I was watching my son’s baseball game the other day and happened to overhear an exchange between two parents and their two sons that compelled me to write this post.
The two boys were joking and laughing with one another through out the game. One of the boys joked with his mother sitting near by and goaded her to ask the other boy why he had been grounded from his smart phone. The second boys father walked up and jokingly gave the reason by saying, “somebody likes the P-O-R-N a little too much”. The father, his son, and the other boy laughed and continued on with their activities.
I began to think through some of what I had been learning from the book Wired for intimacy: How pornography hijacks the male brain written by William M. Struthers. I missed my opportunity to share with this father how pornography hurts his son. But, will share with you now what I have learned about the impact of pornography on boys.
Porn Addiction Corrupts Intimacy
We all, boys included have a built in need for connection with other people. We are driven to seek relationship, closeness and safety with those we love. Pornography corrupts this desire by making intimacy all about the physical act of sex rather than vulnerability, and emotional connection. Struthers states it this way,
“pornography corrupts the ability to be intimate. It pulls consumers and producers in with the promise of intimacy, but fails to deliver the connection between two human beings”.
Sex is a part of deep intimacy but it is not the whole picture. Pornography promises the connection that boys long for but delivers shame, guilt, secrecy and pain.
Porn Addiction Consumes the Brain
New brain research demonstrates that experience changes the brain. The viewing of pornography and the subsequent acting out is no different. The more pornography is consumed the greater the impact it has on the brain. Again Struthers describes it well by saying,
“As men [boys] 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… with each lingering stare, pornography deepens a Grand Canyon-like gorge in the brain through which images of women are destined to flow”.
The more pornography that is consumed and the younger the age of exposure the more significant the impact will be on the brain.
Thankfully brain research also demonstrates that the brain is plastic. This means that it changes through out the entire course of ones life. So, the neuro-pathways developed in response to viewing pornography can be rewritten over the course of life. So what can you do to help your son?
What Can Parents Do?
Build Emotional Mastery
For those dealing with porn addiction the viewing of pornography and sexual acting out often become the primary way they deal with stress and overwhelming emotions. They never learned how to adaptively regulate emotions and pornography has become the only strategy that works.
“emotional mastery is important because it teaches boys how to regulate and control their feelings. As a father pushes and challenges, he offers an opportunity for his son to experience these human emotions in a safe place.” (pg. 141)
Connect in Relationship
As stated before we all need connection to other people for survival. Struthers says that the depth of porn addiction is correlated with a boys unmet emotional and relational needs. If you are concerned that your son is addicted to porn it may be tempting to avoid discussing it or to distance yourself from him in anger. What he needs however is more connection with you. His needs for connection and intimacy will never be met through pornography. Those needs are only met in genuine connection with you or other loved ones. Move toward your son in relationship communicate compassion and love in the midst of your heart break.
It can be difficult to reach out for help when struggling with pornography. Our culture tends to view porn addiction as one of the things that cannot be talked about. Reach out to trusted friends, a pastor or professional counselor to walk with you and your son through the struggle.
If you, your son, or someone you know struggles with porn addiction and you are ready to get help please call me at 217-231-1413 and I will help you build the emotional mastery and connection you both need.
Learn more from William Struthers by Watching this Helpful Video.