Why companies are trying to normalize pornography

And how it dehumanizes people in the process

December 23, 2019

Recently, a tweet by Netflix that read something like “What is something you can say during sex and while watching Netflix?” went viral. I highly discourage you from checking the replies as nearly every major brand (as well as everyday people) degraded themselves for a fleeting joke. The whole exchange revealed how sexualized humor has become normal in our society. Even well-known companies like Wendy’s and Hulu responded to the initial tweet. But one reply in particular stuck out to me. Pornhub, the world’s largest porn site, with over 42 billion visits in 2019 and over 115 million visits per day, tweeted “everything” which caused a big stir on Twitter. 

Humanizing porn

Many users found it hilarious that a pornography company commented on the thread. Others jumped quickly on the bandwagon with similar language and even shared animated gifs of popular characters like baby Yoda indulging in the use of porn. With this type of social media engagement, Pornhub is trying to portray themselves as just another brand online. It is an attempt to show that real people are behind this massive entity. It’s also an effort to demonstrate that their product is a normal part of our society. 

It’s important to remember, though, that Pornhub is not morally neutral. Their product is deeply corrosive in our society and dangerous for anyone to indulge in, especially our children. Pornhub, as well as the wider pornography industry, especially preys on the weak in our communities by objectifying those made in God’s image. Everything this platform does, from hardcore and amateur sex videos to virtual reality and augmented-reality porn, is driven by the intent to ensnare and debase its users in the name of profit. The entire design is to desentize us to the reality of pornography, to sear our consciences, and to keep users coming back for more. The industry knows that these things will never truly satisfy you and that you will pay good money in the search for a new thrill.

Gone are the days of pornography being hidden in the closet or on the back shelf of a convenience store. Pornography is nearly ubiquitous in our society, often not even costing users anything—other than their souls. Not a day goes by that we don’t encounter images and videos that would make past generations blush, but we chalk it up to living in the 21st century. The use of social media has fueled the growth of the pornography industry, just as porn has always grown on the back of technological developments. As illustrated by the intense debate over whether pornography should be banned and whether or not the government has any role in regulating these obcenities, pornography is now being paraded as an expected part of society.

Dehumanizing people

Pornhub’s desire to be more human and personal in their online interactions is highly ironic, though, because their product is designed to dehumanize those involved—on both sides of the screen—for sheer profit. The entire goal of pornography is to achieve a sexual high outside of the covenant of marriage by taking advantage of other people. As men and women perform on video and and others indulge in these videos through the platform, they are not being treated as image-bearers of God but as mere objects used and abused for a temporary sexual high and a profit. They are led astray from God’s life-giving design for human sexuality as one man and one woman in marriage for life. 

The hope of the gospel is that Jesus doesn’t define our lives by our addictions or even our sexuality.

Furthermore, there are also countless women who are trafficked for sex with the sole purpose of creating online pornography. And we see the far-reaching effects of pornography on our children who are now being exposed to it before the age of 10 as well as through the rampant sexual abuse crisis in our country. The industry leaves objectified women, emasculated men, and scandalized users in its wake. Everyone’s dignity is at stake as these companies seek to grow their bottom line. 

Yet, the truth is that we were created in God’s image, with dignity, and for a purpose—to glorify him in our bodies and minds as we seek to love him and honor our neighbor (Matt. 22:37-39). And the hope of the gospel is that Jesus doesn’t define our lives by our addictions or even our sexuality. 1 John 1:9 reminds us that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from our unrighteousness. This isn’t just a one-time cleansing. God knows each of us will continue to struggle with sin throughout our lives. Even if you are reading this and stuck in a sinful pattern of indulging in pornography, there is hope for you. No one is too far gone for Christ to save them from this dark pit of despair and addiction.

As believers, we cannot allow pornography to become mainstream in our hearts or in our families. We must fight against the schemes that attempt to make pornography seem more palatable to our consciences. And we must continually expose this travesty. Nothing about pornography is normal, and it is wreaking havoc on our society. Everyone needs to be on guard against its insidious nature and actively push back against this darkness in our hearts and on our social media feeds.

Jason Thacker

Jason Thacker serves as senior fellow focusing on Christian ethics, human dignity, public theology, and technology. He also leads the ERLC Research Institute. In addition to his work at the ERLC, he serves as assistant professor of philosophy and ethics at Boyce College in Louisville Kentucky. He is the author … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24