Pornography and the Problem of True Intimacy
I once dated someone for a few months and things seemed to be going great. Naturally, as the relationship progressed, we had the “porn talk” and he revealed that he would watch from time to time-- with the last time being pretty recent. We touched a bit on the topic but at a bare minimum. I did not want him to feel attacked or rejected. The second time we came around to speaking about it, he gave the same response. I took that time to politely, and without sounding judgmental (this is important!), let him know that pornography was not something I was okay with in a relationship due to its negative effects.
After this conversation, he seemed to build up a wall. Although I was coming from a place of concern for him and our relationship, he was upset and I sat there fighting back the tears. I did not expect this reaction from him nor did I expect the changes that came in the relationship as a result of this conversation. About two weeks later, he went from “being in love” to “having no romantic attraction.” Initially, I was confused and hurt but after taking a look at the timeline, I realized that there was a high possibility that the “porn talk” was the game changer.
Why is pornography a game changer?
Not too long after this, I was asked to write a blurb on the dangers of pornography at work. I already had some knowledge on the topic but diving into the research allowed me to see the reality of the problem. Not only did I find an overwhelming amount of stats and information about how a business that objectifies men, women, and children as sex entertainment manages to be a billion dollar industry, but I also learned more about the way it affects a relationship. (The connection between pornography and human sex trafficking is another alarming reality; you can read more on this here).
I found out what tends to happen when someone frequently watches porn. Real people no longer measure up; their partner is considered less exciting. It’s easy then for the consumer to turn to more porn or even to watching it together with their partner to “set the mood.” In reality the porn consumption might be causing a lack of arousal to develop towards their partner.
Pornography hijacks the brain’s reward pathways by releasing huge amounts of dopamine and endorphins, just like an addiction to heroin or cocaine. This burns the pornographic images onto the user’s memory, wiring together what is seen with the feelings of arousal and satisfaction. This builds a new brain map, dictating to the user a different kind of attractiveness to cause arousal, as well as a different expectation from his/her partner.
You can get the facts on how pornography use affects the brain, the heart and our relationships here.
What are some important statistics about pornography?
A 2002 meeting of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers revealed that 56 percent of divorce cases involved one person having an obsessive interest in internet porn. In a study done in 2006 of adults aged 18-49, 82% looked at pornographic magazines, 84% consumed pornographic films, and 34% consumed pornography online. That was 12 years ago. The use of and accessibility of porn has tremendously increased since then, so just imagine how much more damage occurs now.
To put this into perspective, think about this: according to research done by a group called Fight the New Drug, in 2017 alone, Pornhub received 28.5 BILLION visits. That’s almost 1,000 visits a second, or 78.1 million visits per day—way more than the population of the entire United Kingdom.
A 2016 study revealed a tremendous rise in youthful sexual problems including porn-induced sexual dysfunction (I’ll save my expansion on this for another post. If you’re curious, look up Gary Wilson’s TED talk: The Great Porn Experiment or read about his findings). Marriages in which one partner struggles with pornography or sexual compulsion are commonly plagued by problems of sensitivity, anxiety, secrecy, and isolation. In another 2016 study, consumers also reported diminished overall satisfaction and intimacy in their relationship.
How does Pornography Affect True Intimacy?
When you hear the word intimacy what do you initially think of? For most of us, the answer is sex or being physically involved. According to dictionary.com, intimacy is defined as ‘’close familiarity or friendship; closeness”, with some of the synonyms being attachment and affection. Many of us fail to realize that intimacy does not equal sex. You can have a lot of intimacy with somebody without any sex, just like you could be involved with a person physically and have absolutely no intimacy. For any relationship to thrive, intimacy must be one of its founding pillars. If intimacy is overlooked the relationship runs the risk of relying on the superficial.
When that idea of intimacy gets distorted (by porn use, for example) it’s harder to learn, or to allow ourselves to learn, its other forms. The other forms of intimacy are no longer as attractive or as interesting to us. Many grew up watching porn and therefore think it’s ok and that “everyone does it.” There are two problems with this train of thought:
1. Just because “everyone” is doing something, does not make it okay.
2. Saying this, with observational psychology in mind, how will years of watching something like porn, not change the way we treat and see each other in relationships or outside of them? The reality is that pornography essentially caters to one’s own selfish gratification by reducing people to their body parts and how they perform sexually.
Love and intimate connection should be the focus of our relationships. This becomes distorted when we add things that affect the way we see our partner. The truth is that pornography is sex negative, although society portrays pornography, especially soft porn, as an acceptable and healthy option. Pornography doesn’t help make love, it destroys it.
How can someone who struggles with pornography move forward?
If you are using pornography, consider the negative consequences for your health and the health of your relationships. If we want to truly love someone for who they are and in a healthy way, we need to begin by positively molding our view of love. This view is constantly being attacked in our lives beginning from a young age right up and past adulthood.
Although pornography is something that has been normalized over the past few years, are the negative effects worth it? Can we truly find authentic, wholesome relationships amidst the distortions that porn causes in our lives and in our view of others? Is it worth it to give up the real connections for the screen? Do you desire to be seen for your qualities, known for your goodness, and loved exactly as you are? If so, these things that you long for are only capable through authentic human relationships, not behind the screen of an illusionary experience. You deserve better and are capable of such love.
If you or someone you know wants to let go of porn, check out Fight the New Drug or The Porn Effect to help get you started on a path to freedom. If you have someone who you trust and can keep you accountable, reach out to them for help. God has blessed us with the gift of friendships and community to help us through times we can’t battle on our own.
For the men - Matt Fradd has a 21-day challenge that begins March 27th called Strive - https://www.cardinalstudios.org/strive