What’s Your “Porn”?

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.

What's Your "Porn"? Picture

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.

16 thoughts on “What’s Your “Porn”?

  1. Michael

    Another beautiful post. Thank you. I hate that people including christians have tried to “purify” a word that has caused and continues to cause so much damage to humanity.
    From a very early age (thanks to family members) porn has been my porn. Always a struggle.
    Thank you for trying to put the word back into the context it deserves.

    Reply
  2. B

    So my comment isn’t going to be what you were most likely expecting, and like the rest of things regarding my sex life, somewhat out of the norm. But here goes…

    Interesting that this post came out today. My husband said something to me that was kind of alarming. Although he himself doesn’t struggle with porn, one day recently when we were arguing (discussing?) he said “marriage blogs are your porn!” At first I was offended, because, well, that’s an offensive thing to say. But after we discussed it, his point was, he feels I turn to blogs too much for help. Does this effect our sex life? I guess so. I mean, it was a lot of what I read on blogs that led to me no longer initiating sex (I initiated most every time, now it’s very infrequent). Please understand I’m not blaming the blogs themselves – I’ve found support there. But maybe I don’t always process what I read correctly?

    It was after I started reading and learning how a typical couple interacts, and how much other men love and pursue their wives – that I began to really believe I wasn’t good enough, sexy enough, and perhaps even repulsive to my husband. (I am by no means blaming blogs for my thoughts or feelings – but I certainly have used a lot of what I’ve learned to back up my not-so-positive thoughts. I also take a lot of what I read in the comments as proof that what I’m feeling is right, even if my feelings are negative. That’s probably not the best idea.

    My husband has said “it drives me absolutely crazy every time you start a sentence with ‘but I read…'”

    I kinda get it. But on the flip side, I need to get info from somewhere. I need to talk to someone. He gets upset if I share my unhappiness with the lack of frequency with our sex life with him. He even gets upset if I share it with the couple that counsels us – even if they ask. He’d rather just not discuss it, and let things go in the way they are. Or ignore it and hope it gets better. There is no easy answer.

    Should I stop seeking advice from blogs? Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t want to hide our problems and fool myself into thinking everything is honky dory. On the other hand, I don’t want to upset my husband by reading too much. I know I should pray more.

    It’s kinda hard to deal with because I’m an extrovert and a talker, and he’s a major introvert and likes to keep everything bottled up inside. I think he’d actually be happier if I just gave up, stopped talking (not altogether, but about sex), and just accepted the way he wants things as the “right” way. In most things I do, but it is really, really, really hard being the wife that wants far more sex than her husband. It’s still so easy to feel ugly and rejected, no matter how many times he says “I love you.” I think I could stop reading and sharing on marriage blogs if he would START talking about it. I think if we talk once a week for five minutes that is like not talking at all. He thinks if we talk about it twice a week for ten minutes total, that I’m being “relentless.”

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      I don’t have a problem with what you said. It is easy to give too much credence to something you read in a blog, when maybe that’s not how your husband works. Here’s an example: If my husband read blog posts that talk about making sure he’s gives me flowers and jewelry to show he loves me (and believe me, those posts exist everywhere), he’d be drawing the wrong conclusions about the specific wife he married — because that ain’t me. Yes, there’s truth to doing romantic things for your spouse, but with your particular spouse in mind.

      So when all these marriage blogs talk about sexual intimacy and its importance and how it’s a gift from God and we should nurture it and so on…yeah, those big messages all true. However, what that exactly looks like in a specific marriage differs according to the spouses in it. So someone saying that the husband always wants more sex than the wife — just not true!!! In some marriages, that have great sexual intimacy, she initiates more than he does.

      I really want you to take away the bigger messages from what you read, and definitely to find support (which I think you’ve had in many comments from fellow readers), but not get hung up on you and your husband meeting a stereotype that isn’t how you two work. It’s not only okay, but normal and good, to celebrate the sexuality God gave you both. And then learn how to grow intimate in your marriage bed. Sending you the best wishes!

      Reply
      1. B

        Thanks. As usual you have a lot of great points. I know I’m gonna sound whiny when I say this, but, I don’t really dig being the abnormal couple! I get that I don’t get a choice, and God made us how He wanted us to be. But it is not easy. Honestly, I need to pray way more. I know it. I say it. But I don’t do it. It’s a really difficult thing to pray about. I think having to admit that we don’t fit the mold is really tough for me, and praying about it forces me to have to face that fact.

        Honestly, it almost seems like staying “stuck” believing I’m just not as good as the better women out there, is easier than facing the fact that we are not a typical couple. Ouch. That sounds stupid when I reread that, but maybe there’s some truth to it.

        Reply
        1. J Post author

          Hey, let’s change our vocabulary. (You do realize I’m the higher-drive spouse in my marriage now, right?) We are not abnormal; we are unusual, special, exceptional. Our self-talk matters. 🙂

          I’m glad you’re wanting to pray more. We’re praying with you.

          Reply
        2. sunny-dee

          I feel you, B. I understand that tendency, too, to read blogs and realize just how different your experience is than everyone else’s. My husband was 1) super promiscuous before we met and 2) has never once responded when I’ve attempted to initiate (or ask or schedule or anything) and 3) has a really hard time forcing himself to have sex with me even to try to conceive. So not only do I not have anything resembling a sex life, I will never have children — and I know it is 100% because of how my husband views me because he was certainly capable of desiring and pursuing dozens of other women.

          One thing I wrestle with is that there is something in me that God decided didn’t “deserve” to be a mother or to have a loving husband. By and large, I still feel like this is punishment for something, and I just don’t know what it is. I know that’s not true (both as theology and on the practical matter of knowing my own sins), but it’s how I feel.

          On the one hand, reading blogs has shown to me that other women deal with similar situations, so that’s something. But, I have to admit, I also read to see if I can find that magic bullet that is somehow going to make everything The Way It Should Be.

          Reply
          1. alchemist

            You know. It could be that he associates sex with shame and guilt. Or some weird message about masculinity = sex that he secretly hates. Or the fact that he was thought that sex is only for sluts/ dirty/ degrading. You are his wife -> therefore not a slut -> therefore he’s soiling you somehow by having sex with you. It’s not necessarily about you or your desirability.

            It’s not a good situation. But you shouldn’t draw conclusions about yourself, your sexuality or your desirability from it.

    2. Nancy

      I can relate to your post. I not only have been accused of reading to many marriage blogs, but parenting blogs as well. It’s sometimes hard not to when I feel like I haven’t figured it out yet and if I could only “get it”m my marriage and family would be so much better, especially when the same conflicts keep coming up.

      But since I read so many post that are reminding me to turn to God, I won’t stop. 😉

      Reply
  3. HappilyMarried

    Thanks for a great post and good reminder. I also appreciate your reply to B. Keep up the good work. I love your balanced and well-rounded view. Blessings! 🙂

    Reply
  4. Alicia

    Thanks for this post, on a few levels. One, you’re right, the term “porn” does get added to things way too much. I know this from my own life. I have a physical disability, and a very common term in the disability community these days is “inspiration porn.” Basically it’s when able-bodied people get a rush from making disabled people charity cases, when some so-called kindness (which is usually actually a condescending insult to the person with the disability) goes viral, and everyone (except most disabled people) get all the feels from it. I understand the intent of the term, but I can’t stand the use of the word porn in that context, even though so-called “inspiration porn” makes me as frustrated as it does most disabled people. Using the word porn in that, and the other contexts you named takes away from the harmfulness of the actual thing. Thank you for this post on a second level. that is making me think. I hadn’t realized it, but my phone and social media are becoming my porn. I used to avoid playing with my phone in the bedroom. Now, with some medical issues my husband and I are facing, I’m not sleeping well at night. When I’m being an insomniac and he isn’t, I’ve killed a lot of time on social media, YouTube, etc. that in itself isn’t bad, and I haven’t ventured into content I shouldn’t. I’ve been very careful on that front..so much so that I completely missed one you just pointed out to me today. . What’s becoming a problem is that now I’m starting to play with my phone and read/watch things during the times my husband and I would usually cuddle and talk. He’ll ask what I’m doing. I used to be like, “Oops,” and put my phone down right away and direct my attention back to him. Lately I’ve said, “Oh, playing with my phone,” and gone on with doing it. thank you for making me realize my own pattern, and giving me incentive to get intentional about changing it…starting today/tonight.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Glad this got you to thinking. (And yeah, that’s insulting to disabled people. I’ve personally started wondering about all of our “awareness” stuff; does it matter, or should we actually be doing something to help people? Anyway…) My husband called me on the phone thing on a date, and he was right. I’ve tried much harder to put it away and focus on him.

      Reply
  5. C

    Thanks for this post J and to B for your honest response. Hang in there B. There are more of us out there walking very similar paths.

    Reply

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