Learning my lines . . .
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The Male Brain, Pornography, and the Young Woman Sitting In Front of Me. . .

Today I had a long flight. I decided to dig into the stack of books that’s growing on a spot on my office floor. My summer reading/study emphasis is pornography. . . its place in our culture and what it’s doing to our lives. The pile of books has grown in the last few weeks and I’m not at all looking forward to what I’m going to be reading and what I’m going to learn. Still, it needs to be done.

As I settled into my seat I pulled out my copy of William Struthers’ Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain. I’ve been fascinated by the little bit I’ve read from this Christian Biopsychologist who teaches at Wheaton College so I’ve been yearning to learn more about the not-so-surprising connection between pornography and the things it does to men’s brains. After all, we’re integrated beings created by a Maker who has made us with amazing complexity.

At the same time that I was opening my book, a young woman who appeared to me to be in her early twenties settled down in the row in front of me. She quickly stowed her carry-on bag under her seat and then eagerly opened her book. . . . Fifty Shades of Grey. You might remember that I blogged on this blockbuster book a few posts ago.

And so I proceeded to read these words about what pornography does to the male brain:

As men fall deeper into the mental habit of fixating on these images, the exposure to them creates neural pathways. Like a path is created in the woods with each successive hiker, so do the neural paths set the course for the next time an erotic image is viewed. Over time these neural paths become wider as they are repeatedly traveled with each exposure to pornography. They become the automatic pathway through which interactions with women are routed. The neural circuitry anchors this process solidly in the brain. With each lingering stare, pornography deepens a Grand Canyon-like gorge in the brain through with images of women are destined to flow. This extends to women that they have not seen naked or engaging in sexual acts as well. All women become potential porn stars in the minds of these men. They have unknowingly created a neurological circuit that imprisons their ability to see women right as created in God’s image.

Repeated exposure to pornography creates a one-way neurological superhighway where a man’s mental life is oversexualized and narrowed. It is hemmed in on either side by a high containment walls making escape nearly impossible. this neurological superhighway has many on-ramps. The mental life is fixated on sex, but it is intended for intimacy. It is wide – able to accommodate multiple partners, images and sexual possibilities, but it is intended to be narrow – a place for God’s exclusive love to be imaged.  .  .

And as I read these words from William Struthers, I kept wondering to myself about what was happening in the brain of the young lady seated in front of me. . . . . and the brains of so many other young men and women.

Lord, save us from ourselves.

11 Responses

  1. Great article, Walt… there’s some really scary (and they should be) facts in here.

    Quick note: you have the Amazon book URL for the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ post link by accident.

    Again, great thoughts!

  2. And there perhaps is the beginning “science” of addiction –as those deep, wide neural pathways become well-trod…
    Does make you make wonder what kind of world we are becoming…

  3. Walt, you might want to add to your summer list. Josh McDowell just released a position paper entitled “Your child is at great risk! you can find it on his new website Just1ClickAway.org, He say’s porn is the ‘Church’s No. 1 Threat’. He also just released a new book that covers this subject.

    Mike Liebler

  4. “The pile of books has grown in the last few weeks and I’m not at all looking forward to what I’m going to be reading and what I’m going to learn. Still, it needs to be done.”

    So true! Thank you for taking the time to wade your way through this material. I can identify with your sentiments. As the director of a counseling ministry that focuses on addressing issues of sexual brokenness I know the heaviness associated with staying current with what is being written on this topic and others.

  5. I blogged about this recently, in a form more for my youth parents. http://www.deep-wide-light.blogspot.com/2012/05/gaming-internet-pornography-and-youth.html

    In a TED talk, a psychologist claims that excessive internet usage, video games, and pornography are the “demise of guys.” Really interesting to note his new term “arousal addiction,” which is not an addiction to more of something, but an addiction to new levels of stimulation. A bit disturbing.

  6. I have a question in response to the research on the neural pathways — once created, can they be removed? In smokers, once they stop smoking, the lungs can begin to heal. Is there a way to “heal” the changes in the brain caused by the arousal of porn, etc.? Would Romans 12:2 apply for the “renewing of the mind”?

  7. Walt, hope you have Pamela Paul’s Pornified in your stack. Highly researched and a true wake-up call to the effects of porn on our society, Pamela Paul is a great researcher and writer who has exposed porn for what it is.

  8. Regarding the neural pathways. . . Struthers talks about that. He says healing comes through sanctification as new alternate pathways are formed, developed, and deepened. Makes sense as you think about what we see with addiction and the ongoing discipline addicts need to employ.

    Jennie. . . yes, “Pornified” is sitting on my pile of books. I’ve had it for a few years but just haven’t gotten around to reading it. Thanks for the push to tackle it.

  9. Anonymous,

    You have heard the saying if you don’t use it you lose it. Somewhat true here with the brain. We develop pathways when we do new tasks and these pathways kind of weaken if we go years without using it. Think of math, as a prime example. The more we indulge something the harder and longer it takes for our brains to rewire. So to speak. Hope that helps.

  10. I hate porn. My marriage suffered due to it. There is healing and restoration but it is slow and takes time to win back trust. Porn erodes your integrity and causes compromise after compromise until you are thinking things you never thought you would. The one who has done it must be truly repentent, and willing to do whatever it takes to heal. I forgave my spousem but it takes dinvine intervention to find true forgiveness, and only then could I forgive him. My bitterness over what he did was as toxic to me as his porn was to him. If people would only realize the damage doen by this…but sadly usually not until it is already done.

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