I will never forget the story of Michael Guglielmucci who claimed he had cancer to mask a pornography addiction.

When I first discovered that he was faking cancer, I was angry. My mother was dying of cancer at the time and I didn’t understand how anyone could make a mockery of the disease she had by writing a song about God being our healer while pretending to be sick, having thousands of people donate money to his cancer treatments and publically pray for his healing, while my mother shrivelled up and died.

But see, I was angry because of my own circumstances and struggles. It was a reflection of me, not of him. I wanted to be gracious. I really didn’t want to judge him because I strongly desire to be as non-judgmental as I can be.

When I found out the backstory about Michael’s being addicted to pornography, suffering from so much guilt and shame … I realised he was just like me. He was beating himself up for his sexuality and perceived sexual failings. He wanted healing from his addiction so desperately that he deferred all of his pent up emotions onto a different disease: one that he could talk about within the church without being judged. In fact, he rallied their support. They were praying for his physical healing from a disease, while he asked God to make those prayers count toward healing from his addiction, healing from shame and condemnation, healing from lies and facades.

“It is with much pain and sadness that I make this statement today. For over 16 years I have struggled with an addition to adult pornography. As a result of this secret life of sin my body would often breakdown. I’d report the cause of my symptoms simply as illnesses and I’ve thrown my life into a ministry for many years trying to compensate for my sin.

I believe that I do love Jesus and I know that he loves me and it is this love along with the prayers of people around the world that bring me to this place of confession. Two years ago, I reported that I was suffering from cancer, the truth is that although I was ill I did not have cancer but was again using the misdiagnosis to hide the lie that I was living. I know in my heart that it is the truth alone that will set me free and this is the reason for my confession.”

Unfortunately, hiding our addictions only makes them worse. Secrets have a hidden power that honesty takes away. Most of us have experienced the relief of finally telling the truth about something we feared we would be judged or punished for. Even when we experience negative consequences, the weight of the secret still seems to lift to a degree.

If you have a secret pornography addiction, the first thing I recommend you do is tell someone about it–preferably someone who is not going to tell you that you have to stop, but who will accept and love you where you are at. This is what enables us to change, if we desire to change. When we are supported by people who understand, who admit to their own perceived imperfections, then we feel free. We know that everything is okay whether we change or even if we don’t. Then if we want to change, we are actually far more likely to do so!

As with every other topic, I’m not here to tell you that pornography addiction is wrong or right. But if you feel wrong about it, if you feel trapped in a secret, a lie or a façade, then you need freedom from the lie that you are trapped. God has already set you free. He has already said that no matter what you do, you are completely forgiven. What you do with that freedom, is your choice.

Now, if you desire to change, it might be helpful for you to ask yourself what payoff/s you are getting from watching pornography. Porn isn’t reality, it is a fantasy. It can certainly offer ideas that may alter our own reality, but trying to reduplicate what we’ve seen isn’t always realistic. Are you watching it because you don’t feel you are having enough sex–or not any sex? Are you honest about this with your partner, or if you do not have a partner, can you be honest about this with someone else?

As I said in an earlier blog post, you may also want to ask yourself if you can bring your body to orgasm without porn. Are you in touch with your physical sensations, with your emotions, with your soul? Or are you relying on fantasy to get you off, instead of turning inward to the sexuality God created you with?

If you have a partner who uses pornography, I really want to encourage you not to think of porn as a reflection on you. It is not a reflection on your body–that your boobs are too small, that your butt is too big, that you don’t have any abs or a six pack, that you aren’t as loud as they are, they you don’t like the positions they are using, that you aren’t flexible enough or young enough or whatever else. Even if your partner tells you that you are lacking these things, it doesn’t mean you have to believe him/her, nor do you have to change for him/her.

I hope that you have a partner who validates you the way you are. I hope you can have conversations about how you can make your own personal sex-life more satisfying for the both of you, by talking about what you like and don’t like etc. Porn may come up in the conversation–perhaps a position will be suggested. But there will likely be a rude awakening for the person who expects to mould their partner into a porn-star.

In all honesty, I have seen a small amount of pornography. I found it sexually arousing, but emotionally disturbing. I think that is because I have heard that a lot of women involved in the creation of pornographic videos have been and/or are being sexually abused and exploited. So I feel sorry for them, and I don’t feel comfortable watching porn.

But it is of utmost importance to me that people know they are loved and accepted while watching pornography. I experience a twinge of guilt or embarrassment when I watch porn, almost similar to the embarrassment of walking in on my parents doing it when I was a kid. But I don’t believe guilt comes from God and I don’t feel guilty before God, because I know he loves me unconditionally, at all times.

Whatever you choose to do, be it with or without pornography, I hope you believe that too.

See also:

Masturbation Part 2

There was a lot of discussion on my previous blog about masturbation. Some of the questions that were raised were:

Is it possible to masturbate without lust?

What about the fact that a lot of masturbation is pornography based?

What if I’m addicted to masturbation?

I’m going to address these questions one at a time, however, I am not an expert. This is my personal opinion based on my personal experiences and relationship with God. I don’t expect everyone to agree and at the end of the day, we all choose for ourselves. I also want to clarify that this particular discussion around masturbation is geared at single/unmarried people and not related to masturbation within the context marriage – that is another discussion for another time. My motivation for writing about this is to help people like myself who were raised with legalistic views of the topic and need permission to talk about the subject and fresh ideas about how to express their sexuality.

Masturbation and lust are not synonymous.

Just as it is possible to have a wet dream or nocturnal emission (females have them too) without lust, it is possible to masturbate without lust. I’ve masturbated with my thoughts focused on men, I’ve masturbated with my thoughts focused on my body and physical sensations, and I’ve masturbated with my thoughts focused on God. Now, I’m not saying that every time we focus on male or female anatomy during masturbation it is always lustful, but for argument’s sake, let’s talk about the other options of focusing on one’s own body and on God.

It was my husband (when we were dating) who first suggested to me that people can masturbate and worship God at the same time. He asked how can we honour God with the sexuality He’s given us in our singleness? This got me wondering is it possible to do so in a way beyond just being chaste? I’m not talking about fantasising about having sex with God, I am talking about masturbating before God. He is the one who created us as sexual beings. He sees and knows everything right? So whether we are masturbating with pornography, having sex with a person or masturbating on our own, He is right there with us, loving and accepting us exactly where we are at. So why not turn our hearts toward him in gratitude for our sexuality, and enjoy sexual expression in his presence?

It is possible to masturbate to worship music, masturbate with prayer and masturbate with our thoughts on God’s love for us. My husband and I have both individually masturbated to worship music. For me personally, I have always been aware of God’s presence while I masturbate. Whether I’m feeling irrational guilt and shame (that don’t come from God but rather taint my experience of him) or I’m feeling God’s love and acceptance of me and my sexuality, His love is a constant that we all need to focus on it more. It is also possible to masturbate with lust and still know that God is there and that he still loves you and, in fact, the more you are aware of his love for you, the more likely you are to let go of the lust that entangles.

It is not necessary to kick God out of the bedroom (not that anyone could). Instead we need to recognise that God is actually in the bedroom while we express our sexuality. Let’s re-contextualise our experience of God during masturbation and/or sex by including him. Invite Him to teach us about our bodies. Thank Him for orgasms. If you struggle to orgasm, ask Him to help you. Receive His love, acceptance and forgiveness for all the things we’ve done that we perceive as sexually impure, and ask Him to teach us more about healthy sexual expression in His presence.

During masturbation we become quite attentive to our bodies. I want to talk about the second question “What about the fact that a lot of masturbation is pornography based?” in the context of focusing on our bodies. When we are focused on pictures of naked men or women, we lose some of the connection to the feelings and sensations in our bodies, our hearts and our minds by relying on external material to stimulate us, rather than listening internally. I am not discussing the morality of using porn, I’m talking about the effects of relying on porn.

If you are a regular pornography user, ask yourself this: “Can I masturbate without porn?” If the answer is no or that it has become difficult to masturbate to the point of orgasm without porn, then I suggest a re-invention of your sexuality. Approach it like an adventure: it is time for me to re-discover my body. I don’t want to just rely on external materials to bring me to a climax, I want to be able to do this to myself. This requires listening to one’s body: tuning into physical sensation.

Here is my best attempt at instructions:

  1. Don’t be in a rush
  2. Take some very deep breaths, deep into your loins
  3. Focus on the air circulating throughout the body
  4. Breathe out all that is distracting and hindering you
  5. Breathe in thoughts of love like: “I am loved. God loves me.”
  6. Concentrate on your sex organs and welcome the stimulation that comes from simply sensing internally
  7. Move your body in ways that sexually stimulate you without touching your sexual organs e.g. tighten muscles, raise/lower or extend/retract pelvis, etc
  8. Delay manual stimulation for as long as you can by focusing your thoughts on the sensations in your body and on emotions of nurturing your sexuality
  9. If you feel turned-off by thoughts of nurturing your sexuality, ask yourself why and really listen to the answer. Are there religious lies that stop you? Do you see all forms of sexual arousal as ungodly?
  10. Ask God to change the way you think about your sexuality and to help re-invigorate your sexual expression without always needing pornography and without attaching guilt to all forms of masturbation

Now we turn to the final question: what if I’m addicted to masturbation? In my opinion there are healthier things to consider first. We need to be addressing things like:

  1. How do I feel about God when I masturbate? Since God sees everything I do sexually, am I comfortable with my sexuality before God?
  2. If shame/guilt feelings arise it is important to prayerfully ask God whether they are produced by healthy behaviour or unhealthy behaviour. I can’t tell you exactly where to draw the line on what is healthy or unhealthy, but to be more specific I don’t believe we need to feel guilty for all forms of masturbation. So if guilt feelings arise in this area, we need to ask God for help to remove it. If guilt feelings are produced by behaviours or thoughts we consider unhealthy then we need God’s help to re-invent our sexuality in ways that we believe are healthy.
  3. What are my thoughts about others when I masturbate? Let’s be honest: we’ve probably all had some unhealthy thoughts toward other people during masturbation. The best solution I can think of is focusing more on our own bodies and on God than on other people (while we are still single).
  4. How do I feel about myself when I masturbate: am I nurturing my sexuality or abusing it?
  5. Don’t be too hard on yourself for the things you have done that you perceive as “wrong.” Let God’s grace into every area of your sexuality and turn your attention more to what you can do that is healthy, and less to what you have done that may not have been so healthy.