I’ve been cautiously encouraged by some recent posts on GirlsAskGuys (I’ve mentioned them before). In the last few weeks, I’ve seen an upsurge in posts about pornography. Two were from male users asking how to stop. One even identified himself as an atheist.
It’s not enough to simply point out the harm that porn can do to one’s mind, body, spirit, relationships, or career. Neither is it enough, noble as it may be, to expound on the greatness of human sexuality. There are practical steps that people can and must take in order to not only free, but cure themselves from the plague of pornography.
This is based on my answers to the two aforementioned questions, which were themselves adapted in part from Jason Evert’s Detox talk. Also worth noting is that my answers were selected as the “Most Helpful”! This post, though it includes religious and Scripture references, is meant to be accessible to both practicing religious and non-Christian/non-religious readers.
Applications and practices
1) Have a more active body and mind. One reason why many people watch porn is out of boredom. Go on long walks or go to the gym several times each week. Get involved in community service or volunteer opportunities. Tithe more at church and/or otherwise donate more money to charity.
Spark more constructive thought in your mind as well. Listen to classical music or go your local coffee shop for a couple of hours and read a good book about history or philosophy. Take up a new hobby that requires personal creativity, like playing an instrument, painting, or writing short stories or poetry.
2) Develop a more disciplined lifestyle. Eat healthier. Spend less time on popular media. Go to bed an hour earlier. Turn off your television, phone, computer, etc. half an hour or so prior. This serves a two-fold purpose. The first is to reduce temptations. Secondly, the residual ambient light from the screens makes falling asleep more difficult. Turning these devices off will make it easier for your eyes and your brain to adjust to the darkness.
3) Mind the slippery slope. This is difficult because we are constantly exposed to images on the internet, on television, in magazines…pretty much anywhere and everywhere. So, if a lingerie commercial plays on TV, don’t pay attention; if you’re at the mall and their store is on the way to your destination, take a different route. If you’re web-browsing and you see “related story” links for “the hottest bodies in sports” or a bikini sale, click “refresh” or go to a different page.
4) Explore and embrace the masculine. It’s often suggested that men should place an image of Mary or other significant female figures in their lives on or near their computer screens in order to dissuade them. What I think men should do in addition to this is emplace in image of manliness. It should not be the “man all the men want to be and all the women want to be with”, i.e., James Bond. It should be an image of the kind of man that they aspire to be. It could be a fictional character, a historical figure (or dramatization thereof), or someone they know personally.
It should be an image of someone who has good moral character. For added inspiration, it might help for the image to have an “iconic” type of character to it, meaning it looks like it could be a movie poster or a photo from a magazine. It should be an image of someone who is confident, bold, and when necessary, aggressive. The subject should also capable of great love, compassion, and tenderness. Some examples that come to my mind are Aragorn from Lord of The Rings, Superman, or Prince Philip (highly underrated if you ask me) from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Another great example would be Saint John Paul II. However, I think the best example, save for Jesus Himself, would be His earthly father, Saint Joseph.
Note: One of Saint Joseph’s titles is “Terror of Demons”. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of much that’s more manly and masculine than that.
5) Prayer and blessing. If an attractive woman walks by, whether or not she is dressed immodestly, we should offer a word of prayer for her. If you or the person you are trying to help is not religious, there’s an app for that! If one non-religious person says “have a nice day” to someone, is that not still a selfless and hopeful expression of well-being for them? By doing this, you in some way restrain selfish intent and objectification (Matthew 5:27-28).
So it’s okay to marvel at a woman’s beauty, but add something like “I hope she’s having a wonderful day”. Remember: She’s someone’s daughter. Maybe she’s someone’s girlfriend, fiancé, or wife. Maybe she’s a mother. Above all though, she is someone, a daughter of God, whether or not she knows AND accepts it. Also consider that you never know what’s on her heart and mind when she catches your eye. A woman in the real world has her own subjectivity as compared to the woman in the photos and videos whose unfortunate sole purpose is “entertainment”.
6) Clean up your vocabulary. To expand on that, remove slang/derogatory common-use terms for a woman’s body (they’re everywhere, so there’s no need to mention them) from your vocabulary. So should “getting laid”, “getting lucky”, and other slang terms for sexual intimacy. Finally, so should words like “chick”, “babe”, “hot”, “sexy”, etc.
7) Fast. Fasting is familiar to Catholics, but foreign to most others. For those, they should start lightly. On, say, the first Wednesday of each month, eat only a slice or two of bread at mealtime and drink only water throughout the day. After a while, make it every two weeks. Then make it every week. This is not for punishment, but for developing a greater awareness of the present and end states.
8) Have a good support system. Confide in someone who understands why you’ve made this choice and won’t give you the “there’s nothing wrong with porn” run-around. According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans still view porn as unacceptable. However, one pornographic site recently launched a “family-friendly” ad campaign in an attempt to normalize porn and people are falling for it. On GirlsAskGuys, if someone is bothered by porn, they are more often than not met with sarcasm and indignation.
9) Patience, perseverance, and hope. Cleansing one’s life of this scourge will be neither quick nor easy. After all, this is an addiction unlike any other. However, the smallest flicker of light in darkness is much stronger than I think most people realize (John 1:5). Have a friend to give you a strong hug and words of encouragement when you are discouraged. If you’re Catholic, in addition to this, go to Confession and receive the Sacraments. The most important thing is that when you slip up, you get up and keep pressing forward. That, I think, will say more about you than anything else. Also, encourage yourself even more by celebrating your successes!
The ongoing cleansing
Thanks to websites like Fight The New Drug, people are boldly speaking the simple, but profound truth that porn kills love. It kills love for self, which is the source of love for others. One of the guys I mentioned earlier told me that he has no confidence in himself and that he has anxiety and even nightmares because of his addiction. Another guy I helped (a recent convert to the Church) talked about his struggles with depression.
It also kills love for others. Most people that I see on the internet act like porn is some kind of need or entitlement. How many marriages and relationships have fallen apart because of this? Here’s a good question: How many vocations to the priesthood and religious life have not been pursued because of it?
We who know the truth have a difficult task ahead of us. We’re not prudish. We just think that the human body and human sexuality, in all their beauty and sacredness, should not be reduced to means of entertainment. It may take a generation or two and it may get worse before it gets better, but one day hopefully, we will get through to the rest of society and we will overcome.