Enslaved to Porn: Why I Returned Again and Again to Pornography

September 11, 2013

Enslaved to Porn - Why I Returned Again and Again to Pornography

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Luke Gilkerson

Enslaved to Porn - Why I Returned Again and Again to Pornography

During a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden in 1973, robbers held several hostages for six long days. During this time a curious thing began to happen: the hostages began to show signs of sympathy for their captors. Even after the ordeal was over, one of the hostages later became good friends with one of the robbers.

The criminologist assigned to help police with the case coined the term “Stockholm Syndrome.” While there is considerable discussion surrounding the exact nature of this phenomenon, there have been several reported cases of the syndrome; some hostages seem to form powerful emotional attachments to their victimizers as an internal defense mechanism.

Israel Longs for Egypt

By way of analogy, we can see Stockholm-like symptoms in the attitudes of the Israelites during their wilderness years. Only weeks after they watched God open the Red Sea, they were murmuring against God when they ran out of provisions. They thought about their life back in Egypt—the bread, the pots of meat (Exodus 16:1-3)—nothing like the scorching wilderness. Even after the revelation of God at Sinai, they said, “Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” (Numbers 14:1-4).

Wasn’t this the same group of people who groaned because of their slavery (Exodus 2:23)? Why, instead of remembering the cruelty of Egypt—the task masters, the heavy burdens, the centuries of toil making bricks under the hot sun, the ruthless slaughter of their children—did they remember pots of meat?

My Longing for Porn

I have been just as guilty of the same lunacy when it comes to my own habitual sins—like my love affair with pornography. Yes, in my sober moments I could see the ugliness of porn for what it was. But there were many times I rushed back to porn like a dog to its vomit. In the moment of indulgence, I was blind to the shame and oppressiveness of my addiction—or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I saw the shame of it, but it somehow seemed less ugly to me.

Something in me wanted to be addicted, wanted the slavery. Over the years, I’ve pondered why this is, and here are my observations…

Who Do You Trust?

God made Israel many promises of deliverance. If they trusted God, He would bring them out of slavery into a land of blessing. But “the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened” (Hebrews 4:2).

That generation died in the wilderness because they did not trust in God.

It wasn’t that Egypt was better than the wilderness; rather, trusting the Egyptian slave masters was somehow easier than trusting God. Sure, Egypt was a cruel place, but at least it was a predictable place.

For me, it wasn’t that slavery to porn was all that desirable, but it was easier for me than trusting God. Sure, I knew the cruelty of the slave master’s rod, but at least in front of my computer screen he delivered predictable rations. In the wilderness of trust, however, I would be asked to die to my selfish demands and enter the unpredictability of following God’s Spirit.

In order to finally overcome my addiction to porn, I needed to confess my sin of unbelief.

Trusting God on My Way to the Promised Land

When I felt totally inadequate and rejected in life, it was easy to long for the “pots of meat” offered by pornography. There, in that fantasy world, I was never rejected. But God was calling me to repent of needing the approval of others, pursue His glory above all (1 Corinthians 10:31), and anticipate the glory He promises to those who trust Him (John 5:44). His approval is far better than the approval of women made of pixels on a screen.

When I was felt pathetically lonely, sitting at home while all my friends were out on dates with their beautiful wives, I longed for the rations porn would deliver, the temporary illusion of intimacy. But God was calling me to the trust Him as I entered the risk of godly intimacy with a real person. God can and will take all my relationships—even my failed ones—and use them to conform me to the image of his Son (Romans 8:29).

There were nights I felt genuinely angry at God for not giving me the spouse I so clearly “deserved” and the life I so desperately wanted. I would run back to the slavery of Egypt as my way of throwing a tantrum at God for not catering to my desires. “Fine, God, you won’t give me what I want. I’ll take it however I can get it.” But like a loving Father, God called me to stop acting like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:29-31), acting like God “owed” me something. In the wilderness, God taught me that He does not relate to His children this way. As a Father, He know me better than I know myself. He knows exactly what blessings are best for me in His perfect timing. And like a loving Father, He spoke tenderly into my spirit, saying, “Everything I have is yours.”

Longing for the Promised Land

The only thing that cures a longing for Egypt is a longing for the Promised Land. I need to begin believing that what God offers me, even in the unpredictability of following Him, was far better than the false promises of porn.

I know until I get to that land, Egypt will still be in my blood. I still bear the scars of my former slave master’s whips. In my foggiest moment I will naturally be drawn to the memory of the pots of meat. But God feeds me with the heavenly manna of Christ’s broken body. He has given me a taste for milk and honey. And He has given me traveling companions that constantly remind me that we are on our way home.

Join the Conversation

How has God helped you or those you minister to to break the enslavement of pornography?


15 thoughts on “Enslaved to Porn: Why I Returned Again and Again to Pornography

  1. Pingback: Enslaved to Porn: Why I Returned Again and Again to Pornography | Truth2Freedom's Blog

  2. Pingback: Enslaved to Porn: Why I Returned Again and Again to Pornography

  3. Brother Luke, I found this blog entry from Covenant Eyes. I have been struggling with porn for years, ever since middle school. I am now a 25 year old missionary and I still have trouble. So many times as I have returned to the disgusting, vulgar vomit that is pornography and “enjoyed” it for a time; I felt so foul and unworthy afterward. Your experience is an encouragement to me. I trust God and know him but I need to do it with everything I am. My heart, soul, mind, and strength. Thank you and God bless you.

  4. What a great article and so very truthful! I am a recovering porn addict and alcoholic. I came to the end of what I considered life and found myself drowning in the pit of pornography and manipulation and alcoholism. The only thing I could do was look up. When I did look up, God was there! I started attending a program called Celebrate Recovery and it was exactly what God wanted for me. I am now 9 months sober and all Praise be to Him!!!

  5. Our pastor used this article Friday night at a men’s conference at our church. There is truth in these words. Thank you for writing.

  6. Very encouraging article. Thank you for the honesty. This has been my experience as well, and I’m sure for many others too. It seems like a paradox that we must give up everything we desire in order to receive everything God desires for us. But the illustration of the Isrealites in the dessert reminds us that’s where we are when we turn from sin, and we have a choice to turn back or keep moving towards something better. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Thanks for this article. It was a good read. I have found the following incredibly helpful in my battle for holiness and purity and fighting sin in my life:
    1) God has already won the victory for me (Romans 6v1-12) and his Spirit will guide me into this victory as I learn to follow Him (Galatians 5v16).
    2) By removing the rubbish you remove the rats. When it comes to fighting lust we can often approach the battle in the wrong manner. We fight the sin as oppose to finding the root cause of the sin and removing that. Beneath every sin there is an idol that we think will satisfy us. Find that and deal with it. Porn is a symptom of a deeper distrust in the promises of God. Rats are present in an alleyway because there is rubbish to feed on. Remove the rubbish and you wont have to keep scaring the rats away.
    3) God wants me to be free and has done everything I need to live free. Christ is freedom (Galatians 5v1) and all that turn to him can enjoy freedom (John 8v36) and he is not holding freedom back till we “get our act together”. It is his freedom that enables us to “get our act together”. Grace is not earned by obedience – it is grace that enables obedience.

    Hope this is helpful!

  8. Thanks–insightful. You can tell that you still really need to grow as you say the women were made of pixels on the screen. They are actually real women–flesh and blood–who have almost always been vicitms of incest and childhood sexual trauma. They are also likely to be victims of sex trafficking. Realize you continue to vicimize them and all the women in the world when you look at pornography to settle your cravings. When you write a blog you are responsible and will be held in account for the message–so do not continue to objectify women by calling them pixels on a screen. UGH!!!

  9. Thanks, Meg. I’m well aware that the women are real. I’ve spoken with numerous women in the porn industry to demonstrate that. Just spoke with one woman last week who got out of porn and just wrote a book about it. Heartbreaking book.

    The women provoking the lust at the time were, in fact, mediated through a screen. They were not physically in front of me. Don’t read too much into that statement. I no more believe the women aren’t “real” anymore than I believe their “approval” of me was real. The entire sentence was written with a note of sarcasm.

    Still, I agree with you: the objectification of women is an awful thing and one of the reasons why the porn industry continues to operate today.

  10. Now aged 58, this experience is all too familiar. 6 years ago I completely lost my faith & then realized that without belief in Christianity there is no such thing as sin – if God doesn’t exist I can’t disobey him! This knowledge was so liberating & I saw how much pain and anguish all the teaching about sin and guilt had caused me throughout my life. For the first time ever I don’t feel guilt about using porn & I can see it for what it is: exploitation of vulnerable people, both the performers & the customers. You and your other responders understand exactly what porn is and how destructive it is. I am now freed from the guilt of using it & that freedom makes it SO much easier to focus on relating to real live women and girls as what they are – lovely people, not sex objects.

  11. I had bee away from porn for over a year, going to church on a regularly, reading my Bible regularly. One day I was checking out friends request on facebook and some of the pics were scantily clad women and out of couriosity I checked them out and bam, after a while I back at porn again! I thought I was over it but let my guard down! Now I confess it as sin and go for a while without it then it’ll hit me again. I feel I’m in a hopeless situation!

  12. You are both right. It may be helpful for some men to realize these are real women who are victims of this industry. But to me I also gain insight in knowing they are merely pixels on a screen. You cannot hold them. You cannot marry them. The images with a touch of a button can appear or reappear. There’s a lot more responsibility in a real face to face relationship. But let’s not judge here… Luke went out on a limb & is making his heart transparent to us & the world. Let’s thank him for his honesty & desiring to help others in Jesus’ name.

  13. Pingback: 14 Gospel Promises That Trump the Power of Lust: A Buzz Better Than Porn | Biblical Counseling Coalition Blogs

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