Relationships 7 minutes to read

From the time we are eight months gestated in the womb, we are being emotionally wired to fit into our mom’s world. As children, this perfect design helps us interpret love and feel secure in this love. It is through this emotional wiring that we learn we are loved, valued, and worthy. The experiences of this early bonding is crucial. It sets us up to give and receive love for the rest of our lives.  

By the time we are about two years old, we have come to the conclusion that the world is safe: when my needs make me feel vulnerable, I can trust others enough to ask for help. When I give love and affection, I trust that I will receive love in return.

This is a beautiful set up that God created. When we leave our mother and father, we split the bond with our parents and create a new bond with our spouse. We are set up to engage in a bonded, secure relationship with them. Sexual intercourse, therefore, is intended to cement this bond with our spouse. It is an experience of fully trusting our body and soul to another as we become one.  

The erotic bonding that happens with our spouse is intended to display the monogamous relationship we have with God. Romans 12:1 says: 

…to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 

Romans 12:1

Lovemaking, therefore, is a spiritual act. 

Pornography interrupts this perfect design. In today’s culture, it has become an intruder in our family of origin experiences. Pornography is not a new concept affecting human behavior. It has morphed over time and shaped humanity’s view of sex and sexuality to the place we are today with internet accessibility to view anything you can image—all for free. Well, financially anyway. 

Pornography has a cost. 

For those of us who believe sex is a spiritual act of worship, we must address the consequences that pornography presents to our body, mind, soul, and relationships. 

After instructing us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, Paul further instructs, 

Do not be conformed to the image [or pattern] of this world…

Romans 12:2

I don’t think Paul knew how important this message was going to be to the twenty-first century readers. 

Many clients coming to Pure Desire for counseling report that they were exposed to pornography between the ages of eight and 11. Have you ever considered the effect pornography has on the mind of a child? What better way for the enemy to destroy the beauty of our sexual union than to start at the earliest age possible and expose an eight-year-old to carnal acts of lust.

As I’ve considered the effect pornography has on children, there are five areas of impact I see when these now adults show up in the counseling office.

1. Shame, Fear, and Anxiety: pornography affects us physically.

Pornography is intense, scary, and arousing. This formula impacts our internal wiring and contributes to what we find arousing. This results in a deep level of shame. We think to ourselves, I shouldn’t be watching this, but I can’t look away. Once arousal is fused with fear and shame, it affects our self-perception—our identity. The belief that we are somehow bad creates fear of being exposed as being bad. We start believing we are bad and strategize how to hide our badness from others. 

Fear that has been wired to pornography and masturbation sets us up to feel aroused when we feel anxiety. We try to control it, but it overcomes us. It is hard enough to resist arousal as an adult, but to a child, it is nearly impossible. Shame tell us, Something must be wrong with me. 

It becomes difficult to believe that God would ever love us. We can’t hear His voice over the intense, shameful messages we believe about ourselves. Our view of God becomes limited as we hide behind the mask of trying to manage the physical effects of our shame by ourselves. 

2. Mad, Sad, Glad: pornography affects us emotionally.

I think we can agree there are many more feelings and emotions than mad, sad, or glad. Yet many people coming in for counseling struggle with their emotional lives and naming their feelings. In fact, next to boundary work, the most difficult aspect of recovery is learning to identify feelings and emotions. Why is this?  

When pornography use becomes the focus, we become emotionally disengaged and lose our ability to connect and feel a wide range of emotions. We are typically flooded with the intensity of sexual arousal. We also lose our ability to be empathetic with others.

Expressing our feelings requires an ability to name our emotions. Learning how to identify and express our feelings and emotions is a crucial part of our development. This is often the missing element when clients are in counseling. It is by far the biggest complaint heard from their offended spouse. 

3. A Distorted View of Sex: pornography affects the way we think.

Viewing pornography changes the way we look at the world. It significantly impacts the neural circuitry of how we relate to others. A child viewing pornography may no longer see their mom or teacher (their primary authority figures) the same way. They wonder, Does she do this? Would she do this?  

According to a recent study on pornhub.com, the number one search for pornographic images is “sex with mom.” Truly, pornography is affecting young people. It also distorts their view of their peers. Rather than experiencing the normal feelings of attraction—mild, exciting, and controllable—they view the source of their attraction as an object for sexual release. 

This is the basis of sexual addiction. When we can no longer exercise self-control without great effort. When we are unable to enjoy the company of others.

4. Relationship with God: pornography affects us spiritually. 

One of the difficulties we encounter with pornography use is that God feels very far away. This is mainly due to the issue of sin. When we recognize our need for a Savior, repent, and accept Jesus, we enter into a covenant relationship with God. We find we want to do what is right, but the “members of our body” are not cooperating.   

If we consider what our culture believes, we could argue that pornography is NOT a sin. But Paul tells us, if we doubt that we should do something and do it anyway, then to us it is sin (Romans 14:22-23). Paul may have been addressing the criticism by some who were objecting to the eating practices of others, but the message is clear. If we are in doubt about whether we should do something (i.e., watching pornography) and do it anyway, then to us it is sin. The sin of disobedience.  

Sin affects our ability to hear God’s direction in our life. When we come before God, what is He going to talk to us about? Will He overlook our sin? No, He will want to talk with us about it. Obeying God requires that we give up the control sin has on us. 

5. Sexual Dysfunction: pornography affects us sexually. 

As I mentioned, we don’t usually see the wounds caused by pornography use until we are in an intimate relationship. Here is where it gets serious. We may be able to fake emotional intimacy for a time by wearing masks, but the sexual wounding is harder to fake—especially for men.

Women who watch pornography report having greater difficulty reaching orgasm with a partner. The reasons are linked to the biology of our sexuality. A woman’s orgasm is multiple and temporarily shuts down some brain functioning. God’s design on female sexuality is that we need to feel emotionally safe enough to “black out” with another person. 

When a woman feels this kind of trust and safety, the pleasure felt during orgasm is truly a gift from God. Lovemaking, the way God intended, leaves a woman feeling loved, cared for, and truly connected while experiencing intense pleasure. It truly is a spiritual experience. 

Pornography bypasses the designed circuitry and overdoses the brain on serotonin and other functions in the brain. For many women, following a porn-induced orgasm, she is left feeling intense shame. Shame over what she watched, shame that she would be aroused by “that,” and shame that she can’t stop doing it. This shame is wounding to her self-identity, which in turn, affects her self-perception in all areas of life.

Men also have physical issues with pornography use. Erectile dysfunction with their partners is commonly reported. Viewing intense pornography overstimulates the body’s sexual responses so much so that healthy arousal combined with intimacy is problematic.  

With pornography, you can bypass the intimacy part—which for most of us is a little fearful—and go straight to orgasm. The good news is, once you stop watching pornography and learn to tolerate the fear of intimacy, the brain can be rewired.

Our brain goes through an adjustment when we can abstain from sex for about three months. We will be more open to change, have less depressive thoughts, and most likely more motivated to continue the healing process. However, renewing the mind will take longer. 

Renewing the mind is identifying the source of our emotional pain, allowing the Holy Spirit to comfort us, so that next time we feel pain, we will seek comfort from God, our Healer.

As we get free from pornography use, our mind will clear and we will be open to experience what it truly feels like to be the sexual being God intended us to be.