fighting for free hearts

Porn And Manliness

The web magazine The Art of Manliness ran a series recently on porn. It involved four installments:  An Introduction, Why is the Pull So Strong?, The Possible Pitfalls of Porn  and How to Quit Porn.

The articles are extensive, including information from the worlds of science and psychology.

There are some commendable things that the author covers, and some of his suggestions are good; they’re the sorts of things that were part of my healing journey.

It’s encouraging when i read other writers addressing the same issues i write about and doing it well. The author of the series does a good job of articulating many of the issues.

There are a couple of things, however, to mention.  If you make it through all of the articles, you will read these lines:

Sure, there are a few differences, but overall, quitting porn is just like quitting pretty much any other bad habit.

i have to say that statement is partially correct, but only partially.

First, a disclaimer:  i am approaching this topic from a Biblical worldview; that is, an understanding of life, human behavior and the world at large that is shaped by the Bible. i know that the author of the Art of Manliness series is not.  As a result, my view of porn is that it is more than simply a bad habit.

Following Jesus’ teaching on lust in the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 5, verses 27 and 28, where He says that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has committed adultery with her in his heart, i take the view that porn is adulterous. Consequently, that puts porn use in a different category than other “bad habits.”

That said, it’s a sin.  But, it’s a sin on equal footing with other sin.

The author of the Art of Manliness series is correct when he gives practical advice on quitting porn from a strict behavior modification perspective. The only issue i have with that is that behavior modification isn’t the solution, it’s simply part of the plan to rid your life of porn.  Behavior modification alone won’t get to the heart of the matter, which is — well — your heart.

The other thought i have on the series is that the author’s discussion of how religious communities deal with the issue of sex and porn also requires some examination.

In the part of the series titled The Possible Pitfalls of Porn, the author writes about religious men who find that the struggle with looking at porn.

He writes:

For these religious men, to view porn is a spiritual transgression and complete abstinence from porn is the ideal. Thus if they find themselves surfing to a porn site once or twice a week to masturbate, there’s a dissonance between their behavior and the standard their faith has established. To ease that dissonance, instead of taking responsibility for the spiritual lapse, they pathologize it by calling it an addiction. By so doing they shift their locus of control to an external one and decide that they aren’t themselves doing it – instead, porn is doing something to them.

This is really an oversimplification of the issue.  i dislike the term “religious” when it’s attached to myself, especially by others who don’t really know how to talk about someone who has a real, vibrant relationship with God. So for starters, let me say that according to the author’s description, he is referring to people like me when he uses the term “religious,” but that term is not one that i use or really accept as a description of myself.

Certainly, there is dissonance between a man who says he believes in patterning his life after the teaching of the Bible and the behavior of looking at porn. And yes, some men, “pathologize it by calling it an addiction.”  But not all such men do this.

Moreover, a heathy understanding of a Biblical worldview and what it has to say about our behavioral choices doesn’t allow a person to refuse responsibility for his/her actions. The use of the word “addiction” — which admittedly is charged — is not for the purpose of shifting blame. It merely gives us a way to think about the dynamics of the behavior and it helps us think about the degree to which porn has take hold in our lives.

It bears mentioning, though, that the author’s example of a guy who goes to porn sites once or twice a week to masturbate fits the definition of a well-established habit that many counselors i know would put either in the category of an addiction or at least on the edge.

The author adds:

Moreover, I’d argue that by calling themselves addicts – even though from a clinical sense they obviously aren’t — these men are just making it more difficult to stop looking at porn because the addiction label puts them in a position of helplessness or, worse, they may be creating a self-fulfilling prophecy in which they do become full-blown porn addicts.

Perhaps some men make it more difficult to stop porn because they use the label “addict,” but i actually have worked with many men who deal with this issue and the term “addict” has never posed that problem.  Again, i refer to my earlier comments on “addiction.” The term is not an excuse, it is a way to understand the dynamics of the behavior.  We are never helpless, per se. We have an active role to play in the process of overcoming the pattern of looking at porn consistently.

His final thought in “religious” men and porn is this:

So if you’re a religious man who happens to use porn a few times a week, don’t be so quick to call it an addiction. Sure, it feels that way, but calling it such is more likely to hurt than help.

i would actually argue the opposite, so long as “addiction” isn’t being used as an excuse.

Taking a sober-minded approach to ridding your life of porn is the right way to deal with it. A casual attitude towards it isn’t going to help you conquer it.

i say this not because sex is bad; or because our male sexual desire is dirty; nor because as a man who tries to follow Jesus well i have been taught to be ashamed of any of it.  Far from the truth. While some who fall into the category of “religious” might feel that way — as the author of the series alludes to — i celebrate the beauty of sex and the goodness of sexual drive and desire. They are from God.

i say that dealing with porn and getting it out of your life should be taken with great seriousness because it is actually much more damaging to us and our society than simply, as the Art of Manliness series says: “sexual junk food.”

 

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