As with any behavior we engage in there are payoffs and there are consequences. This post explores the negative consequences of obsessive and compulsive consumption of pornography.
- Misusing sexuality or unhealthy sexual expression for the gratification of personal lusts and desires rather than the divine purpose if was gifted to use for (pro-creation and monogamous bonding/attachment) creates a host of attachments neuro-chemically and emotionally. When we complete a sex act (climax) we have engaged a process that includes attaching (oxytocin/vasopressin) to the object of our sexual desire. If these objects are images on a screen then we form a connection with those objects that was intended for your partner. Repeated gratification to pornography can lead to difficulty bonding with a loved one in meaningful ways, emotionally and physically.
- Because of the impact of porn, our ability to connect with others emotionally is reduced. The real problem is that our understanding of the true nature of sexual relationships gets polluted with porn consumption (creates fantasy). Porn creates something less life-giving, commitment-solidifying, joy-producing for transient, sensual, immediate gratification. As a result we learn that porn consumption, leading to masturbation and climax can be a powerful “mood altering experience” helping us deal with the stress of day-to-day life.
- Regular pornography viewing can also create a distorted perspective on reality. It reinforces body types that are not natural, sexual positions that are only for a good camera angle not a natural position during sex, it creates expectations for our and our partners sexual behaviors and puts pressure on both to perform as what is seen on the screen. Neural wiring changes occur due to regular porn viewing that reinforces our desires for what we see on the screen. We begin to crave in real life what we see on screen. This can also lead to a sense of emotional disconnect in which we are observes of our own sex acts rather than fully present with our partner.
- Emotional deregulation can occur when we become dependent on porn to relieve stress or make us feel pleasure. When we are frustrated with our partner being sexually unavailable we turn to porn out of frustration or to extract secret revenge for their scorn after a fight.
- In order to consume porn regularly we must disengage morally. This is dangerous because if done frequently or repetitively we lose our ability to empathize with others. Moral disengagement allows us to do that which is socially unacceptable by blaming others, justifying our behavior as deserved or just, or by displacement of responsibility of our choices.
- Porn will likely reinforce negative gender stereotypes. Cultural messages still support traditional gender roles and elevate the notion that women exist for men’s pleasure in a male dominated world.
- The shame and guilt that often accompanies pornography related problems is intense. One the episode is over these feelings rush in and drives the behaviors underground to keep them hidden from others. This leads to isolation and disconnect from important relationships. This can lead to depression or hopelessness and helplessness. The feeling that one is trapped in a shame cycle is often reported.
This list is not exhaustive but is a good gauge of what can happen to an individual that compulsively and/or obsessively consumes pornography. In the next post we will look at ways to walk alongside someone stuck in the labyrinth of pornography.
If you’re a youth worker then you already know about the abundance of pornography due to modern technology. If you don’t, you should pay attention. Due to new technology porn has never been more accessible, affordable, or anonymous than it is today. At the same time, sale of Smart phones to adolescents is driving the mobile phone industry. Add these two factors together and you have a new way to engage in an old struggle.
Young people are historically impulsive and vulnerable to addictive behaviors. This is not a revelation to anyone but the temptations and opportunities to act on those impulses have increased significantly in recent years. Viewing pornography almost seems like a rite of passage and current research tells us that first exposure to pornography is occurring at an average age of 11-years-old. The natural but curious nature of sex often makes it hard for even the most convicted teenager to resist the compulsion to revisit these sites again and again.
Accessible – Youth have unlimited means of accessing outlets to pornographic material today; smart phones, apps, tablets, gaming systems, the internet, television, pay-per-view, and peer-to-peer sexting. There are a myriad of ways that kids can intentionally or unintentionally view material that captivate their bodies and brains in a powerful way.
Affordable – Access to porn has typically come with a price tag that served as a barrier for most young people accessing such material. Today, much like a drug dealer that fronts you a sample to “hook” you, porn website offer free samples in short increments with the same intention.
Anonymous – Because much of this is done of personal i-Devices the stigma typically associated with these behaviors is diminished. One can privately browse content for hours and easily delete any browsing record of such indiscretions. Instead of going to the seedy gas station to buy a magazine, or to the backroom of the video store to find the adult movie selection, technology allows those outlets to come directly to the consumer.
I do not want to demonize the adolescent’s desire for sexual expression. God gave us a sexual desire and it is good. It is important to distinguish between normal sexual curiosity and unhealthy/unsafe sexual practices. Nevertheless, we know that when anyone engages in a behaviors repeatedly neurological changes can occur, rewiring our brains to a “new” norm. Compulsive pornography consumption will fundamentally change the way we, especially our youth, will experience sex. Everything from expectations about sex to the physical experience of sex to our ability to attach to others in an intimate fashion will be impacted.
All is not hopeless. In this blog series we will continue to unpack to the problems associated with sex, as experienced as the norm today, and how we might have better conversations with our youth, their parents, and ourselves about sex and sexual behaviors.
One of the Apostle Paul’s most famous speeches took place at Mars Hill, the Areopagus, in Athens. He noted that they appeared to be a very religious lot of people due to the sheer number of statues they had to their gods. In a brilliant move he identified the one statue that was for the “unknown” god and he saw his bridge. Paul then launched into his epic sermon about the “unknown” God and described our Father to the Greeks. He masterfully used a technique called bridge building to connect with his audience.
Kids today are completely enmeshed in pop culture. We could, and should be aware of what is shaping our youth today and much of what we see and hear impacts them more than we know. But I’m not simply talking about knowing what the newest Katy Perry song is blazing up the charts, what I’m talking about is building a bridge with a language of the soul.
In order to connect with young people they first have to know that you’re interested and trustworthy. They are most likely already suspicious of adults anyway. Too often we have an agenda for them and they know that. It’s what drives them underground many times. What we’re talking about here is a fundamental belief that we have something in common with the young people we love and hope to reach.
If we say things like, “Teens today are just so much more _________ than we were.” or “Kids today are just lazy and apathetic.” we create distance between us and them. If we fail to see that they have the same longings that drove us then and drive us now there will be no bridge to walk across. All we will have to work with is a shallow relationship and all the change we’re likely to affect is shallow compliance to an empty belief system. We have to find common ground and that common ground should be our shared humanity.
In his ground breaking book Hurt: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers, Chap Clark identifies six intrinsic longings of all students. Those longings are: to belong, to matter, to be wanted, to be uniquely ourselves, for a safe place, and to be taken seriously. Who among us can’t relate to those longings? I work with drug addicted emerging adults. Daily they express to me their desire to satisfy those very longings and that much of their behavior was an attempt to do just that.
After some small talk I usually ask a student where in their life do they feel they belong. Where do they and what do they do that makes them feel like they matter? Who takes you seriously? Where are the safest places for you to just be yourself? These are the questions that matter to students even if they don’t have the language to articulate them.
What the Apostle Paul did was provide an opportunity for those in the crowd to have their longings satisfied in a permanent manner by depending on the One true God. A civilization that worships everything is an empty civilization desperately searching for meaning. They apparently hadn’t found that in the many false gods they worshipped.
We have the same opportunity to connect the kids in our community to the very God that Paul preached about to the Greeks but first we must take to time to build a bridge by learning about them and their longings. There is ALWAYS a bridge and it’s up to us to find it.
With teen suicide getting more attention in the news lately it has been revealed that there is a lack of resources to effectively discuss the subject with our students. It is important to have these discussion but it is equally important to have good discussions. The following are guideline for having those discussions, in a formal setting, with your students and their parents.
A special concern for the leader to take into account is that you can’t discuss suicide without touching on your own feelings – students’ and your own. Discussion of suicide will not burden the student and isn’t likely to “plant” the idea in their heads. The teacher must also recognize that this topic needs to be discussed so that students have accurate information, even if someone in the community is not supportive. The following teaching strategies are recommended:
- Provide structure and ground rules for the class.
- Recognize cultural differences and protect students’ privacy. (unless there is disclosure to harm oneself)
- Give honestly of yourself in the discussions.
- Be familiar with referral procedures.
- Stress that everyone can be depressed at some time.
- Be alert and sensitive to students who are upset.
- Don’t try to scare students.
- Provide some lightness through a positive emphasis and permit some humor.
- Assist students and be available, but recognize that you are not a therapist.
The first lesson promotes an understanding of the problem of youth suicide. Students can be asked a number of questions to stimulate their thinking and to clarify the many misperceptions that exist regarding depression and suicide. Students are also asked to identify community resources to assist suicidal youths. Students are asked to visit such agencies and to gather information about them.
The second lesson emphasizes the warning signs and stresses that depression is common and often situational in nature. A group sharing time could be useful that encourages students to think about a time when they were depressed. The exercise focuses on how they felt and acted at the time, to whom they talked, and what helped them through the depressed period.
The third lesson centers on stress, substance use, and suicidal risk. The variety of stressors that teenagers face are emphasized. The relationship between stress and drug/alcohol use is emphasized. Positive steps to cope with stress are taught. Consider bringing in a counselor/therapist to facilitate this discussion.
The goal of the fourth lesson if to help students communicate with and assist a suicidal friend. It is pointed out that secrets must not be kept about suicidal behavior. Activities could include role-playing communication skills. Steps in helping a suicidal friend are identified; who to contact , how to listen, identifying negative emotions, role-playing a number of scenarios where one student responds to a suicidal friend. In these role-plays, showing caring, providing empathetic responses, giving support, and lending perspective are emphasized. (this is not an attempt to pawn off this responsibility on our youth, it is simply a reality that a student is more likely to tell another student that they are suicidal that an adult. This is an attempt to equip students with “what is the first step” information and to hopefully neutralize a situation until an adult can engage)
The final lesson focuses on help available in the community agencies that they contacted as part of the homework for the first lesson. A master list of community services is made for each student and how to contact help in case of an emergency. It is suggestion that students receive a wallet-sized card with community resource information on it, including resources available at their school.
* Each lesson should provide goals, and objectives, and homework of some sort.
A local youth group would bi-annually facilitate a 6 week series they called “Coping With…” and would bring in local professionals to share with students and their families. In this series they would address the many stressors/problems that youth face today, such as; anger, bullying, substance use, finances, dating violence, grief/death, suicide, depression, and other dark subject. The students families were always invited and even had a specific class gear directly towards them. The parents’ class usually addressed issues such as technology, early screening for depression, systemic abandonment, etc.
If you want more information on developing a “Coping With…” series for your youth ministry please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
In March of 2009, our community lost one of our young people, Abbey, to a drug addiction. The loss has been disheartening. Since this loss, it has become our goal to prevent other friends and families from suffering a similar loss. Abbey’s family and friends have put together a walk to raise funds to be donated to local treatment providers. The money raised is then used to develop resources to help people in our community in overcoming addiction.
This year, you may choose to walk in memory of someone, or in support of someone dealing with addiction. To participate in this year’s walk click here to register.
The walk will be held on the 3rd Saturday of September (Sept. 18th).
The walk will begin at 9:00 a.m., and will take place at the Pekin Park Lagoon.
There will be a walk fee of $15. $20 if you would like a t-shirt. $5 for window decals.
If your community has a campaign that addresses the issue of substance abuse I would encourage you to participate. If you have been touched by substance abuse, please donate your time, resources, and financial support.
Often, we as youth workers, parents, teacher, etc. don’t realize the impact our words can have on our students. When a student has experienced trauma or substance abuse problems they can be “triggered” by elements in their environment that leads them back into their pain or negative behaviors. We, as caregivers, need to understand what a trigger is and how it can impact our kids. Once we understand this phenomena we can then capture it and bring it under the healing power of Christ.
So just what is a trigger?
PsychCentral describes a trigger as something that sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the person back to the event of her/his original trauma.
Triggers are very personal; different things trigger different people. The survivor may begin to avoid situations and stimuli that she/he thinks triggered the flashback. She/he will react to this flashback, trigger with an emotional intensity similar to that at the time of the trauma. A person’s triggers are activated through one or more of the five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste.
The senses identified as being the most common to trigger someone are sight and sound, followed by touch and smell, and taste close behind. A combination of the senses is identified as well, especially in situations that strongly resemble the original trauma. Although triggers are varied and diverse, there are often common themes.
Often someone who resembles the abuser or who has similar traits or objects (ie. clothing, hair color, distinctive walk).
Any situation where someone else is being abused (ie. anything from a raised eyebrow and verbal comment to actual physical abuse).
The object that was used to abuse.
The objects that are associated with or were common in the household where the abuse took place (ie. alcohol, piece of furniture, time of year).
Any place or situation where the abuse took place (ie. specific locations in a house, holidays, family events, social settings).
Anything that sounds like anger (ie. raised voices, arguments, bangs and thumps, something breaking).
Anything that sounds like pain or fear (ie. crying, whispering, screaming).
Anything that might have been in the place or situation prior to, during, or after the abuse or reminds her/him of the abuse (ie. sirens, foghorns, music, cricket, chirping, car door closing).
Anything that resembles sounds that the abuser made (ie. whistling, footsteps, pop of can opening, tone of voice).
Words of abuse (ie. cursing, labels, put-downs, specific words used).
Anything that resembles the smell of the abuser (ie. tobacco, alcohol, drugs, after shave, perfume).
Any smells that resemble the place or situation where the abuse occurred (ie. food cooking ,wood, odors, alcohol).
Anything that resembles the abuse or things that occurred prior to or after the abuse (ie. certain physical touch, someone standing too close, petting an animal, the way someone approaches you).
Anything that is related to the abuse, prior to the abuse or after the abuse (ie. certain foods, alcohol, tobacco).