The Trauma of Porn: Part 4

This is part four of a six part series about pornography, truama, and healing intimacy.

In the last post I talked about how our brains, especially when exposed to sexual situations before we are ready, can attach brain physiology that should be associated with emotional intimacy and care to shame and sexual behaviors instead. I don’t want it to seem as though I am saying that this process is deterministic or that people whose brains make this shift can’t have good relationships.  What I am saying is that the automatic process of the brain now has to be overridden.  What God designed for our good has been broken and now has to be redeemed. 

God design for sex is that it should flow out of emotional intimacy.  Sex on the wedding night is often referred to as consummating the marriage.  Why?  Because far from being the first step in building a godly marriage, it is actually the last step—the result—of becoming one.  When parents bond with their new babies you might wonder: isn’t that building a bond through physiology first? No, it isn’t if it’s done biblically.  When a married couple have sex as a consummation of their love and the result is a child that child ought to already have the love and commitment of their parents as God is forming them.  The bond created through nursing and care is the result of their love not the cause of it.  

When we get the physiology out of order we end up with a brain that attaches emotional intimacy as a potential result from sex rather than the other way around.  People pick partners based on sexual attraction instead of shared values, trust, and commitment. I often get the question “Shouldn’t I be sexually attracted to someone if I’m going to marry them?”  I think a better question would be “If I’m deeply emotionally trusting and connected with someone who shares my values, why am I not sexually attracted to them?”

As an important aside, this is why there is a level of emotional intimacy that should be reserved for your spouse only.  We’ve all probably heard the old argument from When Harry Met Sally about how men and women can’t be friends.  While it’s a humorous debate in the movie, there is a very deep reality to it as well.  Emotional intimacy will lead to physical attraction.  I often talk with couples about the dangers of emotional affairs.  That isn’t the topic of this series but is an important idea to understand. 

So the person who has been exposed to pornography or other sexual stimuli at a young age is much more likely to seek sexual reinforcement for a sense of overall well-being.  Why? Because God didn’t create us to be alone, He created us for emotional intimacy and community. What happens when this person can’t find emotional intimacy or community that sufficiently meets their need for a physiological sense of well-being? They seek out something that will.  Often this comes in the form of porn or sexual activity.

Sometimes, though, the opposite happens.  Sometimes a person will become actively sexually avoidant due to the shame of being unable to make that connection.  They may have trouble making friends, become isolated, and struggle to engage emotionally at all. Alternatively, they may seek that emotional connection through relationships that don’t pose the same sense of sexual risk.  Certainly not all people in the LGBTQI+ community have experienced sexual trauma, but a large number have and their initial curiosity can be psychologically linked back to shame or safety responses to childhood sexual experiences.*

When someone is operating out of a view of sex that uses it to build a connection we end up with many people who use sex to change how they feel about themselves rather than as an expression of emotionally intimate love.  When sex becomes about us feeling okay instead of an expression of godly love there is no end to the error we can fall into.  In the next post I will talk about how we fix sex when this has been broken. 

 

Footnotes:

*There is actually a large body of evidence to suggest this but here is a literature review where you can find some information.  WARNING, this is a very descriptive article and may be very triggering. https://conflictandhealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13031-020-0254-5 

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