How Porn Use Before Marriage Affects Marriage Now

by | Dec 3, 2019 | Pornography, Uncategorized | 126 comments

How Porn Use Before Marriage Affects Marriage Today. The effects of porn on marriage.
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If a guy (or a teenage girl) has grown up using porn, how is that going to affect marriage?

I’m going to take a bit of a time-out from Christmas posts today to talk about something that’s come up lately that I think is important.

If you’ve been married for less than 25 years, and your husband uses porn, chances are he started before he was married.Most people who start using porn do so in their teens, and so anyone who was in their teens when the internet became widespread was vulnerable and at risk.

When we’re talking about porn use in marriage, then, we can’t do it without realizing that, for the majority of porn users, the porn became before the marriage, not the marriage before the porn.

And that has serious repercussions for how we should understand porn use and address porn use.

Unfortunately, Focus on the Family doesn’t seem to understand that.

I received an email from a reader recently alerting me to a rather disturbing show she had listened to. She wrote:

Reader Email

I have been skeptical of your criticism towards Focus on the Family lately. But after listening to their latest podcast I was blown away by their advice and how incredibly dangerous it could be for a
marriage. I’ve walked with my husband through porn recovery, and I would have been devastated to hear the things they said. My husband even listened in and said I should leave a review as to why it’s such bad advice. I get it now and am still in shock at the ignorance they have in such a vital area so many marriages are hurting in. So sad.

After listening in, I agreed with her that it was very disturbing, and I wrote a long Twitter thread about it. In thinking about it, I felt it needed its own post.

Here’s the rest:

For couples married less than 25 years, the majority of porn use PREDATES the marriage. Men used porn to deal with sexual frustration, stress, rejection, and boredom before they were married. Porn became their coping mechanism.

He marries, and perhaps the urge for porn goes away for a while. But when his wife turns him down for the first time he becomes very frustrated. When stress comes up at work, porn is a beacon. He never learned proper ways of coping with negative emotions, & so porn is his outlet. Porn stunts his emotional growth.

Did the wife cause the porn use? Or was it the fact that he trained himself BEFORE marriage to deal with negative feelings with porn?

We all experience stress. A wife cannot make a husband’s life stress-free. If he is used to managing stress with porn, that’s not her fault.

Additionally, in porn women don’t need foreplay. They’re aroused from men using them, often violently. So he is selfish in bed, & his wife understandably doesn’t enjoy sex. If she is also new to sex, she may lose interest quickly, since he is not doing anything to arouse her. He thinks her non-responsiveness is her fault. In porn, women don’t require men to slow down. They’re turned on by what makes men turned on. So he assumes she’s the one being selfish or frigid.

So he turns back to porn instead of learning how to have great sex with his wife.

Then there’s the more sinister side.

Porn use rewires the brain so that what becomes sexually arousing is an image, not a person.

It trains the brain to crave DIFFERENT—the same stimulus cannot provide the same level of arousal. Men thus can’t maintain interest in their wives. Before porn use was widespread, 15% of marriages had the wife with the higher sex drive. Today it’s 30%, & the vast majority of that increase is men losing their libidos to porn.

Because he always needs different, he must see different women doing extreme things to get aroused. The wife may be more than willing to have sex, but instead he masturbates to porn. Many porn users also experience sexual dysfunction. The majority of new cases of erectile dysfunction are of men under the age of 40, and it is almost all porn induced erectile dysfunction (PIED).

Porn use is also implicated in premature ejaculation and delayed ejaculation.

Porn use is also associated with men demanding degrading or extreme things in bed that she finds distressing.

He needs to depersonalize or dominate to get aroused. Intimacy is no longer arousing.

Porn use rewires the brain so that what becomes sexually arousing is an image, not a person.

Imagine a wife who craves great, intimate sex with her husband, but her husband masturbates to porn instead.

When he does turn to her, he either rushes through & leaves her hanging, or can’t maintain an erection. Or he demands something degrading, and she feels guilty saying no.

Now she listens to this broadcast and hears that her husband turns to porn because she isn’t willing to have sex. Imagine how devastated she would feel. She dreamed of great sex, too, but her husband has either checked out or demands things that make her feel used.

What I don’t understand is: Why doesn’t Focus on the Family understand the effects of porn on marriage?

This is commonly known, in both Christian writings and secular research. Why insist on blaming women for porn problems? Shouldn’t they know better? This grieves me, and I encourage you to speak up when you hear people blaming women for men’s porn use. And remind them of these facts:

  1. Most porn habits and addictions predate the marriage
  2. Porn users train themselves to cope with negative emotions and rejection through using porn. When these things occur once they’re married, they’re tempted towards porn again because they have never mastered proper coping mechanisms.
  3. Porn use makes men believe that women do not require foreplay. They are then commonly selfish lovers, whose wives naturally start to dislike sex because it does nothing for them.
  4. Porn users are more likely to demand degrading and impersonal things in bed, and have to emotionally distance themselves from their wives to get aroused
  5. Porn use is implicated in erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and delayed ejaculation
  6. Porn use causes men to lose libidos for their wives.

And that’s not all. You can read more about the effects of porn here.

So what can we do about the tremendous damage porn does to relationships?

If your husband uses porn, I  am sorry. I am so sorry. I don’t want you to have to listen to messages that it’s all your fault anymore. Instead, I have a post on 4 things you must simply must do. And I have a post on how porn and anger (or emotional immaturity) often go together.

UPDATE: My daughter wanted to chime in with this:

I also think it’s important to remember that while Paul did say: “Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (1 Corinthians 7:5), in the exact same letter to the Corinthians he also said this:

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Paul believed that people could and should withstand temptation. Yet the way we often talk about porn, we forget this part of it.

People get married thinking that porn will cure their temptation, but when they haven’t practised self-control before marriage, it doesn’t magically appear after marriage.

The way that I read the 1 Corinthians 7 passage in light of all of Paul’s other teachings is that offering sex frequently is a kindness to your spouse, and that is one of the joys of your marriage. And it is a kindness because it does lower temptation to sexual sin. But sexual sin is different from sexual addiction. While having sex makes it easier for a spouse to withstand the emotional affairs or watching something they shouldn’t, if it’s already a deep-seated issue predating the relationship, that’s an entirely different issue. Then it’s not just that we’re not introducing the temptation by offering frequent sex; it’s that we’re trying to numb it without dealing with the root cause.

So it’s “do not deprive each other” so that when new situations arise, it’s easier to say no. It’s not “do not deprive each other” so that your spouse doesn’t have to deal with their addiction or their bad habit.

Rebecca Lindenbach

Author of Why I Didn't Rebel

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!

It is much better, and infinitely easier, to prevent a porn addiction than to treat one.

Christmas is coming, and many of us are buying electronics for our kids. Let’s be aware of the danger that porn causes. That doesn’t mean we have to be paranoid; but I do think that having filters on your computers and devices is a no-brainer. Keep electronics at a common charging station at night so that kids don’t have them in their bedrooms. Turn off the wifi in the evening. Take back control.

And talk to your kids about porn–especially your daughters. Girls use porn now, too. Here are some resources that can help:

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Let’s be proactive, so that, in the future, we won’t be looking at our own kids’ marriages devastated by pornography.

What do you think? How do we change the conversation about porn so that people stop assuming that porn is a spouse’s fault? Let’s talk 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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126 Comments

  1. Nathan

    Sheila asks
    > > What I don’t understand is: Why doesn’t Focus on the Family understand the effects of porn on marriage?

    I don’t really get this, either, since there’s so much information out there. The only thing I can think of is that, in some Christian circles, there’s a tendency for people to blame the wife for everything, no matter what. Maybe it’s based on the Adam and Eve scene where Eve eats the fruit, then supposedly tempts Adam into eating it. That’s not exactly the story, but I believe that it’s the root of the idea that women are always the temptresses, women are always the problem, etc.

    My church, thankfully, doesn’t act like that.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yeah, I really don’t get it. It’s not like this research is new. I know that a lot of people don’t understand yet, but Focus on the Family says that they’re a great resource for all marriage-related stuff. So why would they do this–unless they really do want to blame women for men’s problems? Three years ago I never would have believed that they would do this. But the more readers send me this stuff, the more dismayed I get. We need to speak up for truth!

      Reply
    • Rachel

      I just love too how the predominant belief in all these evangelical organizations is that women hate sex, and refuse their husbands, and their husbands are deprived. In fact, when my hubs and I were dating, and being abstinent by mutual conviction, but I ended up having to move in with him because of a job loss — our premarital counselor turned to HIM and asked if he was OK with the fact that I was supposedly denying him sex.
      Fast forward: we are married now. If anyone gets less sex than they would like, it’s me, not him. In Judaism, sex is a woman’s right. In Christianity, she’s supposed to loathe it and deprive her hubs of it, while being sermonized to give him more of it. Well, that’s not how any of this works.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Rachel, I completely agree with you here. We seem to forget that women get married wanting great sex too!

        Reply
  2. Nathan

    > > FOTF says men turn to porn when wives reject sex.

    Again, the data seems to reject this. This happens, certainly, but it’s very very rare. It’s far more common that porn leads to a sexless marriage than a sexless marriage leads to porn. As you’ve pointed out, the most common scenario is…

    1. Man starts watching porn at a young age.
    2. Man and woman get married
    3. Husband may stop porn for a short time, but ultimately keeps watching
    4. Wife finds out about porn use
    5. Wife just can’t bring herself to have sex with him, since she can’t keep the porn images out of her mind

    Reply
    • Lil

      Agreed. My husband uses porn all the time whether I am intimate with him or not. I feel that the porn is making it worse. He wants sex every day and if I say “no” he gets verbally abusive!! Angry when I won’t try something he saw on the porn because I am uncomfortable with it. Telling me I don’t love him and I don’t care! He has even has said that I am an ahole!! I don’t want sex when I am degraded like this or when he is finished he turns over and plays on his tablet. Not cuddling! I am struggling because I TRULEY love him but not the verbally abusive side. Any help would be great!

      Reply
      • Rebecca Lindenbach

        I’m so sorry, Lil. You are not in the wrong for refusing to be degraded or used like that. Please see a licensed counsellor in your area to work through this–abuse issues and deep-rooted sexual issues like this often benefit from some professional counsel and help.

        Reply
      • Jessica Ghigliotti

        I’m so sorry. Please let me name this for what it is: coercive rape. He has no right to EVER get angry with you for having sexual boundaries, and pushing you to go past your boundaries is extremely abusive. Can you find a therapist who specializes in abuse?

        Please do NOT see a couples counselor or marriage counselor. In abusive situations marriage counseling makes things worse, because it focuses on meeting in the middle. He is so far into your boundaries that in this situation meeting in the middle would actually be furthering the violations.

        The national domestic violence hotline can also have an anonymous conversation about the dynamics you are experiencing.

        Please know none of this is your fault, and you don’t deserve to be treated this way. You are 100% right to feel uncomfortable about this, and trust your feelings. This is sexual abuse and you deserve to be sexually safe. 💜

        Reply
  3. Nathan

    My own porn history is very minimal, but until I started looking into it, I also made this assumption. That porn was mainly used by single men and husbands whose wives have rejected them.

    I was, quite literally, blown away when I got here and saw post after post from women who had good sex lives then found out about their husbands porn use. Also, many (MANY) posts from women who have literally BEGGED their husbands to please, please have sex with, but they won’t because they would rather watch porn.

    I myself can’t conceive of rejecting a real, live woman for an image on the screen, but my brain hasn’t been rewired by porn to want the illusion over the reality.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I know! My husband still has such a hard time with this, because he can’t picture it, either. But again–we got married before people had internet in their homes. We missed it by about 4 years. So it was a very different world.

      Reply
    • S

      Nathan, I am one of those women who has been in the place of having a high sex drive and begging my porn addict husband for sex. I would be constantly rejected by him. He would either be tired, have a head ache or not in the mood. I was incredibly lonely and desperate for love and affection and didn’t know why at the time my husband had no sex drive. It turned out that he did, he would pleasure himself in secret while leaving me high and dry. He was being very selfish. Since finding out his secret, he has been opening up to me and is making changes to fight his addiction. One thing he shared with me was that I was never to blame. He actually is more turned on by me and his time with me is better than with that other stuff. He was addicted before meeting me and he tried by himself all these years to break his habit with no success. His porn addiction was messing with him on so many levels. He was flooded with guilt and some days he couldn’t even look at me as a result. It caused him so much frustration and was constantly irritable. It caused him to push me away. He seems truly repetitive now. But before my own experience, I also thought that men turned to porn because they weren’t getting it elsewhere. I was raised in church and was taught many things like this. It’s so sad that the place where we should be given true help and answers is the place I can no longer trust. I really appreciate Sheila’s work. She is spot on.

      Reply
      • S

        Also, my husband thought that getting married to me would cure him of his porn addiction, but that wasn’t the case either. We both had this idea that an active marriage solves lust. It just doesn’t. But lust can certainly break marriages apart. We’ve only begun our journey of healing. It’s been rocky and uncertain. He stole 11 years of marriage from me. There were many red flags when we were dating that I just ignored, partly because I didn’t understand the depth of it all. I was naive and young. We really thought marriage would solve all our problems. Looking back I should have run. Our dating almost killed me, I’m not even kidding. I never went to see a therapist, but if I had they would have diagnosed me with PTSD. I lived in a constant state of deep pain and wanted to end my life. I knew about his porn then, but believed him when he said he was done. It took me some time to heal enough before agreeing to marry him. So now I’m having to live through it all over again, but this time I feel more betrayed than before. I will believe what I see, not what he says this time around. It’s my hope that when he’s sober, he will be a different person, the person I’ve needed him to be this entire time. It’s my fear that the parts of him that I feel uncomfortable around are apart of him and not side effects of his addiction. Only time will tell, but I know I can’t live with the way our marriage was before, things will have to be much better.

        Reply
  4. Dean

    My porn use began when I was around 15 and started having a computer with internet in my room. I thought of it then as of some sort of “practice” and that is how I was justifying it. I had no idea then what objectifying was, how it is very different from being with a real person. The internet, as well as internet porn, were young, and the understanding of that fact was not well spread.

    When I met the love of my life, it felt stupid to continue that habit, so I stopped it, but it was persistent and returned after a while. Same thing happened when we got engaged, and again when we got married. I always thought the habit would be very easy to stop at such a point in life, and was very surprised when that did not happen. Life just continued as before, and the habit had a strong place in it by then. The fact that porn would be hard to quit was also not well known back when I was a teenager.

    I was also surprised to see what a bad intimacy teacher porn use had been. I had built up the expectation of quick easy daily release with little work or preparation or connection. Nobody ever explained intimacy to me when I was a teen, unfortunately.

    So I was definitely justifying my porn use with my perceived lack of frequency of intimacy. But that lack of frequency was actually lack of frequency of what porn use had prepared me for. My wife was eager to connect with me in different intimate ways, but in ways very different from the immediate easy and controlled gratification of porn use. So I felt deprived, but I was actually depriving her.

    So I feel that there are a lot of things that can be explained to a teenager that can help with growth in that area.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Dean. Exactly! And you’re right–it wasn’t well understood then. But there’s been so much research since, and there’s just no excuse. We need to take this seriously, and we need to tell teens what porn use now will do to their marriage.

      And we need to fight these myths that keep getting perpetuated!

      Reply
  5. Nathan

    It may be a generational thing. When I was a kid in the 70s and 80s, our primary access to porn was our dads magazines stashed in the basement. When the internet got big, I looked at porn a little bit, but that was all. I had a rule that when I was dating, I wouldn’t look. I was luckily able to dodge the whole addiction thing.

    > > Nobody ever explained intimacy to me when I was a teen, unfortunately.

    Me, neither. I got the mechanics down, but it took me a while to realize that women generally want more than just the act.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think the problem likely is a generational thing. The hosts on Focus on the Family are well into their 50s (60s?). So I think they’re going from their own personal understanding of porn use/temptation, etc. But that’s not the world we live in anymore, and that’s not the audience they’ve got (the majority of whom have kids at home). To display such ignorance (and even malice) when they have such a responsibility to this audience is truly astounding to me.

      Reply
    • Dean

      “Me, neither. I got the mechanics down, but it took me a while to realize that women generally want more than just the act.”

      Yeah, same here.

      But maybe even more importantly, it took me a while to figure out how if I open myself emotionally, and if I learn some delayed gratification and patience and mutuality, these extra things that my wife needs would become something I very much enjoy too.

      Reply
  6. Nathan

    Absolutely, Sheila! I have to wonder what difference it would have made in my life had full internet access been around since the 70s or 80s.

    Technical note (just in case somebody wants to chime in): Yes, the internet went online back in October of 1969, but the full on web based internet didn’t really hit big until the late 90s.

    Reply
  7. Phil

    From my own experience and working with other guys who struggle with Porn use, I can tell you that it has nothing to do with the spouse. The spouse at best is used as an excuse. Porn use is a coping mechanism learned at an early age most times. I would guess the numbers are super low on the guy who uses porn because his wife said no to sex and he has no history with porn. Pretty sad that FOTF cant see that. This is why you need to do a book on porn Sheila. We need people with a platform to get this message out. Like todays post is an example. I am not sure how I can personally change that message outside of my groups and what I do but I sure wish I could.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks, Phil. I appreciate your words and your perspective. We will be talking about this in the next book (and if you’re a woman and you haven’t taken our sex & marriage survey yet, we really do need you! Please fill it out!).

      Reply
      • Phil

        Sheila – I would be willing to give you my story if you had any use for it in your book. I have some parts of my story written already and am bogged down in my sexual abuse part of my story at the moment. Anyway just throwing it out there if you have any interest. Even if you dont use it and it sparks ideas you are welcome to it.

        Reply
    • Mary Claire Chittwood

      I agree… Write a book on porn and include how a wife should respond, and what are reasonable expectations for her to have of her self and her husband. Ex. How many years, decades of porn being primary are enough if she’s done everything else? This issue has all but murdered my soul. I have been sexually abused in my early years and I would rather be raped again then have to be betrayed over and over for another 8yrs by the man who promised to love me and the father of my children… (example being made for marriage..not a good one) also no one talks about how objectification affects daughters… Can you add that in your book? You want to do a “Desperate” by Sally Clarkson and Sarah May I will be your Sarah May! I can find a good, biblically sound, theologically straight, truth not just fact filled book on porn in marriage, it’s distraction and what wives are supposed to do about it anywhere. Not that it’s my responsibility or my fault but what does the Bible say about it…. I have soooo much to answer this. But ultimately I’m still left with more questions. The Bible has answered so many of my questions.. yes this is biblical adultery and is grounds for biblical divorce…but NO, divorce was never apart of God’s plan and does break his heart… Christians say this mean divorce is never good and that is just ignorant. Divorce is permissable, beneficial and GOOD in many obvious situations like abuse (socially we accept physical abuse as a good reason) but there are OTHER forms of abuse… Sexual infedelity, unrepentant, cyclical, continuous sexual betrayal is a good reason to get a divorce… You can’t heal from the trauma of a mine going off if your living in the mine field! But how do you apply that a “woman is never supposed to separate” 1 Corinthians 7:10 AND practice 1 Corinthians 5:11 to not associate with the immoral brother??? And how do I apply the biblical model of Matthew 18:15 if every pastor and counselor we have ever seen as a couple or the ones he has seen privately and in accountability partners all are deceived? He has deceived more people in the profession of helping from church clergy, to professional marriage and family therapist, CR leaders, to accountability partners… And the Christian answer I get is scripture….I am. It supposed to separate ( a friend gave that sweet scripture after I finally had peace and had asked my husband to move out because he was daily looking at porn and was unrepentant a d did it in public areas of my home where children could see…… Ahhh… The children are awake… Anyway

      Reply
  8. hatethis

    It’s extremely sad that Focus on the family talks about porn use in this way. How can they blame the wife? I struggle with a porn addiction and I did so even before getting married. My wife sometimes asks me if I regret getting married and to be honest yes. I do regret marrying her because we both thought that having sex would cure what was a porn addiction. I am trying to do what I can now with therapy, support groups, filters to get free but this is killing me. I have started to get suicidal because of the guilt and sometimes I think that if I continue like this I will end up killing myself(already tried to choke myself just to get away from the guilt and shame). I wish she didn’t have to go through this. I know she must leave me some day but I wish she wouldn’t have married me and I hate that I agreed on getting married when she was pushing for it. So no, a wife is never responsible for her husbands porn use. It starts way back. For me it started at 9 years old.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, I’m so, so sorry. That’s great that you’re trying to get help. I just urge you to find someone to talk to if you’re ever feeling suicidal, or even all a suicide helpline where you live. Your wife and kids need you. And as bad as this is, so many have gotten free. It can take time, but it is not bigger than you, it is not bigger than God. Sometimes we define ourselves by our weaknesses and struggles, and it makes it harder to get free. We need to define ourselves by who we are in Christ. You are important, and your family needs you. Don’t give up, please.

      Reply
    • bunkababy

      Lisa Ling did a great show on this. You are not alone . Many young boys as young as 8 started in porn and by 17 have ruined sex for themselves. You are not alone. You can get help.

      Reply
        • Natalie

          Wow! Great interview!

          “It impacted, I think, just my ability to self-motivate, because I really did train my brain to just rely on that orgasm every so often. I think I was very reliant on it to just regulate my emotions, just to get through the day.”
          This is basically what the NoFap movement tries to combat and retrain. My husband definitely noticed that excessive masturbating/porn use caused him to be way less motivated in life, with the only exception being at work because he would get money for working hard. But every other aspect of his life especially his body/health and his relationship with me suffered in the long run because he didn’t have enough motivation and internal drive to get up and go do something… make a change. His energies were being expended elsewhere. This is something he still struggles with, even now after having not watched porn in a year. I have a feeling this will take years or decades to rectify because being demotivated in life in general has become such a core part of his personality (aside from work). He’s been trying recently to understand where he lost motivation in life, and to regain that zest for life that he once had. (He had it even a decade ago when we started dating. But his porn use did increase over our abstinent dating years and sexless periods of our marriage).

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            So interesting!

    • Sophia

      I’m really sorry that you feel this way. Yes they sold us a quick fix and my God I’m so sorry that you feel like you can’t forgive yourself. I’m imploring you today, your life is worth more than the guilt and shame you feel. If you are committed to giving it up and ask Jesus to help you he will. The Bible says that there is no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus. My husband was addicted to porn since his youth when he found a center fold in his house, I had watched porn on and off but i don’t think it got a stronghold in my life, my husband not so much. We endured years of not being able to enjoy intimacy as we should. Thankfully today God has done a lot of healing in both of our hearts and in our marriage. He has done a work that is nothing short of a miracle. You can endure, you can win, it’s hard but pray, ask others to pray for you and pick up your cross daily and follow Jesus. We deny ourselves daily, yes temptation will come but be intentional, I love God more than I love this sin.. I hope I have said something that helps you. Don’t give up…

      Reply
  9. Marie

    Sheila, everything you said here is true. Husband of 30 years is proof. He had magazines in his house before we got married and it’s still going on in different formats. Always blamed me. I have learned so much from your blog. Please write a book!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks, Marie! Have you filled out our survey yet? I’d love to include stories like yours in the book.

      Reply
  10. AJ

    I personally don’t think any woman is capable of understanding a man’s sex drive or how a man is affected by porn. I can’t speak for all men, but I can tell of my own experience. I was first exposed to porn by accident when I was nine and I found a “magazine” in the woods behind my house. It was of the “soft porn” variety which mostly showed topless nudity with no sex acts depicted. I still remember being attracted to the images but I didn’t know why. This first time exposure to porn was an isolated event that occured long before I knew what sex was. Later, when I was 10 or 11, I masturbated to orgasm for the first time. At this point I still didn’t know about sex. I simply knew that rubbing my penis felt wonderful and I felt a strong urge and the need for an orgasm at least daily. It wasn’t until I was 12 or 13 when I first learned about sex and understood what was going on. Soon I was regularly masturbating to images in my head of what I imagined girls I came in contact with looked like naked. When the internet came about in my late teenage years it was only natural to masturbate while watching porn. When I got married my porn use stopped for several years. I was very blessed to marry a woman who loved having sex from the very beginning and we had very frequent (almost daily) sex for the first 5 or 6 years of our marriage. During this time my viewing of porn was zero. In the next few years following, life got extremely busy and the connection between my wife and I (emotionally and physically) began to grow weaker. There were times I turned to masturbating to porn to fill the emotional connection gap between my wife and I and fullfil my need for a physical sexual release. Now that we are in our 19th year of our marriage we have worked a lot in the past few years to strengthen our connection to each other. We take time daily to talk and laugh together. We also have very good sex several times per week. Although, I still sometimes struggle with lust having a wonderful emotional and sexual connection with my wife helps significantly. Above all, I want to be faithful and true to the woman I love. Do I think some men use porn because their wife is withholding sex? Yes! But I don’t think it is solely the physical act of sex she is withholding. It’s the deeper connection that is missing which causes the man to go looking for a cheap substitute. As a man, I don’t want my wife to “give” me sex i want her to have a deep desire for a sexual connection with me that is physical, spiritual and emotional. As a man sex is deeply emotional and very physical. If the physical or emotional part is lacking it’s very easy to be tempted to lust. I don’t believe any woman is capable of fully understanding a man’s physically urge for a sexual release. It begins when a boy enters puberty at about the age of 12. It’s almost like an unstoppable urge no different than going to the bathroom or eating that occurs regularly. For some men it might be weekly for others (especially young men) it might be daily. Like I said, I can’t speak for all men, only my own experiences.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks for sharing, AJ. I’m so glad that you have that great relationship with your wife, too.

      Reply
    • Lea

      ” I don’t believe any woman is capable of fully understanding a man’s physically urge for a sexual release.”

      How is a man capable of understand what a woman is capable of understanding? We are all human. Women are socialized that their physical urges are not to be discussed, displayed, etc, or they are a ‘slut’.

      Reply
    • Ava

      I think it is kind of demeaning to say that women can never fully understand. I’m a woman, and honestly what you’ve described (the physical urge for sexual release at a regular interval) is very relatable to me.

      I learned how to masturbate when I was very young (I don’t remember not knowing how to do it) and, like you, eventually learned it was sexual. As I went through puberty (and somewhat, before, as well) I would feel the often-daily need for release to the point where I would slip away to the restroom in the middle of an activity or even in public to do what I needed to do. Erotica and soft-core porn also played a role in this (never looked at the hard-core stuff because I knew once the images were in my head there was no turning back – it was easier to justify the things where I still had to use my imagination) but even as young as 4th grade I was looking up stories that turned me on and masturbating to them.

      I’ve found that being married has toned down my needs in a few ways – one, I’m getting frequent emotionally connected sex, which is way better than masturbation. Two, I’m on birth control, which has dramatically leveled out my hormones and made my sex drive lower at times but overall made it much more consistent and easier to control. It’s still difficult to avoid just masturbating to achieve release when I feel that need instead of waiting for my husband, even though I know sex with him is way better.

      Point being, just as women don’t know the experiences of men, you don’t know the experiences of women. Just as men have varying experiences with sexuality (as seen clearly on the comments of this blog) so do women. Some of us might never understand, but some *men* might also never understand because they’ve never had that experience.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        There is definitely an assumption that “all men are like this” and “all women are like this”. It really isn’t helpful. And yet it’s all over Christian books–Love & Respect said explicitly that men have a sexual need that a woman will never understand, and so she can never say no because he’ll suffer.

        But let’s think about that–if it’s a need that she can never understand that is so all-encompassing, then whatever she is going through (postpartum pain; grief over a parent’s death; marriage issues) can never compare to his overwhelming need that she can never understand. It really does teach women that men’s need for sex supercedes anything they feel (which, again, is what Love & Respect teaches.

        I do think that many men have a sexual drive that many women don’t understand. But many women are also sexually frustrated; many men don’t want sex at all; many women are visually stimulated. Yet when your experience matches up with the majority, it is easy to feel that “all” believe this. I think that’s where Focus on the Family goes wrong often. They assume that because they (the hosts) feel one way, everyone else must, too. Better to look at research!

        Reply
        • Lea

          “if it’s a need that she can never understand that is so all-encompassing, then whatever she is going through (postpartum pain; grief over a parent’s death; marriage issues) can never compare to his overwhelming need that she can never understand”

          This is a good explanation of why this always comes off as a very narcissistic brush off/excuse/my problems are worse than your problems kind of answer.

          Also…vibrators exist? There is a reason for that.

          Reply
    • Kim

      AJ, you have clearly bought into the lies of Every Man’s Battle that Sheila has worked so hard to stand up against. Your comment is very offensive for the reasons people have stated below.

      If my husband had the mindset that I had to have sex with him several times a week so he would be less interested in other women, I wouldn’t be married anymore. Also you state that you still struggle with lust. Even if you don’t act on it, the thought you are still struggling with lust despite your eager and willing wife, is quite simply offensive.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Kim, I hear you. I really do. I just want to point out, though, that because of our backgrounds, personalities, experiences, etc., all of us are going to have specific sins or areas of weakness in our lives. Some people are just going to be prone to depression, for instance, no matter how great their life is. And I do think that some people can be prone to lust even if they have a great marriage. I think that this is something that they can work on and gain victory over, but we all do have different areas of weakness that aren’t always related to our current circumstances, that’s all.

        Reply
        • Kim

          ‘Some people are just going to be prone to depression, for instance, no matter how great their life is’

          Sheila, careful. Depression is an illness just the same as asthma or diabetes or multiple sclerosis or any other type of ghastly illness. It certainly is not about someone being unhappy about their lot in life. I have many friends who suffer with depression and would be very hurt by your comment.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            You’re right. That was wrong of me, and I’m sorry.

            I was trying to think of something analagous–something where we might say, “you shouldn’t struggle with that because your life is so good.” But sometimes people just struggle with what they’re struggling with, and it’s rooted in other things in their past, or even in biology (like in the case of depression or anxiety), or in personality.

            I couldn’t think of another good example, but if you can, please chime in!

      • Doug

        Kim

        I wonder what you find offensive about a man struggling with lust if he is fighting and even winning the battle. People struggle with any number of things. Are you offended that an alcoholic thinks about drinking, yet abstains. Are you offended when a person has an eating disorder, yet choses to make wise choices in their diet? Those are things to be celebrated.

        I’m curious which battles you figjt and win. Aren’t those victories?

        Or is it just those of us who have had struggles of a sexual nature that are so disgusting.

        Reply
  11. Ashley

    Thanks, Sheila. As the ex-wife of a sex addict, I know first-hand how damaging these messages are. I heard those messages in counseling, and was even blamed by a former pastor for my ex’s porn use. Of course none of his assumptions about our sex life were true. And the porn use started when my ex was a teen.

    I’m so glad you speak out on these things. When I speak out, someone always seems to think I have a chip on my shoulder. I’m sure people think that of you too! 😂

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, they certainly do! But I’ll keep saying it. 🙂

      Reply
  12. Nathan

    This has come up before, and likely will do so again. While we’re all human, and all have the same issues to some degree, it’s likely true that (on average) men and women will never fully understand the level and intensity of some things that we go through.

    I myself believe that on average men are more tempted by physical sex and imagery than women (for various reasons), but women are also subject to that temptation, and it’s never an excuse or justification for using porn. It’s also likely that women struggle more than men in some areas. That’s simply a call to fight more to resist.

    On the other hand, what if my wife just stopped engaging in lovemaking? And wouldn’t discuss it, wouldn’t see a counselor or doctor, etc. Would I turn to porn? I hope not.

    As Sheila’s daughter Rebecca once said, it’s not the thoughts or the urges that are bad, it’s what we do with them that counts. And while we may be tempted by porn more than women, we don’t have to give in.

    Reply
  13. Nathan

    And also, Ashley, yes, Sheila has caught a lot of flak over the years. In some Christian circles, there are three “laws” that are inviolate…

    1. The husband is the unquestioned master of the house in ALL ways.
    2. God created sex primarily for men only, and wives must submit any time he wants.
    3. “Nice” girls have no sex drive, and never talk or think about sex.

    Sheils breaks these rules a lot. She says that husbands and wives are equal in marriage (though not identical), she says that sex (the full experience of lovemaking) is for men and women equally, and that’s its’s more than just the husband making demands, and she talks openly (but not graphically) about sex.

    So keep at it, Sheila!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Nathan! I like your breakdown. That’s good.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Oh, and also: with regards to #3. I think what pastors/books often say is something like: “Women, you owe it to your husbands to get excited about sex, because they need you to be excited!” So basically women have to feign excitement. But what they’re never told is, “women, sex is for you, too, and when you see that and embrace it, it’s awesome!” So it’s all this: “act enthusiastically FOR YOUR HUSBAND, but never be passionate BECAUSE THAT’S HOW YOU WERE MADE.”

        Reply
  14. Natalie

    Ugh, I CANNOT voice my disappointment in FOTF enough! 😓 It makes me so sad! Such a great platform and wide-teaching voice they have and they choose to focus on things like “men use porn because the wife first rejected them.” 🙄 Oh please! 🤦🏻‍♀️ it’s so much more complex and multi-layered than that!

    My husband and I just turned 30, so we’re right smack dab in the middle of the Millennial generation. We’ve been married 5 years and together for 10. It’s only been in the past 13 months that I’ve really started enjoying sex, largely because of your blog and largely because I CHOSE to figure out the root causes of our issues in bed and my issues with sex.

    But porn has definitely played a huge role in our marriage and bedroom life! Here’s the timeline for our specific relationship/marriage experience:
    – husband and wife first start dating. Husband has been using porn weekly/daily for 10 years. Wife has never masturbated or experienced an orgasm & has grown up being taught that her primary role is to serve her husband in bed
    – After a year or two of marriage, wife is still not orgasming. Husband and wife both think it’s probably because the wife’s body is broken, so why try to fix something that’s unfixable? Wife is serious discouraged and sees sex as a chore (all the whole, husband is getting fatter and fatter and totally neglecting his physique. Wife is no longer sexually attracted to her husband, making sex even more something that is solely done for his release).
    – 3 years into marriage and husband and wife have sex 3x/year. Husband’s porn use goes to around twice per day.
    – both spouses are bickering and verbally abusing each other regularly. They are essentially roommates and they’re only 27-28 years old! Wife’s mother tells her “you can’t keep treating your husband this way or you two will be divorced in a year”.
    – Wife falls pregnant and realizes that she needs to figure this stuff out, since her husband clearly doesn’t give a sh*t to try and improve the situation, and now that a child is involved, we need to make this marriage work!
    – After a year of learning about herself and re-educating herself sexually, Wife shows up in the marriage with renewed vigor. Husband, who is still watching porn weekly out of habit and mostly to go to sleep, tags along but doesn’t really do much to help.
    – Wife listens to the podcast “The Betrayed, The Addict & The Expert” with her husband. Husband finally sees how much pain his porn use has been causing his wife over the years, and how his porn use has also been numbing him and making him not care about thinks like his weight and bettering himself as a man, husband and father.
    – Husband also realizes he needs to start pursuing his relationship with Christ more and not just be a “Sunday morning Christian”, since his lack of spiritual develop is also negatively affecting his marriage and his wife, and now his young family too.
    – Husband and Wife both dedicate themselves to working on themselves while also working on their marriage. Sure, there are slip-ups (especially for the husband who is not as far long on this journey of personal growth as his wife is), but both now understand how they really need to fight for their marriage and fight for a good sex life if they’re going to make this thing work and not only last for decades to come but also be a happy, healthy, ENJOYABLE marriage for decades to come!!

    That’s where we’re at right now. Hoping this next decade will be FAR more fruitful than the previous one!

    Reply
    • Natalie

      Oh, also:
      – Husband is trying to re-educate himself on sex and how to actually be a lover. Until very recently, he was the very definition of a selfish lover, even though he loved his wife dearly. He just didn’t know any different when it came to sex, thanks to years and years of seeing sex portrayed as male-focused and women orgasming instantly from only PIV. That’s some hard stuff to purge from the brain!!! And even for men who are kind and gentle and deeply love their wives, after years of porn use, being a generous lover is not something that comes naturally AT ALL!!!! (at least that’s been our experience.)

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Absolutely. This is a huge issue.

        Reply
      • Greg Gliszczynski

        This is gonna sound weird but I only know sex as a physical act. I don’t know what it feels like to be intimately connected. I love my wife and I satisfy her but that’s where it stops and my porn habit begins.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I think that’s very common, Greg. You can get over it, though. It starts with stopping the porn entirely, and then it begins with spending a lot of time naked together, touching each other, looking in each other’s eyes, even praying before sex (praying can be really intimate!). Focus on your wife, not just on sex. There are some exercises in 31 Days to Great Sex that can help with this, and I’d advise picking that up. It’s only $4.99 right now in ebook form, but it won’t be for sale as of January 1 until Zondervan re-releases it in August!

          Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Natalie, that’s so neat to see your timeline! I’ve known bits and pieces of it, but that’s great to see the whole thing! I’m so excited for you. I know it seems like it’s a long road ahead of you, but you’ve made so much progress, and identifying the problem is often the biggest battle. That’s awesome!

      Reply
      • Natalie

        Thanks Sheila!! 😊 That means a lot coming from you. I have to remind myself periodically that I’ve really only been working on this for 20 months or less (& while having a baby then breastfeeding then having another baby then breastfeeding again lol 😝). I’m looking forward to the stage when I’m no longer a baby machine/feeder haha, I’m laying the groundwork down now for sometime hopefully in the near future when my husband and I will have no time to dedicate to figuring out how to make me orgasm. And in the meaning, we’re both working on ourselves now so that we’re ready when that next stage comes.
        I remind myself that life is made up on seasons, and that all seasons pass eventually. 😊 That’s my silver lining.

        Reply
  15. Nathan

    And hatethis, please don’t go down that path. Porn (and other thoughts) don’t make you a bad person. It’s an addiction, and many have beaten it. I’m helping a good friend overcome it as we speak.

    Something that porn use does NOT change: You are a beautiful wonderful child of God, and God is bigger than porn. Stay alive and fight it for the sake of your wife, for your kids (if you have any) and also for your own sake.

    I am praying for you right now. God is love. He wants you to beat this, He wants you to have a good and happy life, and with His help, you can.

    Reply
  16. Nathan

    Great story, Natalie! Sad in some ways, but inspiring. We all have baggage of some kind, but we can overcome it!

    > > taught that her primary role is to serve her husband in bed

    Wow. People your age are still being taught this? We still have a long way to go

    Reply
    • Natalie

      I honestly can’t even remember if I was taught that at church, by my family, or if it was just a cultural/secular thing. Maybe it’s because my husband and I got together when we were so young (19yo) and we didn’t know any better or have much/any experience prior. But from the start of our relationship in 2009, there has been a part of me deep in my core that feels like sex is unsuccessful if he’s not receiving pleasure. “Her nights” are extremely difficult for me… meaning, we’ve never had a true “her night” yet; I always have to make him cum in the end otherwise I feel guilty… like I didn’t do my job or like I’m being a bad, neglectful wife. That’s another thing we’re working through. It doesn’t matter if I cum or not. If I don’t cum, I’m still bummed but I don’t feel guilty. Whereas if he doesn’t cum (even if I don’t cum too), I feel very guilty.

      Yes, purity culture teachings were still alive and well when I was in jr high and high school in the 2000’s. I think it’ll take a total revolution in how Christian millennials understand sex and marriage for that to change and not be passed on (at least in part) to Gen Z and Alpha.

      I often feel discouraged in my marriage and like things are never gonna get better (i.e. I’m never gonna orgasm without a vibe, he’s never going to get fit / I’m never going to be super hot and horny for my husband, etc.). But like you said, everyone deals with some sort of struggle in their lives and marriage. Everyone has some sort of thing to face and conquer. At least I know what ours is.

      Reply
      • bunkababy

        Natalie Take heart. Sex in marriage is not what media portrays. It is a huge learning curve for both of you.
        If you use a V for orgasm so be it. It is not a failure at all. I have been married 31 years and my husband has never done it for me. It’s not that he hasn’t tried. I used to stress about it. It is what it is. If I can do it then so be it. I had to change my brain. Either I was gonna do it my way or end up always cheated or bummed out. Besides I think the body gets used to a certain format and if it isn’t done in that way it’s just not gonna work out.

        And I am with you on the guilt. I was always so bummed because the man seemed to always be successful no matter what, and it was a struggle for myself. I always ended up short changed and pissed at our anatomy and the struggle I would just give up.

        I have had lots of PTSD around sex and tons of sexual issues because of trauma and have had a lot of problems.

        You have a lifetime to learn, and am quite happy you use a V ! I would say to you or my younger self just go for it , use it and enjoy. Don’t suffer needless guilt.

        Reply
  17. BJ

    It seems to me that Jesus put the onus on individuals to control their lust. He did NOT include any provisions for if their wife (or husband) wasn’t giving them enough sex so why a supposedly Christian foundation would blithely ignore this is inexcusable.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I totally agree.

      Reply
    • Arwen

      BJ, Thank you! Jesus ALWAYS puts the onus of EVERY SINGLE sin on the person doing the sin. Point blank period! We can’t throw a temper tantrum and declare, “he/she made me do it.” Seriously, it pisses me off when people try to pass the buck for their sins onto others. I personally work daily to take responsibility for the things I DO. Nobody should have to carry the burden of your sins, that’s the job of Christ not humans.

      Reply
  18. bunkababy

    I will be blunt.
    I was raped and used by men at 2.5 yrs old until I was 19. I was used in a porn ring at church, raped by deacons, pastors, politicians, lay people. Parental friends.

    I smelled the breath of evil depravity inches from my face. Men who needed to control someone because they had no self control.

    Men who used pornography to monetize these urges. I have experienced the damage this industry does to people because of control, greed and perversion.

    Masturbation is a form of release. It is a form of releasing stress and endorphins to feel good. It is a bodily function. I used it as a child as a release of pain and tension. I did not realize it then, but my therapist has said it’s a normal release for tension. In times of immeasurable stress related to trauma I use it as a release even now.

    Even the comment above indicates the man did it before he even knew of sex. I think it should be taught as a normal body function. It also should be taught that it is not the ONLY release of tension. We should be taught ways to regulate and methods to release stress other than masturbation.

    Our brains are growing until age 25. We are creating neuro-pathways in our brain using porn to release stress and create instant pleasure.

    This is very different that sexual intimacy with our spouse. The biology and intricacies of our human form image the mind and splendor of God in all ways.

    I think if the church recognized the basic human release of masturbation, self control, in that area, healthy stress alternatives etc. young people might not use it to replace other methods of stress management.

    I think Focus on the Family blames the woman because those at he top are probably porn users themselves.

    I have so much more to say about this but am limited.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      First, I am devastated that that happened to you. Just devastated. I’m so sorry. Whenever I hear about abuse in church, it just hurts. And it is all too common.

      That’s really interesting, too, what you’ve said about masturbation and release of tension. I’ll think on that; it is worth revisiting and writing more about it. Thank you.

      Reply
      • bunkababy

        What is interesting is the more stress I felt/feel the more I masturbated. I can remember times in my early early formative years it was a constant friend. And even into my mid teens I would race home from school and get straight to it. There was an immediate pleasure and feeling like I was going to be okay.

        Years ago I was babysitting my neighbor kids and they were 4 yrs and 6 yrs. Both girls mindlessly masturbated while colouring and watching TV. I had huge reasons to suspect abuse in this family. But the dad had big loaded guns in the basement and was a complete rebel. I had 4 kids and a husband. Calling the ministry was not an option.

        The girls were in a constant state of flight or fright. And I believe it was a mindless stress release. This family had huge issues.

        I think the church has some serious serious hang ups with sex. It has not kept up with current research for one. IT has not taken the voices of women and men seriously but rather set up a false pretense of what sex should be. It has again elevated purity to end all be all. It has heightened a false paradigm of where it should be in our christian lives.. All the while ignoring current data on issues that impede good sexuality between partners.

        It is of no surprise to me that sex has been elevated to a primary spot in church whether it be purity or perversion because the church has forgotten the true elements of Christianity.

        Marriage had been espoused as the Holy Grail of Christianity. Family Values. Family blah blah blah…….all has been highlighted above the basics.

        The one element I saw my whole life was SELF . Pleasuring SELF. Self is God. You didn’t control your desires. You let your desires control you. Self above all else.

        The life of Christ and ministry of Christ is giving up self. The porn industry is about self.

        The same elements that impede a good marriage and sexual relationship.

        Reply
  19. Nathan

    I am heartbroken over your experience. Abuse is always bad, but even worse when it hides behind a Godlike face.

    I pray for your healing. God loves you and you’re a good person.

    Reply
  20. Arwen

    Thank you Sheila for stating that if men didn’t learn self control BEFORE marriage they will find it very difficult to learn AFTER marriage. As a millennial myself i don’t know any man my age who hasn’t seen porn or is addicted to one, you’re correct it’s a different generation than from what FOTF is used to. And since many people my age are waiting longer and longer to get married how does FOFT think those men are taking care of their sexual needs in the meantime? All the men i have dated have been in their 30s, which means they have been single, living on their own since they were 18. That’s a lot of years of masturbating, training, your body on porn. That’s NOT the fault of a women who is coming in later to be his wife!

    People seriously need to stop blaming their sins on everybody else but themselves! I hate that crap man. If you have no desire to change then don’t drag others into your muck. Pinned this article!

    Reply
  21. Anon

    It breaks my heart to hear that FOTF is blaming wives for their husbands’ addictions.
    When is the church going to stop blaming women for men’s actions?

    Reply
    • Arwen

      They will never stop blaming women for their actions. If they ever stop blaming women men will start blaming God Himself. I mean look at Adam, he had the audacity to blame God for his sin. “The women YOU gave me” only men have the nerve to look God dead in the face and scream, YOU made me do it. Did Eve blame God? No! So please don’t hold your breath waiting for men to be INTROSPECTIVE, you will die for lack of oxygen before that happens.

      Reply
      • bunkababy

        Your comments are killing me…..they make me laugh because your are so honest. I like them.

        Reply
      • Nathan

        > > YOU made me do it. Did Eve blame God? No!

        Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the serpent.

        Reply
  22. bunkababy

    I’m here again. I have been thinking about my childhood friends. Now I know my small town was small. And I am assuming there were many more children than myself or the ones I can remember who were abused.

    But I am here thinking about all those little girls who showed me that they masturbated. My little neighbor friend was around 4-6 and would basically use a pillow. While playing her mother would come in and yell at her to stop her dirty behaviour.

    In about grade 4-5 another girl showed me how she rubbed herself on a park gate…..and then in grade 6 I had another friend who just showed me how she did it.

    So my therapist said kids who do this are usually taught through some sort of sexual abuse and that would be my case. But I had deep shame and showed nobody where as my friends didn’t even think about it or thought it was neat enough to share.

    Which makes me wonder. Boys and men are always thought to be more prone to masturbation when maybe in fact girls are just as sexually aware.

    Oh, and when I was around 14-15 a friend from work invited me to go to her house. I didn’t know her really at all. But when we got there she said to her brother hey, lets get out our parents videos and watch porn. Which we did. And then I went home. I don’t think I ever hung around her again. This was the early 80’s.

    Reply
  23. Sam

    Focus on the Family has had terrible advice for years. In fact, Time magazine had a fantastic article on men, porn, and masturbating. They covered the subject WAY better than FOTF has ever thought of. A. Secular. Liberal. Magazine. did a better job than a Christian one, which is way sad. They aren’t afraid to talk about it, seek counsel or help. Neither is Sheila, but most churches won’t. And it is interesting, Time never once blamed it on the men’s wives, or girlfriends.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      I agree. I have disliked FOTF for decades. While their parenting advice has improved over the years, James Dobson taught some very harmful things.

      Reply
  24. Nathan

    I read a summary of that TIME article, and it’s pretty insightful. It mentions three things that we’ve talked about here…

    1. Getting addicted at an early age
    2. Needing to escalate what he watches to keep the excitement going
    3. Unable to be fully aroused with a real, live woman

    Reply
  25. Chris

    I don’t think its either or. Its both. Most men are exposed to porn as kids. Most who become addicted become addicted by their teens. But i also think men in sexless marriages who are not addicted to porn or use porn are more vulnerable to any matter of sexual sin. I am really sorry but thats just how i see it. But as one commenter above pointed out. Men getting married in their mid 30s have a lot of masturbation and porn in their history by then. In the time of Christ, people got married really young. So the “don’t have sex until your married” message then would have not meant much because by the time you figured out what sex was, you were married and having it. Now the wait that young people have in front of them, its no wonder.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I agree that men in sexless marriages may be more tempted; absolutely.

      But what they’re missing is everything else–the trajectory of what porn habits do to a marriage: the loss of libido; the sexual dysfunction; the selfishness in bed; the depersonalization in bed; the turning to porn rather than dealing with negative emotions; etc. etc. And those things are very, very common in marriages where the husband has a porn habit.

      So when the ONLY thing you say about a husband having a porn habit is that the wife should have more sex, well, it’s just very ignorant (at best), and very hurtful to women also enduring the effects of all these other things. Does that make sense?

      Reply
    • Lisa

      We got married in our early 20s. We didn’t have internet in the home right away (1990s). When we got internet in our home, it was one of the first things he did–search for pictures of naked women and sex scenes (no online videos then). We were having sex 7-10 times a week. When I found the porn in the internet history, his response was that he was just curious and I was overreacting.

      For the next 17 years, every time I upset him in some way, we had an argument, I wasn’t home when he was aroused, he’d use porn. It was a choice to use porn rather than do the work of using healthy coping skills. Shelia was spot-on about porn use stunting emotional growth. Porn is always there to lie to you and enable you to continue to lie to yourself.

      As time went by, I always knew when he had used porn. He changed. I started feeling dirty and used after sex. He would get angry angry irritable over every little thing. He acted entitled.

      Having a lot of sex isn’t the cure for someone who refuses to grow up. Life is HARD. We’ve gone through life threatening illnesses, devastating financial problems, children with developmental disabilities and mental illness. You have choice. Grow and learn healthy coping skills or lie to yourself that your wife could make it easier on you by letting you use her.

      If sexless marriages are the cause of porn use, then that must mean that all single men have no choice but to use porn. If that was true, I’d tell women everywhere to never marry, since all single men use porn. Never marry a porn user. Thankfully there are single men who don’t use porn.

      Reply
  26. Bethany

    My thought was about the relation of youthful marriages and the rise of porn. As a result of the Bible advising ” better to marry than to burn”, in reference to sexual sins specifically. Paul wrote it in one of his books, and I think alot of the young Christian people were encouraged to find a spouse to avoid falling to sexual temptations. This definitely helps, but only if the person is of a good character to start with. An example for me is my eldest brother. He started wife hunting at 17-18(?) Because he was soooo excited about being married( we children referred to sexual things as “acting married” and we all knew he was excited about it). He didn’t date exactly, having an intense personality, he was unapologetic about looking for a wife. He dated her for a few(5-6?) months (I was 10ish and not sure how long it was) before having a short engagement. They are perfectly suited personality wise. I have seen enough to say, it’s not how long you date, but why and how focused you are on marriage that matters.
    If you are already in sexual sin, like porn or molesting children, marriage doesn’t fix anything! But if you are maybe being tempted in some way, having a spouse might help you stay strong. But it’s not their battle, you have to fight it. Before, during and possibly after marriage. Not saying that my brother was specially tempted, he just knew that he wanted it.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think young marriages can work, too, Bethany, if people are mature to begin with and have had some experience in life getting out of their own bubble. I do think we need to raise teens to be able to get married much younger than people tend to marry now.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        Even if we do raise teens to be able to get married much younger many still don’t meet the right person young. I was 30 when I married my husband because I was 27 ish when we met. That is a fact of society as it stands. People tend to get married older. Some people to even get out of their bubble need a few – longer years out of their childhood home before they are ready imo. Especially people who’ve been particularly sheltered. And we do a crazy amount of school some of us. All of this leads to marrying way later in life than people did biblically. And I do think it’s a factor. One that can’t be ignored. Asking someone to wait 2 years post puberty before getting married vs waiting say 15 years post puberty (and this is all guessing but basing on say 12 year puberty maturity and 27 year marriage which is still fairly young for this time period). So while I agree with what you said above I Think the length of time between puberty and marriage has quadrupled? I’m not saying it’s impossible to do but it shouldn’t be ignored as a factor 🤷‍♀️

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Very true! I do think we need more of a conversation about this. Puberty has gotten younger; education takes longer. It is very different.

          Reply
  27. Doug

    I think there is a danger here, that people are so convinced of their own rightness on the subject, that they do not give proper consideration to others opinions and experiences.
    There is admittedly a lot of data available now that did not exist when FoF and other organizations were forming their won attitudes about pornography, and more importantly, the data is actually changing. I don’t remember who first said it, but they mentioned it as being a generational issue. It may well be that another generation will have to pass before their attitudes more align with current data. That does not mean they are wrong outright. Only that they speak within their own limited experience. Which of us is not guilty of that?

    Focus on the Family is not a perfect organization, but they have done, and continue to do a lot of good. Furthermore, most of the issues associated with pornography have been covered in various posts, articles, and podcasts by, FoF. When you base your opinion about what they do on one subject, one author, or one article, you are no different that what you accuse them of.

    I had the opportunity to attend a FoF event a few weeks ago. It was part of the Alive 2020 event. Two of the people that you are regularly attacking here spoke. One was Jim Daly, The other was Steve Arterburn(Author of Every Mans Battle). I found them both to be friendly, caring and compassionate. They are both proponents of strong Christian marriages. The particular event I attended was obviously Pro-Life, but they also were reaching out to those who have already been affected by abortion, and the work that they do to support crisis pregnancy centers. For the record, The abortion recovery counseling I receive every week, at no cost to me, is at one of those very centers.

    I, for one, am grateful for the work that they do. I don’t have to agree everything they say to know that they do far more good than harm. I also know they have far more to say regarding pornography than what I see reflected here. If I had a week, I could read it all and summarize it. Since I don’t, I will just share a link. (I hope that is permissible)

    https://www.focusonthefamily.com/?s=pornography

    I know this is a hot button topic for you Shelia. What you probably don’t realize is that your attitudes and opinions are not very different from those reflected in FoF.

    You are, obviously, free to believe anything you wish, and to post accordingly, but sometimes I wish you would leave personalities out of it. I enjoy reading your posts, and I learn a lot, but I have to say that you are so outspoken at times, that it is difficult to take you seriously. A particular case in point is the post where you described Jim Daly as a false teacher. It was un-necessarily inflammatory. It was one area of disagreement on one book review, and you attacked his character. It also blinded you to all the good work he does.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I hear you, Doug. I really do. And I used to think as you did. I’ve been writing this blog since 2008, and it was only in 2017 that I started specifically speaking out about the things that I saw that were problematic. I spent 9 years saying nothing about all of that, and trying to just give a healthy view of marriage instead.

      The problem was that the same problems kept creeping up, no matter how much I said, because the fact is that there is some really bad teaching out there that’s being internalized by so many people. And in the Christian world we don’t tend to like to call out bad teaching from big organizations, and so there’s a little bit of the “Emperor Has No Clothes” thing happening. Everyone knows there’s something a little bit off, but no one says anything. I want to give people permission to say something. When I started speaking out about Love & Respect, for instance, the floodgates opened, because so many had been thinking it for years, but thought that they were alone.

      I’ve met Jim Daly many times, and I’ve been on his show. He is a very, very kind person, I agree. He does mean well. But he is simply wrong about some things. One of the things that bothers me most about Focus on the Family, for instance, is that they believe that you cannot divorce in cases of abuse. Reconciliation should be the goal. While they advise separation if you’re in physical danger, it should be a temporary separation with the goal towards reconciliation. The only permitted reasons for divorce are adultery or abandonment to them. And that is that their counselors counsel. That is simply dangerous for women in that situation. It says that if a man has a one-night stand she can divorce; but if a man repeatedly beats her to a pulp she cannot. And let’s remember that being separated is actually the most dangerous state for abused women–the state when they’re most likely to be killed. And divorce affords her much greater legal protection. So this is dangerous.

      When Focus on the Family has the reach that it does, when they get things wrong, it’s dangerous. Sure, a lot of what they say is good (I’ve been on their show several times!). But they can’t say stuff like this about porn. They just can’t. Not with that kind of reach. It’s irresponsible. Even if they say other things in other places, the fact that they would say this on the radio (and the hosts said it, so this is what they really think) is inexcusable. And many people only listen to the radio. They’re not going to go to the web archives to do more research.

      And so I think it’s important to give people permission to use their brains. In the Christian world, we tend to think that the big organizations have it right, or that if it’s published in a book, it must be right. So when we hear something we don’t agree with, we assume the problem is with us. And that can lead to so much guilt and shame when the advise is like this, and so much danger when the advise is like what they say about abuse.

      That’s why I speak out. And I wrote more about this decision that I did make two years ago in this post as well: Why I speak out when there’s bad teaching. There’s a tremendous amount of bad teaching in the Christian world about sex right now. There just is. Some may be generational for sure, though that’s not really an excuse. We have to talk about what couples are enduring now, not what couples faced 25 years ago. And I can’t help people find amazing sex in marriage until we also address some of the roots of why sex isn’t great–and blaming women for men’s porn use is one of those roots. Making women feel that they are responsible for men’s sin is something that kills a woman’s sex drive. Making women feel that their husbands will lust after other women if they don’t perform exactly right makes women feel insecure in marriage, and again, kills libido and intimacy, and wrecks women’s ability to orgasm. It’s that simple. And that’s why I have to speak out.

      Reply
    • Tiffany

      Part of the reason I take Shelia so seriously is because she is so outspoken.

      Shelia, I hope you never change that part of yourself, to soften down because a guy tells you that you should. We need more outspoken women speaking and writing on these topics.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Thank you, Tiffany.

        Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      There is a biblical principle, Doug, that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough. Even if the rest of the loaf is made with good ingredients, if there is a little bit of bad yeast it effects the whole loaf.

      Similarly, even if the majority of what is said is good, if there is bad yeast it still needs to be thrown out. And the fact that FotF hasn’t dealt with this bad yeast yet is incredibly concerning. Especially if, like you say, they know the truth about porn and they still allow this “bad yeast” to be on their broadcast. If what you are saying about FotF is true about what they teach about porn, rather than being a defense for them it is a further indictment of their lack of care for the vulnerable who are listening. They know what they are saying is unhealthy, but they continue to say it anyway.

      Finally, even if FotF has lots of healthy resources on porn addiction, why would we be willing to play Russian Roulette when it comes to this kind of teaching? Say someone has a 1 in 7 chance in hearing this kind of teaching. Wouldn’t it be better to make it 0 in 7? That’s what we’re trying to do by calling it out–stop organizations like FotF and the people involved from neglecting their duties and therefore inadvertently turning their programs into a game of Russian-Roulette-Marriage-Advice: let’s see who of our listeners gets the dangerous teaching and who gets the harmless stuff!

      We would love to be able to keep personalities out of it. But the personalities are who are promoting this dangerous teaching. I’d love if we could just tell people, “Don’t listen to this kind of teaching” but it’s often hard to identify that kind of teaching when you’ve been indoctrinated. The only way to effectively warn people in a way that best protects them is to warn them against the messenger AND the teaching.

      I know you’re concerned about these leaders, and we really don’t like having to drag them into it. But our main concern is for that one lost sheep who needs someone to come alongside them and bring them back to solid ground. For that woman who has heard this and felt it’s her fault that her husband won’t stop watching porn. For the women who are being abused and being told there is nothing they can do about it without making God mad at them. For the men who feel trapped by lust and sexual sin because all they’ve been told is that they can’t ever beat this–it’s all women’s fault.

      Teachers, when they take on the teaching role, put themselves in a position to be criticized. Much as people criticize us on this blog, too! We understand that comes with the job (and biblically, it should, according to James 3:1!). And we have actually changed our content a few times due to criticisms we received! All we ask is that these leaders and FotF takes their responsibility that they took upon themselves seriously and listen to the criticism launched against them.

      Reply
      • Doug

        Rebecca,

        Thank you for your response. I meant to respond earlier and I got sidetracked.

        First let me say that I don’t have any particular concern for the men I mentioned, aside from the obvious. I don’t believe they are immoral in their teaching. Yes, I do believe they are probably out of touch in this issue, but that does not make them villians.

        I also pointed out that they do other very good, very important work in ministries that I have personally benefitted from, quite recently. If I want to be even more technical, you personally were one of the people who suggested counseling for me, tho you might not remember. Well I can not say that FotF funds my counseling, but they do assist in funding the Crisis Pregnancy centers that provide it, so you could say I have a vested interest. That might not mean anything to you, but it matters to me. It is more than a little troubling to me that your attitude is that work is somehow contaminated. Honestly, it is hurtful.

        I don’t fault anyone for having strong opinions, or speaking their mind about those opinions, but it needs to be measured and civil. Where there is good being done it should be recognized, not dismissed as tainted.

        Honestly, I don’t agree with everything here. I think there is a tendency to villify men and mens struggles, while dismissing their hurts. I think that even in the area of pornography addiction, which has received a lot of attention here, there is a tendency to “blame” pornography while not addressing the addiction. Shelia touches on it some, but only just barely. Sexual trauma is mentioned a lot here. Care to guess how many men found themselves addicted to something because of it. It might not be porn. It might be substance abuse. Where is that discussed here? Most addictions grow out of trauma of some sort. Yes, there are other paths to addiction, but usually, if you see an addict, you see a wounded person. But no, lets just focus on the pornography, not the kid from the broken home, or the one who was molested or the one who was verbaly beaten down all his life. Times have changed, and there is unlimited access to internet porn, but that does not make addicts, any more than unlimited alcohol makes alcoholics. Till you get that right, as far as I am concerned, you are little different from FotF.

        Reply
        • Rebecca Lindenbach

          Doug, my perspective is this: why would we support the organizations doing 95% good but 5% bad, when there are organizations that are doing 0% bad?

          I would love if FotF would renounce the 5% bad because I agree, they do a lot of good. But it’s difficult when, like I said before, it’s a game of chance if you’re going to get the good or the bad. Until we know that Focus is dedicated to keeping people safe and therefore removes harmful content when it is pointed out to them and stops promoting this kind of thing, due to our platform we can’t in good conscience recommend them or not warn people that not everything Focus has is healthy.

          There are other pregnancy crisis centers not funded by Focus. There are other podcasts, radio shows, and the like that are not Focus. There are other parenting resources out there (like Connected Families). So why would we put our time and resources towards the group that refuses to deal with the poison in its midst, even if the rest of the stuff they do is good?

          We’re not saying that people have to be in agreement–theological differences are OK. But when it crosses from theological disagreement to actually promoting a harmful and toxic message and not apologizing and changing it when it is brought to their attention, that’s very concerning. It’s not that someone can’t be wrong ever–it’s that when they are explained why it is wrong they ignore the facts.

          This is not a theological difference, however–this is something that is plain old logic. A wife cannot CAUSE a porn addiction that started before she entered the picture. The fact that many men suffer with ED and low libido due to porn addiction logically means that a wife having more sex with her husband won’t “cure” his addiction. But still they promote this hurtful mentality (hurtful to both wife and husband since it doesn’t actually deal with the root cause of his problem). I agree with you–addiction often stems out of a deep, deep pain. And although you accuse us of being unaware of that, we have a multitude of posts and resources where we have said so and told wives to be kind and compassionate for the 11-year-old boy their husbands were when they were first exposed.

          We also will be adding more posts in our calendar about trauma and addiction soon because we agree, it is important to see more than the current situation. But none of this discounts the fact that Focus is promoting very harmful teachings. The fact that they have good teachings doesn’t negate the bad–it gives them a responsibility to make sure they don’t let any bad yeast into their ministry because they have proven themselves capable of seeing what is healthy in other areas.

          Reply
    • wifeofasexaddict

      Dear Doug,

      Focus on the Family was a huge part of my growing up and teenage years, back in the 80s and 90s when Dobson was still leading it. I listened to their broadcast and read Dobson’s books and others they recommended every chance I got. And I believe their teaching (I heard it in other places as well, so it’s not all their fault) was a HUGE factor in my marrying too young, and foolishly, and being codependent and afraid to confront my husband when he was wrong, and staying with him 7 years ago when he first confessed infidelity, and not being willing to hold him accountable for breaking promises. I’ve spent my whole life being completely passive, and FOTF’s teaching about marriage and how wives should behave and give their husbands all the sex they want because it’s soooo hard for them to behave…. all that influenced me. So I would disagree that most of what they are saying is good. Especially since they are SO wrong on this issue and seem unwilling to learn.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I’m sorry this is your story. I really am. You’re not the only one I’ve heard it from, either. It’s quite common. I hope we can change the conversation.

        Reply
  28. Elisa

    How long should a man be “sober” from porn and accountable/open enough to get married? I am dating a guy who has been so for 4 years. He talks regularly with a close friend about it. He has endured extreme stress (job loss, major moves and relational issues) without going back to it and always is willing to talk to me about how he’s doing in that area. But it’s all on his word. He is a computer genius and he could get around the filters. He’s told me “I would get it for your mental wellbeing but just know I could get around it.” A professional counselor told me yes, it is possible I’d you are well versed in computers but his willingness and honesty are most important.
    I feel he is trustworthy but reading these articles honestly scare me and I don’t see a lot of hope in them. Of course, they need to be written! Just unnerving. I wish I heard about more guys having victory in this area. What destruction the evil one has done to sex through porn. How deeply God wants to give us the best! I am in total agreement with your view, Sheila!!!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s a great question, Elisa, and I’m going to answer it in my podcast tomorrow! My short answer is that he needs to be aware of the effects of porn use, including everything I’ve listed here. He has to know that it’s not just about quitting porn; it’s about getting your head around the fact that everything he’s wired himself to believe and feel about sex is wrong, and is actually hurtful. He has to relearn intimacy, understand that women do not tend to enjoy sex that is fast, rough, and focused on the guy; and be committed to starting from scratch.

      If he has been off porn for years, and he understands all of those things, then I’d say you’re good. But it’s not just quitting porn. It’s developing a new mindset about sex, and that’s what we don’t talk about enough.

      Incidentally, in the Honeymoon Course that I’ve created to have these conversations with your fiance before the wedding I go over a lot of this about porn, and go over what sex should actually look like. You’d both benefit from that, and I’d encourage you to take a look at it before you marry!

      Reply
      • Mel

        Sheila, I too have been offended by articles written by Focus on The Family. They have one that talks about how a young man was masturbating to images because his new wife was too tired for sex. It was basically a threat of “give it up….. or else” So I do appreciate you raising these important issues.

        What I don’t appreciate is you acting self righteous and quoting other authors and bloggers as being in the wrong while you are apparently all perfect. I don’t see anyone attacking you on their websites or writing articles against you. I see you doing this frequently in a self righteous manner against other bloggers and people.

        I also see you attacking people commenting on your blog. Instead of humbly deleting comments you don’t appreciate, you keep them there so you can Shame people and get others to join in in an attempt to side with you. Not very Godly for a Christian website.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I don’t understand–would you rather I deleted all comments that criticize me? When I do that, people accuse me of not being willing to engage in debate and in censoring others! So it’s like I can’t win, which, quite frankly, is rather frustrating–especially since I’m one of the few blogs like this which does allow comments. Lori Alexander doesn’t. Love & Respect cut off comments after my series ran last year, and they don’t allow them anymore. Focus on the Family doesn’t either. I try to allow feedback.

          If people choose to leave a public comment, that is their choice. Then I comment back, and so do many others. When it crosses a line, I often cut it off. We’ve had occasions when people have written to us asking to delete comments because they didn’t like the way it went, and I’ve even deleted whole threads of 20-30 comments before, at readers’ requests.

          But I don’t believe in deleting comments I disagree with. It’s also very, very important that those comments get let through, so that people understand that when I say something is a problem in the church, they realize, “yeah, it really is a problem. She’s not just making this up.” When people disagree, they prove my point, quite often.

          As for not being humble, I wrote a whole post last week asking for feedback on trauma and sex, and that post garnered a ton of responses. I do try to learn. In my podcast tomorrow I talk about how my views changed on porn because I listened. I believe that this is the right attitude, and I hope that if I am wrong about other things, that I am also humble to see it.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            One more thing–I used to talk about how I loved I Kissed Dating Good-bye. But when I realized how it was actually harmful, I also wrote about my journey in that and apologized for what I said. My views on many things have changed, and I think I’m quite open when they do and I think I apologize. If I haven’t, then I hope people will show me so that I can correct my previous posts.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Finally, just one more thing. My concern is that Christianity in North America has become more about the brand than it is about helping the vulnerable. When I criticize something specific, it’s because people are being hurt. That should matter to us. It is not just because I’m offended–tons of things offend me that I never write about. It is when teaching actually actively harms people. And that should matter more than preserving everyone’s reputation.

          • Dean

            Sheila, open public online content moderation is very tough stuff, all online creators express that fact. It is kind of like being an ice hockey goalie 🙂 I think you and your team are doing a great job. Actually an amazing job, having in mind the sensitivity of the topics. There is truly a sense of community and of mutual help on your site, which is extremely rare. When things get tough, might be good to remember the Positive Silent Majority: those who read, appreciate, and come back to read more.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Thank you, Dean! I really appreciate the community here, too, and the people who comment a lot. I think of them as friends. 🙂

        • Lindsey

          Mel,

          With respect, you’re wrong. The transformed wife had an article that was 100% aimed at Sheila just last week. Hers is a blog that doesn’t allow dissenting comments – and to be honest it is not godly or humble, it is simply done to have a comment section that just agrees with and praises her. She doesn’t encourage discussion or allow for differing ideas. It’s extremely toxic.
          When someone writes things that are as distructive as what Transformed wife writes, and then to see the comment section agreeing and taking it even further into literally misogyny (and I NEVER use that term lightly), and to not see a single comment speaking out against it because they’ve been moderated out, has the potential to do untold harm to people’s metal health and their Christian walk.

          You may not like the drama that comes from Sheila tolerating respectful disagreement – but anyone who’s taking the time to read the article and comments will at least be able to consider multiple viewpoints as they craft their own. That’s something we shouldn’t fear – but encourage.

          As for being self-righteous, I didn’t get that AT ALL from the articles she’s posted. She is genuinely grieved and has reached out to these people, only to be ignored. Christ didn’t pull His punches when calling out bad teaching by religious leaders, and neither should Sheila or anyone else. And you know, those author’s shouldn’t care if she does it either. Because if they feel secure in their position it shouldn’t bother them – and if they don’t then they should take ownership of that and change their message.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Thank you, Lindsey.

          • Mel

            Lindsey, with respect, it is actually you that is wrong. Sheila most definitely is self righteous. You need to read entire comments to see her nastiness come through; not just the article itself. I saw her ripping shreds off someone last week going under the name of Anon. Someone called BJ chined in to defend Sheila and Sheila really lapped up the sympathy and went all out to bully Anon. Yet other times I have seen worse comments than the one Anon was making and Sheila lets them through.

            She manipulates comments and people to make herself look good and like she is the victim, all the while using her website to bully people.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Mel, I’m going to quote the thread that you are talking about, just so people can see it. I’d prefer to delete this comment entirely, but if I were to do that, you’d become upset at me for that. I’m really in a no-win situation here. But here’s what happened:

            Anon: “Hi Kay, thanks so much for your post. Kudos to you. Finally someone speaks with some sense. My trauma was caused by my husband’s porn addiction so he is the perpetrator so to speak. [more about her story, which is really terrible.] In my country there has just been a guy found guilty of murdering a girl on a date by strangulation. His defence was that she had encouraged and requested the strangulation to enhance their sexual experience. He looked at porn after he’d killed her. I know this is a huge topic but my opinion of men and sex is not a very good one. I stay away from it because all the messages I receive about men and sex just are not good ones. It’s not something I want to be involved in.”

            Sheila: “I’m so sorry, Anon. So sorry. As an aside, I follow a really interesting Twitter account from Britain–“We Can’t Consent to This.” It highlights all the cases you’re talking about. Just horrific.”

            Anon: “Yes Shelia well done for pointing out where I live. Nice one when my comment was anonymous and should have stayed that way.”

            BJ: “Actually, Anon, YOU just outed where you live. The casual reader would not assume that just because a twitter account is British that every story including the one you mentioned would be from that country. And why bring up a searchable story and give details if you were that paranoid that someone here would discover the (gasp) country you live in?”

            Sheila: “Anon, I have no idea where you live. It’s not in your email address, and I have no way of knowing. I’m just saying that I’m following an interesting Twitter account from Britain, which I think everyone should follow. It’s covering British crimes, but I assume the same thing is happening the world over. I think some is coming from Australia as well. I didn’t mean any offense–I was simply pointing people to that great Twitter profile.”

            Anon: “BJ (interesting title by the way) no need to get nasty. Couldn’t help yourself chiming in. Wasn’t anything to do with you was it. Don’t see what relevance your comment is except to be nasty. No I didn’t actually assume that Sheila would Hone in on that part of my comment. It was a small part of what I wrote. And duh!!! No I don’t actually live in Britain so there you go! You were both wrong. I didn’t point it out because I never actually said where I live. Sheila quoted Britain and my comment was relative to that country but it’s not where I live. So forget being a keyboard troll and instead of having to make nasty digs just keep scrolling down in future.”

            Sheila: “Actually, Anon, I think what BJ did was to stand up for me when someone else was attacking me, which you were. I never intended to hurt you; I never realized that I had revealed something about you, and now apparently I haven’t, which means that your first rude comment was unfounded and unnecessary. If you don’t live in Britain, then there was no need to become angry at me. Part of being in community online is that people do come to others’ defences when they are accused of something unnecessarily, and that’s what BJ did.

            At this point, Anon, you are now attacking BJ and not just me, calling her names and insulting her, and so at this point no other comments will be let through on this thread because I can’t have you attacking other commenters.

            I understand that you are in a horrible marriage, and I am so, so sorry. When your husband has been using porn, the porn use needs to be dealt with FIRST before we even start talking about sex, and that means quitting the porn, getting filters on your devices, getting some accountability and counseling, and being honestly repentant and understanding. Wanting to withhold sex from a man who has hurt you is an entirely different situation than the one that I’m talking about here, where women aren’t able to have sex with their husbands because of past trauma, but their husbands are actually good guys.

            I’m so sorry for your pain, and I hope that your husband will keep working at restoring the marriage. I really do.”

            Anon then left another comment which attacked me and told me how awful the blog was, and I did not let that one through because it was really over the top. If you think that this is me trying to make others look foolish, then I’m not really sure what you would have rather that I done. It was not me who called BJ names or who attacked someone in the first place.

            I am now going to suspend this conversation as well. It has gone on long enough, and like I said–I would have preferred to delete this comment thread instead, but if I had done that, you would have become upset for that. But this really is it, because this is not the point of this post, and it’s gone on long enough.

          • Lea

            Mel, I disagree with Sheila here and there, but that’s normal. People disagree!

            Anon in that case was weirdly looking for a fight. That was an odd exchange (I too immediately thought of a case similar to the one she described that may have been in Australia) and I don’t think anyone knew what to make of it but it wasn’t about Sheila being ‘self righteous’.

        • Rebecca Lindenbach

          I’m sorry, can I also say that the fact that “I don’t see others attacking you” is not a good argument that she SHOULDN’T be calling out others?

          By that logic, should only doctors who had their medical licenses revoked be allowed to revoke licenses?

          The fact that people aren’t saying that Sheila’s writings are abusive is kind of the whole point… we’re presenting a healthy perspective, and so we’re calling out the unhealthy ones. That’s not self-righteous, that’s just how it is. We’ve worked hard, studied, and listened to abuse victims to try and be able to provide safe advice. All we’re asking is that others do the same. We are not asking more of these organizations than we do of ourselves.

          Reply
        • wifeofasexaddict

          “humbly deleting comments you don’t appreciate” LOL!!! Deleting comments you don’t like is not humble at all! It’s quite arrogant! Sheila is always polite and patient with dissenting commenters. And she give rude people many chances to be better before she stops approving their comments.

          What a bizarre critique of this blog.

          Reply
    • Tee

      Elisa,
      My husband agrees with yours on the topic of filters and programs that protect from this. He’s a computer programmer. He’s got a step further and no insult to anyone intended, say a half baked teenager could get through them no problem. He doesn’t believe in them. He also doesn’t have a porn problem so it’s not an issue for us now. Later we’ve decided our kids won’t have their own devices until they can pay for them themselves and then they will go into a basket at home and internet will be turned off Etc. 🤷‍♀️ I don’t have an answer for your situation but your husband is right. They aren’t difficult to bypass. Even for non-professionals. Relying on those alone is 100% not the answer.

      Reply
    • wifeofasexaddict

      Elisa, It sounds like your guy is doing really well. 4 years of sobriety is probably enough. His comment “I would get filters for your mental wellbeing, but be aware I could get around it” is concerning. Yes, he could get around it. Many people could. And he could get it other places too. So he isn’t really doing anything to set your mind at ease here. Maybe he’s being honest, or maybe he’s being manipulative. I don’t have enough information to tell here. Best thing to do is ask him to have a polygraph. And you might want to keep doing that annually. It’s the only way to know for sure. Sorry you’re in this situation.

      Reply
  29. Jane Eyre

    The whole thing about a wife’s lack of sex prompting a husband towards porn is ridiculous. If that’s the case, why can’t unmarried men use porn, as they lack any sort of licit sexual outlet with a woman?

    What’s the rational here? It’s wrong for an unmarried man without access to sex to use porn, but a married man who isn’t getting as much sex as he would like gets a pass? Or are all men allowed to use porn, but we blame wives when those men are married?

    Doesn’t seem like these people thought this through.

    Reply
    • Sara

      someone finally said it. If you really take FotF’s assumptions to the implied conclusion, it contradicts other major church teachings about purity and abstinence etc. Their teaching fails the basic logic test. A lot of teachings that feel ‘off’ but sound ‘right’ or ‘biblical’ or ‘christian’? If you start following them out to their implied conclusions you end up in some bad places, and then it’s like, ‘oh, that’s why that felt wrong’.

      Reply
  30. bunkababy

    I have been out of the church physically for 25 years. When you are inside those walls you cannot see the forest from the trees.

    One of my biggest pet peeves is Christians keeping silent because you are not supposed to judge. I think that has been the biggest fallacy of all time. It is how perpetrators, of all sorts of evil intent stay in the pulpits and pews.

    The discipline and discipleship of discerning is so skewed and distorted nobody has any idea that it is a very very important part of Christianity.

    Just because somebody puts on a good front ,says the right things doesn’t mean they are not wolves under the facade.

    Telling women they cannot divorce is wolf behaviour. It is venom. Telling women porn addiction in husbands in their fault is wolf behaviour.

    These are life altering, life and death situations and the majority of people let the wolf stay and give a pass because what? He has on a nice fluffy sheep coat on?

    Did you see the headlines today? The Houston Chronicle says 100 SB youth pastors charged or convicted of sex crimes. Not to mention the other 500 plus Pastors charged.

    There was a poll and study done last year where did did actual data on porn activity online, The biggest users were in the Bible Belt of America. Beat out all those awful places like NY, LA, Detroit.

    Not only does porn wreck marriages, it escalates and porn users become child abusers, do you really think these two facts are unrelated?

    I don’t. I was raised inside a church whose pastors were wolves and used me sexually to make pornography. Not only me but other kids in our church. In the church.

    I spoke with a Canadian MP who speaks about child trafficking and using her leverage as an MP to rescue kids, she does a tour going from church to church and porn addiction and child sexual abuse and child trafficking in the church is common. COMMON.

    My biggest beef with the church is like that other poster said letting a little yeast infiltrate the whole batch.

    People willing to overlook serious serious faults in doctrine, and beliefs because of a few good things in the fluffy sheep coat they wear.

    I say run from FOTF RUN. If they are willing to let women die, women black and blue , broken bones, broken spirits stay in abusive marriages, blame women for men’s sexual proclivities. FLEE There should be no question. None.

    Why would you put your trust in an organization like this?

    God gave us all brains. He gave us the ability to reason, to discern and yet we put on our dunce caps and say no. No I am not allowed to use it. God would not want me to use my brain.

    All those warnings in the New Testament about discernment, yeast, hypocrisy, and no God he said not to judge. No he said take the log out of your own eye so you can see CLEARLY. Then go to your brother with the spec in his eye. Besides !Corinthians tells us to judge those within the church. Leave those outside the church to God. And what do we do? Don’t judge those inside the church and point fingers and everyone else outside.

    I am madder than a hornet.

    I will never defend Focus on the Family. Never. I will never defend the SBC or any other church organization that defends abusers. Never.

    Reply
    • Lea

      “One of my biggest pet peeves is Christians keeping silent because you are not supposed to judge. I think that has been the biggest fallacy of all time.”

      Christians do all sorts of judging in church, they just pick and choose who they judge. Like a teenage girl who got pregnant and got stood up to ‘apologize’ and be shamed in front of the whole church. But something like this we’re supposed to keep quiet? No. It’s gross.

      Reply
      • bunkababy

        I remember watching that happen to two girls who were older than me. I remember as a kid sitting their thinking “where is the boy?” Why is he not up there with her.

        I was always so disturbed by that. Especially knowing what perverts sat behind her up on that pulpit.

        Reply
        • Lea

          I wasn’t there but I knew someone it happened to. It’s so wrong.

          Realizing that many many churches will hold teenage girls accountable for their actions (and actions that hurt no one else at that!) every day but not grown men has made me very angry.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            It is infuriating. That’s why I always encourage people, if they’re in a church like that, to get out and look for another one. I have been in so many HEALTHY churches that would never have done this. I’m in one now; so is my daughter. Great churches that are the epitome of community.

            The hard part is that denominations often tell people that “only we understand God”, so you begin to think that anyone outside your denomination isn’t really saved, so you don’t have anywhere else to go. But sometimes it takes leaving a church, or even a denomination, to find real Christian community, which really is out there.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Bunkaby.

      1 Corinthians 5:12-13:

      For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? God will judge those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.”

      Reply
      • bunkababy

        Interestingly a commentor above mentioned yeast and when I went back to look at the Greek meaning of purge, drive, expel out the wicked one, the yeast verse is a part of this whole passage.

        Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

        9I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the churchb whom you are to judge? 13God judgesc those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

        Reply
        • Lindsey

          Those passages are so beautiful and intro calls linked to the biblical holy days of Passover and the Days of Unleaved Bread. We keep those each year, with a focus on renewing our covenant with Christ (Passover), and putting sin out of our lives – as well as leaven out of our home. They are good reminders.

          As an aside, I am so very sorry for the horrors that you have suffered at the hands of false Christians. I hope you continue the toad towards healing.

          Reply
  31. Liefdeskruiden

    There is a book from juli Slatterly, Pulling back the shades that covers just this. Great read!

    Reply
  32. Jacqueline Orosco

    Thank you Shelia! Thank you so much for calling out this erroneous and extremely harmful teaching from FOTF. As a young wife who recently discovered not only my husband’s long-standing porn addiction but also his sex addiction consisting of emotional affairs, phone sex, homosexual exploration, and other activities, this triggered me SO hard. It is NOT my fault, or the fault of any other wife, when a husband chooses to engage in extramarital sexual gratification. This is a soul wound he carried with him long before meeting me, which flourished under my pregnancy and early postpartum. I never lapsed in my “wifely duties.” I gave him everything he asked for, even when I was sick, even when I was uncomfortable, even only a few short weeks after giving birth. A husband’s sex addiction has nothing to do with a wife who won’t put out and everything to do with his own choices, behaviors, and sin. I feel strongly about this. As someone who has lived it, and all the horrible repercussions, thank you for bringing this out into the light.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so glad it helped, Jacqueline. And I’m so sorry for what you’ve walked through. Is he getting help?

      Reply
  33. John Bennett

    It is unfair to claim that Focus on the Family is blaming women in this instance.
    The dialogue being made simply says that a man’s needs not being met can be a instigator of this sin. You say basically the same thing in your post; a man uses the release as a coping mechanism. Except, since your speaking to all of us in written word, without being interrupted, and with the ability to be very precise in your wording, you get to convey most of what you want.
    Could it have been worded better? Definitely!
    Could it be interpreted to mean that women are to blame? Clearly it was.
    But does it actually say that? No.
    Making that leap is the same logical fallacy that allow one to blame God because the sexual desires are part of God’s design.
    If my spouse has irritated me and I get angry and lose my temper, it is still I who have sinned. It is not her “fault”.
    Likewise, if my spouse has not been able to meet my “needs” and I turn to porn, it is again I who have sinned.
    Focus on the Family may have a prehistory of this sort of behavior that changes the filter one hears the words with – and it may be deserved. But the conclusion drawn, that Focus on the Family blames women for husbands using porn, is not substantiated by the linked podcast.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      John, even if it is a logical fallacy (which I don’t believe it is), if someone says, “one of the many reasons for X is Y”, and then goes on to only discuss Y, and not even mention any of the other ones, it shows where they think the most blame lies. The host said this, and then the rest of the conversation was all about how women can have so much sex that men aren’t tempted. Given how widespread porn use is, and how destructive it is, to raise the issue of porn, and then to not even mention any of the things I have said in this post, but to ONLY say that one of the reasons is that women don’t want sex, is simply irresponsible, and shows that they do not understand the dynamic between porn and marriage. If this were something affecting 1% of millennial marriages it would be understandable that they got it wrong. But this is the biggest problem. It’s inexcusable.

      Reply
    • Lisa

      I encourage you to listen to the whole thing. He went on, at length. It wasn’t just the one sentence.

      Reply
  34. Rebekah

    My daughter will enter high school next year and our homeschool charter program requires and provides a “comprehensive sex Ed” online class. We can opt out and I was considering it. We’ve done plenty of studies on sex via Intoxicated on Life, and started The Whole Story, but what are your thoughts on how much info should be provided (their table of contents and summary has *so* much detail! Should I just have her also do a wholistic health curriculum as well?

    Reply
  35. Mike

    I am coming in on this very late. This may be a bit of a rant. But holy cow Shiela, you hit the nail on the head. I have been in and out of porn and sexual stimulation since I was a kid. It was yearbook photos, Playboy, phone sex hotlines in high school (started as a joke). I was a leader in school, and in my church youth group and was not sexually promiscuous, other than this – and and it was a way that Christian kids in the 1980s would justify a sinful behavior…”well at least I’m not like them having sex”. It was moderate struggle but because of the limited access to material the addictions werent nearly as prevalent. I heard the sermons on sexual purity – but we made excuses. but it was when the web really became the door opener in the late 1990s that availability became widespread, access to porn exploded and the massive addictions started. I was, and sometimes am, an addict (notice I cant even admit this fully when I type it). Its the only real addiction I have that I have been unable to permanently kick. And I am ashamed for it. I love my family, love my wife, love my children and this addiction – and the constant fight – limits my relationship with my creator, my family and even hurts me at work by making me less productive. As a husband and a father of teen kids now I am terrified they have more access than I had. Pornhub, Xvideos and other sites give you free access to a near limitless supply of porn of all types, some of it borderline illegal. These “free” sites are constantly found in teen boys browser histories, and as secret Iphone apps these days and I fear its going to be even worse for them than it is for my generation as they try to have relationships.

    I’m ashamed of this , I continuously work on it, and pray about it. Sometimes I wish I were addicted to cocaine, opioids, heroine instead because at least people seem to sympathize and have an open support system where I could go to a rehab facility, get insurance to pay, and have a life changing experience. But not with this addiction. It must remain underground as there is almost no sympathy for “porn addicts” in the Church, with wives or friends because its so demeaning to women and an affront to what God wants for our lives. So we cannot really admit to the addiction out of fear of divorce, castigation, stigma, etc…

    It does indeed rewire the brain and make a sexual relationship with your spouse more challenging. Now over 80% of men in America 18-35 watch some sort of porn on a weekly basis. This is the new opioid crisis in America. But there is no Presidential Commission on this.

    As much as I hate this stupid cliche, “we need to have an adult conversation” about the addiction, the prevalence, the availability to teens, the impact and finally – the Godly way out of this mess. We need to explicitly and specifically preach on it openly in our churches, youth groups, families…Admit its a problem, its an addiction,and there are solutions – and tell addicts from the pulpits of all the solutions.

    Reply

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