Part Four of “Relationships 101”. See part three here.
We left off the last post with the number one way the Internet is messing up your love life. Remember what it was? It has become so pervasive that about 30,000 people use it EVERY SECOND (Daily Infographic, 2013). It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that has been around since Al Gore “invented” the Internet. Remember yet?
It’s pornography. More specifically, Internet pornography.
Yeah, I know. It’s kind of an uncomfortable topic to read about (and write about). So, before I get started on my therapist-take on the subject, let’s pause for a brief history lesson:
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, pornography is defined as the “representation of sexual behaviour in books, pictures, statues, motion pictures, and other media that is intended to cause sexual excitement”. The word itself comes from the Greek word for “prostitute” (porni), and the Greek word for “to write” (graphein). So way back when, during ancient Greece and Rome, pornography was used to mean any depiction of the life of prostitutes. Weird, right? Pornographic material has been around for a crazy long time, and has evolved a lot since then.
Obviously Internet pornography isn’t as old as Aristotle, but it’s been around awhile and boy-howdy is it everywhere. So much so, that Daily Infographic estimates that 40 million Americans are regular Internet pornography users, and 70% of men between the ages of 18-24 look at porn every month. And wanna know the most popular day of the week for pornography usage?
My dear readers, this is a problem. A serious, serious problem.
Pornography is addictive; It is instant gratification that is available 24/7. It often becomes associated with chronic masturbation, and sometimes, has a way of deteriorating into more debasing, violent or perverse fetishes. It can become a habit that men and women get stuck in – they think about it often, and sometimes the urge becomes so great, the act of viewing pornography becomes compulsive. Do these behaviors sound similar? If so, that’s probably because you have heard other drug or alcohol addictions described in the same way. Don’t believe me? Look at the pretty diagram from Fight the New Drug’s website.
According to that same site, and also my marriage therapist learnin’ and experience, Internet pornography can cause several things to happen:
- Decreases your desire for real human relationships. Why work on getting a good night’s sleep every night, when chugging a Monster can give you fake sleep in less than an hour? Similarly, pornography gets you from 0-60 without much effort or time, which in the moment may feel satisfying, but long-term doesn’t give you a healthy, lifelong human relationship. Also, when you have sexual climax, your brain releases oxytocin and other chemicals that bond you to what you see. If you’re married, hooray! You get bonded to your partner. If you’re married and using pornography? Congratulations, you are now bonded to a machine. Not exactly romantic.
- Increases likelihood of infidelity and divorce. This can happen for several reasons, including decrease in self-control, increasing lust and desire for someone other than your spouse, porn making real life seem “vanilla” in comparison, and reasons 3 through 5 below.
- Increases conflict. If you walk in on your partner using a laptop/smart phone/iPad to view porn, you’re likely to get pretty dang upset. Common reactions include anger, jealousy, sadness, rejection, and insecurity. The using partner may experience shame, embarrassment, anger, denial and guilt. Try not fighting when you have those (very natural and expected) emotions running through the room. If you didn’t fight over this, I would be concerned because it should bother both of you.
- Decreases trust and intimacy in marriage. Infidelity, whether it’s with people and/or the computer, causes big-time relationship trauma. Trauma results in lots of pain, tears, and wounds. When an injured partner gets hurt that way, they are likely to close themselves off and distrust the person that is supposed to protect them from harm. This creates distance, both emotional and physical, leading to a decline in intimacy. No bueno.
- Can change the overall perception of what real love and real relationships look like. Newsflash: Women and men are not supposed to look like porn stars. Our sole purpose in life is not to make everyone we come into contact with sexually aroused. If that was the total sum of our worth, we’d be pretty miserable beings. The good news is that we were made for so much more than that! We are all amazingly different shapes, sizes, and colors, with tons of different talents, abilities and gifts. Despite being different, we are all made in the image and likeness of God, so we are ALL gloriously and beautifully made. Pornography takes that reality from us. It makes us think that there is a physical ideal, that if we don’t look beautiful and perfect, we are not worth love. It makes us think that physical beauty and sexual prowess are the most important parts of you. If you don’t have those, then you don’t have anything. Nothing could be further from the truth! Human beings and relationships are so, so much more than that. We have the unique ability to live out the true meaning of love, the love that hopes all things, bears all things and endures all things. We were made to love unconditionally, which means to love beyond what is earthly and fading (i.e. physical appearance). I believe we all have an innate desire for that kind of love, and we all have the capacity to strive for it. Without that striving to love and be loved that way, we’re selling ourselves short and depriving ourselves of life’s true meaning. So yeah, kind of a big deal.
In closing, I don’t care what anyone says – PORNOGRAPHY HURTS EVERYONE. It hurts the people who make it, the people who watch it, and the people who love those people who make and/or watch it. If you or someone you love struggles with pornography use, please get help. There are some great resources out there.
Help for Pornography Addiction:
Integrity Restored (long, awesome list of resources) http://www.integrityrestored.com/Resources
Fight the New Drug http://www.fightthenewdrug.org/
Freedom from Pornography http://www.archkck.org/eyefreedom