Sabbath Ramblings: Sex, Porn & Polyamory Part 2.

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In Part 1 of this new series I'm writing on sex, porn, and polyamory, I shared with you my thoughts on polyamory, open relationships, and multiple sexual partners. Towards the end of that article (which I'd highly recommend you read, along with the juicy comments section underneath), I wrote the following:

“Of course, rampant and unfettered access to multiple digital sexual partners (i.e. porn) along with many people's complete lack of knowledge or experience with true, sacred, spiritual sexual intercourse is no doubt contributing to poly-popularity—and may even make the prospect of multiple sexual partners be all-the-more natural and appealing. So, for Parts 2 and 3, stay tuned as I tackle two other important considerations for sexual health: porn and sex.”

And so, here we are—part two of a matter that I think cannot be ignored if we are to explore all avenues of sexual health…


…namely, porn.

But before I delve in, allow me to be brutally honest with you about my own experience with porn. When I was 12, while employed as a janitor, I discovered “dirty” magazines and posters hidden away in the broom closet of my father's jet-boat production facility in Lewiston, Idaho. The pornographic materials were essentially “just” pin-up girls posing in bikinis or “tastefully” nude, but I found it all intriguing nonetheless and tucked a few posters and magazines away to bring home to my bedroom. They weren't my father's, and instead belonged to a few choice male employees of the company, but it was somewhat ironic that at that same time, my father was famous in the local newspaper – the Lewiston Morning Tribune – for his local anti-porn campaign, detailed in a 1990 article by Mohsin Askari entitled “Porn Fighter Goes Back on the Warpath.” Askari's article includes the following quip:

“Within a month, Greenfield said, he hopes to have another boycott campaign underway and he has targeted 18 businesses at Lewiston-Clarkston which operate about 25 stores. He intends to extend the boycott to other towns in the region also. “We hope that a boycott will be sufficient, but I wouldn't rule out picketing,” he said. . . Greenfield, who last year set up affiliation with the American Family Association as its Lewiston-Clarkston chapter, said his organization will provide ”concerned citizens” with a list of stores and a boycotting strategy. . . “Those magazines, they promote statutory rape. They promote incest. They have encouraged that sex at any age is healthy. They have sought to tear down every traditional Christian value that promotes the typical family,” Greenfield said. “That kind of philosophy contributed to teenage pregnancy and sexual disease, like AIDS.” He does not want his money to support businesses which sell magazines that support such philosophies.”

I vaguely recall this time of my father's life, particularly when he came home one day after work and described how he purchased every last porn mag at the local 7-11 for the purposes of throwing them in the dumpster outside the gas station. Other articles featuring my father's local anti-porn, pro-family efforts included “How To Fight Lewiston-Clarkston's Town Bully” (subtitle: “Gary Greenfield of Lewiston has decided which magazines you shouldn't read and which movies you shouldn't see, but he's not going to let you make the final judgment about them. He's not even going to let you see them.”) and “If Porn Boycott Is Out, What About Others” (including the anecdote “Greenfield was identified as the ”town bully” because he is willing to organize a boycott of those establishments which promote the degradation of women.”)

Despite my father's valiant efforts to put a stop to such degradation of women, I personally—as many young red-blooded American males did and of course, still do—continued to find porn absolutely intriguing. Being raised in a very strict household in which open talk of sex, porn, and other similar matters was frowned upon, I soon found myself, throughout high school, using the internet (which was painfully slow in those days, but still a readily available source of porn), magazines, and any other materials I could get my hands on to get aroused and to learn about sex. At the time, I was ashamed of and very secretive about my use of porn, but by the time I got to college, porn was widely accepted among myself and most of my male friends as a totally normal and expected component of our sexual existence. I'd grown jaded. Even after getting married, I continued to turn to porn as a frequent source of sexual pleasure and entertainment—particularly when my wife wasn't around, if I was just bored at night without much else to do, or occasionally, and quite sadly, even as something I'd look at before sex with my wife so I could get more turned on. As is quite common (and for reasons you'll discover later in this article), over years of porn use, I gradually couldn't even get aroused by photos of scantily clad or nude women, and instead needed high-res videos, hardcore action, threesomes, and beyond to experience any type of meaningful sexual pleasure.

It wasn't until after my twin boys were of toddler age that I really stepped back and analyzed whether I wanted my sons to be raised by a father who was incapable of finding deep, meaningful sexual satisfaction with his wife, let alone being able to even become sexually aroused without incorporating some kind of fringe pornographic media. I found myself, while surfing the internet for photos and videos of women, unable to think about how I'd really feel if that woman being objectified and paid to pose were my own daughter, or wife, or sister, or mother and whether I really wanted my boys to grow up with the same sexual addiction or harsh objectification of women. It was also during that time that I discovered websites such as Fight the New Drug or Your Brain on Porn, which helped me become painfully aware of many of the deleterious brain and neurotransmitter issues associated with porn. This almost instantly placed porn for me into the same mental department into which I'd place addiction issues such as alcohol or drug abuse. Finally, as I grew in deep love for my wife and began to cherish all the benefits and blessings of a committed, monogamous relationship, I simply couldn't look at porn without feeling as though I was betraying her.

Now here's where I “got lucky.” I'm one of those guys who—by the grace of God—has always been able to start or quit just about any activity cold turkey. Call it willpower, stubbornness, an all-or-nothing approach, or whatever you'd like, but that's just the way I've always been able to operate. As author and Navy SEAL Jocko Willink dictates in his book Extreme Ownership, sometimes changing a habit doesn't come down to psychological tricks, talk therapy, or mental magic to make that change—instead, sometimes you simply buckle down, discipline yourself, and just do it.

So one day, when I was about 30 years old, I simply stopped looking at porn. Of course, leading up to that moment, I'd come to a growing realization and conviction that the cons of porn far outweighed the pros of the instant sexual arousal and pleasure, that I was digging myself into a deeper and deeper hole of seeing women as mere sexual objects, and that if I was truly going to be a father, leader, and king for my family, I couldn't waste a single, additional precious minute of my life burning my eyeballs out staring at a pixelated screen of skin or scrolling through photo after photo of hedonistic indulgence. That's not how everybody quits porn, but that's how I did it. No special website filtering and blocking software, no men's accountability groups, and no pastoral therapy sessions. I simply told myself, “No more,” and then I walked away from porn for good.

And thus now we come full circle, with me, just like a chop off the ol' block, getting on my own porn soapbox to hopefully help a few boys or men (or women) who struggle with the time-wasting, brain-numbing, human-objectifying nature of this all-too-readily accessible bastardization of the sacred sexual experience to swear it off altogether. In this post, I'll share with you what I think the root problem with porn is, how porn problematically affects our brains and our neurotransmitters, the pain porn can cause in our relationships, and the nature of “just looking” vs. full-blown adultery in general.


Your Brain On Porn

Most of us know what porn is. As United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously stated in a 1964 court case on pornography and obscenity: “I know it when I see it.”

But, so that we are all entirely clear as to what I'm talking about when I say “porn,” let's just go with the Merriam-Webster definition, which I think is appropriate enough:

1: the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement
2: material (such as books or a photograph) that depicts erotic behavior and is intended to cause sexual excitement
3: the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction

So that's what porn is. But I think too few of us, especially us men, know what porn does.

Let's begin with what a brain on porn looks like, which I briefly mentioned in my introduction to this article when I alluded to two very helpful websites (Fight the New Drug and Your Brain on Porn) that feature in-depth articles, videos, audios, and research to help educate you; a child being taught about porn; or a loved one trying to help a spouse, friend, or family member navigate through porn issues to better understand the impact of porn on the central nervous system and neurotransmitters.

Basically, the moment you look at or scroll through a series of erotic photos or videos, the reward system in your brain switches on. This reward system includes the ventral striatum and orbitofrontal cortex areas of your brain—both of which help elicit the good feelings you get when you do something good or experience something pleasurable, whether that be a dark chocolate bar, an orgasm, or a favorite song. As these areas of your brain become repetitively hyper-activated in response to viewing porn, your brain creates deeper and more networked reward circuits in response to porn as it learns, especially over repetitive exposure, that porn is a reliable way to experience the dopamine response associated with intense pleasure.

For example, a 2016 functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in the journal NeuroImage showed elevated activity in the ventral striatum when males viewed something arousing, showing that the brain’s reward system was churning out extra dopamine. An analysis of each participant's self-reported porn consumption habits showed that many of the subjects reported symptoms of porn addiction. When comparing the fMRI data and survey results, the researchers noted that the degree of ventral striatum activation significantly correlated with the degree of porn addiction each participant reported. People who reported signs of porn addiction experienced greater degrees of ventral striatum activity when they looked at porn, which means their brains were better equipped to experience a pleasurable response to porn.

The amygdala, a part of the brain involved in stress, emotional behavior, and motivation, is also activated when viewing porn. For example, research on people with compulsive sexual behavior or sexual addictions to experiences such as porn suggests that altered connectivity and increased activity in the amygdala are linked to heightened reward-seeking behavior. Most notably, these studies show a change in a person’s “appetitive conditioning,”  which means their biological activation of reward pathways is greater in response to sexual stimulus. This research also shows that porn is a habit that trains the brain to seek rewards and a feel-good response through porn. This is concerning because these are the same reward pathways that can become gradually desensitized through repeated exposure, meaning that more and more porn or greater variations of porn are necessary to be able to continue to experience arousal in response to viewing porn. This can easily create a slippery slope from being satisfied and aroused with “innocent” bikini websites to needing to view relatively disturbing foursomes, child abuse, bestiality, and beyond in order to become sexually aroused, not to mention that “plain-jane” sex with a single committed partner sparks less and less formation of pleasurable neurotransmitters in the central nervous system. Perhaps this is why many men who use porn frequently experience porn-induced erectile dysfunction.

Besides these addiction and pleasure desensitization responses to porn, there are two other concerning effects of frequent porn use. First, a 2017 study found that many porn users are compulsive, distressed, or both; and a host of additional research shows that frequency of porn consumption correlates with depression, anxiety, stress, and social problems. Second, a 2014 study, and also additional research since, showed that the volume of gray matter in a porn user's forebrain was negatively correlated with the volume of porn they viewed, meaning that porn may produce structural brain differences and a shrinking of gray matter quite similar to what one would experience with, say, excessive marijuana use.

Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good romp in the bedroom with my wife and the occasional bout of weed-smoking, but there's a big difference between the effects those activities have on the brain compared to a nightly visit to PornHub and a marijuana addiction. I don't know about you, but my brain is pretty important to me, as are the biological responses I receive to any pleasurable element of life that produces dopamine. The fact that porn use may shrink my brain or numb my pleasure responses certainly makes me think twice about porn being a part of my life. 


How Porn Changes Our Relationships

But it gets worse. Porn can also significantly change the way you view and treat members of the opposite sex, especially and most concerningly your spouse or significant other.

The best way I can describe this is that porn use can create a very similar relationship scenario to what you'd experience if you were actually cheating on your partner with a real person. It can also, even if you're not in a committed relationship, set you up to be more likely to cheat, be unfaithful, or be less committed to a future relationship.

Sure, I realize that many will say…

…”I'm just looking! That's not cheating! It's not as if I actually stuck my dick in her!”…

or…

“This sex doll, vaginal stimulating toy, ball of kleenex with lube, strap-on (insert-erotic-toy-or-image-of-choice-here) isn't actually a real human, so how could it be wrong?”

or…

“I'm not touching, feeling, or engaged in any kind of spiritual or psychological commitment to this pixelated image on my screen, so it's nothing like cheating!”

But, as I'm prone to do in these weekly Sabbath Ramblings articles, and for all my important decisions in life in general, I look at this through the lens of my go-to handbook on morality: the Bible.

Matthew 5:27 and Matthew 5:28 are key verses related to this topic, and part of Jesus's famous Sermon on the Mount. They address one of the ten commandments, namely “You shall not commit adultery.” In this case, adultery is widely defined as sexual relations between a man and a married or betrothed woman who was not his wife.

In the World English Bible translation, the text from the Sermon on the Mount reads:

“You have heard that it was said,
‘You shall not commit adultery;'
but I tell you that everyone who gazes at a
woman to lust after her has committed
adultery with her already in his heart.”

In other words, Jesus equates sexual lust or sexual coveting as adultery. Put more succinctly: If you're lookin', you're cheatin'. And just so you know, the word translated as woman here is gyne, which can mean either woman or wife, so the sin lies not in simply lusting after the woman some other guy is married to, but a woman in general.

In this case, “lookin'” is not simply noticing or appreciating the beauty of, say, a pretty woman walking down the street or waltzing across the screen on your computer or the pages of a magazine. That's completely natural. There's absolutely no need to feel guilty about that type of natural sexual desire or appreciation of human beauty. Instead, this type of lust or coveting that Jesus is referring to would instead involve not just noticing and appreciating that woman, but instead scanning her up-to-down, head-to-toe, boobs-to-ass-to-heels intensively; “eye-f*^ckin” her; taking some mental snapshots of her for your spank bank later than night; swiveling your head to get a better look at the short skirt or tight jeans as she passes by; or, in the case of porn, whipping your member out and pleasuring yourself right there on the spot.

So, why would Jesus warn about that type of activity being the equivalent of adultery?

Put simply, in the same way that unforgiveness, bitterness, hate, and anger can destroy the sanctity of relationships and create a slippery slope into actual murder (a concept Jesus also visits in his Sermon On The Mount), unfettered sexual lust can create a slippery slope into actual, real, physical cheating.

Here's the way I think about this “slippery slope” that can be created by “just looking”…

…First, you view an erotic image, porn, or an attractive woman in a lustful manner…

…Next, you begin to think about her, often with increasing frequency, and often while sexually aroused and/or masturbating…

…That image or those images continue to saturate your mind, sometimes serving as a self-pleasuring substitute for actual, real sex with your partner, and sometimes—even more problematically—popping into your head while you're having sex with your partner, thus serving to smash apart the spiritual intertwining and sacredness of sex that I'll visit in more detail in next week's article. (After all, how deep and connected do you feel to your partner and how honestly and lovingly can you gaze into his or her eyes during lovemaking while you're simultaneously imagining the erotic images you were obsessed with the night before, that attractive human you saw walking down the street earlier that afternoon, or some kind of porn that involves multiple partners, animals, children, or minors?)…

…Worse yet, if we're not talking about lusting after porn, but instead after a real, physical human being (let's say, in this case, your tantalizing next-door neighbor), you continue to think about that person sexually (even if subconsciously), especially while you're near him or her, with him or her, or talking to him or her, and even when you're having sex with your partner. Perhaps one day, when your guard is down or your partner is out of town, you find yourself dropping by to help that neighbor move her couch or fix a faucet; and before you know it, you're making out with them on the living room floor. Or maybe that hottie who you've been chatting with via e-mail or you're in some kind of online group (and who you just happen to have been mentally making love to for months) happens to show up as an attendee at an out-of-town conference you're attending, and their hotel room is on the same block as yours. After a few-too-many glasses of wine at the conference dinner, you run into them on the elevator and five minutes later your tongue is in their mouth and you're fumbling in your back pocket for your hotel room keycard.

Folks, I'm not making this stuff up. This is how this sh*t goes down. This is how the “innocent” act of “just looking” gradually, and often quickly, degrades into not only sexual dissatisfaction, dopamine desensitization, and erectile dysfunction, but also sexual activities that go far beyond looking. This is how marriages get torn apart, families become separated, and entire generational legacies that took years to create become destroyed in a single one-night stand. 

As a man thinketh, right?

See, Jesus was smart. He didn't just say this kind of stuff to keep us from having fun, to make Christianity a continual rite of self-denial, or to make life feel like a real drag. He knew exactly what makes life better, what makes relationships more meaningful, what brings order to society (just read my post on polyamory from last week for more on that), and perhaps most importantly, what kind of attitudes and practices equip us to live out the Golden Rule of loving our neighbor (which includes our partner) in as full and glorious a way as possible. Heck, when you actually incorporate the kind of love that Jesus preached into your life, and you practice and dwell upon that love on a daily basis, your desire to lust, covet, cheat, and engage in any other acts of sexual immorality considerably wanes because you've grown to love God, love your partner, and love your family so much that the last thing you'd ever want to do is throw a giant, ugly wrench into that entire sublime scenario.

Ultimately, I hope what I'm saying here makes sense: If you commit adultery with your eyes and in your heart, you'll quickly find yourself readily capable of committing real adultery that tears your life apart. What begins in the brain will soon manifest materially. What you dwell upon mentally—whether consciously or subconsciously—weaves its way into your life in surprisingly real and tangible ways, which, as you learn in this article about how you can think your way into health or think your way into disease, can be a good thing or (in the case of porn) a very, very bad thing.


How A Brain On Porn Makes Men Weak

Finally—and this is for you fellas who desire to be better fathers, leaders, and kings for your household—you should know that porn makes you a weakling, particularly hardcore porn in which you're watching other men get it on with a woman or women.

How so? Recently, pastor, author, and former podcast guest Doug Wilson wrote an article on his website entitled “Pornography for Cuckolds,” in which he thoroughly explains how males who get aroused and sexually satisfied watching other males having sex with females become programmed to be more likely to want to “share” their women with other men and to shirk their role as a protector, provider, and procreator—since those other males appear to be doing a fine and dandy job with those tasks.

Here's how Doug explains it:

“In older forms of soft “porn” (think pin-up girls), there was a straight-forward problem for Christian men. There was a picture of a beautiful woman, and that woman was not your wife. “You should not desire her, or covet her, or lust after her.” Thus far the plain Scriptures. And it seems incredible to us today that a Christian man back in the day could have been stumbled by that picture painted on the front of his grandfather’s B-17 in World War II, but there you go.

But fast forward. We refer today to “hard core” pornography, by which mean video of people having sex, live action of couples copulating. And because we are approaching this thoughtlessly, we think that it is the same thing as the B-17 problem, only way more of it. We think that risque on the left and hard core on the right are the settings on the same dimmer switch. But no. The nature of the problem has been completely changed, and the magnitude of the change has almost entirely escaped our notice…

…we are accustomed to refer to alpha males and beta males. I would submit that our current forms of pornography are creating a limp new category, the gamma male. This is the poor enervated sap who is shaped and molded and catechized by watching this stuff. How so? When a lion is having his dinner on the wildebeest he just took down, and there is a circle of hyenas about twenty yards out, what does that tell you? It tells you that the hyenas want what the lion has, and that they are in no position to challenge him in order to get some. They are what we might call gamma hyenas.

And when a man finds a particular woman beautiful and attractive, and then he satisfies himself by watching as another man takes her, he is deadening all the remaining vestiges of masculinity within him. It is not a hyper-masculine impulse to watch other people get it on. It is the opposite. It is one of the hyenas strutting in front of the other hyenas, doing his best leonine imitation. It is not a cosmopolitan decadence. It is not worldly wise. It is not the experience of a man of the world. It is getting your jollies through losing, which is, as sexual perversions go, down near the bottom…

…civilizations are built by men who have families to feed. Cultures are built by men who can say a phrase like “my wife” without embarrassment. Men who have been trained in real masculinity are jealous and protective of their wives. So a man who is not jealous of his wife is not a real man. And pornography, especially of the sort we are talking about here, cauterizes all those basic God-given masculine impulses.

A man who is devoted to one woman will be jealous. He will be unwilling to share her, and for his part, he will be devoted to her alone. As I said, this kind of man with this kind of sexual focus is the kind of man who builds civilizations. A man who is willing to share sexually is a man who has nothing but contempt for the women he is sharing with another man, or with other men. This is the logic of the man who resorts to prostitutes. And as Scripture tells us, he wastes his substance. He doesn’t build cultures; he creates economic craters.

So a man in bondage to such pornography is almost certainly lying to himself. Yes, he says, he has a problem. He is highly-sexed. He has more desires than other men. The testosterone is just sloshing around inside him. He is ahead of all those other men, and there are always unique problems that such manly men have.

In reality, he is just a mangy hyena, with a hidden stash of wildebeests getting eaten by lions on his computer.”

So how about you?

Are you a man who is designed to be an alpha male lion instead of watching a bunch of fake actor gamma male hyenas do what you're supposed to be out doing in the real world with an actual, physical, real partner—preferably a partner you love, care for, provide for, and to whom you are deeply committed? If so, you may want to think twice about the manner in which you are virtually castrating yourself. 


Summary

First, my apologies to you female readers who may have felt this to be a bit of a one-sided talk to men. I get it. But you need to understand that I'm a guy, and so many of the analogies and descriptions that I use are written from that subjective viewpoint. However, I understand that (although it's definitely less common amongst women) many women also view porn and struggle with many of the same issues I've discussed above. So, everything I wrote here also applies to you. You too can get become dopamine desensitized, experience lower amounts of sexual arousal without the stimulus of novel erotic imagery, devalue your partner, objectify males, or cheat on and leave your family.

Second, to simplify and summarize everything I've just told you, allow me to share with you how I openly discuss the matter of porn with my twin 12-year-old boys. Here's what I tell them, which is exactly what I've told you, but in a more succinct manner:

  • Porn impacts your brain in such a way that anything pleasurable in life, including sex, becomes less pleasurable…
  • Porn causes you to treat women like sexual objects, rather than as real, precious human beings made in the image of God…
  • Porn destroys the deeply sacred and spiritual experience of loving sexual intercourse with a real partner…
  • You'd never desire for your sister, mother, daughter, or any other female you love and cherish to be eye-candy for other men, so don't pour fuel or funding on the fire of an entire industry designed to take advantage of and sexually objectify women…
  • Women, or any other sexual partners, weren't made to be “shared around the village.” Instead, firm family foundations, stable societies, and long-lasting legacies are built upon committed and meaningful relationships between two individuals who follow the Golden Rule and love each other in the same way they would want to be loved…

I encourage you to share the same message with your kids or with others, particularly with your sons if you have any.

Finally, there's plenty more I haven't even touched on but that others have in far more detail, including peer-reviewed research on the deleterious effects of porn on the heart, the deleterious effects of a brain on porn, and the deleterious effects of porn on society in general, including a quite concerning increase in sexual coercion, sexual aggression, and even sexual violence. To learn more about all of that, the best resource I can direct you to for additional reading, besides the websites Fight the New Drug and Your Brain on Porn, is the excellent book Your Brain on Porn: Internet Pornography and the Emerging Science of Addiction.

How about you? What are your thoughts on polyamory, porn, sex, or all three? Have you already read Part 1 of this series? Leave your comments, questions, feedback, and personal experiences or anecdotes below. I read them all!


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47 thoughts on “Sabbath Ramblings: Sex, Porn & Polyamory Part 2.

  1. Daryl says:

    If god didn’t want you to masturbate, he’d have made your arms shorter.

  2. Tuukka says:

    Ben, i know you have been single too, i wish you had touched upon the single mans strategy on porn, many will agree there is no actual need for porn in an LTR, or should not be. On the other hand, many marriages are held together by porn, as the needs do not meet. Sometimes there is no sex at all, should a relationship be terminated if the male cannot live celibate in a relationship and reading love and respect does not work, probably so. But the elephant in the room is, a very big percentage of guys outside of relationships are not getting layed, especially in todays world in the west where men are not really needed for other than having sex, and even the not so hot women have access to instant validation through social media, they all want to get with the small group of genetically best males who are single, even if they know its just gonna be short term.
    As you know, guys are more visual, which is why porn has become a thing and sexual images have always been a thing, also young boys can jerk off to just about any picture, where there is some skin exposed, somehow even as a kid you preferred to look at something, even before discovering porn. So how is it fair for the majority of guys that do not have sexual access, and their mating strategy is unlimited access to unlimited sexuality, their bodies making sperm all day every day, to shut down this essential function of the body. I know that you can masturbate without anything visual or use you imagination, but i would argue that most times after abstaining you will see a perfect ass at the gym and it wont be your imagination after that.
    Of course too much porn will not make your chances of meeting a potential partner any better, dont know if its a perfect approach to starve yourself sexually in order to meet a future partner either, if the desire to get layed is your top priority in the back of your head.
    Also in this pornified world we need to give a strategy of how to educate young people about sex, lets be honest, not many people are alive today who did not have some kind of porn as learning material, and of course women also have expectations that come from porn, so what im saying is its easy to say no more porn never, after having been exposed, but what kind of tools would you give to a kid, especially if the other kids still are exposed. I know that my passed grandfather who was born in 1920 learned about sex from farm animals, the funny thing was he thought all sex was to be had from behind :)

  3. Nathan says:

    Do you feel any hypocrisy condemning females that wear revealing clothes when you regularly post pics of yourself nearly naked to attract attention to your body and/or website? I understand being proud of your looks but is it still not a form of flaunting and in turn can’t it be construed as desire for sexual attention?

    I do agree with the science you bring forth regarding the physiological affects that porn enacts on the brain and body, but i think there are many sources for sexualized thoughts beyond just porn.

    1. No. My posts are about fitness and health, not sexual intercourse/porn.

  4. Eli says:

    Hi ben
    just one question, Do you agree with NoFap kinda movement?
    if you don’t how often is it better to masturbate (no porn)?

  5. TriMag says:

    Hi Ben
    Thanks for writing this article. It certainly is a difficult subject to tackle. Looking for some advice. Been with my husband for 21 years, married 16. He is by no means addicted, but I have “caught” him on three occasions in those 20 years. After the last time about 2 years ago I really confronted him on it and said I didn’t want to be married to someone like that. He said he would never do it again. I want to trust him but I have occasions when I still don’t. I really struggle as the female/wife how to approach the subject especially without him lying about it and also, it not looking like I don’t trust him. I would appreciate any advice/suggestions you might have on how to approach it with him
    Thanks

  6. Jade says:

    Great article Ben, thankyou for your honesty and bravery. A few thoughts from a female perspective..

    I myself used to watch porn on the odd occasion thinking there was nothing wrong with it, until 2yrs ago my husband of 4yrs informed me of his addiction to pornography for 14yrs (I wasn’t even aware he watched any). As you mention in the article,  an addiction eventually requires escalation and/or variation to continue fueling the ‘high’, hence why my husband began paying prostitutes for sex since before we met 7yrs prior, which continued into our marriage.
    As a female, the damage it did to my self esteem at the time felt irreparable. I was 25yrs old then, an age where I should have a mountain load of confidence. I felt as if I was in constant comparison to the perfect women many men view on their screens. I also felt too embarrassed to share with anyone, in my mind I felt like it was my fault my husband turned to porn and prostitutes, that I wasn’t enough. I realise now, that’s what addiction does. I know not everyone who watches porn is addicted, but I can’t think of any good reasons for anyone to watch it. It warps expectations of sex and boils it down from what should be a fulfilling and intimate experience, to a shallow act.

    I could write a novel of my thoughts on pornography and sex, but I’ll leave it here. Looking forward to part 3!

  7. Chris says:

    Excellent post Ben. As a single man, in lockdown, with no feasible dates on the horizon, lol, I’m sold on the reasons for no porn. But full on celibacy seems like a tall order. Perhaps that’s just me being weak. Any advice for a single dude, with no “relief” in the foreseeable future? I know Napoleon Hill talks about transmuting sexual energy into business endeavors. But not sure that’s a permanent solution.

    1. well – and don't laugh – you can always still masturbate but not while imagining any *specific* lady. You know what I mean? Technically I see no reason why you can't fabricate a dream woman of your own imagination and pull off to that image.

      1. Brad says:

        It’s okay to masturbate while thinking of an imaginary woman, but not a real woman? This made up rule seems to be beyond goofy and makes no sense whatsoever to me. The imaginary woman would likely be an amalgam of real women because most people do not have a rich imagination.

        Just curious, is there any biblical support for the “it’s okay if she is imaginary” rule?

        1. Ambe Gude says:

          People are rich in imagination contrary to popular belief. Its just that the power to imagine things is ruined by the things we are exposed to. Unless you are willing to unlock this imagination through a wet dream, which is not great considering the aftermath. I would say go for the hand.

  8. Tomislav says:

    Hi Ben!

    Been a long time listener, have to say I was surprised how much this particular article resonated with myself.

    Nontheless, i do wonder, what is your opinion on a book like “Sex at dawn”?

    Tnx in advance!

  9. Gregg says:

    Ben,
    There are two great messages in this post and last weeks, one for those who believe in God and one for those who don’t. You point out some great utilitarian reasons not to view porn, but for those who believe in God you are pointing to a far more important fundamental reason not to view porn or have sex outside of marriage – because God says it is wrong. When it comes right down to it, what else do we really need to know?

    If we are going to accept the theology of Genesis 1:1, we have to accept the presuppositions that go with it which are if God created us that means he is far greater and far wiser than we are and he has a right to have authority over our lives. The choice we have to make is are we going to be obedient or not. There is no middle ground.

    Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments”. You can’t say you love God and live any way you want to live. We have to trust that God has set up boundaries for morality in our lives because he as our creator knows what is best for us.

    In his great book, “Civilizing Sex”; https://www.amazon.com/Civilizing-Sex-Chastity-Common-Good/dp/0567087662 ; Patrick Riley analyzes every ancient culture and what led to their destruction and he boils the key to civilization down to one word – monogamy. Have you ever thought about why you don’t know any Babylonians or Assyrians but you do know at least one Jewish family? There is one simple reason Jewish culture has survived for 3500 years – monogamy.

    No society has ever survived the breakdown of the family and we would be fools to think ours will. The appeal of idol worship in the Bible was sexuality. As Riley points out, “Where Yahweh demanded mastery of the sexual drive, the Gods of Canaan urged surrender to it.” The worship of idols was basically a sex fest. The reason the prophets railed against idol worship was because the accompanying sexual immorality struck a death blow at the very heart of family – the very thing that the survival of the Jewish nation depended on.

    Fortunately, for those who believe and have failed in this area, there is grace and mercy and spiritual power available to help you overcome sexual sin. If you think you are addicted you probably are and you may not be able to quit on your own as Ben did. If not, you will need to find an good church with a group of men to hold you accountable or even a Christian sexual addiction program.

    For those who don’t believe in God, the link to idol worship and sexual immorality is still there. The desire for uninhibited sexual expression is a form of self-idolatry where you become your own god free to make up your own moral standards.

    If you want to be your own god your problems will start when you encounter another human being who also believes they have the right to be god and make up their own standards and their standards are different than yours. This is what causes divorce – two gods just can’t live very well together -in a marriage or any other relationship for that matter.

    Where life really gets interesting is when you have a child and somewhere between the age of 1-2 the child starts thinking they are god – free to make their own moral choices. Then what do you do? If you have a right to be god so do they – do they not?

    In western society, we have come to believe that sexuality is an entirely personal issue where we can all be our own individual gods determining our own moral standards, but the implications for the future of our nation are staggering. None of us really want to live in a society where everyone chooses to be their own god – because it would lead to anarchy. The fact is we all need God and the universal standard of truth that accompanies belief in order to have a functioning civil society – and that includes standards for sexual morality.

  10. Amy says:

    Hi Ben,

    I am a 27 year old female and I had an addiction to porn from about the age of 16 – 24. I personally don’t see porn as a bad thing, but I think it should certainly be viewed in moderation.

    For me I found myself using porn to get the quick feel good fix and euphoric feeling. I’d spend hours watching it, wasting my day and not doing anything productive. It wasn’t until I met my current partner that I have more or less quite porn, and it happened quite naturally in the end. We moved in together and as a result I was getting the sexual pleasure and deep connection from him instead. I also didn’t have a chance to watch porn as we were together most of the time.

    I feel so much happier that I am getting sex and pleasure in a meaningful way. I would still watch porn occasionally when he is not around, but it isn’t ruining my life like it was before.

  11. Rick says:

    Thanks Ben. I was 6 years old when I first saw Playboy thanks to a group of older boys in the neighborhood. I think many men and boys can give a similar story. It is possible to be free of sexual addiction but that beast is always lurking – sometime near and sometimes far. The temptation battles of life never end but they get much easier the more time and distance you put between them and yourself. God gives us strength and He is a forgiving God. If you have children, especially little boys, be willing to speak to them about the dangers and consequences of porn and the absolute necessity to always treat all women with the utmost respect and consideration.

  12. Peter says:

    Great article. In my view, porn is incredibly selfish and, as Prathamesh said earlier, is the opposite (and destroyer) of true and manly sexual engagement.

  13. Mike says:

    Hi Ben,
    thank you for this eye-opening article. I’m in my mid-twenties and I think I subconsciously got a completely wrong picture on how I see myself regarding the topic of sex and satisfaction. I always suggested to myself that I’m in complete control of my porn habit and that it is okay/normal due to the following personal reasons:
    I think porn distorted my perception on how long you have to last to satisfy a girl. So I watched porn regularly to “practice” holding back and ultimately last longer. In my mind it was for the sake of good. Time passing by so quickly, developing a subconscious habit and a vicious circle, I think the habit now is this kind of problem I have to face a) for the great reasons you stated above and b) to get rid of the self-made problem naturally thinking to not lasting long enough. As I am a big believer in the assumption that “everything you need is within you but you just have to find a way to unpack it” quitting the habit and letting your brain/hormones do the rest is a promising step.

    I don’t know if this fits your readers but maybe an article on female expectations and hacks like meditation, breathing, different exercises for the pelvic floor etc. on lasting “naturally long” not like super-power long in bed would be highly interesting.

    Thanks again mate and keep up the great work!

  14. Cassandra says:

    Loved it and shared it with my porn dabbling husband and his best friend. Thanks Ben.

  15. Jordan Caron says:

    So great to have men of influence share the effects of porn on the brain and our relationships.

    I had that moment 362 days ago that I realized (thanks for Fight The New Drug and their Brain, Heart, World docuseries https://brainheartworld.org/) porn had caused a lot of my sexual issues and anxieties.

    I had met a beautiful women 2 years prior and things we great sexually. Or so I thought. I wasn’t’ able to cum inside my parter. Despite being turned on and the sex feeling good, it wasn’t only happening 1 out of 20 times or so. Then things got worse. We moved in together and I found myself not desiring my partner as much. She was having multiple orgasms but not me. I was fine with this as I wanted to please her badly.

    But deep down not cumming was really making me avoid sex. Then the ED issues came along. ED had popped in a past relationship 8 year prior but I didn’t tie it to my porn use. These two issues really put a strain on our relationship and hurt the consistency of great sexual experiences between is. I was secretly turning to porn to cum a couple times a week which made me feel like I was cheating on her. She would ask and I would lie and say I hadn’t watched porn while she was out.

    I was also turning to porn when I said or did something that hurt her. I felt like shit and turned to porn to make me feel better. Silly thinking as it really put an end to our relationship. That was over a year ago and as I mentioned, after watching Brain, Heart, World, I broke down during the part on relationships. Not only had my years of porn viewing hurt her, I was harming myself. And that’s when I had a good long cry and made quitting porn the most important thing in my life. I told a couple close friends and that was it. I’ve been 362 days porn free and I feel so much better about myself!!

    Thanks for allowing comments and for me to share my experience with porn.

  16. Chris says:

    Great article Ben! I myself had issues with pornography but currently haven’t watched it in over a year. I learned about the issues of porn from Jordan Gray (who you have had on your podcast) and learned about the relationship issues, sexual performance issues, and overall having better more meaningful sex without the use of porn. I found your article full of wisdom and I hope many young men read it and take action on it. I noticed a huge difference in my marriage and find my sex life and sexually experiences with my wife way better having not watched porn for the last year! I’ll pass this article along to a few friends and hopefully can educate my two young boys on this topic as well.

    Keep up the great work my friend!

  17. Riff says:

    Dunno about this all. I dont seem to get desencitized. The problem is that if i would give up porn it would screw up the powerbalance in my relatsionship big time. At physical level i need and am capable of sex 2 times more often then my girlfriend. By giving up mastrubation and etc i would become very tense and neurotic human being 😂 and the sexual energy i adress at her would become a burden.

  18. Alberto Marroquin says:

    Wow Ben, this was a great article,
    its every man’s battle (and women) which is another great source that to be honest with you, I have not read just heard podcasts.
    Your article is the first I managed to read about this issue. Being a brain lover, I loved it!

    https://www.amazon.com.au/Every-Mans-Battle-Workbook-Stoeker/dp/0307457974

    Thanks Ben

  19. Brad says:

    Thanks Ben, I appreciate the wide range of topics you are willing to discuss.

  20. SG says:

    Ben,

    Thank you for a well-written article on this most important subject.

    This subject matter is a difficult one, but one that needs to be discussed. It is also one I have experienced very painfully in my own life. My now ex-husband over more than two decades became more and more entrenched in consuming porn. It was akin to Dante’s descent into hell. He got to the point where he committed crimes against his own children, and as a consequence, will likely spend the rest of his natural life in prison.

    I would be very interested to see additional development of the gamma male theory.

    Best regards to you and your family in this Advent season,

    S.

  21. Hodge says:

    Ben I’m so grateful the Lord gave you the wisdom strength and courage to write on such a taboo and polarizing subject with today’s society. Not only did you bring the most important piece- how as Jesus followers we are to act and love one another as Christ loves,but even for your readers that may still be non believers or not sure about their faith you gave the science and educational pieces without shame and condemnation too. I read your article from a viewpoint of love. We were just discussing pornography today in my class (I coach CF classes free to addiction recovery community ) and I can’t wait to share this with them and others. Thank you Ben for using your gifts and bringing light to a very dark but real reality for so many of us that have struggled with or been exposed to someone’s use of pornography.

  22. Frank says:

    Amazing article Ben, i always learn and become a better person when i read your posts, full of wisdom, knowledge and truth.

    Thank you on contributing knowledge to making this world a better place through fitness of the mind, body and spirit. I do have a concern/question. As mentioned in earlier replies, where do the women and men that expose them self in social media have a saying in all this.. What i mean is, Im a trainer myself and i have seen it a lot of crazy stuff, not from porn hub but from gyms that ive worked in.. A lot of women, some men (trainers, clients and mangers ive worked with) now a days are so provocative in the way they dress, pose and even talk to you and things they post social media. I mea, dam what the hell . Some of them tell me to my face that they enjoy it, they enjoy being looked at ( then we wonder why there is so much of this going on). Whats up with that? I dont want to make a big deal of this, just that i believe as much as this article brings up how badly it affects the brain there should be some accountability in teaching how not to overly expose ones self (men and women) and respect yourself and others. Food for thought

    1. We've certainly become "jaded" in our society as to what we perceive as modest. Kinda bothersome that when you walk into the average church you can typically see at least a dozen women with their jeans "painted on", leaving pretty much none of their ass to your imagination. While they could just be innocent and simply following the fashion of the day, I don't think women realize that as they are standing up in the pews singing from a hymnal, the 14 year old boy behind them is eye-fucking them and that woman is not making it very easy for him not to do so. The problem is that when I say this, people laugh and tell me I'm living in "Little House On The Prairie" days. Yet rape and sexual violence towards women continues to increase. Coincidence? I don't think so.

      1. A says:

        Totally hear you on that one! I’m very grateful to live in a part of Melbourne where most of the women wear looser clothing!

        1. john Doe says:

          Ben,
          You can’t be sefious . They know. They know exactly what people are looking at. That’s why they do it.

      2. Brad says:

        In regards to your statement:

        “I don’t think women realize. . .”

        Unless they have a mental disability, Men and Women are generally aware of when their attire is provocative. This self awareness is usually learned before or by the end of Junior High School. By the time one is in high school, one knows which types of attire are the most expressive of sexuality..

      3. Frank says:

        I agree. they play with fire then complain when they get burnt, that irks me so much. I hate to say this and advanced apologies to women reading but man then the males get the shit for it.. I get it, as males we need to tame our wolf but man it sure does not help when females are out there baiting and not held accountable. Im sorry i just don’t see the accountability, I see too much double slandered in respect to this topic Thanks for your reply

      4. Brad says:

        The commenters are being somewhat sexist. Immodesty is an issue that both men and women face, so the examples should not be limited to women.

        Also, we should be careful not to tie immodesty to rape and violence. It implies that an immodest person brought rape or other violence upon themselves. No one deserves rape or violence because of the way they dress. The cause of such violence has to do with immorality of the assailant rather than the clothing of the victim.

        1. Zoe says:

          Thank you for this comment, Brad. Nice to read a voice of reason that doesn’t project blame of the cause of violence onto a person because of what they choose to wear.

          This was such a good article and I almost regret reading the comments.

      5. Zoe says:

        Funny….I don’t hear anyone complaining about your half-naked pictures and videos that you post.

    2. Jenifer says:

      I would add that it’s highly likely that a huge part of what has made people so much less modest is the pornification of our culture as a whole, and these gym goers who are particularly brash are highly likely to be consumers of porn, too. In our current media culture, women who look like porn babes (aka prostitutes) IS the general cultural definition of beauty. We have Kardashians, not Audrey Hepburns as our models of beauty these days – we don’t generally have women with grace or something that looks like any kind of inward, dignified beauty as the norm, but really, “sexy only”, or even less beautiful – “sexually stimulating only” as what our little girls look up to and aspire to. It’s a putrid landscape in that regard. (Of course, Audrey was also a sex symbol, but she does stand out in my mind as one who at least looked like she had an image of some kind of inward beauty and joy and integrity, and she wasn’t trying to be basically nude or sexually overstimulating in EVERY.SINGLE.PUBLIC.APPEARANCE.)

  23. Gabe P says:

    Hi Ben
    I appreciate your article as I have been addicted to porn since my youth. I have been abstinent by the grace of God and the 12 steps of SA for 5 years. A book you might find interesting is “Impossible Joy” by Ron J. It had a profound impact on my belief that Christ saves today. That he is the sin bearer. As I can be free from a hopeless condition and start living where I stopped as a young boy. God bless you and your family.
    Gabe P.

  24. Veronica says:

    Thank you, Ben, for standing up for your principles – in the current era of censorship & bullying you risk being ‘cancelled’ for not promoting promiscuity & hedonism.

    I’m not religious, but I don’t need to be to understand, respect & generally agree with your findings.

    I have studied some of these subjects, & anyone who is prepared to put their biases aside may be surprised with what they find about the physical energies involved in sexual interactions.

    An easy to convey, inarguable example, to open our minds, is the way that females sharing a space find their menses change to be in synch with other.

    No debate – we all accept that our female sex & reproductive systems synchronise with each other, including perfect strangers, by pure proximity, without conscious thought or discussion, let alone touch, penetration or exchange of body fluids/DNA.

    We can dismiss the idea of a personal aura as ‘woo woo’, but it is an accepted biological fact that the human heart & brain each have an electrical field, & science is awakening to the fact that the connective tissues conduct electrical energy around the body (hence the acceptance, for example, of acupuncture as a valid medical field, provided by NHS hospitals here in Europe). Consider the simple pacemaker.

    Therefore the physical aura, or electric field – choose your label – is scientifically proven, if not globally accepted at an intellectual level.

    Science readily accepts photosynthesis – our skin absorbs light from the sun & manufactures the prohormone we call ‘vitamin’ D. Patch technology has exposed further fact – we all now know that we absorb nicotine, testosterone, oestrogen &, of course, a myriad of other substances directly through our skin

    Conversely I expect we’ve all encountered the effects of substances exiting the body via the skin, a clearly noticeable example being garlic, with its strong smell.

    Partner the blending of not just aura/electric fields, pheromones et al but the skin to skin exchange, the intake of bodily fluids & DNA.

    With this in mind, imagine what our bodies can be subjected to with actual physical sexual interactions; the energies, toxins, hormones, foreign DNA; for all, but particularly females, where foreign DNA containing fluids are so readily absorbed as a result of what is, essentially, mating

    Ben has touched on studies proving our brains & psyches are adversely affected by porn addiction & promiscuous behaviour. Consider also what we risk taking onboard our physical body (& it’s field) with promiscuous behaviour – effectively, mating with strangers.

    We all have different views, formed by our experiences so far in life, as well as societal messages.

    The current ‘in vogue’ western societal messages promoting hedonism & promiscuity have historically arisen in times of social destruction – consider the fall of Rome, or pre-war Berlin.

    Particularly of concern are those under 25 years of age, as their brains are still forming.

    I look forward to next week’s part 3.

  25. Emma says:

    Enjoying these series greatly!!!

    It also restores my faith in men. I do not necessarily identify as a full fledged feminist, but I have had my share of abuse and betrayals from men, and I have seen and heard a lot that left me angry and hopeless with regard to men (as culturally programming, not intrinsically defective, of course).

    Purposefully good, honorable, mentally strong men – not merely deceiving themselves and others about it as a persona – are so rare!

    Boys and men desperately need mentorship and psychosexual education, and not from the loose “sex experts” and cool sex gurus, for whom anything goes and who subtly, or not-so subtlety, promote parafilia, objectification, sexualization of children, dysphoria, instant gratification, sexual violence etc

    I strongly believe women are the most negarively impacted, both by their own consumption and by secondary social effects from men’s.

    Betrayals and sexual dissatisfaction may well lead us to believe auto-eroticism and fantasy based & vicarious sexual pleasure is empowering. But in REALITY, it isn’t at all empowering (ok, maybe in the first post-orgasmic 10 minutes.. whichmakes it a pretty shabby drug)

    Our self-image and expectations are forever shot, leading to increased isolation, feeling of inadequacy and rejection, planting the thoughs that the discrepancy between our expectation and experience means “the guys are just not turned on by me; they very quickly become disinterested in me after sex; they can’t commit to me because I am not enough; I am not doing this like the porn stars, I need to perform better; I am not as attractive as women around him; he’ll likely want other women now; all the other women must have mind blowing sex, but not me.. what is wrong with me?; i am afraid of intimacy because I am not good at this; I only attract narcissistswho want to use me” etc.

    Anyhow.. this discussion was great food for thought, and I am grateful to see a man take such a brave and principled stance on sexuality.

    Way to go, Ben!

    1. Ben Greenfield says:

      Thanks Emma. I fully agree!

    2. Rick says:

      Very well written. Thank you for sharing that view point. Very imprtant for a man to hear.

  26. Brad says:

    Is there really that much of a difference between people constantly posting half naked pictures (bikinis or otherwise) of themselves on Social Media and traditional Porn? It’s basically a means to sell sexuality, services products, or to take pride in one’s body, All of which would seem to be against a strict reading of the bible.

    A picture at the beach with one’s family or friends once a year is probably not antithetical to the bible. But a constant barrage of half naked pictures of oneself (by a man or woman) is, in my view, an attempt to use sexuality to sell something, or at the very least, it is a form of extreme immodesty or pride.

    Could you imagine a nun or a preacher constantly posting such photos?

    Below is an article about the Bible and modesty.

    https://gbntv.org/the-truth-about-modesty/

  27. Timothy Hess says:

    Another powerful Sabbath Rambling article. This open eyes and help many.

  28. Steve says:

    Amazing article Ben!

  29. Prathamesh Mehendale says:

    Thanks for this Ben.
    But I am too happy that at just 17 years of age, with a few years of porn addiction, I actually lost my interest in it. No more want it. I totally agree with you on this point.
    And I discovered what sexual engagement actually is.
    Porn just destroys the beliefs of what a happy and real sexual life has.
    But you made it Ben.

  30. Gwen Bridge says:

    Thank you! great perspective

  31. Adam Serafin says:

    Much gratitude Ben, this is the most honourable message a father, husband and man, should represent to all around him. Part 1 & 2 have been some of your best writing, Respect brother!

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