6 minute read

Why Do Men Binge on Porn?

Last Updated: September 8, 2021

Sam Black

Sam Black joined the Covenant Eyes team in 2007 after 18 years as a journalist, serving as a reporter and editor for newspapers and magazines in six states. Sam is the author of The Porn Circuit, and he creates partnerships with like-minded organizations to strengthen the worldwide fight against pornography.

Understanding the Neuroscience Behind Online Harems

A wife who stumbles on the Internet tracks of her husband’s porn tour is often shocked at the number of images and videos in this cyber harem. Why so many? Why so varied?

People, and even some scientific studies, have offered simplistic answers to explain the depth and breadth of a man’s cyber trough, but the real reasons lie in the neurochemistry of our incredible brains.

Simplistic Explanations

A prevalent explanation for the cyber brothel is that guys are acting on their evolutionary impulses to breed as many females as possible. This concept is based on a phenomenon known as the Coolidge Effect, which has been seen in testing a variety of mammals since the 1950s.

The scenario goes like this: a male rat is placed in a cage with a willing female with which he excitedly breeds until he is satiated. Though he’s no longer in the mood with the current female, as soon as another female is introduced he immediately overcomes his boredom and mates with the new gal. He becomes bored again, until a new female is introduced, and the scenario repeats itself until the male rat is physically exhausted.

Some analysts, citing these studies, believe that evolution tells guys, “Get it while the getting is good. You are exposed to a limited number of possible mates on the Savannah of life, so when the opportunity presents itself, take advantage of it.” The same can be said of eating high fat foods and engaging other behaviors that propagate the species or ensures survival. And since this applies to other mammals, it must be all-consuming for people, too.

Similarly, another simplistic explanation is that guys are not designed to be monogamous in the first place. Evolution urged them to roam, find herds of women on the open plain, and compete to mate with as many as possible. That’s why guys skip through a multitude of Internet mates or are constantly targeting new females to breed; they are not designed to find a lifelong mate but to spread their seed far and wide.

One Australian study set men and women in a room and showed them the same porn film 18 times. Initially, they were aroused, but after watching the same movie over and over, they became uninterested. But lo and behold, when a new porn flick was introduced the subjects gained new interest. This test is similar to others, so to some analysts it proves that people get bored with the same mate and need to roam to keep sex interesting.

Advances in Understanding

But more and more therapists and neurologists say these studies fall flat.

In his book, The Brain That Changes Itself, Dr. Norman Doidge argues that instincts, like that of the rat, resist change, and that human sexuality is not based on instinct. The human libido isn’t hardwired by biological urges, but rather it is often finicky and altered by an individual’s psychology, experiences, and sexual encounters.

“Much scientific writing implies otherwise and depicts the sexual instinct as a biological imperative, an ever hungry brute, always demanding satisfaction—a glutton, not a gourmet,” Doidge writes (p. 95). “But human beings are more like gourmets and are drawn to types and have strong preferences; having a ‘type’ causes us to defer satisfaction until we find what we are looking for, because attraction to a type is restrictive; the person who is ‘really turned on by blondes’ may tacitly rule out brunettes and redheads.”

Rats are only attracted by sight and scent, said Dr. Doug Weiss, an author of 23 books and a sex addiction therapist in Colorado Springs. But people have many ways to become attracted, such as sharing an affinity toward specific entertainment, politics, ideas, religion, and situations. Their childhoods and adolescence contribute to their sexual desires as do the rest of their experiences in life. People experience emotional and cognitive levels, including fantasy or imagination, that are unavailable to the rat.

“Every guy or gal reading this has seen a man or woman at a distance who they thought was attractive until that person opened their mouth,” Weiss said. “So attraction goes way beyond the physical for human beings.”

As for the studies that suggest familiarity lessens sexual interest, Weiss says, “I think the study is just flawed. There is no control group. It has no validity.”

What would a control group look like? Weiss suggests showing a Charlie Brown cartoon. Lots of people like to watch Charlie at Thanksgiving or Christmas, but show the same film 18 times and just about anyone would grow bored. Then introduce the movie Captain America and watch a group gain interest.

“Show me 12 red blocks and I’ll want to see a blue one,” he said.

So why isn’t one porn image enough?

People learn through life experience to be sexually aroused by body types, places, and situations, and this list of sexual interests can be very short or a mile long.

In the past, a single image would have been enough to arouse a man who now looks at a stream of Internet pornography to maintain the same arousal, says therapist Dr. Peter Kleponis of Integrity Restored. But overtime this man has neurologically attached his brain to be aroused when viewing a wide variety of images and acts.

“He conditions his brain to only really be sexually aroused to this constant parade of different women, of different sexual images,” Kleponis said.

The Neuroscience Behind Porn

Indeed, the variety of porn on the Internet has an appeal. But the reasons behind it are more complex than a rat’s attention to a parade of new mates.

Doidge explains that “human beings exhibit an extraordinary degree of sexual plasticity compared with other creatures” (p. 94). By “plasticity” he means that our brains and our sexuality are molded by our experiences, interactions, and other means of learning, which is why people vary in what they say is attractive or what turns them on. The brain actually creates neural pathways that say a specific type of person or activity is arousing.

This may help explain why men combing through Internet pornography often delay orgasm until they find an image “worthy” of climax.

In fact, some porn addicts have no interest in variety.

“With over 25 years of working with sex addicts, there are some men—and women for that matter—who stick to vanilla, whatever vanilla is,” Weiss said. “They are neurologically attached to vanilla, and they never up that.”

This means some people who use pornography—even addicts—never sink deeper into porn than the models of Playboy or Playgirl.

So What About 32 Flavors?

So why do some people who were once programmed for vanilla now entertain many more flavors at the ice cream bar? The brain likes novelty, Kleoponis said, especially if it perceives a possible release of dopamine or other neural chemicals that are natural rewards that provide feelings of comfort or euphoria.

“The immediate attraction will give you a little bit of a rush or a sense of novelty…but that will wear away quickly if it’s not reinforced by the neurological release of masturbation,” Weiss said.

The opiates released during orgasm help seal the deal that this new and novel sexual concept is not only arousing but worth returning for in the future. Add it to the shelf of hot stuff: this one is a keeper. With repeated interaction the arousal becomes more engrained, and with more exploration the brain adds more containers found to be exciting, even things a person once found disgusting.

Porn websites generate catalogs of common kinks and mix them together with images. Sooner or later the surfer finds a killer combination that presses a number of his sexual buttons at once. Then he reinforces the network by viewing the images repeatedly, masturbating, releasing dopamine and strengthening these neural networks. He has created a kind of “neosexuality,” a rebuilt libido that has strong roots in his buried sexual tendencies. Because he often develops tolerance, the pleasure of sexual discharge must be supplemented with the pleasure of an aggressive release, and sexual and aggressive images are increasingly mingled—hence the increase in sadomasochistic themes in hardcore porn (p. 112, The Brain That Changes Itself).

Why have pornographers added so much aggression and violence to today’s porn? Because they are trying to keep their customers satisfied. But apparently, it’s never enough.

Can’t Get No Satisfaction

So if a human masturbates to a wider range of images or videos, does that satiate? The simple answer is no.

Dr. Doidge explains that porn is more exciting than satisfying because humans have two separate pleasure systems in our brains: one for exciting pleasure and another for satisfying pleasure. The “exciting system,” fueled by dopamine and anticipation, is all about appetite, such as imagining your favorite meal or a sexual episode.

The satisfying system involves actually having the meal or having sex, which provides a calming, fulfilling pleasure. This system releases opiate-like endorphins, that provide feelings of peace and euphoria.

Pornography, Doidge writes, hyperactivates the appetite system. But the satisfying system is left starving for the real thing, which includes actual touching, kissing, caresses, and a connection not only with the body but also the mind and soul. The satisfying system releases oxytocin and endorphins that says, “Ain’t nothing like the real thing, Baby.”

In a nutshell, porn is so addictive because:

  • the variation of porn online exposes men to more and more body types and scenarios;
  • through masturbation a man bonds neurologically;
  • these types and scenarios are added to the list of stimuli that his brain learns is exciting and they are associated with a neurochemical reward;
  • the neural pathways are formed that make the excitement easier;
  • and yet his appetite system is better fed than his satisfying system leaving him hungry for more.
  • Comments on: Why Do Men Binge on Porn?
    1. *enchante* on

      i think what happened is WOMEN abandoned the family with WOMENS LIB….Then things got worse and POLYGAMY could be the norm after the dust settles from homosexual marriage. Young ladies may NOT find mates that dont already have a mate or have kids by other girls indiscrimately…lots of malesover 30 with no job skills whatsoever unless its videogames&porn

      Reply
      • Emileigh on

        Wow, that reeks of bitterness.
        There are lots of amazing men out there that love God, their wives, and their families enough to remain true to them and resist the temptations that make it SO difficult to be a good, godly guy nowadays. It’s a really rough battle for men out there in the world, but there are plenty of them who are fighting it and setting a great example for the “boys” who have yet to learn what it is to be a real man.

      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Totally agree with you, Emileigh. Many men are fighting the fight of faith and winning. Praise God! This article is not written about them.

      • Erich on

        This is the major virtue and vice of Christians today. They refuse to step outside their world perspective to help others. To be Christian you HAVE to stay optimistic about people, which is why communion is so important.
        But the sad truth is they’re A LOT more people in the world who do not really love God as they say, and sin in their hearts everyday. And a lot more women who fight like a man with their husband on issues they should be settling as a couple. I think this is what enchante is trying to say. Emileigh, if you want to change hearts, you have to bend to communicate, you have to empathize with them even just a little bit.

        And to David, not everyone reaches the truth by the same route, I’ve persuaded many college students trained to sing the praises of naturalism and behavioral psychology who feel like Christianity has excluded itself from the sciences and made a mockery on campus.

        We don’t ALL turn to our heart to find the truth, some THINK that if it is the truth, it should be evident in ALL areas of inquiry. I see evidence for the Christian God in everything from counseling, physics, to biblical archaelogy.

      • roger on

        Thank you very interesting helpful
        explanations what pornography does
        to our neurology.

    2. David on

      This may be one of the most disappointing articles I’ve ever read from a Christian website trying to help men overcome sexual addiction and pornography in particular. “But the real reasons lie in the neurochemistry of our incredible brains.” No, the real reason lies in the sinfulness of humanity. I’m not saying the neurological science talked about here is false, but to suggest that it is THE reason men binge on porn belittles God. Because if the problem is neurological the answer is also neurological and scientific. Why did Jesus have to die if the issues of pornography were in the brain and not the heart?

      The real reason men binge on pornography is because of their rebellion against God. They have decided to worship and serve creation instead of the Creator.

      Men have “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” (Romans 1:23-25)

      That sounds like a pretty solid train of thought to me.

      The only freedom, true freedom, from pornography comes through the gospel of Jesus. The ultimate answer is not in neurological tweeking, but in relying on Jesus for your righteousness instead of relying on your own. And praise God that there is grace in the midst of that struggle to fight sin.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Hi David,

        I agree with your biblical statements 100%. But I think there are number of things to add:

        First, the video at the end with William Struthers tries to point readers to the very idea of having the mind of Christ, taking thoughts captive, and “the way of holiness.” He overtly states, “I think when you understand God rightly, we can understand ourselves rightly.” He talks about God’s instruments of grace that renew our minds: Scripture, fellowship, the Lord’s Supper, etc. By no means did we intend to take God out of this article.

        Second, understand the audience of the article is very specific. We wanted this article to serve as a bridge to the rest of our website (which is filled with gospel-centered content), and we felt that by approaching things from a neurological framework, we could help those who were not necessarily coming from a Christian perspective. I trust this wasn’t a compromise of our beliefs, but a serious attempt to provide a link to a broader audience.

        Third, I firmly believe what we are learning about neurology is a beautiful reflection of the truths of Scripture. Romans 6:13 commands us to not present the members of our body to sin, but to present our members as instruments of righteousness. The word Paul uses in this passage is μέλος, melos, which means our physical body parts. Following his powerful theological statements about being dead to sin, Paul gives holiness a vivid and practical expression: present your hands, feet, eyes, ears, mouth—and even brain—to God for His purposes.

        Time and time again the Bible says our “members” are a beachhead of sin. Sinful sexual impulses and passions take hold in our members (Colossians 3:5; Romans 7:5; James 4:1). Our eyes and hands can lead us to sin (Matthew 5:29-30). Paul calls this impulse of sin in the body the “law of sin” that wages war against us (Romans 7:23). While our bodies are never labeled as evil, they are the beachhead of sinful drives.

        It is this truth that drives our souls to the great hope of the resurrection. Indwelling sin still contaminates our bodies, so much so our bodies are “dead because of sin” (Romans 8:10); nevertheless, our spirits are alive because the Spirit of the resurrected Christ lives within us (8:9). The Spirit imparts Christ’s resurrection life to our mortal and frail bodies (Romans 8:11) which enables us to put to death the deeds of the body (8:13). As we consider ourselves dead to sin, then present the members of our body to God as instruments for righteousness (Romans 6:12-13). When we do this, it leads to our growth and sanctification (6:19).

        So, it is not an either/or. “Neurology tweaking,” as you call it, done in the light presenting your members to God, is really just obedience to Christ. Done with a spirit of dependence on Christ, talking about neurology gives our readers one more way to think rightly about the far reaching impact of sin: not just spiritually, but physically.

        Thanks for your comment, David. Let me know if what I’ve said here clarifies things.

      • Rob on

        The discussion here is about the chemistry of the brain by a neurologist. There is no denial of the spiritual aspects of addiction, but that is not what this article is about. There are plenty of articles that go there. If this was an article about heart disease, would it be disappointing if no Biblical responses were posted? Certainly the Bible has something to say about keeping our temple in order. Certainly heart disease is due to the impact of sin on humanity. One of the things we need to recognize as Christians is that while emotional and mental issues often have spiritual components, they also very often have physical and chemical components as well. For instance, we can batter those who are mentally ill with the idea that they should be spiritualy able to handle their issues instead of having their chemical imbalances brought back into check through psychiatric medicine. It is very helpful to understand the physcial aspects of addiction so that end can be addressed if one is going to defeat them. Spiritual healing will be necessary as well.

      • rev386 on

        In actuality, this article should shower hope upon those who struggle with the addiction of pornography. Honestly, this article wreaks of Biblical substance. It’s easy, cushy and safe to speak from a distance and give the patent answer: “the gospel of Jesus.” Pray without ceasing, sure, absolutely. Turn to God with all that you are, yep. Additionally though, the rest of the NT needs to be considered too. Given that close to 2/3 of the NT was penned by the Apostle Paul, perhaps we should allow his writings to weigh in, which challenge us to take control of our thinking, make every thought obedient to Christ, think upon those things that are right and pure and… in other words, you have a responsibility to redirect your thinking – which leads to heart transformation, Rom 12:1ff. Forget not the fruit of the HS – self-control. Therefore, if our lack of self-control leads to neuro changes, then our self-control (fruit developed by God in good soil we’ve made way for – ie, living sacrifice (see Romans again)) then our self-control and change of thought and change of behavior can also realign our neuro toward the things of God.

        This article addresses much more than what I’ve referenced above, and I so appreciate CE and their efforts to bring to light information and insights like this.

        Keep in mind, given that God created all things, including the studies such as science, then science, while it can and has been manipulated for other reasons, science itself does point back to God Himself. Science does not negate God.

      • Christopher on

        All truth is God’s truth, friend.

    3. Wilson on

      Congratulations Covenant Eyes! I believe you just helped one more addict explain away his sin–it’s not his fault, it’s biological… Don’t get me wrong, scientific studies have their role, and true science does not contradict God’s Word. But what you have done here is let the spiritual nature of sin take a back seat to the prevalent psychological worldviews of our day. I don’t mind you quoting some studies and giving a little more scientific insight, but please, begin and end with the only solution to porn–the Word of God. Don’t flake on calling out man, his depravity and his guilt; sin cannot become bitter until the truth of God’s Word becomes sweet–Christ!

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Hey Wilson,

        Thanks for your thoughts on this. Maybe we weren’t clear in the article, but I hope we didn’t leave the impression that biology “makes you do it.” The theories we debunk here might lead someone to believe they are just a victim of evolution, but this is not the case. The article attempts to show human beings are far more complex than that.

        As far as God’s Word is concerned, I’ll refer to you to my reply to David.

        I think there is a subtle point here that should not be overlooked. This whole blog constantly harps on the idea that sin is the root cause of pornographic depravity. It isn’t our aim to flake on this truth. Sin is sin is sin. Period. However, this article is not about explaining why we sin, but about explaining why we sin the way we do. It is one thing to say sin is the cause of our behavior. It is another thing to say why we gravitate to one type of sin or another. Why the thirst for variety and novelty? Of course the Bible communicates that these varieties of sin are present, but we found it interesting that neurological science is helping us understand why.

      • Eddie on

        Wilson,

        It is the narrow thinking of Christians like you that keep some sexually addicted men in bondage. I fought the addiction for years, as a Christian, believing in God and scripture to deliver me, but all it did was add more shame and guilt when I failed. Shame and guilt are some of the core components of the addiction cycle.

        Men really and truly need to come to grips on the full scale of the damage that porn addiction causes in all areas of ones life, and the scientific research helps. I also have read many books written by recovering addicts and attend SAA12 step meetings. As part of the SAA program I have to trust in God and understand Gods will for my life, however that is the 2nd and 3rd steps. The 1st step is admitting we are powerless over our addiction and our lives have become unmanageable. Many men christian or not cannot come to that conclusion on their own. Admitting to having sinned and falling short of the glory is not the same as ones life being unmanageable. It takes TIME and much WORK to recover from an addiction as its no longer a matter of just sinful acts, but of actual damage caused to ones own brain, and mental state.

        All that said, there are other studies out there that can shed more light on the physiological aspects of porn addiction if this one doesn’t do it for you. To say that a man should just confess it to God and repent as the only means of recovery is very narrow sighted.

    4. Dan on

      This makes me so thankful for verses like Romans 12:1-2 and Romans 8:6. God, cleanse our minds, transform them, conform them to the mind of Christ!

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Exactly, Dan. I’m glad you saw the vivid connections between these neurological observations and what God has revealed in His Word.

    5. Wilson on

      And just for the record, you began with the question, “Why do men binge on porn,” and preceded to publish and entire article without quoting one verse? So what message is that going to be sending to your subscribers? (“Oh, I binge because that’s how my brain is wired. It’s not because I’m hopelessly lost and seeking to serve the idol of self… This man has no need of the cross)

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        I think you would agree, Wilson, that we all have need of the cross. The point of the article was not to point to solutions, but to raise awareness about the problems. Our blog is full of Christ-centered solutions. The hope in leaving people “hanging” at the end is that they explore the solutions we provide.

        We never operate under the assumption that every article needs to completely flesh out problems and solutions. Each article is designed to be brief for a purpose.

      • Wilson on

        Luke,

        You are exactly right. Please forgive me for being rash in my response. I read the article in a hurry and responded too quickly–typically never a good idea. I agree with you that CE has always spoken to the central problem of sin and it has been an encouragement to me, and I am very grateful for the accountability CE provides to me in my struggles as well. I also agree that every article should not have to flesh out, systematically, every issue it touches. The reader ought to be able to assume the integrity of such things based off their knowledge CE’s integrity and other articles that speak to those topics. I actually found the article interesting and enjoy learning about things like that, but again, I apologize for not being slow to speak and not seasoning my words with love. I do however think it might be helpful to preface such articles with the spiritual “why” of sin so as not to confuse. For the title and the answer may be misinterpreted without such a statement of clarification.

        Thank you for all you do in this fight.

      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Thanks for the response, Wilson. I hope the article really encourages others to dig deeper. Blessings!

    6. Brian on

      Great article. The rationalizations that men are made to have multiple sex partners lead to justifying a porn/masturbation habit. They ultimately lead to unhappiness, loss of some capacity to love and experience love and to increased anger, hatred and the inability to maintain deep, meaningful relationships. The answer is overcoming hte porn addiction, not justifying it. Thanks for your helping move us to the answer

      Reply
    7. Rob Hawkings MA, MES, MBA, Counsellor & Psychotherapist on

      Dr. Doidge, in the quote from p. 112 of The Brain That Changes Itself, provides a good explanation for the phenomena of reinforcement, tolerance and escalation towards “hard-core” in the kind of online imagery viewed by porn-addicted men. What I would like to add is the concept of the “arousal template”, which is defined as the specific imagery, in all its detail (e.g. gender, number of participants, body type, clothing, etc.), that has the greatest capacity to sexually arouse a person. (For more on the “arousal template” see the work of Dr. Patrick Carnes and others.) Without using the term “arousal template”, Dr. Doidge correctly points out that this is formed early in life by our “experiences, interactions and other means of learning.” Determining (as best we can) what these experiences, interactions and other learnings are (and they are often trauma-related) is one of the central therapeutic tasks of intensive sex addiction treatment. How this relates to the wide range and the escalating intensity of addicts’ Internet porn viewing is as follows: The searching men do online through the overwhelming barrage of pornographic imagery available online is driven by their quest for ultimate sexual arousal, and ultimately for the “satisfying” kind of pleasure afforded by orgasm (which activates the same neural relaxation pathways as relaxant drugs.) This ultimate satisfaction, for any given addict at any given point in time, is attached in memory and imagination to his current arousal template. The phenomenon that the merchants of online pornography so cleverly and aggressively exploit is that when a man is sexually aroused, the state of arousal becomes associated, or neurologically connected, to the imagery he is viewing. They exploit this by barraging viewers with a bewildering and often overwhelming range of many different (and often disturbing) kinds of pornographic images and ads along-side, below and overlaying (e.g. as “pop-ups”) the content that has been selected and is being viewed. They understand their customers well! What happens is that over time, an addict’s wide-ranging online search for imagery that matches his arousal template (often associated with his ideal sexual fantasy) becomes associated with a wider and wider range of imagery; and that whenever new and different imagery (which can be in disturbing conflict with his core values and principles) is in view when he masturbates and reaches orgasm, that imagery has the potential to shift his arousal template. I hope this discussion of the role of the arousal template has added to the understanding of Covenant Eyes subscribers.

      Reply
      • Sam Black on

        Thank you for adding this review of the arousal template to the discussion. Knowledge precedes understanding, and understanding precedes change.

    8. Phazon on

      Thank you for posting this.

      I agree with the science: People are way more picky than rats, and show any movie over and over again and it will get boring. These facts about porn I know are true because I discovered them in myself (other than physical intercourse; at least I still have that). I’m glad there are some scientists who realize this, and that I have Covenant Eyes limiting what I can find.

      I’ve realized because of this article the biological reasons for why God says to stay with the wife of your youth–to stick with your one, satisfying cistern of water instead of broken, mucked up ones–and to not even think bad things about women–she becomes a source of excitement in the mind, acting as pornography.

      The only thing I wonder now is how to fix my brain, and how I can replace these sexual drives besides just resisting them. Praise God He has given me a guide for how to fight this corruption in my body, and lets me know in the first place the evil that is adultery. If not for the Bible, I would be so much worse off.

      Thank you again for your services and all you do, Covenant Eyes.

      ~Phazon

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Phazon,

        I’m so thankful God has not left us in a lurch, too. I think William Struthers says it well in the video: by using the means of grace God has given us to transform the way we think, we can be sanctified. Moreover, now that we have an inside look of the brain, we can actually “see” these changes happen. These studies only confirm the truth of Romans 8: God can bring life to our mortal bodies as we put sin to death. Amen to that.

    9. Dan on

      Excellent article! It’s nice to read about what is happening in our brains. Everything here is so true. I remember once getting so excited about a certain video. The first time watching it was amazing but after 3-4 times, I actaully threw it away because it just didn’t satisfy anymore. Luckily my addiction was more of the vanilla category and never got into the really hard stuff but I can totally understand how people do. This addiction never satisfies. It always wants more, more, more.

      Reply
    10. Joe on

      I’m not trying to be sarcastic, but the title of the email promoting this article was “Breaking the Urge to Binge Online.” This article just seems to spell out WHY men have he urge to binge. It’s fairly depressing, to be honest. Where’s the part about hope and “breaking the urge,” as you put it?

      Reply
      • Sam Black on

        Thank you Joe. You are right that this article focuses on the question of “why.” The title (or subject line in your e-mail) attempts to provide an overview of all of the articles in the December 2012 issue of Pure Minds Online. In addition to those articles, you might want to review these articles on our blog, which discuss breaking free from the struggle with pornography. Covenant Eyes also provide several e-books and webinars, which are free for you to use and share with others. There is not only real hope, but also a place to live daily in victory.

    11. name on

      So what is the solution? This article only presented the problem! What/where are the sources of legitimate ‘excitement’ for a single Christian man who wants to live a godly life? Any ideas? Hopefully next time articles like this will list some antidotes.
      I’m not an expert, but a couple thoughts off the top of my head – sports… exercise… dinners with friends (groups of Christian friends, mixed guys/girls)… spending time with godly families from church… maybe reading some good books or watching some good movies? (though hard to find) Obviously marriage itself is a great source of excitement, including sexual excitement… but not all of us can conveniently go get married whenever we feel like it.
      I’d be much more interested to read an article full of ideas for ‘replacement’ stimulation/excitement for single Christian men, than an article which only explains the neurological problems (accurate though this article is in that respect).

      Reply
      • Sam Black on

        Thanks for your comments. Indeed, this article is aimed at the neuroscience behind the struggle, rather than the solutions. We have numerous articles that address how to escape from the temptations of pornography.

    12. Mike on

      In a nutshell: Sin is never satisfied, and always wants more. James said it best, we are led astray by our own desires.

      Reply
    13. Frank on

      I think women don’t necessarilly want or desire a boyfriend or husband. What they want is a child or children and someone to provide the means for them to have (and support) that. I’m talking both biologically and financially. My wife (now ex-wife) insisted that I keep my job which I was extremely miserable at, while also demanding that I give her a baby. Nice. I believe she would have been happy if I had just gotten her pregnant, moved out, and sent her my paycheck each week. That’s what she wanted. She got neither from me. Hence, the divorce. I was also informed by her that marraige is not a sacred union of a husband and wife. It is simply a piece of paper, a contract… which could be broken like any other contract. That is a recipe for broken marraiges and kids being raised by single parents. That’s been my experience, but hey, what do I know?
      Frank.

      Reply
    14. Michael on

      It was a real blessing to watch the interview video. The brain doctor’s explanation of how the brain works was a true revelation. He explained the reason for just about every problem I have EVER had in my life… a misuse of the natural way that my brain is wired by God to work!

      And I am encouraged to know that I don’t have to fill in the Grand Canyon to start again… I can just form the habit of redirecting my thoughts to a new pathway.

      With God, all things are possible… thank you!

      Reply
    15. Harrison on

      This is very interesting. However, I am disturbed by the fact that not one reference to God or the Bible was made in this entire article. Using the godless philosophy of evolution as an explanatory model for aberrant sexual behavior, rather than the Bible, seems to bear eloquent testimony to the reality of man’s rejection of God’s word as authoritative and binding. This rejection is usually manifested as the interpretation of Scripture through the lens of modern science, rather than the interpretation of modern science through the lens of Scripture, resulting in a compromising view which somehow demotes God from Sovereign Creator to the god of the gaps, who uses evolution to further his creative process. The keys to winning the battle against sexual sin (I call it for what it is) are found in the Bible, which is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Tim. 3:16;17), and not in the opinions of “experts” whose worldview is founded on man-centered philosophy rather than the power of God unto salvation(Rom. 1:16). I speak not from lack of experience in this matter- I am no counselor, theologian, or psychiatrist, but rather I have fought the battle myself, and while I am in no wise suggesting that a person continue in sin that grace may abound (Rom 6:1), I will say that God has used this struggle both to strengthen my own faith, and in the strengthening of others; indeed, all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Great thoughts, Harrison. I totally agree with your Biblical observations. I’ll refer you to my reply to David so you understand why we wrote the article the way we did.

        Our hope is not to prop up a man-centered philosophy. Think of this one article as a chapter in a book. If all the other chapters are filled with a gospel-centered worldview and and one chapter is highly clinical, then you would read this chapter in light of the gospel. In this issue of Pure Minds Online we included links to many gospel-centered resources, and we hope people take advantage of them.

        I’m glad this article has strengthened your faith!

      • Earl on

        This reply is meant to address not only the article but all of the other responses to it. I too was somewhat puzzled that the writing was from such a secular standpoint but a still found it to be enlightening and although I have not yet watched the accompanying video I intend to do so as soon as I can find the time. As a man whose deviant sexual proclivities have devastated my life and those of my family these additional insights into the mechanics of sin help me to counter the lies of the enemy when he tells me that these urges are proof positive that there is no salvation for one such as myself.
        I would caution the other gentlemen who commented in this blog to resist the tendency to critique so readily because the instant you let your thoughts go the that direction all further contemplation goes out the window effectively limiting ones exploration of the issue to those first initial impressions.
        Thank you Luke for your lucid defense of your position; you have given me much to ponder.

      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Hi Earl,

        Thanks for the feedback. I agree: willpower doesn’t bring a man to salvation. Hopefully no one gets that impression from the article.

        I think there is a critical question that undergirds the debate here: Is it proper for a Christian to speak of any sort of self-improvement efforts without reference to the gospel? Is it okay for me to encourage someone to join a quit-smoking program, a weight-loss program, a financial stability course, a divorce recovery group, or to seek psychiatric medicine for neurological disorders, if those programs don’t tie themselves to the gospel in a specific and consistent way?

        At first blush we might have our own gut reactions to these questions, but it really isn’t as cut and dry as we’d like it to be. On one hand, we certainly do not want to endorse any self-improvement efforts that give the false impression that personal improvement is equal to being justified in the eyes of God. We also don’t want to lose out on the opportunity to address that a person’s lack of self-control is another manifestation of the curse of sin in the world. On the other hand, personal self-improvement in a variety of arenas is possible without faith in Christ: people improve their lives all the time. The world is full of God’s common mercies. Granted, these self-improvements do not touch on a man’s core sinful condition, but then many of these self-improvement programs don’t promise to do that, do they?

        I don’t believe the answer is found in a strict policy for or against self-improvement programs or against medical science, but is found rather in the local church wrestling through these issues. I believe Christians and Christian communities can and should infiltrate these existing programs, constantly witnessing to the power of the gospel to overcome the grip of sin. I believe Christians should recognize God as the maker of our brains and bodies, and when we use our brains and bodies in a way in keeping with their design, we see signs of God’s goodness and blessing.

        As CS Lewis said, “What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects — with their Christianity latent.” Let’s fill the public sphere with great science, and when people turn their head in wonder at the sublimity, internal consistency, and viability of our scientific ideas, then let’s point them unabashedly to the Father of lights who gives us every good gift from above.

    16. Drew Gafford on

      I think some have misread the title of the article. “Why do men BINGE on porn?” It was not “Why do men sin?” or “Why do men look at porn?” The article clearly talks about the topic at hand, the binging part of pornography. It doesn’t talk about the problem or Porn, or the solution, but does a great job with the science portion of the topic.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Thank you, Drew. That is exactly the emphasis of the article. The opening line sets the tone for the whole article, “A wife who stumbles on the Internet tracks of her husband’s porn tour is often shocked at the number of images and videos in this cyber harem. Why so many? Why so varied?” This is exactly the question we were attempting to answer.

    17. chris on

      I agree with Harrison. It is hard to concentrate on the ‘point’ when you make reference to the Godless concept of evolution. Very hard. It makes the rest of your statements regarding your respect of the Gospel, suspect.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Hi Chris. I’m nto sure what you’re talking about here. Maybe you can clarify. The only time evolution is mentioned is in the first section which is labeled “Simplistic Explanations.” The whole idea is that when people use evolutionary theory to define our sex drive we end in error.

    18. Verne on

      I really appreciate the science behind the sin. For me, it reinforces why God stresses the importance of how we think and what we think about (Phil 4:8).

      So, any resources on ways to reset our neurology back to pre-porn addiction?

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        We have an e-book forthcoming about that, but for the time being Mark Laaser’s Taking Every Thought Captive or David White’s Sexual Sanity for Men are good choices.

    19. Tom on

      I thought the article was good information as to what chemically is happening when we view porn and specifically why men (and women) binge.

      Thank you Sam and Covenant Eyes for all you all continue to do to serve men and women who are or have struggled with this sin.

      To the critical comments that the gospel or bible wasn’t mentioned or that this now gave men an excuse to continue, perhaps you need to extend some grace to ministry that is trying to reach those who are still struggling and this may JUST be how God would break someones heart for the Gospel.

      The gospel changes everything, we change nothing apart from it.

      Sam thanks again for your heart for the Gospel and for men. God is using you and this ministry to draw men and women to Him who saves.

      Tom

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Thanks for the encouragement, Tom.

        I’m glad the article touched a nerve in people…hopefully in a good way.

    20. Rob on

      Interesting article Sam. My thoughts go to those comments above which seemed to detract from the relevance of the article’s intent. “Understanding the Neuroscience…..” is the article’s intent.
      Had this been an article written for an audience of those that have fallen captive to substance abuse or alcoholism, it would be irresponsible to suggest that ONLY invoking scriptures of ‘sinner’s repentance’ would be relevant to the topic while ignoring the fact that there is a spiritual AND neurological component that exists which also requires addressing the complexities of physiological recovery along WITH spiritual healing.
      In other words, it would be perfectly acceptable to most of us Christ followers to accept the relevance and importance of addressing the chemical effects on the brain caused by ‘traditional’ addictions (i.e, drugs and alcohol). In these cases, wouldn’t we expect a full followup beyond only spiritual repentance? Wouldn’t we also involve specialized professionals educated in ‘understanding the neuroscience’ of addictions for effective treatment and recovery implications? Isn’t this what this article is directing us to?
      I’m in no way a trained physician, psychiatrist, or seminarian, but to know how to treat something, I believe you also need to better understand the cause and effect of it. That’s what I glean from this article provided by Sam.

      Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also add that my impression of most (not all) of the individuals that claim sexual addiction is only a simple ‘sin of the will’, have unfortunately overlooked the potential physiological alterations caused by their own toxic attitudes and sinful behaviors.

      Reply
      • Sam Black on

        Thank you Rob, I appreciate your comments. The more we unveil God’s design in us, the better we understand how we have exchanged beauty for ashes. God’s restoration is available to us, and it is evident in the very fabric He created.

      • Harrison on

        Aye. The cause and effect to which you refer are found in Scripture. To the alchohlic or drug addict, it would be irresponsible of the Christian to NOT invoke passages from the Bible concerning repentance, which is something every human being must do in order to be saved, addiction or no. That is the relevance.

    21. Joshua Brooks on

      Excellent article!

      The post by Rob highlight the distracting nature of some of the comments associated with this article. Apparently, some have missed the article’s point, which is to educate people concerning the neurological complexities of the brain as a result of viewing pornography. Its purpose is to educate people so that they will be more aware of what is actually taking place when they view porn. The article achieved its purpose.

      Sam and Luke have responded well to some of the distracting comments. Their clarification on certain points where people have misunderstood the subject and purpose of the article has been done tactfully and intelligently. Keep up the good work.

      Personally, I’ve read “Wired for Intimacy” and several articles on Covenant Eyes website. The more I read about the dangers of Internet porn the more I’m equipped and empowered to continue the fight for purity (Eph 5:3; Eph 6:10; 1 Cor 10:13). We’re involved in a battle for our souls and I’m glad that we have spiritual leaders to go before us as we fight against the temptations of the world, the snares of the devil, and the malignant and enticing inclinations of our flesh (1 Pet 2:11; 5:8; 1 John 2:15-16). I’m thankful for the ministry of Covenant Eyes and need them as a future resource in “the good fight of faith” (1 Tim 6:12).

      My prayer is that these articles will contribute to a greater knowledge and awareness of porn.

      If someone told me that walking down a certain sidewalk would cause me to get bit by a cobra, I wouldn’t walk down that sidewalk. The reason I wouldn’t walk down that particular sidewalk is because I now know there is a dangerous snake poised to strike. In fact, I would probably run the other way, regardless of whether or not I had to business to conduct down that particular street. The cobra of Internet porn, however, is no longer on the sidewalk; it has slithered into our houses and is coming into our bedroom and home office. Open the window and get out of the room. Don’t get bit by the venomous reptile of Internet porn. And, don’t forget to take your kids with you.

      Reply
    22. Joshua Brooks on

      Clarification: My prayer is that this article will contribute to a greater knowledge and awareness of the dangers of viewing porn and help people to effectively deal with and overcome the temptations associated with it. Oops!

      Reply
      • Harrison on

        I submit that the attention given to the “wiring” of the human brain is itself a distraction. The venomous snake is not the porn itself; the poison is already in our veins, in our minds, in our hearts- since the fall. I do not consider the cross of Jesus Christ to be a distraction, on the contrary, it is examining the stuff in the box which distracts me from focusing on the cross instead of the pornographic images burned into my memory banks. I can be acutely aware of the workings of my psychological machinery, and because of the condition of my heart (Jeremiah 17:9) I will voluntarily insert my hand into the spinning gears. This link may help to further clarify what I am saying. Friends, do not place your confidence in man’s wisdom, but in power of the blood of the One who was slain from the foundation of the world.

      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Hi Harrison. Powerful interview you posted. Chilling.

        I agree that a person could be distracted by physiological notions. It will probably depend on the person. A ruthless focus on the cross is the answer. But again, this post wasn’t written to spell out the solution.

    23. Marie Davis on

      I just want to say that this was such an encouragement to me as I raise my two sons and two daughters in a divorced situation. I have one who is addicted and the other is just beginning to be introduced to porn. I do have some prior knowledge regarding neurological pathways and the habits that are formed by our choices.

      My history as a preacher’s kid and minister myself has often left me with cliches to deal with these types of issues and many others. I have always felt that there was a practical answer and application for the wrong choices we make and I am so happy that you chose to speak plainly because this church girl has had enough of the cliches.

      Often I feel out-numbered and out-muscled when it comes to topics like this because their dad doesn’t seem to take a proactive, balanced approach in addressing these types of issues in himself nor in the kids. Thank you I feel redeemed and re-fueled for the battle to foster healthy, God-centered habits.

      Don’t stop doing what you’re doing and don’t back down off of your mission.

      Reply
      • Sam Black on

        Thank you Marie. As a PK kid myself, I almost heard you echoing my own thoughts. As a man and as a dad, I believe it is invaluable to know how God made us.

    24. nocamo33 on

      I appreciate your insight. I am too sinful to criticise you. I see God working in your efforts to provide light to the blind.

      Reply
    25. Sri on

      Can I get all these in my own language? I.e. Hindi

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Sorry, Sri. We don’t have any in-house translators.

    26. Rob on

      Luke and Sam,
      Thank you for the post and the gracious replies to those attacking you. Your replies are thoughtful, Christ-centered, God glorifying and show in spades how to have a respectful conversation about difficult topics on which God loving men may disagree. I appreciate your heart for this work and your patience, kindness and gentleness in each reply.

      I would like to encourage writing on another aspect, that comes out of some of the vigorous responses. I imagine some of the brothers that express strong dislike for the article and responded strongly may have some triggers to porn/sin that they are only moderately aware of, if at all. I imagine there is fear and control issues at work behind some of these responses. Fear of allowing God to be the God that is sovereign over science as well as all other things. Fear of ambiguity or anything less than a precise absolute biblical answer. A short clear biblical answer allows things to be black and white, but my experience is that the world and my own mind and actions are full of a lot of gray. Gray, or ambiguity or worse chaos in my inner being often incite fear. Fear of what lies ahead, fear of being enough of a man to handle what’s coming, fear of failure etc…. Fear drives me to desire safety and comfort … and there comes a trigger to porn. If I am unaware of my fears, and even how I might have fear activated by articles like this relative to clear cut biblical answers (I would conclude your answer is not unbiblical, but an exegesis of sin according to the common grace God has afforded us in science). I believe some persons, being unaware of their fears and the reasons they cling rigidly to sharp precise biblical answers and dislike discussion of neuroscience or other dialogue that is not purely Scriptural, may have undetected triggers at work that tempt them to sin in this way. And the strange thing is, dare I say it, I imagine it is the way they have become the fearful controller/protector of biblical truth that triggers the sin.

      Again, thanks for your work and using your desire to help us be free and pure and pursue the holiness of God.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Thanks for your thoughts, Rob. Much appreciated!

      • Harrison on

        Very insightful Rob, and your point is well taken. Fear has served as a major hindrance to spiritual growth in the lives of many an addict, and surely, I am no exception. However, what you perceive as vigorous attacks in responses to the article may in fact, stem from fear of a different kind. When Paul says to the church in Corinth: Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind…..shall inherit the kingdom of God, he is affirming an absolute. Now it is right for Christians to bear each others burdens, confess each one’s sins to another and pray for one another that we may be healed (confession is painful in the highest degree, especially where sexual sin is concerned, yet nonetheless commanded), and also to rebuke, exhort, correct, etc. Unfortunately it has become standard procedure for Christians to deny such absolutes as those found in Scripture, for fear of offending. We are commanded by our Lord to make judgements, not according to outward appearance, but according to “righteous judgement”. The comments regarding neglect to mention Scripture in the assessment of the above article (which, for the record, I believe was excellent), stem perhaps not so much out of fear in thinking “outside of the box” in dealing with sin (which God will deal with whether we fail to or not, when He returns to judge the earth), nor of the gray areas which we all inevitably face, but from a deep concern, or even outrage at the fact that many professing Christians deny the authority of Scripture, deny moral absolutes (and hence accountability to God), the creation, the flood, the coming judgement, etc. Brother, it is the fear of the Lord which leads to righteousness, and by which men (and women) depart form iniquity. The fear of the Lord is the fear which trumps all other fears. From this vantage point, I can imagine nothing more “uncomfortable” than being accountable to God for my irresponsible use of my own sexuality. I wonder, is there a minute possibility that man would fear the simplicity that is in Christ, as revealed in the Scriptures, in our pursuit of His holiness? Does this fear of absolutes (black and whites, A is A, not non-A, Thou shalt, Thou shalt not) reveal anything in your own soul which needs to be confronted and dealt with. If this comes across as negative or intolerant, please forgive me. And Mr. Gilkerson, I just want to say God bless you for taking the time to respond to every one of these comments. Thank you for your ministry, through which I have been blessed, and again, though it may seem irrelevant, I encourage all Christians to examine this issue of pornography through the lens of a biblical worldview. It seems so childishly simple, but remember the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commands, for this is the whole duty of man. Amen?

      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Hi Harrrison. Yes, Amen. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

    27. Michelle on

      This isn’t just a male problem, and this isn’t just a male pattern of porn viewing. Females can become addicted to porn, and this is exactly how my own viewing patterns are. It has to do with reward centres in the brain and the way the internet messes with our attention spans. Also, the absolute amount of variety there is online.. you can simply click through hundreds and hundreds of pictures, each pushing the “stimulation” button.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Absolutely. We have a whole category of articles on our blog about women and porn addiction. (Here are the most popular ones.)

        If I write an article about women and porn addiction but don’t mention men, I’m not denying that men can also be addicted to porn; I’m only targeting my article to a specific audience. When we are gender specific in our articles, our goal isn’t to deny anything else about the other gender. I hope you enjoy the articles meant specifically for women!

    28. wickedsick on

      I think some have misread the title of the article. “Why do men BINGE on porn?” It was not “Why do men sin?” or “Why do men look at porn?” The article clearly talks about the topic at hand, the binging part of pornography. It doesn’t talk about the problem or Porn, or the solution, but does a great job with the science portion of the topic.

      Reply

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