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Of Porn and other Fantasies

Did you know that Blu-ray won the format war against HD-DVD mainly because of support from the porn industry? [See Link] Or that in 2006, porn had a recorded $97 billion dollar revenue globally? [See Link] That’s about equal to the GDP of Canada in 1971. [See Link] If porn were a country, it would have ranked 15th for GDP in 2006 in the world. [See Link] In comparison, subscription based Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) games earned about $86 million dollars in 2012-2013; in-game purchases from free-to-play online games earned $312 million dollars. [See Link] These are totals from games like World of Warcraft AND other titles.

Note the ‘b’ and ‘d’ differences on those numbers. MMO’s are more visible; however, the ‘invisible’ porn industry holds more dollar sway.

I’ll be honest with you – my christian upbringing and family support kept me largely shielded from the pulls of exposure to pornography. My struggle was more with the unknown challenges of fantasy escapism in games, especially the four years I devoted to World of Warcraft in my teens.

Though at face value they are very different, after talking with those dear to me who struggle with porn, and from my few brief exposures, let me show you that both are similar and both are problematic.


The Common Root of Shame

What is the underlying root of addiction to pornography and other addictive fantasies? I, upon much research, would argue that it lies in shame.

What is shame? It is the same as guilt, right? I mean, I see those words used interchangeably all the time. Let me make a clear distinction for you right now – they are not the same.

Guilt – the feeling of knowing you did something wrong.

Shame – the feeling of being internally wrong, of having not enough control.

They do walk hand in hand often, but they are remedied in very different ways – I’ll get to that later so stick with me.

Results of Porn and Escapism Addiction

Allow me to be blunt with you. Pornography and other escapist fantasies — the consuming desire to live someone else’s life through a TV show or game or book instead of your own life — are very destructive. Even if you don’t believe in the laws of the Bible.

In any self-satisfying realm of fantasy, you are creating and living in a realm that is not reality. We as people are very adaptive. We learn to be good at what we spend our time at. So if we spend our time adapting to living in a realm of fantasy, we lose our edge and grasp on reality.

But hey, reality is the less desirable place to be after all. Why work at earning approval in reality when you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes who does the all of the work and has approval literally thrown at their feet.

That seductive girl eagerly seeking to satisfy every wish of that man on the screen or page just because he walks into the room? Who tweaks every fiber of your arousal and promises gratification that we are wired to want? That warrior or wizard who receives all the honor, approval and riches from some computer generated characters; who is feared and esteemed in all the virtual landscape?

It is so much easier to pretend to receive those honors bestowed on someone who represents you than it is to work and receive those from real people. We always seem to have as much or as little control in our fantasies as we want. Let’s be honest, those characters we are watching and pretending to be are not us, nor do they have the same qualities we do.

That’s the great part of it – we can forget who we are! It feels wonderful! In the end however, you have robbed yourself of precious time you could use to become someone worthy of healthy honor and glory. You have robbed yourself of realistic expectations from your family, significant other, and friends. You have placed more energy adapting to a destructive habit than a constructive habit.

If you sit with that thought for any length of time, I imagine you’d feel a cold, dull, deadening sensation in your gut – if that isn’t already your normal state of being.

The Trap of Shame

Shame, unlike guilt, is our feeling of who we are. It strikes closer to our essence of existence than anything else. In healthy relationships, appropriate shame is the gentle reminder that we are not the same as the other person. In it’s perverted form however, it is the corruption and destruction of yourself.

Biologically, the experience of shame to your nervous system is the same as the experience of dying. That cold, deadening feeling you get when you feel shame? That’s your organs literally starting to shut down.

Imagine a child about to stick her hand on the stove top, and her mother is too far away to reach her. The tone of voice and the stern face that her parent makes at her causes her nervous system to essentially stop all action until mother can get there. Shame is important. Shame is MEANT to stop you and it is meant to be uncomfortable.

Healthy shame however demands redemption. Shame is not meant to be a way of living. That little girl needs to know that although mom was angry, the danger was avoided and that mom still loves her. The experience of affectionate, nurturing love to the nervous system is the exact opposite of shame. To feel love is to feel alive; to feel shame is to feel death. Blushing is a sign that you are recovering from shame – blood flow is returning to your face where your shame response had drained it. The mother needs to hold her child and reassure her of her love after she has been shamed.

This is where porn and other fantasies have so much power. Those of us who struggle with one or the other, are reaching out for honor, love, and control that we feel we are lacking. This is what porn and other fantasies promise – control, honor, gratification, affection, and security.

The trap is when we come back to reality, and realize that we have not honestly earned those. The rewards don’t last in a meaningful way. That momentary gratification becomes one more lead weight in our heavy burden of shame. We sink deeper in our feelings of worthlessness. That just makes the desire to want to escape and the desire for control and affirmation that much stronger.

The Remedy

Life is hard. Forgiveness covers guilt, but what of shame? We don’t always have control. In the real world, we can’t always win the approval of our parents, friends, bosses, or significant others. We will let people down. They will let us down. We will feel a lack of the love and affirmation we crave, and it will at times be overwhelming.

So what does this mean for you if you are struggling with pornography or fantasy addiction? You do need to stop. You do need discipline, and you do need a change of habits. You do need to start being more constructive rather than destructive. You do need to respect yourself more in spite of your flaws.

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” – Luke 16:10

Remember always that despite your best efforts, you cannot always please everyone – we are all imperfect. Before you do anything else, you must be honest with yourself.

It is better to face the consequences of reality and move on, than it is to wake every day in fear of the possible consequences.”

See yourself in light of an honest reality; that is humility. Find those who genuinely love you and build you up, and make every effort to spend time with them – but remember, no one person can meet every need you have.

At the end of the day, the only one who can truly meet your needs for honor, love, and redemption is Jesus. We are designed for His love, and He died for our redemption. You may feel out of control and worthless, but He is in control and valued you so much that He willingly climbed upon that cross and gave up His life for YOU.

Sit with that, and don’t just skim over it. Meditate on it. Feel it. He LOVES you and He is in control of everything.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

“Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’” – Matthew 28:18

Through His love, He desires to give you victory so that you may love Him, others, and yourself more fully and appropriately.

We as the Church need to extend God’s love to those who are struggling with shame. We who are struggling need to seek help and release our burden unto God and accept His love and the love of His people. We who have struggled and found victory in God and need to hold to our testimonies, and share the good news. We do not have to live in shame. We can have victory over it and live life to the fullest. Let us discard our ashen, dead faces and live in the redemption and restoration of life to our bodies.

Jesus said:

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10

Go in peace, and may God bless you today with all your struggles and triumphs.

*****

Read MY very personal experience with pornography {here} love, thefulltimegirl

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About the Author: Tony is endlessly curious, and one adventure away from being on his next adventure. He takes longer than average to finish a meal, and is statistically better than random at ties in rock, paper, scissors. At any given moment, he busies himself with thoughts of psychology, sociology, or theology. He loves writing, and his passions come together in the form of his blog. See the latest on his website at http://northbyseven.com. Follow him on Twitter at @northbyseven.