Is Pornography Cheating?

Yes.

Oh, sorry…I guess I need to write more. Well, I guess I can explain it a little better.

Girls can usually see this issue for what it is. We guys, on the other hand, rationalize, make excuses, or are just simply too addicted to our lust to admit what is staring at us from the computer screen.

Pornography is cheating on your family, cheating on your spouse, and ultimately cheating on yourself.

I really believe that pornography is the “silent killer” of our generation, stripping men (and a growing population of women) of their vitality and potency to become the men they’re called to be. We are all the “walking wounded,” having been exposed to pornography in one way or another. Some men and women have been mildly rocked by their encounters to porn, while other marriages and faith communities have been completely torn apart by just one individual’s addiction.

Pornography is inherently shameful because we know—deep down—that something extremely personal has become entertainment. We men don’t hide or check our surroundings when we try to sneak a peak of Home & Garden in the magazine rack at the store, or clear our online browsing history because we spent too much time looking at websites of fishing equipment. We aren’t proud of viewing pornography for a reason. The computer screen becomes a mirror that reveals to us our failure to be faithful—faithful as husbands to our wives, faithful in preparing ourselves to be a gift to our future wives, faithful to our call to be men of sacrifice as Christ was in embracing the Cross.

And we’ve all heard the excuses:

Nobody gets hurt.” Very few men truly believe in the “nobody gets hurt” excuse of pornography. Many men want to believe this, but deep down they know otherwise.
Just ask any sister/girlfriend/spouse.

“It’s healthy for me!” Pornography re-wires the pleasure sensors of your brain and has been proven to be as addictive as heroin.

She isn’t a real person.” Yes, she is.

It’s not that pornography shows too much of a person, but that it truly shows too little, and we men, who are called to be protectors of the dignity of the women in our lives, forego our mission for fleeting moments of pleasure. Shame and self-centeredness inevitably follows the repetition of viewing pornography, and—for a rapidly growing population of youth—addiction and acting out what has been viewed on screen.

We’re living in a warped time period where viewing pornography is aggressively marketed as something “healthy” and should even be viewed with your significant other to “spice” things up, as several mens’ magazines are continually promoting (and I’m getting tired of reading). Douglas Wilson said that authentic masculinity is about “sacrificial responsibility,” but pornography robs men of both sacrifice and responsibility. How truly backwards it is that “adult” stores cater to men who refuse to grow up. It took a generation of people understanding how secondhand smoke could be just as harmful as those smoking cigarettes—I wonder at times how many lives have to be wrecked by “secondhand” porn before we wake up as a nation.

I saw my first Playboy magazine when I was about ten, playing hide-and-seek in my uncle’s closet. Waiting for my brother and cousin to find me, the magazine caught my eye. I didn’t open it (somehow I knew this wasn’t a normal periodical), but the way this cover model looked both enticed and instilled a certain fear in me. She seemed angry, and yet alluring (I do remember thinking it was strange that her clothing was falling off). It wasn’t until college, though, and all the “freedoms” that college life offers, that the bell sounded and my personal boxing match with pornography really began. Thankfully, I met some good guys through the campus ministry and we began to hold each other accountable. Deeper purification happened during my time in seminary, and I’m graced to say that I haven’t looked at the stuff in a long time and was purified in many ways before pursuing Jackie.

But the battle isn’t over.

I have to recognize my humanness and be vigilant. There’s a spiritual battlefield happening around me (and a selfishness in my own heart still) with an enemy wanting to tear me down, especially in this time of engagement and preparation for marriage. I’m thankful that the Lord rooted this out of me; I would never want to bring this evil into my marriage. But I also understand the struggle and the humility I’ve learned in passing through what will likely be the major battle of our generation, and the battle our sons and daughters will all have to face. There’s a wealth of articles and information online regarding the evils of pornography and how to overcome its snares, but I want to offer three tips that have worked for me.

1). Get over yourself. The temptation to view pornography usually finds us in moments of inactivity, boredom, or indulgence, and it breeds a cycle of self-centeredness and self-pity that just leads to further porn viewing. Breaking the cycle usually means getting over yourself and going outside of yourself. Serve the poor. Be generous towards your family or your co-workers. It’s not enough to say “no” to pornography—we have to channel that energy towards something positive, and eventually, when moments of temptation stir up again, we can recognize the destructive force that pornography is and can make a more life-giving choice.

2). Accountability. “As iron sharpens iron, so man sharpens his fellow man” (Proverbs 27:17) and we men cannot be lone rangers on this Christian journey and expect to rise to each challenge. We need community. We need brotherhood.

The seminary really hammered this point home to me, and to this day one of my seminarian brothers monitors my online activity through an accountability website (http://www.covenanteyes.com). Basically, he gets a report every week of what I look at, and it’s enough to keep me on the straight and narrow (and he calls me out, even when I’ve happened upon belly-baring pictures of Shakira). Even just having a guy you trust to whom you can say, “Hey man, it’s been a rough week,” and knowing he won’t judge but will support you, makes all the difference. We guys know that looking at porn is shameful, but by bringing it into the light we cancel so much of its power over us. And if we need some stronger remedy, we have to be humble enough to seek professional help.

3). Prayer. St. John of the Cross asserted that the desires of our fallen nature are so strong that we need a love that’s stronger still to conquer them—the love of the Bridegroom, the love of Jesus Christ. We’re called to real love, not quick fixes or counterfeits. Satan delights when we turn our gaze from God and try to quench that “ache” or “longing” without Him. Asking God for help is step #1. We can’t “muscle” through temptation with our own strength—not for long, anyway.

Pray for the healing of those involved in the porn industry, especially all the women addicted to drugs, alcohol, and whatever else may be numbing their senses or imprisoning their hearts. Nothing sobers you up like realizing that the woman in front of you is someone else’s daughter.

Doing a daily rosary really turned my prayer life around as well. If any woman could lay the smack down and rightly order our desires, and teach us how channel them into the life-giving force that it was made to be, it’s Mary. Meditating on her tender femininity is a great antidote for the poison that pornography pushes into our veins. Mary will lead you in purity and lead you to her Son, and kick your butt in the process.

I’ll also go to confession as often as I need it (which is often; my spiritual director once slyly commented as I approached, “Back so soon?”). No matter how long or how deep the snares of lust have entrapped us, Christ can and does make all things new. We just need the humility to know that, despite the mistakes we’ve made, He is still calling us to redemption.

We have been created for real love and for real greatness. We have been made for both sacrifice and responsibility.

Let’s stop cheating ourselves.

-Bobby

33 responses to “Is Pornography Cheating?

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’ve heard so many times from our youth…It isn’t hurting anyone…you hit the nail right on the head. Continued blessings for you and Jackie.

  2. Bobby thank you for this thought provoking story. Would it be alright if I reposted this message for others to see and read?

  3. Why does god need to be brought into everything? Can people not explain why something is bad without bringing in prayer, religion, etc.? Just say why it is bad and try not to mention anything related to religion, go ahead!

    • They can, but Jackie and Bobby have a faith that permeates everything they say and do (which I personally think is beautiful because that means their faith is genuine). If you want secular evidence from people of faith, here’s a good article: http://www.evidenceunseen.com/theology/practical-theology/3807-2/. They mention their faith very briefly at the beginning and end, but the majority of the article is objective and research based. And, here is a humanist article (the site literally says Good without God, which I think is sad but it sounds like what you want): http://americanhumanist.org/HNN/details/2012-04-a-humanist-argument-against-pornography. As a Catholic who has lost friends because of my faith, and as a scientist (studying Marine Biology) I know that sometimes an objective approach is preferred, but ultimately I feel that one should embrace rather than discount faith-based arguments – because they can penetrate to the truth far more deeply and with more dimension. Be skeptical when you look at things, sure, but not so skeptical that you become blind to anything with faith attached.

  4. Everything (most) in moderation. The more you try not to think about something – the more you do. Having a healthy sex life, being fulfilled, is healthy. If your partner can’t offer this, (or you’re single) you have to take matters into your own hands. Repressed sexual tension can only lead to one thing: terrorism (look at the young men and women that strictly practice some extreme variants of the Muslim religion). So, don’t be a terrorist my friends, enjoy your porn, it’s healthy.

  5. “Nothing sobers you up like realizing that the woman in front of you is someone else’s daughter.” Let’s stop saying this. People have value independent of the value other people place on them. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Thank you so much for your refreshing perspective, and by perspective, I mean you’re calling it what it truly is; cheating.
    { “She isn’t a real person.” Yes, she is.} They are someone’s daughter…

  7. Hello sir! This has been a well-reasoned argument in terms of faith and spirituality.

    However, I take some issue with the seeming undertone of never being allowed to engage in self-pleasure or masturbation. Surely pornography is a mere extension of this act? Are we expected to never masturbate?

    • again…Yes.
      I would feel cheated on if my spouse did that. Maybe there isn’t another woman involved, but it is doing something that should be reserved for our bonding with someone other than me (even if it is just himself, so cheating on me with himself).

  8. I would add that women ought to beware, too. We can often see clearly when it comes to images, but — if the popularity of stuff like 50 Shades of Grey is any indication — not so much when it comes to verbal descriptions.

    I also used to surreptitiously read certain women’s magazines. Years later, after I had stopped, I had a scary realization: those people were either talking as if from a script, or the editors embellished. They sounded programmed. Real people don’t talk like that unless they have been coached to do so.

  9. Wow this is really good! Good work Bobby!
    I cannot connect with this but i certainly know people who have porn as an addiction.
    i love this quote though…
    “Douglas Wilson said that authentic masculinity is about “sacrificial responsibility”.
    Im going to find me a man with this definitely!:) haha

  10. Great thoughts here!

    Would you be interested in writing a guest post for the Covenant Eyes blog? We’d love for our readers to hear more of your thoughts on how accountability has helped you.

  11. Pingback: Is Pornography Cheating? - LifeTeen.com for Catholic Youth·

  12. Don’t you think you’re overreacting? I mean, pretty much everyone does it. I understand you’re belief that it’s shameful, and there are people who are addicted to it, but most of those people probably have deeper failings as a person that contributes to it. I mean, it is masturbation and indulging in a fantasy, but I don’t see anything wrong with it. It’s a healthy way to relieve lust. Sure, it is possible to overdo it, but most people don’t. They hardly seem to be “wounded.”

    • Firstly, a lot of people might do it, that is far from ‘pretty much everyone’, but even so, since when did someone else doing something wrong make it okay? I think that you’re right about those who are addicted also having deeper issues, but then there are two issues at hand: the reason for their propensity for addiction and the particular behavior that they are addicted to. Sometimes those behaviors stand alone are neutral and its the addiction that makes it bad, but not in this case. We can look at a single act of it: is it degrading a woman? Yes. Is it lusting after someone/something? Yes. Is it using sexuality in a way other than it is intended? Yes. One does not need to be addicted for those things to be true. You state that it is a healthy way to relieve lust. How so? Is indulging in the very temptation and desire actually relieving it? If you were of the mindset that lust was wrong and you wanted a way to decrease it’s existence in your life, from a behavioral perspective, giving yourself a ‘reward’ of a pleasurable end is not going to decrease the original temptation. It conditions your brain to actually think more regularly about that which lead you to the pleasurable act. So masturbating and watching pornography will most likely increase the occurrence of your lustful thoughts. If you don’t think lust is wrong, my guess is that you still don’t want it to be on your mind all the time, for the sake of productivity. The same principle applies, the more you give yourself a reward for something, the more you are bound to have reoccurrences of that something. I hate to be crass, but do you really want to be spending your free time ‘relieving’ all that lust? This is how addictions happen. Studies and men’s personal testimonies have revealed how hard it is to stop, even if they don’t consider themselves addicted. I can’t speak for how a man feels, but I agree with Bobby that there is a natural shame. Most men would hide this from many people around them (especially the women in their life). That should tell us something, more than it’s just a socially constructed attitude. I think they truly know, whether consciously or sub-cons., that it is ‘using’ women and their sexuality in a way that is degrading to both genders.

      • Okay. You make a lot of good points. But I do not agree. Admittedly, if we’re just speaking about pornography–as an industry–yes, the industry can be exploitative to the people who work in it. On the other hand, many of the ‘actors’ are freely consenting adults. Yes, people who indulge in it too much can have negative results. But as far as adults who view it occasionally to use help them relieve lust, no, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. Perhaps using the term ‘pretty much everyone’ was a generalization on my part, but the fact is that many healthy, well-balanced men and women do partake in it. Is it degrading to the people in the industry? Yeah, that’s debateable. But again, if the people involved are not coerced into it, then I don’t see any problem there.

        Okay, let’s focus on lust specifically for a second. Is lust wrong? I don’t think it is. It’s a natural feeling every single person deals with. Sure, as it stands, it is can be a very destructive emotion. Lust is a consuming, wanting, fiery, often unpleasant feeling that everyone has to cope with. That’s why I don’t see anything unhealthy about ‘relieving’ those harsh urges. It provides temporary relief, and its a way to satisfy the urges. Does masturbation increase the occurrence of lustful thoughts? Maybe, but I don’t think so. Lust is something we all have to cope with. It’s an innate, animalistic urge. Do I think it’s shameful? At times, yes. But I think masturbation is a healthy way to deal with it. As far as your ‘productivity’ argument goes, I don’t think any healthy well-adjusted man or woman who engages in it regularly would say that it takes up too much of their time. Sure, lustful thoughts can be invasive, but most people can push them aside when they need to. And if they can’t, they’re just thoughts. Most people have them all the time. Even someone who has lustful thoughts throughout the day isn’t going to be unable to function. It doesn’t consume your life. If it does, then there is a deeper problem. If it results in an addiction, then there is a deeper problem. The person probably has some emotional or psychological hang-ups that make his or her lust harder to control.

        As far as natural shame goes, I’m leaning towards social construction. Plus, Catholic doctrine is very down on it, and drills us on how much we should avoid these natural urges. Catholic doctrine, in my eyes, instills far too much guilt on its followers. But that’s besides the point. As far as Bobby’s whole argument about hiding it goes, come on. Really? That’s not shame, that’s curtsey. I hide it for the same reason I close the door when I use the bathroom. It’s a very private, personal thing.

        And another thing, I feel that both you and Bobby are taking a far too male-centric view on this topic. Sure, most people who consume pornography are men, but there are plenty of women who do it, too. Women have to cope with the same feelings men do, they just aren’t allowed to express their feelings as often.

  13. Hi Bobby

    I just read your blog post, I saw it published in Life Teen.

    I’m a catholic and also a software engineer and I built an offline Blog Editor tool. It’s name is Girasol Editor maybe you are already using Ecto o Windows Live Writer or maybe you use the WordPress editor to create your content. Girasol is aimed to provide with more christian-centric tooling, the Bible panel can insert a bible quote from its index name. That is if you want to talk about Lazarus you can qoute John 12,11 and have GE to automatically insert the full text as in

    John 12,11 ” 11 since it was on his account that many of the Jews were leaving them and believing in Jesus. ”

    Hopefully the provided functionality can make your job at your blog easier, though I welcome new functionality requests :) I’m sorry that this comment is off topic from your pornograpphy post, but I have no budget to do other than personal hand by hand recomendations ;P

    Here is the link to the Edition in my site
    http://www.psiqueware.com/2013/04/girasol-editor-cristiana.html

    I made this video about the Edition

    Here is a list of features
    http://www.psiqueware.com/2011/09/girasol-editor.html

    Thank you, and please receive my blessings

  14. Porn is all of the things Bobby talks about – and more.

    Porn actually rewires your brain and creates a chemical dependency. Viewing porn releases epinephrine, testosterone, endorphins (endogenous morphine), oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin, phenylethylamine…the same chemicals and hormones released when one uses heroine. http://cdn.candeotraining.com/marketing/images/is_pornography_a_drug.pdf

    The good news is that neuroscience and theology of the body are working together to help rewire the brain of those with porn addictions…which means that there is hope to reclaim your intimacy. http://www.rethinksexualhealth.com

  15. Hi Bobby and Jackie!
    If a girl is emotionally impure, for example, letting herself be aroused by imagining she is in an intimate relationship, is that just as bad as a guy being aroused by porn?
    Thank you so much!

    • Yep! Have you heard of Sarah Swafford and the newly spreading movement for emotional virtue? It’s fantastic.

      http://www.emotionalvirtue.com/

      Heaping emotional expectations on men means we expect them to fulfill our desires — then we’re let down. It’s really unfair to us, too, because we are depriving ourselves of the ability for self-gift. That leads to heartache. As a general rule, any deliberate arousal outside the context of marriage is problematic.

  16. This is fantastic. Thank you for posting. It’s honest, real, and compassionate. We all have been touched by pornography — even secondhand. My first encounter was in sixth grade, when boys were already forming addictions and manipulating us girls. Horrible. There is hope in Christ — thank you for making that clear in your post. Thankyouthankyouthankyou! I pray that my future husband is guarded from the Pornography Plague — equally as deadly and widely destructive as the Bubonic — and purified. God bless!

  17. Thank you so much for this one Bobby. It is really helping me through this hard time and making me realize how destructive porn can be. I have made a pledge to never look at porn again and I have been going strong for about two months now. You and Jackie have made a real difference in my life and I appreciate what you do. Thank you.

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