If a man is trying to recover from a porn addiction, does he need to detoxify by making sure that he never sees any woman who could be alluring?

One of the biggest searches that land people on this blog is for the effects of porn on the brain, and so I have a lot of readers for whom pornography has been a huge problem in their marriages. I have tried to address what you must do if your husband uses porn, and how to recover intimacy after a porn addiction–and so much more. I have talked about the three stages of porn addiction recovery. And I have even written about women and porn!

But I still think there’s a fundamental disconnect when it comes to our understanding of the nature of a porn addiction which makes getting over it that much harder. So let’s go back to first principles for a moment and see what real recovery from a porn addiction looks like.

Porn rewires the brain so that what becomes arousing is an image or a video rather than a person.

Porn turns sexual arousal and sexual response into something that is linked to seeing women solely as sexual objects, and in seeing sex as something which is only self-focused. It’s about the porn user receiving sexual gratification; it has nothing to do with thinking about the other person, let alone seeing that woman as someone with feelings, needs, or desires of her own. She is there only to use and to derive sexual satisfaction from. With that background, let’s picture what happens in the typical marriage when a porn addiction is discovered.

He is now in a lifestyle where he needs pornography to fuel his sexual desire and sexual response. His body has been trained to respond to porn. And a big part of that is seeing women as objects, as something that exist for him to use. Thus, it’s hardly surprising that many men who are recovering from a porn addiction (or who are in the middle of a full-blown porn addiction!) have difficulty with lusting after other women in public.

Porn is not a substance abuse problem. Porn is a substance misuse problem.  

Going to the beach becomes a difficult thing because everywhere are these women that he can see in various states of undress, and he inevitably will think of them as objects. Going to the mall is a similar landmine because there are lingerie stores, with cut outs of women in bras and panties. Going on regular websites is difficult because there could be ads for vacations in the Caribbean featuring women in bikinis, or ads for some sort of lingerie. Everywhere they look, the world is now dangerous because their brains turn immediately to lustful, sexual thoughts.

Now, the wife of the porn addict likely realizes this, and she’s devastated. She wants him to stop lusting. And so what is the solution? The only option seems to be to prevent him from seeing any of those women or images of those women. I have seen it in so many women’s writings online, writings that I know come from a place of deep pain, where they’re begging women and girls to stop wearing revealing swimsuits, and to go back to modest one-pieces, preferably with T-shirts over them, because it’s just too hard for the husband to go to the beach now.

They don’t want their husbands to go to the mall. When they’re driving, they try to distract him when they go by a certain billboard. These women become hyper-vigilant for anything that could cause their husbands’ minds to go in that bad direction.

Let me suggest that when we start viewing women’s bodies as a threat we actually solidify the porn addiction.

I know this is controversial to say, and I’m not trying to defend the ads for vacations in the Caribbean or lingerie stores or anything like that. I’m just saying this: Porn is a problem because it objectifies women and treats all women as if they exist to service a man sexually. When we think that men will inevitably lust if they see a woman’s body, we actually agree with porn’s definition of the world and of women in particular.

Porn is a problem because it objectifies women and treats all women as if they exist to service a man sexually. When we think that men will inevitably lust if they see a woman’s body, we actually agree with porn’s definition of the world and of women in particular.

The way to get over porn is to stop agreeing with porn and to start re-framing how we see women and how we see sex.

A porn addiction, while it has some things in common with an alcohol addiction or a drug addiction, also has a lot of things that distinguish it from those two things. An alcohol or drug addiction is a substance abuse problem–people take a substance which is mood or mind altering and use it too much.

Porn is not a substance abuse problem. Porn is a substance misuse problem. 

There is nothing wrong with sex. There is nothing wrong with women’s bodies. There is nothing wrong with men and women relating to each other. But there is something hugely wrong with how porn sees sex, how porn sees women’s bodies, and how porn sees the relationship between the sexes. Porn warps something which is good. The way that you get over a substance abuse problem, you see, is to stop using that substance. The way that you get over a porn abuse problem, though, is quite different. It’s to stop using porn, yes. But it’s also to stop misusing the elements that go into porn. It’s to stop agreeing with pornography about the nature of women’s bodies, the nature of the relationship between the sexes, the purpose of sex.

I’ve talked before about the 3-fold nature of a porn recovery.

First, you need to get rid of the porn altogether, which I firmly believe should include some sort of filters on your computers, phones, and devices. I have recommended Covenant Eyes for years, and they have a great program that can filter what you can access, which takes away that initial temptation. It doesn’t stop all porn use.

Yes, there may be ways around it. But it makes it harder to access porn. It’s no longer a split second decision, so that there’s a lot more time for people to think, to listen to the Holy Spirit, to withstand that temptation. However, I have also been very vocal that this is only the first step. This just sets the groundwork so that the real healing can take place -healing that usually requires an accountability group and counseling, to help people re-frame sex again, and to help people understand how porn became a coping mechanism and often stunted emotional growth. It’s these latter steps that actually cure a porn addiction, not the first one. The first one simply gives the porn user space to work on things.

Find freedom from porn!

Live porn free - You Can't Recover from Porn by Running Away from Women

Your marriage, and your thought life, do not need to be held captive to pornography.

There is freedom. 

Beat porn–together!

So let me reiterate:

We can’t solve a porn problem if we continue to see women’s bodies as inherently dangerous, because it’s agreeing with porn about the nature of women’s bodies.

That’s also why, in an earlier post about overcoming lust, I was so adamant that in churches we need to become more breastfeeding friendly. If boys grow up seeing that women’s bodies are not only sexual, then it’s easier to withstand lust because you already are rejecting a basic premise of pornography.

Quite frankly, if your husband has used porn and now he can’t walk through a mall, see a billboard, go to the beach, go to a travel agency, or even pick the kids up from a youth group pool party, then there is some serious work to do. And that work cannot be about women learning to cover up; that work needs to be about learning to see women as whole people, and learning to value women as people.

When we continue to treat women as if they have “cooties” and they’re dangerous, then we’re reinforcing the whole issue that porn has caused. The way you fight against objectifying women is to stop objectifying women. Talk to women. Ask women’s opinions. Go out in mixed groups and have conversations that involve both men and women. Read about amazing women. See women as people, not as dangerous things.

With alcohol, it is possible to get rid of all the booze from the house and stay away from places where booze is likely to be. You simply can’t live your life avoiding women, and nor should you. Instead of trying to limit the encounters a porn user can have with women who might be temptresses, a better model is to start helping your husband see women as people. Otherwise we’re just agreeing with porn, and that will never, ever end the hold that porn has on him. If you want to break the addiction, you have to stop agreeing with the mindset.

Cant Defeat Porn by Treating Women Like Sex Objects - You Can't Recover from Porn by Running Away from Women

Does that make sense? I’m not sure how to make this practical or how to completely live this out, but I’d love to talk about this in the comments!

SheilaSidebarAboutMe - You Can't Recover from Porn by Running Away from Women Sheila Wray Gregoire has been married for 27 years and happily married for 22! She loves traveling around North America with her hubby in their RV, giving her signature "Girl Talk" about sex and marriage. And she's written 8 books. About sex and marriage. See a theme here? Plus she knits. Even in line at the grocery store.
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