You Can’t Recover from Porn by Running Away from Women

by | Sep 20, 2019 | Pornography, Uncategorized | 84 comments

You Can't Defeat Porn by Avoiding Women
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If a man is trying to recover from a porn addiction, does he need to detoxify by making sure that he never sees any woman who could be alluring?

One of the biggest searches that land people on this blog is for the effects of porn on the brain, and so I have a lot of readers for whom pornography has been a huge problem in their marriages. I have tried to address what you must do if your husband uses porn, and how to recover intimacy after a porn addiction–and so much more. I have talked about the three stages of porn addiction recovery. And I have even written about women and porn!

But I still think there’s a fundamental disconnect when it comes to our understanding of the nature of a porn addiction which makes getting over it that much harder. So let’s go back to first principles for a moment and see what real recovery from a porn addiction looks like.

Porn rewires the brain so that what becomes arousing is an image or a video rather than a person.

Porn turns sexual arousal and sexual response into something that is linked to seeing women solely as sexual objects, and in seeing sex as something which is only self-focused. It’s about the porn user receiving sexual gratification; it has nothing to do with thinking about the other person, let alone seeing that woman as someone with feelings, needs, or desires of her own. She is there only to use and to derive sexual satisfaction from. With that background, let’s picture what happens in the typical marriage when a porn addiction is discovered.

He is now in a lifestyle where he needs pornography to fuel his sexual desire and sexual response. His body has been trained to respond to porn. And a big part of that is seeing women as objects, as something that exist for him to use. Thus, it’s hardly surprising that many men who are recovering from a porn addiction (or who are in the middle of a full-blown porn addiction!) have difficulty with lusting after other women in public.

Porn is not a substance abuse problem. Porn is a substance misuse problem.  

Going to the beach becomes a difficult thing because everywhere are these women that he can see in various states of undress, and he inevitably will think of them as objects. Going to the mall is a similar landmine because there are lingerie stores, with cut outs of women in bras and panties. Going on regular websites is difficult because there could be ads for vacations in the Caribbean featuring women in bikinis, or ads for some sort of lingerie. Everywhere they look, the world is now dangerous because their brains turn immediately to lustful, sexual thoughts.

Now, the wife of the porn addict likely realizes this, and she’s devastated. She wants him to stop lusting. And so what is the solution? The only option seems to be to prevent him from seeing any of those women or images of those women. I have seen it in so many women’s writings online, writings that I know come from a place of deep pain, where they’re begging women and girls to stop wearing revealing swimsuits, and to go back to modest one-pieces, preferably with T-shirts over them, because it’s just too hard for the husband to go to the beach now.

They don’t want their husbands to go to the mall. When they’re driving, they try to distract him when they go by a certain billboard. These women become hyper-vigilant for anything that could cause their husbands’ minds to go in that bad direction.

Let me suggest that when we start viewing women’s bodies as a threat we actually solidify the porn addiction.

I know this is controversial to say, and I’m not trying to defend the ads for vacations in the Caribbean or lingerie stores or anything like that. I’m just saying this: Porn is a problem because it objectifies women and treats all women as if they exist to service a man sexually. When we think that men will inevitably lust if they see a woman’s body, we actually agree with porn’s definition of the world and of women in particular.

Porn is a problem because it objectifies women and treats all women as if they exist to service a man sexually. When we think that men will inevitably lust if they see a woman’s body, we actually agree with porn’s definition of the world and of women in particular.

The way to get over porn is to stop agreeing with porn and to start re-framing how we see women and how we see sex.

A porn addiction, while it has some things in common with an alcohol addiction or a drug addiction, also has a lot of things that distinguish it from those two things. An alcohol or drug addiction is a substance abuse problem–people take a substance which is mood or mind altering and use it too much.

Porn is not a substance abuse problem. Porn is a substance misuse problem. 

There is nothing wrong with sex. There is nothing wrong with women’s bodies. There is nothing wrong with men and women relating to each other. But there is something hugely wrong with how porn sees sex, how porn sees women’s bodies, and how porn sees the relationship between the sexes. Porn warps something which is good. The way that you get over a substance abuse problem, you see, is to stop using that substance. The way that you get over a porn abuse problem, though, is quite different. It’s to stop using porn, yes. But it’s also to stop misusing the elements that go into porn. It’s to stop agreeing with pornography about the nature of women’s bodies, the nature of the relationship between the sexes, the purpose of sex.

I’ve talked before about the 3-fold nature of a porn recovery.

First, you need to get rid of the porn altogether, which I firmly believe should include some sort of filters on your computers, phones, and devices. I have recommended Covenant Eyes for years, and they have a great program that can filter what you can access, which takes away that initial temptation. It doesn’t stop all porn use.

Yes, there may be ways around it. But it makes it harder to access porn. It’s no longer a split second decision, so that there’s a lot more time for people to think, to listen to the Holy Spirit, to withstand that temptation. However, I have also been very vocal that this is only the first step. This just sets the groundwork so that the real healing can take place -healing that usually requires an accountability group and counseling, to help people re-frame sex again, and to help people understand how porn became a coping mechanism and often stunted emotional growth. It’s these latter steps that actually cure a porn addiction, not the first one. The first one simply gives the porn user space to work on things.

Find freedom from porn!

Your marriage, and your thought life, do not need to be held captive to pornography.

There is freedom. 

Beat porn–together!

So let me reiterate:

We can’t solve a porn problem if we continue to see women’s bodies as inherently dangerous, because it’s agreeing with porn about the nature of women’s bodies.

That’s also why, in an earlier post about overcoming lust, I was so adamant that in churches we need to become more breastfeeding friendly. If boys grow up seeing that women’s bodies are not only sexual, then it’s easier to withstand lust because you already are rejecting a basic premise of pornography.

Quite frankly, if your husband has used porn and now he can’t walk through a mall, see a billboard, go to the beach, go to a travel agency, or even pick the kids up from a youth group pool party, then there is some serious work to do. And that work cannot be about women learning to cover up; that work needs to be about learning to see women as whole people, and learning to value women as people.

When we continue to treat women as if they have “cooties” and they’re dangerous, then we’re reinforcing the whole issue that porn has caused. The way you fight against objectifying women is to stop objectifying women. Talk to women. Ask women’s opinions. Go out in mixed groups and have conversations that involve both men and women. Read about amazing women. See women as people, not as dangerous things.

With alcohol, it is possible to get rid of all the booze from the house and stay away from places where booze is likely to be. You simply can’t live your life avoiding women, and nor should you. Instead of trying to limit the encounters a porn user can have with women who might be temptresses, a better model is to start helping your husband see women as people. Otherwise we’re just agreeing with porn, and that will never, ever end the hold that porn has on him. If you want to break the addiction, you have to stop agreeing with the mindset.

Does that make sense? I’m not sure how to make this practical or how to completely live this out, but I’d love to talk about this in the comments!

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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84 Comments

  1. Needgrace

    Fighting a porn addiction isnt easy. I thank God for the small steps im taking and thankful to my wife who wants to help me and isnt bashing this over my head but is supporting me in beating this.
    I think this post was very interesting since I am battling this. This may seem weird but I havent actually had so much problem when it comes to lusting after women in real life. I thought I had that problem until I read your posts about what lust really is. That made me realize that I only had problem with lust with one woman. There was an attraction there and that sometimes lead me to lust and what I realized was that it was more difficult to say no to those thoughts when I was using porn. When I started to battle it and stay away from it then it became easier. Altough she still is a person who I have to be careful with when it comes to my thoughts when I am around her. And while I agree that it sometimes can be because one sees the person as a sexobject that doesnt always have to be the case. There was some attraction there that was developing into a crush and I had to be careful to not let myself get into that.
    Aside from her I havent had much problem with lusting after people IRL. I guess I just was out for the high it gives which explains why readin erotica also has been a big temptation.

    But I have to ask, what do you think about triggers? I know avoiding women isnt the point but should one look at things that are meant to be sexual and not avoid it? For example I was watching a talent show with my wife and apparently a girl that twerks has talent. I couldnt see the talent in wiggling ones butt in a thong. When that came on I decided to look away. My wife asked if that turned me on. I said no but I didnt want to watch because I know that the image can easily get stuck in my head. You can say what you want about twerking but its a sexual thing. Shouldnt I have turned my head away? Is it possible to come to the place where things that are meant to be sexual doesnt have affect on me? And is the degree of ones sinfulness measured by how that affects a person?

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      First of all, great job for fighting pornography and lust with such conviction! That’s wonderful for you, your walk with God, and your marriage.

      I think that the idea of “triggers” is definitely important, and very different from just being unable to look at women in general. If I struggle with gluttony, for instance, going to all-you-can-eat buffets is likely not a great idea because it directly feeds into my area of weakness. Avoiding food entirely or being anxious around food would not be beneficial or healthy. That’s how I see this. If you’ve struggled with porn, maybe don’t get involved in a ministry that works in strip clubs because sexualized images are an area of weakness. Or maybe be a bit stricter with what TV shows or movies you watch. Those don’t impact your ability to see people as actual people, but is just being wise about an area of weakness.

      The problem is when the “trigger” is just the opposite sex–that shows a deeper issue, I think, that needs to be dealt with through therapy. But when the trigger is just people being sexual and doing sexual things that are reminiscent of pornography, then that makes sense and isn’t about their personhood as much as it is about certain actions that are not normal in everyday interactions.

      I think ideally, yes, we are all able to move past our triggers. But if we have a particular area of weakness it’s not unwise to be cautious and protective while we are healing. We just need to make sure that we ARE working towards healing and that our treatment doesn’t require others to bear the brunt of the responsibility for our own sin.

      Reply
      • Needgrace

        Then I get it. It depends on what the trigger is. But in a pornified culture like the one we live in, isnt it kind of difficult not seeing someone of the opposite sex like a trigger. I get that if its every woman that a mans sees then its extreme but I mean like for example the beach. I have no problem going to the beach but I also prefer not going to a beach where every woman walks around in a string bikini. I mean we cant say that they do it because its just a fashion choice, walking around in a string bikini is something sexual. I wouldnt want to be there because at some point I feel that it would become a trigger. And tempting. I sometimes feel like Sheila means that being tempted by another woman means that you are a horrible man. I am sure this isnt what she means but its like you shouldnt even be tempted by a woman because that means that you are an awful sinner. A real man doesnt even get affected by seeing things like this. And this may be true but there cant be many men who dont get affected by seeing something sexual.

        Doesnt being a man after Gods heart also include just avoiding things that can be triggers. I get the breastfeeding thing but altough I have seen women breastfeed their kids I still find it very uncomfortable sitting beside my coworked who likes to have a lot of cleavage showing her breast. Am I being a really bad man because I see it as something sexual and prefer to turn my head away? Doesnt the bible talk about breast being sexual? I just sometimes feel like the message is that if you are tempted well then you arent a real man.I remember one post where Sheila was talking about her husband and that if he would see a naked woman he wouldnt be tempted just feel sorry for her. And I guess there are people that will some day reach that level of holiness but I have personally never met someone who has gotten there. Isnt it just as holy to admit that this is a weakness of mine so I prefer to not look at the girl and walk away? I mean didnt Jesus say that we need to cut away the things that lead us to sin. I am not saying that women need to cover up or anything like that. If my coworker likes to show her breast then its ok, its fine by me. But am I a bad christian because I prefer to turn away because I see breast as something sexual?

        Reply
        • Ethan

          Wow! This is a big deal.
          Similar to what’s described in this post, my own story of struggling with porn use turned a major corner, about a year ago, when I made a decision to stop agreeing with porn’s message about women and their bodies. That really changed everything!
          Making the shift in mindset practical is so important, and I imagine may look different for everyone. In my case, I grew less afraid of the supposed danger of female bodies when I deliberately interacted with them in a nonsexual way – for instance, studying figurative art. It was counterintuitive at first, because I was afraid of temptation. Sometimes I still am. But I am at my best when, instead of avoiding women (or even images of women), my focus is on valuing and listening to them. Changes everything.

          Reply
          • Rebecca Lindenbach

            That’s amazing, Ethan! From a psychological perspective, the mindset shift you’re talking about is actually really important in re-training your brain to decode stimuli in a new way than it did before. And I love that you used art as a way to combat pornography–that’s so interesting.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Love that, Ethan!

          • wifeofasexaddict

            Needsgrace,

            I’m so glad you’re working on fighting your addiction. You are blessed to have a partner who shows you grace (she has already!) and wants to help you overcome your lust problem.

            May I suggest something that might help with that woman in the beach in a string bikini? Try to imagine some other motive she might have had for putting that on. Maybe she really enjoys the sensation of the sun and water on her skin and wants to maximize that pleasure. Maybe it actually is a fashion statement. Maybe she comes from a country where that’s normal and she doesn’t think anything of it (and neither do the men in her country!). Do you see how we don’t have to assume that she was trying to entice you sexually and the deprive you? She probably didn’t think about you at all when she got dressed. Things like this can help you start to see women as humans who are autonomous and don’t think of sexually tempting men in every decision they make. We just want to live our lives!

            On the subject of triggers, the actual trigger is not the thing you see, but the thing you are avoiding when you are indulging. My husband discovered that his triggers are loneliness and boredom. The root of addiction is trauma, so examining your trauma, while very painful, is the way to solve a true addiction. People indulge in an addiction to avoid pain.

        • Blessed Wife

          It doesn’t make you a bad person, but surely you recognize that a body part can be sexual sometimes but not all the time? Our mouths and hands, for instance, have various sexual applications, but that isn’t all we use them for! Only in fundamentslist Muslim countries is it demanded that those parts of a woman be covered. In fact, I’ve read that in those same countries it is quite normal for a woman’s breasts to be exposed in public for nursing, even as she is required to hide her face.

          Breasts are multifunctional too. Sometimes they’re for feeding the baby, and sometimes they’re for the baby’s Daddy to play with and look at. If they don’t belong to your wife, neither function need concern you. I think looking elsewhere is perfectly acceptable if breastfeeding makes you uncomfortable, because your eyes are yours, and your comfort matters too.

          I personally think women who maximize breast exposure during feedings to make a point about what other people should be thinking are rude. I prefer to avoid rude people. On the other hand, women should be able to feed their babies in public without having to carry large blankets, ponchos, or aprons everywhere. The poor little things get very hot and sweaty under all that cover! It’s much more sensible and practical to carry a large burp cloth (probably gonna need one anyway, right?) and place it over the shoulder on the appropriate side. But I digress.

          If you find yourself near a nursing mom you don’t know, you can talk to other people, scroll through your phone, read a book, focus on the preacher, SS teacher, your own kids or the items on the grocery shelf. If you’re talking to her, you can practice keeping your eyes on her face and ignoring the feeding. It’s actually quite easy, based on all the men I encountered in my five years of nursing babies in public who had no trouble doing all of the above. Probably just takes some practice.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Well said! And I totally agree with you about babies getting hot. Everyone who says that you should just totally cover them up–how would you like to sit smushed against another person, sharing body heat, and then have a blanket over your head and try to breathe? It isn’t very easy.

        • Rebecca Lindenbach

          Samantha, no one is saying “don’t flee sexual immorality.” We’re definitely not saying to be foolish around these very important issues–you know from our content how strongly we feel about keeping free from unhealthy sexuality in all forms.

          All we’re saying (and as I said earlier in my other comment) is that the goal should be that things that are triggers due to past sin or footholds (like pornography) have LESS power over us. By constantly having to run away, if our spiritual development doesn’t include anything other than avoidance, we are missing out on the growth that comes from Christ.

          Deciding not to watch a pole dancer, a stripper, or a super sexual dancing performance is worlds different than not being able to have professional conversations with women because of how they’re dressed. Nowhere have we EVER said that you should be able to stare boldly at sexually explicit material–in fact, we very very clearly and consistently talk about how we need to hold ourselves to higher standards.

          As well, we’re also not saying “don’t be tempted.” We’re saying “don’t lust.” the two are very different things. But over time, if we learn to retrain our brain (as one commenter shared his story with earlier on this thread–it was really interesting!) the temptation becomes less and less strong because we CAN experience healing of these kinds of things, even if it’s always going to be a struggle. The struggle can become easier, and we’re trying to give people hope.

          Reality is that there IS such a thing as weakness. But that’s not something to be ashamed of–it’s something to understand that we all have in different areas, but then to work on so that we are less weak or at least more equipped to deal with the temptation that comes with our individual weaknesses. All we’re saying is that the answer isn’t to make women the enemy–it’s up to the person who is struggling with the weakness to figure out how to call on Christ’s strength and re-train their brain to combat pornography’s dangerous messages.

          Reply
    • Csab

      If you watch porn after the trigger, you’ll reinforce the trigger. If you don’t watch porn, then you’ll weaken the trigger.

      My father knocked the acquarium before feeding the fishes. The fishes swum up in a hurry, waiting for the food. If you knock and there’s no food, fishes won’t swim up. This is how triggers work. You can weaken or reinforce them.

      Porn and masturbation are not the same sins. If the trigger is very strong, it’s much safer to masturbate in 1 min instead of watching porn for 1 hour.

      Masturbation is also a sin, but makes much less harm.

      If you watch porn too much, then one day your interest in sex can disappear. It can happen overnight, but the recovery can take years.

      Reply
      • Blessed Wife

        That’s such an interesting point!

        I never heard that, and would never have thought of it, but it makes sense!

        Reply
  2. Nathan

    The brain rewiring thing is definitely true and a huge thing. When I first found this site, I was blown away by the number of married women who will literally BEG their husbands to have sex with them, but they refuse because they would rather watch porn. I can’t understand why anybody would turn down a real, live woman and watch porn instead.

    My own experience with porn is limited. Growing up in the 70s and 80s there was no internet porn, but my dad (and dads of my friends) often had the infamous “stash of magazines” in their basements. I’m a tech person, and have been on the internet since 1988 (yes, there was an internet back then, and even before that).

    I never got addicted to porn, although of course an addict is often the last person to realize their addiction, but even in the late 90s, I only looked about 10 or so minutes per week. I also had a personal rule that if I was dating, I wouldn’t look. I met my wife in early 2001, back when porn wasn’t as pervasive as it is now. So I haven’t looked at it at all in over 18 years, and even back then, it was a rare thing.

    Now, if I had been born 20 years later, and had never met Mrs. Nathan, I hope that I would not have become addicted, but it’s impossible to tell.

    Reply
  3. Nathan

    Needgrace, good for you for openly admitting and confronting your problem, and it’s good that you have a loving wife who is helping you through this.

    You wrote…
    > > But am I a bad christian because I prefer to turn away because I see breast as something sexual?

    No, I don’t think that this is bad. It’s just that it’s not healthy to take a complete attitude of “run away” as the one and only answer to porn.

    Reply
  4. Nathan

    The identification of porn as an addiction is a good one. Even though I have virtually no history with porn (see above), as somebody who has been on the internet for over 30 years (and with some friends who have been into it), I can’t completely avoid it.

    I’ve seen a progression. Back in the day, “porn” on the internet was mostly text fiction stories, Then we started seeing pictures of women in bathing suits, then topless, then nude, then pics of multiple women, then animated stuff, then videos, then the videos got more and more graphic and violent. This is much like a drug addiction, where you need more and more to get satisfied.

    I can understand the desire to look at nude women (I’m not THAT noble, after all), but I don’t get the desire to watch people hurt each other. At that point, some serious psychological issues must be present.

    Reply
    • Doug

      Nathan, I don’t want to sound like I am minimizing the issue, because I am not, but the escalation that is often discussed is some thing that is completely foreign to me, and I was a long term addict. I am not saying it isn’t an issue, but I wonder if it is as bad as it is made out to be. I would guess that there is more really degrading stuff out there now, and it is certainly easier for younger men and boys to see it and buy into the lie that it is “normal” because it is what was first introduced.

      As an addict of one particular genre, if you asked me, I would tell you that I held women in high esteem. Had you asked those close to me, they would have told you that as well. I was raised that way, and it stuck. My moral code, flawwed as it was, was deeply offended by anything that was deliberately degrading.

      I know it is a complicated mix, but I think a lot of things that get blamed on porn addiction are already there as a lack of proper upbringing, or the result of sexuality being altered at an early age. Some of the genres are truly horrible and degrading, but if you have never been taught anything different, they may seem normal, or become normalized if seen regularly.

      Reply
      • Arwen

        Doug, the escalation thing is actually really, really, bad. There is a very famous porn site that collects data on its users and they said the highest viewed porn are teen porn and interracial porn involving black men & white women. There is a reason why those two are the most viewed but i’ll not get into it here. And the reasons aren’t good. In additional homosexual porn has also increased especially lesbian porn.

        All these things and MORE are examples off porn users wanting more to gratified their lust because the normal stuff ain’t doing it anymore. Also all the other types of sexual depravity are becoming easier to access too. I won’t name them because they are literally vomit inducing for me. So yes like an addict they are looking for a stronger hit.

        Reply
  5. Nathan

    Absolutely, Doug. Everybody is different and every case is different. My guess is that escalation is a pretty big issue overall, but that doesn’t mean that everybody does it. I’m guessing by what I’ve read here and there and seen here and there. Like I said earlier, I don’t really have much experience directly. I only found this place while researching to help a friend who was caught watching porn by his wife.

    > > I know it is a complicated mix,

    Welcome to the human race! Yes, we’re all a complicated mix of various things. That can be good and/or bad depending.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      I don’t know if my husband’s situation was normal, but he had an issue where he seemed to develop a bit of a split personality. He was and is a very good person, but nobody is perfect and he felt extremely bad that he couldn’t be as perfect as others thought he was. So, he started to develop this flip side to cope with the stress, and his flip side could be irresponsible and was less likely to see the women as more than a means to an end. Eventually it became a bad spiral, where he knew it was wrong, would apologize and vow to stop, he would feel horrible about himself, and then those horrible feelings would cause stress so he would do this stuff and the cycle would repeat.

      I noticed that he would sometimes be oddly judgmental in his “normal” personality. To me, that’s a sign that someone is still stuck in addiction and not fully owning their behavior.

      He got counselling, and part of the work was repairing the personality split and fully taking ownership. He couldn’t be Mr. Perfect Nice Guy and then have a bad boy side that wasn’t accountable. He needed to admit that he wasn’t perfect, and that he was allowed to admit that he had flaws. Enjoying being sexual was fine, but using it as an escape instead of in a responsible way in a relationship to further intimacy was not. His flip side tended to either not really consider the women at all, or to only see a fantasy instead of obvious issues in reality. I remember years ago hearing his friend talk about how the women at one strip club were so gorgeous. A while later I was working with one as a client. She was only 19 and had three kids and a ton of stretch marks. He would be fooled and think that women wanted certain things based on what he saw in porn and I had to explain that some people may moan for cameras but that the videos were not showing women enjoying themselves.

      This is long, but the long story short is that he needed to realize it was okay to be less than perfect, okay to be sexual, but not okay to act irresponsibly or be disrespectful to women, and he had to realize that ALL women were people with lives and stories and he needed to see them as more than the work they were doing.

      Reply
      • Nathan

        Anonymous, I’m so sorry that you went through that, and I hope that you and your husband are on the path to healing together.

        True, none of us are perfect (Lord knows I’m not), but as you say that’s not an excuse for bad behavior. We need to acknowledge our imperfections and work to improve.

        And yes, you’re correct that people who are addicted to some form of bad behavior will often act superior and judgmental toward others.

        Long ago, there was a famous preacher who traveled the country railing against the evils of alcohol (not just getting drunk, all alcohol in all cases) and how wicked and sinful you were if you took even one drink. After he died, it was revealed that he was a major alcoholic himself.

        Reply
  6. Samantha

    Frankly, I wish I had the time to respond to this the way I’d like to. I just want to say that I wholeheartedly agree that all men need to be able to interact women in everyday life and to have a deep-rooted respect for women as human beings created in the image of God. HOWEVER, learning to do that looks very different for a man who has struggled with lusting after everyday women for the majority of their lives. Yes, it does require making the choice to look away from certain women because the reality of this fallen world is that there are women who dress to gain sexual attention. Implying that they shouldn’t have to look away or that it makes them weak for choosing to look away is incredibly foolish and dangerous. And frankly you ARE implying that if the man who commented above is finding himself questioning whether or not he should have looked away from a woman twerking on TV after reading your advice on the matter. Frankly, men and women should both have the wisdom to turn the TV off in a situation like that. The Bible instructs us to flee sexual immorality for a reason. And that is an instruction for all of us. Not just those who have a particular weakness in that area. And that’s the thing. You treat this issue like it’s only porn and sex addicts who need to exercise wisdom and caution in this area. Isn’t saying that you would never do something or act in a certain way the very first step towards doing it? Again, men need to learn to respect women. This will take time and require certain steps for a former porn and/or sex addict. It’s a lot more complicated than simply telling them that they just need to respect women. That of course is one of the main goals, but it isn’t going to happen just because you want it to. It takes work and intentionality. Also, It’s unwise council to imply that once a man has gained that respect for women they no longer have to be cautious or that they are weak if they find themselves looking away from a woman who is obviously attempting to get sexual attention.

    Reply
    • Samantha

      I feel I usually do a poor job expressing my views. I have recently listened to a really good sermon that is a good reminder that none of us are immune to any type of sin even if we think ourselves above it. I’d suggest it to anyone and everyone. It can be found by searching for “Gospel in Life David and Bathsheba”. It is a sermon by Tim Keller.

      Reply
    • Samantha

      In other words, a man, regardless of past sins, should never allow himself to get to the point where he believes in his own strength to the point where he finds himself saying, “I can watch this movie or TV show when I know it has scantily clad women or sexually explicit scenes, go to a notoriously less than wholesome place or part of town, walk through this lingerie store with my wife, etc., because I have no weakness in that particular area. I have too much respect for women. I am morally above that sin.” That is just plain arrogance. That is NOT what the Bible instructs us to do. We should be keenly aware that we as humans are capable of doing very evil things even if we don’t want to believe that we are.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Samantha, I’d agree. But here’s the thing. I’m not talking about TV shows. I’m talking about interacting with women on a daily basis. If a man can’t walk through a mall; sit in a business meeting; be in a university lecture; have a business lunch with colleagues; or even go to the beach without feeling like he’s lusting, then he has a problem.

        All of these things affect someone’s daily life.

        And the answer that I read, over and over again, is that women need to watch what they wear. NO. Men need to learn to see women they interact with in real life as whole people. That really is the only answer.

        Reply
        • Needgrace

          Yeah but seeing them as whole people doesn’t mean that a person stops finding someone sexually attractive. I think I get your message but it still seems like you mean that a man shouldn’t even be tempted because If he is he is only objectifying a woman and he isn’t a good Christian. I know perfection is the goal but we won’t get there on this side of heaven. I don’t mean that we should lust because of that but I don’t see what’s wrong with turning one a head when one feels that there is an attraction there. As I wrote before I have met women where I was developing a crush and that included also a sexual desire for that woman. But it wasn’t that I didn’t see her as a person. I did. I noticed how she struggles with stuff and found myself wanting to comfort her. Was it just out of lust? No there was something there and I had to decide to distance myself to not put my marriage at risk. And I still find that woman as a risk for me. Not just because she is an object but because I find her attractive in many ways. It doesn’t get better by the fact that she likes wearing clothes that draws a lot of attention to her butt and breasts but does that mean that I only see her as an object? No. So I think it’s wrong to say that all lusting after a person is objectification because it doesn’t have to be. I don’t demand women to change clothes if they want to wear sexy clothes then fine but I don’t think I am a bad Christian because I want to turn away when I see someone I find sexually attractive. I don’t think all women are sexually attractive but some I do. And I prefer not to look when a woman has clothes that highlight certain body parts, am I a bad Christian because of that? My boss is a female and wears sexy clothes sometimes. Today she wore pants that put a lot of focus on her butt(she looked ridiculous) but I wasn’t going to stare at her but while she was turning around while I was at her office. I looked away because I don’t want to entertain anything. Am I a bad Christian for that? Don’t I respect her and see her as a person for that?

          Reply
          • Rebecca Lindenbach

            I actually think that we agree here. We’re definitely not saying that temptation = objectification, and we’re also not saying men should just openly stare at women! No! What we’re saying is that you have the power when tempted to make the decision NOT to cross over into lust.

            The reason we wrote the post is that often the only antidote to lust that men are given is to avoid women. Don’t even look at women in case you get tempted, don’t interact with any woman who is scantily clad, etc. But that isn’t a healthy message because the reality is, scantily clad women aren’t going away. If someone was to have a business meeting with a female coworker who is wearing a revealing outfit, he would need to be able to function in that setting. And we’re just presenting another way to combat what is the underlying trigger for many men’s lust: objectification due to training their brains to see women as a series of sexual images instead of as a real person. It doesn’t seem like that is your particular struggle, which may be where the disconnect is happening.

            Part of respecting women is also, like you said with the example with your boss, choosing not to ogle even when the opportunity is presented. We’re not saying sexual attraction is wrong, or that finding people attractive is wrong, we’re just saying that the answer to avoiding lust is not to just live in fear of all sexually attractive women and avoid them whenever possible. It’s just to ignore them and move on with your day because you realize that at the end of the day, they’re people–not just threats–and they only have as much power over you as you will give them (like the example you gave!). It actually seems like you have a really good handle on that from what you are saying, and I think we agree on what this should look like practically, actually. My husband puts it this way: if he sees someone who is sexually attractive, there’s nothing wrong or disrespectful in noticing that. But then he can just choose to move on with his day, not stare at her, and focus on something else instead because he knows he has the choice to not fixate on the attraction. I think that’s a quite balanced approach.

            In the case of emotional attachment and lust, that’s actually a different conversation entirely because it’s NOT solely a physical thing–it’s an overall attraction to a person as a whole. And that’s a different kind of temptation that you also seem to be dealing with in a responsible manner.

            Overall, it sounds like you’re working really hard to be respectful not only to your wife, but to women in general. And I just wanted to say that I appreciate that.

          • Needgrace

            Thank you for that clarification Rebecca. You put it in clearer terms than the post did. It sounded like being tempted at all was bad and that men who haven’t reached that level of holiness aren’t good. Basically the message is temptation comes but you decide what you will do with it. Then I agree with the message of the post it just didn’t sound like that. But I just have to ask(sorry for being annoying) but why did Jesus then say that we should cut our eyes out and cut our hands off? He clearly isn’t blaming the woman but the man but He seems to say that if looking tempts you cut that off. He doesn’t say anything about resisting but to cut it away. I agree that women shouldn’t be blamed for a man that lusts but a man that avoid things like the beach, isn’t he just doing what Jesus said? I think that verse is one Big reason Christians try to avoid situations where they are afraid to lust.

          • wifeofasexaddict

            Jesus’ words about cutting out eyes are obvious hyperbole. Suppose we take this literally. You sin by lusting and cut out your right eye and throw it away. Can you still lust? Yep, you still have your left eye. So you lust again and the only thing left to do is cut out your left eye. Can you still lust? YES! Because lust doesn’t happen in the eyes. It happens in the mind and heart. You can still sin because you still have the lustfulness in your heart and mind. Jesus’ point is that we should do whatever it takes IN OURSELVES, not in others, to avoid sin.

            Honestly, it sounds like you are doing a good job. You might think of averting your eyes from your boss’ backside as “giving her privacy”. It doesn’t sound like lust is even an issue for you in that situation. So, victory!

          • Susanna

            Can I ask Sheila/Rebecca: when you talk about choosing not to stare, going on with your day, not ogling the boss when she turns around… isn’t this essentially the “bouncing your eyes” technique that is much-maligned on this blog? Now maybe you mean to say that glancing away is part of an appropriate response, but not the whole solution. I totally agree. Just curious how you would frame this.

          • Rebecca Lindenbach

            The whole “bouncing your eyes” teaching is based on fear: you bounce your eyes so you don’t even notice the breasts, the butt, the legs, etc because if you accidentally let your eyes fall on a woman, you may be tempted which leads to lust. The teaching where “bounce your eyes” comes from pretty much makes it impossible for a man to look at a woman without fear of lust.

            What we’re saying is you can notice the woman, look at the woman, and then choose to look away because you aren’t going to be drawn against your will into lust. You don’t need to be scared of accidentally seeing a woman’s butt or cleavage because you then have the CHOICE to not stare at her creepily. The answer isn’t to never notice/see, the answer is just to treat each other with respect. So it’s like you said: looking away isn’t the entire solution. It’s just a logical step within the solution: treat each other with respect and human dignity.

            I imagine that oftentimes they look quite similar on the outside, but it’s the mentality shift that is so important to release people from fear and shake off the heavy burden of “inescapable lust” that has been placed on men through teachings that are, simply put, not conducive with the Bible’s presentation of the fruit of the Spirit, our callings as Christians, or our freedom in Christ.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            “Bounce your eyes” says that you can’t look no matter what, and you’re always vigilant lest you see anything. Choosing not to stare acknowledges that you’ve seen something, but then you choose not to dwell on it. But it doesn’t think that there’s anything wrong with seeing. Also, if you’re with someone, talking with them, it’s absolutely imperative that you look at them. Bouncing your eyes won’t help there. Just treat people as whole people! Choose not to fantasize about their body. But you’re allowed to be with them and talk with them without seeing them as a threat. Does that make sense?

          • EM

            In response to the difference between choosing not to stare/fantasize vs immediately “bouncing your eyes,” I want to share an experience I had in college. I was visiting a good male friend from school and we visited his church, a mega church with a nationally known pastor. After the service he took me to introduce me to the pastor, saying I’d like you to meet my friend. He literally looked away and didn’t shake my hand. It was so awkward that my friend repeated it, thinking the pastor hadn’t heard him. He again did not even acknowledge my presence. It was painfully obvious that he was avoiding interaction with me because I was an attractive young woman, and it stung deeply. It seemed so odd that a grown man didn’t have the maturity to shake my hand without lusting. I obviously don’t know what his history or struggles are, but men do need to understand the effect it has on Christian women when we are basically shunned for being in a female body. It feels very, very icky.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Oh, isn’t that terrible? That’s actually quite revolting. Shame on him!

          • Lea

            ” It was so awkward that my friend repeated it, thinking the pastor hadn’t heard him. He again did not even acknowledge my presence.”

            How terrible!

            I think we are all taught (or should be!) at a young age not to stare at people because it’s rude. This is the opposite of that, and still incredibly unbelievably rude. I cant’ even fathom someone doing that at my church, or work, or any other social situation.

            You should be able to interact with people in daily life without basically snubbing them for…existing? Being attractive? Whatever. Learn how to interact with other people like an adult and don’t stare. I don’t think this is complicated.

        • ingodslove

          YES!!! you explained this so well! My husband and I came to the same conclusions after prayerfully trying to sort out these things after feeling confused about it all. I don’t judge him if he feels the need to look away from something, but at the same time, he has made huge progress in this area and it is because of the overall mind shift about women. We encourage our kids to think about bodies (especially women’s bodies) in a non-sexually charged way. Praying that this message would click with more people because it has been SO HELPFUL in this battle with porn addiction.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I’m so glad!

  7. Nathan

    Actually, Samantha, I think you did a pretty good job of expressing your views. Your main points in your post seem to be…
    1. We all need to respect each other as humans and children of God
    2. This can be harder for people who have watched porn extensively.
    3. Learning to respect is far more than just somebody telling you to do so.
    4. We are ALL subject to temptation, not just porn/sex addicts.

    I was able to pick that up pretty easily from your post, so no worries!

    Reply
    • Samantha

      Thanks, Nathan. I appreciate your understanding.

      Reply
  8. Tim West

    Sheila’s overall point is very valid – don’t make interacting with sexy women taboo or it only exacerbates the porn/lust issue. But she still speaks as a woman, and women have on average 10x less testosterone than men, women are visual sexually on average far less than men, women have not evolved to value youth and beauty as much as men have, and so on. Why do I mention all this? I mention it to point out that she will never understand how difficult this issue is to men, and as a result she will tend to lean toward “easy” solutions that don’t take these things into account.

    Reply
    • Arwen

      Tim West, I don’t know if you’re a Christian or not. But you didn’t “evolve” to value youth and beauty. Stop blaming God for your actions, you men have been doing that since Adam blamed God for his sin. Blaming everybody but yourself. You’re capable of controlling yourself and if you’re a believer you have the Holy Spirit to assist you in Self Control! The same sin men struggle with is the same sin women struggle with. Stop putting a scale on sin! God didn’t make you to value youth and beauty while making women to value the elderly and ugly’s. That’s literally what you’re implying. Men can’t help they are attracting to 17 year old girls while women are attracted to what? 70 year old’s?

      Every time the Bible addressed sexual sins it was warning men. Because God knew you men will blame everybody and everything before you took responsibility for yourself. Stop blaming God, stop blaming women, stop blaming testosterone, stop blaming society, etc. If you’r a Christian you can do ALL things through Christ and you have the fruit of the Holy Spirit. How long are you going to blame everyone for your sins before you destruct your own soul.

      Reply
      • Nathan

        Tim doesn’t seem to be excusing such actions so much as he is saying it’s harder for men to overcome and fight certain things.

        Also, we can control our actions, but thoughts are a bit more problematic. We can choose not to wallow in them, but we can’t really stop the thoughts and feelings from entering our heads in the first place.

        Reply
        • Arwen

          Actually Nathan his entire comment is excuses. Here is a direct quote from him, “women have not evolved to value youth and beauty as much as men have.” He’s suggesting that men are perpetually seeking the youngest chick once his wife is no longer a youth. When the Bible is very clear that husband’s are not to forsake the wife of their youth. Again instead of taking responsibility he blames it on evolution. That’s why i asked if he’s a Christian. Because evolutionist like him believe the goal of men is to impregnate as many women as they can and spread their seed as far as they can. Which is antithesis to the Biblical teaching.

          And like i said, he’s putting a scale on sin. Just because women and men struggle differently from each other doesn’t mean both aren’t struggling in their own ways with sin. If he doesn’t like the solution Sheila provided because they are “easy” then he can go make his own solutions. But don’t come here insulting the images of women by telling them once their youth and beauty is gone they are worthless.

          There are so many women around me hurting by society at large AND by Christian men who sit there and judge their appearances, insult their image. I’m sick and tired of it! Two days ago i just found out my 50 year old cousin (whom i am very close to) is divorcing because the husband is no longer attracted to her and he’s been shacking up with a 21 year old for the past 6 months. Destroying everything around you for the sake of youth and beauty is disgusting way to look at humans being created in the image of God.

          I’m tired of you men hurting women like this. When you yourself age just as bad but because we women can look past your physical ailments doesn’t mean we don’t notice your unattractive, your weight, etc. If we women can look past that you men can do the same.

          Reply
          • Tim West

            Arwen, you’ve made many incorrect assumptions about what I said. I did NOT say that men are constantly seeking out young women once they’re married and their wife ages. Instead, I said in my other comment that young women LOOK the best. A husband (in general) doesn’t just leave his wife that he loves because there are young women who look better!

            You are displacing your anger toward your 50-yr-old cousin onto me. I NEVER said an older woman is worthless! When did I say that? You’ve read far too much into what I wrote, because of your bitterness toward your cousin, and others.

      • Tim West

        Arwen, I have trouble understanding how your science education could be so poor, could have let you down so much, that you think evolution is false. But let’s get off that.

        Men are attracted to youth. This is a documented fact. Google ‘Dataclysm’ and you’ll find the chart that shows that, no matter how old a man gets, the age which women LOOK best to them is early 20s. For women, this is NOT true. I repeat, for women this is NOT true! Women think men LOOK best at roughly what age the woman is herself. Again, check those Dataclysm charts. You’ll see.

        Reply
    • Lea

      “I mention it to point out that she will never understand how difficult this issue is to men, and as a result she will tend to lean toward “easy” solutions that don’t take these things into account.”

      First of all, women like a good looking man are absolutely attracted. For all that you don’t think women see mens side of it, you are quick to dismiss womens?

      Second, you don’t understand how incredibly rude and insulting it is for men to treat all women just existing in the world as if they are actively attempting to ‘lure’ them or some nonsense. Men are often aggressive towards women based on our looks from a very early age. How much this is related to porn is open question, but I think Sheila simply makes the point that this is an area where men need to take care of themselves.

      I LOVE Ethans comment about using figurative art to retrain his brain that a body just existing is not necessarily sexual. This seems to be at the heart often of poor treatment, treating them as a body and not a soul.

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      My husband wholeheartedly agrees with me. And believe me–he does not have low testosterone. He also works in an almost 100% female profession (pediatrics). It’s possible to treat women you meet as if they’re whole people, and not sex objects. My husband does it all day, everyday.

      Reply
      • Rebecca Lindenbach

        Also want to add that my husband managed to see and treat girls as people, not sex objects, while he was one of only two male dancers in his entire dance academy IN HIGH SCHOOL. At 16-17. Surrounded by girls in dance clothes.

        It’s very possible, and should be expected.

        Reply
    • Ethan

      Tim West, I agree it’s easy to doubt sometimes that women can truly understand what men deal with internally. That said, Sheila’s “easy” solution has been promoted by men as well.
      If you’re interested in a male perspective that comes to a very similar conclusion, I’d recommend checking out mychainsaregone.org (am I allowed to include an outside web link? just did…). The authors are a handful of pastors, all male, all former porn users, who realized that when they stopped treating women’s bodies as inherently dangerous, the decision not to view porn became much — well, easier. My own experience has echoed theirs.

      Reply
    • Blessed Wife

      It always trips me out when people defend their sexual proclivities with “You can’t possibly understand how hard it is to deal with this because you’re a…” Woman. Virgin. Teenager, middle-aged, whatever.

      I submit that you, sir, have much less idea than you imagine what degree of temptation, visual or otherwise, we women have going on in our eyes and brains. The truth is that none of us can truly know what other people suffer in terms of temptation, only what we suffer ourselves. And it is very comforting (and self-enabling) to tell yourself that other people are only able to resist temptation and behave themselves because their temptations are much less than yours. But it’s not true. To some of us, it’s laughable. Instead of fighting Sheila, Arwen, and the rest of us women, I’d like to see you turn all your fighting spirit in a direction that makes YOU healthier and better. I believe all of us here are pulling for you in that, in our own ways.

      Reply
    • Maria

      For perspective, please consider that a lot of us who grew up in English speaking countries got infected with the Victorian mindset. It said, among other things, that women do not feel sexual attraction, and if any one does, she is a perverted, sex-crazed freak.

      The feelings were there. We were just shamed for experiencing them, so we learned how to hide them.

      Reply
  9. Phil

    The reframing part is a big deal. I witnessed many men view the woman as “the enemy” to stay/get sober. It can work but only for a time. Then they will fall. Because it is a false method and as was interestingly said, re-enforces the message that women are sex objects. Hotels used to be a problem for me as it is with many men who struggle with porn and When I moved I spent over a month in a hotel and had been sober for some time. Guys asked me how I did it? First I stayed off the TV. But most importantly I reframed how I saw hotels. A hotel is a place where people go to sleep. The problem I had was that before I reframed it, hotels where a place for sex! So it is a psychic change that has to take place. The problem is that it TAKES TIME. This does not happen over night and the poor wife who thinks it will will struggle. I have been working in recovery from sex addiction for over 17 years. I have NEVER seen an instant cure and I have NEVER seen an instant psychic change. IT TAKES TIME and lots of hard work. And if your married lots of support from your wife….so I digress and say if your lucky enough to have a supportive wife dont screw it up by falling into the pit. DO THE WORK. I am a nobody and if I can do it so can you. All I can say it life is so much more better living my best as Jesus wants me to. I am grateful. Have a great weekend all!

    Reply
    • Active Mom

      Phil,
      I would just like to say that as a Christian woman I really appreciate your honest insight on some of these topics. I find myself pausing and really thinking about your comments because you never seem to blame women or take on the attitude that this is how God made man and women just don’t understand. Yes, I am not a man and I do not understand but I also know that women also struggle with lust and porn. It is not limited to one gender. I feel like in many cases your comments help me to gain insight into the struggles men face while not making excuses.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I totally agree!

        Reply
      • Phil

        Thanks for that I appreciate

        Reply
    • wifeofasexaddict

      Well said, Phil.

      Reply
  10. Nathan

    > > the attitude that this is how God made man and women just don’t understand.

    God definitely made men and women differently, but that should NEVER excuse inappropriate behavior. At times, though, this can cause certain thoughts and feelings to enter into our heads that (perhaps) women don’t experience as much, and it can make it harder for us to fight things, but we can still rise above those thoughts and not turn them into action.

    And I like Phil’s comments as well. He’s worked with a lot of people who have struggled with porn, and has some keen insight.

    Reply
    • Lea

      “that (perhaps) women don’t experience as much,”

      But it’s generally men saying that…why are they taking it on themselves to determine what women are experiencing? And then using their opinion on that to excuse their own behavior and try to police womens? that’s where the issue comes.

      We should all mind our own houses.

      Reply
      • Nathan

        > > why are they taking it on themselves to determine what women are experiencing?

        I’m basing it on how women react to what men say and do. From things I’ve heard over time, it just seems to me that, on average, women don’t have these kinds of thoughts as often as men do. As for policing the moral behavior of women, that’s not my thing. Never has been, never will be,

        You’re right, though. Ultimately, I have no idea what others (men or women) think or feel. I can only, as you say, mind my own house.

        Reply
        • Lea

          I didn’t think you in particular were policing women, I was speaking more generally.

          However, I do think you are wrong about women’s reactions to men. We are socialized differently but we are all human. It does no good to try to divide us from that, and I only ever hear it used to excuse the way men are behaving.

          Thoughts are internal, actions are external. Actions can be controlled.

          Reply
          • Nathan

            > > I only ever hear it used to excuse the way men are behaving.

            True enough. That’s where “every man’s battle” fails and also I’ve heard a lot of men justify their cheating, porn, etc. by saying that it’s wired into them.

            I believe that we’re tempted more, but that’s NOT an excuse to justify behavior. It’s a call to fight it harder, but bad behavior is NOT inevitable, or justified by things like that.

  11. Nathan

    Comment from above…
    > > As well, we’re also not saying “don’t be tempted.” We’re saying “don’t lust.”

    I once said (somewhere) that temptation is the thought coming into your head. Lust is wallowing in that thought and embracing it. We can’t always control the thoughts coming into our head, but we CAN control what we do with them (that last part was from one of my pastors, not me).

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Exactly, Nathan. Jesus was tempted! Temptation isn’t bad. But we can also do things to minimize temptation’s intensity. For instance, when you start a healthy eating plan sugar is REALLY TEMPTING for a while. But when you start to re-train your body so it learns what food is healthy and nutritious, sugar stops having as much temptation power. The same happens with other areas of difficulty–the more we replace what has power with the healthier truth that combats it, the less hold those temptations have on us whether it’s pride, gossip, vanity, or lust.

      Reply
  12. Doug

    I don’t disagree with the original post, and Sheila makes a lot of really good points. At the same time, I recognize the limitations of someone who has not struggled with something to truly see the complexities and nuances. There are at least a few men who have commented on their own porn struggles, and even among themselves, there are differences in what has worked, and probably what has not, tho it hasn’t been discussed in as great a detail.

    Even those areas I don’t agree with her, are not absolute, but only what I can comment on from my experience.

    I will be the first to say that when I initially gave up porn, avoidance of anything that even hinted at sexuality, other than my wife, was a huge part of it. I walked around counting the cracks on sidewalks because I didn’t wish to be faced by temptation, and was occasionally seriously offended by the way some women displayed their bodies. when I stopped at a traffic light, my hands were at 10 and 2, and my eyes were straight ahead, to avoid the temptation of checking out whoever might have pulled up beside me. To a degree, I still fall back into that mode on occasion, and I make absolutely no apologies for it. I am going to stir the pot a little bit here, but if you think that some women deliberately sexualize their appearance, then you are not just mistaken, you are naïve. Some absolutely do. If you think that everything that comes on the TV is safe, the same thing applies. If you wouldn’t let your children watch it, chances are it should not be on in your living room at all.

    Early in the comments Rebecca opined that we, ideally should be able to overcome our triggers, but I am not sure that is true in every case. I know lots of combat veterans that certainly have not overcome theirs, and I would be willing to bet that a large number of healthy rape survivors still can fall victim to them, at least for a moment. I know that there are triggers that I have to deal with involving another issue altogether, have lost absolutely none of their power over me, but I have gained some measure of power over how I react to them.

    I think it is safe to say that what works for one might not work for all, and that there are as many routes to overcoming as there are former addicts. I have no problem with Sheila’s admonishment that women should be seen as whole people instead as sexual objects, treated with respect, and treated as equals, but I wonder if that is truly a path to healing, or the end result of healing. Weather it is the path or the goal, it is certainly a good thing, but maybe, for a season,some men, like myself, might be better off counting cracks on the sidewalk.
    .

    Reply
    • Maria

      When innocent people are triggers you have a duty to try to deal with the root cause of your addiction or your trauma, whatever is causing you to perceive them that way. Key word being try. Meanwhile, everyone else needs to let you handle it at your own pace.

      If my brain registers someone as a trigger first and a person second, that may or may not be my fault. Maybe I trained my brain to see them that way. Maybe the association was formed by a traumatic experience. There could be other reasons. Whatever the cause, I have to retrain my brain to see people as people.

      Reply
      • Samantha

        Not all women are innocent. Some women are actually trying to cause lust. And they aren’t just a trigger to the men. They are a trigger to the wives. They cause immense pain and I can assure you they are guilty. Not all women. Some women. Let’s stop pretending that there aren’t actually women with evil motives when they walk out of their houses dressed for sexual attention. Not all women are innocent.

        Reply
        • Rebecca Lindenbach

          Samantha, what does this comment help, though? Because SOME women do try to incite lust, we can’t expect men to learn not to lust? No one is under false pretenses here that all women have innocent motives with what they wear. But the conversation isn’t about what women wear–it’s about helping men experience freedom from sin and bondage.

          Unless you disagree with Maria, that is, and don’t believe that people have a responsibility to see each other as beloved humans first and foremost, I’m not sure what it is you’re trying to prove.

          Reply
          • Nathan

            > > Because SOME women do try to incite lust, we can’t expect men to learn not to lust?

            Exactly, Rebecca. This is “Every man’s battle” all over again. The idea that men will lust no matter what (or view porn, have affairs, etc.).

            Yes, some women do try to incite that. Yes, those thoughts and temptations enter our heads unbidden. But, and this is key, we DON’T have to give into it.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          You know, Samantha, I’m wondering something, and I’m sorry if this is out of line. You tend to comment the most on these posts about lust, and you seem intent to say that it’s women’s fault, that men can’t help it, that women are to blame. And you’re saying here that these women can be triggering to wives.

          I’m just wondering if this is really an area of pain for you, and if it is, I’m very sorry. I know so many of us grow up being objectified in our church circles and told that we’re stumbling blocks, and sometimes even sexually abused, and then we marry these men who struggle with lust, and we can get panicky, and just want to put a lid on the whole thing. And it can be safer to be angry at the women out there than to realize that our husband is acting in an ungodly manner.

          Again, I don’t know if that’s what’s happening with you, and excuse me if I’m crossing a line. But you just seem so adamant on this one, and I need to tell you: What you are saying is not healthy. It is not from the Bible. It is line with a sin mentality, not with a kingdom mentality which points people to redemption and to Christ. We are not slaves to sin. Sin is not inevitable. And if people do sin, other people didn’t cause it.

          If this is an area of pain, it may be worth examining why. I’m breaking my own rule here, because I tend to ask commenters not to speak directly to other commenters, but it’s just on post after post about lust, for about two years now, you consistently say the same things.

          This is a rough, fallen world that we live in. Many of us have been hurt. I believe that the way forward is to treat each other as whole people, and to learn to see each other as whole people. I am very sorry if people never did that to you, or gave you the impression that this is impossible. It is not. I wish I knew you personally so I could assure you that there are indeed redeemed men who do not see women as objects–even women who are dressed scantily. Jesus is big enough for the men in our lives. I pray that you can see that one day, and that you won’t continue to see women as the cause of evil. Sin is the cause of evil–and we can all fight against sin. It isn’t inevitable.

          Reply
          • Nathan

            This is a tough call. My guess, just from reading this thread, is that she’s saying that some women (and TV ads and lingerie departments, they say sex sells) go out of their way to generate a sexual image, draw attention to themselves, and create lust. And, when this happens at a strong enough level, then some sort of “point of no return” is crossed, men will lust, and it’s the fault of the woman.

            Obviously, some people DO dress to do that, but I don’t believe that there’s a threshold beyond which no man can resist. It may be tougher to resist, and some may have more trouble than others, but any kind of sin can be resisted. In some cases, you may need to pray and train yourself to be able to do so, but it can always be done.

            As for people (men and women) who deliberately dress that way, they’re likely hurting themselves more than anybody else.

    • Samantha

      Doug, I just want to thank you for your balanced and realistic comment.

      Reply
  13. Josh

    I don’t disagree with this piece at all, but I find it interesting that when talking about porn and lust, people seem to assume porn creating a lust problem is the typical sequence of events.

    Maybe it is, but for me it was the total opposite. I had a deep-seeded lust and fantasy problem starting at age 10 or 11, years before I ever used porn (though I’d sometimes use other things as porn, such as underwear catalogs.)

    My eventual use of porn was an outgrowth of preexisting lustful tendencies, not the other way around.

    My state is landlocked, so we don’t have “beaches”, but public pools and other places where there will be women in bikinis are still hard for me as an adult, because my first experiences of intense sexual arousal as a preteen were from being around girls my age in two-piece swimsuits at pool parties and swimming lessons and such. It was in those moments that women and girls suddenly took on a sexual dimension for me, and so swimwear is deeply ingrained into my sexual though patterns to this day, and probably would be even if I never used porn.

    Reply
  14. Nathan

    > > it still seems like you mean that a man shouldn’t even be tempted

    From what I’ve read of Sheila and Rebecca’s posts here (and I haven’t been here that long), I don’t think that they’re saying this. There is indeed a difference between noticing, feeling an attraction, and actual lusting.

    The temptation is there, and always will be. We can work and train our brains to lessen the intensity of the temptation, and of course we can refuse to give into it, but it will always be there.

    That, I think, is also where the book “Every Man’s Battle” gets it wrong. It says (among other things) that men will always lust. Instead, it should have said that men will always face temptation.

    What I was probably trying to say above is that men, for various reasons, have more intense temptations in this area, even if we train ourselves to lessen it. This is NOT an excuse for lust, porn, affairs, etc. It’s an acknowledgement that it will always be more of a struggle for us, but NEVER an excuse for us to give in.,

    Reply
  15. Dean

    Such a great article! 100% spot on.

    It reminds me of the “celebrities with makeup and without makeup” memes. Without two hours of having their faces painted, special artificial lights, special artificial facial expression, one day of photoshop modifications, etc., they look… like normal human beings, like your colleague, like your best friend’s wife. They seems to have thoughts, feelings, wrinkles.

    The modified painted artificial image, that is what porn users like. They see this strange non-existent object as sexually appealing. Because this sexual object has been stripped of humanity. The eyes are vacant, the expression is blank, the body and the face are biologically impossible. Humans are complicated, they are difficult to connect with, while this is an inhuman sexual object.

    Porn users do not like the real human women. But when they quit porn, something weird happens: they suddenly like them. But not for who they are. They are wearing glasses that turn the real human into the inhuman artificial object they like.

    So yes, this is only the first step. You have to get rid of those glasses. And you have to relearn love: the amazing experience of being attracted to a real human woman.

    Reply
  16. H.

    This article is so awesome!!! I know you mentioned at one point that it was controversial. But it really shouldn’t be because it IS SO TRUE!!! Thank you for speaking un-popular truths into the world and the church. I completely agree. My husband has had porn addiction issues (long before marriage and currently) and lack of interest in sex issues since the beginning of our marriage, and it’s been a real struggle. And I think part of the reason that there isn’t a higher rate of recovery is because many churches aren’t willing to swallow their pride and teach messages like this to the men (and women:)) in their congregations. Thank you, Sheila. Thank you!!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      You’re so welcome! And I’m so sorry for this journey you’re on with your husband. That’s so tough. I hope he can find a community that gets real with him!

      Reply
  17. Brent Kunnen

    I highly appreciate your work on this topic. My struggle with porn gratefully did not last very long aside from the daily struggle to control my eyes and thoughts. It bugs me when men act defenseless and beaten in sexual temptation. It gives others, most often wives the impression that not only won’t we fight temptation, but that we can’t fight it. Matthew 5:27-28 2 Cor. 10:5 We as men have a responsibility to learn to control our thoughts, and learn not to look at women with sex in mind. Men need respect and dignity when facing a challenge. Wives will not win the fight unless the husband knows he needs to fight, and that he can fight.

    Computer filters are great. I use 4 combined defenses to prevent even accidents on my screen. But more than that men need a battle plan daily, rather than split second decision making. A constant expectation, along with an immediate appropriate response is necessary. Skin is plastered everywhere in our culture and it’s not going away.

    Always appreciate your time and efforts Sheila. I’m available on Twitter for anyone who wants to follow up. @brentkunnen

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Wow, Brent, thank you for sharing your story. That’s really encouraging!

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Brent!

      Reply
  18. Samuel Wright

    I learned something recently, as a guy who has struggled for two and a half decades with pornography since childhood because of abuse. I learned that the root of many porn addictions is not just objectifying men or women. It’s also sometimes caused when people (men and/or women) come to believe that the only way to experience a deep emotion with another person is through physical contact (especially sexual contact). This however is not the case. In fact, I’ve recently discovered that physical contact is not necessary at all most of the time in order to have even the deepest kinds of emotional connections with others we care about. In fact, many times, if someone includes physical contact when its not necessary, it contaminates the genuine intent behind the moment together. All that’s required most of the time is simply for people’s hearts and minds to connect; which doesn’t require any physical contact. Physical contact’s purpose then can’t fundamentally be to create emotional and mental connection, but to communicate and solidify that connection more clearly; especially when life is most difficult.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Very true, Samuel! And I’m so sorry about the abuse you suffered. That’s just tragic, and it makes me so angry when others steal someone’s childhood.

      Reply
  19. Nathan

    > > It always trips me out when people defend their sexual proclivities with
    > > “You can’t possibly understand how hard it is to deal with this because
    > > you’re a…” Woman. Virgin. Teenager, middle-aged, whatever.

    If you mean actions, then I agree. Not so sure when it comes to thoughts, though, since you also say

    > > I submit that you, sir, have much less idea than you imagine what degree
    > > of temptation, visual or otherwise, we women have going on in our eyes
    > > and brains.

    At first glance, these seem a bit contradictory. You laugh off the idea that men have things going on inside that women can’t understand, then say that women have things going on that men can’t understand. Many, many times in my life, I’ve heard “you men can’t possibly understand what we women go through with “X””. Fair enough, and I believe it. But there’s bound to be at least some symmetry. If women go through some things that men go through, surely the reverse can apply.

    God made us to be equal, but not IDENTICAL. It’s well known that men and women are different. We have many similarities, but also some differences. We think differently. Our priorities are different. We look at the world in different ways. Our brains are different. While we live in the same world, and face the same challenges, it’s unreasonable to assume that we always face the same sins and temptations at the same frequency and intensity. It’s far more reasonable to assume that men struggle with some things more than women, and that women struggle with some things more than men.

    Given that we may never be able to understand one another fully, why do I assume that men face stronger sexual temptations that women? Because (based on personal experience only, not a study) of the different reactions of men and women when we get a peek behind the curtain of our thoughts. When men hear of women’s temptations and thoughts, we rarely judge and often laugh and think it’s funny. When women hear our thoughts, they get furiously angry. And it’s often not based on whether or not we follow through with these thoughts. I’ve seen them get enraged just because the thought itself exists in the first place. The only explanation I can come up with is that they get angry because either these thoughts don’t occur in their heads, or they occur less often and less intensely.

    Please note, however, that this is NOT an excuse or justification for indulging in things (lust, porn, affairs, strip clubs, etc.). If anything, it’s a challenge to men that we have to work harder to fight that particular sin, just as women likely have to fight harder against other things.

    Reply
  20. Melissa

    This is unrelated but my husband and I had been having problems since we got married. Married for almost 3 years together for 10, since we were teens. 2 days ago I discovered on his phone that he has been sexting men. I confronted him and he swears he’s not attracted to men but that this is a kink. I dont know and I dont care because it’s over between us. I contacted 1 of the men he was talking to and he says it began 1 month after our wedding. I dont know why Im writing this but is it possible he’s ever loved me or am I just a means to an end to him? Can people change sexualities in their 30s for no reason? He’s a manly guy, he still says he doesnt watch porn which I think is a lie. Where would he get this stuff from if not from porn? I just need someone to talk to until my therapy appointment. I wrote to you a couple times about his video game addiction, turns out it mustve been connected to this.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Melissa, I’m so sorry! No, a man can’t change sexualities in his 30s. Very likely he’s always been same sex attracted, and he tried to convince himself that marriage would change it, and when it didn’t, he started acting out. That’s actually quite a common scenario. It honestly has nothing to do with you, but he did deceive you and he wasn’t upfront about his attractions.

      Many same sex attracted men are also “manly” men. It’s a misconception that all act the same way. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this, and I hope that you’ve got a good therapist who can handle this well! I also want you to know that you’re allowed to talk to friends. Sometimes with something this big we feel as if we have to keep it secret, but you can’t. If you need to talk to one or two trusted friends, that is your right. It’s your story, too. You can tell it, and you don’t bear any shame.

      Reply
      • Melissa

        We’ve been together 10 years since he was 22. He cheated on me before with women but now it’s men. He swears it’s a perverse kink but I dont see how that’s possible. None of this makes sense. Now I’m going to lose my home and have to be poor. I don’t know how I’m going to get through this. I just moved here 2 years ago I have very few friends but I don’t want to move home. I just want my husband back, even though I could have any man in the world for some reason my heart has only ever wanted him even though he treats me like crap. I’m in counseling but I don’t find it helpful. I had a different therapist before but she fired me because I kept missing appointments due to work schedule issues but she was more helpful except for firing me.

        Reply

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