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Defeat Lust & Pornography 5 minute read

Porn Is Not Your Biggest Problem

Last Updated: January 23, 2023

*This post contains mention of sexual assault.

I spent many college nights scrolling through porn on my phone. Image after image flickered across my screen, but they always left me longing for more. One image or video was never enough to erase my loneliness or cure my sexual desire. Just like a drug addict, one hit never felt like it was enough. 

Back then, I thought porn was my biggest problem. Turns out, this wasn’t true. It was a problem in my life, but it was a symptom of a larger issue. Porn was my way to cope with and numb the pain and loneliness I felt every day. This is also true for those who struggle with other unwanted sexual behaviors like habitual masturbation, reading erotica, or lusting. 

As a freshman in college, I was date raped on my third day on campus. After going through this trauma, I questioned everything about God, myself, and my sexuality. 

“Was God there when it happened?”

“Was God mad at me?”

“Was it my fault?”

“Is that what sex is supposed to look like?”

Porn became my everything. It was my punching bag that I turned to when I was angry at my abuser—my therapist when I felt empty inside. And porn was my sex educator when I questioned if what had happened to me was “normal” sex. But even though porn became my everything, over time I began to realize it wasn’t my biggest problem. 

It’s hard to discover what the deeper issues are beneath our struggles. For some, our struggle with porn does become an addiction and that might mean we need to work on the addiction elements first, before being able to start unpacking the deeper issues. For others, until we work on the deeper issues, we won’t be able to stop turning to porn. 

Sometimes the feelings or situations that cause us to turn to porn reveal themselves to be the deeper issue. To help you figure this out, ask yourself these two questions: 

What emotions trigger you to look at porn?

Next time you are tempted to look at porn, I want you to pause and ask yourself, what am I currently feeling? Angry? Sad? Lonely? These are real feelings, and it is okay to feel them. Often, we would rather escape our feelings by numbing out through binging porn. Instead of running from those feelings and hiding in porn, embrace the feelings. Explore your emotions and ask yourself why you feel them.

This was true for my friend Katie. Katie was single and often felt sad and lonely. She realized that moments before watching porn, she often felt upset towards God that she was single. To help her find freedom from her porn struggle, she had to find a new way to cope with these feelings. Instead of turning to porn, she started journaling her feelings. She also began talking about her feelings with safe Christian friends. Katie saw the need for Christian community to help with her loneliness. Katie joined a small group at her church and found a great group of godly women to meet with weekly. 

Katie found that at the heart of her porn struggle was loneliness, sadness, and anger. Working through these feelings may not have cured her porn addiction, but it helped her begin the journey of freedom. Katie also realized that different times of the month made her more lonely, depending on her hormones.

As women, we have sexual desires and hormones that could trigger us to look at porn. Our bodies have hormones and at certain times of the month, we may be more likely to desire a sexual release. If you feel more “sexual” at certain times of the month, one step to take is to begin tracking your period cycle. There are many apps that help you track your cycle and symptoms so you can be prepared. There is nothing abnormal or wrong with this! God designed the woman’s body with hormones and sexual desires. We must figure out what to do with these hormones and feelings.

What situations cause you to look to porn?

For many people, they are triggered to look at porn each time they experience the same setting, environment, or time of day. Next time you are tempted to look at porn, pause and think about your surroundings. When I was struggling, I would be lying in bed, unable to sleep, when the temptation to look at porn crept into my mind. I found myself stuck in the same habits of looking at porn to try and fall asleep over and over. 

Do you find yourself in the same location or situation each time you turn to pornography, masturbation, erotica, or any other unwanted sexual behavior? Some examples could be when you can’t sleep, after watching certain TV shows, scrolling through social media, etc. 

As you begin to consider these questions and look more deeply at what actually causes you to look at porn, it might be helpful to understand what a trigger is and how to find healthy ways to respond to them. One way to remember how to deal with triggers is through the acronym HALT. Halt stands for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. These four triggers are normal physical feelings that we have almost no control over. Our bodies are designed to feel them. Every few hours we will get hungry and every evening we will need to go to bed. 

In the moments of temptation to turn to porn, ask yourself: are you feeling hungry, angry, lonely, or tired? It’s important to recognize that these are real felt needs and are not inherently wrong. It’s when we think we must meet our needs through porn that it can become harmful, so it can be helpful to prepare ways to meet those needs before they emerge. For some of us, when we experience one of these four is when we’re more likely to turn to porn. 

Let’s look at all four and brainstorm ways to meet the real need.

  1.  HUNGRY: What is a healthy snack you can eat in moments of hunger? This could also apply to a spiritual hunger or longing as well. If that is the case, how can you spend more time with God this week?
  2.  ANGRY: Process why you are angry. Is there someone you need to forgive? Maybe you are angry at God wondering why he hasn’t taken this problem away yet? Can you journal your feelings? 
  3.  LONELY: Is there a friend you can call? Can you plan a coffee hang for tomorrow?
  4.  TIRED: Can you take a nap or go on a walk? Sometimes we are just bored! You can also turn on worship music or a podcast, listen to rain or waves on a sound machine.

Remember that these four needs are real needs! For example, it’s okay and totally normal to desire love, intimacy, and connection. That is how God designed us! But we can’t meet this desire with porn. Porn leaves us feeling emptier and more alone than before. Another common trigger is stress. I did not invent HALT, or I would change it to HALTS and make the S stand for stress. In moments of stress, we frequently turn to porn to escape the stress we feel, but, it actually makes us more stressed! 

In my own life, as I learned to press into these feelings instead of running away from them, I found myself turning to porn less often. I believe freedom awaits us as we take a brave look and embrace what lies just below the surface. While porn may seem like it is our biggest problem, because it is most in our face, the reality is that there is usually something going on deeper, beneath the surface. Therefore, it is important to understand your feelings, circumstances/situations, and triggers. As you begin processing these questions, it may be helpful to process them with a licensed professional or in a small group setting. These topics may uncover painful situations or emotions, and that is okay and normal. Press into these feelings instead of running away from them and to porn. 

Finally, I would encourage you to invite God into the process. God cares deeply about you and he wants you to experience freedom. If you are unsure what issues might be underneath the surface, pray and ask God to reveal them to you.

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