The Truth About Porn – Part 1

February 10, 2017

in Uncategorized

Christians have what is almost a mantra about the effects of porn. I suspect this mantra has never been overly in line with facts, and it seems to be diverging from facts more all the time. Of course, many in the world also have a different mantra about porn, and it has no more to do with facts than the Christian version. Both sides are steeped in confirmation bias, making too much of things that support what they want the truth to be while ignoring or taking pot shots at things that disagree with their desired reality.

Next week I will say some things that may not sit well with some Christians. Today I want to address the other side, specifically the idea that porn can be harmless or even beneficial to a marriage. 

The Truth About Porn - Part 1

There are plenty of self-proclaimed sexperts, and some with letters after their names, who claim porn is only harmful when people think it’s wrong or have a poor sexual self-image. These folks cite studies that show couples who add porn to their sex lives have more sex, or enjoy it more, or have fewer problems with female arousal or male erectile difficulties. Yes, they pick and choose their studies, but there are well-done studies that do say these things. The failure of these studies is they’re a snapshot, not a long-term view.

If you started to take a performance enhancing drug, you would show improvements. Be it physical or mental performance, drugs do allow people to “do better”. But there’s more to it. Taken long term most performance enhancing drugs do rude things to people’s minds, bodies, or both. This is especially true when getting the same effect requires steadily increasing the dose. Porn is the same way – the initial “benefits” are real, but they are only part of the story. The longer porn is used, the more “side effects” a couple will see. There’s also the possibility getting the same benefit will require more porn, or “stronger porn”, and this makes things worse even faster.

Want to read more?: I have long been a fan of Drs. John & Julie Gottman. My one concern was they used to suggest porn as a tool for helping some couples. Last year they posted An Open Letter on Porn, which they concluded by saying “…we are led to unconditionally conclude that for many reasons, pornography poses a serious threat to couple intimacy and relationship harmony.

By the way: I am posting this to coincide with the release of Fifty Shades Darker. My brilliant wife wrote an excellent great post about that issue.

~ Paul – I’m XY, and my wife is the only naked woman I want in my head!

This Week’s SurveyHow do you feel about “ravished” sex?  

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Libl February 10, 2017 at 3:13 am

The fact that it displeases God and separates me from Him is enough for me to run from porn.

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Paul Byerly February 10, 2017 at 11:16 am

@Libl – No argument from me. ButI think it is good to be able to make a valid defence against the lies.
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Libl February 10, 2017 at 12:27 pm

I get where you are coming from, but why isn’t the fact that it is a sin that could condemn us to hell valid enough?

But, isn’t that how it is with any sin? Which is why we humans keep sinning….

I am not being theologically heartless. I, too, suffered from the draw, temptation, and use of pornography. I hate it with a great hatred…and yet I find myself desiring it from time to time. For me, it is like cutting myself. I see the women and feed on the self-loathing mixed with arousal because it “hurts so good.” Thank God I am free and can much more easily run away from it.

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Paul Byerly February 10, 2017 at 3:50 pm

@Libl – For me, that was enough reason. At 15 I had looked at porn daily for at least 3 years when I realised it was wrong with God. I threw it out and did not look at a single porn image for the next 9 years. But, as you suggest, there are other sins that I find far more difficult to eradicate from my life. For me, those are sins of the mind where one need not do or say anything. Hatred, superiority, those kind of things.
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Jolie February 10, 2017 at 11:12 am

Albert Einstein:

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity”.

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Paul Byerly February 10, 2017 at 11:17 am

@Jolie n- Excellent quote for this!
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Jerry Stumpf February 10, 2017 at 12:32 pm

Like many products that seem to offer benefit for the short term, porn has shown itself to be like drinking salt water to quench the thirst.
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Andrew Budek-Schmeisser February 10, 2017 at 12:56 pm

I see pornography as nothing less than an invasion, an assault on the values that hold Christian society – and every society, for that matter, together.

Aside from that, it’s dead boring. Everything that goes into a relationship is reduced to the level of animality. There’s no scope for character development, or really any kind of meaningful story arc. Everything revolves around getting the characters naked, and who needs that? Yuck.

http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2017/02/your-dying-spouse-270-safe-place-fmf.html
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Paul Byerly February 10, 2017 at 3:51 pm

@Andrew Budek-Schmeisser – Apparently a lot of people think they need that.
This is one of those places where not being normal is a benefit!
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Libl February 11, 2017 at 3:56 am

Unfortunately, shows like Game of Thrones are filling in that gap with,complex characters and story lines with porn-like sex and nudity thrown in. They even,hire porn,stars to act them out or be body doubles.

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Paul Byerly February 11, 2017 at 10:58 am

@Libl – I’ve not watched any of those shows, but I have followed news about them because of the sexual content. I share your concern – I fear it sucks in some who would never choose porn, and it probably makes it much harder for some to get free of porn.
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J. Parker February 11, 2017 at 11:26 am

Thanks for this important point. I believe this is true of erotica as well. Some cite studies that show an increase in sexual activity in a marriage after a woman reads erotica…but at what long-term cost? And how does that promote intimacy between husband and wife?
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Paul Byerly February 11, 2017 at 2:09 pm

@J. Parker – I think erotica has as little to do with how real people think and act as porn does. Both set people up for disappointment by setting impossible standards.
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Becky February 11, 2017 at 5:37 pm

One of the biggest obstacles in exploring whether porn is harmful or helpful is that there is no universal agreement as to what porn actually is — and there never will be. It is a loaded, highly subjective term and relies heavily upon one’s preconceived ideas and cultural biases about what is appropriate and acceptable as to how information about sexuality and the human body is expressed and communicated.

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Paul Byerly February 12, 2017 at 3:50 pm

@Becky – For me, it’s simple – if viewing something other than my wife gets me aroused it’s a problem. An artistic nude and a centrefold (showing my age!) are not even close to the same thing.
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Becky February 12, 2017 at 8:51 pm

Interesting distinction that you’re making Paul — so, are you saying that’s what defines something as “porn” for you — that which arouses you? Then by extension, if something doesn’t arouse you, then it’s not porn?

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Paul Byerly February 13, 2017 at 10:03 am

@Becky – I said it’s a problem, not it’s porn. I am bypassing the word porn because you are correct that we will never have a solid working definition of the word.
I see two lines. Once is an absolute – wrong regardless of if it causes arousal or not. Watching a couple have sex would be on the other side of the line. The second line is about how something affects me. If looking at something causes me arousal, I need to look away.
Of course, the second one is nuanced. If I see a couple in a movie start to undress as the camera pans away and I think about having sex with my wife and THAT causes arousal, okay. If I get aroused because the camera lingers and the actress is mostly nude, that’s not okay.
The bottom line is I think God wants me aroused by my wife and only by my wife, and my desire is the same.
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Becky February 16, 2017 at 9:38 am

Let’s stay on the topic of pornography since that is the subject of your blog post — rather than how a particular medium makes you personally feel.

You introduce the topic of porn and its possible negative or positive effects on people but readily admit that it defies a practical, working definition. Why use such a loosey-goosey term if it means 1000 different things to a 1000 different people – doesn’t that just incite confusion and angst?

However, there is a more practical concern:

If porn has so many nuances, how then can we reasonably restrict what we cannot define?

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Paul Byerly February 16, 2017 at 10:17 am

@Becky – I have no desire to restrict what others do, which is why I talked about how I deal with it. I see being aroused by someone other than one’s spouse to be a problem, and I think it’s sin if the person seeks it out or doesn’t try to walk or look away when it happens. And yes that will look different for every person.
There are those who claim no harm comes from getting turned on by others, and there are those who say it can even be good for a marriage. I disagree, and I think there is solid evidence to show it causes problems for marriages in the long run.
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Becky February 17, 2017 at 9:16 am

When I used the word restrict, I wasn’t talking about laws or rules imposed upon others. I was referring to restricting content for ourselves as individuals and Christian believers.

However, I’m still perplexed by the incessant use of the word “porn”. It is a lazy, intellectually dishonest term and you and a hoarde of other Christian bloggers throw it around constantly, stirring up passionate confusion and revulsion. However, when a request is made to identify what it precisely is, the conversation inevitably devolves into personal anecdotes and feelings about one’s cultural sensitivities. In the widespread use of the amorphous term called porn, is it time yet to declare that the “emperor has no clothes”? (so to speak).

Hey, let’s make this little discussion eminently more practical and provide an actual example of where the rubber meets the road.

I use an educational website called OMGYes that is specifically designed for women curious about learning more ways to make a sex more pleasurable and satisfactory with a decidely female-centric focus. Women use this site to explore more ways to touch themselves and guide their partners, while men and their female partners utilize it to add new, research-based tools to their toolbox. Separate videos show explicit (literally hands-on) demonstrations of how those techniques work in practice for women. Everything about the treatment, tone, and look of these videos is extremely tasteful and sophisticated.

Here is the link for one of the videos regarding the practice of “edging” along with extended explanations and instruction:

[edit]

My question to you Paul is this:

Is this pornography — yes or no?

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Paul Byerly February 21, 2017 at 9:32 am

@Becky – Because I keep up on news of things sexual I am aware of the website you mentioned. I checked a few news sites and verified OMGYes provides paying customers videos of women demonstrating how they masturbate. Then, as you indicated, there are touch screen versions that allow men or women to stimulate a video of a vulva. This is not a website I want to look at because I have chosen to be aroused only by my wife.
The news stories I read all went out of their way to say the site is not porn, or is nothing like porn. This despite one of those stories admitting porn sites have a huge number of videos of women masturbating. Apparently, it’s not porn because it’s educational; because you can learn something from it. I don’t find that a valid line. A couple could learn about sex by going to another couple’s house and watching them have sex, but that does not make it acceptable to God to do. How does a video screen make it okay?
I’m sure some men could learn to be better lovers by giving a touch screen a hand job, but I suspect many wives would not find that an acceptable thing. And I doubt God would either.
BTW, I have removed the direct links to the site because they violate our link rules. Anyone who wants to find the site can from what I left.
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Becky February 21, 2017 at 3:43 pm

Paul, since you said that that the video is “apparently not porn”, that leaves open the possibility that others don’t think it’s porn but perhaps you do? Consequently, my question still remains unanswered amidst all of the nuances you cite.

This requires a really easy “yes” or “no” answer:

Do you consider the video to be a porn video?

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Paul Byerly February 21, 2017 at 4:17 pm

@Becky –
1) The apparently was what I gathered those reviewing it thought.
2) I have not watched it.
3) I have said very clearly I don’t think it is right for me to watch this, regardless of what we call it. I have further offered reasons why I think watching this sort of things is a bad plan for marriages and wrong in the eyes of God.
4) I’m not playing this game. I’m trying to discuss ideas and concept, while you seem focused on trapping me with some sort of “Have you stopped beating your wife” question.
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hiswifeagain March 4, 2017 at 5:12 pm

I realize you aren’t asking me, Rebecca, but I left you an answer on the Forgiven Wife blog where you posed this same question to Chris. I hope you’ll answer mine.

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Becky February 22, 2017 at 1:10 pm

Great Paul — so I’ve finally got an answer from you in real round-about way. You’ve left yourself to concede that explicit sexual media like OMGYes.com must not be “pornography” because its reputation is serious education with no attempt to titillate (regardless of whether you’d watch it yourself).

You’ve just made my point.

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Paul Byerly February 22, 2017 at 2:37 pm

@Becky – I’d say you reformated my words to make the point you wanted to make. And you ignored pretty much everything else I said, including the point I was trying to make.
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Becky February 24, 2017 at 11:28 am

No Paul, I was trying to stick strictly to my one particular question (is the video material porn?) but you seem to refuse to clearly answer a simple yes or no question. As to your other points, I’d be happy to comment on them — after you answer the primary question that I’m truly curious about.

Why is this so hard for you?

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Paul Byerly February 24, 2017 at 12:44 pm

@Becky –
1) You keep asking me about a video I told you I have not watched and am not going to watch.
2) You have unilaterally declared there are only two acceptable answers to your red-herring question.
3) When I refuse to play by your rules you cast aspersions.

Based on all this it seems to me that you have no respect for me, and no desire for a real conversation. Neither I nor my readers will benefit from me playing into your questions and the agenda behind it.

Your beliefs and choices are between you and God.
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