Porn addiction and masturbation addictions/habits are just as real as alcohol and drug addictions/habits. Do you feel that porn and masturbation have become the central focus of your life? Do you have trouble finding or keeping intimate relationships with women because you would rather look at porn and masturbate? If you answered yes to either of these questions you might have a porn and masturbation addiction.
Typically an “addiction” is distinguished from a “bad habit” in that with a habit there is usually not a physical or chemical dependency involved. Some define an addiction as something you have no voluntary control over, that you are compelled to do that action because of a chemical reaction in your brain.
Before I continue, I want to be clear that this post is going to address the issues of porn and masturbation addiction from a male perspective, but this is not to deny that there are women that are also deal with porn and masturbation addiction, but I think women who struggle with this issue are a fraction of the amount of men that struggle with this issue.
Here at the TheGiftOfSex we advocate for men to use porn(good porn that does not violate God’s design of sex) so it might seem like an contradiction that we offering help with masturbation and porn addiction.
The reason that you might think this it is a contradiction we are offering advice on porn addiction is because you think porn and masturbation are the enemy you are fighting.
The truth is…
Porn and Masturbation are not the enemy – Addiction is!
Think about this for a second. Is food the enemy of a food addict? Of course not. It is his addiction to food that his enemy. It is his overuse of a good thing that is his enemy. His compulsion to eat at every hour of the day is his enemy.
Men and Women’s brains work differently
If you were to take the brain from a deceased dead woman and a deceased dead man you might not be able to tell the difference from a quick glance. They might be similar in size and if you cut them open they would have all the same parts.
The difference in male and female brains is found more in things that cannot be seen from a simple physical examination. These differences are rather seen from observing nerve impulses and chemical differences between male and female brains.
So while both male and female brains have an amygdala and hypothalamus which play big roles in us enjoying food and sex, the chemical and nerve activity in these areas are very different in men and women when it comes to sex because of a hormone called Testosterone.
Even though testosterone is often associated with masculinity and estrogen is associated with femininity – men and women have both these hormones. But what makes a man a man and a woman a woman is all about proportion.
Men on average have 20 times more Testosterone than women! This is what makes men have more body hair, thicker skin and more muscle mass than women. But it also makes men think and perceive their world very differently than woman. Testosterone is what makes men think about and desire sex more than women.
Men and women have different sexual natures
While men and women both have sexual natures – the driving mechanisms of these natures are radically different. A woman’s sexual nature is intricately interwoven with her emotions. While a woman can have sex with no emotional connection, most women will receive little to no enjoyment from such an interaction.
A man on the other hand can very easily have pleasurable sex with a woman he just met and knows nothing about.
We see this in the Bible in the story of Isaac and Rebekah:
“And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.” – Genesis 24:67 (KJV)
In this story – Isaac has sent his servant off to get him a wife from his clan, and here his servant comes with a woman he has just met – they barely say two words(absolutely no time for emotional connection or getting to know one another) and he has her in his deceased mother’s tent having sex with her.
This is because a man’s sexual nature is primarily driven by his visual arousal and physical need to release his semen. Most men have a drive and a push to release their semen every couple days. For many men if they have gone as long as a week without a release this can become grueling and cause irritability (similar to a woman’s PMS symptoms).
These differences between the male and female sexual natures are by the design of God and neither is wrong. A man’s visual and physically based sex drive makes sure that married couples are regularly having sex – regardless of the emotional status of either party. A woman’s emotionally driven sex drive forces men to have to verbally and emotionally connect to have the best sexual experience possible.
Another way of saying this is – sometimes a man will just take sex no matter how it is, he just needs a physical release. But most men have a natural desire to strive for the “best” sexual experience they can with their wives – where their wives are emotionally and physically connected with them and enjoying sex as much as them. So they have to work to connect emotionally with their wife and put them in the mood. For these reasons God made the male and female sexual natures very different.
The Brain chemistry of Porn and Masturbation
Compulsive porn and masturbation habits are usually referred to as an addiction because of the chemical high that men get from looking at porn and masturbating.
When a man views porn his brain releases a hormone called dopamine – this a “reward” type of hormone that makes us feel a type of high. But dopamine gets a bad wrap in many anti-porn circles as if it is a bad hormone or as if it is related only to sex. Others wrongly think that dopamine is only related to addictive behavior like drug use, alcohol use.
The truth is that we experience dopamine rushes in many pleasurable experiences in our lives.
When you first start dating someone you get a rush of dopamine every time they call, or every time you get a text from them or whenever you are about to meet them for a date.
When you watch your bride walk down that aisle towards you – you get a dopamine rush.
When you are thinking about your favorite dinner that your wife makes, and when you come in the door and smell it being cooked – you get a dopamine rush.
When you go into your bosses office to find out how much of a raise you are getting you get a dopamine rush.
When you are anticipating watching your favorite TV show or listening to your favorite music you get a dopamine rush.
When you proudly watch as your child graduates from high school or college, you get a dopamine rush.
You get the point – dopamine is not just about sex, or addiction. It is a hormone that God gave us to help us enjoy life – to get pleasure from things in our lives.
So when you see all these articles attacking porn because of the dopamine rush it gives us – keep in mind that many other activities in our lives give us dopamine rush and you won’t here the anti-porn advocates criticizing those activities.
Men receive more physical pleasure from their sexuality than women
Men literally receive more physical pleasure from sexual arousal(viewing women), sexual intercourse and orgasms than women do. While women also experience physical pleasure during sexual foreplay, sex and orgasms they receive much more emotional pleasure from sex than men do.
For more detail on this see my post- “Men and women experience orgasms differently”
Sex is a need, not just a want
Human beings, both men and women need sex. The way we approach sex as men and women may be very different, but sex is a need regardless.
Read more about this in my post “Sex is a need, not just a want”
Masturbation is given as a method of sexual release
I think very few people would argue masturbation is as sexually fulfilling as having sexual intercourse with a person you love in the act of marriage. But just as we mentioned above, most men would say that just having sexual intercourse with their wife(as in when she is not really in mood but just letting him do it) is not as good as when she is in the mood and there is a full emotional and physical connection.
But that does not mean lesser forms of sexual release between a husband and wife (such as just for physical release) or even masturbation are wrong.
God regulates the cleanup after masturbation in the book of Leviticus:
“16 ‘Now if a man has a seminal emission, he shall bathe all his body in water and be unclean until evening. 17 As for any garment or any leather on which there is seminal emission, it shall be washed with water and be unclean until evening.
18 If a man lies with a woman so that there is a seminal emission, they shall both bathe in water and be unclean until evening.
19 ‘When a woman has a discharge, if her discharge in her body is blood, she shall continue in her menstrual impurity for seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening.” – Leviticus 15:16-19 (NASB)
There are three normal bodily functions described here. A man having an emission of semen by himself (which would cover masturbation or nocturnal emissions), a man having sex with his wife, and a woman having her period.
None of these things are considered sinful, they simply had regulations for the cleanup after these normal activities.
Are sexual arousal and sexual imagination (sexual fantasy) sinful for a Christian?
From a Christian perspective many Christians have been wrongly taught that viewing porn and masturbating are sins before God. This is a rather lengthy topic so I will just refer you to some articles that are dedicated to these subjects and examine this from a Scriptural perspective:
What does the Bible say about Lust?
Why Masturbation is not wrong for a Christian
To sum up what you will read in those posts Lust is not sexual arousal, it is not even sexual fantasy (sexual imagination) rather it is covetousness. Covetousness is the desire to actually take possession of something or someone that does not belong to you, or that you would have no right to try and possess.
For example, a young man who sees a single young lady is not coveting after her if he desires to date her, marry her and then have sex with her. Even though he does not yet possess her, the desire to possess her is pure and there is no sin in that. However if that same man looks at a married woman with the intent of possessing her either through an illicit affair or getting her to leave her husband for him then that is the very definition of covetousness (which is also lust).
But if this same man sees a married woman and is simply sexually aroused by her beauty, or even imagines her naked or has a sexual fantasy about her, but does not allow it to go into covetous thoughts there is no sin in this either. One of the ways a man can tell that his normal sexual arousal from a beautiful married woman has turned to covetousness is if he begins to flirt with her or tries to become emotionally intimate with her.
Why can’t men just stay away from Porn and Masturbation?
Many people wrongly reason that since we advise drug addicts and alcoholics to stay away from drugs and alcohol completely that we can and should take the same approach to men looking at porn and masturbation.
Staying away from Porn and masturbation is like going on a liquid diet. You can do it if you have to but you will eventually be miserable in the process. You might even learn to suppress that misery – you might tell yourself that you feel better now that you don’t look at porn or masturbate anymore.
You tell yourself you are better off for two reasons.
The first is you have been taught either from a religious perspective or even a secular feminist perspective that viewing porn is wrong so you feel an enormous sense of guilt after each time you view it and now that you no longer view porn or masturbate you don’t have to feel that post-porn viewing/masturbation guilt.
If you want to overcome the guilt of masturbation, and be able to enjoy masturbation as the gift God as given as part of your sexuality I suggest you read my article “How to overcome the guilt of masturbation”.
The second is because you are scared of that person you were – the man who sat in front of his computer for 8 hours at a time watching porn and masturbating and in the process you were wasting your life away.
But the truth is you are like the person who loses a spouse in death and feels guilty about wanting to be with someone else. So they suppress that desire to want another spouse or be with someone else, they keep themselves busy and direct all that sexual energy toward other things only to hide or suppress their natural sexual hunger.
If you are being honest with yourself – as a man you naturally desire to view the female form in all its wonderful varieties, you naturally think about sex and desire to have a sexual release (either through masturbation or sex with a woman). But while God restricts sexual relations with a woman to the covenant of marriage – he has given us the gift of masturbation as a way to experience and enjoy our sexuality before we are married and even while we are married as long as we use it properly and in balance.
So what is the answer to Porn and Masturbation addiction?
I think I have shown here that trying to get a man to stop receiving pleasure from viewing women(whether fully clothed live women) or nude women in pictures as well as masturbating is the equivalent of a food addict moving to a liquid diet. Yes we can do it but it simply suppresses the sexual hunger that God has put in us. God did not mean for us to suppress our sexuality but rather to channel it in healthy ways that do not violate his Word.
The better way to handle porn and masturbation addiction is to treat it like food addiction. It must be balanced and regulated. These are steps I recommend for overcoming porn and masturbation addiction:
Recognize that this is an imbalance in your life
The Bible says
“All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” – I Corinthians 6:12 (KJV)
While God created our sexuality – including our natural ability to be sexually aroused, to sexually imagine and to masturbate he did not intend for us to spend all or most of our time doing these things. They were intended to be a “part” of our life, but not the “whole” of our life.
Set a reasonable amount of time each week to look at porn or masturbate
For each person this might be different. For younger men in their late teens or early 20’s they may need to masturbate daily. For older men it may only be a couple times a week. Set time limits for how long you will look at porn or other erotic material – set an alarm that goes off that tells you time is up. This is similar to how a food addict must measure the portions of food they eat.
One way to know if you are looking at too much porn or masturbating too much is if you have little desire to do anything else but that. If you find yourself not wanting to read your Bible or talk about the things of God or engage in other hobbies or not doing things with your friends or spouse, not wanting to seek out a girlfriend(if you are single man) or not wanting to have sex with your wife(if you are a married man) then you may be looking at porn and masturbating too much.
Find an accountability partner
Find another man (do not use your wife for this as she will not understand this from a female point of view). Find a man who believes as you do that God does not call us to suppress our sexuality, but rather to channel it in healthy and measured ways. This way if you slip up one week and “binge” by looking at porn too much or masturbating too much you have someone to talk to.
When you slip up – get back up and start over again
After you have a binge day– confess your sin that you have allowed a lawful thing(viewing porn and masturbating) to gain power over you. Resolve to get back in balance on this new day. Talk to your accountability partner and let them know too so they can pray for you.
Below are some links from another Christian site that talks more on the issues of Porn and how to distinguish between good porn and bad porn.
The difference between good porn and bad porn
Is “Christian Porn” an oxymoron?
Why Porn is not bad for Christians or anybody else