What’s wrong with a little porn?

I recently read a fairly common perspective among men. It appeared on a forum in a thread titled, “Should I divorce my sex-addict husband?”

Okay, some of the cases [of sex addiction] are pretty bad and do constitute a divorce. If they’re cheating, doing something illegal, or wasting the family’s money, then yeah, you have no choice but to get rid of them.

But (you all saw this coming), healthy guys like to look at women. If we didn’t . . . well, there wouldn’t be any humans. I’m not into dance parlors or certain websites, but I do enjoy magazines like Maxim, Playboy, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition (still my favorite), and I’ll fully admit it’s not just for the articles.

I mean, if all that happened was you caught your husband looking at some nudie pictures . . . I just hate to think that families are breaking up because of something like that.

. . . .

Here is my response:

I see your point. In terms of dysfunction, the behavior you describe could be somewhat comparable to social drinking vs. alcoholism. Some men don’t seem to lose themselves in “nudie” pictures and don’t find themselves drawn deeper into more explicit material or spend hours searching for more stimulation. However, the analogy breaks down fairly quickly for a few reasons.

First, looking at “nudie” pictures isn’t as benign as drinking in moderation. The manly urge to look at women is indeed natural and healthy. We are created that way and God makes no mistakes. However, there are bad ways, good ways, and better ways to sate that innate desire.

One writer illustrated the problem of porn in a very helpful way. Imagine you were transported to another planet where groups of people gathered in a room to watch someone slowly and tantalizingly reveal a plate of food, yet none were allowed to touch it or eat it. It wouldn’t take a Ph.D. in alien psychology to determine that this society had some disturbing issues with food. And yet, that is what we do with sex!

What if, instead, that same robust desire for sexual fulfillment could be channeled into a healthy relationship with a real-life, flesh-and-blood woman? What if that lusty need to see a woman undressed could be directed toward the woman you love? Why waste all that sexual energy on something that can’t give anything in return? If that’s not possible with one’s wife, because of issues on her side, why not work together with a counselor to fix the problem? In the long run, wouldn’t the payoff be much better? I mean, really, isn’t lots of sex with your woman better than the futility of staring at a paper stranger with a staple in her bellybutton?

I challenge anyone to counter my argument without revealing at least a small amount of sexual dysfunction. The fact is that men turn to “nudie” pictures because it’s easier than cultivating a healthy relationship with a woman. Relationships are hard. Real intimacy means having to trust someone else to meet our sexual needs on terms other than our own. It means trading the easy way for a more challenging way. It means having to help our partner overcome her sexual issues in order to enjoy sexual fulfillment. Trust, unselfishness, and patience; man, those are so much trouble compared to a magazine fantasy . . . but SO worth the investment!

The second problem: Whether we like it or not, whether we understand it or not, viewing pornography (even harmless nudie pictures) feels like cheating to women. I wrote a lengthy article on the topic that is worth considering, at very least. Women do a marvelous job trying to accept their man’s looking at Maxim, Playboy, and the SI Swimsuit Edition as a mere “boys-will-be-boys” behavior, but it’s not easy. There’s a nagging voice deep within that asks, “Doesn’t he think I’m enough?” Again, like it or not, understand it or not, this is a woman’s reality.

Finally, the line between moderation and excess is almost impossible to detect. With alcohol, you get drunk, and you know it. With porn, even “harmless” nudes in mainstream magazines, subtle changes occur within a man who devotes his time to the futility of these paper fantasies. The changes are subtle and sinister. Looking at paper women conditions the mind in ways that are not easily undone. Research shows that repeated exposure and repeated physiological response to a certain stimulus imprints the mind so that thought patterns become automatic and unconscious over time. Just like Pavlov’s dog, a man’s sexual life is conditioned away from intimate lovemaking and toward futile fantasy.

For any woman who is enduring the continual insult of her man’s porn habit, I posted on my blog, “My Husband Is Having an Affair with Pornography, What Should I Do?

Is a little dysfunction still dysfunction? Yep! If you don’t believe me, try making a three-egg omelet with only one bad egg. Odds are it’ll make you just as sick.