What's the truth about guys and porn?

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What's the truth about guys and porn?

Nov 01, 2012 |Scott Croft
Question

I am tired of being frustrated, confused and lied to about men, pornography and lust. I am a college-aged girl dealing with the frustrations of dating. My first college boyfriend made me aware of the problems men have with pornography, masturbation and lust. He shared with me his struggles and asked for my help in keeping him accountable. This all crashed and burned a year later when our relationship ended, and I discovered I had been lied to all along about his "progress."

Several years have passed, and I am currently being pursued by a wonderful and godly man; however, last night he opened up and shared with me his own struggles with pornography.

I am tired of being lied to, not knowing what to believe and what not to believe, how to forgive, and what to be OK with. I feel that this is such a taboo subject in the church that Christian girls such as myself are left confused and frustrated. I would love to get advice from a solid source for once.

I have been told that all men struggle with this. I have also been told that it is nearly impossible to overcome. Are there Christian men out there who are able to deal with their lust and don't give in to porn and masturbation frequently? Should I continue to let a man who does have these struggles pursue me, or should they be waiting until they have overcome their issues before they pursue any woman?

I feel very naive about the topic, and honestly as a woman, have a hard time relating and understanding how to handle these situations.

Answer

You raise a lot of good issues in your question. I want to get to the specific questions you've asked, so I won't take a lot of space to go over the horrible problems caused by the use of pornography (most of us would agree on them anyway), but just so I've said it: Pornography is a destroyer of lives. Its use is always sin, and there is no legitimate place for any use of it in the life of a follower of Christ.

As you say, honest conversation with single women on this topic is in short supply, so let me try to offer straight answers on a few of the issues you raised.

Do all men struggle with pornography? Sadly, use of pornography is extremely widespread, even among Christian men. Do 100 percent of men regularly view pornography? No, but both secular and Christian surveys regularly indicate that the vast majority (over 70 percent) of men age 18-24 view it regularly (at least weekly) – and those are just the guys who are willing to admit it. Pornography use even among women has increased markedly in the last several years. In the two churches in which I have served in leadership in the last 10 years, we eventually had to make it a systematic practice to have pointed conversations with men we were considering for deacon or elder positions to make sure that they were not viewing pornography.

Having said all that, I personally know a number of brothers who have never viewed pornography regularly and some who have never viewed it at all. Still, as a practical and statistical matter, a single Christian woman looking to marry may well have to contend with a current or past struggle with pornography in the man she considers marrying.

Is an addiction to pornography impossible (or nearly impossible) to overcome? No. Like most sins – especially those that grow to operate like an addiction – abandoning the use of pornography can be very difficult to overcome, but no sin is impossible to overcome with God. God's Word tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that "no temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." We will never be perfect in this life, but if we have the Holy Spirit in us, the Bible tells us we can fight any sin and have real victory with God's help.

Much will depend on what a man is willing to do to be pure. Is he willing to be in regular accountability with another brother or brothers on this topic? Is he willing to have his computers/smartphone monitored by others? Is he willing to get counseling with a pastor or counselor who can help him fight that sin and the addiction to it and the heart issues that contribute to it? The bottom line is this: Many, many men overcome a sinful addiction to pornography, go on to have lasting victory in this area, and go on to have godly, God-glorifying marriages. It can be done, and it is regularly done.

How does this issue affect dating decisions? There will certainly be differing views here, but let me offer what I and others I trust believe to be some wise principles. First, I would normally not counsel a single woman to agree to date a man who is currently in the throes of a full-on pornography addiction. If he means to marry you and to honor your marriage covenant, he must be fighting the good fight and seeing significant victory, though not necessarily perfection. As a rough guide, one-off stumbles should be measured in months or years, not days or weeks.

Also, as a single woman dating a man who is fighting pornography, it is not your job to keep him accountable, and it is unwise and unfair for him to ask you to do it. If he is serious about fighting the sin and honoring you, he will be in regular accountability with a brother or brothers who know him well.

What if, as may well be the case, you are deep into a relationship, or even engaged, before you find out about the guy's struggle? Again, there's no single answer here. Your question mentioned forgiveness. Remember that as those who have been forgiven in Christ, we can never withhold forgiveness from another. We are to forgive those who sin against us as Christ forgave us. Full stop.

Apart from forgiveness, however, your practical decision (made in consultation with a pastor or others whose wisdom and godliness you trust) about whether to move forward in the relationship should depend on factors like his level of victory over this particular sin, his commitment to the fight, and what you see in his character and godliness apart from this issue. We all sin, but how has he responded to his sin? Remember that as your husband, that man will be called to daily sacrifice himself for your spiritual good (Ephesians 5:25-27). Ask yourself whether his handling of this struggle gives you more or less confidence in his commitment and ability to do that.

I'm afraid nothing I can say here will change the fact that negotiating the minefield of pornography's effects is tough territory for both single women and single men. But the Lord is faithful. He overcomes this and more in the lives of His people every day. I will pray that he does so for you.

Blessings,
SCOTT CROFT

P.S. Below is a list of resources I trust in the battle to understand and fight pornography. I hope you and others will find them helpful.

"Breaking Pornography Addiction" and "Sexual Sin and the Wider, Deeper Battle" by David Powlison
The latter is available in fuller form in Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, edited by John Piper.

Sex is Not the Problem, Lust Is by Joshua Harris
This book does a good job of applying the Gospel to sexual sin.

Crossroads by Ed Welch
This is a good workbook for one-on-one discipling with men who are struggling with pornography.

Tempted and Tried by Russell D. Moore
There are not many books focused more exclusively on temptation.

Help! He's Struggling with Pornography by Brian Croft
Full disclosure – the author is my brother, but don't hold that against him. Still a good practical resource.

The Mortification of Sin by John Owen
A few hundred years older than the other resources on this list. For the brave reader.

Helpful booklets from the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF):
It's All About Me: The Problem with Masturbation by Winston T. Smith
What's Wrong with a Little Porn When You are Single? by Nicholas Black
What's Wrong with a Little Porn When You are Married? by Nicholas Black

Copyright 2012 Scott Croft. All rights reserved.

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