The Truth About Porn – Part 2

February 17, 2017

in Uncategorized

Up front disclaimer: Let me start by saying I’m not trying to make excuses for anyone here. My goal is to share truth. Trying to solve problems based on inaccurate information is rarely successful. The truth, even when we don’t like it, is the key to freedom. 

Last week in part one, which attacked the idea that porn is harmless or even helpful, I mentioned the Christian party line on porn and the fact that much of it was at odds with reality.

One such idea is the claim that pornographers trick or force women into porn, or keep them strung out on drugs. There may have been some more truth to this in the past, but there is no truth to it very little of this today. The sad reality is young women are waiting in line to do porn, and plenty by-pass the middle man and provide their own amateur porn site. (Sex slavery is a real issue, but sex slaves are not typically used for porn.)

Another common distortion is that porn causes men to commit sex crimes. Real research on this, as opposed to interviewing convicted felons, doesn’t show this. In fact, the best evidence suggests porn may actually reduce the chance of a man committing a sex crime.

The distortion I want to hit hard here is the increasing popularity of “brain science” to prove all kinds of things about porn. Some of this is junk science, some have little or no controls, and some are too ambiguous to prove anything. One of the things commonly “proven” in this way is that porn is addictive. 

The Truth About Porn – Part 2

I talk to men who stay clear of porn for weeks or month and then go back to it. This is not how addiction works! Addiction causes strong urges that make normal life impossible without regular fixes. When someone tries to quit cigarettes, they start to feel withdrawal in a matter of hours. The second and third day are horrible, then it starts to get better. By the one week point, the person is free. They may still have to fight the smoking habit, but they are no longer addicted to nicotine. 

Other drugs are the same way. The overwhelming need for the drug starts quickly and drowns out all other things. The first few days of going cold turkey are brutal, then it gets better. How long it takes to be really free varies, but no one stops taking a drug for weeks or months and then suddenly finds themselves compelled by an addition to take the drug again. Another thing about addicts is they will risk their very life for a fix. I’ve never heard of anyone doing that for porn.

I gave up porn cold turkey at the age of 15. I know how difficult it was, but it was nothing like the stories friends told me about trying to stop smoking or taking illegal drugs. I had a habit, they were addicted; the two are not the same thing. 

One reason I fight the “porn addict” idea is studies have found people who think they are addicted to porn have higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress. These things get in the way of dealing with any problem. The person who wants to stop looking at porn will be more successful if they don’t think they’re addicted. The addiction label isn’t just wrong, it’s counter-productive.

I’m going to get some unhappy email from men on this, but there’s no well-done science that says porn is addictive. In fact, the best studies show it’s not addictive, and that seeing porn has the opposite effect on the brain of that seen when drug addicts are shown their drug. 

“But what about dopamine?” Someone will ask. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that hits our “pleasure centre” and makes us feel good. Yes, porn gives you a shot of dopamine. So does sex. And chocolate, and music, and sunsets, and seeing your grandchild run towards you. Addictive things do cause a rush of dopamine, but not all things that cause dopamine are addictive. 

Looking at porn, or any arousing image, does seem to interfere with the function of some of the decision-making parts of the brain. This is why seeing you walk by naked can cause hubby to stop mid-sentence and have no idea what he was doing. If you want to seduce your husband this process is helpful. But when a man looks at porn this process reduces his ability to stop looking. His brain wants more of what it’s seeing, and it doesn’t want the images to stop until climax ends the arousal. This is why masturbation is so common when a man looks at porn. But this is not addiction; it’s more like inertia. Once he starts it becomes difficult to stop, and the longer he looks the more difficult it is to stop. Men who think one peek will help them not look are dead wrong, the effect is the exact opposite.

One thing science is starting to show us about porn is that people who struggle with porn have higher than average sex drives. Some will claim porn use caused the higher sex drive, but the research doesn’t back this up. While those struggling with porn have high drives, not all who have high drives struggle with porn. 

If we want to follow the evidence, the conclusion is that men and women who find it difficult to avoid porn are fighting a high sex drive, not an addiction. They turn to porn because they have a high sex drive and they find it difficult to stop because they have a high sex drive.

Does this mean the whole “I’d stop if my wife had more sex with me” is valid? From the standpoint of being responsible for your own actions, no it is not valid. But from a practical standpoint, yes, more sex should make it easier for someone to avoid porn if they really want to stop. Of course, there are those who don’t want to stop, despite what they claim. Saying “Me or porn” might work if you offer plenty of yourself. If you say it and hold back on sex you’re setting your marriage up for a problem.

Does this mean I think you must have sex with your husband if he looks at endless amounts of porn? What I think is we’re commanded to have sex with our spouse. If the situation is so bad you can’t have sex, then the marriage is at a crisis point and needs immediate help. If he refuses to go with you, go yourself. If that doesn’t fix it then it’s time to think about bringing in the church and possibly separating. Either porn is that bad or it’s nothing; there is no biblical support for refusing sex and otherwise pretending everything is okay.

Note: I’ve long said porn is not an addiction. I backed down on this two year ago (Addicted to Porn?) but further research has brought me back to the reality porn is not an addiction in any classic sense of the word. There may be a few true “sex addicts” but they are rare and not what we think. In general, I think porn obsession or porn compulsion are more accurate terms. And there is some evidence to support the idea that porn obsession is more common in those given to obsessions – Dirty habits? Online pornography use, personality, obsessionality, and compulsivity | PubMed

~ Paul – I’m XY, and I expect a few comments on this one!

Related Post: Porn Affects You, Even if You Don’t Look At It | Authentic Intimacy 

ResourceSexual desire, not hypersexuality, is related to neurophysiological responses elicited by sexual images | Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology

 

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{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

Libl February 17, 2017 at 3:34 am

Ummm…a friend of mine worked for a ministry that sent out top secret rescue missions to save sex trafficked women. Many of those girls were drugged, forced, coerced, and abused into doing porn.

An award winning teacher in Texas was recently fired after her past porn life was revealed. She married an abusive man at the age of 19 and he coerced, forced, and abused her into doing porn. She escaped and worked hard to get her life on track, became a renowned teacher, but her past caught up to her and now she is devastated.

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Paul Byerly February 17, 2017 at 10:19 am

@Libl – You will see I have modified what I said a bit. There is still force et. al for things like child porn and other illegal porn. But outside of that, it makes no sense financially when you have an endless supply of women willing to do porn for a couple of hundred dollars a day.
Sex slavery and trafficking is a massive problem. We know a woman who works for a group in Washington fighting this. It’s ugly and it destroys lives. It’s not about putting women on film, it’s about forcing them to do things you don’t even want to think about with men who pay big money to do horrible things.
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Libl February 17, 2017 at 5:40 am

Oh, and a lot of these women in porn might say they are doing it willingly, but they are not coming from a place of health mentally and emotionally. My friend said some of the girls would try to go back to their pimps and abusers and say they wanted to do porn or be prostitutes, and they needed heavy counseling and psychological assistance. Many never fully recover from the profound abuse and slavery they lived under.

I also believe many women put themselves into porn, not only for easy money, but because they feel a sense of control and power over the men who watch them.

Any addiction can have the underlying is due of stress and depression. As soon as traffic bottlenecks, he reaches for a cigarette. As soon as the school calls about her troubled son again, she picks up the vodka. As soon as he gets back from war and his brotherhood, identity, and legs are gone, he is list, depressed, tormented, and in pain and heroine helps.

I have read enough news stories and testimonies from wives now divorced about how porn use turned their husbands into monsters….and criminals. A husband who was previously generous in bed becomes abusive and demanding…or he abandons the marriage and preys after promiscuous women. One woman I met sobbed at how he went after their daughter sexually.

I think you are swinging the pendulum dangerously too far the other way, Paul.

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Shashwat February 17, 2017 at 6:27 am

It was posted by Lori Byrely not Paul Byrely.(Why it was written “I’m XY ” in the end?).

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Shashwat February 17, 2017 at 6:31 am

So, are we convinced in the end that it causes many sexual difficulties (as far as marriage is concerned) and lots of relationship problems ( if God is not taken for consideration)?

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Paul Byerly February 17, 2017 at 10:38 am

@Shashwat – I said last week that porn is not good for marriages, and gave some supporting evidence for that.
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Lori Byerly February 17, 2017 at 9:51 am

Paul wrote the post. (He has all the log ins set up on his computer and occasionally he taps the wrong one.)
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Lori Byerly February 17, 2017 at 9:59 am

Libl,
I have no doubt that what you say is true. The problem is the stories you mention only tell part of the story and a less common one as our culture continues to make porn normal and mainstream. Girls are setting up porn sites to help pay for college. There was a survey done (I think in the UK) and a number of gals thought that “exotic dancer” was a good career choice.

(I don’t mean to minimize the horror of slave trafficking or prostitution, I’m just trying to paint a broader picture of what is going on.)
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sunny-dee February 17, 2017 at 10:02 am

This. ^^^^ It’s like prostitution or stripping — no one may be holding a gun to their heads or drugging them to make them do it, but I would venture to say that no woman involved in porn (or sex trade in general) is doing it willingly. It’s the result of sexual abuse, physical abuse, and substance abuse, committed against them and by them. But there is no one involved who wasn’t, at some point, a victim. Porn may seem like all that’s left or a way of taking control of abused sexuality … but it’s not healthy.

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Paul Byerly February 19, 2017 at 1:06 pm

@sunny-dee – I wish that were the case, but it is not. Our world is so messed up a lot of young women think sex work is a great way to make some fast money.
I agree it’s not healthy. It’s a symptom of the world we live in.
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Paul Byerly February 17, 2017 at 10:36 am

@Libl – I would like to believe the average porn actress was sexually abused as a kid and is really messed up, but it’s not true – at least not now for porn actresses in the USofA. A couple of recent studies have found women in porn have the same rates of past sexual abuse as women in the general public. They tend to have more drug and alcohol use as teens and young adults, but they have no more use of anything except marijuana today. The women in porn do have far more sex partners (outside of porn) than other women. But this is by choice, not coercion.
Porn actresses seem to desire and enjoy sex (what they do privately, not porn) more than most women. They also scored slightly higher on several mental health tests. This was a very small difference, but it was not the much lower scores everyone expected.
My guess is women who will do porn are wired differently than most women.
The reasons given for liking doing porn were the money, the flexible hours, and the perceived glamour of their work (which could be the sense of power you mention). The average “career” of a female porn actress is 18 months.
As I said, I would like the truth to be something different, but it’s not. Yes there are porn actresses who have had horrible things done to them in the past, but the anecdotal reports of such women have not painted an accurate picture of the whole.
Edited to add a study – Pornography actresses: an assessment of the damaged goods hypothesis | PubMed – http://bit.ly/2kxBycC
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Paul Byerly February 17, 2017 at 10:40 am

@Libl – “I think you are swinging the pendulum dangerously too far the other way, Paul.”

How so? By saying it’s not an addiction?
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ted February 17, 2017 at 6:56 am

My experience with porn lines up in many ways with what’s stated in this. I started young (12_13), but had long periods where it was not an issue. It is a habit that when giving in to, is hard to break, especially when intimacy in my marriage is lacking. Ladies should read this as intimacy, not code for sex. Sex is only part of intimacy, and sex alone will not help someone avoid porn if other types of intimacy are lacking. I spent quite a bit of time recently journaling about this on TMB, and in conversations with DW. She always constantly tells me, that my issue with porn sounds exactly like her issues with food. If that is true, it almost certainly has to be a habit, since no one could argue eating is an addiction. My experience is that in both cases, porn use and overeating, they are mechanisms to fill some need for intimacy, either in your relationship with God, or your relationship with your wife.
I cannot comment one way or the other with regard to the whole sex traffic aspect of porn. I can only say that at times that I have used porn, it was NOT the Debbie Does Dallas type porn I sought out. My attraction was to the more amateur type. The less staged or obviously fake the better.

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Paul Byerly February 17, 2017 at 10:43 am

@ted – Food is a similar thing. Not a perfect fit because we have to eat, but it is closer than drugs.
I also like your distinction between sex and intimacy. A daily climax would not be as effective as loving sex in a loving marriage every other day.
And for the record, there are people who talk about eating as an addiction! ;-)
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ted February 17, 2017 at 7:47 am

I accidentally posted my comment above before finishing my thoughts. One of the best posts I read over on TMB, was the thread on noise to signal ratio. When I stopped my porn use, initially there was a struggle with depression, but if I’m honest it was not because of the drop in dopamine, but because of despair over the state of my marriage at the time. The depression lifted almost immediately, when DW finally agreed to change her work hours to more closely align with mine, something I had asked her to do several time s in the past, but she had fought me on. Why? I think it signaled to me that I was more important than her preferred work schedule. I do find that the more I avoid any sort of external stimulus from movies or porn, my desire for DW is amplified. If we’re completely honest, it is hard to avoid any stimulus of this type, if you watch any type movies other than children’s, or documentaries. I heard an actress comment in an interview with regard to her provocative wardrobe that “sex sells”. I think this is increasingly becoming a mantra in Hollywood.
The part in all this I think we tend to forget in all this, is we have an enemy who wants to destroy us, wants to destroy God’s crowning achievement in creation- the relationship between man and woman as a reflection of God’s relationship with us. Whether it be porn, or soap operas, the goal is the same. To warp and bend what is right and healthy, into something perverse.
Finally, in calling anything an addiction, I think it’s too easy to use this as an excuse for wrong behavior, regardless of the particular behavior. Even in drug addiction, most of what passes as rehab, is largely replacing one drug with another. This completely avoids dealing with the consequences and taking any responsibility for one’s personal choices. Very few people are forced to watch porn , or do drugs, or smoke cigarettes the first time. It’s a choice that leads to other bad choices. A man I spoke with who is in prison ministry, commented once to me, that he never met a guilty man in prison, at least according to them. They always have a reason why they just HAD to do whatever the’re in prison for. I think this applies to whatever wrong behavior, or sin that people choose. We do not choose X,Y, or Z behavior, because of whatever happened to us , or the state of our relationships, that compelled us to. We do it because of sin in our members. We are a world of sinners, and we will never grow beyond the need for a Savior. We can only struggle against it, and be thankful for Christ’s sacrifice.

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Paul Byerly February 17, 2017 at 10:48 am

@ted – Yup, we want to excuse or explain our sins rather than own them.

We also tend to do the same for those we love. This can be co-dependence, or it can be more about protecting ourselves. “He did it because he is addicted, he can’t really help himself” doesn’t hurt as much as “he choose to do it.”
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Mike February 17, 2017 at 8:08 am

I like that you are taking a less popular view. I like the idea that porn use might be more of a habit, compulsion, coercion rather than an addiction. Labeling porn use as an addiction is “counter-productive” is very helpful. If a high sex drive causes porn use. then it is helpful in that the guilt forced onto those doing it is relieved. Since God created us, then much of what we feel is inborn, not adopted. Most wives cannot keep up with a husband with a high sex drive. Those who try have to be available three times a day. Most wives have no interest in that much sex.

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T February 18, 2017 at 4:07 pm

A high sex drive does not cause porn use. Improper desires and willful disobedience to God cause porn use. James 1:12-15 The only thing that should relieve the guilt of those doing it is a repentant heart.

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Paul Byerly February 19, 2017 at 8:50 am

@T – I agree a high drive does not cause porn use. But it does make resisting more difficult.
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K February 18, 2017 at 7:54 pm

@Mike I have to second what T said. A high sex drive DOES NOT CAUSE PORN USE. Not everyone who uses porn has a high sex drive. And, everyone who has a high sex drive does not use porn. There may be a correlation, but it is not a cause/effect relationship. It’s also not a black and white issue. There are many other factors that contribute to porn use and difficulty stopping.

“If we want to follow the evidence, the conclusion is that men and women who find it difficult to avoid porn are fighting a high sex drive, not an addiction. They turn to porn because they have a high sex drive and they find it difficult to stop because they have a high sex drive.”

@Paul, are you really trying to say that ongoing porn use is caused by a high sex drive? The above paragraph seems that way, but I think you were really trying to state there is a correlation not that it is the primary cause.

I have a high sex drive. Much higher than most women from what I understand. Arousal for me is different than many women too. I get aroused prior to sex and it often happens multiple times per day. I don’t use porn or find it difficult to avoid porn. My husband has a low sex drive. Much lower than most men and it wasn’t caused by porn use. Yet, he has used porn.

You know as well as I do that their are many other reasons people use porn and have difficulty stopping. You’ve even spent a lot of energy here telling women about these reasons. If your mission here really is to tell the truth, you need to be clear that a high sex drive DOES NOT CAUSE porn use. It may be a contributing factor, but you cannot honestly say it is the cause.

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Paul Byerly February 19, 2017 at 1:15 pm

@K – I agree, a high drive does not cause porn use, and I don’t think I implied that.
The study I mentioned was done on those who either wanted to stop and couldn’t or wanted to do less and were unable. This was not a study of porn users, it was a study of what you might call compulsive porn users. And every one of them had a higher than average sex drive. But not everyone with a high drive was a compulsive porn user.
So while a high drive does not cause compulsive use, it certainly does seem to be a factor. I would say it makes it more difficult to stop. Not impossible, but more difficult.
For many porn is the “drug of choice” to self-medicate emotional pain. Those with high sex drives are more likely to choose sex, including porn, to self-medicate. Those with lower drives are drawn to other things.
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K February 20, 2017 at 12:27 pm

@Paul, This is a nice clarification. I didn’t think you implied that compulsive porn use is caused by a high sex drive when I initially read the post either. I got you were citing a correlation. But, when something like this gets misinterpreted in the comments, I think you have an obligation to correct it. You have done that now, but didn’t in your initial reply to Mike’s comment. Thank you for clearing up the confusion.

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Paul Byerly February 19, 2017 at 8:52 am

@Mike – IMHO, If a man feels he needs sex three times a day he does not have a high sex drive, he is using sex to deal with non-sexual things. Being able to have sex three times a day, and even wanting to do so on occasion is one thing. Feeling unable to get through the day without that much sex is something else.
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Paul Byerly February 17, 2017 at 11:05 am

I think part of this is we need to be okay with saying porn is wrong because God says it is wrong. Stop trying to make it wrong because the women were/are abused or it causes men to go out and rape left and right. It’s wrong because God said sex belongs in marriage and that should be enough for us.
I can see supporting that with real facts, but when we use junk science and distortions we weaken our position. The world finds it easy to ignore us because they see we are not speaking the truth. And that gives them a reason to ignore what we say about Jesus, which is a huge problem.
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Libl February 18, 2017 at 10:59 am

This I agree with: porn is wrong because God says so.

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K February 18, 2017 at 7:32 pm

I’ve never understood how so many Christians either make excuses for why porn is sin or don’t view it as sin at all. The Bible is clear that any sex outside of marriage is sin. We know the people creating porn are having sex outside of the confines of marriage (most of them) and what God intends (all of them). By watching it, you are at the very least participating in someone else’s sin. It’s amazing to me how much people try to rationalize and minimize it.

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Amazing Ace February 19, 2017 at 4:38 am

OK, I can see the point you are trying to make, but can’t you make it without trivializing the seriousness of the harm done to women through abuse and rape? God can have more than one reason for commanding a thing. Yes, obviously God cares that we not sin in our marriages, but They care equally about the sin of abuse and rape. Infidelity is not somehow a worse sin than rape, in God’s eyes.

In short, it’s not wrong because God says so; rather, God says it’s wrong because it IS wrong. See the difference? It would still be wrong whether God said it was or not. Anything that anyone does that causes harm to any of the people They have created will always be intrinsically wrong. It doesn’t matter if the thing causing the harm is porn or rape/abuse, it’s all equally bad, so do not dismiss one as unimportant and give more importance to the other.

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Alicia February 17, 2017 at 12:43 pm

Paul, thanks for writing this, and for risking the backlash that I see you’re already getting. You’re absolutely right. Even as a Christian, I see the junk science and false claims we too often use to say why porn is wrong. It does discredit us, and in turn discredit our witness for Christ. You give me hope that not all Christians cling to this junk science and false claims. You said it best in your last comment: it’s wrong because God says it is. I understand that Christians are trying to find reasons that the world will accept, since “because “God says so,” is not good enough for them either. But it does us no good when we use inaccurate info. To those who say no woman enters porn willingly because they were victimized in the past…I’m a woman and was a victim, and I don’t buy it. I’m a survivor of sexual abuse that occurred during my mid and late teens. As a young adult, I became incredibly sexually promiscuous, was in and out of destructive relationships. Was I emotionally manipulated by the men I dated? Yes, definitely. But I was still responsible for my own promiscuity. I was still responsible for choosing to date the men I did. No one force me to engage in sexually risky behavior, no one forced me to date men who were jerks. Was my poor mental health and my lousy self-image driving these choices? Absolutely, but they were still my choices. Paul is not minimizing true sex traffiking and sex slavery. My heart breaks for victims/survivors, but being victimized (horrible as it is) does not take away our responsibility for our life choices after whatever we suffered. Being a victim of sexual abuse of any kind is not our choice, but what we do with the shattered pieces afterward is.

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Paul Byerly February 17, 2017 at 12:55 pm

@Alicia – Thanks for all that.
Part of this is the misfocus of Christians trying to make the unsaved world a better place. This was huge in the 80’s and 90’s, and it’s still out there. God didn’t call us to improve the world, He called us to reach the lost. Those who don’t know Jesus do not need to stop looking at porn, or stop drinking, or stop any other sin – they need Jesus!
Sexual abuse is a horrible thing, and it pushes people in various bad ways. Some become promiscuous, others reject sex completely. But while the abuse fuels both, there is a choice at play. And, God is eager to forgive and heal regardless of the choice.
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Dandelion February 17, 2017 at 2:54 pm

I was actually relieved to read this. I found out about my husband’s porn use several months ago, and he agreed to quit immediately. I kept waiting and worrying for the ‘addiction’ to get hold of him and compel him to start again, meanwhile he’s been trying to convince me that he’s not addicted and that quitting wasn’t very hard.
The thing I still find difficult and strange in my situation is that, although he’s used porn since he was a young teen, and throughout our whole marriage; once I lost a bunch of weight, learned to “O” with him, and developed an even higher drive than he had, his porn use increased a lot. I’d have thought that a newly revved up super satisfying sex life and even more emotional closeness in an already good marriage would have decreased his porn use, not increased it. It makes it hard to believe that I cane er be satisfying for him.

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Paul Byerly February 17, 2017 at 4:50 pm

@Dandelion – If you wanted more sex than he did, he might have been using porn to get aroused. Or it might have been a way of coping with a totally unrelated, non-sexual stress.

You won’t hear it often, but some men do find it easy to stop looking at porn. They may miss it or think about doing it, but they find it easy to say no when they feel the urge. When I stopped I was never even close to giving in and looking again.
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Dandelion February 18, 2017 at 4:46 pm

I’m sure I’ll never understand a male brain. I don’t understand using porn to get aroused. If he was already getting a bit more sex than he needed, wouldnt those extra orgasms with the videos/pictures be tiring? It seems like grabbing a burger when you’re on the way home for a big supper. The only time I’d do that would be if I knew I wasn’t going to like the meal. I get that the images of the young women he was lusting over are more exciting than me in their beauty and variety, but if he loves me, aren’t I supposed to be enough for him? I thought we were so close emotionally, and that he desired me and that I was sufficient for him. I’ll never ever be able to feel that way again. :(

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Paul Byerly February 19, 2017 at 1:21 pm

@Dandelion – If his porn use is coupled with masturbation, then I share your confusion. Some men use porn to pump up their ability to have sex so they can keep up with their wife.
For what it’s worth, porn, with or without masturbation, involved a subset of what happens when a man has sex with his wife. It does not excuse the porn use, but please know they are two different things.
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T February 17, 2017 at 4:35 pm

We are never commanded to have sex with our spouse. We are only commanded not to deprive our spouse.

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Paul Byerly February 17, 2017 at 4:46 pm

@T – You are right, and they are NOT the same thing.
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John February 18, 2017 at 8:02 am

Explain please? “Not the same”

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Paul Byerly February 18, 2017 at 10:45 am

@John – I see “Not depriving” as reasonably providing for our spouse’s sexual needs. This does not mean we are never allowed to say “Not now” or “Not like that”.
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T February 18, 2017 at 3:43 pm

Hi John, Paul gave one good explanation. Another part of it is that, if neither husband or wife is really interested in sex and neither is struggling with temptation, they are not outside of God’s will if they are not engaging in sex. This is why I struggled with another of Paul’s posts where he said “God calls us to have passionate sex” – but after we talked, it turns out Paul meant God invites us to this, while I had always heard the term “God calls us” to mean “God expects this of us.”

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Madeline12 February 17, 2017 at 4:49 pm

I agree with you that it’s all irrelevant except what the Bible teaches.

But, as I have said before, I do not see how porn is anything other than infidelity.

I don’t think that we should call it pornography. We should call it what it is – a Digital Mistress.

To tell a wife that she should sleep with her husband even if he struggles with sometimes having a fling with his Digital Mistress is repulsive to me. If she were flesh and blood, no one would think that reasonable.

If a man visits his Digital Mistress once, he has cheated once. Every look is another affair / instance of cheating. There’s no “If you can’t have sex, your marriage is in crisis.”

Cheating=Marriage crisis

Either he chooses his wife or his mistress, but I think it flies in the face of previous postings about treating women better to say that a woman should help him get over it or keep up a semblance of marriage or stay with him while she knows he’s actively cheating and to encourage her to sleep with him.

If it’s not an addiction, every single time is a choice.

A choice to cheat.

How many times would a man tolerate coming home from work to find his wife in their bed with another guy?

Imagine the absurdity of him saying while the other guy gets dressed, “You’ve got to stop doing this. You told me you would stop.”

“I know. It’s just really hard when you are gone on trips. I promise I’ll stop.”

“How long this time?”

“Well, I’ve used six guys since I last confessed, but I was tempted more than that and didn’t. I promise I’m trying.”

“Are you not getting enough sex? Want to now?”

He then takes his turn in bed with his wife.

To me, that’s exactly how I view porn use in marriage and expecting women to keep sleeping with their husbands.

It’s repugnant.

I listen to other women speak, and the common refrain is “It’s cheating.” I listened to men speak and “It’s a struggle.” or “You need to understand and have patience with him.” or “It’s really hard.”

I’m not beating you up or criticizing you or disagreeing with you in most of what you’ve said, Paul, but I think that men feel so deeply for other men in this regard that they rather turn a blind eye and give them too much of a pass. Rather like a huge blindspot. Women have them in other ways, but I really think this is one men just don’t see.

My opinions are not based on the fact that I don’t understand, but that I understand very well with sexual temptation is. I’ve been propositioned before. I’ve been flattered by younger men. I’ve been smoozed by older men with money.

I said “No.”

And I’m not alone.

I think that your male readers would be floored if their wives would open up to how often they have been flat out asked for sex by other men. Most women I know don’t tell their husbands because they know that they will be deeply hurt or go beserk or have a very negative reaction, blaming the wife. But, I think that this creates a false impression in marriage that men struggle this way, but women don’t accept if it’s also with having a digital guy. I don’t follow the advice that other women gave me which is “If he doesn’t ask you, don’t ever tell him. Nothing good will come of it.” I have told my husband about every single one – and yes, he was irate but appreciates that there is nothing going on that he doesn’t know about.

I would rather my husband cheated with a real woman than had a Digital Mistress. A woman of flesh will have flaws, but the perfect Digital Mistress of His Mind I can never compete with. The one may become irritating and old, but the beautiful women of porn will be forever young and forever enticing.

If he wants to sporadically visit his Digital Mistress, he is choosing to never have me. I will divorce, leave with the children, and not come back if my husband ever chooses to repeatedly cheat on me with a real woman or a digital one, unless there is real, deep, sincere repentance. At that point, if he’s been to counseling and wants me to come, he can ask. I will go, but I’m not going to enable him by giving him a cozy home environment and cover for him with the kids or other family while he sees other women – real or digital.

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Mike February 17, 2017 at 7:41 pm

That is rather harsh. Sin is sin, but the punishment does not fit the crime (sin). Surely there would be some grace, patience, forgiveness in your attitude toward your husband. If God treated us like you treat your husband, none of us would be left in his family.

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Libl February 18, 2017 at 11:21 am

I do not agree that sin is sin. All unrepentant sin separates us from God. However, a 2nd grader cheating on her spelling test is not the same as a 40 year old man stalking, kidnapping, raping, torturing, and murdering someone.

Even the Bible holds sexual sin to a different degree. 1 Corinthians 6:18.

Every time I see a wife speaking her heart on this matter and setting her clear boundaries, I see a man reply saying she is too harsh. Honestly, it looks like the man doesn’t fully understand the seriousness and gravity of sexual sin, especially within the marriage covenant.

I am not talking about an enticing pop-up and a few minutes later the husband is like, “oh, shoot, what am I doing!!!” as he clicks away. I am talking about deliberately choosing to go there. Sneaking, lying, finding ways.

I am all about open arm forgiveness, and being washed white as snow. But, pornography is repugnant and its repeated use in marriage doesn’t belong. So, either a man (or woman who uses porn or erotica) chooses his covenant with God, and his wife, or he chooses the path of sin.

Sex in marriage mirrors Christ and the church. To break that with sexual sins is like breaking our relationship with Christ and still expecting all His blessings.

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Paul Byerly February 18, 2017 at 11:43 am

@Libl – “But, pornography is repugnant and its repeated use in marriage doesn’t belong. So, either a man (or woman who uses porn or erotica) chooses his covenant with God, and his wife, or he chooses the path of sin.”

Well said, very well said.

How porn affects a man or woman’s walk with God is a huge issue that doesn’t get enough discussion. It’s one thing if the person has convinced themselves it’s not sin, but most who “struggle” with porn know it is sin. Their on-going “battle” is saying porn is too much for God, more than He can help us with. I have a problem with that.
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Amazing Ace February 19, 2017 at 10:02 am

You are right! I see that a lot too. And not just when wives try to set boundaries, but also often when a woman anywhere sets clear boundaries in any relationship with a man. The response is almost always, “that’s way too harsh” or “jeez, lighten up” or “oh, boys will be boys, you know.” It’s maddening! They aren’t being too harsh and inflexible, they’re being honest with their feelings, and I don’t know why that’s so hard to accept and respect. Society (and the church!) is so quick to excuse any and all bad behavior from men, and it needs to stop if we are to have any hope changing things.

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Paul Byerly February 18, 2017 at 11:23 am

@Madeline12 – “To tell a wife that she should sleep with her husband even if he struggles with sometimes having a fling with his Digital Mistress is repulsive to me.”

But I never said that. I said, “If the situation is so bad you can’t have sex, then the marriage is at a crisis point and needs immediate help.”

I acknowledged porn could be bad enough a wife could not or should not have sex. HOWEVER, if that is the case, she needs to do more. If something is so bad it justifies saying no to sex it REQUIRES taking additional action.

I didn’t say not having sex is the crisis, I said it indicates there is a crisis. Refusing sex till it ends is not dealing with it properly, and it’s not doing what is necessary for the marriage.

I do have a problem calling porn the same as physical adultery. I think that is simplistic and not helpful. But on the other hand, many have made porn something far less horrible than it really is. It seems the two reactions are too much and too little.

Yes, I think a wife can help her husband get free of porn, and I think it’s the right thing to do. Grace, forgiveness, love all require us to make the effort even when we have been wronged. However, I think part of that helping is making it clear she is not going to put up with him “struggling” with porn for the next ten years, or the next ten months, or ten weeks. About 99% of the time “struggling” is code for getting nowhere.

I pretty much agree with your final paragraph. When a woman says this and means it a husband usually finds a way to stop struggling and just stop doing it. (One more reason I don’t think it’s an addiction!). HOWEVER, if a man uses porn, I think the best first step is for the wife to forgive, ask how she can help, and tell him what will happen if it continues.

Using porn is not a man choosing porn over his wife, it is him choosing to have both. If his wife puts up with that, she is choosing to let him have both. I find both of those choices wrong, and I am all for a wife making it clear he can have her or porn but not both!

The bottom line is I hate the fact that more than half of church-going men and a third of church-going women choose to use porn. I’m sick of the excuses and the trying; it’s time for us to end this. And when I say that the middle of next month on TGH I’m going to get a firestorm!
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T February 18, 2017 at 3:52 pm

Jesus himself did not have a problem with calling porn the same thing as physical adultery. Matthew 5:28

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Paul Byerly February 18, 2017 at 4:07 pm

@T – Actually He did not call it the same thing, He called it adultery in the heart. And He was not talking about porn, He was talking about lust. I agree porn leads to lust, but the bar Jesus set was way lower than looking at porn. Based on that bar virtually every husband AND WIFE in the world is guilty of adultery in the heart.
If you want to treat porn like lust, go for it. But understand what that means and the fact that it gives virtually every married person “the right” to divorce.
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Jerry Stumpf February 18, 2017 at 10:34 am

A great post Paul. Both have been excellent in making people think about their own life or that of their spouse.
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ted February 19, 2017 at 7:39 am

I’ve been thinking a lot on this since this was posted. The reasons, and motivations for those who consume porn are numerous and varied. I think Paul’s point that porn and lust are not the same is extremely valid. It’s assumed that the attraction to porn is visual stimulation of younger, more sexual women is the reason. Wen I was younger, that would generally have been true. However it is possible, it is possible to view pon and feel no lust at all for the woman. It is possible to view it to indulge the fantasy of being THAT guy, to being able to please your DW like THAT. It’s also possible to view it as a form of self-loathing. because of one’s negative view of themselves, and their own insecurities. Unfortunately, many who write on this subject, have little or no experience in this area, or just how complex the reasons are. Unfortunately I have far too much experience in this area.
I stand by my original statement that it is often consumed to fill a void in relationship either with God or one’s spouse. That void may have nothing to do with lusting after other women. It is a mistake to assume that is the reason. I don’t say this to justify anything, simply to promote understanding, that porn is a much more complex issue than simply lusting after other women, or men.

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Paul Byerly February 19, 2017 at 8:47 am

@ted – I agree porn is an attempt to fill a void, and lust may not be a motivator. But it is a result of porn use. If looking at a woman causes arousal, there is, by definition, lust.
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ted February 19, 2017 at 9:05 am

I would contend that lust is not always a result of viewing porn. When I was younger, yes, because I was not self-aware enough to realize it was driven by my own insecurities as a man, and could push past those feelings through porn. As an older man, it’s really hard to push past those insecurities, or blame DW for them. So attempts to push past them through porn fail. There becomes a sense of self-loathing in an attraction to porn with humiliation of the husband as the theme, that is not lustful, albeit destructive nonetheless. This type feeds the man’s own feelings of unworthiness, and leads to deep depression in some cases.

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Mike February 19, 2017 at 9:15 pm

I would not like 50% of the men and a 3rd of the women in the church be forced to file for divorce or separation.

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Becky February 20, 2017 at 11:55 am

Lust and arousal (physical or emotional) are not the same thing — this is especially true of physical arousal. Case in point: many women experience arousal non-concordance and are not even aware when they are physically aroused.

Arousal may indeed precede lust — but to conflate them together is a gross misunderstanding of human physiology and psychology. It’s also a prime reason why Christian men and women were bound by unbiblical, legalistic condemnation in years past.

If you believe that being aroused is tantamount to lusting then you are deceived and in bondage.

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Paul Byerly February 20, 2017 at 1:36 pm

@Becky – I am well aware women can get aroused and not know it. For men, this is far less common.
I am not equating arousal with lust, and have argued this is not the case in other posts. The arousal caused by a glance is beyond a person’s control, and as such is neither lust nor sin. HOWEVER, if someone looks at porn and gets aroused the chances are very high they are lusting. Lust, biblically, means to desire something. The arousal is an indication the brain is interested. If the process is not interrupted, arousal leads to desire, and desire is lust.
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Becky February 20, 2017 at 8:59 pm

Thanks for the clarification about lust vs. arousal Paul. However, let’s leave “porn” out of the discussion now since you refuse to define it nor did you respond to my last question about explicit educational media that I posted in “The Truth About Porn, Part 1”. It just proves that this whole debate is bogus and intellectually bankrupt. The notion of porn is entirely based on one’s feelings and I challenge anyone to prove it to me otherwise.

Lust is the desire to possess someone or something that does not belong to them. If I chose to go to watch “50 Shades Darker” at the movie theater and I have no desire to possess the actor Jamie Dornan, then I’m not lusting after him, pure and simple. Lust is an active, full contact sport involving the mind, will and emotions. Merely feeling physical arousal while looking at a buff man with no shirt on at the pool or in GQ magazine is not lust — it’s just my body working the way it should. God isn’t against vaginal lubrication or clitoral erections. If that’s the truth for me, then so much more so for men.

In any case, you have no idea what is going on in the mind and heart of another human being. If you think that they are lusting (according to your definition), then you are just making a wild-assed guess. You don’t know what lust is or isn’t for them — you can only know what lust is for yourself. And if you are confused about what is lust for yourself, then it is best to confine your biases and misconceptions to yourself. We all have enough weights and burdens to carry in this life without others being dumped onto our backs.

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Paul Byerly February 21, 2017 at 9:46 am

@Becky – I had not seen your last comment on the older post. If I had, I’d have removed the link for the reason given in the answer I have posted there.

Your comments here remind me of men who try to convince me (or maybe themselves) that it is okay for them to get aroused by images and videos of women other than their own wife. The thing is I am not called to judge them, or you. We all answer to God. I have offered by thoughts on why most sexually explicit material causes more problems than help in the long run. You can dismiss that if you like.

When I married my wife I gave her my sexuality. Allowing myself to get aroused by any woman other than her is a violation of that. I think it is sin against my wife and my God. I say “allowing myself to get aroused” because sometimes it’s not intentional. Once when I was making a delivery to a community college I walked into an art class with a nude female model. I know my half-second of seeing that woman causes some arousal, but I looked away as quickly as I could, did not look back, and did not dwell on what I had seen. The arousal was not wrong, but it would have been wrong for me to keep looking or keep thinking about it. No parsing of words or challenging of definitions changes that.

A word on lust – I am using the biblical version based on the Greek word we translate as lust. That lust is simply a strong desire. It’s not necessarily sexual, and it’s not necessarily wrong. It is right and good for me to lust after my wife.

Finally, in your comment, you said, “I challenge anyone to prove it to me otherwise”. I learned a long time ago it is a waste of time to try to prove something to someone who has their mind made up.
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Becky February 21, 2017 at 3:54 pm

I guess that you’re just calling me closed-minded in a real nice way, right?

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Paul Byerly February 21, 2017 at 4:13 pm

@Becky – Your words, not mine. It looks to me like your mind is made up. Nothing wrong with that, but it does mean changing your mind is unlikely at best.
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Becky February 22, 2017 at 1:09 pm

If you think my mind’s made up on a few issues, I’d hazard to guess that your mind is “made up” on a few issues as well, don’t you think?

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Paul Byerly February 22, 2017 at 2:39 pm

@Becky – If I have done a good deal of study, thinking, and prayer on something, I feel strongly. But I can and do change. My first post on porn ended with a note about that very thing. When the data challenges what I think, I have to dig in and see if I have been wrong. I’ve been wrong a lot, but having been involved in this for several decades now it is less common than when I started.
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