Porn Promises Intimacy Without Requiring Risk
I recently asked a man I was counseling to tell me how he felt about conflict. “You mean, like, conflict in the Middle East?” he said.
Not exactly. “How do you feel about conflict in your marriage and closest relationships?” I asked.
Without hesitating he related that he wrote the words “avoid conflict” at the top of his to-do list every day. We both laughed. Then I asked, “Do you see the connection between your goal to avoid conflict and your sex addiction?”
At first he gave me a blank stare, as if I had just asked him if he could explain the connection between the invention of the internal combustion engine and the rise of capitalism. Then the lights started to come on.
This man began to realize that with his wife, family, coworkers, and friends, he never really exposed his heart. To avoid conflict he never shared what he really thought, felt, or wanted. As a young boy growing up in a family that prized heartless compliance and maintaining a rigid religious appearance, he learned to avoid disappointing others.“Do you see the connection between your goal to avoid conflict and your sex addiction?” I asked. Click To Tweet
Living like this makes intimacy difficult, to say the least. In his marriage, rather than risk moving toward his wife and sharing his heart, he turned to porn to meet his need for intimacy.
Porn allowed him to give his heart to something that could not directly hurt him or reject him. Behind his struggle for porn stood a self-protective commitment to keep his heart safe from the disappointment and rejection he had come to know so well.
C. S. Lewis described every man’s struggle with vulnerability this way:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to be sure of keeping your heart intact you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries, avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safely in the casket of your selfishness. And in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will not change, it will not be broken. It will become unbreakable, impenetrable and irredeemable. The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from the dangers of love is hell.
Though at first they seem like a slice of heaven, porn and lust are a kind of hell. They offer us false intimacy, safeguarding our hearts from the perils of true intimacy. But porn ultimately makes our hearts incapable of the very thing we long for.
Our hearts become incapable of love.
Question: What risk and vulnerability do you avoid in relationships? How might taking relational risks affect your compulsion toward porn?
Adapted from Surfing for God: Discovering the Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Struggle, Michael John Cusick, p. 16-24, Thomas Nelson (2012)