Has your porn use escalated? Have you viewed something taboo and desired to see more of it? Have you found yourself searching more specifically? Have you paid for porn? Have fear and shame gripped you when you thought of someone ever knowing what you looked at? You’re not alone…
His head was buried in his hands as tears could be seen slipping through his fingers.
“I thought I had locked the door. I thought they were gone. I thought I had the office to myself. I didn’t know anyone was there… I didn’t know…” his voice trailed off.
Bill had been caught looking at pornography at his job. It was an act that cost him a 17-year career, the respect of his coworkers, and the ability to provide for his family of four. For Bill, in that moment, porn had cost him everything.
As I listened to Bill’s story, I began to realize that it was similar to hundreds that I had heard before him. Working with men who were trying to break free from the clutches of porn, I had seen them at various levels of entrapment. The one common element I saw was that behavior always grew, became riskier, and led to darker corners of the internet.
There is a name for this. It is called the “escalation effect.”
This concept is quite simple when you think about it, and many of us have been trapped in its grip. It goes like this:
Free porn sets the stage for escalating behaviors.
If you ever heard the statement “nothing is free,” it rings especially true in the arena of pornography. There seems to be free porn everywhere you look. In fact, for some reading this article, your first time viewing porn wasn’t intentional. You weren’t looking for it, but it found you and has been with you ever since.
I need you to know that porn-producing people are not giving you that porn for free because they are trying to be nice or feel like it is their duty to humanity. They are giving you a free hit, knowing that if you get a taste, you will want more. They understand the biological truth that you will want more because of what porn does inside of your brain.
Porn kicks out dopamine.
You know, that feel-good chemical that works as a hormone and a neural transmitter that makes you feel good? There are a lot of things taking place inside of you when you watch porn, but the simple thing to know is that dopamine helps you feel good. Now, let’s get back to that free porn.
Related: Brain Chemicals and Porn Addiction
Porn sites are designed to fuel escalation.
In an article from the New York Times about the porn industry, Wendy Seltzer quotes, “Seeing [free porn] just whets their appetite for more. Once they get through what’s available for free, they’ll move into the paid services.”1
As you’re searching, the excitement of what each new page may bring causes dopamine to be released inside your body. As that dopamine begins to decrease, you need another click (or something new) in order to get that hit again. That is why someone could have 150 windows open on their laptop looking for that “perfect scene” to end on. But the perfect scene never comes because that desire for dopamine drives us onto the next page and the next page…
As you are stumbling through the fields of free porn and clicking away, these sites will each offer you new and enticing options. Each of these options varies in its specificity, but each one is very specific in what it is showing you. It is specific for a reason.
The site is attempting to lead you down a rabbit hole and cause you to desire something more and more specific. In the beginning, it will give you the “more specific” thing for free, but like the worm on the end of a hook, it will eventually be pulled and you will have to pay money in order to see more of that specific thing.
Your tolerance for porn escalates over time.
As you continue the search for more specific pornography or the perfect scene, your brain will begin to build a tolerance for what you are seeing. In other words, that which used to excite you just doesn’t cut it anymore. You begin to edge further and further out onto the ledge.
You miss the excitement that you once felt when porn was new in your life and seek that newness again but try to find it through different kinds of pornography. I have sat across the table from many people who said, “I don’t know how I got here. I can’t believe I was looking at that. I never thought I’d go there.” But they do “get there” and “see that” and “go there.” And, given enough time with porn, there is a good chance that you will too.
You don’t have to continue the path of escalating porn use.
Think about your journey with porn. What were the first things that drew your attention? What were the first scenes that you used to look at? I still remember guys telling me about the JCPenney catalog hidden under their beds or the Playboy pin-ups that their friends used to pass around. If you were born after the internet boom, maybe it was a specific scene that you had saved on your tablet that you used to watch.
Whatever it was, I want you to ask yourself this question: “Has porn escalated in my life?”
Are you watching things today that you once told yourself you would “never watch”? Have you viewed something taboo and desired to see more of it? Have you found yourself searching more specifically? Have you paid for porn? Have fear and shame gripped you when you thought of someone ever knowing what you looked at?
If any of these describe you, I need you to know two things.
You’re not alone in the struggle with escalating porn addiction.
There are millions of people who are struggling with porn today. They are being lured in with the false promises of free porn and getting hooked. But, there are also many who are making the decision today to grab the reins of their future and make a change. There are many who are taking back control of their lives and through humility and accountability and find themselves breaking the chains of addiction in their lives.
Only YOU can take the first step in breaking free from porn’s escalation.
I want you to know that your past doesn’t need to define you, but it can remind you. It can remind you of the places you don’t want to go and the person you don’t want to become. It can give you the courage to make different choices today and to turn the rudder of your life towards new waters. However, the only one who can make that change is you.
If you spend any time with me, you will hear a simple principle talked about again and again. This is the Principle of HAD. If you ever want to say that you HAD a struggle with pornography, then you must make a commitment to three things: honesty, accountability, and disclosure.
Covenant Eyes is a great tool to get started on this process of recovery. It allows you the opportunity to invite someone else into your struggle to encourage, pray, and help strengthen you on this journey. I’d encourage you to start with this and then have someone that you can meet with and talk to on a regular basis. This must be someone you’ll be 100% honest with who isn’t going to judge you or make you feel less. Find someone who loves you and is willing to give you tough advice when you need it most.
I’m happy to say that Bill is porn-free today. Through some incredibly tough therapy and work, his family has been restored, he has a new job, and he continually allows accountability to rule his life. Today, he is grateful for that moment in his office because it changed his life forever.
This article may be your moment. Don’t wait for your “office moment.” Start today. I’m in your corner. Don’t give up.
1John Scwartz, “The Pornography Industry Vs. Digital Pirates,” New York Times, February 2, 2008. Accessed at https://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/08/business/the-pornography-industry-vs-digital-pirates.html.