I have never met a man in the psychotherapy context living with same-sex attraction that did not struggle with pornography. If I ask the question, “do you want to overcome your addiction to pornography?” in most cases the answer is yes. As therapy progresses we often find out that there is a secret love for pornography that is a very difficult love relationship to give up.
We cannot simply condemn such a person for this love relationship, but we must investigate further the meaning of these attractions and why they are so strong to begin with. We must unlock the mystery of the source of temptation if we are to change behavior. If we only work towards abstinence without dealing with the source of temptation, we do a disservice to those who have chosen recovery. I have met many frustrated men who have reached out for help, latched onto good resources such as support groups, and yet not experienced sufficient change. These resources are useful as long as they are paired with the emotional investigation purposed to root out the source of temptation.
To honor the true intensity of the struggle that same-sex attracted men go through within these blog posts, you will not read about simple one-two-three steps to success. The solution is not simple and often takes in-depth work to find resolution. While the resolution is hard work, it is very possible, and men are successfully overcoming the addiction to pornography every day according to God’s sufficient grace and timing. This in-depth work can take place within ministries such as “Living Waters,” and psychotherapy by a specialist in same sex recovery.
Please realize that I will be presenting information about same sex attraction and attraction to pornography because they are so highly related and always operating simultaneously. My descriptions of men struggling with same sex attraction and pornography are typical to my work, however, they do not describe each person’s struggle. This is to say that there are many variations to my analogies because each person is different and unique.
Why the same sex is attractive
One man told me that when he is around certain attractive men who are powerful, he feels they have power over him. Whatever that powerful man may say will influence the struggler to act in a pleasing manner in order to gain the powerful man’s favor. This is an unconscious form of gaining self approval in an attempt to feel strong as a man. We could say that simply interacting with powerful people, we become powerful, at least temporarily. When these basic needs are uncovered, such as the need for approval, we are beginning to deal with the source of temptation.
This real life example is often relived in pornography via fantasy. Fantasy is the power of the mind to create symbols of love.
Our goal is to diffuse the power of these temptations by understanding what each man is seeking to get from another man in pornography. Envy is a word we often use to describe these attractions because the struggler is attempting to acquire something from the seen and unseen strengths he finds in a powerful male image. What is so attractive? It is the possibility of acquiring masculine strength from another man. When strugglers can learn to find themselves as a strong man apart from sexualizing men, then they can find a true experience of manhood and no longer need pornography to fill the masculine void.
What is it about a man that becomes so intoxicating?
Is it his physical build, his attractive face, his relaxed and easy-going manner, his confidence or simply the fact that he gives men eye contact and attention that is focused and sincere? This man often lives in the moment and exudes masculine confidence that becomes exciting for some men. To be in his presence is like a drug-high to those who find him attractive.
The struggler often feels like he is the little boy who is surrounded by a man who accepts him unconditionally. Unconditional acceptance is the great void that was not met by his father growing up and, so the boy feels he is an emotional orphan, seeking out a man who will love him. Because the man in a pornographic image can become the father he has been seeking, viewing porn is a way to artificially find that father figure. The struggler can create a fantasy that allows him to believe that the porn image is the caring father figure he is longing for, a fantasy figure that is sexually arousing.
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The following is a guest post by Robert Brennan, the director of Apokata Psychotherapy Services which is a professional network ministry of Exodus International and a professional psychotherapy service for those struggling with same-sex pornography and opposite sex pornography. He is a graduate of Western Seminary in Marriage and Family Therapy, and he regularly speaks to churches about recovery from same-sex attraction. He practices in San Francisco and Fremont California.