For seven years, I worked as a therapist in the prison system in Arizona. The inmates there had committed a variety of crimes including theft, home invasion, assault, fraud, and other crimes. But they all had one type of crime in common… they had committed some kind of a sexual offense. During their time in prison, they have the opportunity to participate in group therapy to learn how they got down that path of committing an offence and how to avoid that and how to create healthy relationships. The path leading to an offence for an estimated 90% of those men was a deep involvement in pornography. [Please note: This does not mean everyone viewing pornography will commit an offence or go to prison, but it can lead in that direction.]
During therapy, they were taught four Greek terms of love:
Agapé: an unlimited kindness, charity, and compassion toward all others. A selfless giving for the good of mankind. Often held to be the ultimate perfection of the human spirit.
Storgé: affection or natural fondness through familiarity, like that felt between siblings or between parents and offspring, groups, clubs, church groups, sports teams, etc.
Philia: more individual forms of love, deeper one-to-one connections. Closer involvement with freely chosen individuals. The ideal, dispassionate, virtuous love often referred to as peer intimacy.
Éros: the Greek term reserved for passionate love with sensual desire and longing. The Modern Greek word “erotas” means “romantic love.” Éros can be interpreted as a bond with someone whom you love more than the philia. It often includes sexual passion but is not object-focused like simple lust.
Using “ EROS “ as an acronym, it stands for the following:
- Emotional connection. Getting to know the person, their thoughts and feelings, their hopes and fears, their dreams and goals.
- RO For some, this could be dinner and a movie; for others, a ski date; for others, going to a concert or play; for others, just spending time together. Making the emotional connection becomes stronger over time and people become connected mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
- Sexual intimacy. We have the ability to show that love and connection by manifesting the connection physically through sexual intimacy.
In a healthy relationship, it is essential to create and strengthen the emotional connection for any type of relationship including agape or storgé or philia, but especially for an eros relationship.
The problem with pornography is that it reduces a relationship to the physical component only.
In therapy, we learn that taking EROS in the wrong order causes problems. If a relationship begins with ROmance, then Sex, then almost as an afterthought, the Emotional connection, then it is like a ROSE. What happens to a cut rose? It wilts and dies.
Pornography ignores any emotional, mental, or spiritual connection. It is only about the physical sensation. It is lust. It is self-serving. It objectifies and sexualizes the other person or persons. Even couples who may view porn together are not investing the time and effort to deepen the totality of their relationship.
What need does pornography fulfill? Typically, those who view porn are seeking pleasure to mask or avoid pain from past or current emotional wounds or using that stimulation to hide emotionally from anticipated rejection. The problem with pornography (or alcohol or drugs or gambling or sexual addictions) is that it is a transitory solution to a deeper problem. It is a counterfeit, temporary “feel good in the moment” without any lasting, permanent effect. The actual antidote to any addiction is connection … connecting with others in healthy relationships.
Following are portions of the quotes from Dr. Julie Hanks and a reasoned rebuttal.
Dr. Julie Hanks: “For the rest of the world, for most communities, this (pornography) isn’t even a problem.
Rebuttal: First, viewing pornography is more than a community problem; it is a problem worldwide. For sex offender therapists, there is an international organization: ATSA, the Association for the Prevention and Treatment of Sexual Abuse which has members from 20 countries. Second, the fact is often ignored that the women and men in the porn industry are or have been victimized which has led them into that industry.
Dr. Julie Hanks: “It’s a problem because we say it’s a problem. But there are plenty of relationships where it’s not a thing, one or both partners look at porn, and they look at it together.”
Rebuttal: How is it a problem? When a person participates in addictive behavior, how and when do they find the time and make the effort to increase the emotional, mental, and spiritual connection? How does objectifying and sexualizing others strengthen your relationship? Whose face or features do you see or imagine when you are together? How does that draw you closer together?
Dr. Julie Hanks: “And so I think reducing the shame and kind of normalizing like, look, this is pretty common this doesn’t mean anything about you as a human being.”
Rebuttal: It is important to let go of shame. It is also important to embrace “Good guilt” or “Remorse” as a genuine feeling of regret that leads to change. As human beings, we have the ability to change. “Bad guilt” or “Shame” sends a message that we are stuck, there is no hope, we cannot change. That is false! There is always hope! For many years, people said that addiction becomes wired into the brain and addicts are stuck forever. More recent research using MRIs shows that our brains have the ability to form new connections and pathways and change how its circuits are wired. This is known as neuroplasticity.
Dr. Julie Hanks: “For some people, their goal is abstinence, like, “I never will do this again.” I don’t think that’s realistic. You have to define between the two of you what is full recovery; what does that even look like?”
Rebuttal: Abstinence is realistic. In recovery from addiction, abstinence is expected and achieved. It is often said that relapse is part of recovery, but full recovery, total abstinence, is possible. If abstinence is not the true goal, then how comfortable would the two of you be if there was no abstinence with alcohol … a drink now and then would be okay? How about occasionally using drugs? Or gambling? Or having sex with others? “Full recovery” is possible and realistic for all addictions including for those who struggle with pornography. People learn to recognize the triggers and the underlying issues that lead to addictive behavior. Then they use their personal power to choose a healthy alternative behavior.
In conclusion, viewing pornography is a problem for so many reasons, but fundamentally because it dehumanizes people and uses them as objects for self-gratification. Overcoming pornography helps us view others, including ourselves, as people with individual worth. From a spiritual perspective, we see ourselves and others as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of our Heavenly Parents. And that makes all the difference in developing and maintaining healthy and eternal relationships.