Thinking Out Loud

September 9, 2014

What Goes into a Mind Comes Out in a Life

Spiritual WarfareI’ve been thinking about the story below and how it applies to today’s environment where both men and women struggle with online addiction. Images and ideas flood our minds and although not everyone who looks at pornography fully recreates the scenes they view, often people “act out” in less conscious, less overt ways. That’s why when people go offline, they essentially “detoxify” their minds and they start to live differently.

I thought this story was rather common and assumed everyone had received it as an email at some time or other, but when I tried to find it online, I only got one link. Maybe you need this, or know someone who does.

Let this story stay with you, it applies in so many areas of life.

We are all fighting a battle within ourselves… The illustration goes like this: There is a old Indian chief telling a story about how each of us have two rival dogs, a good dog and a bad dog. Both are always fighting each other. Sometimes it seems like the good dog is winning other times it appears like the bad dog is winning.

One of the tribal members asks, “So, how do you know which one will win?”

To which the chief replies, “It depends which dog you feed.”

September 21, 2013

Your Tree, My Tree

With the kids now older and facing high-school homework after supper instead of the early bedtimes of former years, Patricia donned an light jacket before heading out for her weekly Wednesday night coffee shop ritual with Julie and Deanne.  Well, almost weekly; there were frequent cancellations in the past three years, but they tried to meet as frequently as possible.

“So when are we leaving?” her husband Rick asked.

“What do you mean we?” she responded.

“I thought it might be fun to crash your little group; as an observer or like those war reporters who are embedded with a platoon.  Unless, of course it’s me you talk about every week.”

“No, we tend to talk about church, and politics, and raising kids.”

“So is there room for an extra body?”

“You’re serious?”

“Absolutely.”

Patricia texted the other two, “What do u feel about Rick joining us 2night?”

Julie didn’t answer, but Deanne texted, “Sure Y not?”

And so for an hour, Rick sat with the women and talked about church, and politics and raising kids.

On the way home, Patricia said, “You’re not going to want to do this every week are you?”

“No; it was a one-off thing.”

“So Rick, I know you, what was this about really?”

“Honestly?”

“Yeah.”

“Honestly? I didn’t want to be home for a full hour with the computer. When you go out, it never ends well.”

- = – = – = – = – = – = – = – = -

Isn’t it ironic that the very technology that offers you the option of reading Christian blogs like this one, downloading sermons, looking up Bible verses online, etc., also offers both men and women the ease and convenience of experiencing sexual temptation like we’ve never known before.

Knowing as I do the various search terms that will find you all manner of websites, I can honestly say that every time I approach the machine — and I do business online all day long, plus prepare three blogs — I am reminded that each visit represents a choice: Choose things that will strengthen spiritually, or choose things that will do spiritual harm.

Like the goaltender in a hockey game, we can’t always block every “thought shot” that is fired toward us, but I believe we can exercise self control on a minute-by-minute or even second-by-second basis. I am always reminded that:

You have this moment.

You may not have won an hour ago, and you might slip an hour from now, but you have this moment to make the individual choice that affects this moment.

Right now, it’s a rainy day as I type this. It was a weather cancellation nearly a decade ago that found me with idle time typing a random phrase into a search engine that led to a random chapter in the middle of an online erotic novel. That’s right, it was text, not pictures. It wasn’t pictures for quite some time.

Idle hands. The entire universe-wide-web at my disposal.

Even today, I admit that search engines permit all manner of random thoughts to be explored online with varying results. I often find myself like the guy who loves to join his buddies on fishing expeditions, but actually hates the taste of fish. It’s about finding the fish, but not necessarily enjoying or consuming the fish.

I suppose it’s different for everyone.

- = – = – = – = – = – = – = – = -

I think it’s interesting that Genesis 2:9 tells us that the original source of temptation — the fruit of a tree in Eden — was found in the middle of the garden.  Not off to one side.  Not hidden behind other trees.

In the middle.

For men men — and women — reading this, your tree is right in the middle of the family room or living room; or it’s a laptop that is in the middle of wherever you find yourself.

Maybe your tree and my tree are different, but the result is the same: Temptation never disappears.

I looked at this a different way yesterday at Christianity 201. There’s a link to a song, and a specific point (about 70 seconds) in the song you can fast-forward to.

I’ve found it to be helpful.

Feel free to share what works for you.

You have this moment.

December 29, 2012

Men and Pornography: Keeping the Discussion Going

In July, 2008, I posted a draft version of The Pornography Effect online, and spent a great deal of energy trying to increase awareness of this plague which has spread via technology and has had particularly damaging effects on men. A few months later, popular blogger and writer Jeff Goins interviewed me on the subject, and today I can’t honestly recall where the interview appeared; but after finding a copy of it yesterday, I thought it helpful to spread this message yet again. Besides, we need to keep this discussion going. This is the first time this material has appeared at Thinking Out Loud.

You can read The Pornography Effect here, it uses a blog format but reads like a book with the chapters in proper order and a ‘next page’ type of click necessary to get to the second of the two screens.  It takes about 55 minutes. There’s also a ‘Cliff Notes’ version of the key points here.

The Interview

What is your personal experience with pornography? What did your own struggle look like?

We owned a computer that was connected online for about ten years before anything remotely pornographic ever crossed the screen.   Up until that point, I would say I was probably in the “This could never happen to me” category.   One Saturday afternoon doing a relatively random search, I ended up in the middle of an erotic novel.   A few days later I decided to read the whole thing from the beginning.   When I finished the story, nearly two weeks later, a link took me a site which contained photographic porn.   At that point certain walls of resistance had already collapsed.   Like the proverbial “guy with a remote control” who “wants to know what else is on,” I was determined to explore this alternative universe.   The internet was more than willing to oblige.   Even though I was leading worship in my church on Sunday, I was on the way to becoming a hopeless slave to internet pornography addiction.   But I rationalized that I was balancing the two worlds quite capably and getting away with it.

After what I consider a wake-up call several months later, I was able to break free for several months.   And then I went back for several weeks.   And then broke free again.   Today, there is a short-term freedom in being able to honestly say I’ve forgotten the internet addresses of most of those sites.   But in the long-term, the fact remains I know the search criteria that got me there.   For anyone, the internet’s dark side is never more than a few clicks and keystrokes away.

When did you realize that this was a systemic problem in a lot of men’s lives?

After remaining free for a longer period, I decided to (a) go public, and (b) create a forum for women to know more about the mechanics of how the internet porn industry functions.   There are millions of pornographic web pages, but each has one thing in common:  They were all put there by someone.  That person had a reason, a motivation, and I thought it would be helpful to create more understanding of why the stuff is there in the first place.   Perhaps I’m wired to want to share and apply knowledge once it’s acquired.   Perhaps I was trying to redeem a bad personal experience.   I just figured there were already seminars for men who were dealing with a multitude of addictive behavior, but nothing for the women who were, as I termed it, the collateral damage in the sphere of internet addiction.

teen with computer I found out really fast that this is truly “the elephant in the room” both within and outside the church.   Tell people this is what you want to discuss, and the room gets really quiet.   Plus, I’m in Canada where there isn’t the same transparency about personal struggles.   We don’t talk about our spiritual lives here in the same way that people do in the U.S.  I have always know that this was a hot topic, but once I was trying to create open discussion, it was initially the silence that told me I had struck a nerve more than anyone’s particular admission or confession.

For a younger generation of internet sex addicts, though, this is a non-issue.   Images of naked people — even images of their classmates — have been available online all their lives.  An entire generation is being raised without a sense of shame.   It was once the case that humans distinguished themselves from the animals by our ability to blush, but slowly, an entire generation is losing that.   They would say there is no problem at all here.

How does pornography affect men’s relationships with their wives, family members, and God?

I don’t think anyone who has had exposure to pornography is ever the same.   Over an extended period, I think exposure rewrites the brain programs of our minds, to the point where, for guys, any female is just a body to be exploited.    I don’t think any man who is deeply hooked can look at his wife or girlfriend, his sister, his daughter or even his mother the same way.   Yes, I’m saying it changes all relationships that a man has with all females.  The girl serving at the fast food place.  The woman in line at the bank.   The kindergarten teacher at the elementary school.  All females. 

In terms of spousal relationships, the problem — and fortunately this wasn’t exactly the issue for me — is that men are intended to find sexual fulfillment in their wives. (And likewise, wives in their husbands.)   So immediately the relationship is encountering damage.   But where the internet habit is also a secret habit, there is an additional wall of separation building between the husband and wife.   Trying to get “alone time” on the family computer can also cause friction between other family members.

Spiritually, sin is sin.   While we can admit that God probably ain’t too happy, we can use all kinds of rationalization to justify that what we’re doing isn’t such a big deal.   After all, aren’t a lot of popular songs played on radio somewhat pornographic when you read the lyrics?    If a person is really tuned in to their own spirit, I think they’ll recognize that, like Adam in Eden, we’ve somewhat hidden ourselves, and hurt the relationship in the process.   There are other indicators of spiritual life and growth that will start to flash warning lights.

 Have you encountered women who have struggled with porn?

Once I went more public with my desire to speak to this subject, I had a number of women who came to talk me.   While at first discussing a husband’s or a son’s addiction, they eventually shared with me that they had struggled with this themselves.   Yielding to female stereotypes of soap operas and romance novels, I assumed they were speaking of text pornography, like the novel that had initially hooked me.   But they were saying no such thing.   They were into the pictures just like the guys were, and one woman in particular hinted at a very deep addition that had tied up hundreds and hundreds of online hours.

However, one of the main ideas I want to advance is the idea that text pornography is every bit as dangerous and harmful as drawn or photographic pornography.  It is able to convey ideas that either (a) cannot be expressed in a picture, or (b) would still be considered taboo graphically.  Text pornography, which includes but is not limited to erotic literature, puts forward ideas which in some cases are intended to change societal norms.  It ought to be the focus of more concern.

 What does it mean for a porn/sex addict to discover grace? What does that look like?

I think that the grace of God comes in the form of the strength that we don’t have within ourselves to walk away from the internet, either figuratively or literally.  Apart from Christ’s power working in us, there’s no compelling reason to break free, let alone the strength to do it.   But with Christ’s power, I believe that breaking free of this particular addiction can be a relatively painless process.   If we see our sin as being sin against God, we will strive for holy living.   The man who desires to do the will of God positionally does not sin.  

Grace can also appear in the form of a friend who has walked the same road, or a friend who is simply brave enough to wade into the topic with you.   Grace can be a pastor willing to devote a Sunday morning sermon to the topic; and grace can be a congregation that doesn’t judge when you walk towards the altar at the pastor’s invitation.  Grace can be an understanding spouse who desires to encourage you towards freedom from addiction.   Grace can even be a young daughter who catches a glance of an image on your computer screen and asks, “Daddy, how would you feel if that were me?”

Can you share at least one story of someone you know who was able to break out of a porn addiction?

It’s interesting to think about that question apart from the various things I’ve read in books and magazine articles that were all U.S.-based.  The Book Porn Nation by Michael Leahy, and the book I Surrender All:  Rebuilding a Marriage Broken by Pornography by Renee and Clay Cross share two stories that I believe to be representative of stories that are common to so many.  In my country, what I’ve experienced is hushed voices, speaking in low tones, whispering, “Been there.  Done that.   Free now.”  

I think the curiosity factor engages a great percentage of men at one time or another, particularly as the computer changes the way pornography is accessed.    The question is how long are you going to stay in Sin City?   Some stay a long time.   Some reading this are there right now.   No… make that many reading this are there right now.  Thankfully,  I think there are probably more stories of spiritual victory out there than we realize, but far too many men are afraid to admit the problem existed in the first place.   A person has to simply determine not to go back there. 

What resources are available for those who are struggling?

If a person has a trusted friend who can serve as an accountability partner, I think that accountability software like Covenant Eyes is probably the best resource we have right now.   I know pastors who serve as accountability watchdogs for each other.   If a person is really fighting the addicitive nature (which can be part of the human condition) then a program like Celebrate Recovery is also helpful.

October 3, 2008

October 18, 2012

Should You Marry a Porn User?

Writers like Kevin Leman are known for being somewhat explicit about marriage, and Mark Driscoll doesn’t mince words when he’s preaching or writing about sex. Rachel Held Evans came up against our collective appetite for earthier language in her A Year of Biblical Womanhood, but for the most part it’s the men who dominate the roundtable.

On Tuesday, the name Sheila Wray Gregoire came up in a conversation. Her newest book, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex was somewhat foreshadowed by Honey, I Don’t Have a Headache Tonight, so she’s not a neophyte on this topic. But on her blog — which takes its name from yet another book, To Love, Honor and Vacuum — she asked the question this week, “Should you marry someone who uses porn?”

Stand on a principle on this one, and some say you could be eliminating up to 90% of your prospects. Sheila’s number might be 67%, or two-thirds. Either way, pornography is ubiquitous, even among Christian males (and females). The tobacco addict has yellow fingers; you can smell the liquor on the breath of an alcoholic; and when the gambling addict pulls out his MasterCard to pay for lunch, it’s stuffed full of lottery tickets. But the person addicted to online pornography — in all its many, various forms — often goes undetected.

So here, for those currently dating, those engaged, those in the early stages of a marriage, and anyone else touched by this topic, is a link to Sheila’s Should You Marry Someone Who Uses Porn? …Be sure to also look around the rest of her blog for resources on a host of related issues.


Since it’s been awhile, this is also a good time to mention my own attempt to speak to this issue is still hiding out in a remote corner of the internet where you can read it for free. The Pornography Effect: Understanding for the Wives, Daughters, Mothers, Sisters and Girlfriends, was written in 2007 as a crisis book — in other words it’s not lengthy — and can takes up two full screens in a modified blog page. (The chapters were posted in reverse order so the finished product would read normally; click Ctrl and the plus sign simultaneously if you find the type size hard to read.) Click this link to check it out. If you don’t have 45-50 minutes to read the book, a summary of each chapter’s key points is posted here.

May 27, 2012

Arousal Addiction: Video Games, Porn and Men

A Stanford University professor has a guest article at CNN this weekend which is worth a look: The Demise of Guys: How video games and porn are ruining a generation, which is also the title of a general market book on the same subject. The two addictions are compared and contrasted, but the one thing they have in common is arousal:

Video game and porn addictions are different. They are “arousal addictions,” where the attraction is in the novelty, the variety or the surprise factor of the content. Sameness is soon habituated; newness heightens excitement. In traditional drug arousal, conversely, addicts want more of the same cocaine or heroin or favorite food.

The consequences could be dramatic: The excessive use of video games and online porn in pursuit of the next thing is creating a generation of risk-averse guys who are unable (and unwilling) to navigate the complexities and risks inherent to real-life relationships, school and employment.

The article affirms what others are saying about brain chemistry:

Young men — who play video games and use porn the most — are being digitally rewired in a totally new way that demands constant stimulation. And those delicate, developing brains are being catered to by video games and porn-on-demand, with a click of the mouse, in endless variety.

Read the entire piece.

Also check out the author’s 2011 TEDTalk on “The Demise of Guys.”

As I’ve mentioned before here, this situation has major implications for the church: Men just aren’t stepping up when things need doing; they aren’t volunteering. Either gripped by the sinfulness of their online addictions, or unable to find free time for the same reason, the mission of the church is slowly being ceded to women, a demographic which is also seeing a rise in online addictions of a different type. 

We need to have a conversation in each of our churches about this. This needs to be discussed. It needs to be confronted.

December 29, 2011

Mark Driscoll on Marriage and Sex: Candid as Usual

The man who doesn’t mince words, is not surprisingly equally candid when it comes to comes to marriage and intimacy in marriage.  In Real Marriage, Mark teams up with wife Grace and reveals much in the way of personal details of their own marriage, both in its early days and presumably as recent as yesterday.  It walks the fine line — without truly crossing it — of too much information; while at the same time making your marriage the focus of the book’s content.

The full title is Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life Together though a proper disclaimer would warn you that the book is divided into two parts, with sex being the theme of the second, and probably being the focus of much that will be written about the book both before and after publication.  The book does warn more conservative types — and less urban types — to sit down while reading the Q & A chapter on what types of sex are permissible within the bounds of Christian marriage.

First person narratives written by two authors can be as awkward to read as they are tricky to write, so there are sections of “… I (Mark)…” interspersed with sections of “… I (Grace) …” but beyond that the book flows well and Grace’s background in public relations means she was undoubtedly a gifted writer long before this.

Mark — no stranger to print with more than a dozen previous books and tons of online copy — is especially vulnerable here as he is brutally frank about everything from his own sex drive to various conflicts that have arisen in their married life.  As with so many pastors today, the availability of online audio and video means that you can almost literally hear Mark speaking as you read.

God does not give us a standard of beauty — God gives us spouses.  Unlike other standards of beauty, a spouse changes over time. This means if your spouse is tall you are into tall. If your spouse is skinny, you are into skinny. If your spouse is twenty, you are into twenty. When your spouse is sixty, you are no longer into twenty, but rather into sixty. And if your spouse used to be skinny, you were into skinny, but now you are into formerly skinny. We are to pour all our passion and pursuit of sexual pleasure into our spouses alone without comparing them to anyone else in a lustful way.   (p. 108-9)

Mark’s take on this subject is born not just out of theory and research, but from thousands of interactions with individuals and couples as a pastor and conference speaker.  Just a page past the above quotation is this anecdote:

He had a beautiful wife but was never sexually satisfied.  His mind was filled with sinful fantasies from pornography he had viewed, as well as sexually experiences he had enjoyed before marriage. Some would have been sinful to do even with his wife, others were not sinful but she was opposed to them because they violated her conscience. Over the course of some years in their marriage, rather than killing these sinful desires, he occasionally nurtured them by daydreaming about what it would be like to make his fantasies realities.  One day he did — with another woman.

He decided to never tell his wife because in his flawed mind, it was better for her not to know the truth and be devastated. He actually considered his lying somewhat loving but she could tell something was different and so she pressed him for answers. Eventually he confessed.  As we met during their counseling session, while his wife wept continually, he tried to downplay what had happened by saying it was only one day of their life, he did not love the other woman, and similar inane efforts to make his sin seem less sinful.

Nothing seemed to get through to him until I (Mark) simply told him he was not only an adulterer but had become an adulterer because he was first an idolator. The first commandments are that we are to worship God alone. If we obey, we then do not worship other people and things as functional gods. When we disobey we then continue to worship but do so as idolators treating people and things as gods. His sin was not just sleeping with a different woman, but sleeping with another woman as a worship act to another god. Sex was his god, a bed was his altar, their bodies were their living sacrifices, and he was a pagan priest committing idolatry.  (pp. 109-10)

Again, I don’t know of anyone else who is a forthright as Mark Driscoll and who delivers a message with such passion and authority. With sections dealing with oral sex and masturbation, Mark (and Grace) face no question too difficult to deal with.

While I probably disagree with Mark’s doctrinal position in other books dealing with other topics, I was intrigued by how he would handle this, and I was not disappointed. The book has value to engaged couples, newly marrieds, and people like my wife and I who are a few decades in.  Real Marriage releases January 3rd from Thomas Nelson.

An advance copy of   Real Marriage was provided by Graf-Martin Communications, a Kitchener, Ontario firm which works with North American publishers and author agencies to provide additional promotion and publicity for books and book-related products.

Looking for more details? Check out Aaron Armstrong’s review of the book at The Gospel Coalition.

August 22, 2011

Acting Out on Pornography More Prevalent That We Realize

Filed under: addiction, family, internet, marriage, pornography — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:43 am

We have a pastor friend who has at least two more academic degrees than I do — that we know of — who once paid me a huge compliment when we were discussing modern church movements.  He told me, “I don’t know of anyone who is thinking about these things like you are.”

What can I say? I have an analytical mind, and when I came through a many-week period of obvious addiction to the internet’s dark side, I used those same analytical skills to try to classify and document the various aspects of online pornography, which included a willingness to step out and say things that I didn’t believer were being said in other books on the subject, and still feel are not being said strongly enough, if at all.

This weekend we were reminded of the severe consequences that can take place when viewing pornography leads people to act out on impulses generated by what they see. In the online draft version of my unpublished book, The Pornography Effect which you can read online for free — there are a few references to people “acting out” what they see on-screen.

  • In the Relationships section at the beginning, there’s the suggestion that a change in relationship between spouses constitutes a form of acting out, even if the apparent manifestation is an improved sexual intimacy.
  • In the Animation chapter there’s a concern about young people imitating what they see.
  • In the Interactivity chapter there’s a mention of chat rooms and how a progression can take place from chatting to wanting to meet in person.
  • In the Faith chapter, there’s a reference to how the eventual consequence of acting out contributes to national divorce rates and ruined families.

Changed views or attitudes.  Imitating the online subjects.  Progressing into deeper degrees of online involvement with strangers or new acquaintances.  Unfaithfulness leading to divorce. 

Not a lot of good there.  Yet, despite this, I get the general sense that people think that only a very few act out what they view on-screen for one simple reason: Only a very few get caught

So today, I want to toss another audacious comment into the mix which, if the book were ever published, would now form the basis of its own chapter:

I believe that, to some degree, everyone who views internet pornography acts out on what they have seen.

There.  I said it.  We may be dealing with infinitesimal actions or attitudes or thoughts, but I firmly believe that the stimulus always produces a quantifiable response, and that some of those responses are serious but under-reported.  Or, to badly abuse some Biblical language — but in the process make the point in a way that some readers here will better identify with — pornography doesn’t  return void.  It doesn’t just bounce off the eyeballs, or sit in some static manner on the monitor.  The eyes are the doorway to the heart.

  • Sow a thought, reap an action
  • Sow an action, reap a habit
  • Sow a habit, reap a lifestyle

Just as The Pornography Effect makes it clear that your worldview can’t help but be changed in some way by what you see, I believe you can’t help but have some decision, direction or detail in your life changed as well. There will be some action consequence — big or small — even if the initial one is just the decision to return to the internet’s dark side the next day, and continue the long, downward spiral.

Luke 11:34
Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness.

Need help?  Visit XXXChurch.com

June 2, 2011

Which Pornography Is He Looking At?

Today’s article is quite explicit, but it involves a topic that many marriages and families are dealing with.  If that’s not you, feel free to skip this one and return tomorrow for something different…

A few months ago I said I would occasionally post chapters here from The Pornography Effect in order to give it wider exposure than it gets hidden away online.  For about a week now, I’ve been wanting to look at the third chapter which deals with the escalation of pornography viewing; not in the sense of spending more time, but in the sense of moving from soft porn to hard porn, or skewing tastes away from mainstream porn which no longer satisfies to something more extreme.

Rather than reprint the chapter, I want to do a rewrite on it right here and now.  The chapter begins with this analogy:

They say that laughter is actually a surprise emotion. I find that watching comedies on TV, if I can guess where the humor is going, I don’t laugh because I’m not really surprised. It takes some really quirky lines, a plot twist, or a truly funny delivery to make me laugh out loud. Laughter is partly surprise.There’s a parallel here between the comedic form of entertainment and the pornographic form of entertainment.

After a little while, the internet images can get stale, and the purveyor of porn is looking for something new. In a 1960’s hit song, Kicks, Paul Revere and the Raiders said it best

It’s gonna seem like kicks just keep gettin’ harder to find
And all those kicks ain’t bringin’ you peace of mind…

I want to do something different here than I did in that version of chapter three and make a rather outrageous statement:  “If all your husband, or boyfriend, or son, or father, or brother is looking at is pictures of naked women, that could be the least of your worries.”  I’m not saying this to minimize the dangerous effects of pornography.  But I’ve found in discussions with people that when they say something like:

My husband looks at pornography.
My son downloads porn online.
My brother has a collection of porn.
My boyfriend is totally addicted to porn.
My father watches porn all the time.

…when people say those things, they are picturing someone looking at online pictures of naked women.  And I’m sorry, but that’s not all they’re looking at.

If porn is your drug of choice, you eventually will get to the point where you’re looking for harder stuff. That’s why some men’s tastes might skew towards something they weren’t expecting like masochism, or same sex sites, or what are called fetishes, which I won’t list here because if you know what that means, I don’t need to, and if you don’t, believe me, ignorance is bliss. Of course, not every guy goes that route, but the preponderance of evidence including the number of sites themselves, and the way that the visual sites are marketed would indicate that for the vast majority of men, tastes skew in only one direction: young.

At least that’s how I wrote that four years ago.  But let’s be more direct here and just say it:  After the initial exposure wares off and the laws of diminishing returns kick in, the person so innocently described as just looking at pictures at naked women, would be better described in sentences like these:

My husband looks at shots of people being tied up and whipped.
My son downloads videos of people urinating.
My brother collects pictures of people having sex in public places.
My boyfriend is totally addicted to gay teen pornography.
My father is always watching pictures of young naked girls.

I know that’s not the usual fare you expect to read here, but it needs to be said.  In fact, read it again and let it sink in.  The second set of sentences is similar to the first, but also so totally different, and I don’t even have space to consider the text equivalent of the themes listed, or to even mention the female porn addiction which is so rapidly growing.

The second set is a window into what kinds of things are really going on online, that is so different from the somewhat generic image of a guy looking at something that could be out of a pornographic magazine circa 1975.  Things have changed, and it’s gone far beyond that in 2011.  Furthermore, the guys viewing this stuff are your neighbors, your co-workers, your extended family, the clerk at the market or fast food restaurant or gas station.

And the second of sentences is statistically closer to the truth; it’s where it all, eventually leads.  Tastes skew.  Addicts look for greater kicks.  And the worldview changes it brings are massive.  And, as I said in an earlier chapter, it means that the guy in question never again looks at any female the same way.

Link to The Pornography Effect — Though set up on a blog, the chapters were posted in reverse order so you could read it like a website; pretend the “previous entries” tab at the bottom of the page actually means “next chapters.”

May 9, 2011

Pornography Changes Worldview

I’m at a point where I often forget that I have an online book, let alone a book about a devastating social problem.  But then I’ll hear a sermon where someone discusses the effects of pornography, and I’m reminded of some of the unique things my manuscript had to say on the subject, and aspire to see the material reach more people.

…Redemption comes in various forms. The redemption of a period of several weeks being counted among the this-could-never-happen-to-me addicted to the internet’s dark side, was a book manuscript that would help females understand what’s going on in the lives of some male they know.

screenshot - book online The Pornography Effect is available online as a free internet resource.

Sadly, this is totally defeating the point. The original idea was that as a crisis resource — which describes the under-24,000-words length — this book would be a print product that would be given to women who might be completely unfamiliar with the workings of the internet. Having the book online is helpful, but that help is now limited to those who can get online to find it.

The original publisher contact — who told me his company did over 400 titles in 2007 — took this one step further and suggested that the book be shrink-wrapped in packs of four or five, so that pastors and counselors could have copies on their desk to put in the hands of those dealing with this problem. But then came the “backhanded complement” that this project was “too big” for his company to handle. Hmmmm.

Sadly, I’ve been unable to find a publisher who would catch that vision and meet two industry criteria as to its distribution to retail stores. And now, three years later, I’d want it to be a rather different version of the text instead of this Version 1.0 edition. In the meantime, people needed help; and they need people to start the conversation.

So here are the highlights of my book for those of you that don’t want to click the link at the beginning and end of this article. If you do click; allow about 50-55 minutes to read the thing fully, and since it’s formatted as a “reverse blog,” click on “previous entries” to find chapters 7-15.

These are the Cliff Notes, or for those of my fellow-Canadian readers, the Coles Notes.  Chapter by chapter, the book goes something like this:

  1. Any exposure to internet pornography results in immediate changes in relational dynamics between men and women. A man who watches this stuff over time will look at his wife, or girlfriend — and perhaps even his sister, or daughter, or even his mother — differently.
  2. Addition to porn is at the extreme high end of the spectrum of addictive behavior and addiction consequences. Its availability is not unlike the cigarette company is standing outside the junior high school passing out samples.
  3. After much exposure, the tastes of porn viewers “skews” to interest in things they would have previously considered reprehensible. I don’t believe anyone just gets up one morning and says, “I think I’ll look at pictures of naked eight-year-olds.” Doesn’t happen instantly like that. But does happen over time.
  4. The long-term consequences of pre-teens and teens growing up with pornographic images freely available won’t be known for at least 20 years.
  5. Immersion in pornographic and related websites will eventually change your worldview on a number of issues connected to family and sexuality.
  6. Porn is more than pictures. The guy in the office staring at a screen that is all text may well be reading erotica. Text sites can also be a gateway to visual or photographic porn.
  7. For all the pictures on pornographic websites, don’t expect to see shots of people in love. Porn sites are all about people “using” other people. Nobody “cares” about anybody else but themselves and their own personal gratification.
  8. Whether it’s passive viewing on internet sets, or the more interactive nature of chat rooms, the “next step” of “acting out” on something seen online is just a heartbeat or two away from happening.
  9. There is a limitless number of formats that pornographic websites can take. Many are inter-linked and all of them eventually want to you to produce a credit card number so that you’ll pay for what was formerly free.
  10. Just because it’s set up as “photography” or “art” or “modeling” or “recreation” doesn’t mean it’s not porn. Many of these are just shallow attempts at establishing legitimacy.
  11. Cartoon pornography is porn nonetheless. Aimed at kids, it’s actually more dangerous. And it has a mission: The incest agenda. Promoting the acceptance of incest. (Betcha those other books on this subject didn’t tell ya that one!) And the kids are watching. And downloading.
  12. While psychologists debate genetic predispositions to homosexuality, a lot of same sex attraction begins with the internet and is based somewhat randomly on the type of website — and surrounding online community — that gets to a young person first.
  13. If a family member is caught up in online porn, you are — whether you like it or not — engaged in a battle. You have to start fighting back, for the sake of that person and the sake of nuclear and extended family. The forces you are fighting are giants and you are David. But…
  14. …Faith can be the slingshot you’ve got to go up against the giant. Pray, yes; but pray very specific prayers. Teach your kids self control and delayed gratification. Be intentional about the spiritual formation of yourself and your family. But always remember that many people clicked on that first website because of personal hurts that also need to be addressed.
  15. You are not alone. There are number of different types of resources available to help.

That’s the bullet-point version. But you may know someone who needs to read this in full, with the topics fully discussed. For them, here’s the link one more time to The Pornography Effect.

January 29, 2011

Relationships and the Internet’s Dark Side

Although the online version I posted exactly two-and-a-half years ago no longer resembles the print version I would still like to see published, I am convinced that The Pornography Effect: Understanding for the Wives, Daughters, Mothers, Sisters and Girlfriends contains information and ideas not being discussed elsewhere.

To bring those ideas to a wider audience, and to help confront what is still, 30 months later, a most serious problem, I’ve decided to occasionally reprint chapters of it here where there is a much larger readership.  The full text of the current draft is set up in a WordPress blog, but reformatted so that it reads like a book from start to finish.  It takes only 50-60 minutes to read and uses only two full screens to present the fifteen chapters in that draft edition.   You can link to the whole book here.

As a guy trying to write something that is intended to read by a dominantly female audience, I know that women are into relationships. So I thought that beginning there would be a good jumping off point. The point is that when guys view internet pornography it changes the relationship… (wait for it!) …with their computer.

I see two possible responses here.

Jim has done a bit of gaming, he knows how to check his stocks and mutual funds online, he has a friend who blogs, he’s got two e-mail addresses and he’s looking into switching his long distance from a standard carrier to VOIP on cable. Then he discovers the internet’s darker side.

Dawn, his wife, asks him to check her e-mail for a message from her mom, and from nowhere, she hears his voice answering her, “I’m not going anywhere near that thing.” He walks out to the patio and shuts the door.

Dawn’s understandably bewildered. Why doesn’t he want to check it? She opens the door, asking, “What’s the matter, did it bite you? Did you get an electrical shock off the keyboard?”

Around the block lives Rick. He loves to play the 300 variations on Solitaire he bought online, has a few friends he e-mails, likes to read articles from major newspapers online, and subscribes to a few comics to brighten the time when he gets home from work. Then a friend sends him a link to a site he thinks Rick will ‘enjoy.’ His eyes grow wide as the first image appears onscreen. His friend sends links to other websites.

Rick’s wife Alicia is unable to ignore what’s happened in the last few weeks. Rick has suddenly become an expert on all things related to the online world. He knows ‘search’ like never before, he’s suddenly an expert on downloading all manner of things, and it’s getting harder and harder for her to get any time online. Sometimes he’s up an hour early in the morning, and sometimes he’s up an hour late at night.

Alicia has entertained some suspicions, but anytime she walks by the screen all seems normal enough. But there’s no doubt in her mind that her man has suddenly transformed himself from a casual computer user to a rabid computer nerd. Or something.

Two guys. Two similar family dynamics. Two computers. But two entirely different responses. In the one case aversion, in the other case, immersion or saturation. One guy is treating the computer the way he might treat the family dog if it bit him. The other guy has suddenly become a handy guy to have around if you have any computer questions.

The point here is that those same reactions – aversion or immersion – can also affect the dynamics in a family. For sake of simplicity let’s ascribe the same reactions to couples with the exact same names.

Jim is suddenly cold toward Dawn. She doesn’t know why he doesn’t find her appealing anymore. She gets her hair styled, but he doesn’t seem to notice. There are fewer hugs. Fewer intentional touches. Jim’s aversion could be because he’s finding sexual fulfillment online. Jim’s aversion could be caused by the fact he simply feels guilty and suddenly finds sexuality – even sensuality – for lack of a better word, dirty.

But over at Rick’s house, Alicia couldn’t be happier. Jim has come alive sexually in ways she’s never seen before. Secretly, she wonders where he’s getting all these new ideas. But things are far too exciting to stop and think about it. She figures that maybe he read a book or an article in a newspaper. At any rate, she’s not going to complain.

Within the context of happy marital relations, Rick and Alicia’s situation would seem to be the better of the two, but what is Rick thinking – or pretending – while all this is going on? And what would a psychologist say about the fact that of the two men, Rick is the one who appears to be ‘acting out’ on his newfound interest?

The ‘acting out’ question is critical here because if exposure to internet pornography changes the relationship dynamics between a man and his wife or his girlfriend, could it have consequences for his daughter, his sister or his mother? Don’t be too quick to discount any of those, because when you see the recurring types of sexuality, and the themes that are dominant on the internet, you soon discover that there is a fine line between using the ‘net to stimulate healthy sexuality between a man and woman who are in relationship, and more overt perversity.

Furthermore, it’s a slippery slope that I’m certain leaves some guys saying, “I never thought that could happen to me.”

I would submit that almost from the first minute of viewing, that exposure to internet pornography is going to change the way the guy – any guy – looks at any female, from strangers to women in close proximity. I would submit that for most guys, if the escalation of interest in online erotica continues unchecked, there would come a point where ‘acting out’ would be considered, if not actually carried out. (In other places of course, you can read stories that indicate just about all the perpetrators of sexual crimes trace their behavior back to exposure to pornography. Logically, that doesn’t mean the story will end there for every man, but it means that with those for whom it did end there, its beginnings are undeniable.)

Even if nothing criminal ever happens, the consequences could be huge. One silly off-the-cuff remark to a female coworker could end a longtime career; a remark that wouldn’t have been made if certain thoughts hadn’t been planted in his head. One indecent suggestion to a friend’s wife, a cousin or a neighbor’s wife could totally destroy families, friendships and neighborhoods; a suggestion that would never have been vocalized if the person didn’t think that such behavior could be considered normal.

Someone once compared the things that enter our thought life to what happens when farmers sow seeds and later reap the harvest. The little verse goes:

Sow a thought, reap an action;

Sow an action, reap a habit;

Sow a habit; reap a lifestyle.

One thing is certain, whether there’s aversion or attraction, interpersonal dynamics are changed. Someone has said, “You are what you eat.” You certainly are what you read or view on television or your computer screen.

I don’t think anybody who stays connected with pornography remains the same person they were.

…Continue reading here…

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