Are you familiar with the story of how the Greeks won the Trojan War in Virgil’s The Aenid? It’s a tale of great military strategy.
Needing a way to get inside Troy unnoticed, the Greeks hid inside a giant, wooden, horse-shaped ‘trophy.’ The horse was the Greek’s supposed peace-offering, and as such was welcomed by the unsuspecting Trojans. But come nightfall, soldiers crept out of the wooden horse’s hollow belly and captured the city.
From this epic victory came the term ‘Trojan Horse.’ A Trojan Horse is anything you invite into your circle of safety, on the assumption that it’s a gift, only to find out too late that it’s a trap! It’s a term used to refer to anything that masquerades as beneficial and good, but is actually destructive.
The Greek’s strategy in this tale is one of the most brilliant ever conceived. Lull your enemies into a false sense of security, and then jump them when they least expect it!
Pornography is a big Trojan Horse. You think it’s a good thing, a gift. (How lucky am I to live in a country that grants me this press freedom!). You’re encouraged to welcome it with open arms. In fact, modern society would want you to think that there’s something’s wrong with your sexuality if you find porn repulsive. (What! Sex is a natural act, a normal instinct — human nature!). For many people, it’s banning pornography that’s a crime.
But make no mistake: pornography has cost millions of people their studies, jobs, marriage, quality of life and clarity of decision-making. It has given birth to exploitation and sexual crimes. In fact, as you’re reading this, a whole generation is developing their identity and self-worth from the mixed messages delivered by the multi-billion porn industry.
The mere fact that you are reading this article means that you know how pornography’s appeal can quickly turn south, or at least knows someone struggling with its ill effects. This is not surprising. With the pervasiveness of porn these days, it’s not impossible if 1 of every 10 people deal with this parasite on a daily basis.
And of all enemies, it’s pornography that wins top marks for camouflage.
What is pornography?
If you want to battle this parasite, you need to first understand it.
Everyone has a general idea of what pornography is — it’s sexually explicit material intentionally created to elicit sexual excitement. The medium of its expression varies; pornography can be in the form of words, still photographs, videos and audios. With technology developing further each day, the forms and ways pornography can find its way to the public is practically limitless.
But while most have a sense of what pornography is, it seems that no two people can agree on its scope. Depending on who you ask, what constitutes as pornographic is flexible. Some definitions are too inclusive (banning even educative discussions of sexuality, such as pages in a medical textbook), while others severely restrictive (limiting pornography only to material that depicts violence against women).
The debate on what constitutes as pornographic will likely go on for years, as factors like culture, religion, sexual orientation and politics all color the issue. Certainly there are gray areas. But make no mistake: just because pornography is hard to define, doesn’t mean we should forget about establishing boundaries. Struggling with this parasite yourself, you know that it’s real, it’s tangible, and limits must be made.
How pornography should be defined legally is irrelevant. Our purpose is not to standardize laws but to facilitate quitting pornography use and addiction, compulsions that eat our lives. For this intention, there are two things that you need to weigh when classifying whether something is pornographic or not:
First, you need to discern the creator’s intention. If the producers created material with the explicit intention of arousing the sexual arousal of the consumer, then it’s pornographic. You can wrap it up in euphemistic terms (erotic art, adult film, alternative entertainment, ‘soft’ porn, etc.), but at the end of the day, any obvious and explicit pandering towards a physical sexual response in the consumer makes something pornographic. Pornography applies then to all adult magazines, websites and videos— no exceptions.
But creator’s intention is just one thing, and is something that we cannot always know for sure. Given that pornography is a ‘progressive’ habit (you will never be satisfied with your present consumption, you’ll always be on the look-out for more), it pays to define pornography conservatively and subjectively. Arrest it at the bud so to speak, and be mindful of your own personal weaknesses. Thus, the second thing then that you need to discern before you can classify something as pornographic, is your own reaction to the material you’re consuming.
Any picture, video or text that sows even minute seeds of inappropriate sexual feelings from you is pornography. Whether it’s ‘artfully’ done, or appears in a respectable mainstream publication, is irrelevant. If it arouses you, even in a negligible/ ‘manageable’ way, then it’s pornographic. In this sense a fully-clothed model in a sexy ad may not be pornographic for the rest of the world, but for the purpose of recovery, it’s something you shouldn’t tolerate.
To be clear, it is NOT sexuality per se that is the enemy in pornography. Just because you rightly view pornography as a parasite doesn’t mean that you are anti-sex. On the contrary, you are pro-sex. Sexuality is central to personal identity and self-fulfillment. What you are against is the misuse of sexuality; pornography being the most unhealthy use of these normal instincts and desires.
Welcoming the Gift Horse: How Pornography Sneaks In
How does pornography sneak into our lives? One word: easily! As far as gift Trojan Horses go, this one will not even raise your suspicions. Here’s why:
We live in a sex-crazed culture.
Hugh Hefner’s multi-million Playboy Empire confirms a marketing principle long conceded: sex sells.
You want to sell a car, never mind detailing its amazing features. Just put a gorgeous woman beside it in skimpy attire and you’d certainly draw the eyes of your target patrons. You have a movie with a bad plotline and a barely known star? Make sure you insert a racy love scene somewhere in the middle and you’d be good to go. Indeed, there are even entertainment career ‘advisors’ who go on the record saying that the best way to launch a career (any career!) is to play on your physical attractiveness.
Our culture is obsessed with sex. You won’t be able to walk ten paces from anywhere without seeing an explicit sexual reference. ‘Reality’ shows depict ‘real’ people hooking up with strangers left and right. Tabloids sell just by speculating who’s sleeping with whom. The paparazzi are paid absurd amounts of money to catch celebrities (and even the average Joe) in compromising positions.
Unfortunately, social norms define what’s acceptable, desirable and ideal. And if everyone’s doing it, it can’t be wrong, right?
In psychology, there is a phenomenon called ‘cognitive dissonance.’ This means that if you have two conflicting ideas in your mind, your brain will do its best to reconcile these ideas. So even if you do not agree with the way sexuality is being handled in the mainstream, merely observing the ease others deal with it (plus the pleasure inherent in these acts) can change your attitude before you even know it!
However, it must be impressed upon us that values and lifestyles that are common, hip or new are not necessarily the best things. Old doesn’t equate to obsolete and the unpopular opinion isn’t necessarily the ignorant opinion. All it simply means is that critical and non-conformist thinkers who’ve lived before us could have stumbled upon wisdom before we did.
John Piper said it best when he argued that “truth and beauty and goodness are not determined by when they exist. Nothing is inferior for being old, and nothing is valuable for being modern.”
Pornography appeals to our visually stimulated manhood.
Studies show consumers of pornography are mostly men. Women, on the other hand, are more inclined towards cybersexual relationships, mostly in the forms of chatting and video conferencing. If women do consume pornography, the sexually explicit material is almost always in the context of a story.
There is a reason for this difference.
Any observant person will tell you that men and women approach the world differently. Getting attracted to a potential partner and relating with them is not exception. In these two key areas, it is believed that men are more visually stimulated whereas women are more likely to get turned on verbally.
In an analysis of speed daters, for example, it was found that women put greater weight on the intelligence of the partner, while men respond more to physical attractiveness.
National Academy of Science in Spain also found that men use the right side of to process beauty while women use their whole brains. When women look at a visual object they link it to language, unlike men who tend to concentrate on the spatial aspects of the object.
What does this mean? As guys, we notice first the physical attributes of the other person. Women, on the other hand, need a more mental/ emotional connection. As such, men are more likely to get turned on by a partner wearing lingerie, whereas a woman might prefer a quiet conversation over dinner to get her into the mood. This principle might also be the driving force behind the conception that to attract the opposite sex, women need to dress-up well, perhaps put on some make-up, while men need to be charming and romantic!
It’s just a predisposition; so don’t feel stereotyped! Certainly it’s not the be-all and end-all of how each gender interacts. But understanding this difference is important. These gender differences explain why pornography can easily hook us men. As visual stimulation, pornography appeals to a guy’s natural instinct.
This tendency is believed to have its roots in the traditional gender roles. Men have always been the ‘hunter’ in relationships, and thus need to be vigilant when it comes to ‘seeing’ what to run after. Women as caretakers need to know how to be attentive and nurturing.
So, what’s wrong with a medium that addresses our basic instincts?
The thing is, visual stimulation is just the first step in any relationship. It’s there to catch a man’s notice— in order for him to get interested enough to go through the next steps of striking a friendship and getting to know another individual. Set the foundation for a quality interaction. Pornography, however, stagnates this natural process of relating into but the first level. To nurture a pornography addiction is no different from merely watching a game from the sidelines, and not bothering to find the satisfaction of playing the game himself.
It may be supposed that God, in His wisdom, deliberately created this difference between men and women in order to encourage communication, frustration tolerance and self-adjustment between partners: things that are needed to sustain any long-term relationship. After all, no relationship can survive with mere chemistry, right? Without these ‘interactive’ factors in a relationship, there is no relationship at all.
It’s a secret sin.
Sin — or any bad habit — thrives in secrecy.
Aside from providing safety from the disapproval of others, secrecy has the added allure of power. You are king because you can get away with anything. It makes you feel invincible, as well as thrilled at being able to do something forbidden.
It’s easy to trick others — and yourself! — that all is well because pornography is easy to hide. You can clear your internet history, set up clever hiding places for your stash, use prepaid debit cards to buy your goods, or even travel out of town to visit an adult store. You can be a respectable citizen by day and a porn addict by night.
This secrecy is heightened by the advent of the World Wide Web. For anyone curious about a whole range of sexual behaviors, the internet offers a private, safe, and anonymous way to explore those fantasies. Anonymity can encourage people to act in ways they wouldn’t normally act.
What most people don’t know is that this secrecy is only a myth. Wives and children of men addicted into porn almost always have an idea of what goes on behind closed doors, but may be too scared to verbalize their suspicions. There are always signs.
As will be shared to you later, the nature of pornography is progressive; it will only get worse and more intense as the time goes by, to the point that it goes beyond your ability to keep it secret anymore. You can deny all you want but changes will show in the way you talk, look and act.
More so, the impact of pornography is what experts call ‘systemic’ in nature. This means that, like any other addiction, it’s as much a family disease as it is of the individual directly using the porn. This makes sense because at the heart of secret compulsions is the need to always lie, cover-up and pretend. And the more you divorce parts of yourselves to indulge in a secret fantasy life, the less available you’d be to the real people around you. The porn problem them becomes a relationship problem.
It’s a victimless crime.
What’s wrong with pornography anyways?!?
Here’s another of those porn addiction myths: it hurts no one. After all, it’s not like drug dependency wherein you can visibly see yourself injecting poison into your body. Nor is it like road rage or stealing, where the harm to the other person is easily evident.
Given that legislation disallows any minors from making adult materials, and any models or actors in a porn flick presumably has given their consent, isn’t it a win-win situation? No harm, no foul, right? In fact, with the pervasiveness of sexually transmitted diseases these days, isn’t pornography a safer alternative for releasing sexual tension?
It’s all big lie. The fact is, pornography has a casualty toll that almost always includes everyone.
Pornography is instant gratification on demand. It’s such a convenient and quick way of releasing tension, that almost always, pornography becomes a person’s main coping mechanism. How convenient is it? There are millions of (free!) pornographic sites available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s an easy ticket to distraction and satisfaction; and pretty soon becomes the first choice to dealing with dissatisfaction of any kind.
With porn you don’t have to face your problems and feelings. You don’t have to exert effort to manage yourself or your affairs, as is required in the real world. You get the love and adoration you want without having to work for it! Indeed, all you need to do is turn on the DVD or the log on to the internet and you’re immediately on top of the world.
It’s so easy, convenient and effective, it’s inevitably addictive.
Pretty soon pornography will consume your life. It’ll eat time and attention that you should be given to other priorities, such as your job, social life, hobbies and the people around you. It’s so bad that many porn addicts report that they go through their work and their relationships mechanically, like they just need to pass the time before they can get their next fix.
Worse, pornography will slowly develop your values and attitudes that you’d eventually subscribe to the lies of a highly sexualized fake universe which includes, but is not limited to an increased callousness in the treatment of women.
In fact, one of the most serious repercussions that can come about from a pornography addiction is a decreased skill and ability to be genuinely intimate, or satisfied with real intimacy (that is, the one that is fraught with many demands.) When people who have long used pornography develop intimate relationships, often they find themselves with a limited repertoire of action and thought. (We would discuss this in more detail later.)
Pornography is also considered as real an infidelity as an actual affair, and its discovery has proven to be damaging to many marriages. Husbands and wives who find out that their spouses are engaging in pornography often feel betrayed, rejected, humiliated, insecure and angry, as they do in real life extramarital relationships. It can decrease an interest in relational sex, or unrealistically high standards of beauty and sexual performance.
And what about the supposed ‘consent’ actors give to make pornography?
Perhaps there are those who have embraced this profession willingly. Certainly in our liberal culture it is not unusual to find people who find the sexualized lifestyle satisfying, especially given that it is so lucrative. But this doesn’t mean that it’s a consent that we should tolerate.
Pornographic films do not see the women in the pictures as being whole or complete individuals, but rather simply as sexual body parts. A profession that reinforces the idea that a woman’s value lies in her being a mere provider of sexual satisfaction for men does not encourage an ethical treatment of women. Indeed, a society should in fact be setting up safeguards in order to prevent this exact thing from happening.
But what is closer to reality is that most women in pornography are either coerced, or have past negative experiences such as having been a drug addict, a victim of sexual abuse or a runaway. An issue of self-esteem makes women more likely to indulge in a degrading profession.
Researcher Cole writes:
“…the public views films as fantasy, and therefore believes that the abuse and violence are unreal. As the abuse and violence are depictions of fantasy, they represent no physical or mental threat to the actors. But voice-overs and music are used to obscure cries of pain, and the selective camera shots edit the facial expressions that result from the painful positions required for various scenes.”
Porn Star Linda Lovelace writes that the public noted only her obvious enjoyment when performing in “Deep Throat”, and was oblivious to the bruises covering her body and the terror in her eyes. To have acknowledged the physical evidence of coercion would undoubtedly have created discomfort in the viewer, and that understandably is neither the intent of the pornographer nor of the viewer.
The truth is: pornography is a personal, relational and societal threat.
And at the end of the day, it’s no different from a drug rush!
But here is why pornography is the greatest Trojan Horse in existence: it’s easy to get hooked to pornography because our bodies are biologically designed to get a ‘high’ from it!
People are more familiar with the high that comes from illegal and regulated drugs. For example, stimulants are supposed to give us a heady, active drive by increasing our heartbeat and giving us an adrenalin rush. Hallucinogens take us to a fantasy world. This effect is not mere psychological, our body chemistry changes after drug use, so much so that any drug addict desiring recovery must not just have therapy, but body detoxification as well.
Here’s an interesting fact: watching pornography, as well as indulging in porn-related activities, encourage the release of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins in the body, the chemicals that facilitate the feeling of pleasure.
Now, pleasure in itself is not inherently wrong. In fact, the same biochemical reaction happens after many activities that give us pleasure like eating, walking under the sun or enjoying a refreshing drink, although not in the same intensity.
But this natural body reaction would serve as reinforcement; it will cause you to seek for the same high over and over again. And after repeated indulgence, the brain will begin to associate these activities with pleasure, except that at some point it will get so used to it that you won’t get the same high the next time you use it. This will trigger a compulsive need for you to hunt for greater satisfactions, one that will never be satisfied because pornography, by nature, is an incomplete sexual act.
It is important to know why pornography seems so appealing; it is so we can make sure that we catch ourselves from being caught vulnerable. The greater awareness we have on how pornography gets inside our circle of safety, the better we can guard against it.
What are the signs that you’ve become addicted to pornography?
Denial is part and parcel of most bad habits. After all, one of the hardest things to do is to look at our life, and say that something is not going right in it. It’s easier to get on other’s cases, criticize everybody else for their behavior and pinpoint what the world needs to do to be “better”. It’s quite another thing to sit down, reflect and challenge your own self to wellness.
This is especially true when we’re dealing with an addiction or a compulsive behavior. Addictions are one of the hardest things to own up to. To admit that you’re an addict means conceding that you’ve already surrendered your ability to direct your actions. You’ve become nothing more but a slave to a habit.
Maybe you’re saying now, ‘porn is not a problem for me, I am just a recreational watcher.’ Or maybe your excuse is “I’ve always been good at managing myself so am sure it won’t be a problem for me as it is for other people.’ But don’t forget: even we can lie to ourselves.
While self-reflection can be painful and emotionally threatening, it’s the first step in any recovery process. Here are signs that you need to look at when discerning whether porn has taken over your life:
Obsession and Compulsion
There are two cornerstones of bad habits: obsession and compulsion. Both point a person’s inability to control himself and his situation.
Obsession means that even if you don’t will it, pornography is always in your mind. As you go through every day activities, you picture nothing but what you would later do or get. Your mind frequently plays back the scenes you watched. You deliberately create pictures in your mind, and indulge every sex-related stray thought that you get.
All of a sudden you see sexual references in everything— wholesome jokes somehow sound dirty, and even women who are not doing anything to seduce you somehow appear seductive. Worse, you end up mentally stripping women that you meet, or wondering what their sexual preferences are.
Compulsion is obsession’s twin brother. This is when you begin, in spite of yourself, to act on your obsession. You just can’t resist. You make it a part of your daily routine, so much so that adjustments would be made in a person’s schedule just to accommodate a habit. It becomes the greatest need in your life.
And you can’t stop. You install anti-porn software in your computer, only to uninstall it later. You lock away your stash, only to dig for the key within the next 5 minutes. Suddenly, it’s more powerful that you are.
Pornography use often starts out as a simple means to get immediate pleasure. But as your obsession progress, it becomes a main way for you to deal with any unpleasant feelings you have, whether it’s boredom, frustration, depression or attention-deficit. And most of these unpleasant emotions? It comes from tolerance.
As you go through porn use, eventually you become less and less satisfied with the fixed you get. This is what tolerance means; the stuff you typical watch lose the power to give you as much pleasure as before. This makes you frustrated and needing to seek out more: and so you just spend more time watching or you try to discover harder core stuff.
The immediate effect of tolerance is withdrawal. Anytime you discontinue the habit, you get a gamut of unpleasant emotions such as moodiness, irritability and even physical symptoms like shakes. Withdrawal symptoms is what continues and expands this habit into great proportions, for after sometime you wouldn’t be able to keep your mind and hands still unless you indulge!
Loss of Rationality
In its advanced stages, a porn addiction can color your rational decision-making. You’d pursue porn despite obvious negative consequences. You make excuses for it. And you find yourself doing things that you, if you merely take the time to be honest with yourself, don’t want to do.
Logic & safety goes out the window in pursuit of it. You will take risks- drive to the seedy side of town to the adult bookstore, watch porn on the computer with the family in the other room, view it at work and risk your job.