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31 Dec 08:00

Porn brain

by Mark Driscoll

Porn brain

Even sex experts, celebrities, and Hollywood are noting the destructive realities of porn in relationships, and its complete rewiring of how individuals approach sex.

The movie Don Jon has just been released on DVD. It’s a story about a young man frustrated by the effects of porn in his life. I’m not going to watch the film, and I don’t recommend anyone else watch it either, but the story could indicate a subtle reversal in cultural attitudes when it comes to sex and the use of porn.

Has a porn backlash in mainstream culture finally begun?

Porn wreaking havoc in the bedroom

When the movie premiered in the UK, The Telegraph ran a perceptive article that addressed the same issues that the film raises, namely that a porn habit leaves men unable to relate to real women:

There’s a scene in Don Jon . . . in which [a female] character gently breaks it to Jon that the sex they had was, well, not that good. . . . Jon is stunned, mortified, and finally completely confused by his sex life. Because, the truth is, he’s not really enjoying it either. Porn is what he really loves. . . .

Even among more casual users, porn is wreaking havoc in the bedroom. Last year, American GQ’s sex columnist, Siobhan Rosen, complained about the “pornified sex” men seemed to expect—not in a relationship, when trust has been established, but from the very first encounter. . . .

“It’s a disconnection from what’s really in front of you,” says [Joseph] Gordon-Levitt, who directed, wrote and stars in the film. “Rather than engaging with a unique individual and listening to what the other has to say, right at this moment, we put people in boxes with labels. We objectify each other.”

Controlled by our sexual desires

Even sex experts and celebrities are noting the destructive realities of porn in relationships, and its complete rewiring of how individuals—specifically males—approach sex. A recent GQ article offered the statistic that “one in five people who regularly watch porn admitted to feeling controlled by their own sexual desires,” an unhealthy position to be in as men are driven by a desire for sensation rather than a desire for relation.

Has a porn backlash in mainstream culture finally begun?

In his book on pornography, Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain, Dr. William Struthers explains how regular external stimulus alters one’s neurological makeup, which is how human beings learn. Consistent exposure to pornographic images actually rewires the brain. Like a tire that gets stuck in a well-worn rut, the brain, in a sense, can be trained and eventually subjected to addictive behaviors.

Learning to drive from Vin Diesel movies

Similarly, psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair notes in the Telegraph piece that porn has become so prevalent in our culture, it has replaced how young men learn about and understand sex:

“The boys are very confused about how to approach girls,” she says. “Their sexual education is porn. And it’s very misogynistic and violent porn” . . . . The result is mutual unhappiness, frustration and disappointment.

[Porn star] Nina Hartley agrees. “Young people are going to find information wherever they can get it. . . But watching porn to learn to have sex is like watching Vin Diesel movies to learn how to drive. I’m paid to give this performance.”

A porn habit leaves men unable to relate to real women.

As Dr. Struthers writes, “Pornography teaches its students to focus on the physiology of sexual sensations and not on the relationships for which these sensations are intended.” Ultimately porn defiles the concept of intimacy and destroys the original God-glorifying intent for sex. By consistently pursuing pornography, men “have unknowingly created a neurological circuit that imprisons their ability to see women rightly as created in God’s image,” Struthers concludes.

Sin is dead

Don Jon doesn’t promote the whole truth of God’s design for sex, but it does point out that even those in the secular media and entertainment are aware of the dangers of porn. As porn use has rapidly become a social norm, even those without spiritual convictions are beginning to take notice at just how much damage porn can do.

For the Christian guys who are reading this and feeling awful and shameful, I need you to trust that you can put your sin to death because Jesus died for your sin. Jesus went to the cross and scorned your shame so that you can scorn your shame. There is an entire generation of Christian men who are standing on the sidelines feeling disqualified from serving Jesus because they are enslaved to porn. Fight for purity. When you get knocked down, get back up. The fruit of the Spirit includes “self-control” and is possible for you, my brother.

Recommended resources:

Mark Driscoll, Porn Again Christian

Mark and Grace Driscoll, Real Marriage: The truth about sex, friendship, & life together

BJ Stockman, 7 negative effects of porn

BJ Stockman, 9 ways to fight the temptation of pornography

Jake Larson, Porn and the church staff