In our world today we have so many people who seem oblivious to the dangers of something that just a few decades ago was obvious to most. The degradation of women (and even men) to the level of an object to be desired and used at will is increasingly pervasive throughout societies across the world; further perpetuated by ideas of "If it feels good, do it" while seemingly ignoring or having no regard for the conciseness for one's actions. Even the "safe sex" techniques promoted today ignore the spiritually damaging consequences of pre/extra-marital sexual activities.
The start of the problem for most men is often caused by what I like to call Soft Porn. It has become common place in public view, on billboards, on magazines covers prominently displayed on store shelves for all to see, and even at the beach or swimming pool as women show off as much of there bodies as they can; often wearing less clothing and revealing more then commonly used as underwear would if worn alone. Why is this so acceptable today, when just a few decades ago it would have been considered indecent exposure, and why is it such a big problem for men? It seems the world has forgotten the words of Jesus himself, that "whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matthew 5:28).
We are sexual beings; it's a part of who we are, and for good reasons. Sex, and even more so, the idea of sex, can arouse feelings in us at almost any time we allow it to; men and women alike. These feelings help us develop bonds with our spouses, and encourages compliance with another great commandment of Gods: to "multiply and replenish the earth" (Genesis 1:28, 9:1). The problem with Soft Port being so pervasive, comes from the fact that men tend to be more visual then their female counter parts when it comes to sexual stimulation. Thus women are less substitutable and cognizant of the constant bombardment of sexual stimulus that men see every day; and this often makes it more difficult for women to understand the real issues that lead to Pornography addition, or even how to help cure an addition to the same.
As soon as a young boy hits puberty, and girls stop being awkward looking, cudie-filled enemies, the problems starts. A bit of stimulus here, and a bit more there, essentially programing the brain to expect the rush of endorphins and other naturally created stimulus hormones on a regular basis. Since our brains are designed to primarily to keep us alive, they tend to revolt when something common place and expected is suddenly stopped. The brain will do everything it can to trick us into getting things back to what it's use to. Just like with drugs, as the body becomes used to them, the brain starts requiring more and more of these hormonal stimulants to achieve the same level of euphoria, thus implanting the seeds of addiction. As young boys become exposed to more stimulation, and more threats from his society as to what might happen if he slips up, the conflicting messages of the world and his religion are undoubtedly going to trap him into a no-win situation. He can't screw up, but admitting that he's struggling with his bodies strongest natural desire, and seeking help, would only expose him as a disgusting vial little man. Thus without knowing were to go for help to understand what his body is experiencing, he "slips up", get's a huge reward from his bodies natural hormonal response, and the addiction sets in.
What I have personally seen with some people I know, and hear about with increasing frequency, is a common pattern with men who struggle with this increasingly common addiction. They struggle with masturbation and avoiding porn as young men. Doing everything they can to just get by until they reach that one goal that is so predominately preached to them: Marriage. Once they are married, they think, they will finally have an approved outlet for these desires, and everything will be ok; however, what usually happens is quite different. The exposure to pornography, and the unrealistic fantasies it and the world creates for men, simply cannot be satisfied in an appropriate marriage relationship; so when the real life intimate relationship within the appropriate bounds of marriage doesn't fulfill these unrealistic expectations, the addition eventually starts to resurface. The brain is looking for what it was trained to view as normal, and starts to create cravings when it doesn't get what it thinks it needs to keep things "normal". Eventually the addiction is once again in full force.
In an effort to provide the much needed help, here are the three main areas that should assist with overcoming most addictions, whether it be alcohol, drugs, or even pornography (but keep in mind that I'm not a professional in this area, and anyone struggling with addictions of any kind, needs to seek real help):
- Physical - You don't have to be a body builder, or be the healthiest person on the planet, but you do need to get some kind of physical exercise on a regular basis. Work in the yard, go for a walk, play Wii Sports, or what ever works for you. Just find something you can enjoy doing that you are willing to do at least a few times a week to help you body release some of it's built up energy. Get the right amount of sleep to help not only your body regenerate, but also so your mind can properly process your daily stress; meditation can also help a great deal with this.
- Spiritual - Pornography is a killer of spirituality, and how better to combat that then with spirituality. Reading even a few passages of scriptures daily, praying multi-daily, reading good books, listening to or watching something positive and uplifting. All of this is good and helpful, but all to often is the only answer given by churches and religious leaders to those who are struggling in this area; leaving them with an incomplete and unbalanced solution.
- Mental - Without a positive, realistic, and appropriate mental view of reality (especially when it comes to appropriate sexual expectations when dealing with porn addiction), one will never be able to compete with the fantasies shown in movies or on the internet; after all that's the goal of those types of media - to provide an escape from reality in favor of something more stimulating. This is were most Christians Churches that teach abstinence most often fall short. Even when they do teach more then just "Don't do it", the message of not doing it becomes dominant, and often what our kids are left with is a sterilized, technical knowledge of what they are not supposed to do. This is were the world comes in, with it's constant bombardment of sexually suggestive innuendos that start to seed the young mans mind with the drug like fantasies that will make Pornography so addictive. With nothing (or very little) to counter the worlds sensationalized fantasies, the ideas of what sex is all about becomes polluted with unrealistic expectations.
Unlike substance abusers who can learn to avoid putting the drugs into their body, or who can learn to stay away from the bar, the things that make pornography so addictive, are unavoidably a part of who we are. Our desire to procreate is an important part of how we are designed, and is meant to be there for our benefit. Thus unlike other addictions, that are often dealt with by behavioral avoidance, sexual addiction requires a real change in one's desired behavior. When our natural sexuality is abused threw thing such as pornography and masturbation, it can create addictions that are impossible to overcome without a great deal of help. It's naive for us to think that if drug addicts and alcoholics need help to recover, why are sexual addictions any different?
If you struggle with this, you need a support system that includes those closest to you. You need someone you can openly talk with about your struggles, such as a spouse, or a psychologist. Bishops or other religious leaders are important to talk to as well - the confession will help with your spiritual recovery - but all to often our religious leaders are not equipped with the knowledge and tools needed to truly help someone with an addiction; it's unfair to them and the addicted to expect a complete solution from them. Hopefully they can be a good starting point towards getting you the help you need, and support groups for porn addiction are even becoming more prevalent; despite the overwhelming potential it has for causing social embarrassment (so much so that even making this blog post could likely cause some to feel embarrassed for me).
For us "Mormons" (or even any abstinence supporting Christians) I would suggest one resource in particular: