YOBcast Episode 023: Pornography

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What is pornography? How early did we discover pornography, how has it evolved over the generations, and how do we combat it?

Tom and Elliott welcome back Marshall for a long overdue conversation on pornography — particularly gay pornography. We discuss the definition of the term, our first exposures to pornography, and what we do about it.

Many thanks to our YOBBERS — financial backers of Your Other Brothers who always supply such excellent questions and content for each episode. We truly couldn’t do this show twice a month without y’all!

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Enjoy the episode below! And don’t forget to comment: what defines “pornography” for you? How and when did you first experience it? How do you move (and stay) away from pornography?

Links from the show:

Tom’s posts: yourotherbrothers.com/author/tom

Elliott’s posts: yourotherbrothers.com/author/elliott

Marshall’s posts: yourotherbrothers.com/author/marshall

Michael John Cusick’s Surfing for Godhttp://a.co/i6YjH6V

  • TriggerWarning

    I watched the podcast on Youtube, but I thought I would leave my comment here too.
    A supreme court justice once said, “I can’t really define what pornography is, but I know it when I see it.” I believe he said this in an official court opinion on the subject back in the early 70’s (maybe the late ’60s), and I believe it’s true.
    For me, I can get stimulated by seeing two guys kissing, fully clothed, in a movie or on the street. I just think that they look so happy and I just go “ah”, wishing I had a man to make out with.
    Today, I went down to the Farmer’s Market in the city I live in. I was with a woman from church. She’s my friend, single and around my age and knows I’m SSA…the whole church does, but that’s off the subject. Anyway, there was a man selling grass fed beef from his farm at the Farmer’s Market. The man was fully clothed. He even had a jacket on because it was a cool morning. Lack of covering was not a problem. From the neck up though, he was beautiful. His eyes made me melt inside. He was 30 something and definitely calendar material, even fully clothed. I also have a thing for men’s hands and his were perfect. I wanted to know what the rest of him looked like and the imagination went to work.
    He was eye candy. I had to look away.
    My friend was having problems too as she purchased her grass fed beef . She was blushing and he was smiling at her, which made everything worse. It was all too funny for both of us and at the same time, kind of sad. We discussed it later and decided we’d best not visit him next time we go to the Farmer’s Market.
    Different things serve as porn for different people. Some people have K-Mart underwear models. I have the grass fed beef man. I can’t get him out of my mind. And you know what, that’s what porn does to you. Once you get that endorphine kick from the brain, it sticks. Really, the guy needs to wear a bag on his head, but I suppose he would not sell as much meat that way.
    Stop it TW!….OK

    • Robert Fleming

      That reminds me of a country song…can’t recall which one…that said something like I love it when girls dress up sexy and make em all turn their heads. Creates a kind of healthy tension. 😉

    • Thanks for your perspective, TW. Seems we’re in the same camp with fully clothed arousal. Makes this notion of “porn” all the more complicated for me to unpack as I reexamine my own viewing habits…

  • Robert Fleming

    I’m at an odd place on this journey. I define pornography as anything displaying sexual acts intended to arouse the viewer. Believe it or not I was a very late bloomer…didn’t come across the stuff of real porn until 26 or so. I was finally on my own and decided I finally needed to know what sex looked like. My dad and mom didn’t tell me anything about how it was done or anything. I grew up super sheltered. Like Tom, I was always aroused by underwear photos. I found myself going yes, yes as I listened to both Tom & Elliott. Marshall’s honesty was so refreshing. At this point, I don’t pretend to dislike watching sex take place. I think it’s beautiful. The thing is that I’m drawn mostly to guys having sex. I analyze and ask the why am I going to this question. I also definitely know something about it isn’t good for me. So I tattle on myself. I’m fortunate enough to have several people I can be that level with. Sometimes I wonder if there’ll ever be a time in life I’m not drawn to it. A part of me hopes that never comes. I know that masturbating helps me not go to it. I also know that sometimes I go to it even though I know could just jerk off and be done…so I enjoy it at some level. Definitely resound with the relational comments. What I appear to want is that deep soul connection or at least emotional connection with touch. I’m totally with Elliott when he said that he likes the clothes on thing and then when the underwear comes off he’s like meh next video. Btw – who says shalom at the end of the podcasts? I was raised messianic and studied Hebrew for a while.

    • Robert, thanks! I do seek to be honest and genuine. Facing and admitting the reality of your failures is the first step in the battle against them.

      The one who said “Shalom” was Elliott. You can check out his author page linked here.

      yourotherbrothers.com/author/elliott

      That page also has his email address if you want to contact him.

      • Robert Fleming

        Thanks Marshall. I agree. Transparency is an awesome tool that I enjoy learning how to use. It takes me out of the corner and into the light most times. I appreciate yours!

    • Thanks for sharing, Robert! Such a blessing to be among others who struggle in similar if not exactly the same ways.

      • Robert Fleming

        Amen!

  • defnotryan

    Great podcast! Thanks for making it!

    I think, yeah, accountability/filtering software can be very YMMV. I will say that I’ve been using Covenant Eyes for years and it’s worth every last penny to me. (And I don’t think it degrades my computer’s performance.) Can I find workarounds? Yeah I can think of three off the top of my head–they’re just all a hassle, which gives me time and space to engage with temptation instead of mindlessly following it. Is it a solution? No, it’s a tool. Knowing that my browsing history is being recorded reminds me that it matters. I agree that the deeper, truer way to address the temptation is healthy intimacy and connection, but I find that getting into porn makes that a lot more challenging because it feels like walls go up between me and other people and God. If Covenant Eyes helps keep me from putting up those walls, it’s worthwhile even though it doesn’t get at the deeper issues.

    Nevertheless, though, I think confession is a better model than accountability. I grew up in a Christian culture that has lauded “accountability partners,” and constantly encouraged me to build those kinds of relationships where you periodically ask one another “Did you look at porn this week?” or whatever. I think “accountability” in this sense is a relatively modern concept, invented in the past few decades. On the other hand, confession is an ancient discipline we encounter in the Bible often.

    A few years back I had a friend who wanted to be accountability partners. He wanted us to get together once a week and he wanted me to ask him all these questions and root out sin in his life. It didn’t take long for me to get tired and frustrated. I had to tell him, “Look, man, it needs to be your job to identify sin in your life, and grieve over it, and repent of it. It can be my job to walk with you in that, and remind you of the Gospel, but your confession and repentance can’t be contingent on my ability to find things for you to confess and repent of.” Accountability puts responsibility for your repentance on the people around you, and leaves you free to get away with as much as you can. In confession, however, you take responsibility for your own repentance, and you do the work of revealing your own brokenness (which is ultimately more healing). Because of this I try to view my Covenant Eyes accountability partner more as my confessor rather than somebody who is monitoring me. If I stumble, whether CE is likely to have flagged it or not, I bring my sin to him rather than making him bring it to me.

    (I think there is a place for accountability, though. We are all blind to our sin sometimes. Calling one another out and holding one another accountable is the contingency plan for this blindness. (And I guess maybe also sometimes for hardness of heart?) I won’t confess something I’m blind to–I hope and pray a brother will lovingly shine light on darkness in my heart in those cases!)

    Last I’ll add that like you guys on the podcast I’ve found the most growth and freedom in this area from taking the time to reflect on what I’m trying to get from porn. I remember a line from the recent movie “The Heart of Man” that jumped out at me: One man was speaking of his struggles and finding out what the Lord wanted from him, and he said something along the lines of, “Jesus wasn’t demanding that I stop; he was demanding that I let him into those moments.” It helps so much to take a deep breath during those moments and ask myself, “What do I really, truly want right now?” When I think about it, when I’m honest with myself, I realize that seeing those images isn’t what I actually want. What I truly want in those moments is deep, intimate, mutual, life-giving connection with men and with masculinity, to drink deeply of masculinity, to be mutually known, chosen and cared for by men and masculinity. What does it look like to let Jesus into that moment? Maybe it means acknowledging those longings, and laying them at his feet, and resting in the knowledge that I have a good Father who sees my desires and my needs and will take care of me. But I’m not gonna lie, trusting him with that is so hard! I have no idea what his plan for providing for me looks like. It’s probably going to be hard, even as it’s good. And it’s probably not going to be completely resolved in this life. But he wants me to tell him what I long for, so I do, as often as I long for it.

    • mike

      “But he wants me to tell him what I long for, so I do, as often as I long for it. And that feels really good, at least.”
      Yes, this is so good. It IS about FEELINGS for some of us (me). Life for me is blah. Nothing gives pleasure most of the time. Neither food, work or even sex bring happy up moments. Just a constant low and then if something bad happens as it usually does in life the low is even lower…
      First it was compulsive masturbation to bring some relief for pleasureable moments, then it was alcohol, then hard drugs. Just to feel ‘normal’. Yes to FEEL good. But that only works for a time with complications many…
      A treatment centre solved the booze and drug compulsions but not the blah of life. Then porn! Dark hard stuff that yes brought an up, but as a follower of Christ porn brings extreme guilt that makes things worse.
      It’s not depression that I’m talking about. Nor some form of melancholic personality. It’s what in AA terminology is called a dry drunk: not using but not happy just sober. Psych docs refer to this blah as Reward Deficiency Sundrome (RDS). It is a brain disease caused by an abnormality of dopamine whereby the usual amounts don’t bring happy emotions to the usual pleasurable moments in life. It explains us addicts and why the constant relapse. For me it is porn. Every now and then when the lows get lower. Maybe some of you can relate?
      Nothing works. Except what you’ve written defnotryan. Only Jesus really understands. In my moments of guilt and confession that love and acceptance of Jesus FEELS so good — a feeling nothing compares and the memory of those moments makes me want to stop the porn craving because His intimacy is what I need. “But he wants me to tell him what I long for, so I do, as often as I long for it. And that feels really good…” YES, I get it! His relationship with me doesn’t depend on my relapses and nor do they make me a lessor person in His eyes.

      • defnotryan

        Mike, I’d never heard of RDS but it’s good to learn about it. It sounds like it’s been a rough journey, but I’m so thankful that you’ve found joy and pleasure in Jesus. Thanks for sharing!

    • Maybe I’ll look back into CE since you recommend it so much. Thanks for all your feedback, Ryan. I love that line from The Heart of Man. When I invite Jesus into those moments of temptation, I do find it easier to resist. The problem is that I tend to turn off my brain and heart in those moments. Amazing what a single extra breath, prayer, pause can do, though.

  • A Friend

    To be totally transparent and honest, the rush of endorphins can be intoxicating, and having experienced passion with the same sex, and the testosterone hit from it, can be quite a struggle. I find this happens when I’m alone and have time on my hand, so I know my trigger. Oddly enough, if it’s straight porn, guys are more apt to say, “awww–it’ll get better.” If it’s gay porn, there are few, it seems, that you can just come out and admit it. I have been able to come out to one straight friend, and because he listened, times are a tad better. However, I wish I could turn the switch off like some say to do, but if you don’t struggle, that advice can be empty at times.

    • That rush of endorphins has hit me time and again, even after months of sobriety. Amazing how quickly it can all come back…and crash down.

  • Adrian

    Great podcast! I too have tried both accountability and filtering software, neither which have worked. There is always a way around it. I also resonated with who you guys said about the fact that once it comes to the actual act of sex, pornography is no longer appealing. I’ve found that the same is true with actual sex, everything leading up seems like a good idea but it has always been one of the most unfulfilling experiences of my life. Pornography promises to fill a desire but leaves the viewer feeling empty and alone again.

    • Glad to know I’m not alone in my affinity for soft-core / pre-sex porn. I honestly thought I was alone there. Thanks for sharing, Adrian.

  • Tom Mix

    Thanks for the podcast on porn. I may have a different response than most of you. When I was 10 or 11, an older boy of about 14 or 15 decided to show me what masturbation was. First of all, his penis seemed huge compared with my pubescent penis and, then, white stuff shot out of the end of his penis. I tried and tried to make that happen to me, but all I got was a good feeling and an addicting feeling it was. At a later date of about 1 or 2 years (the timing is fuzzy at this time in my life) another older teen rubbed his erect penis between by butt checks for a while, but didn’t enter me. We were interrupted and had to stop. Needless to say, I was sexualized at an early age. None of this was forced on me. I was a willing participate both times. As I am now 65, these two events have created chaos in my life. I have struggle the last 20 years of calling it abuse as the teens were more than 4 years older than I as I have researched abuse and same sex attraction. I still notice a pretty lady, but also a good looking man. Some times in a few minutes of time. Chaos.

    The first scenes of porn I have looked for over the years have been of masturbation, through I have looked at other porn scenes, both same gender and opposite gender. However, the written word just as powerful as videos or photos. I have given up on porn after trying for years. I used web blocking sites, but didn’t have a second party accountability partner so they were not helpful. I have had 1 month of success several times and 3, 4, and 8 months months of success of not viewing porn or masturbating. I finally destroyed the PC and only use my laptop which is off limits for porn.

    During the first part of my travails of trying to understand why I was attracted to men, but thought some women were hot, I found a book about abuse. At that time I thought all SSA came from being sexualixed at an early age. However, I no longer think that is it. I have often wondered if I hadn’t had those two events in my life how different my life would have been.

    • So sorry about your abuse, Tom. That’s awful. Thanks for sharing boldly with us. Glad you’re here, brother.

      • Tom Mix

        Thanks, Tom. Other have had much more abuse than I have. It changes your life.

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  • Eugene Heffron

    I always tried to stay away from porn but that didn’t stop me from trying to find naked pictures of men online. Weirdly I’ve gotten my fix just from plain non sexual nude photos of men, and the more non sexual it is ironically the more exciting it was for me. That’s why I often frequented nudist sites do I could find non sexual photos.

    Back when my family first got fast internet, I tried googling images of naked men but came across the most rancid hardcore porn instead. My parents discovered my search history and I got in trouble. It’s funny Elliott, your backup excuse for getting caught was the exact same excuse I used and my parents bought it. Still got grounded though.

    So I guess you could say nice photos are my “porn” but when I’m naked with people in real life it’s nit so sexual. I have come across sites that have non sexual naked videos of men that are clearly meant to be porn and have full videos for sale. It’s a struggle.

    • The non-sexual stuff has been more appealing to me since the start. I wonder why the hardcore stuff never stuck for me…not complaining, of course, but definitely curious.

  • For anyone reading this after the fact, it appears our episode player won’t load in this post no matter how many times I try to place it. To listen to this episode, find us on iTunes or Stitcher or listen on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U71jnGvtxwU&lc=z22nth0yrxjjyf42eacdp434jvb5lbet5eykcx5a2t5w03c010c

  • Aaron

    That was an insightful podcast! I went in with the usual skepticism and negativity but ended feeling very encouraged. It helped me connect to crucial dots in my emotional porn habits which I usually dismiss completely. I have simplified my habits by naming them “horny” as opposed to looking a little deeper. Thanks for that!

    I especially found Marsall’s story about the young man who he disappointed very moving. It must have taken great humility to share such a profound story of our weakness and vulnerability. None of us are infallible.

    • Glad we could alter your skepticism to encouragement. That encourages me! This is a topic we’ll dive back into time and again, I’m certain.

  • Jake

    I just said in my comment on the previous podcast episode, but I’m going to say it again here: Thank you, Tom and Elliot, and Marshall in this case, for being so open about your experiences and struggles, especially with topics like pornography. I’ve always felt so ashamed about my struggles with pornography, and like I couldn’t talk about it with anyone, so it’s very refreshing to hear y’all talk about so transparently.

    I’d never really thought about a specific definition of pornography before listening to this episode, and after listening to this episode I realize that it is difficult to define. It seems to be agreeable that pornography is something that stimulates someone sexually, but it did raise a question for me: If I see a picture of a naked woman, and I am not sexually stimulated by it, is it considered pornography? Perhaps that’s where the intention comes in.

    I have had, and still have, struggles with pornography. Like Tom, and others on here, I am more stimulated by the build-up and not so much by the actual sex acts. That being said, I very much appreciate Elliott’s comment about asking yourself why you are watching porn, as well as comments other listeners have left here regarding the same thing. That is something I’ve never thought about, but that I intend to think about moving forward. Thank y’all.

    • This episode really made me think about the definition of “pornography” in my own life, too. I’ve realized I’ve let a lot of stuff slide over the years, and I’m currently taking steps to eliminate those gray areas (which aren’t really all that gray the more I realize it). It’s hard stuff. But it’s necessary. Pornography rots you little by little. Sometimes the gray stuff is even worse because of how sneaky it is.