Mobile technology and the internet are rapidly drawing Indians to themselves, empowering everyone from artists and activists to vegetable vendors and women in rural areas. But as India gets more virtual by the second, the consumption of pornography has become a pervasive habit that comes without a price tag, but not without a cost.
India is now the third-largest and fastest growing Internet market in the world, with over 137 million users. In 2015, it is poised to become the largest, with more than 300 million projected users.
More than 900 million people have mobiles, most of whom are in rural areas, making it a life-transforming technology for the country.
In an article for The Guardian, Kavitha Rao says, “Mobiles are being used to funnel demand for services and products to small farmers, vendors, plumbers, electricians and housemaids. In remote areas of India, they are used to distribute health information to rural women. In urban areas, they are being used to help sex workers and other marginalized people.”
But despite it’s work as a good servant, technology can turn into an ugly master; and the Internet is quickly turning its masters into slaves, feeding our eyes with lies that threaten our children, our marriages and our minds. The Church is needed to lead a new exodus out of an Egypt that refuses to let its people go.
According to statistics reported by India Today, Google searches for the word “porn” doubled in India between 2010 and 2012. Seven Indian cities are among the top 10 in the world to search for “porn” online.
Over 47 per cent of school students in a survey said they discuss porn every day. Sunny Leone, one of the top five global porn stars, says 80% of her web traffic and 60% of her “high six figure” revenue comes from India.
The adult entertainment industry is valued at USD $12 billion. Nearly 90% of pornography is created in the US, almost all of it in the San Fernando Valley, California.
Seventy percent of porn is consumed in the window of the 9-to-5 work day. Twelve percent of all websites, 25% of search requests and 35% of internet downloads are pornographic in nature.
Every day, nearly 300 new porn sites are created. Every second, nearly 30,000 people are visiting a porn site.
The largest group of internet porn consumers are 12 to 17 year olds. Ninety percent of children between 8 to 16 have viewed porn. “Sex” and “porn” are in the top 5 search terms for kids under eighteen.
In India, in a survey of 300 children under the age of 13, 67% admitted to accessing porn sites, most of them by their cell phones.
With the advent of smartphones, the age of anywhere-anytime pornography is here. Thirty percent of cellphones sold in India, every month, are smartphones. Soon that number will rise to sixty.
According to an IMRB survey, one out of five mobile users in India wants adult content on their 3G-enabled phone, a trend that will only rise with more than half of Internet users getting online with their phones. In 2010, for the first time in India, there was more exchange of data on cellphones than voice calls.
The internet and smartphones have worked together to make porn so easily accessible, they have replaced the uncomfortable obstacle of paying for porn at the counter and even wormed their way into parliament, what with two politicians recently caught poring over pornography on their phones.
Not only that, they’ve given teenagers the tools to create their own sexually explicit images and experiences. It’s increasingly common for teenagers to record their sexual experiences on a smartphone and brag about them with friends.
According to The Indian Express, more than 50% of Indians surveyed, admitted to “sexting,” which involves sending sexually explicit images and texts between mobile phones. It’s related to cyber-bullying, for which India ranks third in the world, with over half of children surveyed, having been bullied online.
The knee-jerk reaction of our parents and politicians might be to impose bans on technology and censor the internet, but that would be impulsive and unproductive.
As with philosophy, no technology should be judged by its abuse. Moreover, it reinforces our cultural habit of preferring ignorance to information and avoiding honest conversations that train our children to be masters of technology instead of being mastered by it.
The all-pervasiveness of pornography means that we can no longer live under the illusion that the Church is immune to its charms.
According to statistics in Christianity Today, 51% of Pastors say porn is a possible temptation and 37% admit to struggling with it at present. Pastor and Sexual Educator Ted Roberts told Christianity Today: “No matter where I travel in the world men have the same problem, but no one talks about it.”
A universal plague is furthered and empowered by universal silence. Mark R. Laaser, Author of Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction says, “Silence is the greatest enemy of sexual health.”
Laaser believes anger is the primary reason Christian men commit sexual sin. “They are angry at God, angry at their spouse, angry at church,” he says. “They feel abandoned.” He feels there is an often an ‘entitlement factor’ – “Many men minimize the sin because they believe they are overworked and under-appreciated”, he says.
India and its Church have a heightened sense of moral uprightness that quickly turns into a weakness when it comes to dealing with sexual addictions and temptation.
With the recent protests against the brutal gang rape of a young girl in Delhi, the nation is going through a moral awakening that gives us a unique opportunity to be honest and forthright about our patriarchal heritage, innate gender discrimination and secret sins.
It is an opportunity that requires us to depart from denial, desperation and depravity; before the hype is over and the nation returns to its slumber.
Pornography has been found to be more addictive than cocaine. Sexual addiction is being increasingly recognized as a controlling condition that has enslaved men to the cravings of their bodies. They are unable to confess their addiction because they think they are the only ones struggling with it, they don’t know anyone they can trust or they fear their confession will be met with condemnation and uncomfortable social repercussions.
The silence on the subject, lack of education and scarcity of treatment mean that millions of Christian men, and even women, suffer with their addiction in secret – plagued by guilt, self-condemnation and lack of confidence.
An obscure passage in the book of Chronicles describes the sons of Isaachar as “men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.”
Ideally, the Church in India needs to lead the conversation on sexual wholeness. But it appears that most churches are ill-equipped, ignorant or unwilling to address the issue. We don’t seem to understand the times, nor do we know what to do.
India is yet to get off the ground in its efforts to respond to the influence of pornography in the Church. It will take more than a judgmental, self-righteous condemnation of all things sexual, to ignite a meaningful conversation about sexual wholeness, something about which the Bible has a lot to say.
Before we can develop initiatives that focus on improved sexual education, structured accountability, relational support groups, counseling or psychiatric help and advanced treatment of sexual addictions, we need to begin by having creative, meaningful conversations about sexuality—in schools, in church and at home.
Our doctrines of sin, grace, sanctification and the power of the Holy Spirit need to translate into loving communities that invite confession, operate according to grace, employ strategies for change and equip people to walk in the power of the Spirit.
As pornography runs rampant in India—affecting everyone regardless of age, faith, gender, race, ethnicity or cultural background—parents, educators and the Church are uniquely placed to tell the truth about sexual wholeness. But if we do not unlearn our fear, ignorance and denial, the cost of our silence could be more fatal than we can imagine.
Image Credit: C. P.
Published in Christian Trends Magazine