The pervasiveness of pornography in our culture is obvious and widely discussed. Pornography is primarily marketed to and consumed by men. But why? How does it work? And how can men find freedom? Dr. William Struthers, Associate Professor of Psychology at Wheaton College, has written a very interesting and informative book on how pornography hijacks the male brain and (more importantly) how the very impulses (the drive for intimacy) which propel men toward pornography can lead them out of depravity and into holiness.
The book is divided into two sections: How Pornography Works and Healthy Masculinity and Sexuality. Each section has four chapters. Chapter 1 addresses our culture’s saturation with porn. Pornography is hard to define, and therefore hard to legally restrict. Those who produce it claim to be exercising their first amendment rights. Their materials are not harmful, they argue, since all participants are consenting adults. Moreover, they say, you can’t prove that porn causes men a host of social, psychological, emotional, and spiritual problems (to say nothing of the problems for women). With the Internet comes access, affordability, and anonymity. In addition, the Internet provides opportunities for communication (chat rooms) and connecting with others (hook up sites). Chapter 2 discusses porn’s corruption of intimacy. Rather than sexual intimacy between a husband and wife in a maturing healthy relationship, a man learns to focus on the physiology of sexual sensations detached from any significant relationship. This brings shame, increasing loneliness, and less libido for their wives (or girlfriends). Chapter 3 expands on these consequences. Chapter 4 goes into how a man’s brain is wired and how porn use creates neural pathways in a man’s brain that train his process of arousal.
The next section begins with a chapter on what it means to be made male in God’s image. It interacts with the previous chapter in terms of the brain’s healthy or unhealthy sexual development, but in less technical detail than chapter 4. Chapter 6 is on masculinity. Men learn masculinity from an older male figure. Dr. Struthers says the masculine voice affirms, grows as it is challenged, and defends and protects loved ones from evil. Chapter 7 discusses the male need for intimacy, and how many men, by not enjoying appropriate non-sexual intimacy with other male friends, are more susceptible to the allure of porn. Lots of great insight in this chapter on how a man can grow in tenderness and intimacy with his wife and others. Chapter 8 is on rewiring and sanctification. Here is where Dr. Struthers gives specific insight on how “neural pathways can be rewired” so that men’s natural drive for intimacy can lead us toward holiness rather than depravity.
With a background and interest in science, the whole idea of the book was interesting. But even if you never were interested in science or the brain, the second half of the book would be very helpful to any man seeking greater sexual holiness. Here’s an excerpt from the last chapter:
Imagine that you could be neurologically “enslaved” to purity rather than porn. Enslaved to seeing the dignity of each individual rather than their utility to you. This is the distinction between the journey toward sanctification and the journey toward depravity. As you travel farther along either road, you pick up momentum and it becomes harder to turn around. The farther down the road you travel, the less opportunity you have to deviate from the road as it narrows. The road to depravity leads into the heart of hell and yields isolation. The road toward sanctification, however, leads into the heart of God and yields freedom from temptation.
What’s unique about this book is the emphasis on the physical (brain chemistry) aspects of the addition to porn. But don’t assume that Dr. Struthers leaves any room for men to “blame it on their brains.” No, he writes, “We are still responsible for our actions…The knowledge that we get from Scripture and science should not be used to deny, justify, rationalize, minimize, normalize or celebrate the exercising of brokenness.”