The Truama of Porn: Part 5

This is part five of a six part series on pornography, trauma, and intimacy. 

As I’ve talked about in the prior posts in this series, a huge part of my work in counseling both individuals and couples right now is dealing with pornography. Pornography use is one of the most common addictive coping skills that I’ve come across, even among Christians, to deal with negative feelings.  Despite the hurt pornography causes to those who engage in it, and the shame that accompanies porn use, many clients have no idea how to stop the cycle.  Part of the reason is that culturally, often even in churches, we treat sex like a drug. 

Now, obviously, most church-going folks are not going to make the normal cultural recommendations.  Having a tough time? Get laid.  Feeling anxious about your body? Have a one night stand.  Just had a bad break up? Sleep with someone new.  Hopefully, to any believer, these ideas fall outside what we see as biblical.  But we sometimes make other statements that can sound more biblical even though they aren’t.  Having an argument with your wife? Have sex with her.  Struggling with sexual temptation? Have sex with your spouse.  Going through a tough time at work? Invest in your marital sex life.  These things sound biblical to many, but they actually aren’t.  Or at least not in the way they are often talked about.

The problem with these statements is that they assume the purpose of your sexual relationship with your spouse is to change how you feel.  But that is not what biblical sexuality is for.  Biblical sexuality views sex as a way to express love built from the way God loves us.  Sex is a physical expression of a spiritual, mental, and emotional reality of who God is applied within a relationship He created and for which He sets the boundaries.

The command to have sex in marriage found in 1 Corinthians 7 is often misconstrued to be saying that marriage is for those who struggle with sexual temptation and they are to redirect their desire for sinful sexual behavior (outside of marriage) to righteous sexual behavior (inside of marriage).  This has been used to explain why the wife should always be sexually available to her husband in order to protect him from sexual temptation.  The problem with this is that it treats sex as a response to sin—a behavioral shelter from doing the wrong thing.

Marriage was not created to solve the problem of sexual sin because marriage predates sin altogether. Marriage exists to display the communal nature of the character of God.  Sex exists to express that communion within marriage.  The way that marriage prevents sexual sin is not by offering a safe place for sinful desires.  God isn’t saying “oh, you can’t control yourselves? Well here is somewhere you can lose control safely.”  No, what He’s saying is “Well here is a relationship that demands you see sex as an expression of love and unity.”  

Sexual sin and sexual addiction are driven by the very shame and lack of intimacy we see immediately following the Fall.  Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves to cover their nakedness because it suddenly felt wrong to be so open and close to one another. Our hyper-focus on sex as a society (and throughout history) comes from our desperate need for the emotionally intimate connection for which God designed us—the connection out of which sexual expression flows.  We want to change that feeling of isolation and loneliness so we focus on sex—but sex is the expression of the solution not the solution itself.  The solution itself is a deeply emotionally intimate relationship.  In the last post in this series I will give some very practical ways we build emotional intimacy (for both married and single folks) and rewrite the way the brain processes sex. 

 

Footnotes: 

The interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7 was heavily influenced by John Calvin’s commentary (available online here: https://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/commentaries.i.html).  The idea that it is a wife’s job to be sexually available to prevent her husband from sexually sinning is ubiquitous in certain circles.  While some who have made these comments would likely argue I have stated their position in an overly harsh way, an article like https://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/sex-is-a-spiritual-need/ shows the confusing language from which I draw this explanation.  See specifically these quotes: 

“Paul commanded husbands and wives to be sexually available to each other to avoid temptation. He then encouraged Christians to remain unmarried, unless they have a strong sexual desire. According to Paul, battling sexual temptation is a significant reason for Christians to marry!” 

“Like Mark, your husband depends on you to be his partner in his battle against sexual temptation. Although you aren’t responsible for his actions, you are a key component in his victory. You’re the only woman in the world whom your husband can look at sexually without compromising his integrity!” 

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