No issue divides religious believers from non-believers more than sex. For people of faith, sex is sacred, and reserved for marriage between a man and a woman. For secular people, sex is a physical drive no different than eating. All consenting acts between adults are legitimate, and pornography should be available without restrictions.

But what happens when a thoroughly secular man—one who studies “gender and power relations”—steps away from ideology, and takes an honest look at what pornography is doing to his humanity, and to women in the porn industry?

In the case of Ron Gavrielli, what you get is a uniquely moving testimony about the immorality of porn, and how porn culture is destroying the lives of countless women, men and children. Here’s what he says:

I decided to stop watching porn because it brought anger and violence into my private fantasies that weren’t there before. This was not me, and I decided to just put an end to it. Easier said than done…

After making a habit out of porn, it conquers your mind and invades your brain… I found myself closing my eyes and trying to fantasize desperately about something human [but] my head was bombarded with all those images of women being violated and subordinated and forced into pretending they enjoy diabolic sperm rituals.

Next, Gavrielli goes beyond the personal, to describe porn’s impact on the common good:

By watching porn I take part in creating demand for filmed prostitution—that’s what porn really is. Porni is Greek for prostitution. Graphein is Greek for documentation. Prostitution is no one’s childhood dream. It’s always the result of trouble and distress…

I stopped watching porn for my personal well-being, my private erotic life, my reclaiming control and responsibility over my mind, but by doing that I also stopped contributing to this horrible sex industry.

In beautiful language, Gavrielli describes healthy sexual intimacy. It’s “sensual, generous, passionate, attentive” … the “mutuality” of “two souls alone in private.” It’s a noble vision. But because he is still committed to the ideology of “sexual freedom,” he doesn’t see the limits of what religious morality calls “fornication”—sex outside of marriage—a word that sounds horribly regressive to the modern mind. The objective reality is that outside the lifelong commitments of marriage, even the best of sexual intentions, and the most authentic feelings of love, will eventually degenerate into two people “using” each other for sexual gratification.

Yet that shouldn’t keep religious believers from making common cause with Gavrielli and other secular activists who are speaking up about the destructive effects of pornography. By giving personal testimony as Gavrieli does—in natural, experiential terms—these witnesses are well positioned to reach people who aren’t religious or even spiritual, and change our secular culture’s disordered ideas about sex.

Gavrielli speaks at high schools and junior high schools around the world, and he vividly describes how porn, via the internet, has sexualized childhood:

Because we have internet on every cellular phone, 90% of 12 year-olds are watching porn on a regular basis. It has an addictive effect, and a paralyzing effect because porn is teaching boys that as a man you are solely valued for your sexual, physical prowess. It turns boys into imitators, aggressors. There is so much sexual abuse going on in the confines of what we perceive from the outside as beautiful teenage life stories, in the confines of private rooms… these are sexual mutations.

Young girls and women are not only influenced by porn, but by porn-influenced mainstream culture. Have you seen Lady Gaga, or Miley Cyrus video clips or commercials? They’re porn with clothes on—girls get the idea that they have to be a porn star to be worthy of sexual desire, worthy of love.

 I work in dozens and dozens of high schools and junior highs, and in every one there are girls who have agreed to be documented in intimate situations to please some guy, and this guy misappropriates her trust. It’s then sent around on WhatsApp. It’s always the girls who are shamed and mortified. They can move away, but they can still be haunted on social networks. They develop clinical depression, eating disorders, they become socially isolated, and some commit suicide, because they find no more value in their lives or in themselves.

Gavrielli’s interest in “gender power relations” makes him particularly sensitive to how pornography subjugates and destroys women’s lives— a crisis that cries to heaven for justice.

Porn is about male domination of women, not just as a sexual practice, but as a way of being…

If we were to ask porn—What defines sexuality?—it’s whatever men find arousing, however brutal: humiliation, crying, choking a woman, raping a woman, whatever turns men on.

Porn is not an embodiment of freedom of speech, or freedom of occupation. It is sexual exploitation, working side by side with human traffic. Raping, pimping, solicitation. Porn is not a minor phenomenon, but a matter of life and death.

For every porn star with a book contract or a production company, there are hundreds of thousands of women and girls who don’t survive out there. They just don’t make it—they get spit out. So many don’t make it to the age of 50, in countries where life expectancy is 75 or 80. This happens in four ways: drugs; STDs—sexually transmitted diseases; murder by a john or a pimp; and suicide.

Whatever I’m watching creates demand. If you are watching porn you are creating demand, for whatever style of pornography you demand. The scum of the earth are out there creating the supply.

The video of Gavrielli’s 2013 Tedx talk, as of this writing, has more than 8 million views. That’s encouraging. But there are powerful financial interests who have a stake in defending porn. And religious voices have been marginalized. More secular witnesses need to speak up.

Biographical note: Ran Gavrieli has degrees in Gender Studies, and works with youth and adults all over the world in building positive self image in a culture inundated by sexual imagery with negative connotations. He speaks about porn and porn-influenced culture, and gender and power relations, mainly regarding sex and intimacy. He also volunteers with victims of human trafficking.