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Porn: The New Drug

Guest Post by Tony Hasballa


As an intern in a private practice specializing in compulsive sexual behavior and sex therapy, I mostly work with middle-aged men. This post is not only meant for men but also women, as they often struggle with porn and masturbation as well.


My spiritual father, Fr. Theodore Ghaly, once compared pornography to cancer, and it is. I'm not a medical doctor, but from my limited understanding of cancer is that cancerous cells grow gradually; it’s the same with porn. We live in a time where porn is everywhere, and what we define as porn is not always an explicit adult website, video, or magazine. One of the most significant issues with it is the amount of access today. The men I work with describe how coming across porn was much harder back then, and the thing that set off their addiction was the internet. Before, people had to go to adult stores where they could purchase pornographic VCRs or magazines. However, with the internet now, there is unlimited access. According to a Fight The New Drug report, one of the most visited porn websites had about 1.36 million HOURS of content upload only in 2019. That equates to 169 years of content. They also reported the same site had 42 billion visits; there are only about 7.8 billion people worldwide. In this post, I hope to address the building blocks of sex addiction and the 3 A's of porn. But first, we have to talk about sex.

God’s Intention for Sex

Sex is good. When used in the way God intended as a means for intimacy and selfless love, sex can be a fantastic thing. In the post Lilyan wrote about sex; she included a video that talks about how, through the corruption of sin, sex has become a transaction. That’s what porn is and portrays sex as; a selfish transaction. The issue with porn and sex addiction is that it warps God's intention for sex and causes harmful long-term consequences.


Compulsive Behavior

The building blocks for compulsive sexual behavior, or sex addiction, are fantasy, pornography, and masturbation. A person can know they have a sexual addiction if they answer yes to the following questions. Do you feel controlled by your sexual desires? Do you constantly think of sex or find yourself sexualizing men or women? Have you made efforts to quit a type of sexual activity and failed? Has sexual activity been a way for you to escape problems? There are more questions. A person can take the Sex Addiction Screening Test to get a more definitive answer.


1. Fantasy

Mark Laaser mentions, "The cornerstone for the three building blocks is sexual fantasy—thinking about sex." We all have thought about sex; I don't care who you are, where you are from, or what you do for a living. We've thought about sex. Fantasy is not unhealthy in and of itself; it's what we do with it and if we let it fester. We might notice someone attractive, and then we leave it at that; however, the issue comes when we allow our thoughts to wander. If we allow it to brew, it can sometimes lead to engaging in porn and ultimately masturbation. Fantasy can produce chemicals in the brain to the extent it alters the brain and creates a narcotic-like effect. Sexual pleasure, like many other things, releases dopamine in the brain. The issue with porn and dopamine is that it hijacks the brain’s reward center, just like any other substance. A person consumed by sexual thoughts can simply look at another person’s body (no matter what they are wearing) and be easily triggered. In this case, anything, if not most, turns into "porn" for the person.


2. Porn

So then, how do we define porn? I want to briefly discuss the 3 A's of porn; accessible, affordable, anonymous. What makes porn so destructive now is the amount of access. Anyone with a smartphone and data can access porn; yes, even kids. Research is showing that the average age of exposure to porn is now 9 years old. In my opinion, I believe this age will get younger.


The second A is affordable. I mean, there are plenty of free websites of porn, whereas before a person spent money on VCRs, DVDs, and magazines. The interesting thing is that this doesn't refrain people from spending money on it. The more a person consumes porn, the more they want it, like any other drug. A person who uses drugs needs more and more potent drugs to get the same high. Similarly, a person who uses porn needs new, novel, and even violent porn to get the same arousal. That is why porn is so destructive in singleness and in marriages.


The last A is anonymous. A person can access porn from the privacy of their homes. Before, a person might have been embarrassed to buy porn publicly. Still, now with the doors wide open to access, it has become more and more secretive. The ironic thing is that the internet is not anonymous at all. If you've watched the Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, you know that everything you've searched for can be traced. Even the amount of time you've spent looking at a picture on Instagram is registered.


3. Masturbation

The last building block is masturbation, which can sometimes begin before puberty when children explore their genitals. The issue with masturbation now is that there is so much repertoire that says it's good and healthy, but this doesn’t paint the full picture. The impact of masturbation is not to be taken with a grain of salt from a spiritual, physical, and psychological aspect. Spiritually, we know that any physical activity has its roots in sexual thoughts. We know what our Lord Jesus Christ said about that in the gospels; if we look at someone in a lustful way, we've committed adultery (Matthew 5:28). So it follows that if someone masturbates they are typically thinking or looking at something sexually provocative, this is sinful.


Sexual Addiction Ruins Real Sex

Do you want to know the best way to ruin your sex life in marriage years before being married? Porn and masturbation. A person who engages in porn will have a tough time finding their spouse attractive because they use pornstars and the sex they engage in as the baseline of measurement. Of course, porn is fake and not real sex; the people depicted have artificial and unrealistic bodies. The more you watch porn, the more you program your body to be aroused by specific images, and when it’s time for the real thing with a real person, the spouse you chose, you might fail to be aroused. In marriage, problems with sex are a huge reason why many couples either have unhappy marriages or end up separating.


Sex is meant to connect a husband and wife spiritually and emotionally. When God said that a man and woman become one flesh, this is not romantic poetic words. Frankly, the way that God created our sexual organs is that they fit together as one flesh. The physical impact of masturbation is also to be noted. If a person is continuously only stimulating themselves, it may be difficult for them to be stimulated by their spouse.


The biggest thing to realize is that sex is not meant to be an "escape." Even if we do not engage in masturbation or an affair, we may still be misusing sex with our spouses. We may use sex with our spouse as an escape from intimacy, not as an expression of it. "In this case, the sex addict treats their spouse only as a body and not as a spirit. Here, sex, although it is with a spouse, is really no different than masturbating. With time, the person wants more and more and becomes bored and unfulfilled in the marital sexual relationship. On the surface, he is faithful. But God, looking at his heart, discerns his motives" (Laaser & Carnes, 2004). With this in mind, "let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the Lord" (Lamentations 3:40). The 3 most practical things we can do is educate ourselves, self-reflect on ourselves, and then inform others.


Overcoming Sexual Addiction

If you are struggling with porn or compulsive sexual behavior, God forgives. Remember Christ's words to the Repentant (Sinful) Woman, "to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little" (Luke 7:47). The inverse is true; the more God has forgiven in us, the more we can love Him. We only have to allow ourselves to accept His love and mercy. Something that amazes me about our Bible is that it doesn’t shy away from embarrassing or shameful things or events. One of my favorite characters is David. This is a person who was said to be a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). Yet David was not immune to struggling with sexual sin. There are many events or stories in the Bible that describe some sort of sexual issue. For example, Samson; was it not lust that drove him to Delilah? How about Joseph the Righteous? Scripture tells us that Potiphar’s wife didn’t try to seduce him just once; it was almost daily (Genesis 39:10). Many people encountered Christ, as well.


These three main tools help with overcoming struggling with lust and sexual addiction: individual therapy, group therapy, and recovery work, which include reading, doing workbooks, and accountability.


In this time of Advent, it is important to remember Christ’s incarnation. The implications of the Incarnation are much more important than I think or realize. There is a certain level of deep intimacy and union through the Incarnation. Call it theosis, call it theopoiesis, call it a relationship, call it whatever you want. The main point is that through the Incarnation, God Himself became man, and salvation as a whole is through the Incarnation as a whole.


Resources

Reading

Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction - Mark Laaser


Step Into Action – Working The Twelve Steps of Sexaholics Anonymous (sa.org)


Facing The Shadow (Third Edition, December 2015) – Patrick Carnes


Recovery Zone: Making Changes that Last (Volume 1) – Patrick Carnes


Your Sexually Addicted Spouse- Barbara Steffens and Marshal Means


Accountability

https://www.covenanteyes.com/

https://www.joinfortify.com/

https://www.bark.us/


Documentary

https://brainheartworld.org/


Websites

https://fightthenewdrug.org/

https://truthaboutporn.org/


References

Carnes, P. (2001). Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction (Third Edition). Hazelden Publishing.


Laaser, M., & Carnes, P. D. G. S. (2004). Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction (Revised Edition). Zondervan.


Pornhub’s Annual Report: Can You Guess 2019’s Top Searched Porn Terms? (n.d.). Fight the New Drug. Retrieved December 14, 2020, from https://fightthenewdrug.org/2019-pornhub-annual-report/


SAICO (Ed.). (2017). Step Into Action. Sexaholics Anonymous.

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Author Bio:

Tony Hasaballa holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology specializing in mental health, and is currently pursuing a master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. He has also studied theology at St. Athanasius Boarding Seminary, located within St. Moses' Abbey in Texas, and used his knowledge to teach Bible & Religious Studies at St. Clement Christian Academy in Nashville, TN. He is currently working full time as a mental health therapist in an outpatient psychosocial rehabilitation center for people who struggle with severe and chronic psychotic features. Tony has also begun an internship at Connection Therapy Group. In addition to treating depression and anxiety, they also treat sexual addiction and sexual dysfunction. Tony is from Connecticut and is currently residing in Nashville, TN. If you want to read more of Tony’s work, check out his blog. If you are struggling with compulsive sexual behavior, you can contact Tony at (860) 338-7658 or thasaballa@gmail.com.

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