COVID-19 and Porn: A Quick Fix But No Solution

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I’m thrilled to introduce the Authentic Intimacy community to our new Director of Discipleship, Joy Skarka. Joy brings not only education and experience, but also her own story of transformation from sexual bondage to freedom in Christ. —Juli

(Presione aquí para leer en español)

Since COVID-19 the pornography industry has seen a massive increase in website traffic. On March 24th, one major site announced that their premium content would be free to all visitors resulting in a massive increase of 18.5%. The site explained that watching free porn will encourage people to stay home and flatten the curve. 

It’s no surprise that many will turn to porn in our current circumstance. I know because this used to be my story. In moments of pain, I turned to porn to escape my reality. Engaging with pornography appeared to be a quick fix for my negative emotions and feelings, but it was never fully satisfying. These negative emotions and feelings could include fear, anxiety, isolation, stress, and boredom, all of which are currently at an all-time high for many of us.

In our fear and anxiety surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, we search for things to comfort us and make us feel safe. We watch the news and scroll through our Twitter feeds. We buy all the toilet paper and Clorox wipes off the shelves. We binge Netflix hoping that a little distraction and a quick feeling of pleasure will calm our nerves.

The small decision we make to turn to porn for comfort has lasting impact on our brains. Porn rewires our brain by reconstructing our neurological pathways and bonding us to the images. Often we start by looking at simple images, joining a chat room, reading a romance novel, or turning to internet porn. Then dopamine, a pleasurable chemical, is released into the brain. Over time, we develop a tolerance and become desensitized to the images. When the levels of dopamine are no longer high enough to feel pleasure, a person will want something stronger. Just like a drug addiction, a person can develop a chemical addiction to pornography.

In the moment when we look to porn, we fail to think about the lasting negative impacts. This is the power of addiction, but the good news is that we worship a God who has the power to overcome our addictions and bring healing to our brains.

While in quarantine, we may also feel lonely. Living alone or even with a roommate during a crisis like this one may accentuate the isolation of singleness. You may feel unloved or unwanted when you are stuck inside the walls of your home. And marriage can feel lonely too. When two people are forced to spend time together, conflict can make you wish you lived alone. In our pain, we seek quick solutions to fix our heart problems. (Check out the Marriage Survival Guide: Surviving A Quarantine With Your Spouse.

Our souls cry out for intimacy and connection. During this time when people are stuck at home, separated from loved ones, and living in fear, it makes sense that we would seek out something to address our longings. We were created for intimacy. We were created to be loved and to want love, yet we turn to things that will never satisfy us.

The world often separates intimacy from sex. You can have sex without intimacy and intimacy without sex. Porn is sex without intimacy. While it promises connection, porn will ultimately create further isolation from people, from God, and from the beautiful picture of how sex was designed. Sex is relational. Sex is spiritual. Porn is isolating and will never fill our longings. With one click of a button, we can feel “connected” for a few minutes, but this feeling quickly fades. 

If porn won’t meet your needs, what will? 

Temptation is an illegitimate way to address our legitimate longings. Your anxiety and loneliness are real. Turning to porn is an easy solution to our fears, loneliness, and boredom, but is it lasting? 

The only thing that will fill our heart longings and desires is intimacy with God. God wants to use our present circumstances to allow us to run back to him and experience his intimacy.

My prayer for myself and for all of us is that we will use our pain for good during this season. I pray that even in the times we feel lonely or struggle with anxiety, we will run to God for his comfort and not to pornography. 

If you sometimes struggle with porn or even if you recently had a major relapse, here are some practical next steps and tools: 

 

1) Turn to God to fill your longings. 

Intimacy with God can be deepened through prayer, Bible reading, and worship. Use your extra time at home to spend time in God’s presence. (Check out a devotional by Juli Slattery about intimacy with God.)

 

2) Turn to God for healing. 

Today, during my time with God, I read the story of Jesus healing the woman who bled continuously. For twelve years, she suffered, and even spent all her money to try and get better, but she only grew worse. After reaching out and touching Jesus’ cloak her bleeding immediately stopped. 

If you have struggled with porn for years, there is hope. Reach out to Jesus, and he can bring you lasting healing. 

 

3) Find community online. 

Join our date night series or our membership community. We need to connect to real people through video conferencing and talking on the phone. FaceTime a friend and pray together. We need God, but we also need human connection. The internet can be a powerful tool to connect us or a dangerous tool that can isolate us from God and others. 

You can also join online groups that provide community and support specific to pornography. I am currently leading a Pure Desire group. Join a group today.

 

4) Check out other Authentic Intimacy resources.

 

5) Learn how to sit in your discomfort.

Instead of turning to porn, Netflix, or food, journal your feelings. Give yourself permission to cry, to admit feeling overwhelmed, lonely or anxious. You do not need to deny these feelings, but instead turn to God with them. Cry out to God; he can handle our fears, worries, and insecurities. He is all-powerful and all-knowing and the best comforter. As we practice this act of surrender and sitting in our discomfort, we will exercise this muscle. This action may feel difficult now, but over time this will get easier. 

 

Whatever COVID-19 reveals about our hearts, God can heal. He is our healer. We are praying for you in this season!

 

 

Joy Skarka is passionate about creating spaces to free women from shame. Joy earned her undergraduate degree at the University of South Florida, a Master of Arts degree from Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Educational Ministries degree from DTS studying how women find freedom from sexual shame.

While in college she began writing, speaking, and leading online small groups with the goal of helping women experience freedom from sexual shame. In 2020, Joy transitioned from her ministry to serve as the Director of Discipleship for Authentic Intimacy. Joy married her husband Zack in 2017, and they live in Florida.  

 

 

You may also find the following resources helpful:

Java Pack: Learning to Trust
Date Nights In: A series of four online events for married couples about how to talk, fight, and pray about sex.
COVID-19 Marriage Survival Guide

Don't Waste The Pain (blog)
Java with Juli #306: When You Can't Wait Another Day

Java with Juli #40: Bonus! What Do You Fear?

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  • Gee Torres

    Gee Torres

    This was so good, Joy! Thank you for following your calling!!
  • Joy Skarka

    Joy Skarka

    Thanks Gee! I love seeing your comments on here!
  • Ms. Vaughn

    Ms. Vaughn

    This is very encouraging. I look forward to this group and learning.

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Breaking Free from Sexual Addiction
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It’s because sexual addiction is no joking matter. It has ruined millions of marriages and keeps Christian men and women shackled in chains of self-contempt and fear. The roots often begin with children as young as eight or nine. When Satan gets a foothold, it seems as if a lifetime of struggle and failure is certain. Yet, many men and women have discovered freedom from sexual addiction.   What is sexual addiction? A neuropsychologist could give an eloquent detailed explanation of what happens to the brain during sexual addiction. In layman's terms, your body was designed to experience pleasure. There are areas of your brain and body that are wired to bring excitement, euphoria, and feelings of peace and elation. Some people call these the "reward" centers of your brain—God wired your body to reward you and motivate you toward certain actions. For example, after exercising, your body often gets flooded with endorphins that release stress and make you feel great—a.k.a. the "runner's high." A lot of your body's natural rewards are associated with sexuality. The body's response to sexual excitement and passion is stronger than practically any other natural experience. I believe God designed powerful sexual feelings and rewards to draw us into relationship. If we never had sexual drives and feelings, who would ever want to get married? As Paul alludes to in 1 Corinthians 7, sexual desire is a primary reason why we are drawn to marriage. An addiction occurs when we learn to go after the reward without doing the work that the reward is designed to be linked to. Sexual pleasure is designed to be a catalyst and reward for the hard work and risk required in relationship. Enjoying great sex over many years of marriage requires commitment, communication, humility, and effort. Pornography, sexual chat rooms, and erotic novels all allow for a person to experience the physical euphoria without the effort and vulnerability of relationship. They provide a "shortcut" to the powerful reward that God designed for marital intimacy.   Why is sexual addiction a problem? The desires that lead to sexual addiction are not wrong. Both men and women who find themselves caught up in porn, reading books like Fifty Shades of Grey, or in a sexual chat room got there because their healthy God-given desires have been twisted. You are supposed to desire sex, intimacy, an escape from stress, and so on. . . . But the enemy has offered you a shortcut that has now taken over your life. A hallmark of addiction is tolerance. This means that what brought excitement and euphoria last month isn't enough. Now you need something more. Perhaps you began with romance novels. That led to erotica, which led to Internet porn. Now you want to act out on what you've seen and read. You recognize that your appetites are getting out of control, but life without the reward feels dull, empty, and even hopeless. The tragedy of sexual addiction is that it steals your ability to enjoy the natural rewards God designed you to experience. I've talked to committed Christians trapped in sexual addiction who have no sexual desire for their spouse and can't enjoy simple things that once brought great pleasure. One woman put it this way: I became more unsatisfied in our marriage. I was not satisfied by my husband sexually. He couldn't satisfy me, and it was my fault. And I cannot tell you how much I love my children. I have always wanted to be a wife and mother—more than any career life could offer. But I began to feel like my life was boring and mundane. I had thoughts of packing my bags and living a different life.   How do I get over it? The first step to addressing a sexual addiction is to bring it to the light. For you, that might seem more like a giant leap. "Tell someone? Are you serious?!" I've talked to missionaries, homeschooling moms, and others who love the Lord, but are all hiding a sexual addiction. The shame of admitting the struggle is enough to keep them silent. You will never find healing while hiding. God works in light, not in darkness. The enemy wants to keep you isolated. He will tell you lies that keep you stuck in secrecy—lies like, If anyone knew what you did or looked at, you would be a disgrace. Your husband/boyfriend/ family would disown you. Besides, there's no hope. You'll just fall right back into it! You may also be unwilling to take this step because you don't want to let go of your addiction. Telling someone means accountability. Accountability means that you won't have access to the reward. The "reward" has come to represent life, even while it brings death. My friend, I can't tell you the chains that are broken when you bring the secret into the light. Please pray that God will bring into your life a counselor or wise friend with whom you can share. It is important for you to realize you are not alone. Men aren't the only ones struggling with sexual addiction. Because of the stereotype that sex and porn are guys' problems, women feel even greater shame to admit their battle.   Where is victory? I sometimes wonder if the apostle Paul had an addiction. Perhaps his "thorn in the flesh" (which he also calls a messenger from Satan) was some sort of addiction. In Romans, he certainly describes what it feels like to have an addiction: I don't really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can't. I want to do what is good, but I don't. I don't want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don't want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. (Romans 7:15–20) An addiction makes you feel like you are unable to honor God—that no matter how hard you try, you will fail. Paul doesn't end his monologue with his statement of self-contempt, "What a wretched man I am!" He goes on to say that Jesus Christ has saved him from his sinful desires. This doesn't just mean that Jesus forgives, but he also has the power to free us from all bondage we have. I believe God can work incredible victory through an addiction, and I've seen it. To admit the struggle of addiction requires humility and repentance. To develop the daily self-control to say "no" to the shortcuts will require absolute dependence upon God. If you are willing to surrender your struggle to the Lord, he will develop in you amazing qualities of a disciple—a broken woman or man through whom his strength and wisdom can shine.   You may also be interested in these follow-up resources: Jessica Harris' book Beggar's Daughter; Java with Juli episode #241: Women Struggle with Porn Too; crystalrenaud.com; puredesire.org