Several years back, I got a call from a friend. He had slipped up again that week. He got caught in the porn trap. I could sense the helplessness and hopelessness in his voice.
I recognized the feelings, because I had felt them myself. Many times. I remember the irresistible pull of porn; like I couldn’t look away; couldn’t deny my passions. It seemed like I simply couldn’t help myself.
And so I’d help myself.
Which, frankly, never proved very helpful.
Tempting the Click
So there was no judgment for my friend. Only encouragement to get up and try again; to keep striving for purity and freedom from porn. A goal which, though high, was never-the-less attainable.
I knew it was, because when this conversation was taking place I hadn’t sought out or stared at porn in over two years. In fact, the last time I did was in 2001.
I wanted to encourage my friend to believe that, though the temptation would always come around, he could one day resist. Consistently. I wasn’t stronger or holier than him, and we believed in the same God. So if I could do it, he could too!
In fact, just that very week I had experienced the temptation to go where I knew I shouldn’t go, so I shared with him.
I was on the Tennessee Titans’ website looking up the game schedule and there it was: The Cheerleader Button.
Easily the best looking button on the entire page.
And so the conversation ensued.
On one side, I heard a voice say, “That’s not porn. No one’s going to be naked. Everyone is going to be fully clothed [relatively speaking, of course]. There’s not going to be anything you’ll have to confess later.”
Then there was another voice that said, “But you won’t be satisfied. You’ll want to see more. And chances are, you’ll look for more. And find it. And then you’ll give up your years of freedom, all for the Titans cheerleaders.”
And so I closed the web page.
My friend was silent at the end of my story.
“You still there?” I asked.
“Dude,” he said, “I didn’t tell you how my mess up began. [pause] I was on the Houston Texan’s site [pause] and I pressed the cheerleader button.”
He pressed the button and I didn’t. And it made all the difference in the world.
What’s Your Button?
How about you? What’s the thing that leads you to porn—the choice before the choice to indulge? What presses your button? Psychologists call them triggers.
Is it the cheerleader button?
The swimsuit edition?
That one TV show or movie? (Or perhaps several of them?)
Is it staring at the magazine rack at the checkout counter?
Or that one billboard on the way home from work?
Or is it the music that you’re listening to on the way home from work?
Or the YouTube videos you watch late at night?
What presses your button?
Maybe it seems harmless, or maybe you know it’s a little edgy, but still miles away from actual porn.
However, it preps you for porn none the less. It’s like foreplay. Only for porn.
What presses your button?
Be honest with yourself, identify it and don’t go there. Look away, RUN away. Don’t FREE temptation. FLEE temptation. Don’t press the button that’s going to press your button.
We’re not talking about legalism here. (“Don’t do this. Don’t look at that!”) We’re talking about logic (“When you do A, then B naturally follows.”)
More than that, we’re talking about freedom. TRUE freedom. And when you’ve had it for a few years you might find you’re like me. It’s so good, it’s worth not ever pressing another cheerleader button again. You’ll even look away from the game when the camera is trained in on the cheerleaders.
So what presses your button? Will you trade it for freedom?
This is precisely why Covenant Eyes should consider adding personalized blacklists to its accountability software. Every time I find a trigger, I could add it to my list.
You make a great suggestion and an available block list for the user is something that has been discussed before. I would be more than happy to pass along your request to our developers!
wow I’ve really needed this! Great article & yes it really gets me to thinking. I know it’s a sin to look at women with lust in your heart, Im happily married but It doesn’t take nothing for me to go to porn. When the urge hits I can feel the Holy Spirit telling me to just pray and not to go there, but more times than not I don’t lisen, and feel the guilt and shame afterwards for a good while even after I’ve repented…help!
Thanks for the comment, Lynn. On one level, it is perfectly healthy and godly to feel guilt and shame after sinning. Sin will assault your conscience. Sin is shameful. If you didn’t feel any shame, this would be a sign that something is very wrong.
Keep in mind, however, what inspires true repentance is not ultimately fear of God’s wrath but belief in God’s kindness (Romans 2:4). We are not transformed into the image of Christ by living in the shame of our sin forever, but by understanding the depth and breadth of God’s love for us (Ephesians 3:14-19).
Understand that the steps you’ve made toward freedom are not in vain. Despite your failures, you are learning through the process, and the Lord is delighted with that.
Understand, also, that the sinful cravings are to be expected in this life—even really intense moments of sinful desire. This is precisely what the apostle Paul says: the desires of the flesh are real and they are against the things God commands (Galatians 5:16), even in the life of a Christian. Every Christian, every person who has the Spirit of God, “groans inwardly” waiting for the day Jesus returns and redeems our bodies (Romans 8:23). One of the best things we can do in the midst of the struggle is learn how to direct our dark cravings towards God, turning them into an opportunity to “groan” for Christ, stirring up our hope for the change he brings. As we do this, over time the hope begins to gradually displace the our longings for sin.
Remember, this is how the virtue of self-control is learned. Self-control doesn’t mean the absence of sinful desire but the ability not to be mastered by it. God is delighted as you learn this virtue through trial and error because He has His sights set on the big picture.
Last, remember the Lord has marked out a path to real internal change in his Word. I encourage you to read this article all about how the apostle Paul describes victory over sinful desires, or listen to this podcast. Our book Your Brain on Porn could also be a real help to you—and its free to download!
I agree I have asked them to add a key word function as well. Then I could add all my trigger words. I have an allow-list only now so only the sites I have allowed will work.
I didn’t think looking @ cheerleaders was that bad. I quit porn 2 years ago. I have slipped 3 times and I am not sure what isn’t my trigger. By that I mean I like women, unless I lock myself in a basement or pluck out my eyes. I guess I need to keep moving. Thanks for the post.
Looking at cheerleaders isn’t that bad. Looking at them lustfully is sinful, as the Bible says, but it is not as serious as looking at porn. But that’s not the point. Being online, minding your own business and then going out of your way to look at scantily-clad, beautiful women is priming your brain for porn.
I feel your pain, though. Since so many women dress immodestly nowadays, even the grocery store is rife with temptation. The major difference is that you are not sitting privately and looking at them online. At the store, you may look too long, have an impure thought, etc. But you can’t then decide to walk down a different isle, where the naked people are… Yes, some stores will have the rack of bad magazines but most people are unlikely to go and open one up right in public. You’d have to buy it, which is an easier temptation to avoid (the embarrassing transaction alone is a deterrent). Online, if you look at immodesty lustfully, porn is one, private step away. TYPE. CLICK. and we’ve fallen again.
This is called an Occasion of Sin. It’s equivalent to a restaurant & bar for an alcoholic. He went there to eat, alone. It’s not dive bar where the patrons are purely concerned with intoxication for cheap; no sin in going. But he’s placed himself in a tough spot. He can order a beer very easily. Heck, one shot of vodka, why not. If only he’d gone to a fast food place. They don’t serve alcohol. He is now in a position where temptation is stronger and more easily fallen into. Better to avoid the temptation altogether.
Hope it helps just to get you thinking about what your triggers might be. Thanks for reading and commenting!
Hey great stuff on the “cheerleader button” ! Sometimes I know my button ahead of time yet sometimes I realize another button has been added to my list. Usually I know where my battles will be day to day. It may be the check out person at the grocery store or coffee shop. I may have to choose another lane. It may be the person who often shows cleavage and I give a second or third glance stirring my hormones. It may be as “innocent” as watching pro beach volleyball or seeing a live volleyball game, high school or college. Thanks for the reminders !! I like to tell this to my fellow male friends so they know they are not freaks, that all men are not pigs, as some say, and ask them to pray for me that I say NO each time. Psalm 50:15 HELP, LORD, please—-Steve
Thanks for sharing a little of my story with the world!
My pleasure, MJ. Great article.
As far as looking at cheerleaders is not as bad as porn it depends on what your thinking while you are looking at them! If you are looking lustfully at then then it is just as bad! Lust is lust it doesn’t matter if it was a cheerleader or a soccer mom that made your mind go there it is still sin so trying to make things seem less severe is not going to help you or your spouse any. If you are married your wife isn’t going to give you a pat on the back because you ONLY cHecker out the skanky cheerleaders and not a porn site. As for the guy who admitted to the volleyball thing even high school, I applaud your honesty but am still disgusted having 4 daughters and one being in high school. ? sad to think how many other men have those thoughts that won’t admit to them!
Titus 1: 15 To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.
To some, cheerleaders might be athletic dancing. To others, it might be pornographic. The difference is what’s in my heart. It’s tempting to pass the buck by blaming what she is (or isn’t) wearing. Actually, it’s solely due to what I’m not wearing — the armour of God! I can lust just as badly after a fully dressed woman on the street as I can over a woman in a bikini. What can you do if my “cheerleader button” is women I pass by on the street?
What can you do if my “cheerleader button” is women I pass by on the street? – that’s a GREAT question, Jason! I know I felt that way before. Like every pretty girl clothed or not was an object for me to lust after (if pretty) or judge (if not). And though that is still a temptation (thanks to yoga pants) it has been INFINITELY easier to manage after years and years of looking away and turning off media that was FEEDING that objectification. It ain’t going to happen overnight, but some day you’ll look back and be like, “I remember when EVERY woman I passed on the street was my “cheerleader button.” Keep on making sure YOUR wearing what you should be! (Love that Armor of God reference, by the way.)
Exactly. The term “cheerleader button” is just a play on the story MJ shares in the article: it’s a different button for everyone.
If it’s a woman you pass on the street, you make the responsible choice to look a different way and redirect your thoughts in a positive direction. In time, you train yourself to not objectify the people you meet.
Women have s right and obligation to dress modestly. In our hyper-sexed western culture few do. Is it any wonder so many men fall into lust? Immodesty and impurity are complimentary sins that feed off each other. Remember, it is sinful cause others to sin.
Thank you for this. I know that for years I would tell my husband to not even visit the sport sites, since he couldn’t refuse clicking on that sort of stuff once he got there. Or, one of his biggest traps, being looking up an online movie. It is called cutting off your right hand. If you can go online to look up a decent movie to watch without falling, then you DON’T go online to look up a movie. To me, this was a no brainer. Why do I not go up and down the bakery isle in the grocery store, or the ice cream cooler isle? So I don’t buy cake and ice cream! You need to go as far as you need to go to keep yourself safe. But, the bottom line is that you need to be ready to be free of porn. All these years, until recently, my husband was not willing to be free. He wasn’t willing to ‘cut off his right hand’. And he never saw victory.
This is great advice for those seeking to be free. For those who are not? They need to pray to want to be free, or a person who loves them needs to be praying for their freedom, because no amount of boundaries will keep a willing heart away from the fire.
You said, “They need to pray to want to be free, or a person who loves them needs to be praying for their freedom, because no amount of boundaries will keep a willing heart away from the fire.”
That is so TRUE! But usually we don’t think of asking God to give us the desire to obey Him. We think we have to conger up the desire all on our own. But God can change our desires, and many times He chooses to do just that!
Here is the elephant in the room that no one talks about — women constantly push sex in one way or the other. I once did an experiment. I went out to one porn site. I looked up 100 pages on that site. I started counting women. I literally counted well over 2,000 unique women. This was just one small site. Then, when I stop to think about our society: strip joints employ thousands, escorts, hookers, webcam girls, models, massage girls and others, it is quite clear that millions upon millions of women push sex to advance themselves. We cannot speak out about this in our PC world. It is always the guy’s fault for lusting. We can’t shame women. However, the harsh reality is millions of women are doing this. I am not young. I worked in a major corporation. Women in our company, who you would never think of doing these things, are doing these things when they go home. Then, there is all the homemade porn. Every woman I have dated, sooner or later sends homemade porn. We are only dealing with one side of the equation and we never call out the women. Until we deal with the vanity and manipulative ways of women, none of this changes. It only gets worse. The ONLY time women speak out against this is when they are older and can no longer use sex to influence. You see it all the time in Hollywood. Take Charlize Theron for example. The woman rose to fame based upon her body and sexuality. Now that she is older and younger women are at her heals, she speaks out against the “exploitation” of women. She is a hypocrite because when she was younger she had no problems with that exploitation. But that is how our society is. We never address the wrongs of women. Really covenant eyes is fighting a losing battle. Good for them though — they can keep selling their products.
If you doubt anything I wrote, go to a site and start counting. See for yourself.
No one doubts that a lot of women are on porn sites selling their bodies.
No one doubts there are a lot of prostituted women in the world.
What I don’t understand is why you think we don’t know these things. We write articles about the spread of so-called “sex positive” feminism on college campuses and why it should concern us, articles about the authors of women’s erotica who are contributing to a culture of objectification and violence, interviews with former porn actresses about their sinful pasts, articles about how making porn is a form of prostitution, articles about the vital importance of modesty among Christian women, articles about cultural trends like porn use among women, or young girls using social media as a forum to flaunt their bodies, or the growing prevalence of sexting, or the growing number of women posting videos on YouTube to ask “Am I pretty?”
As for us selling our products, we’re happy we can help people who are actually making a step in their lives to stop objectifying others.
Exactly Jason! My husband says he can undress any attractive modest woman the moment he lays eyes on her…and that’s exactly what he does. Then he strikes up a conversation with her (unrelated to business) to get a closer wiff of her smell and aura…then he fills his heart with her essence…all the while disdaining me. My heart is broken. I will never be the apple of his eyes…or the apple of his heart as long as he “sees” women with the eyes of adultery.
So sad, Sweetz. I pray your husband sees the light soon.
Will you be the apple of your husband’s eye again? You don’t know the future, Sweetz. Be careful of negative forecasting. We think it will make us hurt less (or prepares us not to be hurt), but it will impact how you interact with your husband (negatively, might I add) and may become a self-fulfilling prophesy. I don’t blame you for feeling the way you do, but ask God to help you forecast in the shadow of His divine providence. For sure, He wants to use you to continue believing Him (God, not your husband) for the very BEST! Praying you pursue Him as the apple of YOUR eye (and heart).
I am so sorry, I feel your pain. It it very hurtful and hurts to the core. The deepness of the hurt goes far beyond what your husband can see right now. It leaves a scar. Prayers he can one day again see you for your beauty.
Too late. He is taking out half the equity from our home and leaving me “to put you out of your torment”. I really believe that it is HE who is always in torment…it must torment him to want everything that is forbidden and just to have me. He and his 25yr old son are getting a place together to live their life in “freedom” (from being held accountable). He has corrupted his son as well, taken away his innocence, and caused him to fall headlong in the same exact sins. But he is right…this will indeed end my torment from trying to fulfill a man who is never satisfied. He is running from himself…so I will not resist him…I am letting him go without a word.
I’m sorry to hear this, and I hope you’re finding help and support for yourself. Many churches offer Divorce Care, in addition to more general groups like Celebrate Recovery. It sounds like S Anon might be a good fit for you, too, if you can locate a group near you. Whatever he chooses, you can choose to be on the road to healing and health. Blessings, Kay
So very sorry to hear that! Praying to the God who KNOWS betrayal FIRST HAND; for His comfort to be with you in a way that is real and powerful!
Our culture is corrupt. This all starts much further back and much deeper than just one button on a sports site. It starts with the philosophy that it is somehow OK for people to fornicate, much less to allow their teens to do so. It starts with the fact that marriage is not sacred, and divorce is a viable solution for painful relationships. It starts with men that aren’t challenged to grow up and grow a pair and be the leader of their family in a truly Godly manner. Our western civilizations are more corrupt than we realize, I think. There aren’t too many guys that blink an eye when I tell them that I was exposed to hardcore porn for the first time when I was 4 years old, back in 1975, nor do they seem to be surprised when I tell them that I regularly viewed Playboys and Penthouses from that age onward. When the shock is gone from the fact that our “innocence” is being destroyed from the earliest ages, we need to realize that there is a spiritual war being waged for the souls of our children, and we are LOSING.
I am the husband that Kerri talks about above, and for years I was an unscrupulous wannabe Christian who blamed all of his problems on everyone else and thought he was entitled to pleasure and entertainment. I am realizing that I live to please God now, and unless we wake up in the Church, I am thinking that our nation will be judged harshly before long. Perhaps that judgement will come in the form of complete and utter apathy to real truth, and eventually the death of Christ in our western culture altogether.
For sure it goes back much further than just one button on a sports site—I think the author’s intention was not to deny this but to talk about individual choices in the moment of temptation, before something truly pornographic enters your field of vision.
The spiritual war rages on in the mean time. So sorry to hear about what happened to you when you were young, and even more upset to hear about what DIDN’T happen to you—mature believers coming to guide you through that trauma. God is good, however, and I’m glad he’s making a difference in your heart.
You hit it spot on with this: “for years I was an unscrupulous wannabe Christian who blamed all of his problems on everyone else and thought he was entitled to pleasure and entertainment.” Surely it is pride and selfishness that causes all my other problems. In the case of porn I was willing to humble myself and confess my need for help. Let’s pray together for more men to choose to humble themselves in this area.
Well said my brother! Well said. Obedience, trusting and believing Him! Blessings, Dan
For me, the “button” is art. Specifically art involving the female figure. And, go figure, I work in the art field where nudity is rampant and accepted.
It’s frustrating. Every day I have to be cautious avoiding topics of research or study with my clients like tattoo art, body art, silhouettes, and even portraiture and photography. I was asked to do a completely innocent portrait of a young lady not long ago … and after thinking about it I flat out refused the work without explanation. I just brushed it off nonchalantly and said “Nah, I don’t think I can work on that right now.” People were confused why I would turn down the project when I was actively looking for a new art project – but it was dangerously close to that button.
So tough, Jeremiah! Kinda hard to work in a bakery when you have a weakness for danishes. Praying, that as you avoid temptation that you actively pursue art that is true, right, pure, lovely, admirable… art that is a reflection of Him and will draw you to Him!