Why Pornography Can Draw Us Closer Towards the Heart (Part I)

First off, we really don’t get anywhere by demonizing something. When we vilify something, it usually comes from a lack of understanding and discomfort within ourselves. 

When we operate through a black and white paradigm of right/wrong or good/bad it obscures learning and discovering the matters of the Heart, including our own. Whenever our first reaction is to cast judgment on a person and their behavior, it is necessary to step back and look over our own hearts and reactions to become aware of what lies within, as Jesus instructed. One must ask themselves, why the hatred towards someone and their behavior. If we traveled past the vitriol, what would we actually discover in ourselves?

Often our discomfort points to something within our own hearts that we have not faced, reconciled or that we judge about our self. And when we are lost in the tormenting throes of self-judgment and shame, we lose clarity on what actually drove us to act in such a way. It inhibits us from encountering our own hearts, specifically our desires, needs, longings and the fear of it all, including the intensity.

Because we are afraid of the inhabitants inside our hearts, even repulsed, we go so far to project it onto God, convinced that somehow, He feels exactly the way we do about ourselves. And to counter all of this shame and judgment, we create defenses or protective mechanisms to cushion or block out the pain, making attempts to generate a more acceptable self to all and to God.

And yet, discovering the Truth and our true selves, as well as moving into a greater connection with God, ourselves and others, requires venturing into the heart, and facing what we fear or feel shame over and actively avoid.

That means that wonderful truths can come from what we feel a great deal of shame about, such as pornography; which is often demonized, including the viewing of it. But what if demonizing it actually does the opposite of lead to healing? What if in the vilification of it, we lose sight of why we are driven to view it and how we are trying to meet several needs, including connecting sexually?

What if shaming ourselves for viewing pornography is what actually creates the compulsion to return back to it; that feeling guilt and judging it as “evil” or “wrong” elicits an impulse to annihilate the crippling feelings and at the same time an insatiable excitement to seek out the “forbidden” within its realms? 

When WE create this “forbidden” experience, our natural inclination is to turn towards it, engage in it and unravel its illicit mysteries. Putting distance between us and that desired “object” intensifies the desire and the impulse all the more. Paired with this is an anxiety or fear of something missing within ourselves that we believe will not be met. 

Why? Because we live in the tension of wanting mystery and the satisfaction of uncovering it, and when something is designated “forbidden”, it becomes this mysterious entity that wets our appetite for the unknown. The urge to know paired with fear becomes intense, and we give in to its force, partaking in the discovery of its mysteries and its pleasures. 

Immediately after engaging it, we feel the overwhelming, radiating jolt of shame and the inability to mentally grasp what just happened. It becomes so enveloping and paralyzing that reflexively, we pull away from God, ourselves and others. We attempt to quiet the presence of shame and self-hatred by turning back to that which we feel shame and guilt over; perpetuating and deepening our engagement in the “forbidden”; igniting a cyclical relationship.

We become lost, disordered within and detached from all of life the more we try to “fight” against it, continuously focusing on its presence and hating ourselves deeply.

But the actual remedy is to turn towards our own hearts, relationships and God, even in the midst of the powerful presence of shame and guilt. I believe that true accountability is not one that checks in with the behavior or the “did you look again” approach, but instead helps one another connect to the heart beneath the behavior. It is within this dynamic that awareness, connection, vulnerability, intimacy and aliveness occur. 

When we get stuck focusing on our behavior, we lose sight of what compels us towards this outlet. And when we judge our behavior as good/bad or right/wrong, that too prevents us from a richer experience of exploring ourselves.

Labeling it as adultery, fornication, sin, etc. may aid in diagnosing, but it is usually a judgmental response that leaves us and others entrenched in our seemingly inescapable shame, further disconnected from ourselves. The labeling of another is also a defense from others that perpetuates distance, generates pride and protects one from feeling their own hurt. 

The last thing I will end with, it that we have this idea that turning pornography is to numb emotional pain or it's because the person is “horny”, but those are really shallow critiques. It is partially accurate, but there is much more to the “why” that I will dig into in posts to come. For now, I wanted to demystify and bring a reframe onto this subject that many consider problematic and destructive. 

But the truth is that it does not have to have this kind of impact, when we can look at it as instrumental in discovering deeper mysteries about ourselves. In seeing it as an aid in exploring our hearts, it no longer has this ominous power or force in our life that we so fervently try to destroy, while paradoxically magnetizing us back into its presence. It is equally essential that we are surrounded by loved ones, who help draw us out of shame and towards our hearts in order to heal. 

I hope that I can convey how significantly pornography mirrors, what exists within ourselves and what we are really longing for relationally.