Will a Better Sex Life Keep Porn at Bay?

September 15, 2015

Brad Hambrick

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Brad Hambrick

A Word from Your BCC Team: The following post first ran at the Covenant Eyes site and we are reposting it with the permission of the Covenant Eyes team and of the author, Brad Hambrick. You can also read the original post at Will a Better Sex Life Keep Porn at Bay?

Whose side am I going to take?

  • The defeated husband who feels like his unresponsive wife is hanging him out to dry with his temptation or the betrayed wife who feels like she’s being blamed for her husband’s sinful choices?
  • The single person who “knows” sexual temptation will be less intense when there is legitimate sexual outlet or the married person who thought that would be true but feels more isolated by their sin because it is now against someone they love (not just God)?
  • The biblical literalist who believes I Corinthians 7:5 is a promise for how God intends to extinguish sexual burning or the pragmatist who says real sex will never satiate a fantasy sex appetite?

Before going further, begin by acknowledging where you are and where you have been for each of those questions. Chances are you’ve been on both sides of at least one of them—probably more than one if you’re married.

  • Feeling Defeated and Abandoned vs. Feeling Betrayed and Blamed
  • Single Hoping for the Marriage Fix vs. Married and Frustrated Marriage Didn’t “Fix It”
  • Claiming Biblical Advice as a Promise from God vs. Being a “Realist” and Thinking We’re Talking About Apples and Oranges

What do we gain from this reflection?

We realize neither side is satisfying. One side may better capture what is true, but doesn’t really tell us what to do.

  • Pout in self-defeat until your wife wants to have more sex.
  • Force yourself to passionately engage sex as a form of relational self-protection.
  • Keep telling yourself this will all go away when I get married.
  • Live in disbelief that marriage doesn’t eliminate lust and the desire for self-centered pleasure.
  • Expect just one approach to resolve something as multi-faceted as arousal.
  • Refuse to do what you can do until a holistic approach is understood, agreed upon, and engaged.

Do any of those options sound appealing? No, and that’s the problem.

The title of this article is a truth-question (what to believe) but we ask it to get a procedural answer (what to do). When the former doesn’t lead to the latter, we feel stuck, betrayed, or abandoned. It’s not that the former isn’t important. What we believe is vitally important. But it’s often not what we’re after. There is no need to throw away your fork just because you need a spoon at the moment.

So the better question becomes:

“What should we do when we are tempted by pornography (or any other form of lust)?” 

We immediately recognize that this question is larger and not as neat. That is good, because it fits the life challenge in front of us better than a question that can have a yes-no answer.

The suggestions that I make below are not meant to be exhaustive; instead they are representative of a healthier way to think about the relationship between a healthy sex life and temptation towards pornography.

For married couples and singles:

  • Realize real sex will never compete with fantasy sex.If you have an appetite for read-your-mind, on-demand, narratively-diverse sex with a sound track, marriage will not provide that. Your spouse is not an actor and you do not get to be the script-writer for their desires and response to you.
  • Realize a real spouse can’t compete with a professional sex athlete; that is what a porn star is. You can’t introduce a camera, which implies an audience, and a sliding compensation scale based on the demand for your work and sex remain intimacy. At that point sex is a performance (a.k.a. collective prostitution). That’s not what marriage provides.
  • Pornography is relational debt; all short-term fun with no relational equity.The more you engage, the more you want until you realize you’re bankrupt.
  • We must also accept that pornography is not a thing to be deserved; meaning a sentence beginning with “I just need” cannot legitimately end with “pornography.” Porn is a liability not an asset. Until we make this fundamental perspective change about pornography, our logic regarding pornography will be incoherent. Our ability to have a productive conversation will be non-existent; whether we are married or single.

For married couples:

  • Begin with a distinction between marriage enrichment (practices to make a good marriage better) and marriage restoration (actions taken to fix something broken in a marriage). Most often the “will better sex fix porn” question confuses enrichment with restoration. If we do what we should have been doing all along, then we don’t have to address what we shouldn’t have been doing, right? Wrong.
  • The spouse engaging in pornography needs to take full responsibility for his-her actions. Anything that “shares” responsibility for personal sin is blame-shifting (if asked for) and codependency (if accepted). A relationship is only “safe” if this is understood. Being a co-sinner does not mean being co-responsible for a particular sin.
  • The spouse engaging in pornography has two primary goals: (a) purity of self and (b) protection of spouse. If personal satisfaction usurps either of these goals, then the mindset that made pornography seem acceptable is gaining a foothold again. This means obtaining the level of accountability and guidance necessary to provide your spouse with peace of mind, even if it is costly to your personal reputation.
  • In response, the battle of the other spouse is to resist defining your spouse by his-her sin. When “what you’ve done” becomes “who you are,” then romantic interest is stifled. This is one important aspect of what it means to forgive. This is a vital part of seeing your spouse as the “person” you fell in love with instead of the “action” you detest.
  • The interim period between restoration and enrichment is a time for sex to be restored to its more accurate level of importance. When we are willing to sin in order to get something, it has become too important. When something is too important it cannot satisfy. In order for sex to be satisfying in a way that offsets temptation, it must become less important so it can be more satisfying. Until we recalibrate the value we place on sex, increasing the frequency of sex will not have the temptation-alleviating effect we desire.

For singles:

  • Resist the lie that marriage fixes lust. Look at the number of sexually-broken marriages and realize this is only a plausible lie. It makes sense why we believe it. It’s just not true.
  • Don’t beat yourself up for feeling sexually frustrated. That only makes temptation more difficult. The increasing gap of time between puberty and marriage makes for more sexual frustration.
  • Remember a bad marriage is not better than good singleness. Talk to anyone who’s been in a bad marriage and they’ll bring this to life for you. The moral freedom to have sex didn’t revolutionize their life.
  • Remember that over-valuing physical intimacy will make courtship more difficult. When sex becomes the reward for non-singleness, then we rush physicality and wind up creating more emotional connection-commitment to someone than our knowledge of their character would merit.
  • Accept the sexual frustration. This is different from feeding it or admitting defeat. God doesn’t think, “You shouldn’t feel this way.” God is honored when you trust him in the storm. At the time of Jesus’ death, he was a middle-aged single man. He gets it.
  • Distinguish “burning” (objectifying and visually violating someone’s body) from “yearning” (desiring companionship and closeness). Fight burning lust; it will never serve you well or honor your future spouse. Be patient with yearning; it will lead you to folly if unrestrained, but can serve friendships and marriage well.
  • Commit to choosing the paths that lead to life in the midst of your frustration. The ability to make wise choices in hard times is what builds character and makes you a trustworthy person. This struggle will not be wasted; while the alternative to struggling wisely will undermine the development of the kind of relationships that could actually fulfill your desire.
  • Spend more time pursing God-honoring things that you enjoy than fighting temptation. Put in wise safeguards and have quality accountability-friendships. But, after that, have a lot of fun doing the things God gave you a passion for with people who are also passionately pursuing God.

What now?

Does this article answer all your questions? No. Then, what is its value? Its value is the next conversations you have.

If you don’t talk about this article with anyone who knows you well, it will have little value; likely it will further sour your attitude that there is hope because good counsel “didn’t work for you” again.

If, however, you begin a conversation with your spouse (if married), a solid Christian friend, a pastor, mentor, or counselor, then there is great opportunity for growth. One of the linchpins of pornography’s power is privacy. When we break through privacy with meaningful relationships, we begin to fight pornography on God’s home turf—Christian community.

You need someone to help you think through how to best apply these concepts to your context, to help you when you get lost in your own questions, to encourage you on your journey, to implore you when you want to quit, and to laugh with you so life doesn’t feel so weighty all the time. These are the things that real relationships provide that are more effective at quelling the temptation of pornography than even a “better marital sex.”​

 

Brad Hambrick

About Brad Hambrick

Brad is Pastor of Counseling at The Summit Church in Durham, NC. He also serves as an adjunct professor of biblical counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Brad has been married to his wife, Sallie, since 1999.