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

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24 thoughts on “Faith Leaders: When We Blame Lust, We Intensify Sexual Sin

  1. Possibly the most profound (and logical) insights I have found yet. This resonates truth at every angle in my own personal experience, both from my own struggle in youth, and as evidenced by my perpetrators. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. Hello Jay,
    I have a question. You say that, “A husband makes a bid to his wife for sex. She declines. He escalates the conflict and his wife turns away to fall asleep because she knows sex is largely about curbing his anger.”
    The bible mentions sex and sexual relations quite often. It’s a great thing between a husband and a wife. There are many important reasons for it- intimacy, creating children, the list could go on. I’ve never heard before that it is for curbing HIS anger. Not only that but sex is largely for this purpose. While I’m sure that could be a reason in certain situations, it is hard for me to imagine that this is the large role sex plays. So it’s to fix us men? I also can’t find that in the bible. I do find in the bible in 1 Cor 7:5 that married people are not to deprive each other except for a time by mutual consent to devote to prayer. Is the women’s initial declining supported by the bible? Is her declining him really make her the healthiest one between them, or is it because she just wasn’t in the mood? This would seem to be a poor reason to decline his advance. I understand that if a wife turns a husband down then it is best that he takes it to the Lord in prayer and not act in anger towards her. I wouldn’t justify this husbands actions. However, this seems to me that in this scenario the husband is being held accountable for his unbiblical actions while the wife is justified in her unbiblical actions.

    Sometimes i can come across argumentative when i don’t intend to, so please understand i am willing to adjust my thinking. I would just like to hear this explained.

    • Using the Bible to justify sexual coercion is spiritual abuse. A woman should never be coerced into having sex for any reason whatsoever, but especially so that her husband won’t be angry! Men are capable of being responsible for their own emotions, and they must. Using sex to make him calm down is a despicable idea to begin with, and using the Bible in an attempt to bring even more coercion to bear is just horrifying. A woman who is being coerced in this way has every right to leave this abusive situation.

    • Kay,
      So would you say that sex is not largely about curbing his anger? It seems that Jay is saying that this is what sex is about.

      And what is your interpretation to 1 Cor 7:5? Let me quote it: “Do not deprive each other (speaking of sexual relations) 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.”

      Still waiting to hear from Jay…

    • Andrew,

      I think you may have mis-read the author’s meaning in that sentence, (and it could have been worded more clearly.) He’s saying that the wife in this example turns away because she knows that [his request for sex, in this specific case, with his unhealthy emotions] is largely to curb his anger. The writer isn’t saying that’s actually what sex is for.

    • Well said Andrew great comment. The woman who rejected her husband is at fault here. As you so correctly pointed out the mans body does not belong to himself but to his wife and vice cersa. That is we as loving partners should always be available to our spouses on an intimate level excluding sickness or other ailment.

      I know how angry women get when their sexual desires are spurned.

      Whereas I agree entirely with this article regarding anger and lust fuelling sexual sin I am so sick of the constant man baiting that goes on. Why do women create hyper sexually provocative environments and bear no responsibility for their acts of deceit? Why is provocation acceptable whereas harrassement is not?

      Western men are despised by western women. Having travelled and worked in many countries I can categorically state that feminism has done more to destroy relationships between men and women than any other political or activist philosophy. Women in other nations who are far more oppressed and mistreated by their male counterparts have far greater regard and adoration for them than their American sisters.

    • Hello Andrew,

      I hear you saying that Jay seems to say that sex is largely for the purpose of curbing the husband’s anger. Please note that Jay did state in his article that the husband’s longing for sex comes “from the standpoint of dignity—his desire to be connected to his wife.” That’s a good thing.

      Where the wife was refusing sex, it was only an example, and no doubt is a common theme heard from many of the men Jay counsels. In no way was Jay saying that sex was largely for the purpose of “curbing the husband’s anger.”

      If the wife has rejected the husband’s advances, it’s his next step that reveals more of his heart. If he (as you suggested) goes away, prays about it, and doesn’t take his anger and frustration out on his wife, then he is acting in the healthiest way. However, if he badgers her or turns to porn, then it seems likely that he is acting out of selfishness and anger. Thus, it is possible that anger is a real component of porn usage.

      You asked, “Is the women’s initial declining supported by the bible? Is her declining him really make her the healthiest one between them, or is it because she just wasn’t in the mood? This would seem to be a poor reason to decline his advance.” Let’s take a look at that for a moment. Jay made it clear that anger WAS an issue in his example. Did the husband’s anger do anything to put her “in the mood?” If she had submitted to his advances after he verbally attacked her, is that a healthy situation? Or might she be possibly appeasing his anger? Think about it: How well do you respond around an angry person? Is it reasonable to expect that man’s wife to act any better than you? Suppose your wife was nagging you to do something, would you gladly do it? You already said you wouldn’t justify THIS husband’s actions. So, is there a question behind your question?

      Like you, I don’t see the Bible explicitly addressing women who decline sex. However, one related issue that is addressed is the hardness of men’s hearts. When Jesus was asked about divorce, He replied that it wasn’t God’s original design, but Moses did write divorce laws because of the hardness of men’s hearts (Matt. 19:8). I suppose one could argue that women may refuse their husbands’ advances because of a hardness of their hearts.

      One may ask, though, what causes a wife’s heart to become hard? After all, women were created to connect through relationships. They don’t typically go into marriage intending to make their husbands’ lives miserable. So, let’s consider a second related issue: We reap what we sow. If a husband is angry, abusive, insensitive, or neglectful, a wife will often shut him out. Likewise, if a husband is kind, nurturing, encouraging, and attentive, a wife will often open up in ways he could never have imagined.

      Again, the husband’s desire to connect with his wife through sex is a good thing. The problems often begin when the husband has failed to live with his wife in understanding (1 Peter 3:7), when he demands sex as “his right,” when he treats her as his sex toy–rather than a person with dignity, created in the image of God. In such a case, it is understandable (though possibly sinful) when the wife rejects his advances.

      Many women can sense whether their husband’s “love” is sincere and selfless like Christ’s love for the church. When a husband leads his household with Christ-like humility, it tends to awaken a wife’s desire for him; in which case, sex would probably not be an issue. That’s not to say that she’ll be interested every time he is, but his genuine tenderness and love would make it easier for her to meet his need to connect physically. When a man disrespects his wife, when there is an on-going break in unity, it makes it incredibly difficult for the wife to respond to him sexually.

      You’ve focused quite a bit on 1 Cor. 7:5. Yes, it’s true that husbands and wives should maintain normal sexual relations, unless they mutually agree to abstain so they can devote themselves to prayer. What I’m seeing here, though, is a healthy relationship between a man and his wife. Not only have they experienced physical unity, they continually experience spiritual unity as well.

      When using 1 Cor. 7:5, please consider the many other passages that speak to the marriage relationship (and to relationships in general). We read in Eph. 5:25, that husbands are to love their wives, “just as Christ loved the Church.” To add to our understanding of this verse, consider Matt. 20:28, where Jesus said He “came to serve, not to be served.” I would expect that most husbands would take a literal bullet (die) for their wives, but many of them will not take five minutes (die to self) to listen to their wives talk about their day. Such husbands aren’t grasping the depths of the commitment God has called them to in a marriage relationship.

      Lest you think I’m holding the husband completely accountable for his actions and absolving the wife of all responsibility, I know it is possible for a wife to behave just as abusively and just as sinfully as any man. However, Jay’s article wasn’t designed to address every possible scenario in the husband-wife relationship. He was just trying to bring attention to a facet of porn usage that isn’t often addressed, namely, anger. In that regard, his article gives us all food for thought.

      Sorry this post is so long. I’m not sure if I explained things well enough, but I hope it makes sense.

    • Andrew,

      Thanks for your questions. Yes, I would agree with JDD’s reply (thanks JDD!): “I think you may have mis-read the author’s meaning in that sentence, (and it could have been worded more clearly.) He’s saying that the wife in this example turns away because she knows that [his request for sex, in this specific case, with his unhealthy emotions] is largely to curb his anger. The writer isn’t saying that’s actually what sex is for.”

      Re: 1 Corinthians 7, yes married couples are not to deprive each other. But I would disagree that a woman not being in the mood is a poor reason to decline his advance. Marriages need to be able to work through natural tensions like that and learn to respect one another being “completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4). When the request for sex becomes fused with anger and entitlement, it is near impossible for desire to grow in those types of marriages. I find that many men do not know how to keep integrity and regulate their disappointment when their spouse turns down their bid for sex. In Jewish tradition, sex is one of the three basic rights of a woman and the husband is to ensure that all forms of sexual engagement are pleasurable for her.

      In the type of marriage I described above, I’d suggest the growth for the man is to grow in his ability to regulate his disappointment, become curious with his wife about what it is like for her to bear his anger, and continue to embrace the beauty of his longing for connection.

      I address some of this in more detail and nuance in my upcoming book Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing (in the conflict and repair chapter).

      Paul Horn – I am curious how you agree that anger fuels sexual sin for men, but in the example above, the woman is at fault for declining his entitled advance? I find no fault in her, but see it as an essential mark of maturity to be able to say no to something that does not bear honor or beauty. I am not saying that is a healthy place for the husband and wife to remain, but the patterns in the marriage will need to be addressed in order for them to move towards a kind and passionate marriage.

      Also – Kay thanks for your excellent thoughts. There is often so much fear and entitlement in men that keeps us from seeing the reality of our coercion.

      Jay

  3. Very interesting viewpoint. I was previously involved with someone struggling with cross dressing and lust towards other men using strangers from Craigslist and pornography as his outlets. I would be interested in sending material to him.

    • Responding to Deb,
      You did a tremendous job in explaining your thoughts in your response. Yes, you did explain it well enough. Let me give a short response to what you say.

      I would agree that once a man has turned to anger it would not seem right for a women to proceed with intercourse. It would actually seem awkward at that point, so I have no problem with her decline. However, the starting point was that the man made a bid for sex and she declined- apparently before he ever showed anger, at least from the way it is written. This is obviously a hypothetical situation so I am making that assumption. If she initially declines it makes me wonder why she declined. If there are obvious marital issues that exist outside the bedroom it would obviously make it difficult to her to be emotionally engaged for sex. We don’t really know in this situation. So are starting points may be different.

      This initial declining by the wife is why i brought up 1 Cor 7:5. I would whole-heartedly agree there are many other verses, including the ones you gave, that can apply to these situations. I am learning that i need to be less apt to point out faults in my spouse and just talk to God about it, trusting him to provide for my needs and shepherding my wife. Only in appropriate moments is it best to bring up issues. i think that is something both husband and wife can learn to more of.

      Perhaps you should write some blog posts.

    • Jay,
      I appreciate your response.
      I do think there is some misunderstanding with a few readers here with what I am suggesting. In your hypothetical the woman turns down her husband for sex for some other reason than his anger. Initially you showed the wife turning him down before any anger is shown (A husband makes a bid to his wife for sex. She declines….) I do understand that there may be definite reasons that a wife turns down her husband. And no matter how bad the reason is, I need to trust the Lord as the husband that he will redeem the situation and not turn angry and belligerent towards her. I think the point those of us on the other side are suggesting is that it just appears that she is turning him down without her giving reason to him such as, “I’m sorry honey, i’m feeling sick, overly tired, hurting, etc. any number of reasons she could at least offer him and explain herself. His advance does not appear to be an entitled advance the way you have described it, just an advance. He only became angry AFTER she turned him down. How does that make his initial advance wrong? Not looking at the second half where he clearly acted improperly.

  4. This blog post is outstanding and spot on!! In fighting the porn compulsion, I knew it was linked to my problem with my temper and this post so accurately and clearly explains the connection!!!
    God bless you for all your hard work in this fight. Thank you for standing up for and speaking the truth!!!

  5. I checked with several leading commentators and none make the link between murder and anger in Matthew 5. 20 – 26 and following verses on sexual sin in Matthew 5. 27- 30. I have no doubt that being a fallen person in a fallen world with Fallen parents and Fallen spouses leads to frustration that is “satisfied” in sinful ways. I’m a psychiatrist but I see no reason to make the reaches that are counterintuitive with regard to these verses which simply have to do with two entirely different topics other than they are categories of our sinfulness. I for one, prefer pornography that is a depiction of two people deeply passionate and loving and not as you suggest an expression of anger with male dominance. Nevertheless, it’s wrong wrong wrong and destructive destructive destructive.

    let’s call it what it is – it’s sinful, it’s lust, and probing your past will only do what the Bible does not do which is giving you an excuse to avoid just saying no to sin! ( oh and by the way, there are plenty of verses about anger too, and guess what, those verses don’t have anything to do with sex or lust but they have everything to do with anger. Kind of neat the way the Bible is straightforward huh? )

    • Well said. In addition, it seemed that the author was suggesting that the broad sweep of how the church addresses sexual sin should include this focus on anger. I do not doubt that misogyny and lust find a confluence in sexual aggression, but I question whether this is broadly representative of the problem that many men have with lust and pornography.

    • Paul,

      Thanks for your thoughts. What I am claiming is sin can be a confluence of a lot of different dynamics. The evangelical community focuses the most on “lust”, which has often blinded us from seeing other dynamics that shape our sexual life. As some of the other men have commented here, their temper and anger is significant “trigger” for them to pursue pornography.

      If our sexuality is central to who we are as human beings, how would it be possible for anger to not impact our sexual lives? To me, that is pretty straightforward.

    • I’ll stay out of the theological debate here and Judy at that with me as an addict, I Hesse learned that anger is actually more of the problem for me than lust. One of the reasons I know this is that if I don’t do good 10th step work I more likely to slip back into unhealthy sexual behaviors, in my case meaning addictive sexual behavior. That’s just the plain truth of it. That’s when the lust will kick in.

  6. Excellent article; profound and observant of an overlooked issue underlying the sexual immorality in particular porn. I have worked on my anger and prior wounds and it did reduce my compulsion for pornography for a time. But, I felt the Lord pushing me to look deeper and came across this passage about Sodom:

    “As I live,” declares the Lord GOD, “Sodom, your sister and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it.”
    ‭‭Ezekiel‬ ‭16:48-50‬ ‭NASB‬‬

    I have found pride and haughtiness are often a precursor to anger and lust. For example, I become enraged when I think I “know” something as a fact and corrected. Additionally, Idleness and over abundance of time and material wealth seem to contribute to the lust as well. I become lazy and let my guard by doing the necessary healing work for the day or seeking to make peace with others which leads to resentment.

    What do you think?

  7. As a s inner, the article touched on two of my porn triggers – rejection and job recognition. If I tried to initiate sex, there was often an excuse. I would roll over, feeling frustrated, falling asleep angry and wondering why my wife did not desire me. Lack of recognition at work also led to the cycle. Despite professional accomplishments, I received no recognition for all that I did. Rejection, frustration, low self-esteem, anger; a vicious cycle that often resulted in seeking comfort in digital fantasy.

    THESE ARE NOT EXCUSES: by viewing pornography, I broke the covenant I had made with my wife. I SINNED, not my wife My porn addiction cost me my job, and I have been trying to rebuild for the past year. I not for a praying wife and the grace and mercy of our Lord, I am not sure what I would have done.

  8. I am a researcher/clinician and would like to see Jay provide some citations for his points. Have his interpretations been reviewed by peers who know the “ins and outs” of research? An MDiv or a Masters in Counseling rarely prepare one for analyses of a data set numbering in the thousands. Quantitative research deals with averages based on samples and distributions. I think the push back against his points may be due to his extrapolating from data on men seeking therapy for a sex addiction to men in the general population or a different subset of men (e.g., 50% of religious leaders). This is an inappropriate way to talk about research findings and can be very misleading.

    There are also several unsubstantiated assumptions on which he bases his conclusions. First, as mention by Paul, I don’t see the confluence of anger with lust in Jesus’ statements in Mat 5. Neither do I see this teaching in other places in the Bible. Being an MDiv, I think Jay could do a much better job explaining his rationale for this position, if in fact it is a accurate interpretation of Jesus’ statements.

    Second, the issue of power in our culture is also a prickly one. Our culture assumes that men hold all of the power in society. Power, however, is situational. If a wife has the right to deny her husband the sex he desires (which I believe she does), who really has the power – at least the power over sex? If the husband in turn were to use physical force to assault his wife, making her to satisfy his desire, then he would be usurping her right through the use of power. She on the other hand, could respond with the power allocated to her by the state and have the police arrest and imprison him. This is a power struggle and who has the ultimate power depends largely upon where you arbitrarily begin and end the story. This can be seen in a more germane illustration. If a man were to desire a day off of work to take his child to the doctor and approached his boss asking him to grant his desire, who has the power? Obviously the boss does, which is evidenced by the mere act of requesting permission. What happens next might develop into a power struggle if the boss were to deny the man’s request and the man were to respond by appealing to a higher power or in some way hurting the boss. Depending on the situation and the contractual arrangement, both may be in their right. However, as Andrew points out, this does not necessarily mean that either are acting in love and concern for the other. Vilifying one sinner while exonerating the other misses the point of the Gospel – we are all sinners that need to learn new ways of treating each other from our creator. The use of power to achieve one’s desire is the antithesis of love.

    Another assumption made by Jay is that men look at pornographic images of younger women (please notice I said women) as an expression of power. Some men may, but to extrapolate this to all, or even most men is what is referred to in research as reading too much into the data. Younger women are simply more attractive to many men and women. Many of the myths regarding male use of power promoted in our culture by popular psychology and talk show hosts have been debunked in the research. For example, most all population level data sets show that women initiate violence more frequently than do men. Men on the other hand, commit more severe acts of violence causing more physical harm. Men hold more responsibility for violence because of their greater physical strength. And, just like adults should not use their greater power to inflict violence on children, men are responsible for the violence they commit even when provoked by the sin of another. Two sins can never make a godly act. Other studies on same-sex relationships have also clearly demonstrated that violence is not an exclusively male to female phenomenon.

    The apostle Paul makes it clear in Ephesians 4 that there is righteous anger and sinful anger. When a man is upset because his wife is not satisfying his sexual needs or a woman is upset because her husband is not satisfying her need for equitable care of the home and the children, both are doing so as a result of unmet expectations stemming from a contractual arrangement. Both men and women need to be instructed how to manage their anger so that it does not lead to sin.

    Sinful anger may lead to the use pornography for some men, and if so, then I applaud Jay for this discovery. There is certainly plenty of violence in the pornography industry. However, asserting that resolving anger is the missing silver bullet that when addressed will eliminate all men’s use of pornography, in my informed but incomplete knowledge of the topic, is misleading and mistaken.

    • Ron,

      Thank you for taking the time to write your response and interact with my article. I will try to address what I see as your three main points/challenges.

      1. Research. You are completely correct that an MDiv and MACP does not prepare me to do in depth analytics for a research study of this kind. This is why I hired a world leading analytics team connected to NYU. The research statements I formed with other clinicians were submitted to a series of rigorous exploratory factor analyses with a principal components analysis and a varimax rotation. Various factor solutions were reviewed from there to assess the dimensionality of my survey. An 18 factor solution was formed and a confirmatory factor analysis was performed on them. THE CFI, TLI, SRMR, and RMSEA all provided a good basis to proceed with the 18 topics.
      2. Anger and sexual sin. As a clinician who has worked with hundreds of men and who has been reviewing significant amounts of research data, yes I do see anger as a central component of many people’s sexual struggles. Two initial quotes that come to mind: “Nothing, I maintain so constantly gives the Devil an opportunity as loss of control in anger.” ( Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones) “The bottom line reason for much of our sinful anger is related to the fact that we have an agenda and someone or something I standing in the way of fulfilling that agenda.” (Dr. Wayne Mack).

      Additionally, It is also overwhelmingly accepted in the sex addiction recovery field that eroticized rage is a dynamic in the life of many addicts. I certainly did not intend to assert that “resolving anger is the missing silver bullet that when addressed will eliminate all men’s use of pornography.” I’m not quite sure how you reached that interpretation. In my article, I was attempting to point out how the evangelical preoccupation with lust blinds us from addressing other factors/ streams that converge into sexual sin, like anger.

      3. Power & Fantasy. As you know better than I do, correlation does not mean causation. In healthy sexuality, yes, pursuing younger women (or in many cases peers) is a completely natural and beautiful desire. I am not saying those sexual desires have any pathology in them at all. What I am saying is that the research showed that those who had maladaptive childhoods (strict fathers for one), experienced a lack of purpose, and had high levels of shame disproportionately pursued that type of pornographic fantasy. Men who were depressed and had experiences of childhood sexual abuse tended to seek out older women or those who had power/authority over them (http://www.covenanteyes.com/2017/09/28/what-sexual-fantasies-might-say-about-you/ you can see part II for the latter example).

      As a clinician I have seen how pornography becomes very appealing in people’s lives because it gives them a sense of control that they do not have anywhere else in life. The way I interpret that data is that sexual fantasies (the type people are trying to stop) are roadmaps that pinpoint the location of past harm and reveal to us the present-dynamics we are being invited to transform. My intent was not to miscorrelate these. If you have any recommendation of how to say this better, I’d be grateful for your input!

      Jay

  9. Wow. Jay’s response to the (respectful) critiques is really impressive – humble and thorough. That’s a huge encouragement, regardless of the subject matter. Thank you Jay, and all others, for a rigorous conversation that brought some good clarity. Praying God uses this to bring the joy of purity to all who struggle with lust.

  10. Could you expound more on the #metoo movement what does this have to do with the topic. What are your thoughts on #metoo

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