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Defeat Lust & Pornography 8 minute read

What Your Sexual Fantasies (Might) Say About You | Part 2

Last Updated: October 30, 2019

The evangelical community’s preoccupation with combatting lust has over-simplified and trivialized a far more complex issue within human sexuality. We exert tremendous effort attempting to stop our sexual fantasies, but neglect the critical task of understanding what these fantasies might be communicating. Efforts to eliminate lust set us up to manage our sexual life with a tourniquet. We end up spending the best years of our life battling the flow of lust, darting our eyes away from attractive people, and taking drastic measures to stay accountable. I think we can all agree this is not what God had in mind for desire, sex, and community.

Our inability to “succeed” in purity only compounds our pain. In our pain, we default to the same, ineffective treatment plan. We spend time in prayer, pursue accountability, occasionally hide, and hope that God might change us. The complexity is that these well-intended efforts fail to engage the underlying issues that drive our sexual lust and anger. A much better approach might begin by asking God to help us understand our lust.

This year I completed research on the key drivers of unwanted sexual behavior, be that pornography, an affair, buying sex and the like. Over 3,600 men and women participated in the study. What I can tell you is that sexual struggles are not random or capricious. They develop in the formative emotional and sexual soil of your childhood and flourish in the unaddressed dynamics of your present life.

In my first blog on sexual fantasies, I addressed sexual fantasies where men had power over women. I received many requests to take a closer look at the other most common sexual fantasy of males–being pursued by an older or more powerful woman, and that’s what this follow-up article speaks to.

Your Sexual Fantasies Are Not Random

Jeff was in his late 20’s when he began experiencing a season of painful depression. The majority of his friends were married and Jeff’s career had seemingly plateaued at his company. He had no idea what to do next. In his paralysis, Jeff found himself caring less about the things he once worked so hard to maintain–integrity, a healthy lifestyle, and ambition. In a moment of distress, he e-mailed a mentor from college asking if they had a referral to see a therapist for depression.

When I met Jeff, his pain was palpable. He stared out the window and looked long into the gray Seattle horizon. What he eventually disclosed was that he picked me as a therapist because of my focus on unwanted sexual behavior. Jeff did not believe he was a sex addict, but did believe that pornography was playing a role in his life that he did not want. Additionally, his pornography use led him to believe that he was unwanted.

There is a glut of information out there that tells us Jeff’s struggle with pornography is a common problem in our society. But this data tells us little about the ‘why’ behind our collective drive for pornography. My research found that the type of pornography and sexual behavior you pursue can be predicted by the major themes and significant relationships that have marked your life.

Jeff disclosed that his struggle with pornography would often escalate during periods of depression. He remarked, “The more I feel pain and hopelessness, the more I seek out porn.” Curious, I asked Jeff how he curates his porn searches based on his emotional pain. He paused for a moment and asked, “So you think the specifics of my porn searches are associated with the particular pain I am experiencing?”

I responded by saying that each of us have an arousal cocktail. This is a mixture of thoughts, images, stories, and fantasies that influence the pornographic content we find arousing. When we find ourselves depressed, angry, bored, or lonely, we will often seek out a particular type of pornography apropos to our situation. If we want to outgrow our need for pornography, we need to gain a sense of what it symbolizes for us.

My research showed that the majority of men pursued sexual fantasies where they had power over women. This often involved men seeking out women who were younger, had a smaller body type, and had a particular race that suggested (to them) subservience. The other primary category for men however dealt with men who wanted the woman in the pornography to have the power (or at least for it to appear that way). These men fantasized about older women, attractive mother figures, and women in positions of authority over them (boss, teacher, etc.).

Jeff disclosed to me that his primary pornography searches tend to be for attractive mother figures. The videos that appeal to him the most involve a plot where a friend’s mom or a teacher single out a male student or young adult. The mother or authority figure sees the man’s charm, or need or sadness, and eventually seduces him to sex.

Sexual Abuse Shapes Pornography Preferences

After Jeff disclosed this, he remembered a movie he saw in college about an older woman who cares for a teenager in a state of distress. When the adolescent is nursed back to health, the woman seduces him. As a college student, he attempted to find the specific sex scenes from this film on the Internet and he pursued pornography portraying similar themes. Jeff thought for a moment and said, “This is really interesting. I definitely seek out a lot of variety in porn, but the main theme is definitely about wanting to be pursued, cared for, and eventually seduced by an older woman.”

In our following session, Jeff wanted to continue to explore why older women captured his sexual fantasy life. I reflected to Jeff that many of his fantasies entailed the use of porn or film, but wondered if this fantasy preference was mirroring anything that had happened to him personally. Jeff thought about it for a moment and then revealed that his first “sexualization moment” came in the context of someone about six years older than him.

Jeff was in 5th grade, when his parents began going on dates once or twice a month. His babysitter was a 16-year-old family friend named Christina. A typical evening entailed Christina cooking dinner for Jeff and his two little sisters and then getting the girls down to sleep. When Christina came back downstairs, she would take out a game like Uno for her and Jeff to play. At first, Jeff felt tremendously shy around her, but the more games and laughter they shared, the more he grew to love their time together.

Jeff remembered coming home from a rough day of school where he was made fun of for wearing “whitey tighties” instead of “boxers” like the other cool classmates. Although he felt shame, he also found himself anticipating time with Christina later that night. He fantasized about her laughing with him and how she would often tap his leg with delight when he would win a game or say something silly. He learned in that moment that fantasy could reduce pain.

One Friday night in early December, Christina proposed a new idea. She would take off her shirt and let him touch her body if he won the game. Jeff’s body shook with anticipation and fear. Christina read him well and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll guide you. It’s going to be fun.”

Jeff’s sexual abuse continued until Christina got a job the following spring at a store that required her to work weekend evenings. Jeff felt so ambivalent about his relationship to his babysitter. He loved Christina’s attention, her touch, her high school status, but he also felt so abandoned and used when she left her babysitting post.

What Your Porn Searches Might Say About You

As you may have noticed, Jeff’s formative childhood experiences of sex had to do with being emotionally pursued, aroused, and eventually abandoned by someone six years older than him. The question then must be asked–how could he expect his sexual struggles as an adult to not be reflective of this story? His pornography use was an attempt to find a familiar sexual story, but also to be in control of how it played out. In this way, unwanted sexual behavior does more than expose your sin, it reveals the portions of your life that are unaddressed and therefore unresolved.

My research showed that men who fantasized about mother figures, larger body types, and women who appeared to be in a position of power had three key drivers:

  • Depression
  • A history of sexual abuse
  • A father who confided in his son about his difficulties with his personal life or marriage.

Once you dive deeper into the ‘why’ of your sexual fantasies, you quickly enter the stories that await your engagement. Sexual brokenness, if you listen to it, will reveal your way to healing.

Listen to Your Lust

My hope is that as you read this post, scenes were coming to mind. I am not asking you to draw hard and fast conclusions between your formative sexual experiences and your present day sexual brokenness. Instead, the point is to reconsider stories you may have long ago dismissed as irrelevant to your struggle with pornography.

The irony of unwanted sexual fantasy is that it will be the most honest portion of your life until you begin to address your past wounds and the difficulties of your present life. Apart from sheer willpower and militant surveillance, Jeff would not be able to stop using pornography until two core issues of his life were confronted.

For one, Jeff needed to address the reenactment occurring in pursuing a pornographic world where older women would pursue him in similar way to the erotic and harmful abuse he experienced. Secondly, Jeff’s depression stemming from his career plateau allowed pornography to take up residence like a squatter. His pornography use offered him a surrogate experience of “care,” but it only furthered the judgment against himself for his inability to move out of paralysis. The antidote was to take responsibility for his own care by pursuing therapeutic and professional guidance.

Sexual fantasies are messengers. You may not like the news they bring, but they will knock on the door of your life until you listen to what they need to tell you. In my experience, talking to your accountability partner or therapist about the possible meaning within your sexual fantasies will take you further into transformation than a hundred nights of prayerful despair.

Sexual Brokenness Is the Stage of Redemption

Porn searches await your curiosity and invite your kindness. Romans 2:4 is clear that the kindness of God is what leads to change. Very often it is our self-hatred that blinds us from seeing the kind face of God. It is my firm conviction that God is neither surprised nor ashamed of our sexual struggles, but understands them to be the very stage through which the work of redemption will be played out. If sexual struggles are not grounds for judgment, they are the very geography where we come to know the kindness and transforming power of God.

A few questions to consider:

  • What are the specific pornography searches that tend to arouse you the most? What might these sexual fantasies symbolize?
  • What age were these sexual fantasies established? What was going on in your life at the time?
  • Think of a time in the last 6 months when you used pornography to provide you relief and simultaneously find power amidst depression or futility.

Jay Stringer

Start Your Journey to Freedom

To help men and women on the recovery road, Stringer, The Heart of Man movie, and Covenant Eyes are working together to provide support. Journey Into the Heart of Man with Jay Stringer provides a five-month course that includes inspiring presentations, a self- assessment for people to see how their story shapes their sexual choices, and exercises to bring change. Stringer said, “Just as our sexual brokenness is not random, our journey to freedom is not either. In the Journey Into the Heart of Man, I wanted to equip accountability partners, small groups, and faith communities in a way they have not been equipped before to find healing.”

The recovery journey takes time and focus…to grow, learn, have fun, explore, and discover. How long? Stringer said most of his clients find freedom in two to five years. That doesn’t mean they are acting out during that time, but it takes time to shake off the debris of the past and live free.

Start Your Freedom Journey Today

This post contains affiliate links. Covenant Eyes receives a portion of the profits of purchases made as a result of the links above.

  1. Lisa

    Chris,
    I don’t know if you are still keeping up with this thread as it seems most of the comments are from years ago. Hopefully you will see this.

    I’m the wife of a recovering(?) porn addict. We’ve only been married three years and my husband was honest with me before we got married and told me he had struggled with a porn addiction but had gotten free(?) a year prior. Having no experience with this type of addiction before, I naively asked ‘is this a need that can be met in a healthy vibrant Christian marriage?’ and frankly since he was a Christian man who was single for 10 years after being married for 20 years, I thought it was just some way to manage his sexuality since he was a Christian. Now I realize how absolutely ludicrous that thinking was.

    What I found out almost immediately was the ‘consuming’ of women never stopped. Since he works in a resort where it’s summer all year round, there is never a shortage of a fix for his addiction with skin and young women.

    I had no idea and was absolutely blindsided with all of this. The discounting, dismissing. denying, deflecting, and gaslighting kept me in a tailspin for years.

    Naturally, I’ve gone through the barrage of self blame and self condemnation that a wife experiences when they live in the place of ‘if only I was this’, ‘what’s wrong with me’ , why am I not good enough’, etc.

    With all that said, thank you! Thank you for being a voice in the wilderness. Knowledge is power, and the truth will set us free. Thank you for sharing truth that can set us free. Thank you for seeing past the good ol boys club’s usual rhetoric that ‘it’s every man’s battle (because it isn’t!) and ‘men are visual’ and this is just the way guys are.’

    Thank you for being a light in the darkness. Thank you for equipping me with the WHY my husband’s sexual template is young and tiny blonde, despite choosing a beautiful ;) brunette closer to his age. Of all the things I can be in this life – 30 years younger and slight built, are not two of them. I’m a great wife and I adore my husband. The physical part of our relationship is passionate and fulfilling. It’s been excruciatingly painful to not be enough for him, and to think I will never be his heart’s desire has made me feel utterly hopeless.

    I’m so grateful to see for the very first time it truly has nothing to do with me.

    Now that it’s been identified, his brokenness can be addressed and healed. He can be transformed as he allows the Holy Spirit to do a deep healing work in him.

    I believe this information will be the turning point in his recovery and in our marriage.

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Good bless you and the work of your hands!

  2. InCA

    Why don’t you show a woman in your ad, it’s suggesting only men have fantasy issues, I find it offensive that you won’t minister to the women EQUALLY,

    do you realize you’re leaving out billions of women battling this (every time you put only a man on your links), *intentions don’t matter, it’s the same effect regardless.*

    It’s not hard to put a woman in your ads, the same way you found an image of a male, you can find an image of a female.

    It really grieves my spirit these women battling the same thing are left with no validation for their struggles, nowhere to go, your ministry is excluding all women as a whole, by only putting a man in the pic, you’re making it seem like sexual sin is only a “man’s problem”).

    Please take this seriously, you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. *I don’t intend to debate this, it’s fact. Nothing else to say.*

    • Moriah Dufrin

      InCA,

      I understand your concerns and wanted to let you know that this is an area where we seek to grow and improve. Statistically, men do struggle with pornography more than women. However, this does not discount the fact that some women DO struggle and need help. I hear you, and I appreciate you reaching out with your concern.

      Blessings,
      Moriah

  3. Zach Fries

    I like both of these articles. The approach you take is very insightful. You said that our fantasies often reflect unresolved issues in our lives. I would like your advice on something similar: What could it mean if most of my fantasies relate to being intimate with women from other races? I’m a white man married to a black woman. Is there someone I could talk to to resolve any potential issues in this area? If so, what do you recommend? I want to make sure my desires in this area are pure.

    • Moriah Dufrin

      Zach,

      I cannot answer your question as to what your fantasies mean, but I would strongly encourage you to talk to a mentor, counselor, or someone else who you trust. Keeping these issues in the dark will not resolve them. By reaching out to others for help, you are taking a step towards healing and freedom.

      Blessings,
      Moriah

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