Have you noticed the trend to add “porn” to unrelated topics to garner attention? Surely, you’ve heard of food porn, the visual presentation of foods that look so delectable you have an immediate visceral reaction.
One of Merriam-Webster‘s definitions of pornography is: “the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction.” I suppose this is why the #foodporn hashtag is so popular on Instagram and Twitter, and there are hashtags for #bookporn and even #weddingporn.
We overuse that word. True porn is in a category all its own, forging a destructive path with a wide wake of broken people left behind. I would never equate the tempting of a decadent chocolate cake to prostitution on the screen.
However, we might underestimate how damaging some of our habits are to our sex lives. And for some of the same reasons as porn.
You see, watching porn causes a release of brain chemicals that help to form habits and even addiction. For instance, dopamine controls the brain’s reward and pleasure centers, and it surges while watching porn. Some studies have shown changes in brain chemistry and structure for porn addicts that mirror those of cocaine addicts. The real effects of viewing pornography are still being researched, but it seems pretty clear that engaging in this habit takes sexual energy away from your spouse and your marriage bed.
And that’s where I wonder: What’s your “porn”?
Because those who aren’t watching porn might still be setting up something else as a substitute for engaging in the marriage bed.
It can be easy to feel self-righteous about not being involved in the tornado of pornographic temptation. All the while reading erotic romance that fixes your senses and heart on a fictional character instead of your husband. Or setting up social media and its images as your dopamine reward system, thus giving your husband the short shrift. Or maybe it’s the love affair you have with your vibrator when he’s not around (let’s be honest, ladies — someone out there is dealing with this). It could be chick flicks and TV shows depicting steamy romances that make you less willing to engage with your real-world husband, who is nothing like those strong and sensitive heroes you’ve been watching.
I don’t know what it is, but I think it’s fair to ask: What’s your “porn”?
Or really, since the word porn gets overused, and even abused, I’m asking what’s taking you away from your marriage bed. What substitute have you chosen over your husband? What idol have you unwittingly erected in his place? What temptation are you struggling with?
If you’ve formed a bad habit that’s threatening the sexual intimacy in your marriage, it’s time to fess up and do something about it.
- Separate yourself from the temptation. Turn off that TV or computer, toss out that book or sex toy, get that bait out of your sight.
- Pray for strength to refocus. You’ll need extra doses of willpower and perseverance, and God can deliver.
- Commit yourself to your marriage bed. Create a goal to engage more frequently and enthusiastically in sexual intimacy with your husband.
- Give yourself time to retrain. Don’t expect the thoughts and temptation to disappear overnight. You may need time to reconnect fully to the authentic sexual experience.
- Keep turning your mind and energy toward your husband. Practice mindfulness by turning your straying thoughts back to the moment you’re in with your husband, continually.
- Talk positively to yourself and your husband. Share appreciation with him for the pleasure you experience, and use self-talk that encourages a positive view of real sexual intimacy.
- Recognize that authentic sex is messy. Sex isn’t dirty, but it is messy. Messy in how it’s done, in the awkwardness that sometimes occurs, in the efforts to coordinate our desires and rhythms.
- Understand that authentic sex is beautiful. Messy, yes, but far more beautiful as well. The Grand Canyon, Victoria Falls, the Great Barrier Reef — these are not tidy per se, but they’re among the most wonderful natural landmarks in the world. There is God-given beauty in authenticity.
Let’s step away from our crutches, whatever they might be, and embrace something even better. It may take some time, but we can get back on track. We can rediscover authentic sexual intimacy and lean into God’s design for our marriage.