Porn – 4 strategies for dealing with it.

Pornography is famously hard to define but, whatever it is (and we all know it when we see it), it is hardly something new or more prevalent today than it used to be.  If you believe that it is, you need to take a refresher course in art history or anthropology.  Go visit the Larco Herrera Museum in Lima, Peru where 3000 years of pre-Columbian art is on display. Take it from me, or from Qoheleth if you prefer: there’s nothing new under the sun.  Photography, film and the internet are new media being exploited by a new kind of entrepreneur, providing an almost instant accessibility, but people making a livelihood from intentionally explicit erotic representations with some form of media is behaviour that has been going on for as long as humans could draw or mould clay.

My title, above, presumes that porn is something that has the potential, at least, to be problematic.  Aside from my personal experiences, as a Christian clergyman I am most aware of a “problem with pornography” through other male coreligionists who confess to me a sense of shame and guilt for their use of porn in masturbation; married or not, most of them believe such behaviour is at odds with the sexual ethic presented in the Christian scriptures.  Apart from those who sense this dissonance there are others who, from a purely practical standpoint, have a problem with pornography: it is interfering in their relationship with their sexual partners.  They are either no longer able to satisfactorily perform sexually, or their partner doesn’t share the same level of tolerance for porn as they do, causing stress in the relationship.

There are men, allegedly, who never have an attraction to pornographic materials.  If you are one of them, bless you my son, you may stop reading.  For the rest of us, here are four strategies for dealing with it:

1) Indulge yourself.  Go on, throw off your inhibitions, your embarrassment and your inherited cramped views of sexuality, and enjoy.  Spare no thought for any greater issues of morality or ethics; this is about you, a few pixels on a screen and your pleasure, nothing more.

Shocked?  Well, yes, as a Christian clergyman I can’t say I endorse this strategy as the best one, even if  I recognize it as perhaps the most prevalent strategy out there.  (It’s certainly the one the porn purveyors would want us to embrace.)  I include it only because I have to be real: there are individuals whose personalities suffer far more greatly from the weight of false guilt and shame heaped on them by the Church than they would ever suffer from a habit of self-indulgence.

2) Be pragmatic.  This strategy acknowledges that there are more people in the world than just me, and more interests in the world than just mine.  I would summarize it as: keep it legal, don’t let it be obsessive, and don’t let it interfere in your relationship with your partner (if you have one).  “Okay, I’m going to have my little hobby but I’ll do my best to avoid any material that is potentially illegal or abusive, I’m going to do this in moderation, and above all I’m always going to be prepared to meet the needs of my partner.”

This is a step up from the first strategy, in the right direction, and – to be honest – the place where many Christian men settle.  It seeks to limit the potential social damage of pornography while still allowing it to have a place in one’s life.

3) Get Religion (but then, without all that stupid anti-sex baggage from the Church).  Religious ethics, whether drawn from Jesus’ teaching or that of many other religious teachers, is about living life on a higher plane than that of mere biological or “animal” instincts.  Religion teaches humankind’s elevated position in creation and provides tried and tested disciplines that foster a greater awareness and sense of connectedness with the Creator and with all of creation.  Many devout people have discovered that the attraction to pornography dissipates when the emotional needs it purports to meet – comfort, intimacy, satisfaction – are adequately met through finding a place in a faith community.  At it’s best a religion authentically embraced leads to a genuine transformation that has nothing to do with legalism.  “I live this way because it is who I am, not because I must.”

But then there’s that anti-sex baggage.  Sigh.  Let’s face it, the Church really does have a problem with Sex, and it isn’t Sex’s fault.  Lighten up, Church!  We love Sex too!

4) Become fully human.  Ultimately, a well-developed sense of empathy is a far better guide to ethics than is religion.  When we are able to de-objectify every other human being, including those posing for the pornographic photo-shoot, seeing them for who they really are, entering fully into their experience as people, not actors, we will not be able to participate in their degradation or humiliation.

And within the relationship with our partners, empathy draws us away from porn.  As one of my readers so perfectly put it: “develop the intimate deep emotional bond with your partner and understand such depth and satisfaction to be a gift of the divine…then pornography pales”.

It’s this final strategy that I’m trying to arrive and remain at, while admittedly having been through “all of the above”at various stages in my life.

This is a complicated subject of which I have only touched the surface.  Feel free to write me, publicly or privately, to share your wisdom.

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3 thoughts on “Porn – 4 strategies for dealing with it.

  1. How about a slightly different version of #3…develop the intimate deep emotional bond with your partner and understand such depth and satisfaction to be a gift of the divine…then pornography pales.

  2. Deborah, I’ve added your comments to the post itself under #4. When I originally published this piece I felt #4 was incomplete and you have provided the perfect addition to it. Thank you!

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