTOR….this subject is awkward enough as it is.

But I want you to know you can relate to me.

I want to tell you about the first time I saw porn.

Just so we all know what we’re talking about here, pornography is pictures or videos of people, they are usually naked or scantily clad and they’re doing sexual things.

Things were really different back when I was your age. We didn’t have the internet. We didn’t have phones that did anything but just let you talk to people and they had to stay plugged into the wall so you couldn’t take them anywhere….so porn was a lot harder to find.

One common way to view porn was in magazines you purchased. But you had to at least 21 years old to buy them so even if I had wanted to…..I wouldn’t have had easy access to these magazines.

I will tell you that initially, I did not WANT to view pornography. I really didn’t.

But when the opportunity presented itself….I was just so….CURIOUS. And there’s nothing wrong with curiosity. I bet if you have viewed pornography before, that’s exactly why you looked at it. CURIOUSITY.

I was probably 12 or 13. A friend I knew had a step dad who bought her a porn magazine and she was showing it to me and our entire group of friends. We just passed it around and basically no one there had ever seen porn before so everyone was trying to decipher how exactly we were supposed to respond to what we were seeing.

I remember trying to act like this is so normal, I’ve seen lots of images like this. I just didn’t want to be weird about it.

Then I remember feeling pretty embarrassed and looking away and just watching everyone else respond…but then I didn’t want to ACT like it was a big deal to me, so as the magazine got passed back around to me I acted super interested and then looked at a few pages and then WAS totally interested and gosh….it was just really, really confusing and quite the defining moment in my life. 

Maybe you can relate to some of that experience or those feelings.

But here’s the tension in all of this.

God made you a sexual being.

Your curiosity around sex and sexuality and your body – is natural. And that curiosity and even that desire for sexual connection is not bad. It’s actually GIVEN TO YOU BY GOD!

God designed you with a natural and healthy curiosity for sexual activity.

We’ve gone over this in Genesis, in the Garden of Eden, before sin ever even entered the world – there was sex!

God DESIGNED these two people, Adam and Eve, FOR EACH OTHER.

And we’ve learned that their sexual attraction and desire for each other was not wrong. It was good.

I hope, through this series, you have learned WHY it was good.

  • It was good because it was exclusive. Adam and Eve were made for each other. God didn’t make Adam to be shared with lots of women. God made Adam….for Eve. And vise versa. This was a covenantal relationship. It wasn’t just physical……it was INTIMATE. And intimacy is a big part of what we were created for.
  • It was good because it was not self-satisfying. Adam trusted Eve entirely with the care of HIS sexuality. And Eve trusted Adam entirely with the care of HER sexuality. When they were without sin, sex was about caring for the other. And there wasn’t this angst about their OWN needs. Because they were whole and without sin, for each other.
  • And wouldn’t you know it, when you engage in sexual activity with another person in this way that God intended – It was good because it made their relationship and their love for each other stronger.

These things are how God designed sex FOR YOU. God’s design for sex is for YOU to experience it in these ways.

Now, I want us to consider…whether you’ve ever seen porn or not….do you think engaging with porn does any of things?

  • Well….it’s certainly not exclusive because there’s a different person on every page of a porn magazine. And a different person in any porn video or picture found online.

When you view porn, your heart and mind are engaging in sexual activity with them. Your body may not be. But your heart and mind are. And I can assure you, as broken as our bodies can become….our bodies can heal.

Our hearts and our minds…..have a MUCH HARDER TIME healing.

  • Would we say porn is self-satisfying? YES! That’s PRECISELY what porn is! Porn exists for consumption, with NO ONE else’s needs in mind but your own. That’s why it’s so dangerous and so addictive. It’s like a drug.

When a person is engaging in pornography, their mental state is “This. Is. All. About. Me.” MY desires. MY thoughts. MY wants. MY needs. This can escalate and lead to masturbation, which can also be very addictive, and that’s an especially dangerous pair because those two things just feed into each other and can become a cycle that you’ll find you don’t have control over.

Does engaging with pornography make our relationships and our love stronger?   NO!

I want to share some truth with you on this.

RESEARCH SHOWS pornography has these effects on consumers:

  • -Warps your expectations of sex
  • -Causes you to lie
  • -Causes loved ones to not trust you
  • -Ruins your relationships
  • -Causes sexual dysfunction
  • -Makes you 2x more likely to experience divorce or the ending of a relationship
  • -Normalizes rape culture, sexual assault and sex trafficking
  • -Decreases your self-confidence
  • -Promotes violence
  • -Fuels mental health issues and loneliness
  • -You can find yourself unable to quit even though you want to

Porn lies to you. Self-satisfaction of your sexual desires LIES to you.

It can feel like an answer to what you’re feeling.

It can feel like not a big deal, because you’re just curious….

It can even feel like you are meeting a need.

Our sexual desires are God-given aren’t they? What’s so wrong with meeting that need?

Because there’s a way that God designed for your needs to be met.

I want to tell you a story that I’ve shared in church before.

A huge earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, killing 220,000 people.

Haiti is a devastatingly poor country. This was absolutely crippling, not to mention horrifically deadly.

Aid showed up from around the world to help. Teams of people from other countries went to Haiti, goods like food and water and clothing were donated from around the world for relief.

One of these relief efforts involved blue tarps.

There was an overwhelming NEED for immediate shelter.

These blue tarps met that immediate need.

Our church took a team to Haiti about 6 years after that earthquake. People were STILL living underneath these blue tarps 6 years later!

Doctors began seeing an overwhelming amount of eye issues in Haitians, some locals were losing their vision, some were going blind. And they were able to trace the eye problems back to these hundreds of thousands of blue tarps that the people were living under.

The UV rays of the sun, beating down through these blue tarps every single day, was essentially poisoning the people’s eyes.

There was this really prominent felt need for shelter after this earthquake. One could even argue that a solution for this need was an absolute NECESSITY. Not just a strong desire.

The immediate answer for this need – these blue tarps – seemed to help at first. But in the long run….people’s eyes were not designed to live under bright blue UV rays beating down on them day after day and they began to lose their vision.

Can you see where I’m going with this?

Pornography and masturbation can feel like they are exactly what your sometimes very strong desires need.

Maybe even for a moment, engaging in pornography can feel like some immediate shelter from your curiosity and desires that can sometimes feel incredibly strong.

But pornography is just like a blue tarp.

You aren’t designed to thrive under that thing.

You will suffer for it. It will do damage to your heart and your soul. It could blind you completely to the wholeness and purpose that your Creator designed you to experience.

As relief efforts in Haiti expanded, tons of little cinder block homes were built for the locals. When our church team went to Haiti, we got to help build these and we got to see families move into them.

But even though true and healthy shelters were being built with these little block homes….you won’t believe what would happen…..

Even if a family was given one of these block homes….9 times out of 10, part of that family would move back into the blue tarp shelter they had. These families were cramped. Sometimes they thought part of the family continuing to live underneath the tarp was the answer. They very much had a SCARCITY MINDSET and that was understandable given their experiences.

So it was really hard for these people to give up their old shelter.

Sometimes if a family truly left their blue tarp shelter behind, other families would immediately move into the abandoned blue tarp shelter. These people were clamoring for their needs to be met.

The felt need for shelter was so great, even if a healthy and whole place for a family to live was gifted to them…..the problem of these blue tarp shelters just continued. Like an epidemic!

So these relief effort teams began to wise up. And when there was a house ready for a family to move into. They would tell the family there was a requirement before they could move into their stone home.

There had to be a ceremony. Where the entire family showed up, with the relief effort teams who helped build the block home….and they had to tear down their blue tarp shelter.

They had to tear it down to the ground and absolutely destroy it.

So no one in their family would be tempted to move back in because they’re crowded. And so no OTHER family, would move right in underneath the blue tarp once they left it behind.

Those blue tarps are a great picture of how pornography can move into your life.

It can seem like something harmless at first. It can even feel like it’s meeting your needs of curiosity and desire.

But it’s poison.

And it’s serious for you right now you guys, because what do you think happens if you spend your teen and young adult years responding to your felt needs by engaging with something so harmful?

What do you think happens when you carve out part of your life to let pornography live there?

You build a habit. In a sense, you kind of build your very own blue tarp shelter for yourself.

And even when you find yourself in a committed relationship, or even in a marriage….old habits die hard.

You’ll drag that poison into your relationships. On occasion, you’ll be tempted to leave your relationship and go back to that old shelter you’ve built for yourself. And you probably won’t be honest with your partner about what you’re doing.

A porn addiction does not go away once you’re in love with somebody.

I don’t want to freak you out here.

Having viewed pornography before or on more than one occasion is very different than a pornography addiction.

We are broken and we are all going to experience sexual brokenness. We can’t avoid it.

But being controlled by these things…..them disrupting your life, causing you to hide and lie…..that’s a bigger deal than just experiencing sexual brokenness.

Those are signs that your brokenness is starting to control you.

The tough thing is there is a razor’s edge between seeing pornography before and having a pornography addiction. It can be hard to know where you are and it can be hard to talk to someone honestly about that.

If you’ve experienced pornography before, statistics say most of you have, you don’t need to be afraid.

You DO need to be aware of the dangers of these things. Knowledge is power.

And I want to help normalize us talking about this with safe people.

So here is my invitation to you.

Reject the counterfeit intimacy that porn promises and choose real love instead.

REAL LOVE. The real love that God created you for. A love where you can trust your sexuality with another person and they can trust their sexuality with you. A love where you protect your hearts from the things designed by the devil to destroy you.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking….Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV

If you feel like porn has some control over you, find a safe adult to talk to.

An experience like that is NOT meant to be carried alone. ESPECIALLY when you’re young. And there’s no shame in this. Sadly, this is a common experience! It’s likely the adult you talk to will have a pornography story of their own. Choose to walk this road with somebody safe. Don’t walk it alone.

“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 NIV

Practice trusting God with your sexuality and your desires.

God created you. He knows what you long for. And He knows what you need. Practicing trusting Him with your sexuality and desires is a huge part of moving towards sexual wholeness. There is literally no one you can trust more with these sacred parts of your life.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord. Jeremiah 29:11-14 NIV

Sexual brokenness is in all of us, so you are likely going to experience some of these things we talked about tonight.

You simply don’t have a chance at perfection in this.

You DO have a chance to walk in faith with Jesus towards more of what you were created to experience.

And we have a chance to do that TOGETHER, so that none of us is walking this journey alone.

Tonight we had our first conversation about pornography. My prayer is that this is the first of many.

I pray that tonight you will talk about your sexuality and desires with God. And I pray that will be the first of many conversations you have with Him.

I pray that you can identify a safe adult to talk to. I pray that can be one of your parents. And I pray that will be the first of many conversations you have with them.

You are worthy of truthful conversations around this sacred part of your life.

You deserve truthful conversations around this sacred part of your life.

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