Pornography powerfully draws out something very visceral and innately woven into us; our sexuality. To try to force our desire to view pornography away or hate it, is to push something ingrained within ourselves away, creating a “forbidden” dynamic that inevitably elicits the desire to seek and reengage in it.
Pushing this away, hating ourselves or feeling shame for it, blocks us from getting to the heart and the core need. When we commit to discovering our authentic self and those God-given needs, we become more connected to ourselves and the draw towards pornography loses power, rendering it impotent.
There is a loneliness and emptiness within that drives us toward connection, closeness, engagement, and intimacy with another. Our sexual drive alerts us of this longing.
The sexual encounter is a very powerful, spiritual, emotional, and physical experience. It is a fleeting expression of an already deep attachment that celebrates and adds to the bond. It is a moment of “nakedness” before another person. We see them, they see us; there is no mask. When there is nothing inhibiting each other, viscerally there is movement to be intimately close.
That satisfying sexual encounter activates before any kind of sexual or physical initiation. It begins when we intentionally reveal ourselves to each other. This comes in many forms; laughing together, vulnerable conversations, emotional expression, fighting that brings closeness, expressing anger to one another in healthy ways, allowing distance and individuality, spontaneity, meeting love needs, sharing love needs, etc.
When people enter into that sexual dimension in “nakedness”, they want to celebrate and share in the pleasure of closeness together. This requires knowing individually what is arousing and allowing that to be a part of the shared moment.
Our sexuality signals the innate desire to be joined, to see and know and to be seen and known.
So why does a person (man or woman) turn towards pornography?
The drive for sexual connection is so instinctual and innate that pornography stimulates and attempts to satisfy these needs. When a person engages in it often, it points to a strong sex drive and a need to be intimately connected that is beyond sexual.
Although a person is turning away from their partner, the heart’s desire is to bond with his or her love. However, there is a fear in connecting with the real, of pouring out, and opening up before another heart. Turning towards pornography is an attempt to recreate this.
The individual is also searching for themselves. They feel lost and empty within and the encounter with pornography transiently fills, convincing the deepest parts of the self that they are found.
It is less about numbing and more about nourishing; including a desire to soothe emotional ache, need and longing. The person is hungry to feel alive, which actually happens in vulnerable connectedness with others and with God, including connecting to emotions.
However, paradoxically, despite the individual looking in pornography to be found, satisfied, and connected, they progressively become more and more detached. They become numb to themselves. What begins as a hunt to feel alive, can lead to a dissociated self.
The “Nakedness” We are In Search Of
Viewing pornography activates a part of our brain (mirror neurons) that while watching it, reenacts what it sees. In other words, we become so entranced and locked in to the viewing of the sexual experience that we believe we are a part of it. Another part of our brain, which is activated by powerful neurochemicals, is notified to record this powerful occurrence. So, what we are viewing actually begins to shape our sexuality and expression of it with another.
We were created to partake and immerse ourselves in the sexual experience, not observe it. But to partake in the sexual experience means we participate in other vulnerable realms first; and that requires the intimidating risk of opening up one’s self to another and allowing the other to share themselves to us. The realm of “nakedness” begins before the physical nakedness.
And this means we become present with ourselves in order to be present with another. Actually, it all happens simultaneously in the dimension of relationship. We come to know ourselves while engaging with the other. Relationships are a mirror that bring up the inhibiting issues and the beautiful intricacies within. They ignite desires, reveal our blind spots, traumas, shame, defenses, fears, weakness, strengths, gifting, our need for aliveness and our need to be relationally engaged.
Relationships that also incorporate pornography into their sex life to “spice things up” are looking to jump start, enhance, and/or repair something malnourished and missing in their intimacy.
But vulnerability is SCARY, because we are revealing things that we are uncomfortable to admit even to ourselves. It is a risky action, as we potentially run into another’s walls, their defenses, emotions and fears, and limitations, all which can trigger our own. Both engage in this messy dance to be close, but in that process, they must navigate the jaggedness of pain and the thorny weeds that inhibit closeness.
When a person is afraid of their own emotion, not only will they avoid expressing to the other when the feel hurt or anger towards them, they will be afraid of the other's emotion, resorting to defenses to quiet their emotions out of fear and discomfort. It is pretty clear that becoming connected is quite the challenging endeavor.
For those reading this, I’m aware I have highlighted viewing pornography in covenantal/committed relationships and not much in the arena of singleness. All of this still applies, but it does leave the question of honoring our sexuality while single, especially when our sexuality is such an integral and inherent part of our personhood.
We are taught very little in the area of understanding and honoring our sexual needs, and sometimes the response can range from pushing down our sexual desire, distraction tactics, the “cold shower” approach, or expressing it freely, uninhibitedly and impulsively with little awareness and connection.
I believe that there is a middle road that does not lead to disconnection, but honors, preserves and cares for our sexuality. That’s a topic for another time, but for now I find it important to express what we are searching for when we view pornography. Despite all the judgments towards those who engage in it, both men and women, the act speaks powerfully to the deepest, intrinsic desire to be seen, known and bonded.