To be sure, lust is one of the most important contributing factors to sexual brokenness. But in our excessive focus on lust, we have lost sight of the other interrelated factor that drives sexual sin more than all the rest: anger.
Despite the potential damage lust and anger cause, they are not holistically something to condemn. Lust points to a great desire for a good thing like beauty and belonging. Anger aims at our longing for justice and restoration. Sin enters when lust is hijacked by covetousness or demand and when anger is hijacked by entitlement, contempt, or dogmatic control. Sexual brokenness can never be redeemed through futile attempts to stop lust and ignorantly disregarding the insidious role anger plays in fueling it.
By aiming at their partnership, however, beauty, belonging, and restoration can indeed become the foundation of our sexual life. Let me show you why.
In Matthew 5, Jesus addresses the nature of sin. He says that anyone who looks at another woman lustfully (epithumeo: to covet) commits adultery in his heart. Often overlooked, however, are Jesus’ remarks on anger that appear first in Matthew 5:22. Jesus says that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. According to Jesus, sin is a confluence of lust and anger. His words are a tough pill to swallow. In our sin, we are not only adulterers, but murderers too.
Lust and anger are the primary tributaries to the river of unwanted sexual behavior, be that the use pornography, an affair, or buying sex. The #MeToo movement was proclaimed to the nations precisely because it named what most faith leaders consistently miss: the misuse of power, control, and anger in the sexual lives of men. We cannot transform sexualized anger in our churches, counseling practices, or organizations when have so little language to, or willingness to, name that it exists.
Too often, faith leaders have been loquacious in discussing purity, lust, and even sexual addiction, but largely silent on the issue of anger and power as it relates to male violence against women. Our preoccupation with lust and our continued silence on misogyny (or blaming sexual assault on sex addiction) are central to why we have lost credibility in the world, and in our silence, may well be condoning it. As faith leaders, we can stem the tide of our irrelevance by inviting those we lead to engage both their anger and their lust.
As a licensed mental health therapist and ordained minister, I have never met someone who struggles deeply with sexual lust that is not also battling with unaddressed anger. Consider the following examples:
It is easy to see each of these scenes through the lens of lust. But if we fail to identify the anger, we miss the fuel that drives the sexual arousal forward. Focusing on lust and accountability will only go so far in maturing men because it is an incomplete paradigm. Men also need to be invited to develop integrity with their anger. They must be challenged to consider the type of man they are becoming through the choices they make in the face of adversity.
Exclusively focusing on lust, instead of recognizing lust and anger as equal contributors to unwanted sexual behavior, will lead to dramatically different outcomes. Let’s take the example of pornography. In the first example above, the conventional wisdom is that the man who makes an unsuccessful bid to his wife for sex will go to porn because he is lusting for erotic material that allows him to release his frustration from unmet sexual needs, self-medicate stress, or escape the pain of rejection. The logic here is fairly simple: the man is lonely and rejected and therefore seeks out porn to soothe himself.
If the assessment of the husband’s struggle with pornography is a “lust problem,” the treatment plan goes something like this: get him accountable with other men to talk about his lust and pursue a therapist or pastoral counselor to address the underlying pain. Though this assessment contains dangerous “partial truths,” it’s incompleteness sets the man up to continue to sexually fail because the other half of the equation is left to fester in hiding.
Now let’s see what happens when we recognize the role anger plays in the husband’s porn use. From this standpoint, the use of pornography exists because of the two tributaries that feed it: lust and anger. To begin, we see the husband’s longing for sex from the standpoint of dignity—his desire to be connected to his wife. Catholic theologian Ronald Rolhieser notes that the word sex is taken from the root word, secare, which means to amputate or sever from the whole. According to Rolheiser, foundational to sexuality is the awareness of how disconnected we are and the way we go about reconnecting.
Though the husband’s initial desire for sex contains dignity, he quickly turns to anger in his unsatisfied desire. The meaning of the sex he is pursuing involves connection, but its infused with entitlement. He is essentially saying, “Want me. Desire sex with me or there will be conflict between us.” The question must be asked, “How is it possible for the wife’s desire to grow for her husband, much less for sex, when the meaning of it is to satisfy his entitlement?” How many accountability or faith communities actively point out to the husband that his wife’s decision to say “no” to his entitled bids makes her the healthiest one between them? Recognizing the role anger plays will take you to a radically different vantage point.
Moments or days after his wife declines his bid for sex, the husband finds himself lusting after porn in which a beautiful woman enthusiastically wants to be with him. The storyline is not too difficult to follow: the wife will not give him what he wants, so he will find someone who will, even if just in fantasy.
This is one of the reasons why pornography appeals so much to men: it offers them escape and revenge simultaneously. In pursuing porn, the husband gets to escape the painful experience of rejection, but he also gets revenge against his wife for her refusal.
While unwanted sexual behavior is evidence of lust, there will be no transformation until we see it also as evidence of hostility. As faith leaders, we will remain baffled by how much sexual brokenness persists in our world until we open our eyes to the role anger plays in perpetuating that sexual brokenness.
Beyond the sexual misconduct of those we lead, we are largely blind to the misuse of sexual power in the most overt forms of sexual exploitation like sex trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation (prostitution). Our culture refers to women, even teenagers, in the life of prostitution as “sluts” and “whores.” But what do we call the men who buy and rape them? They are “lonely,” “johns,” and “horny.” Our language reveals not only how far men distance themselves from their entitlement, but also the real gender we wish to blame for sexual brokenness: women.
If faith leaders want to see sexual brokenness transformed, it’s time to say, “Time’s up on our love affair with lust.” We need to be honest about how we have painfully oversimplified, even perpetuated, horrific sexual sin by failing to name anger alongside lust as the partners in crime they are.
In my therapy practice, I work primarily with men who buy sex and compulsively watch pornography. There is a glut of information that tells us how prevalent these issues are. For instance, we know that over 50% of us as faith leaders use (or formerly used) pornography. As a clinician, I wanted to understand the “why” behind our pursuit of pornography. To do that, I recently completed research on over 3,600 men and women who were involved in a sexual behavior they wanted to stop, be that pornography, an affair, or buying sex.
My research showed that the use of pornography and the particular type of sexual fantasies men pursued could be predicted by the stories—past and present—that have marked their lives. Men can certainly find freedom from their unwanted sexual behavior, but to do so, we need to help them identify the unique reasons that bring them to it.
One of the most common pornography searches for men in my study had to do with wanting to have power over women. In this fantasy, men pursued pornography where women were younger/teen/college, had a smaller body type, and had a particular race or appearance that suggested (to them) subservience.
What predicted this type of sexual fantasy in men? My research found three key drivers:
Men with the highest levels of shame wanted the most power over women. The writing on the wall shows that men find power over women arousing precisely because it gives them an arena to find dominance amidst a life filled with shame and futility. The ability to find control, not merely hormonal release, keeps them returning day after day.
Pornography gives the common man and over half our faith leaders the ability to be Weinstein or Louis CK for the day. Pornography holds a mirror to the heart of man. It shows us we do not merely lust for beauty; we believe it is our right to search for it, grab it, use it, possess it, and eventually discard it when we are ready for our next person to objectify. As faith leaders, we can either choose to be on the front lines leading men to engage their sexualized anger or continue to hide behind the language of lust that anesthetizes men from their violence.
I am convinced that one of the reasons we have not seen more progress in addressing sexual brokenness in our world is that very few people outside of Jesus and pornographers recognize that the heart of man is seduced by behaviors that allow for both lust and anger to be indulged. I am also convinced that this can change. We can be the light of the world by shining it upon our own need for repentance.
At the heart of the gospel we proclaim the belief that God is neither surprised nor ashamed of our brokenness, but understands it to be the very geography of his arrival. God arrives in our story not to condemn us, but to invite us to deeper questions as to how our lust and anger came to be. He is always asking questions to people in the Bible: Hey Adam, where are you? Jacob, what is your name? Hagar, where do you come from and where are you going? The voice of God is curious and kind, inviting us to deeper reflection of how our lust and anger came to be.
We know too many people watch porn. But the sheer numbers might alarm you. One porn site alone received over 28 billion visits last year. Yes, 28,000,000,000+ visits. This equates to almost 4 visits per person on the planet to one website. As faith leaders, we need ask ourselves and those we guide, “What is our lust and anger ultimately about?” As we explored, lust aims for good things like beauty and belonging. Anger aims at our longing for justice.
The genius of evil is that it uses unwanted sexual behavior to offer imitation versions of the beauty and justice found in Jesus alone. In pornography, the porn user chooses a victim to direct their lust and anger towards, thus offering him catharsis. In the gospel, humanity chooses an innocent victim to suffer death. In Jesus’ atonement, we are paradoxically offered the justice and belonging we most desire. Both pornography and Jesus appeal to the deepest longings in our hearts. Only one offers freedom.
As faith leaders, our role is not to convict people of sin or expose their lust. The Spirit of God is far more graceful and competent in doing this than we could ever imagine. Image bearers of God, human beings know in their bones when they have chosen a sexual life that comes back void of meaning and beauty.
As faith leaders, we can set the table and ask questions about what our collective lust and anger might be pointing towards. Porn offers one answer to these questions, but so does the gospel. The God we follow is an indiscriminate host who invites all to come to the table, share a meal, and join in some kind and curious questions. As faith leaders, we have the privilege of partnering with God to curate the conversation.
To help men and women on the recovery road, Stringer, The Heart of Man movie, and Covenant Eyes are working together to provide support. Journey Into the Heart of Man with Jay Stringer provides a five-month course that includes inspiring presentations, a self- assessment for people to see how their story shapes their sexual choices, and exercises to bring change. Stringer said, “Just as our sexual brokenness is not random, our journey to freedom is not either. In the Journey Into the Heart of Man, I wanted to equip accountability partners, small groups, and faith communities in a way they have not been equipped before to find healing.”
The recovery journey takes time and focus…to grow, learn, have fun, explore, and discover. How long? Stringer said most of his clients find freedom in two to five years. That doesn’t mean they are acting out during that time, but it takes time to shake off the debris of the past and live free.
There is a growing body of scientific evidence that shows how porn can separate consumers from the things and people they love most. We fight against porn because we're fighting #ForTheLoveOf everything worthwhile in life.
Did you know that porn can distort people’s perceptions of sex, intimacy, body image, and sexual performance?
And not only that, research is shedding light on a previously little-known fact about porn: it’s harmful to a consumer’s brain. Thanks to all the research that has been done in recent years, people are finally starting to realize that pornography is toxic.
The research on how porn affects how consumers view them self, their partner, and their relationships, in general, is becoming prevalent. When people consume porn, it not only warps their view of others, but it also twists their view of themselves.
This is not just a single gender issue, either. Let’s talk about how porn affects men’s self-image as well. For men who think that consuming porn could somehow make them feel more manly, sexy, or cool, think again.
In one study done on both straight and gay men, consuming pornography was correlated with higher levels of body dissatisfaction. Pornography exposure was correlated with social physique anxiety for gay men and a higher tendency of developing an eating disorder.
In a similar more recent study, a group of college men who viewed porn rated how they viewed themselves in terms of body satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, and overall emotional well-being. After analyzing the data, it turns out that guys who consume porn are much more likely to have anxiety in relationships and withdraw from them more than guys who aren’t consuming porn. Their sense of emotional security was lower overall than guys who do not consume pornography. Not very sexy, is it?
It only makes sense that, like women, guys are also more insecure about themselves after consuming porn due to the inaccurate portrayal of bodies and sexuality. Research also shows that guys who consume porn report feeling more inadequate about their sexual performance.
Also, negative body image among boys/men isn’t the only thing fueled by the idealized male bodies they see in the media, but also by the idealized images of women. This study found that men were more self-conscious about their own bodies after viewing magazines featuring photos of sexualized, scantily clad women.
But your relationship with yourself isn’t the only thing harmed by porn. Your relationship with others can be, too.
The fact is, sex can be an awesome part of a loving relationship. Having sex with someone you love can be one of the most freeing experiences, especially when there’s no self-consciousness and you can be together with your partner, exactly as you both are.
But when it comes to porn, it can turn this intimate connection into a rehearsed performance that’s less about the emotional bonding that happens when people have sex.
Porn fails to emphasize the most real parts in relationships. It doesn’t depict real people with real bodies with real (and beautiful) flaws. In fact, it tries to sell the complete opposite—a photoshop fantasy that reality should never have to compete with. So it only makes sense that those who are exposed to porn can have their perceptions of sex twisted and warped. Soon, real people don’t measure up, and partners are considered less exciting when compared to an exaggerated production on a computer screen.
You can imagine how hurtful it would be if you were the person who is suddenly viewed as less desirable when compared to the porn that your significant other has been watching. Ouch.
Not only does porn affect how users view others but it also affects how they view themselves. Porn users may find that not only do they see their partners in a less than “satisfying” way, but they start to think that they themselves are less attractive as well. They may be more critical of their sexual organs, or of their personal appearance.
Nobody, guy or girl, likes being unfairly compared to someone (or something) else. And when that something else is porn, it becomes even more damaging. In fact, research shows that the increase of pornography in society is a cause for an increasing number of women seeking plastic surgery to change their bodies.
Research has also shown that women exposed to porn or who are partners of porn addicts are more likely to engage in sexual acts that make them feel uncomfortable. They are also more likely to worry about how they look instead of enjoying being intimate with their significant other. To top things off, porn adds pressure on women to comply with and be okay with pretty much anything their partner wants, which includes sexual violence and degrading behavior that is so prevalently found in porn.
Is it really anybody’s goal to make themselves or their partner feel inadequate, insecure, and unattractive? Of course not. (Or, at least we hope not.)
Porn promotes all of these ideas and perceptions. Instead, choose real love that builds you up and truly appreciates you and your partner for exactly who you both are.
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him” (Psalm 40:1-3).
There is that day of discovery, that day when life as you know it is ripped from your hands. It may catch you totally by surprise or it may finally be the proof confirming your suspicions. In either case, this revelation knocks you off your feet, sends you tumbling and struggling to catch your breath. You’re left with the overwhelming realization that your life may never be the same again. Through no fault of you own, you’ve found yourself in the pit of betrayal. In the days to come, each new disclosure of infidelity feels like dirt being poured on top of your already suffocating body, threatening to bury you alive.
Can anyone survive this, much less learn from it? The answer is “yes.” It is possible to not only survive, but thrive. Here are seven lessons that can be learned from the pit.
When you discover your spouse has betrayed you, it is easy to feel alone and to question God’s place in all of this. On multiple occasions in the Bible, God said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” God is not only with you, he sees your pain and every tear you cry. “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (Psalm 56:8).
So, why did he let this happen? God did not cause your spouse to throw you in that pit. The Bible says he does not tempt or cause man to sin. But, he has created each of us with the freedom to make our own choices. The truth is God grieves with you. Your spouse has not only sinned against you; he has sinned against God.
The disorienting darkness of betrayal is likely unmatched by anything you’ve ever experienced. The tendency at a time like this is to isolate. Instead of groping blindly, reach out for help. But be careful who you grab. Turn to God. The Bible says that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. Even the blackest of circumstances is not dark to him. Daily allow him to guide you.
Also, reach out to someone who has been there and who will give you wise counsel. In Ecclesiastes it says, “Two are better than one because if one falls down, there is another there to pick them up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (4:9). Allow a faithful God and a trustworthy individual to help you.
It’s not uncommon for the betrayed to initially think they don’t need help, that they aren’t the one with the problem. But look around. You’re in a pit! It may be theoretically possible to be thrown into a pit without getting hurt, but it’s highly unlikely. There is likely a gaping wound or something broken.
Some say, “Time heals all wounds.” That’s seldom the case. An untreated gaping wound will likely become infected and can eventually affect the whole body. An untreated broken bone may mend on its own. But if it’s not set correctly it’s not likely to heal correctly, leading to a lifetime of pain and problems. Find a counselor who specializes in treating those who have been betrayed by another’s sexual addiction.
Hear me out before you get angry. I’m not suggesting that you are in any way responsible for your loved one’s choices. You did nothing to cause the acting out and there was nothing you could do to prevent it. That blame falls solely at the feet of the betrayer. Nor am I saying that you must be codependent. There are many women who were neither living in denial nor had any clue of their husbands’ addictive behaviors.
But, the Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). There are none of us without faults and defects. Just as you did nothing to cause the problem, neither can you do anything to control or cure it. The best thing you can do is focus on becoming the healthiest you can be, physically, emotionally and spiritually, with the help of God. You and your other loved ones deserve that, regardless of whether your spouse chooses recovery or not.
Wearing the cloak of the victim initially is perhaps appropriate and definitely understandable. If you’re still wearing that same cloak several years from now, it’ll stink!
You are created in the image of God and because of that alone, you have great worth and deserve love and respect. He has a great plan for your life despite the choices your spouse has made and regardless of his decision about his own recovery. With the help of God, you can be an overcomer.
In the initial crisis, we may become convinced of our need for God and the help of others. We may work diligently toward our own recovery. But when things seem to settle down, it is in our human nature to stop depending on God and to stop doing the things that got us to that point. Why else do pharmacists put a sticker on the side of every bottle of antibiotics that says, “Important: Finish all this medication.” When we start to feel better, it’s easy for us to think, “I’m well. I no longer need this.” Keep depending on God and working on a healthier you. You need it and you are worth it!
The evil one, Satan, intended for this to destroy you. But the all-powerful God of the universe gets the last word. He wants to see you come through this stronger than ever and willing to comfort others as you have been comforted. He wants to put a new song of praise for him in your mouth so that many “will put their trust in him.” There are no wasted experiences in the hand of the Master.
It is possible to survive betrayal and the effects of another’s sexual addiction. And it is possible that your best days are still to come. It won’t come easily or quickly. But, with the help of God and your diligent work, it is not only possible, it’s probable. There’s still hope for you.
If you’re wondering how to quit porn, you’re not alone. Skim through the comments below and you’ll see. Quitting porn doesn’t have to be so complicated, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. If you want to quit watching porn, it’s going to take some intentional work, and I encourage you to get real familiar with these six steps.
The first part to quitting porn is you really have to want to quit porn. You need to be sick and tired of porn and the sickness that it causes you in order to quit. If you are not committed, you will only be quitting untl the next time you look. Deep inside you have to want to stop.
Secondly, you have to be willing to do things you haven’t done before. Seriously, if you keep quitting the same way, you’re likely to fail again. To quit, you have to give up what you’ve been doing and do what you have to do. Have you tried using Internet Accountability yet?
Thirdly, you have to tell someone else about your struggle and desire to get free. This person may be a male friend, your wife, a person of clergy, a life coach, or a 12-step group person. Somebody has to know the truth about your porn usage for you to get and stay free.
Next, you have to do what I call “clean house.” You have to get rid of the porn you have. Throw away the discs, magazines, anything you have used as pornography, and make sure to dump and clean out your computer. This is just a start, some you have to clean house regularly.
The next step is you have to block entry points. This means have a porn blocker and accountability software like Covenant Eyes on your phone, computer at home, and at the office. If you have people sending you compromising emails, block them. Unsubscribe from porn websites. You may have to decide if credit cards are a problem. You know how porn is coming into your life. If you had a gun to your head you could block entry points in a minute.
Finally, get accountable to a man on a daily basis about your porn usage. Make a call a day and a commitment to call this person before you even consider looking at porn. People who set consequences for porn relapse do better. Seriously, if you look at porn, set a consequence. Some guys run laps, give money to the political party they don’t vote for, do leg lunges for a half mile, give up some privilege or just pick up trash on the highway for a few hours.
You have to decide that you are worth living porn free. I decided that almost 25 years ago and just passed a polygraph verifying my freedom. I believe you’re worth it but your behavior will show you if you are. Don’t believe your words. Believe only your behaviors; otherwise, you can be in denial as to your commitment to being porn free.
One of the most effective tools I’ve found to quit porn is Covenant Eyes Internet Accountability and Filtering. It helps with four of these six essential steps. Not only does it block porn before it gets to you, it also provides a weekly report of your internet use to a trusted friend–forcing you to be brutally honest and making it easier than ever for you to have the open and honest relationship needed to beat your porn addiction.
Remember, you are not the only one being affected if you are married or want to be married. She is in pain because of your porn usage. Your children are being affected as well. They deserve the best man you can be. You decide. Do they get the porn-drunk you or the porn-free you? I recommend the porn-free you. It’s the better you.
Speeding through red lights. Juuling with your BFFs. Binging a ton of junk food. These things are pretty normalized, but does that make them safe or healthy?
Porn, as another thing, might be normalized in our society today, but that doesn’t mean it’s harmless. As countless scientific findings and research studies are showing, porn can become a compulsion or even addictive. Not only are the harmful effects of pornography overlooked, but there are also many misconceptions on the issue. Most notably, many people believe that porn is just a “guy thing.”
Consider how pretty much all of mainstream porn contains men using women as objects, and objectifying and humiliating them. Likewise, you never really see movies that show girls stuffing stacks of porn magazines under their mattresses or locking their doors as they power up their laptops. So it’s got to be just the guys who watch porn. Right?
The internet has made pornography easier for anyone and everyone to access. It’s no secret that nearly every kid growing up today will likely see hardcore porn well before the legal age. A pornography epidemic is on the rise, not only because it is easier to access, but because of the lack of information people have had on the negative and harmful effects associated with the compulsion, and sometimes addiction.
One recent German sex study shows more of what we already knew: women can be just as at risk of becoming dependent upon pornography as men. The study showed that at least 17% of women consider themselves addicted to porn, and half of the women surveyed were internet porn consumers.
There are plenty more stats where those came from, including one study that found about half of young adult women agree that consuming porn is acceptable and 1/3 of young women reported using porn.
For an increasing number of women, pornography has become a substitute for the feeling of happiness, or even be turned to as a coping mechanism. Like other harmful behaviors, porn can be used as an escape from reality. It can be used to make the consumer (temporarily) forget about feelings of sadness, fear, anger, or boredom. This habit can quickly lead to depression, and is also something depression can lead to. It’s like a chicken and egg scenario: you’re not really sure which one comes first, but in this case you sure don’t want to find out because it can very quickly affect your mental health, regardless of gender.
In the end, no amount of pornography will take away life’s problems. In fact, it will just become one of them.
Not convinced, or want to hear more? Let’s hear some real experiences. Below, we have stories from two young women who experienced very real struggles with porn.
Kelsie’s obsession began just like most. She was only 11 years old when it started.
“I just discovered it by chance, although, at the time I had no idea what I was doing and no idea it was wrong. It became my main coping mechanism for when I was happy, sad, bored, excited, angry, or lonely. I told myself that my thoughts/fantasies weren’t dangerous, that I wasn’t hurting myself and that since I wasn’t out there having sex, it was OK. I lived with this in secrecy for 16 years before seeking help.”
Now, doesn’t that sound exactly like the stories we hear from guys who become hooked to porn as teenagers?
This story is the same one we hear over and over again from girls who are going through the same thing.
When we asked Kelsie how she feels about porn being largely viewed as a guy problem, she replied, “I lived in shame and secrecy for so many years. I told myself that no one would understand, because this isn’t something that any other girl struggles with. And if anyone ever found out, they would think I was so gross and disgusting.” She added that if she would have known that it was a human issue and not a man issue, “I think I may have come clean…and sought help much earlier.”
“In our culture, it is acceptable for men to view pornography. It’s even expected. We see it in almost every TV show or sitcom. It is so ‘normal’ in our culture. But rarely do people mention women. I don’t understand why people would assume that women don’t have any sexual drive or desires or why they wouldn’t be sexual beings just as men are. We all have eyes. We all have brains. We are all wired to desire sex at some point. I think women can be just as visual as men.”
Nicole’s obsession and compulsion began developing at age 13. It continued off and on as she grew older, and then intensified when she went through a difficult breakup. She’s now working through a healthy recovery, but it took a long time for her to get there.
“I didn’t seek help for my addiction because I felt I was a freak of nature, because I was sure that I was the ONLY woman who struggled with a man’s disease. I remember looking up articles and blogs about recovering from pornography addiction, and everything I found was about men, for men, written by men. So, clearly, I was the only one.”
Not cool. In fact, it isn’t cool for anyone to have to feel shamed because of this issue. Whether you’re a girl or a guy, you should never be shamed simply because of your struggle.
When we asked Nicole what she would say to other girls who are going through this, specifically teen girls, she said, “Understand that you are not the only one. Not by a long shot. Your worth is neither defined nor altered by this addiction. Please, reach out. Find someone you can trust. I promise, you can be free of it.”
Porn has become mainstream and casually accepted as a part of normal sexual expression. But science and research are showing a much different story: it can become highly addictive and is a rampant problem among everyone, regardless of gender. It’s time we took another step to remove shame and isolation from those who struggle.
It’s time to stand up for everyone who struggles with porn, regardless of who they are.
With the quick and easy access to an unlimited, ever-increasing supply of porn these days, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that both science and personal accounts are coming out by the day, exposing the effects porn has on peoples’ lives. But is it ultimately a positive or negative impact?
At the time of us writing this post, the vast majority of research is showing that porn has profoundly negative long-term effects on people’s lives, relationships, and our society. You can click here for access to our growing research database, too.
If you’ve come across these types of articles here and there but still haven’t found the motivation you need to kick your porn habit, we’ve got 50 good reasons for you. And if these aren’t enough? Check out these 15 scientifically-explained reasons why porn isn’t good for you or society.
Perhaps the biggest lie porn sells is that its fantasy world is filled with sex positivity: sexual education, more sex, better sex, etc. What it doesn’t mention, however, is that the deeper a consumer dives into that fantasy world, the more likely their reality is to become just the opposite. Porn is complicated, the science is simple: the more pornography a person consumes, the harder it can become for real relationships and sexual experiences to measure up. Ditch the shallow counterfeits and put the “sex” back in sexy.
On the surface, cocaine and porn don’t seem to have a lot in common but more and more studies are coming out showing that consuming pornography tricks your brain into releasing the same pleasure chemicals as other behaviors, or even drugs. Much like a drug, when these pleasure chemicals such as dopamine and oxytocin pulse through the brain, they help to create new brain pathways that essentially lead the consumer back to the behavior that triggered the chemical release in the first place, similar to other compulsive or even addictive substances and behaviors. Although quitting can feel just as daunting and impossible as quitting a substance, the support out there is making it more possible than ever and the reward will feel just as liberating!
Because of its addictive nature, in order to retain the same level of interest and excitement, an individual usually needs an ever increasing dosage of porn and constantly evolving material. Over time, their appetite escalates to more hardcore versions just to achieve the same level of arousal. The unshackling feeling that comes from breaking free from addiction before it escalates will empower you to live your life to its fullest potential!
Sooner or later, consumers start to find themselves getting aroused by things that used to disgust them or that go against what they think deep down is right. Once they start regularly watching extreme and dangerous sex acts, these porn consumers are being taught that those behaviors are more normal and common than they actually are. There’s an obvious destructive behavior pattern caused by porn that compromises beliefs, changes ideas and turns relationships sour when pressure is placed on a partner to perform or live up to the standards set by porn. Reversing destructive behavior will happen soon after deciding to cut this hazardous influence from your life.
The porn industry objectifies people and commoditizes the act of sex. There’s nothing romantic or realistic about porn sex, and it seriously puts a disconnect between the consumer and reality. This makes it hard for them to have an intimate connection with a real person. You’ll only feel complete when you disconnect with porn and connect with real person!
The makeup, surgery, Photoshop, and acting that goes into porn gives us an unrealistic view of the human body and sexuality. We start to subconsciously compare ourselves to what we’re seeing, causing overthinking and low self-esteem when it comes time to be intimate. Kicking your porn habit will restore a healthy body image and reinstate the sense confidence that you deserve.
In addition to affecting the way we see ourselves, porn can cause consumers to under-appreciate the opposite sex by training them to see others as sexual objects and not as humans with beautiful and unique features. It’s likely due to the fact that porn promotes a completely fictional version of how people look and behave, and creates a false, exciting reality that their partners can never live up to. One of the first positive effects that people report soon after quitting porn is the ability to truly appreciate the beauty of the opposite sex without constantly objectifying them.
This one is for the guys out there. The fact is porn often leads to less sex and less satisfying sex. For a surprising amount of consumers, porn eventually means no sex at all. Regular porn consumption has been found to affect the brain in such a way that it hinders sexual performance when they get with an actual human being. Porn-induced erectile dysfunction is a real thing in men, a side effect of watching porn that they probably never see coming. But thankfully, there absolutely is hope. A cure is to quit porn and let their brain “rewire” and return to normal
The facts are clear: clicking porn directly fuels the demand for sex trafficking. There are countless victims of human sex trafficking who are forced to have sex on camera. Even in the “legitimate” adult industry, porn performers are frequently victims of violence, coercion, and drug abuse. There’s just no way to know the dark origins behind what we’re watching. By refusing to click, you’re refusing to contribute to the demand for sexual exploitation.
From making actors participate in unsafe sex to the countless real stories of performers speaking out about the rape, violence, and drugs behind the camera, there is certainly a dark reality to this industry. Porn tries to normalize this exploitation, but we’re not buying it. To watch porn is to support a questionable industry that abuses its actors and uses misogyny and domestic violence fantasies as entertainment, all in addition to harming those who watch it. Not cool.
It’s true that not all porn is the same, but the reality is that the majority of even the most mainstream porn is packed full of women being physically and verbally abused—and watching it takes a serious toll on the consumer. Even the non-violent porn portrays a power difference between partners where men are in charge and women are submissive sex objects. But unlike violence in movies where someone gets mad and fights back, research has shown that 95% of the victims of aggression in porn scenes reacted neutrally or responded with pleasure. This confuses frequent consumers to believe violence is sexy, and can lead them to hurting women in real life during sex. Unlearning this violent behavior will undoubtedly benefit you, your partner, and your sex life.
We believe that in order to be truly creative, you have to connect with the deepest, most honest parts of yourself. Porn clogs up your imagination with cheap content that disconnects you from feeling real passion and motivation. Once you let explicit images stop distracting you from inspiration, you’ll feel more imaginative than ever.
Not every porn consumer lies about their addiction, but most feel ashamed and obligated to hide it. Whether they admit it or not, they know that their partner wouldn’t like the idea of them sexually bonding to a computer screen. When you live a lie for long enough, you start to convince yourself of it as well and the more lies you tell, the harder it becomes to tell the truth about anything. Bring your secret out into the light and we guarantee you’ll feel more free than ever before.
You’ve probably realized by now that porn takes up a lot of your time. Porn consumers spend anywhere between a few minutes to a few hours daily consuming these harmful images. Anyone who frequently watches porn knows that as the years have gone on, they watch harder material for longer periods of time. Think of it this way: if you spent just 10 minutes a day watching porn, that’s over 60 hours at the end of the year you could have spent doing something beneficial to your life! Time is precious; spend it on making memories that last, not on images that disappear with a click.
In porn, everything from the way people look to how and why they have sex is a lie. Porn consumers often get so obsessed with chasing something that isn’t real that they miss out on actual relationships. Research has even shown that fewer men are getting married because they feel porn takes care of all their sexual needs. Ditch the lies and go find the the love of your life! They’re waiting for you.
Porn doesn’t just affect you, it affects your partner as well. While a great deal of information exists for those suffering from addiction, partners are often left feeling alone with equally real wounds of their own. Partners of porn consumers commonly feel betrayed and neglected when their significant other chooses to share their sexuality with a screen instead of them. When you cut porn from being the third party, you’ll find it easier to build a healthier relationship, emotionally and sexually.
The harmful effects of porn don’t always revolve around romantic partners like boyfriends/girlfriends or husbands/wives. There are countless stories, like this one, that show how porn can isolate, consume, and eventually even destroy families. Additionally, children and teens these days are exposed to hardcore porn at a young age, and many receive their information about sex from porn which depicts unrealistic portrayals of human sexuality, leading to lifelong issues in the bedroom. Promote healthy displays of affection in your home and promote a porn-free life for your future family.
Your porn habit can isolate you from valuable social time with friends and the shame that comes with watching porn can cause you to be distant at social gatherings. When you no longer allow yourself to be a prisoner to this habit, you no longer have to worry about the chains that come with it.
Being tied to a consistent porn habit requires you to spend a lot of time alone and can quickly make you uninterested in the everyday pleasures of life such as having conversations with real people and being active. Research has shown that frequent porn consuming is connected to mental/emotional health issues such as anxiety and depression. There is a strong victory over these challenges that comes with quitting porn that can be truly liberating.
Research shows that one in five people who regularly watch porn admit to feeling controlled by their own sexual desires. As a result, many consumers start feeling like something’s wrong with them because they don’t know how to be turned on by a real person. This only leads to watching more porn because it’s the only escape that works. Quitting porn allows you to take back control of your sexual desires and connect with a real person.
With the exaggerated bodies and rehearsed scenes in porn, consumers can quickly lose perspective on their own natural desires, as well as their partner’s. Unplugging from porn will help you become more in tune with what you and your partner want instead of influencing you to reenact what you’ve seen in porn. Be the author of your own sexuality, not an imitation of something that isn’t even real.
Many people deep in their porn habit can often be too busy venting their sex drive through porn, they’re not going to have much interest in real sexual intimacy with a partner. You may have already experienced a lack of drive or the inability to perform with your partner, but by quitting porn, you’ll reclaim that natural energy.
It’s obvious that porn consumes your time and your sexual attention, but do you think about how that doesn’t leave you with energy for much else? A demanding porn habit can definitely drain your body of the mental and physical energy it needs to keep up with the daily hustle of life. By turning off the monitor, you can focus on being productive and making a difference in your life and others.
People often watch porn as an escape when they become overwhelmed by the daily decisions of life. Quitting porn allows you to assume responsibility and become accountable for your own goals. By getting this distraction out of your life, you can start to focus on the things that really matter to you.
A belief in yourself is a huge casualty of consistent porn consumption. People who feel they don’t have control over their porn habit often believe they are broken human beings with a damaged capacity to love and feel joy. These negative feelings come from your own negative feelings about porn mixed with your inability to quit, or from any of the negative side effects that go with repeatedly watching porn. By kicking the habit, you might begin to feel happier, which will fuel your confidence in all aspects of life.
Addiction to pornography is cited as a major reason couples divorce annually around the world. Whether you are currently married or one day hope to be, it’s a sure bet that porn is a poisonous ingredient in a marriage, or any type of committed relationship. When porn is preferred to a healthy sexual relationship with a spouse, the outcome is often a broken home. With a risk as serious as this, it makes sense to remove porn from your life altogether and avoid a bunch of issues later on.
Porn is a global, estimated $97 billion industry, with $12 billion of that coming from the United States. How much have you spent on it? Even if the answer is nothing, think about it this way: your time spent watching porn could have been spent on either A) making money or B) performing better at work where you could now be making more money. Time is money after all, and by ditching porn, you’re ditching an unproductive habit that can only drag you down from living your fullest potential.
Porn removes the concept of intimacy and emotional connection from sex. It teaches consumers that sex is about taking selfish pleasure rather than giving love. When you fill your mind with the explicit material porn offers, it takes away the excitement of intimacy and even distorts your sexuality. By kicking the habit, your brain can return to normal and reset your arousal patterns to normal.
The more you watch porn, the less you desire you might have for the things that previously got you excited. Hanging out with friends, playing sports, making music, etc., all these things lack the “shock factor” that porn gives the brain. But not to worry, the sooner you cut out porn, the sooner you can restore a healthy and fulfilling approach to the things you care about most.
Addiction is never a healthy thing, regardless of what it is. Porn can create a constant need for sex/sexual material that needs to be fueled, but is never truly satisfied. This cycle can quickly grow into an obsession for the consumer, which inhibits their ability to function like a normal person in the company of people, especially the opposite sex, and can also lead to serious and harmful behaviors like soliciting prostituted people to act out what they’ve seen in porn. Not making porn a part of your life is a sure way to not step foot down a potentially life-changing road.
Oxytocin is commonly called the love hormone or the “bonding chemical” because it plays an important part in intimacy by connecting two people. Because the chemical is naturally released during sex, watching porn triggers the release of oxytocin as well, tricking your brain and essentially bonding you to the experience of sexual release and watching porn. Keep love real, and don’t take fake.
As talked about earlier, porn can be the onset of a number of different anxiety problems. When consumers feel like they have to be watching porn or can’t stop thinking about it, it creates serious anxiety. Not to mention, this anxiety can transfer over to the bedroom and contribute to porn-induced erectile dysfunction. Anxiety can be extremely crippling and most people experience it to on some level from the daily stresses of life as it is. Why add to it?
We know that pornography and other addictions or compulsions are used as self-medicating tools which only lead to feeling worse than before. The momentary escape only leads to feeling lower than before. Porn is a negative influence in your life, and an easy way to start feeling happier and more free is giving it the boot.
It’s pretty simple: no porn equals no shame. The secrecy surrounding your habit can have huge negative effects on your life and shame can quickly settle in. You may find yourself watching things you find disgusting, but can’t seem to stop. When this feeling starts to take its toll, it usually leads to medicating with more porn. You’re guaranteed to feel relief when you break the chains of this vicious cycle.
Think about what more motivation could mean for you. Do you want to be more ambitious and driven? Are you wanting to achieve your goals? A survey of a Reddit community called NoFap, which is committed to breaking free from porn, found that 67% of those who quit had an increase in energy levels as well as productivity. Put it to the test for yourself. What are you waiting for?
Besides the obvious fact that porn is a waste of time, consuming it can also fuel anxiety and depression, and make them perform worse at their job. In fact, real stories of people being caught watching porn at work prove that more and more people are putting their jobs at risk by looking at porn during work hours. Don’t let this destructive material ruin the things that matter most for your daily life.
Researchers have repeatedly found that people who have seen a significant amount of porn are more likely to start having sex sooner and with more partners, and to engage in riskier kinds of sex, putting them at greater risk of getting sexually transmitted infections.
By quitting porn, you’re taking a stand against a dangerous, exploitive industry and becoming an advocate for positive personal and social change. This is definitely something you can feel proud of. Change yourself, and change the world.
Every single click made on a porn site is counted by the greedy companies that make that content. Clicking fuels the demand for more, feeding and growing a dark industry that harms society as a whole. For all of the harmful reasons mentioned above, stop contributing to something that ruins people’s lives and supports sexual exploitation. This negative influence doesn’t have to affect you, your peers or the countless people in the industry who are forced, coerced, and abused behind the camera. Take a stand and be the change you want to see in the world.
Porn can fulfill feelings of loneliness in exchange for making them worse in the long run. Porn promises immediate satisfaction, endless excitement, and easy intimacy, but in the end, it robs a consumer of all three.
Normalizing violence isn’t normal. It’s grown “normal” for 11-year-olds to be exposed to the most hardcore, degrading content imaginable. Imagine what that does to their expectations for real relationships and true intimacy—it corrupts and hurts it. Avoiding violent porn, and all porn in general, means avoiding the normalization and romanticization of abusive, violent behaviors that only serve to harm our society.
No one ever woke up and said, “Today, I want to get out there and ruin my current and future relationships. I’m going to cut myself off emotionally, undermine trust, and leave my partner feeling confused, rejected, angry, and betrayed.” No one says that, but a pile of research shows that’s exactly what can happen as a result of consuming porn. Choosing real love, and choosing not to consume porn means that you’re that much better at respecting others and yourself.
There is a direct relationship between the sexual objectification of girls and aggression toward them, according to research by psychologists at the University of Kent in the U.K. We fight against porn because people aren’t just the sum of their parts, to be used and discarded without a second thought. The facts are clear: porn is harmful and research is proving it. No matter what people say to try and make pornography seem normal or harmless, there’s enough evidence out there that says it’s not.
Don’t take sex tips from an industry that profits from fake orgasms. Enough said.
A common plotline in porn is that a teen or underage person is being taken advantage of by someone older or more powerful. By avoiding porn, you’re avoiding the twisted and unhealthy fetishization of kids and teens, and that’s a great thing. By ditching porn, you’re helping to slow the demand for youth-themed porn content. Isn’t that worth the fight?
Photoshop isn’t something you can have in real life, but that’s a good thing. Perfection means predictable, and boring. But real, flawed human bodies are unique, and beautiful. A world without porn and synthetic “beauty” is a world where comparison doesn’t overtake appreciation. We’d like to live in that world, wouldn’t you?
Real intimacy offers so much more. Real intimacy is a world of satisfaction and excitement that doesn’t disappear when the screen goes off. It’s the breathtaking risk of being vulnerable with another human being. It’s inviting them not just into your bedroom, but into your heart and life. Real intimacy is about what we give, not just what we get. Porn doesn’t portray true connections, it can only scratch the surface.
Relationships are hard work. They aren’t always flawless, and sex (if sex is involved) won’t be easy and perfect every single time. Love can be messy but that’s the beauty of it—it’s real, not synthetic. It’s natural, not produced. And porn has no way of showing that, because it’s all about the performance and not about the connection. Real love is immeasurably better than porn because real love is exactly that—it’s real. Ditch the porn and have your expectations adjusted.
Sometimes, when porn has clouded a consumer’s idea of what healthy relationships are and what real love can provide, they start to believe it doesn’t exist. We see comments often on our Facebook page from frequent porn consumers who can’t believe that real, healthy love exists, and that it’s worth fighting for. Getting porn out of the picture means that you’re one step closer to healing from the lies that porn infects consumers with.
This is by far the most important reason to quit porn.
Above all, porn can seriously come between you, your partner, and every other relationship in your life. It can get in between the love you have for even yourself. It distorts the meaning of love and intimacy, in all forms. The most common true stories we receive are from partners who lost the love of their life due to a struggle with porn that tore their relationship apart slowly but surely. We all want and need love. It’s the most important thing we can experience in life.
Shame is as old as Adam and Eve…well, almost.
Genesis 2:24-25 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”
In the beginning God created mankind in His image, male and female, naked, and completely without any shame. Wow. Can you imagine living without shame? Picture a world void of the pain that shame heaps on so many?
This is so profound especially as we view our sexuality as God created it. Pure. Unbroken. Cherished. The only truly perfect gift ever given to mankind.
But Adam dropped the ball and the entire world, including human sexuality, became fractured. A nice history lesson you say?
To understand any real solution and find healing, we must first understand the problem and it’s source.
Many pain medications are designed to simply numb the pain, rather than actually heal the underlying problem causing the pain. If you break your leg, they will likely give you something to ease or remove the pain, but that will not heal your broken bone. If you have the flu, you get rid of it by killing the flu germs running through your body, not by making the flu symptoms go away.
The emotional pain of sexual brokenness has a source, and it’s shame.
Pornography is a pain medication for the shame many men and women experience. For the sex or porn addict, acting out sexually is a symptom. The rush and high of the climax is used as medication. It numbs the pain, but only temporarily. Unfortunately, shame’s pain returns after the high of the drug wears off. As with any reoccurring medical issue, we must identify the cause of our shame and root it out if we want to experience relief from the symptoms.
The source of my shame took root around the age of twelve or thirteen. My dad, without any malicious intent, left a wound when he said, “Why do you have to be so stupid?” Those words were only reinforced by bullying and by siblings who had no intent to do so. But, nevertheless, those words hurt and left lifetime scars.
Proverbs 18:21 states, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
Finding the wound(s) that fuel the shame you fight can be difficult at best, and nearly unbearable at worst. Words were the source of my wounds. I’m fully aware some of you reading this have been deeply wounded by emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. I cannot fully understand your pain and won’t pretend to.
Experience and education tell me the traumatic nature of those injuries calls for professional counseling. It’s not weakness to admit that and seek it out. In fact, trying to handle it on your own is unwise and dangerous. It’s courageous to ask for help.
Proverbs 20:5 says, “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.”
If it were not for a godly counselor in my life, I’d still be trapped in the rut of pain fueled by shame in my life. For any who may think I’ve got it all together and live struggle-free, allow me to tell you I still see that counselor regularly. I’m free from porn and masturbation’s grip, and have been for a decade, but that doesn’t mean I’m free from temptation or life’s pains.
You can search for a counselor anywhere in the USA at Pure Community. This resource lists many counselors, support groups, intensive workshops, and much more help for men and women.
Shame and the pain it brings do not have to be terminal. It’s a foe that can be overcome. Understanding shame’s source and participating in community (including counseling) can help you uproot it, as well as prayer, daily does of the gospel message, and lots of hard work.
Freedom from pornography and sexual addiction is possible. After 30 years addicted to porn and masturbation, Christ set me free. He used many people to help accomplish his work in me. Was it easy? Nope.
It is possible for you or your spouse to be free too, but attempting it alone will not work. It will not come easily or quickly for you either, but it is worth it!
In any battle, you have to know your enemy to defeat your enemy. You can reclaim your freedom with the help of wise, godly, experienced people fighting with you behind the enemy line.