By / Aug 12

The dehumanizing effects of pornography affect those on both sides of the screen. Not only is the viewer dehumanizing themselves by separating the goodness of sexual intercourse from its proper context within marriage as God designed, but there is also a victim who is portrayed and treated as nothing but a simple object of desire. Far too often, the victim is a child who is being abused for the pleasure of the viewer—and it’s made possible because some companies put profit ahead of the vulnerable. 

That’s the situation in a recent court case involving an abused child and two large multinational corporations. A federal judge has denied a request by the financial services corporation Visa to dismiss a lawsuit by a woman who accuses the payment processor of knowingly facilitating the distribution of child pornography. Visa is accused of continuing to provide payment processing services to MindGeek even after the company has been exposed for profiting from child pornography. MindGeek owns some of the most visited pornography websites in North America and Europe.

What happened? 

The basis of the lawsuit is a child pornography incident from 2014. According to court documents, at that time a 13-year-old girl was pressured by her then-boyfriend to make a sexully explicit video. Without the girl’s knowledge, the boyfriend then uploaded the video to the pornography website Pornhub, which is owned by MindGeek. Mindgeek took that video—which included the girl’s age in the title—and posted it other pornography websites, where it was viewed 400,000 times.

The teen girl contacted MindGeek and told the company the video was child pornography. The company waited several weeks before removing the video, and by the time they did it had been downloaded and reuploaded numerous times. One of the reuploads had 2.7 million views. During this time, and for years afterward, the girl received messages from strangers containing links to the videos. 

When the girl asked that subsequent reposted videos be removed, she was allegedly told by MindGeek that she needed “to provide photographic proof that she was the child depicted in the video before removing [the videos].” Throughout this timeperiod, MindGeek earned advertisement revenue from the reuploads and posted the reuploads to its other pornographic websites. 

The lawsuit notes that the young girl’s “life spiraled out of control” because of the​​ videos. She made several suicide attempts and ended up moving in with a friend. At her friend’s house, an older man introduced the minor to heroin. The older man then funded her heroin addiction, encouraged her to create sexually explicit videos, and encouraged her to sell the videos of child pornogrpaphy on Craigslist. 

Some of these new videos were uploaded to Pornhub and were still available on the website as recently as June 2020. MindGeek uploaded these videos to its other pornographic websites and earned ad revenue from the videos. The lawsuit claims that, “While MindGeek profited from the child porn featuring Plaintiff, Plaintiff was intermittently homeless or living in her car, addicted to heroin, depressed and suicidal, and without the support of her family.”

Along with Pornhub, MindGeek operates numerous free and paid pornographic websites. The company makes money from its free sites through advertising its paid sites and products on the free sites, by selling ad space on the free sites for the services or products of third parties, and by harvesting and selling the data of persons who use the free sites. As the lawsuit points out, “To reach their intended audience, advertisers can build campaigns around keywords like ‘13yearoldteen’ and ‘not18’; indeed, they can even target ads to people searching the term ‘child rape’ in Japanese.”

MindGeek also takes the user-uploaded content and posts them to other sites the company owns. The company is alleged to be keeping all the videos, including the ones that have been deleted. If true, this would mean that the servers owned and controlled by MindGeek would contain a large volume of child pornography that could be reuploaded or sold. 

Visa was included in the lawsuit on the basis of a claim the company was complicit in MindGeek’s actions because Visa payment cards were used to pay for advertising on MindGeek sites. Visa had been frequently criticized by anti-trafficking activists for turning a blind eye to sites that included forced pornography. It was until a New York Times expose of child pornography in 2020 titled “The Children of Pornhub” that Visa stopped taking payments for that site. Visa took temporary action by suspending MindGeek but later restored services for MindGeek’s paid premium sites and for advertising on all its sites.

Because of the court’s recent actions, Visa has placed MindGeek on suspension, which means Visa cards will not be able to be used to purchase advertising on any sites including Pornhub or other MindGeek affiliated sites. Mastercard has also said it’s directing financial institutions to suspend acceptance of its products at MindGeek’s advertising arm following the court ruling.

How we can respond 

While it took a lawsuit to bring about change, Visa and Mastercard are finally doing the right thing in severing ties with this pornographer. We should pray that we’ll see more of this in ​​future, since porn companies are hindered in their exploitative efforts when they are denied access to financial services. 

But while such moves cut into the supply side of the pornography equation, we should not forget that its the demand for such content—even among Christian men and women—that makes such abuse of children possible. 

Our hope and prayer is that what is hidden will come to light in the fullness of time, and that the dangers and abuses of the pornography industry will be revealed for all to see. And as the church, we must be ready to proclaim the forgiveness found in the light of Jesus Christ while working to welcome, defend, and care for the vulnerable among us. 

By / Sep 21

In last few weeks, there have been a number of developments concerning the availability of pornography on social media. OnlyFans, a social media service that caters to those in the sex industry and profits off the promotion of pornographic material, initially announced that it would bar sexually explicit videos beginning in October. This caused a massive conversation about the morality of pornography in the digital public square. Bloomberg reported that the service has attracted over 130 million users and experienced rapid growth during the COVID-19 pandemic, similar to the boom that Pornhub saw during the initial lockdowns in 2020. News of this move was received by many as a blow to the pornography industry — including to those who earn a living off on the platform selling access to their pornographic material.

OnlyFans originally stated that this decision was due to a strategic shift in focus to a broader platform for various artists and creators, as well as pressures from investors and payment processors who saw financing or facilitating pornography as a potential liability and deleterious to their own public image. However, OnlyFans cancelled their plans to ban sexually explicit content just a week later because of the massive public outcry, especially on social media. The company announced on Twitter that it “stands for inclusion and we will continue to provide a home for all creators.” 

This entire episode brought to light an ongoing debate in digital governance and public policy over the ubiquity of pornography online and how society should go about navigating questions of vice, free speech, and public morality.

Recognizing the moral component

Reflecting on the OnlyFans decision to reverse their proposed ban on sexually explicit material, Felix Salmon at Axios writes that many technology companies are beginning to act like a fourth branch of government given their immense power and control over our public discourse. He argues that many of these content policies end up going much further than the law actually requires in terms of the availability and distribution of pornography online. The argument goes that if the government doesn’t ban it, neither should these companies.

He highlights how these bans on explicit content, such as porn, are often driven by moralistic underpinnings based on the fact that pornography is legal, yet is “shunned by most of the business establishment.” He goes on to contend that these decisions — often based on the fact that payment processors and banks tend to shy away from financing pornography websites, especially due to the illegality of some material and the rise of sex trafficking — are contributing to a lack of U.S. alternatives to the current mainstream pornography sites, which are often based in other countries including the London-based OnlyFans. 

He also mentions some of the controversial moves by eBay and Tumblr. Each company implemented strict policies against pornography. These policies seem to fly in the face of the celebrated progress of the sexual revolution toward the mainstreaming of expressive individualism, LGBTQ+ rights, and the ridding of what are seen as outdated views of marriage and sexuality from our public conscience.

The inescapability of legislating morality

While there is much more to be said about these types of decisions, including the wisdom of banning pornography and objectionable content online, there is irony in how those in our secular age think about issues of governing and morality. Some will celebrate the technology industry making moral judgments in certain arenas, including the celebration of LGBTQ inclusion or the ever-expanding definition of hate speech that tends to describe historic Christian teaching on sexuality as unacceptable for public debate. Yet, these same groups will chastise the industry for making other policies on moral grounds, including decisions to limit or ban pornography on social media platforms. Concerning the latter, they argue that these technology companies — and the business industry itself — need to shed these outdated and moralistic attitudes since we shouldn’t be legislating or designing content policies on moral grounds. 

It is increasingly common in our society to think that we shouldn’t legislate morality, but this misses out on the fact that all laws and even digital governance policies are making inherently moral statements about what is to be promoted or celebrated in our society. They each put forth a version of the good life, which is a central facet of ethics and morality. While pornography is currently legal in the eyes of the state and an extremely lucrative business, companies that disallow pornography may be acknowledging, without even knowing it, how dehumanizing this industry is for all involved and how it tears down society. Either by giving into the public pressures to keep this material off their platforms or recognizing the ways in which being associated with this material will reflect on their brands, decisions to preclude this material from their platforms are ultimately serving a higher good in our society. 

In the digital age where technology companies hold such immense power over our public discourse, each of their content moderation policies are casting a vision for the good for our society, and it is incumbent on all of us to be involved in these debates. These companies have every right to ban or suppress pornography on their platforms, which, should be noted, is not an easy decision in light of the financial incentives and public pressure. But our society is better off because decisions like these protect the vulnerable and innocent among us and uphold public virtue and the centrality of the family.

The OnlyFans situation and continued debate over moralistic attitudes in our public discourse is yet another reminder of the moral incongruence of expressive individualism and how much of our modern public ethic based in the pursuit of vice is simply untenable. When you build public morality off of carnal desire rather than transcendent principles, you will be left with a system that is not only unable to stand under its own weight but also one that will not produce the type of virtue desired for society. While there may be legitimate debate within the Christian community over the wisdom of government bans, private companies choosing to exclude pornographic content from their platforms is a clear win for public morality and the common good.

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By / Dec 28

This year, more than any in recent memory, has seemed like one steady stream of bad news. We’ve been pummeled, day after day, by a year that refuses to relent long enough to let us come up for one measly gulp of air. Along with the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine, there was another burst of good news that hit the wires recently. 

On Dec. 4, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof helped expose how Pornhub, one of the world’s largest pornography websites, hosted countless user-generated videos of sexual assault, rape, and other criminal acts. In response to this reporting, major credit card companies including Discover, Visa, and Mastercard announced they were cutting ties with Pornhub and would no longer provide credit card processing for the site because of the illegal content. This move prompted Pornhub to remove “unverified uploads,” a move that effectively flags and eliminates upward of two-thirds of its content which amounted to the removal of over 10 million pornographic videos from the site’s library. In the fight against sexual assult, rape, abuse, and other criminal acts, this is a positive development and one that significantly cuts down on the amount of pornographic content online.

And yet, it seems there remains an endless amount of work yet to be done in the fight against pornography. For Christians, how are we to respond to this encouraging development and, moreover, how are we to engage in the broader battle against the scourge of pornography?


There is a lot that can be done to stymie the advance of pornography and its increasing cultural ubiquity, and it all begins with awareness. And, while awareness in no way means apprising oneself of actual pornographic content, it does require educating yourself on its widespread use (even among Christians) and the detriment that pornography imposes on its actors, its users, its users’ relationships, and entire societies—morally, psychologically, and physically. 

Practically speaking, this looks like developing a relative fluency around the prevalence of pornography and its use (resources like Finally Free by Heath Lambert and this article by Justin Holcomb are good places to start) and, prayerfully, acquiring a sensitivity to it through these exposures. Though pornography is often spun as a liberty to be enjoyed by the masses, it is a menacing and ruinous captor, enslaving its users in nearly every conceivable way, down to the neurological level. So, before we jump into this monumental fight, we must first know what we’re up against and, just as important, for whom we’re fighting. 


Becoming more aware of pornography’s scope and influence inevitably keys you in on the reality that it isn’t merely a habit or an act in which one chooses to participate. It is, rather, a sort of worldview with its own attending “metaphysical and ethical implications” that projects its own “specific vision of the world” and of other persons, as Carl Trueman argues in his new book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self

For this reason and others, building on the momentum that seems to have accrued in this most recent fight against illegal content on Pornhub will require doing battle not just in view of reforming the habits of our collective society—and our churches—but by piercing what Charles Taylor calls our culture’s social imaginary. In other words, it is a battle not just of will but of worldview. So, as you consider planting your feet on the field of battle against pornography, these are the three primary categories where you can engage. 

1. Broad engagement: To fight the fight against pornography in the broad sense is the least costly measure to take. In fact, it will cost you almost nothing. In a lot of ways, this broad level of engagement is somewhat synonymous with simply making yourself and others aware of the epidemic affect of pornography. More than anything, it is an effort to join your voice with the chorus of others who are decrying the normativity of this debasing worldview that prizes sexuality as its sacred indicative. 

It is here, winsomely and patiently, where the church can begin to pierce our pornified culture’s social imaginary with a new narrative. And though it may involve advocating for more stringent legislative action and supporting investigations and reporting like Kristof’s, it’s not yet likely to chafe against your relationships or against your own carnal impulses at this level. Broad engagement is needed, and yields broad impact, but the church must go further. We must intentionally narrow our scope of engagement.

2. Focused engagement: The level of narrow engagement introduces us to some of the real consequences of our own involvement in this fight. Here, in our immediate spheres of influence, we have conversations with spouses, children, parents, extended family members, friends, and those we’re discipling. It’s also where vulnerabilities are spilled. 

If the statistic that more than 28,000 users are watching pornography every second is accurate—not  excluding church members (64% of Christian men and 15% of Christian women say they watch porn at least once a month)—then we have an unseemly amount of brothers and sisters being held captive to the woes of our culture’s pornographic worldview. Our focus here involves aspirations toward personal victories among those closest to us, either preemptively (ideally) or in waging war against an ongoing struggle. Focused engagement is the willingness to fight, tooth and nail, for the heart of a brother or sister.

3. Personal engagement: Finally, our scope of engagement should ultimately narrow to the extent that the crosshairs of our battle weapons rest squarely upon ourselves. Pornography use is plaguing church pews across America and the developed world, and to assume immunity for oneself is either the height of naivete or willful negligence. Personal engagement, then, is a call—a scriptural command—to engage in a battle for your soul and to disengage from the world of pornography in all its forms. 

This means that we abstain from sexual immorality  (1 Thess. 4:3), even in our internet browsing, streaming subscriptions, and other comparable activities. It also means that our discipleship should not neglect to address the issue of pornography directly, even if we don’t deem it a threat. Personal engagement on this matter is a Spirit-driven fight to resist, even “to the point of shedding blood” (Heb. 12:4), the pornographic pull so endemic in our day.

We are God’s set-apart people, called by the Spirit to engage in a to-the-death duel against our flesh and its deeds (Rom. 8:13-14). Scripture is clear: there is only one left standing once the dust from this fight settles. Either we align ourselves with the Spirit and live or we yield to the carnal whims of the flesh and perish. The stakes could not be higher, for our souls and for the dignity of those entrenched in the pornography industry. We would do well to act like it.

Fight the good fight

By all credible estimates, the pornography industry is a multibillion dollar operation, a figure that doesn’t even account for the forms and content not considered explicit enough to “earn” a pornographic rating. We live in a sexualized culture becoming more pornified by the day. But developments like we’ve witnessed in the case against Pornhub provide strategic jolts of hope that should spur us on to continue the good fight against this Goliath-like foe. The call for Christians, then, is to join this cosmic, spiritual battle, loading our metaphoric sling with stones and flinging them until the pornographic giant is finally felled. And, because we know that a life lived according to the flesh is an enslaved life leading to death, this battle is nothing less than a mission to set captives free, to introduce God’s image-bearers to life—abundant life. The stakes are high, but “the battle is the Lord’s” (1 Sam. 17:47).