Porn: The Way In; The Way out

The eye-popping statistics on pornography, though horrifying, do not alarm individuals to change. The helpful science on the re-wiring of porn’s effect on neurochemistry (See Struthers - Wired for Intimacy: How Porn Hijacks the Male Brain), though accurate, has not significantly altered porn use. The empirical correlation between porn use and other anti human-flourishing activities (human trafficking included) have not abated porn profits. So is there any value in continuing to publish prose on pornography?

In a word, yes. Many reasons substantiate this yes claim, here are four.

1. The glory of God seen in Image-bearing humanity, which porn mars

2. The diminished life that pornography inevitably produces.

3. The deep scars that porn leaves on marriages.

4. The uptick in divorces spurred by porn use.

So, for different reasons, it is valuable to publish prose on pornography. 

The Way In

Unlike certain items that one must search for, pornography does not require a strain. Rather, the pathway into pornography is akin to the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. Alice follows the rabbit into it, and once she enters the hole, she is in all the way:

In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again. The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well.

 Following a whim, like Alice following the rabbit, porn dabblers quickly find themselves in a whole new world. But while porn promises to be a wonderland, it ends up being anything but that. So what are the rabbits that men follow into the hole of pornography?

Rabbits that Men Chase (or Why Men Use Porn)

  1. Curiosity

  2. Play of Fantasy

  3. Pleasure of Surrender (orgasm/transcendence)

  4. Importance of Women’s Pleasure

  5. Appreciation of the Female Form

(Cited from: Watching Sex: How Men Really Respond to Pornography, David Loftus)

The Way Out

Unfortunately, porn users find that the ease with which one enters ‘porn wonderland’ is not paralleled on the way out. Why is this so? For many reasons, but I will cite but one here:

Sexually acting out in response to pornography creates sexual associations that are stored as hormonal and neurological habits.  William M. Struthers. Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain (Kindle Locations 548-549). Kindle Edition.

Obviously not every porn user acts out on their fantasies, but many people do. As Struthers shows above, this literally changes the chemical and biological habits in the brain, and illustrates the intensity of continued porn use. Within this intense reality, is there hope?

Sanctification? Spiritual Formation?

The hope for a way out of pornography does exist, as many lives testify to this fact, and it is found through sanctification and spiritual formation:

What is critical, however, is understanding that the recovery of thought is rooted in the embodied brain and designed for the process of sanctification. As a result, it is a matter of spiritual formation.  William M. Struthers. Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain (Kindle Locations 1840-1841). Kindle Edition.

The link between the brain and sanctification/spiritual formation is a topic of great interest to my wife and myself. As we have worked with couples now for many years, we have been deeply grieved and saddened over the lack of sanctification/spiritual formation in people’s lives who are porn consumers. Stymied by sexual sin, porn generally being a steady diet along the way, there has been one pronounced theme in person’s lives who remain stuck in porn: a lack of brokenness.

Brokenness & Repentance

Brokenness is glibly tossed around in our day, but brokenness is anything but a glib reality. When we use the word brokenness, we are meaning that a person either is or is not viewing sin the way that God views sin. Often, where there is little brokenness, excuses and the justifying of one’s sin will abound. Biblically, brokenness can be understood as a humble and contrite heart:

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:17 ESV)

And the practice most closely associated with brokenness is repentance. I have heard godly, mature pastors say for years that they are not necessarily better at certain spiritual practices, they are just more practiced at repentance. As I have gotten older, the more I have seen this concept confirmed in Scripture and in practice. Although repentance demands its own treatment outside of this space, one Scripture may be helpful:

Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. (Luke 3:8 ESV)

John the Baptist said this – and he was basically saying: let the fruit of your life weigh as much as the repentance you confess with your mouth. Or to use a contemporary phrase: actions speak louder than words. So if you want to get free from porn, become the best repenter imaginable, choose a contrite heart, and trust God to give you His grace as you align with His Word.

Practicals for Overcoming Problems caused by Pornography

I will be writing more on these practicals, but for now here is a list to get you started:

1. Acknowledge how porn use causes you problems

2. Identify what matters most to you

3. Face your fears

4. Take responsibility for your own recovery

Maltz & Maltz, The Porn Trap: The Essential Guide to Overcoming Problems Caused by Pornography.

About the Author: Jordan and his wife Christy have a mission to encourage, strengthen and heal marriages, families and generations through mercy, servanthood and hospitality. They have a calling to lovingly exhort on the topics of purity and righteousness, with a special emphasis on the first five years of a couple's marriage. They live with their five children in Ann Arbor, Michigan.