Break Free From Porn – Part 1 - Happy Marriage Coaching

Break Free From Porn – Part 1

Porn destroys love. There is not a single study or any research that indicates pornography builds a happy, long-term marriage. In this two-part series, I explore what porn does to a person, the damage it does to the marriage, and how to break free from porn.

All research, statistics, and studies cited in this 2-part series come from two resources. For a pure research and science perspective, please visit Fight the New Drug. For a research and faith-based perspective, please visit Covenant Eyes. Both are excellent. Both refer to the same research and scientific studies. 

Happy couple
“There are no studies and no data that indicate a benefit from pornography use […] The society is awash in pornography and so in fact the data are in. If pornography made us healthy, we would be healthy by now.”  – Dr. MaryAnne Layden

“Modern science allows us to understand that the underlying nature of an addiction to pornography is chemically nearly identical to a heroin addiction.”   – Dr. Jeffrey Satinover

“In men, prolonged exposure to pornography creates and enhances sexual callousness toward women […] Prolonged exposure to pornography, it must be remembered, results in both a loss of respect for female sexual autonomy and the disinhibition of men in the expression of aggression against women.”  – Dr. James B. Weaver

There is overwhelming research on the impact of porn. It is not a matter of opinion. It is science. With modern medical devices, scientists can see what porn does to the brain, what chemicals are released, and what behavior follows. Dr. Dolf Zillman and Dr. Jennings Bryant released 5 findings from studies they did regarding porn. Their 5-point conclusion summarizes the effects of porn:

  • 1
    Watching Porn Decreases Sexual Satisfaction. Porn trains men to be consumers of sex, to treat sex as a commodity. It deadens the libido.
  • 2
    Watching Porn Disconnects Us From Real Relationships. Marriage is devalued. The importance of faithfulness is devalued. Casual sex is more accepting. Pornography trains men to prefer looking at women rather than having genuine intimacy.
  • 3
    Watching Porn Lowers Our View of Women. Women become objects and dehumanized. A real naked woman is often considered bad porn. Studies show support for women’s rights drops by 46%.
  • 4
    Porn Desensitizes Us to Cruelty. Acceptance of anal sex, group sex, sadomasochism, and bestiality are two to three times higher compared to those who do not watch porn. Porn watchers are conditioned to trivialize rape.
  • 5
    Watching Porn Makes Us Want to Watch More Porn. Porn is often described as intoxicating and produces an escalating effect. Whatever term is used, addiction, compulsion, dependency, or hypersexuality, the escalating nature of pornography cannot be denied.

Porn is Pervasive 

The late psychologist Al Cooper coined the phrase Triple-A Engine. It refers to porn being Available, Affordable, and Anonymous. There are millions upon millions of pages of porn readily available on the internet. Ninety percent of porn users only view free porn. Pornography is used most often in secret, on modern browsers that make it easy to hide browsed websites and delete information from such pages.

  • In 2008, the company Hitwise catalogued 40,634 websites that distributed pornography.
  • 40 million Americans visit porn sites regularly.
  • Pornhub, the world’s most popular porn site reports 81 million daily visits, and over 4 million videos uploaded.
  • Men: 79% of 18-30 year old, 67% of 31-49 year old, and 49% of 50-68 year old report viewing pornography at least once a month.
  • Women: 76% of 18-30 year old, 16% of 31-49 year old, and 4% of 50-68 year old report viewing pornography at least once a month.
  • Men are 543% more likely to look at porn than females.
  • In 2008, an estimated 3 million Americans paid an average of $60 per month for porn.
  • By age 18, 90% of boys and 60% of girls are exposed to internet porn.
  • According to a 2016 survey by the Barna Group, 41% of practicing Christian boys 13-24 use porn at least once a month. 23% of practicing Christian men 25+ use porn at least once a month.

Regular church attendees are 26% less likely to look at porn than non-attendees.

In 2003, 34% of female readers of Today’s Christian Woman’s online newsletter admitted to intentionally accessing Internet porn.

Dangers of Pornography

Dr. MaryAnn Layden: “Pornography viewers tend to have problems with premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction (ED). Having spent so much time in unnatural sexual experiences with paper, celluloid and cyberspace, they seem to find it difficult to have sex with a real human being.”

Porn 1

According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, prolonged exposure to pornography leads to:

  • Less trust between intimate couples.
  • Belief that promiscuity is the natural state.
  • Skepticism about love or the emotional need for affection between partners.
  • Belief that marriage is sexually confining. 

Jill Manning, a sociologist, finds that research shows porn consumption is associated with these six trends:

  • 1
    Increased risk of separation, divorce, and marital stress.
  • 2
    Decreased marital intimacy and sexual satisfaction.
  • 3
    Infidelity.
  • 4
    Increased desire for more graphic pornography and sexual activity involving abusive, illegal or unsafe sexual practices.
  • 5
    A devaluation of marriage, monogamy, and child rearing.
  • 6
    An increasing number of people struggling with addictive and compulsive sexual behaviors.

The Brain on Porn

Pornography can be very addicting because masturbation and orgasm produce a bombastic display of neurochemicals, and repetition builds neural pathways to enable patterns of behavior.

The primary chemicals involved when one watches porn:

  • Dopamine – Dopamine “fuels the tension and craving for meeting a need,” bioneurologist Dr. Williams Struthers writes in Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain. Dopamine is released in response to all drugs of addiction, and plays a role in many disorders affecting motivation and attention such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and behavioral addictions.
  • Testosterone – drastically increases sexual arousal and desire. Because testosterone dissipates slowly, sexual fantasies are sparked by even modestly dressed women who are seen as provocative.
  • Norepinephrine – is associated with stress and the fight-or flight response. It aids in sexual memory and arousal, burning sexual experiences on the brain.
  • Oxytocin – often called the cuddle hormone, levels rise when a couple hugs, kisses, or even holds hands. Oxytocin is released in climax. For the porn user, it bonds the user to an image, video, or situation.
  • Vasopressin – works much like Oxytocin, cements the porn user’s attachment to an image, video, or situation.
  • Endogenous Opiates – During sexual experiences, the body naturally produces endogenous opiates, providing pain relief and euphoria.
  • Serotonin – is released after climax and brings a feeling of calm and wellbeing. Serotonin explains why men are often ready to nap after sex. 

The brain is able to wire and re-wire neural pathways. This is called neuroplasticity. Repeated patterns of activity, like watching porn, actually re-wire the brain, creating neural super highways in the brain. These superhighways increase our need to perform those same behaviors. Neuroplasticity abides by the use it or lose it dynamic. The same repeated behaviors create the super highways. Avoiding those behaviors, over time, re-wire the brain and destroy old super highways and create new superhighways for new behaviors.

Called the Porn Rut, the creation of a pornography super highway in the brain follows a common pattern:

  • 1
    Sensitization – As a person starts to use porn, and creates the neural super highways, the brain rewards repetition by making it easier to climax. The brain responds not only to the initial stimulus, but now to all sorts of related stimuli. Sexual cues are seen everywhere and fantasizing becomes easier.
  • 2
    Triggers – Cigarette smokers can identify physical and mental triggers for smoking. When exposed to these triggers, the brain produces a shot of dopamine to motivate the person to smoke. The same applies to porn users. Learned pornographic triggers induce a dopamine shot that urges the person to view porn and masturbate.
  • 3
    Desensitization – This does not apply to everyone, but many porn users find that, over time, they need a greater and more intense porn exposure to get stimulated. This is why many porn users are stimulated by acts of aggression, force, violence, BDSM, and humiliation.
  • 4
    Hypofrontality – compulsiveness, or the feeling of being compelled to masturbate to porn consumes many porn users. Even when they know it is not in their best interests, they feel helpless in responding to porn. The cravings are intense, often times giving the porn user the impression they are too weak to stop. This person becomes a slave to their passions.

Dr. Struthers explains that porn habituation is as intoxicating as a chemical addiction. He further explains: “Repeated exposure to pornography creates a one-way neurological superhighway where a man’s mental life is over-sexualized and narrowed. It is hemmed on either side by high containment walls making escape nearly impossible.”

Dr. Peter Kleponis, the founder of Integrity Restored, says: “He conditions his brain to only really be sexually aroused to this constant parade of different women, of different sexual images.”

Dr. Doidge, a noted researcher on the brain patterns of porn users says: “Porn websites generate catalogs of common kinks and mix them together with images. Sooner or later the surfer finds a killer combination that presses a number of his sexual buttons at once. Then he reinforces the network by viewing the images repeatedly, masturbating, releasing dopamine and strengthening these neural networks. He has created a kind of “neosexuality,” a rebuilt libido that has strong roots in his buried sexual tendencies. Because he often develops tolerance, the pleasure of sexual discharge must be supplemented with the pleasure of an aggressive release, and sexual and aggressive images are increasingly mingled — hence the increase in sadomasochistic themes in hardcore porn.”

How Porn Hurts Marriages

In 56% of divorce cases, pornography is listed as a major contributing factor to the split.

A 2012 meta-analysis of 5 different studies looking at the correlation between pornography consumption and commitment to a romantic relationship concluded that the more pornography consumed is associated with a weakened commitment to one’s relationship partner.

Porn is simply about sex, where real marital love is about intimacy.

Couple Troubled

Pornography trains men to treat sex as a commodity, to think about sex as something on-tap and made-to-order. As Dr. Mary Anne Layden writes, “It is toxic miseducation about sex and relationships.”

According to the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, after only a few prolonged exposures to pornographic videos, men and women reported less sexual satisfaction with their intimate partners, including their partners’ affection, physical appearance, and sexual performance.

French neuroscientist Serge Stoleru finds that overexposure to erotic stimuli actually exhausts the sexual responses of healthy young men.

Dr. Judith Reisman finds that pornography causes impotence — an inability to function with your own sexual power. “If he has to imagine a picture, if he has to imagine a scene, in order to actually reach the heights of completion with this person, then he’s no longer with his own power, is he? He has been stripped. He has been hijacked. He has been emasculated. He has, in effect, been castrated visually.”

One of the worst side effects of pornography is that many men become so habituated to pornography that they experience erectile dysfunction (ED) when they are with their spouse. Drs. Marnia Robinson and Gary Wilson explained in Psychology Today that overstimulation with pornography creates changes in the brain that make a man less responsive to the physical pleasure of real women and hyper-responsive to internet porn.

As mentioned earlier regarding the Porn Rut, men become sensitized to porn, but desensitized to real intimacy. When with his wife, the man on porn does not get the dopamine rush he’s so used to when watching the variety and intensity of porn images, the penis fails to get an erection.

There is Hope

The brain’s neuroplasticity can be re-wired for sexual intimacy with the spouse. Studies show these relationships can become the most satisfying for both partners.

Dr. Weiss, a noted researcher, says “The research shows that people who have consistent sex inside of a marriage — spiritually connected sex — have the best sexual satisfaction over time. The person that has the most sexual partners has the least level of sexual satisfaction as adults.”

To learn more about a proven process to restore a marriage and get a man off of porn, please visit the 2nd part of this series.

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Mark Jala
 

Mark Jala is a certified marriage coach, researcher, and consumer advocate. Mark bases all of his strategies and programs on verifiable research from top marriage experts. Certified in strategic interventions, Mark's holistic approach to marriage coaching gets to the root of problems, assuring long-term success.

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