Porn: It’s Not What You Think

June 27, 2016

in Uncategorized

Let me start this three-part series by making it clear I hate porn. More specifically, I hate how porn corrupts and ruins God’s gift of sex, and the damage porn use can do to a marriage. Nothing I say the next few days should be taken as an excuse of porn use or minimalising how harmful porn can be. 

That said, I don’t think we have an accurate understanding of what porn is and what it’s not, and I think women miss it by even more than men.

Husband caught looking at porn © Piotr Marcinski | stock.adobe.com

Porn Isn’t About Sex

Over the last nine months, Lori and I have discussed porn with a lot of men and women. We’ve talked to current users struggling to stop, former users (some haven’t looked in years, some still slip on occasion), and people who have done or are working on materials to help people get free of porn or cope with their spouse’s porn use. The overwhelming consensus among these folks is porn is not primarily about sex. 

As I see it, porn uses sex. It hooks into our sexuality to give us a “high”. Viewing porn causes the brain to release dopamine, the “reward hormone” associated with drug addiction, compulsive gambling, retail therapy (over shopping) and other such behaviours. Porn use need not be connected with sex or masturbation to give the high. Of course, porn causes arousal, and that often leads to doing something for a climax, but seeking climax is a side effect of porn, not the mechanism responsible for the high.

Those who really want to get free of porn learn they must understand what triggers their porn use. In reality “being horny” is not a common trigger, at least not for those who want to stop using porn. (If someone is horny, they don’t need porn to have sex or masturbate!)

Below are some of the more common porn triggers:

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Boredom
  • Depression
  • Disappointment
  • Failure
  • Fear
  • Feeling unloved
  • Feeling unappreciated
  • Frustration
  • Grief
  • Loneliness
  • Rejection
  • Resentment
  • Sadness
  • Shame
  • Stress

This list looks a lot like the reason people drink, use drugs, overeat, and so on. The behaviour, or “acting out” is done to medicate pain. A trigger causes pain, and the person turns to their pills, on-line gambling site, or porn. They use the activity to get a hit of dopamine, which takes away the pain.

If your hubby is using porn, he’s doing it to dull his pain. It’s not about you, and it’s not about sex. BTW, if you’re using porn, the same applies.

~ Paul – I’m XY and I HATE what porn does to sexuality and marriages.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom June 27, 2016 at 2:33 am

I see porn as one of the main doorways satan uses to enter a marriage and wreak havoc. From that penetration point, he can strike into every relationship within the marriage and the household. “Walking the perimeter” is critical, even if you’re no longer a user, because satan will use your spouse or kids to open that door for him, too.

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Paul Byerly June 27, 2016 at 10:52 am

@Tom – And he sure is after the kids! We had it easy in comparison.
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Art Rutherford June 27, 2016 at 4:56 am

I agree with all you are saying. I guess my life has been filled with many of those triggers you mentioned and I turned to porn to dull the pain.

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ac22dm June 27, 2016 at 4:59 am

I am happy to read your approach to this Paul. I don’t mean to excuse any porn user, porn is a sin and it’s horrible, I know because I struggle to live pure everyday but many times when people in marriage blogs write about porn its always how horrible it is and how horrible the spouse that doing it is(or at least it feels like it). And I get it, they want to point out how horrible porn is but what has helped me to start to be free from porn is not to hear how disgusting I am for have watched it. If that would help I would have been free everyday because I hate myself for struggle with it and if it wasn’t because I am such a coward that is afraid of burning in hell I would have taken my life long ago. What has helped me on my path is to be close to God , to have a close relationship with Jeuss and starting to see that He loves me. He loves me even if I am not perfect, even when I am a failure He loves me , He loved me so much He died for me! And I am starting to know that love and that is motivating me to fight daily to be pure. Because as you say behind a lot of porn use there is a wound. I have recently started to see that wound. I have always feeled like a loser because I am not as good as everyone else around me at doing things and that feeling of being worthless has many times drawn me into porn. That’s one reason but I know there is more. Sometimes there are things in once childhood that can have led to a porn use. I also believe that lust can become a fortress that only God can crush. That’s my experience because of many of my childhood memories sex and porn has been there. It’s like it’s been part of me since I was a kid. I don’t know if I was sexually abused when I was little or something but there must be a reason that I always thought about sex and wanted to do sex things. I don’t know but I am fighting to know and to be free. I read once that sometimes we say that we want to be free from
Porn and we start to look forward for a day when we will be porn free. And even if it is true that we can be free one day it is easy to forget that it is a daily battle. Even if a long time passes without watching we have to wake up every day and think: Today I am going to fight all temptation. Or else we will let our guard down. Thank you for a beautiful post Paul, sorry for my long comment but this really touches my heart because it’s my struggle everyday.

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Paul Byerly June 27, 2016 at 10:33 am

@ac22dm – I’m glad you are starting to see your triggers and your wounds – it’s the only way to get better.
The last few months Lori has been saying “Everyone is both beautiful and broken. We need to accept this about others, AND ABOUT OURSELVES! God loves and accepts us as we are, even though He sees our brokenness far more than we do.
Hang in there, you have my prayers!
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Jolie June 27, 2016 at 12:53 pm

@ac22dm-Thank you for sharing your journey and helping others see what a struggle this addiction can be. I admire your strength.

One day at a time.

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T June 27, 2016 at 5:33 am

My husband has used porn our entire marriage, though I didn’t know about it for several years and even then didn’t know just how deeply engrained in it he was. Just like drugs or alcohol the users has to go further and further to get that high. He up his use, I’m not sure if he got into more hardcore porn (s&m, brutally, etc) but it did lead him to have multiple affairs. He finally hit rock bottom and sought help. He had gone to some weekend intensive therapy but that was at the insistence of our marriage counselor and myself and he really didn’t want to be there. He felt the other men in the group were far worse than him and he didn’t really have a problem. When he finally sought help on his own he went to Sexaholics Anonymous. As he listened to the stories of what others had been through he realized that he was much worse than his problem was. He came home after the first meeting and said his problems and struggles were the worst in the room that day. After attending meetings daily for a few weeks and then a few times a week for another month or so he stopped going. He said he wasn’t getting anything else from them, that it was more a social hour for many of the people there and they weren’t getting to the real root of his problem. I haven’t asked as much as I have wanted to see how he is doing, he gets agitated when I do. But when I do ask he assures me he isn’t using and that he is doing good. We can’t afford individual therapy and haven’t found anyone on our area yet who accepts insurance so for now he’s on his own. I can tell you the list of triggers is highly accurate, my husband at different times has had about half of them. He was also angry all the time but didn’t even know it. He would rage over the smallest thing and wondered why the rest of the family would avoid him when he got like that. That was his was of dealing with the shame and guilt he carried over his porn use. It’s been very hard on me, especially since it lead to the affairs. I know the Bible says listing after someone in your heart is the same as cheating but as a wife who has experienced both he pain is much greater when the physical cheating happens. I felt like a failure, like I wasn’t good enough, and when we reconciled it is very hard not to think about how I compare to them in bed. For anyone fighting porn use or suspect your spouse is, get help now. Confront he situation because it won’t go away and will only get worse. My prayers to all who are dealing with this.

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Paul Byerly June 27, 2016 at 10:35 am

@T – It’s sad how finding someone even worse off than ourselves makes us feel we are fine. It’s like a person with cancer in one lung deciding they don’t need treatment because they know someone with cancer in both lungs.
Praying for you husband and for the healing of your marriage. I’m addressing the comparison issue Wednesday.
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Christina Rhoads June 27, 2016 at 8:56 am

Thanks for posting this. I reposted your site address on my blog…. I love this approach that you took with this topic.

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Paul Byerly June 27, 2016 at 10:36 am

@Christina Rhoads – I saw your blog a week or two ago. Had a quick look and really liked what I saw. I will get in and take a better look around soon.
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libl June 27, 2016 at 11:22 am

I agree and disagree. I do think it is about the sex in many cases, perhaps for seeking starters (as opposed to those who’ve stumbled upon porn or were forcibly made to use it during abuse).

It is about the sexual titillation, the naked people, seeing sex from angles we can’t see when we are doing it….

As we move on from first curious glances and start heading down the path to addiction, then it can be about all these other things.

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Paul Byerly June 27, 2016 at 11:32 am

@libl – Curiosity is certainly one of the initial hooks. And yes folks use it for “educational purposes” – which is like using bad Sci-Fi to learn physics! In much the same way drug use can start with curiosity or trying to dull some real physical pain.
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Jolie June 27, 2016 at 12:44 pm

Just last weekend I heard an excerpt on Sunday Morning talking about genealogy and family history websites being the most searched online sites second only to Porn! What a sad commentary regarding the state of our society.

I read recently that men are 543% more likely to view porn than woman.
I guess visual sexual stimulation releases more dopamine in men’s brains than it does in women’s.
Male Achille’s Heel?

I worry about our young boys just plowing into puberty having such easy access to free porn available. What neuro-pathways will they be developing before their brains are fully developed? We have yet to see the ramifications of a whole generation exposed to porn from an early age. Worrisome.

Thank you Hugh Hefner.

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Paul Byerly June 27, 2016 at 1:02 pm

@Jolie – Men certainly are more easily and thoroughly hooked, but I find the 543% number unlikely. If ALL men used porn, that would out the rate for women at 18.4%, and the numbers I see for women are higher than that. For adult Christina ladies the number is closing in on a third.
And yes, what our kids have to deal with is horrible. I fear we will become like Japan where real live sex has been declining for a couple of decades. Many would rather masturbate to porn than have sex with their spouse.
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Anon July 4, 2016 at 1:32 pm

Women also look at porn. For me it was in the household I grew up in. In my younger years I (female) struggled with it. I choose today to not look, to seek healing and comfort from the Lord. Repentance is key. I focus on Him, on His promises. Rarely am I tempted anymore. I go months without thinking about it, before I say no to myself. Anyone who thinks women don’t enjoy porn is very naive. Besides myself I know other women who viewed it; they also repented. It’s part of their testimony as well. God is so faithful. He doesn’t leave us hanging with no hope for freedom. Thank You Jesus.

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Sarah June 28, 2016 at 2:00 pm

I feel bad and struggle with the sinfulness of it, but I can understand and sympathize with almost any sin struggle, but not porn use.

As a young, naive woman, my fiance confessed to it and called off our wedding weeks before the date. I was going to be a virgin bride. His words have never left me, “You aren’t going to be enough to satisfy me. You aren’t good enough. You have to stay faithful or we are over. I want to be your first and only so that you can’t compare me to anyone else. If you want to get married, you have to change. Lose weight. Start working out. And when we get married, we are going to do all the stuff I dream of doing. And I’m not taking a ‘no’.”

When I refused, told him that he had been unfaithful to me, and demanded he get counseling, he left me after telling me that I was the one with the problem.

Don’t tell me porn is harmless or “helpful”. I despise it. I married someone else whom I love dearly, but in a single day, my innocence died, my heart was nearly destroyed, and I aged about five years. Two months passed before I could even smile again. And two years passed before I would go anywhere with friends without feeling totally ugly, inadequate, and ridiculous.

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ac22dm June 28, 2016 at 2:45 pm

I’m really sorry for everything you went through. Porn is really a horrible thing though I must say that it doesn’t only sound like a porn problem. Sounds like the guy was a real idiotwith or without porn. I hope you feel better and that the Lord may heal your heart.

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Paul Byerly June 28, 2016 at 3:01 pm

@Sarah – As painful as it was, you should be glad you didn’t marry that man – he would have made your life hell on earth and blamed you for it all along. He was not looking for love, intimacy, or even sex, he was looking for porn. Any woman who tried to give it to him would fail and suffer for trying.
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