The Relational Impact of Porn

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image16963581Pornography is now commonplace. It has become surprisingly accepted in our society. The question is, is it a harmless distraction as its proponents claim, or is there a reason to be concerned about the impact of pornography?

Recently a 13 year old girl fell to her death in London. Her young boyfriend, having seen some pretty wild sex on the internet, pressured her to perform what he had seen and secretly filmed her. When she found out about the video, she begged him to delete the video, threatening to jump out of a window if he did not. She slipped as she demonstratively leaned out the window and did fall to her death. 13 years old and pressured to perform something from internet pornography?  ( See full story here )

The relational impact of porn is not restricted to the dating years. In working with married couples in trouble I have heard of more than one instance in which the husband was so overstimulated by the wild images of sex on the internet that he could no longer get excited enough around a real person to actually have sex with his wife!

Obviously, pornography has a seriously bad impact on relationships.

A Hijacked Brain

Biopsychologist William Struthers notes in his book Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain that men in particular are wired in such a way that “…pornography hijacks the proper functioning of their brains and has a long-lasting effect on their thoughts and lives.”  (Struthers groundbreaking book is available in the LU Bookstore)

Loving sexual intimacy between two loving married people is a beautiful and marvelous thing. If you haven’t taken the Smart Dating challenge here on Love University, read Unit 4 – What Happens During Sex. God designed sex to strongly bond two people together, to provide the ultimate in physical closeness, relaxation, stress relief, and the producing of children. When we enjoin our sexuality in the way in which it was intended, it enhances your well-being as human being.

Not surprisingly, guys have a bigger problem with porn in general than the ladies do. It is, as Struthers notes in wired, apparently the way God designed men. The form of the female body and the way in which it attracts a man is intentional on God’s part. That attraction is supposed to draw the man toward his wife, and yes, it is supposed to make him desire to join up with her sexually. That’s a good thing! 

Think of the brilliance of the plan. Women are very relational, desiring emotional closeness and security – if they feel secure and loved they are more likely to want to respond to their husband sexually. Men are very task-focused, and often desire sex just because he desires his wife or needs comfort. But in order to facilitate this happening, the man needs to move toward his wife relationally. Additionally, for the woman who wants to connect with her husband emotionally, loving him sexually first is one of the best ways to get him to open up emotionally. Can you see how real and healthy sexuality is supposed to work? Great sexuality is relational! It improves the relationship.

Pornography is anti-relational. All that is required to use someone sexually is to find a private place and click the mouse button. Pornography is harmful because it is relationally dysfunctional. It also can cause us to desire certain sexual acts that are harmful, either physically (such as anal sex) or relationally (something degrading).

In the design of man/wife sexuality, God made sex to drive us together to help  maintain a strong and connected relationship. Pornography invalidates God’s plan and the benefit of sexuality. Struthers says, “Pornography dishonors the image of God in an individual by treating him or her as a sexual object to be consumed directly or indirectly.”

The research shows is that repeated exposure to sexual images produces neurological circuits that hijack this design feature of the man’s attraction to his lady and produces something harmful, degrading, and even dangerous in its place. Struthers relates in Wired that, “…repeated exposure to pornography and the objectification of the female body changes the way our brains see each other.” This “objectification” means that instead of seeing the gals in our lives as people who are precious and have feelings and depth, we instead see a sexual “thing” to be used for our selfish purposes.

Would that affect a long-term relationship? You bet it would. Not only that, repeated exposure to sexual images also results in what I call “raising the bar.” Since internet porn in particular is available without relational requirements, and can be engaged in endlessly for hours on end, eventually your brain becomes numb to normal sexuality and needs increasingly edgy images to become excited at all. Hence, we have men in our society who now cannot become aroused when in the presence of the beautiful and elegant creatures that God designed to delight our hearts – real women. That is just incredibly sad.

Also, as you learn in the Smart Dating challenge, sex with your spouse (in the future, if you are single), causes you to sexually imprint and be more strongly attached to them each time you have sex. Sexual release obtained while viewing pornography causes you to become attached (addicted) to sex itself, sexual imagery, and just about any available sexual target in your life. Pornography can turn you into a sexual predator, indiscriminate as you act more like an animal than someone made in the image of our Holy and pure God.

So, if you are even a casual user of pornography and you want to experience the benefits and joy of human relationships to their fullest, you must stop using pornography. You may be already addicted, but you must get help and stop. Wired for Intimacy, the book I have referenced throughout this post, is very helpful in defeating porn usage. You can also seek the help of a more spiritually mature person or counselor. We will talk about some practical steps in defeating pornography in the next post.

More to follow…

 

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