Dehumanizing

Posted on December 18, 2014

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If you have read much of my writing or read my bio, you know that I am a certified sexual addiction therapist and a large portion of my practice involves treating sexual addiction.

Many of my clients are men who have been stuck in compulsively viewing of pornography and masturbation.  Usually some resultant crisis in their lives has brought them into therapy.  There is often a lot of shame associated with their acting out.  The majority of my clients are Christian so the shame is compounded by the difference between their public and private faces and their feelings of having displeased God.  Whether the problem is internet porn or some other personal failure, I find that it is a common theme among Christians that “I am a disappointment to God.”  That particular lie that Christians like to tell themselves can be the subject of its own post.

Early on in recovery, we need to talk about why internet porn is a problem.  In part this is psycho-educational, and in part it is an assessment of a client’s motivation to quit.  If you have been doing this compulsively for years, it is going to be hard to stop.  Just as with substance withdrawal, you brain has been accustom to the effects of the porn and masturbation.  When you stop, you will suffer for some amount of time.  Whatever pain was being numbed out with your acting out will need to be faced.

In looking at how porn is problematic, clients often want to go straight to the moral and religious implications.  Though these are certainly significant, I usually don’t want to let clients go there right away.  My fundamental question is, “Does porn bring good things or bad things to your life?”  Of course when we examine the effects of porn in one’s life and add on top of that the body of research that has found the destructive impact, the answer to the question is that porn brings bad things into your life.

This week, an L.A. Times article by David Horsey asserted that “Internet Porn is an Experiment in Dehumanization” [http://www.latimes.com/opinion/topoftheticket/la-na-tt-internet-porn-20141215-story.html].  Horsey, who is not a conservative and is not coming at this from a religious angle, observes that the effects of the explosion of internet porn viewing have adversely impacted both the individual and society.  From a loss of intimacy, to unhealthy expectations of sex, to sexual dysfunction, to a force behind young perpetrators of sexual abuse, the effects are devastating.  Horsey observed that the “dominant message [is]: Women are no more than a set of orifices intended for the use and abuse of men and men are nothing more than anonymous phalluses demanding to be serviced.”

So here is what I really want to say.  If you are in the habit of viewing pornography, my assertion is that your life will ultimately be better without it.  Whatever purpose it is fulfilling in your life and whatever pleasurable experience you may have with it, there is a hidden cost in terms of real intimacy and healthy sexuality that is makes it just not worth it.  If you use porn regularly but are pretty sure you are not addicted, prove it to yourself by living without porn or masturbation for three to five months.  Check out nofap.org for some help in goal setting around abstaining from porn and masturbation.  If you can do it, great.  I guess you were not addicted.  You may find though that your relationships and your sex life have improved by avoiding the pornography.  On the other hand, if you have slips during the time you set for yourself or you just can’t stop, you might want to get some help in the form of therapy or a support group to get past it.   Try the NoFap challenge.  I double-dog dare you.

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