About the author, Jay Stringer

A licensed mental health counselor and ordained minister, Jay Stringer has spent the last decade working on the frontlines of the demand for pornography and sexual exploitation. Stringer holds an MDiv and Master in Counseling Psychology from the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and received post-graduate training under Dr. Patrick Carnes and Dr. Dan Allender. Jay's first book, Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing, will be released in the fall of 2018. His book includes original research on over 3,600 men and women struggling with pornography. Visit Jay's website to download a free chapter. Follow Jay on Twitter: @_jaystringer

View all posts by Jay Stringer →

Your Brain on Porn

Parenting the Internet Generation Ebook Cover

Watching just 5 hours of porn has been proven to significantly change people's sexual beliefs and attitudes. Find out 5 distinct ways that porn warps your brain, as well as 5 biblical ways to renew your mind and find freedom.

36 thoughts on “What Your Sexual Fantasies (Might) Say About You

  1. This was an extremely helpful article. I’ve always viewed fantasies as a bad thing that I needed to fight. My wife allows me to share them without judgment but I still feel bad when they come up.

    I know this article covered one example in depth but it is not one I can relate with. It would be a great followup in the series to cover other types of fantasies and the examples you’ve come across and what they say about the struggle to help decode them further.

  2. Wow
    This is good!

    I do wonder though if being “transformed by the renewal of the mind” through Christ as promised in the Bible is the only true remedy… or in addition to this.

    But yes, the church MUST be open to this need for help and not shame people!!!

    This is very good and well written !

    • Erica,

      Thanks! Yes, yes, yes to the renewal of the mind through Christ. A good friend and theologian named Andrew Decort once put it like this:

      “Jesus’s basic message was a call to metanoia, which is unfortunately translated as “repentance” but means a revolution or turning (meta-) in the mind or consciousness (nous). The climax of Paul’s theology in Romans 12 is a call to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (again, he uses the word nous). Likewise, Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1 is that “the eyes of your heart may be enlightened.” ”

      I believe our minds are renewed when we understand the “what” and the “why” of what we were turned towards in our sexual fantasies. When that occurs, we can ask ourselves what it would mean to turn our consciousness to a sexual life that bears glory and beauty.

  3. I wholly believe that this article addresses the crux of our collective porn issue; if we don’t seek to understand the “why” behind our specific searches for pleasure and affirmation, we will continue to fall into the pit of despair and labeling ourselves as “perverted, messed up, etc.” The latter mindset only perpetuates the issue. Freedom is found in allowing ALL of ourselves (the porn addicted self included) to be before God, and to be at peace knowing how HE feels about US. He is not ashamed, afraid, or disgusted by our sexual desires, even when they fall into sin. Rather, he understands that our sexual sin is a legitimate longing gone astray, and one that is only satisfied in relation to Himself as Creator. Armed with this understanding, I pray that we walk boldly forth into the landscape that is the kind and redemptive power of God.

  4. Thank you, Rev Stringer. For several years, my accountability partner and I never talked about anything else except the fact that we both consumed porn and treated women the wrong way. We got nowhere until we started to realise that we use it in very different ways. He looks at women he wants to dominate. My fantasies are matriarchal. Now, we’re starting to consider what that says about our pasts and what drives us to pornography. Pray that both of us find healing for those pasts through the Holy Spirit.

    • Jason,

      Thank you for all your honesty in this response. Yes, accountability so often falls short for exactly the reason you named. So encouraged to hear how you two started addressing the main themes that bring you to your struggle.


  5. I read the article about these fantasies that develop and I have one unusual one that may be interesting to identify where it came from.

    • Austin,

      Thanks for your response. Curiosity is definitely the key. I always recommend a good therapist or pastor trained to explore these matters.

      Kindness to you,


  6. Thank you Jay for writing this article.

    I feel very inspired to dig deeper with my personal struggle with pornography and identify those areas in my life that lead me to indulge in viewing pornography.

    I never realized that this pain can be transformed. Thank you for highlighting the need to make this pain redemptive and a pathway to finding peace in myself.

    All the best.

    • Michael,

      All the best to you too. I’m grateful you feel inspired to dig deeper – it is truly the way this journey out of unwanted sexual behavior should feel. Pain can certainly be transformed. There is much beauty ahead.


  7. Thank you for this article, Jay. I’ve been chewing on it all week. It never occurred to me that understanding the content of my fantasy life might be a step along the path of freedom. As a woman who struggles with these things, I’m waiting on the promised “next blog” that may give some insight to women’s patterns. I very much appreciate the work you’ve done to compile this information, understand it, and share it with us.

    • Britt,

      Thank you for your kind words, but even more for your vulnerability and courage. I am working on the “next blog” in the coming months. In the near future though I will be releasing a blog that addresses how many women’s first exposure to pornography is not an accidental discovery, but a set-up/introduction. Very often the sexual struggles we face are re-enactments of the very ways pornography first arrived in our lives.

  8. This was an EXTREMELY helpful and eye opening article! I too feel that it would be great to address other specific types of fantasy in other articles. I’ve addressed the “drive” underneath my sexual struggles but for some reason, it doesn’t “stick” for me and I always seem to return to old acting out behaviors. I really need to read this article again as it really hits home for me and I know that I’m “Missing something.” I don’t want to just be in recovery because I don’t know what I’m trying to recover! I want to be transformed!!!!

  9. I haven’t reviewed the comments yet, but I was wondering your perspective on this. After, “Ben” understood what his sexual fantasy symbolized. What other steps of inner healing did you and him take. How did or how are you currently pursueing a God centered view of sex. Lastly, how did you phrase that conversation…. “okay Ben, now that we know your fantasy symbolized this to you, we are going to talk about …..?”

    Did you just encourage him with truth. I know the article talking about transformation from pain but did that come from leaning on God’s truth. And if so in what way!

    By the way thank you for reading this! I really really loved your article! I thought it was insightful and I plan on talking about it in detail with a couple people in accountability and that’s why I want to know more on the subject! Thanks again!

    • Thanks for your kind words and thoughtful questions, Derrick.

      I will hopefully be addressing many of your questions in the following months as I blog with Covenant Eyes. For many men, there is a fundamental lack of purpose in their lives. Men often default to watching something – pornography, sports, television. We are drawn, magnetically, to arenas that do not require risk or imagination. This is why a singular focus on lust can be so detrimental to recovery – it over looks sooo many other areas that have to be addressed to pursue freedom. Ben had to discover more about what he wanted in his life – from career to sex to friendships. And yes, Jesus’ words of Blessed/happy are those who mourn, for they will be comforted, were certainly true for Ben. There is a lot more I could say, but as I said earlier, hopefully subsequent blogs will get closer to answering your questions. Really appreciate your response!

  10. Have you written your blog post about women yet? Where can I find that? I am very interested to know what you learned about women and fantasies.

    • Hello, Eliza, the blog post about women hasn’t been written yet, but if you’re connected to our blog updates, you’ll hopefully see it soon.

  11. When will you talk more about fantasies and what they mean? I would really like to hear about other common ones. I can relate to ones having to do shame, powerlessness, abuse, and betrayal, but it would be helpful to hear of more. This is so powerful! It takes what we are ashamed of and and lights it up to see hurt in our lives and turn to God for healing. Most of my life I have been ashamed about what I wanted to view, but after reading this today, I realized that I wanted to see different things as things happened to me in my life. I feel like I knew the reason why but did not remember when my fantasies grew. I thought it was just wanting more sinful things to try to be satisfied, which would lead to more shame. I know that sin grows, but there is also a reason behind it. Thank you for the great post, it was nice to read as I was tempted today, and could think about why certain fantasies tempted me. I am looking forward to reading more of your material and sharing it with other men as we are renewed in our minds and transformed from glory to glory. Also, I look forward to God redeeming sex for me, so I can love what He loves and hate what He hates.

  12. I go through days without porn, days successfully resisting temptation and days when I sin. The thoughts in my mind, the feelings that I have, the words of my mouth seem pure evil to me after the orgasm ends. I look at myself and feel like a no good worm before God. I repent, confess, ask for forgiveness, scrub my history file and never download anything of porn and feel defeated. I know I’ll do this sin again, repent again, feel like a pile of human garbage and fact having to know that in a matter of days, sometimes more than a week, that I will give in again.

    I do not have a support system as I live in a rural area in a small college town and support groups are in or near cities. I go to a local church and enjoy being there.

    Compounding the problem is that I have a chronic mental illness going back to 1972-73 when I had a breakdown. I have schizoaffective disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and panic disorder. I have urges to gouge out my eyes or to kill myself. When that happens, I call the MH Crisis Line with my last hospitalization being in Oct. 2016 or about every two years.

    I am 62 and never married and have not had a girlfriend in near about six years and several years before that. Never had kids, a handful of relationships, few friends and live alone in an apartment building on SSI, not SS disability, since 1975. Feel like my life is over and it amounted to very little. Men in family have always brutalized women but I and my brothers seemed to have escaped that inheiritance, at least, as far as I know.

    As to family, I was raised by my grandparents as mother had to leave home to find work after she divorced my father whom I did not meet until 1974. The mines shutting down meant my grandfather had to find what low pay work he could. My father died in 1987 while my grandfather died at home in 1972. My grandmother passed away in 2001 at the age of 98. She was a very strong coal miner’ wife and daughter and endured much misery. Dad, I called them Mom and Dad never hit Mom and she always stood up to him in there daily fights and would never let him run her like the other men in my family. Mother married again and divorced her wife beating, alcoholic husband and found a third marriage that worked for her. She had seven boys and one girl while my father had six girls and one boy. I grew up without having too much contact with them.

    At school, I was a bookworm, didn’t fight back the bullies and suffered my way through graduation alone in my thoughts and daydreams until 1973. The church was not there to help when the roof caved in. Over the decades, I saw the church ignorant of and not involved with the mentally ill and so I got my support from psychologists, supportive living services, crisis lines, blended case managers, psychiatrists, mobile psych rehab workers, drop in centers and those professionals were almost all women. Most of the women I’ve dealt with are mental health professionals and a female friend not interested in relationships.

    My life is a wasteland of aloneness, isolation, depression, self harm thoughts on occasion, type 2 diabetes, boredom and just…sad. I get some pleasure out of my books, comics, dvds, internet military forums and websites and watching Fox News. I have a friend in my bldg. who is a retired Church of the Nazerene minister who is facing Alzheimer’s. We share the same interests in SF, comics, movies, TV and politics.

    I have been a Christian since 1971 but am estranged from Him due to my illness involving religious obsessions called Scrupulosity, I do not trust Him like others do. I have this giant unhealed pain and psychology and pharmacology cannot heal a spiritual problem and yes, I take many psych meds and feel that my life is futile but I can and do know that God does care for me and He has been helping me so I can have hope. He never gives up on me.

    • All things considered you seem to be doing okay. Living in a small town makes resources difficult. But if you could find just one man, one guy in the ‘church’ to meet with occasionally that could make a huge difference. That guy must be there. I know lots of retired men (most towns have them) who are looking for something to do, to feel some sort of purpose….

  13. Yea, I think that’s the case. I think he’s got a good message for the church in that simply dismissing any kind of sex addiction out of hand without engaging with a potential underlying issue isn’t productive. But I wish he’d said that. Instead he takes this gnostic approach, implying he has some special insight on what causes more extreme porn addiction and how to cure it. I had two main issues with the article; firstly that he bases the whole hypothesis on some unpublished research which means it can’t be trusted. Any scientific research has to publish data, method and conclusion. I’m not saying he’s hiding it, it’s just poor scientific method. He does use a couple of examples but these are only anecdotes. I take issue with him extrapolating the stories of his patients to the general population. It seems his patients did need help processing their early sexual experiences, but this could be done directly rather than through the lens of sexual fantasies. It’s too sex-centric, even for sex counseling.

    Secondly, and this point is more nuanced and a personal preference, he conflates having sexual fantasies with watching porn. He keeps saying the church is against fantasies but it isn’t, it’s against porn. It feels like a rhetorical sleight of hand. Obviously having a fantasy falls into the realm of temptation, which we’d all agree isn’t sinful. Clearly acting on it outside marriage is. In conflating the temptation and the act, he seems to advocate that lusting after a woman who isn’t your wife should be treated with the same understanding that the temptation is. He should clarify this. His other confusion is with good fantasies and evil ones. Wanting your wife to do something kinky is okay. Fantasising about rape isn’t. Again, it’s an omission or a sleight of hand that encourages blanket compassion for one’s self rather than a targeted mix of compassion and self-disgust and self-discipline.

    Overall, I understand his point that just saying watching porn is bad won’t help, but few churches are this simplistic in their approach. Most offer a suite of engagement with the problem, including counseling. Getting into the specifics of an addict’s fantasies is a red herring; they’re too unique and they fluctuate over time. In our Christian context; what does the Bible say about dark fantasies related to sex or even violence? It tells us to resist, and think of good things instead. It tells us to sacrifice our right hand if it causes us to sin. The guy should be telling us to trash our PCs before we go delving into our often evil fantasies in case they hold some clue to our brokenness.

  14. @J L – “but few churches are this simplistic in their approach.”

    Actually, most churches are MORE simplistic. Most of them don’t even get to the point of talking about sexual sin except in the most superficial and harsh way. Most pastors are not equipped to properly counsel people in sexual sin because so many of them have their own to deal with.

    Sexual sin is so damaging because it deals with the core of our being. It must, therefore, be dealt with as both a cause and a symptom of deeper issues. Most anti-porn ministries deal with it solely in how it causes problems. This article is one of the few times I have ever seen a discussion of how it is a function of deeper issues that warrant examination and can point to the way of healing.

  15. Amen. Most balanced and helpful article I have seen on here. Lots to consider as this addiction and its impact is not simple.

Leave a Reply to Elizabeth Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *