When the doctor told Nathan that he had the lungs of a heavy smoker, he protested, “I never smoked a day in my life!” What he failed to take into account was that the casino where he worked allowed public smoking.

He eventually quit his job at the casino. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late. Permanent lung scarring and the resulting health complications led to his early death at age 54.

Nathan’s example illustrates the risks of ignoring the dangers of secondhand smoke. Never putting a cigarette in your mouth is not enough. While active smoking and passive smoking are not the same things, there is still no safe level of exposure to cigarette smoke. And the dangers of secondhand smoke exist even if you can’t smell it.

Porn by Any Other Name

In our efforts to live a porn-free life, it is easy to overlook the existence of what we might call secondhand porn: softcore content that has seeped into mainstream entertainment. In fact, porn-influenced media is all over pop culture.

In 2007, Dr. Norman Doidge wrote in his book The Brain That Changes Itself that pornographic content is “on mainstream media all day long…including television, rock videos, soap operas, advertisements, and so on.”

Six years later, the nonprofit agency Beauty Redefined stated, “Scholars and media experts agree that the line between pop culture and pornography has shifted and blurred over the last decade.”

 Imagine how much more true those statements are today. We’ve been so inundated with pornographic content that we’ve lost our ability to recognize it. We’ve gone from shock to acceptance—even to the point of condemning porn with our lips while supporting it through our patronage of movies, TV shows, and other visual stories.

 What that means is that we end up sabotaging our efforts against a porn-free world and a porn-free life.

Just as Dangerous as Firsthand Porn

While there are legitimate differences between hardcore pornography and the sexual content in mainstream media, there is still a detrimental amount of crossover. There are at least seven similarities between how pornography and mainstream entertainment treat sex. These similarities are prevalent in award-winning TV shows, high-brow and low-brow dramas, and crowd-pleasing comedies.

The practical effect of secondhand porn is that it acts as a form of moral leprosy—simultaneously damaging our souls while killing the nerve endings of our conscience so that we remain numb to its infiltration. Like with secondhand smoke, porn-influenced pop culture is present even if we’ve lost our ability to sense or recognize it.

The “Hidden” Victims

The problem is far greater than just our susceptibility to moral compromise. With a myopically inward focus, we can place undue emphasis on how pornified content affects us, ignoring the reality that actors themselves are also adversely affected.

Yes, a porn-free life requires looking inward (examining our hearts), but we must also look outward—by loving our entertainers as we love ourselves. While the experience of a Hollywood actress filming a softcore sex scene is not identical to that of a porn actress filming a hardcore sex scene, there is still a tragic overlap.

To different degrees, both types of actors are experiencing privacy, dignity, and sexual violation, and the results are heartbreaking. This is evidenced by the testimonies of Jennifer Lawrence, Margot Robbie, Evangeline Lilly, and many, many others.

Refuse Porn of All Kinds—for Your Good, and the Good of Your Neighbor

So in your engagement with a pornified popular culture, it is helpful to remember two principles.

First, your fight against lust involves not just avoiding hardcore sexual media, but any pornographic material—regardless of whether it is categorically porn or not. A good movie with softcore content isn’t worth sacrificing your sexual purity.

Second, one of the best ways to fight lust—and porn—is to take the focus off of yourself. As Brittni De La Mora puts it, “Do you know how to take the magnifying glass off of your problems? Focus on helping someone else.”

The Golden Rule

Toward that end, put your entertainment options through the “golden rule” filter: if actors are objectified in the telling of a story, refuse to financially support that story—not just for your own purity, but also for the good of your fellow human beings.

Because it is so often ignored or neglected, this “golden rule” approach is what I focus most of my online training on. An others-centered approach can radically affect your response to secondhand porn, moving it from the category of “just one more thing I need to avoid” to “I have a new, central principle that can transform my entire battle with sexual lust.”

That has been my experience. I challenge you to try it for yourself.

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