William Struthers on pornography’s pull and push, as well as pornography’s consequences for how men view women

Something about pornography pulls and pushes at the male soul. The pull is easy to identify. The naked female form can be hypnotizing. A woman’s willingness to participate in a sexual act or to expose her nakedness is alluring to men. The awareness of one’s own sexuality, the longing to know, to experience something as good wells up from deep within. An image begins to pick up steam the longer we look upon it. It gains momentum and can reach a point where it feels like a tractor-trailer rolling downhill with no brakes.

And that is just the naked form. The more dynamic and lifelike the pornography (i.e., videos, interactive cybersex), the greater the neurological and hormonal tsunami it initiates. The tsunami can overwhelm your ability to make wise decisions. The images and videos bring you to a window in time where you can cheat reality. This alternate reality has few immediate consequences except for the promise of sexual arousal and orgasm. The knowledge and promise of the transcendent sexual ecstasy that is waiting can be overwhelming. When caught in the spiraling psychological and physiological pull of pornography, the prospect of escaping it is unpleasant. You want to let it pull you in.

Many men can spend hours looking at pornography, continually increasing their sexual arousal and tricking themselves into preparing for sexual encounter with another person that doesn’t (usually) happen. As they do, they are neurologically training themselves to respond to the naked form, but it is the mental manipulation and fantasy that increases the need for a partner in intimacy. Men see many sexual cues throughout the day, but they also mentally manipulate these images and fantasize about what it might be like to have intercourse with one of these women. The way that a male brain is organized in being one-track, goal-oriented and visuospatial (mentally manipulating objects) make it the perfect playground for sexual fantasy–the mental consumption of another’s sexuality.

Because of these cognitive structures and the ability to store sexual images that are associated with sexual arousal and gratification, the minds of many men become hidden, personalized adult film studios. Any women they have seen and anyone else they can imagine are their performers. As porn and fantasy take control of the mind, it becomes a dream theater that is transposed over the waking world. Every woman they come into contact with is objectified, undressed, and evaluated as a willing (or unwilling) mental sexual partner. She is rated on her imagined sexual proficiency and then either stored for later use or discarded as worthless. This mental consumption of a person is a violation of the image of God in each of us…

In contrast to the attraction of pornography, part of our nature pushes against it. The arousal that it produces can also have an element of fear, revulsion or a need to avoid it. While many men indulge freely without any notion of restraint, others are repulsed by their response to pornography. The arousal that they experience sexually is accompanied by a conflicting sense of shame, guilt and/or anxiety. Such men have a sense that something is just not right about what they are doing.

The nagging voice is repressed while viewing pornography, but afterward there is gnawing sense that we shouldn’t have looked. We intuitively know that what we saw was not meant for us. We have intruded into someone’s intimate space. To the properly oriented conscience, viewing pornography elicits a healthy sense of guilt. To the seared conscience, one that has been ground down by abuse, fear, selfishness or repeated exposure to sin, pornography is just something you do. The seared conscience is forced either to turn against itself and plunge into the despair of self-loathing and unhealthy shame or to adopt new standards that allow for the acceptability of pornography. That standard may work for a time, but ultimately it leads to hurt, pain and suffering.

The unfortunate truth is that much of the pain resulting from pornography may be in the lives of others rather than the one with the seared conscience. Marriages, families, friendships, careers and ministries are often destroyed by the effects of pornography on a man…

Many of the men struggling with pornography that I have worked with have shared how frustrated and ashamed they are at their automatic response to the women they meet. Their eyes are immediately drawn to the woman’s breasts, buttocks and hips. This objectifying of women, looking at their “parts” and evaluating them as potential sexual partners has become reflexive, a consequence of their habitual use of pornography and preoccupation with their own sexual fantasies. One of the greatest victories that a man recovering from an addiction to pornography and compulsive sexual acting out has is when he can look at a beautiful women and not feel the need to mentally treat her as a sex object.

A man with a properly oriented conscience and filled with the Spirit has a healthy view of sexuality. He values the image of God in the women (and men) that he meets and has trained his mind to take these sexual thoughts captive. He is able to experience great freedom in his interactions with women. He does not mentally bed every woman he meets. Being able to see a woman as a human being and not a sexual plaything is a critical step for the man recovering from pornography dependence toward sanctification. But for the man who is caught in the grips of pornography, all women are potential sexual partners. He thinks this because that is what pornography has taught him. It is impossible to view pornography and not have it affect one’s belief about women.

William Struthers, Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain, 44-46, 49-50

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About cteldridge

A beggar trying to tell other beggars were the Bread is.
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