By Chris Chandler, MA, LMHC, CSAT-C , Seattle Christian Counseling, PLLC
References “Wired for Intimacy” by William M. Struthers, Ph. D.What’s so bad about porn? It’s not as if you’re having sex with someone other than your spouse right? While it is true that watching porn is not the same as having an affair, it does cause a host of problems for you and your marriage, just like infidelity.
What makes porn problematic:
- It divorces intimacy from sex
- It conditions men to objectify women
- It prioritizes performance over union
God’s Plan for Sex and Intimacy
People were made to be with other people. God took one look at Adam and decided he needed a companion. More than a helpmate, he needed a soul mate. “The need for intimacy, to be known and to know, to be close, affirmed, loved; all are human needs. We allow the one we are intimate with to discover us in ways we could not do on our own, and we do so with them.” (43) This is how married couples become one flesh. This unity is not exclusive to intercourse. It refers to the binding of the partnership as spouses share experiences and come to know each other better.
Streamlined Sex: Pleasure Without Intimacy
Porn offers none of this. As a passive viewer, you have no opportunity to engage with the people on the screen. And, as has become routine in modern pornography, the participants rarely interact in a way that could be described as intimate. It presents sexuality with the most meaningful elements left out. What is left is the bare bones of physical arousal and instant gratification.
The fact that porn is streamlined sex is part of its allure. It is sexual stimulation with the difficult parts left out. Intimacy takes work. It forces you to be vulnerable. Interactions can be awkward. But this is also the design God uses to mature relationships. As couples work through difficulties and awkward stages, they and their marriage become stronger. This is why porn viewers often withdraw from their marriages. Why go through the work of engaging your spouse when you can just upload a video?
Dehumanization in PornographyWhile disconnected, anonymous sex is possible, it is much harder to ignore that the body you are interacting with does not belong to a thinking, feeling human being. The passivity of porn eliminates this. You no longer have to worry about whether they would rather be having sex with someone else, or if you are putting on a good show. Sex is further dehumanized if the video focuses on close-up shots of specific body parts during sexual acts. You forget there are faces attached to the bodies.
This division of personhood and eroticism changes the way male porn viewers see women. Struthers said he has encountered this time and again while counseling male porn addicts. They stop seeing women as human beings with independent thoughts and feelings, but rather a selection of body parts– breasts, backsides, etc. (48) This can seem harmless, after all, there is nothing wrong in finding a woman attractive. The problem is frequent porn viewing means this is all they see.
Called to Give Ourselves
This is not what God had in mind when he created physical beauty– that our value as human beings would stop there. Our regard for others is not to be limited in what they can offer us. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Phil 2:3-4 NIV) Porn teaches the opposite. God’s design for intercourse is that it be a unifying act, mutually satisfying both partners. Pornography allows viewers to gratify themselves while giving nothing in return. God’s design for intercourse is that it s both people to consider the desires and preferences of their partner. Pornography allows viewers to ignore that the people on the screen are even human.
Performance vs. Union
Because porn can only stimulate two of your five senses, it has to work with what it has– intense visual and aural stimulation. It presents an over the top performance because that’s all you can experience. Viewers begin to think this is what matters in sex– eliciting an outrageous response from your partner. It prioritizes performance over union. While you should want to please your partner, that is not what “performance” is about. Performance is about inflating your own sense of self because you’re good at sex.
Let’s go back to Philippians, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.” When your lover responds less than enthusiastically to your technique, and your reaction is to sulk rather than try to find something they will like, you are treating sex as a vehicle for your vanity. (60) Life is not like porn. You cannot expect your spouse to be overcome with ecstasy at your slightest touch. This New Testament passage commands believers to take the focus off their own interests and ask themselves what their companion might want or need. This is the essence of true intimacy. Familiarizing yourself with the preferences and pleasures of your partner, and doing something because your partner likes it, not because you think they should.
Christian Counseling About Pornography
They can offer guidance about how porn affects real-life sexuality and relationships. A professional Christian counselor can also help you understand why you are drawn to porn. They will use therapeutic techniques and biblical principles to help you align your practices with God’s design for intimacy.
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