The Gospel Coalition

[Note: The following contains a frank, though non-graphic, discussion of pornography addiction. Parents are therefore cautioned to examine the material themselves before sharing it with children or teenagers.]

"Because the human brain is the biological anchor of our psychological experience, it is helpful to understand how it operates." says William M. Struthers, associate professor of psychology at Wheaton College. "Knowing how it is wired together and where it is sensitive can help us understand why pornography affects people the way it does." Here are 9 things you should know about pornography affects the brain.

1. Sexually explicit material triggers mirror neurons in the male brain. These neurons, which are involved with the process for how to mimic a behavior, contain a motor system that correlates to the planning out of a behavior. In the case of pornography, this mirror neuron system triggers the arousal, which leads to sexual tension and a need for an outlet. "The unfortunate reality is that when he acts out (often by masturbating), this leads to hormonal and neurological consequences, which are designed to bind him to the object he is focusing on," says Struthers. "In God's plan, this would be his wife, but for many men it is an image on a screen. Pornography thus enslaves the viewer to an image, hijacking the biological response intended to bond a man to his wife and therefore inevitably loosening that bond."

2. In men, there are five primary chemicals involved in sexual arousal and response. The one that likely plays the most significant role in pornography addiction is dopamine. Dopamine plays a major role in the brain system that is responsible for reward-driven learning. Every type of reward that has been studied increases the level of dopamine transmission in the brain, and a variety of addictive drugs, including stimulants such as cocaine, amphetamine, and methamphetamine, act directly on the dopamine system. Dopamine surges when a person is exposed to novel stimuli, particularly if it is sexual, or when a stimuli is more arousing than anticipated. Because erotic imagery triggers more dopamine than sex with a familiar partner, exposure to pornography leads to "arousal addiction" and teaches the brain to prefer the image and become less satisfied with real-life sexual partners.

3. Why do men seek out a variety of new explicit sexual images rather than being satisfied with the same ones? The reason is attributed to the Coolidge effect, a phenomenon seen in mammalian species whereby males (and to a lesser extent females) exhibit renewed sexual interest if introduced to new receptive sexual partners, even after refusing sex from prior but still available sexual partners. This neurological mechanism is one of the primary reasons for the abundance and addictiveness of Internet pornography.

4. Overstimulation of the reward circuitry—such as occurs with repeated dopamine spikes related to viewing pornography—creates desensitization. As Gary Wilson explains, "When dopamine receptors drop after too much stimulation, the brain doesn't respond as much, and we feel less reward from pleasure. That drives us to search even harder for feelings of satisfaction—for example, by seeking out more extreme sexual stimuli, longer porn sessions, or more frequent porn viewing—thus further numbing the brain.

5. "The psychological, behavioral, and emotional habits that form our sexual character will be based on the decisions we make," says Struthers. "Whenever the sequence of arousal and response is activated, it forms a neurological memory that will influence future processing and response to sexual cues. As this pathway becomes activated and traveled, it becomes a preferred route—a mental journey—that is regularly trod. The consequences of this are far-reaching."

6. What makes Internet porn unique? Wilson identifies a number of reasons, including: (1) Internet porn offers extreme novelty; (2) Unlike food and drugs, there are almost no physical limitations to Internet porn consumption; (3) With Internet porn one can escalate both with more novel "partners" and by viewing new and unusual genres; (4) Unlike drugs and food, Internet porn doesn't eventually activate the brain's natural aversion system; and (5) The age users start watching porn. A teen's brain is at its peak of dopamine production and neuroplasticity, making it highly vulnerable to addiction and rewiring.

7. Men's exposure to sexually explicit material is correlated with social anxiety, depression, low motivation, erectile dysfunction, concentration problems, and negative self-perceptions in terms of physical appearance and sexual functioning.

8. The following video offers a brief overview of the affect of pornography on the brain.



9. In this video, Gary Wilson discusses the disturbing symptoms showing up in some heavy Internet porn users, the surprising reversal of those symptoms, and the science behind these phenomena. Although it is not presented from a Christian perspective, the discussion is highly recommended for better understanding the deleterious and wide-ranging effects pornography has on men.



 

Recent posts in this series:

9 Things You Should Know About Planned Parenthood

9 Things You Should Know About the Boston Marathon Bombing

9 Things You Should Know About Female Body Image Issues

9 Things You Should Know About the Gosnell Infanticide and Murder Trial

9 Things You Should Know About Edith Schaeffer

9 Things You Should Know About Duck Dynasty


Comments:

[…] 9 Things You Should Know About Pornography and the Brain – The Gospel Coalition Blog. […]

[...] 9 Things You Should Know About Pornography and the Brain [...]

Phil

October 3, 2013 at 12:00 PM

> " I don't even know if it qualifies as lust in my
> heart because it seems the flesh has a mind of its own."

Andrew: The Greek word for lust there (Strong's G1937 if you want to look it up) is a *very* strong words that means, quite literally, "deep burning desire with intent." This is why most of the best translations say "lustful intent"; the Greek word means far more than just fleeting attraction or appreciation of beauty. That word is only translated as "lust" in three places, the rest are translated at "desire" or "longing" or "covet". For example, that is the work used in the parable of the prodigal son for the starving prodigal's deep gnawing hunger for the seedpods of the pigs. The Bible has no problem with female beauty; even Sarah is specifically called out for her beauty. Simply recognizing that, "Hey, my flesh finds that woman to be quite beautiful" is not certainly not sin, or else any man reading Gen 12:11 about Sarah's beauty. All this is to say that while you should not error by taking casual sin lightly, neither should you misunderstand nor overstate what Jesus is really teaching there. Believe me, I get what you're saying, as would any regenerate follower of Christ. All I'm trying to point out is that we can, in our fight, go overboard and feel conviction where even Scripture does not support such. I have a background in my family dealing with alcoholism; that topic reminds me of this one. In the battle against alcohol addiction, some have again gone too far the other way and declared all alcohol as sin, even tho the Bible never says that. The middle ground between licentiousness and asceticism is hard to walk, but the bondage of the out extremes is no solution.

Adam Barlow

October 3, 2013 at 01:37 AM

Porn is a stimulant and sinful. Therefore just as Eve saw the forbidden fruit as desirable, good for eating, and making her wise, she took and ate. Porn is desirable and this often leads people to disobey Gods instructions regarding lust. Jesus said, "if you so look at a woman with lust you are guilty of adultery and adulterers cannot inherit the kingdom." This is instruction not to lust, and if you do, you better repent and turn toward God. Fight the good fight of faith, trust God when he says that sin leads to death. As a sex addict myself, I have struggled with lust for years and continue till this very day. I love God but my mind thinks about sexual thoughts on a daily basis. I am a young man who is physically healthy and I blame it on a healthy sexual appetite. I believe the best cure is daily prayer. Of course you first rid the sin from your life than pray daily and ask god to guide your ways and replace your ways with his. This of course takes focus and discipline which an addict apparently has neither, including myself. I'm not addicted to porn for the last 6 years but I still have drive to exercise my sexual ability. Thank God for giving me a wife because I was sexually immoral with various partners. Still there remains sexual desire or should I say lust when a beautiful female is in view. I quickly look away because I know I want to look. I will never figure out why I am such a fan of beautiful woman. I don't even know if it qualifies as lust in my heart because it seems the flesh has a mind of its own. For God to love a sinner like me always boggles my mind and breaks my heart. I repent because he loves me. If you are struggling with sexual thoughts, addiction, lust, or any addiction, do your very best to turn away from the sin and repent. You will not regret it.

[…] Nice article by Joel on the pornography and it’s effects on the human brain:  http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/05/08/9-things-you-should-know-about-pornography-and-th… […]

Women Addicted to Porn too | Mormon Heretic

October 27, 2013 at 03:36 AM

[…] continue to skew male. The Gospel Coalition editor Joe Carter published helpful findings on the effect of pornography on the brain, adding to the ongoing discussion over men and […]

[…] Pornography. 9 Things You Should Know About Pornography and the Brain. […]

The Secret Women’s Porn Problem

October 24, 2013 at 09:01 PM

[…] continue to skew male. The Gospel Coalition editor Joe Carter published helpful findings on the effect of pornography on the brain, adding to the ongoing discussion over men and […]

bren

November 26, 2013 at 01:21 AM

I am a woman. I was exposed to hard core porn by the age of ten. During my marriage I also viewed porn with my husband, trying to keep him happy. It has always made me feel inadequate and lacking physically. I am now divorced after a twenty eight year marriage. I have zero desire to view porn, even after the long years of exposure. It was a destructive force in my marriage. I can personally confirm the effects mentioned are correct.

[...] Talk to us 9 Things You Should Know About Pornography and the Brain May 8, 2013 · JOE CARTER | The Gospel Coalition [...]

Harry Schaumburg

May 9, 2013 at 11:29 AM

YES! it is a people issue, therefore a sin issue. The core problem is not brain chemicals, bu the heart. Addiction to porn is a symptom of a deeper problem. Both men and women have the deeper heart problem. We don't have sinful brain chemicals in one gender, not in the other. Sinfully, we are created equal.

Phil

May 9, 2013 at 10:11 AM

Paula,

As Joe Carter just demonstrated in his response, the Evangelical community views women entirely different. Here's my perspective on the real answer to your question:

When a man does porn, we assume it's just who he is. It's "EVERY Man's Battle," as the book title itself teaches. When dealing with men, we go to the biology and hammer away at the sinfulness and grievous consequences -- and rightly so! But when it comes to women, if it's addressed at all, it's not put in the same terms. As Joe Carter's response demonstrates, Evangelical mouthpieces are *far* less likely to take the same tones of personal responsibility as with men.

When a man does porn we say it's because he's inherently evil, with evil body chemistry, making evil choices, and ruining his life and witness. When a woman does it, well, you see, it's because of what's been done to her, of course. For men, the blame is clear. For women, not so much. Oh, sure, we don't explicitly come right out and say it's not her fault, but daddy n' hubby are prominently cast as thinly veiled masculine targets for blame-shifting.

When a man does porn, we pointedly tell him that how his life and/or marriage treats him are an entirely unwelcome issues, only designed to blame-shift away from repentance. "Shut up! It doesn't just your sin! You can't blame your wife!!" we scream. But when addressing women, oh, well, suddenly we're *all ears* about daddy issues, husband issues, kids stresses, media messages, unmeet needs, etc. "It's not that there's anything wrong with you, honey, but you live in an evil world where men have done bad bad things to you and you're hurt, sweetie," is the tone of most mollycoddling issues directed at women.

I could go on, but you get my point.

I'll tell you a stunning and true story that should being this into sickening perspective. The "Covenant Eyes Podcast" was interviewing two women who struggled with pornography when one recounted how she was caught accessing porn in the library of a Christians college. When the login records traced back to *her* account and login times, the school dismissed the charges against her and instead charged the innocent young man who logged in before her! She showed up at the disciplinary hearing, ready to confess and ask for help. "Oh, honey, we're so sorry," the President's secretary said, "You don't have to be here. We know it wasn't you. I must have been the boy before you" the secretary explained. So no matter how strong the evidence, we just can't bring ourselves to deal full-scale with this issue among women.

Michelle

May 9, 2013 at 09:50 PM

I am a young woman, and I completely agree with Paula that this is an ever-increasing problem amongst women as well. As someone who has struggled with this before, I would like to say a couple things:
1. You are right to say that what leads a woman vs. what leads a man into pornography may be different. The way they use it might be different as well but the effect that it has on our brains is not. Women become addicted just like men. Therefore, you need to direct this conversation towards women as well. They need it. Maybe that's a separate article.

2. I agree that lust is a heart problem and it is sin. However, in order for someone who wants to overcome pornography to actually stop, it may not be enough to know it's wrong. This isn't because their faith isn't strong enough or Jesus isn't God enough, but it's because there is a REAL physical addiction. You must address the physical addiction at the same time as you address the heart. That is the key to overcoming this. I can't tell you how much it helped me to understand these things. This knowledge makes things much more real and scary to you. JESUS is the one that gives you hope and strength to actually make the change. So while the crux of the problem is in the heart, you can't pretend that the body isn't actually addicted to something. That doesn't take any blame off of the individual but it helps the individual to mortify that sin.

3. This is great information to share with the world. Many people in the world who are not Christians see absolutely no problem with pornography. In my experience, telling them that it's wrong doesn't usually change their minds. Bringing cold hard facts like these to light however, cause that person to stop and listen to what you are saying. They HAVE to, these are FACTS. This is a great way to introduce God into the conversation and the gospel.

This is an excellent article, much needed. Thank you for posting.

[...] 9 Things You Should Know About Pornography and the Brain Share this:???Facebook??? ???:???? ???? ?... ? ?? Uncategorized ????? ???????. ???? ???. [...]

[...] “9 Things You Should Know About Pornography and the Brain” – Joe Carter gives us 9 things we should know about pornography and the brain. (The Gospel [...]

Harry Schaumburg

May 9, 2013 at 07:04 AM

Am I to believe that Jesus was wrong when He said, "Out of the heart comes sexual immorality, adultery?" So He really meant the brain? Or, is selfishness, self-will, the sin nature a chemical reaction? We need to get this right, because Christians should be the first to urge pharmaceutical companies to come up with a pill for sin. Os Guinness says we have philosophically moved from post-modernism to explaining that everything is chemical. Neuropsychologist are telling us that all bad habits are a chemical reaction. When asked, "Is there a possibly of another explanation?" They answer, no, what else is there? Now, we know from science, that two people mating is purely a chemical reaction; or attracted by smell. That's exciting!

If science can actual identify chemicals functioning in the brain to explain addiction to porn, so what? What have we gained in understanding? We already knew it was a bondage to sin, that is impossible to break without death (Romans 7). If I over eat, digest the food and become obese, the same science tells me it is a bad habit created by chemicals in the brain. So follow the logic, the brain chemistry must be changed. Stop being unscientific by telling me the heart must change! You can't have it both ways!

[...] be the curse of the internet. I won’t sermonise nor quote the frightening statistics. But this article talks about pornography and the brain and helps explain addiction (and by implication how not to [...]

Harry Schaumburg

May 9, 2013 at 05:52 PM

Lets be clear, if it is a sin problem (it sure is if you believe the Bible), it IS a heart problem. If it is a sin problem, then we MUST treat it as a sin; where God changes the heart from the inside out. Change the heart, you change the behavior (you stop looking at porn). I just don't understand why you change the chemicals in the brain, and expect the heart to change. Not only are we responsible for sexually sinful behavior (porn), "do not be deceived, the sexually immoral, adulterer will not inherit the kingdom."That is not, never will, be psychological gibberish.

JohnM

May 9, 2013 at 05:05 PM

Phil, I think I have to agree with you. I hope I'm not *only* resentful, because I will admit a little bit I am.

Joe Carter

May 9, 2013 at 04:42 AM

While there is a lot that needs to be said about the solution, we had a good testimonial article on that a couple of weeks ago: Slaying Porn Through Christ: A Testimony of Hope (http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/04/30/slaying-porn-through-christ-a-testimony-of-hope/)

Joe Carter

May 9, 2013 at 04:36 AM

***Why is this so male-focused??? ***

That's a similar question to the one I got when I wrote about female body image issues. The short answer is that gender-distinctions matter. That's not to say that men and women don't struggle with the same types of problems—we do. But oftentimes, when we lump them together it makes it seem that the *causes* of the problems are the same for both genders. That's not always the case, as we see on the issue of pornography.

The issue of women in pornography is very different than it is for men and seems to have much less to do with brain chemistry and more to do with unmet emotional needs.

Mike.B

May 9, 2013 at 04:26 PM

Thats a lot of "psychological" geberish just to say its a sin and an addiction that binds your heart like any other sin. Not denying it is a big problem today but, this kind of talk makes it seem like its not our fault! Its a sin, it needs to be prayed for and healed through God, need wordly psycho analysis and pills!

Links I like | Blogging Theologically

May 9, 2013 at 04:01 AM

[...] 9 Things You Should Know About Pornography and the Brain [...]

Harry Schaumburg

May 9, 2013 at 02:27 PM

What do I know if I say it is a heart problem? If it is a brain problem then fix the brain, here's the link to help all those who have a pron addiction because of brain chemicals: http://yourbrainonporn.com/rewire-your-brain-using-ocd-neuroscience

On the other hand, after 30 years of counseling 1000s with serious sexual sin problems, I think I'll stick with the heart as the problem!

John

May 8, 2013 at 08:20 PM

This is a very helpful article in identifying the problem. It would be additionally helpful to have information on the solution.

Paula

May 8, 2013 at 05:26 PM

Why is this so male-focused??? We know the amount of women using pornography is ever increasing. This isn't a men's issue. It's in people issue.

[...] 9 Things You Should Know About Pornography and the Brain – The Gospel Coalition Blog. [...]

Romans6

May 8, 2013 at 02:40 PM

As someone who has been on the other end, these posts can also be discouraging. One feels like even his body and nature are against him in ever being free of this sin and able to look with true love on his wife/future wife.

I am here to say as someone who was a pornography addict and is no more, that the power of Romans 6 holds true for pornography! God through Jesus Christ IS able to take the members of your body and have them become "slaves" to righteousness just as they were slaves to unrighteousness. It's a long road, but freedom from pornography can happen and I can personally tell you that these truths about pornography also hold true to freedom from pornography. Little (as well as giant) steps of obedience in saying no to pornography WILL lead to a decreased lack of desire for pornography (even if while in this life we are never completely free of sin and temptation)!

[...] #2. 9 Things You Should Know about Pornography and the Brain by Joe Carter [...]

[...] Continue Reading by window.fbAsyncInit = function() { FB.init({appId: "", xfbml: true}); FB.Event.subscribe('comment.create', function(response) { }); }; (function() { var e = document.createElement('script'); e.async = true; e.src = document.location.protocol + '//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js'; document.getElementById('fb-root').appendChild(e); }()); [...]

Blog Break (14 May 13) | Alien Citizens

May 14, 2013 at 02:00 AM

[...] PORNOGRAPHY AND THE BRAIN, 9 things you should know. “Knowing how [the brain] is wired together and where it is [...]

[...] “9 Things You Should Know About Pornography and the Brain,” by Joe Carter [...]

Phil

May 13, 2013 at 05:04 PM

Thanks, Ryan. (Pardon the short response, I'm short on time right now.) But I want to respond to the idea that our flesh is neutral. I don't believe that the Bible teaches this. All creation was subject to the fall, including our flesh corrupted by sin and death. Specifically regarding temptation toward sin, esus warned that "..the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." LIkewise, Paul reiterated the corruption of the flesh in Romans 7, especially v.18. Later in 1 Cor. 9:27 Paul spoke of disciplining his flesh into obedience. I only have time to give those examples for now.

The vast preponderance of evidence from Scripture as well as teachings from the greatest minds throughout church history both testify to the corruption -- not neutrality -- of the flesh. This is why I said that we cannot discount either the flesh or the spirit when addressing sin and temptation.

Ryan Peter

May 13, 2013 at 04:09 PM

Phil, it seems to me, when reading Romans 6 - 8, that the problem is sin in the flesh, not the flesh itself, that Paul is addressing (I'm thinking the beginning of Romans 8 right now). Or, to put it another way, Paul talks of the life 'in the Spirit' as opposite to the 'Life in the flesh,' meaning that a life lived with the flesh as the guiding / goal factor is a life lived without the Spirit and therefore, since the flesh is contaminated by sin, it will end up in sin and death.

To summarise rather crudely - the flesh (sarx) itself is neutral. But either you live by the Spirit, in which case the flesh is subject to the Spirit and therefore you are able to deal with sin; or you live by the flesh - a bending towards carnality and sin. A choosing of the two surely takes place in the heart? And besides, the real problem is sin, which seems to have begun in the human heart in the first place. Jesus changes the heart (it appears by renewing the spirit - but we cannot get too technical about it, I believe) so that the body is crucified with Him. I could go on but I think you can see what I'm trying to say :)

Ryan Peter

May 13, 2013 at 03:53 PM

Thanks for commenting here Harry. I've read your book and I think it's marvelous and I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your work.

An article like this, as interesting as it is, can be discouraging on porn users as it presents the problem as if it's some natural part of us. Some might say your idea of addressing the sinful heart is discouraging as well, but at least its realistic and doable in Jesus; and also quite in line with what Christians have been saying throughout history.

While getting rid of porn takes a multi-layered approach, like most sin really, and there is no silver bullet, it seems to me that a focus on Jesus and our relationship with Him is the only long-standing solution as He sorts out our heart and our guilt. The problem is it's a life solution. We have to apply it every day.

*I think the core problem with modern Christianity is we're all looking for a silver bullet to make our sin stop rather than the old-school day-by-day relationship with Jesus approach that means I'm always indebted to Him for forgiveness, for strength, for encouragement, and for change, and my heart will continually need to be addressed in all sorts of area for the rest of my life.*

But He has overcome the world and does not condemn us :)

EricP

May 13, 2013 at 02:51 PM

That article condemned using drugs improperly. They were specifically supposed to be short term and were used long term. Just because one med does not work does not mean other drugs won't work either.

The last article said she essentially used CBT instead of medicine. You can do that with a therapist, but what has shown to work best is a combination of therapy and medication. My experience is that far from letting the thoughts fester into gangrene the medicine allowed me to think clearly so I could work with a therapist on the underlying issues.

Roundup | Eternity Matters

May 12, 2013 at 10:30 AM

[...] 9 things you should know about p*rnography and the brain – clear examples of how sin manifests itself and impacts us physically.  Too bad the “comprehensive sex ed” classes don’t teach this.  They are too busy pretending there are no consequences. [...]

Harry Schaumburg

May 12, 2013 at 09:19 AM

This is my last comment. So Joe, if brain chemistry explains addiction to porn, it must explain our commitment to our theology. Logically, we must accept that I'm reform in my theology because of my brain chemistry. Someone else is not reform in their theology for the same reason. Where do we draw the line as to brain chemicals being the explanation for everything we do, believe, or choose? Philosophically we are moving from post-moderism to explaining everything as chemical. John Piper tweets: "If Brian McLaren and John Piper switched brain chemistry. http://dsr.gd/11u2db1."Sorry, but I think we have stepped on to a slippery slope theologically. I pray that I'm wrong.

Karen Butler

May 12, 2013 at 05:35 PM

I agree Harry, it is chemicals, or tumors-- http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/07/the-brain-on-trial/308520/

--Or inflammation-- http://thenface2face.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/legions-brain-was-on-fire-or-where-have-all-the-demons-gone/

and moral agency, and the presence of evil that we must resist, is being lost.

We must recover our responsibility, and stop blaming everything on the brain.

Karen Butler

May 12, 2013 at 04:54 PM

"OCD medication in particular helps sexual compulsions."

It has been shown in many different studies that long term use of psych meds, in particular benzos, while offering immediate relief, only worsens these kinds of compulsions/anxiety reactions in the long term, http://www.clinicalpsychiatrynews.com/news/more-top-news/single-view/long-term-benzodiazepines-for-anxiety-linked-to-adverse-events/2f447d053b.html.

One researcher remarked that it is the impact on procedural memory "perhaps is the worst side effect" of benzodiazepines in the treatment of anxiety. I would assume the other OCD drug chloropromazine would have the same deletrious effects, because meds, as I wrote here

"take the edge off psychic pain, but can dull the keen attention most needed, and sap from our meager rations the energy most required for active aggression against our mind’s defections from the truth. Psychotropic drugs can enable a truce that should never be made with lying thoughts, and allow the psychic wounds of ‘stinking thinking’ to fester into a terrible spiritual gangrene...Pain has a reason for being, as Lewis observed, rousing us from “our sins and stupidities… pain insists upon being attended to.” More here:http://thenface2face.wordpress.com/good-news-about-psychosis-recovery-i-did-it-using-no-bad-drugs/

Akash

May 12, 2013 at 03:24 PM

it affects men differently though!!

so nothing wrong with the article discussing just men!!!
this is a flaw in our society where discussing anything just for men is seen as wrong

[...] Joe Carter: 9 Things You Should Know About Pornography and the Brain [...]

Hannah

May 11, 2013 at 11:38 AM

Amen! 70% of women watch porn...porn isn't a male problem; it's a humanity problem.

Paula

May 11, 2013 at 07:30 PM

Yes,Harry... exactly!! Thank you for your response.

Rocky G

May 11, 2013 at 07:08 AM

I think that for Christians the problem with porn is several-fold:

1. Guilt - I think feeling guilty is the most serious and grievous sin the porn-addict commits. The porn addict feels probably like Adam did, ashamed and trying to hide from God. They might even think the guilt is the Holy Spirit convicting them... That's not true... Guilt is Satan accusing you... if you're a Christian you are not guilty, even if you last looked at porn 5 minutes ago... but you do need to acknowledge that what you did was wrong and you need to want to change (repentance)... but even if you don't repent of the porn-watching, feeling guilty is still a sin. Guilt is based on a legalistic approach to obedience. Pride is the other extreme and both are ungodly. Grace is the answer.

2. Deception - porn-addicted Christians are forced to live a double-life that makes it impossible to be genuine in intimate relationships... They have to pretend... This is tiring and basing a relationship on false pretenses... You can't love someone properly under those circumstances.

3. It's mean to women (or men) - From my personal experiences, having given up porn, whenever I see a photograph now that's kind of explicit, I feel sorry for the women who is degrading herself for money. She is worth more than that... So porn-users are participating in the abuse of others, which is unloving and sin...

4. It's impractical - Porn-watching doesn't satisfy the urge, but makes it worse (as the video explains). It's not a good solution to the sex-drive problem...

Having said all that... God's Spirit sets people free from sin and gives us the power to obey... praise God for that! :)

Harry Schaumburg

May 10, 2013 at 11:46 AM

Actually, as complicated as life is, it is simple(find your life, lose it; lose it, find it) compared to the sinful nature, the sinful heart. This is the most complicated part of us, ONLY God knows the heart. Here is my point: We will never settle the debate on addiction/disease vs. sin/heart. I wrote the first biblical/Christian book on sexual addiction, released in 1991(NavPress), have debated the point ever since, but I have become the minority voice on the true nature of the problem. I fear we are drifting, I hope I'm wrong!

EricP

May 10, 2013 at 07:49 AM

Life is not as simple as you want it to be. There are actually drugs that do help with addictions. They break the reward system that Joe describes. Yes, our heart is sinful and causes bad behavior. That bad behavior imprints itself in our brain chemistry. Some brain chemistry is more susceptible to this problem than others.

Take bipolar disorder. Two symptoms of the manic phase are a heightened closeness to God and increased sexual promiscuity Medicine controls the manic phase and decreases sexual promiscuity. It also makes God feel more distant.

Like I said, life is not simple.

[...] 9 Things You Should Know About Pornography and the Brain – Joe Carter This is a frank, non-graphic discussion of pornography addiction, so use caution as you read and share. However, for anyone who struggles, has struggled, or is ministering to those struggling with pornography (which includes most young men) this is a must read. [...]

Harry Schaumburg

May 10, 2013 at 04:19 PM

Prozac was developed as an anti-depressant, over 20 years ago, before anyone new the new the term sexual addiction. Sex addicts started reporting to psychiatrist reduction of sexual urges when taking the pill. By 1990, I was working with sex addicts on an inpatient unit, they were all given Prozac by the psychiatrist to control their sexual addiction. My observation was that my patients still need a heart change for their to be real change. I'm not oppose to meds, but recommend my clients see a psychiatrist when ever their sexual behaviors are more consistent with OCD. The debate over, is it an addiction or isn't OCD, has gone on since the early 1980s and is still not settled. Those on the OCD side see the problem as an anxiety disorder and recommend the use of porn for treatment if one is addicted to, say prostitutes, an exhibitionist, etc.

Stanton Peele, PhD, in his 1989, book The Diseasing of America: Addiction Treatment Out of Control, argued against the disease theory of addiction. The debate will never be won. We as Christians must not lose our theological foundation in our understanding of sin by fully embracing a disease model or brain chemical model.

Phil

May 10, 2013 at 03:49 PM

I was hoping this part of the comment thread would just die, but I see, Harry, you just won't let it go.

Harry, there are MANY verses about "the flesh" and sin; mortifying the flesh, the passions of the flesh, etc. The heart is not our flesh and the flesh is not our heart, they are different and the Scripture addresses both. They are both equally subject to the affects of the fall. We're both with sinful heart and sin-prove flesh. Both need to be brought into subjection of Christ, through the Holy Spirit, as we live the sanctification process.

To make sin all about the flesh is just as much a mistake (Biblically and logically) as making it ALL about the heart/soul.

EricP

May 10, 2013 at 03:34 PM

I didn't realize you've had such a long career in this field. I read a brief bio and short summary of your book.

It's great that you help people, but I don't think it's addiction vs. sin. It can be both. OCD medication in particular helps sexual compulsions.

Trevin’s Seven – Trevin Wax

May 10, 2013 at 03:32 AM

[...] 6. Nine Things You Should Know about Pornography and the Brain [...]

[…] the way it does.” Here are 9 things you should know about pornography affects the brain: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/05/08/9-things-you-should-know-about-pornography-and-th… To summarize the article; porn will 1) hijack your brain, 2) it is highly addictive, 3) it leaves […]

[…] 9 Things You Should Know About Pornography and the Brain. […]

[…] (6)- http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/05/08/9-things-you-should-know-about-pornography-and-th… […]

denise england

March 10, 2014 at 01:01 PM

Helpful information. Question, Does a man's addiction to adult porn ever turn to child porn, and if so, what signs show up in children? Is there any danger the man will seek out his children, especially step-children and sexually abuse them? thank you

[...] An important article which you can read in its entirety at theGospelCoalition.org [...]

Tim Wright

July 9, 2013 at 05:42 PM

Hi Harry,

I have read both your books and appreciate all that you bring to the body of Christ. I believe that when I received by Faith all that Christ did for me, I got His Life and He got my life. The holy Spirit resides in me. I now have a heart of flesh, not stone. My heart is not evil, it is my flesh. And when I sin, it is not me doing it but my flesh. Christ has given me a new heart. In my work with men it is all about helping them to receive all that they are in Christ, they are Sons. They sin as a verb, but not sinners as a noun.

Tim

Bob

July 24, 2013 at 03:33 AM

Well now i do agree SSRIs are about the last thing for sexual addiction. "Why" they are a poor choice is NOT "sin" or "heart" or "ocd". See, they work so well because: 1. SSRIs chemically inhibit sexual desire. Most people that take them experience moderate to significant decrease in libido and performance. So for religious this makes them perfect but none the less. 2. SSRIs can "fog" the mind. They can create an indifference. That is how they work: no more extreme depression because either end of excitement is dulled. They can be life savers for some; prisons for others. They are only part of the solution.

Boys Watch Porn | Byron Tye Ellis

January 22, 2014 at 07:03 PM

[…] For more information on the neurological effects of pornography and addiction click here. […]

[…] porn in a little bit different way. Here is an article that explains what happens to your brain on porn. Basically, porn can become a […]

Boys Watch Porn | REVIVER

February 14, 2014 at 07:22 PM

[…] For more information on the neurological effects of pornography and addiction click here. […]

Anna Chowski

December 15, 2013 at 12:01 AM

Thank you so much for this comment! Being a woman who was also once addicted to porn, I agree with everything you've said. It is not simply the heart or the body; it's the deadly combination that must be dealt with.

Anna Chowski

December 14, 2013 at 11:54 PM

Disappointed by the lack of discussion of female pornography addiction in this article.

[...] via The Gospel Coalition [...]

[...] 9 Things You Should Know About Pornography and the Brain [...]

[…] original quote is from a religious stance and can be viewed HERE. the rest of the article is definitely […]