How to Have Sexual Integrity in Marriage

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This post originally appeared on Sexual Integrity Initiative.

Dale (not his real name) was in my office, and through sobs of despair and shame, he said, “I don’t know what happened or why, but I cheated on my wife, and now she’s found out and is leaving me.”

I wish I could tell you confessions like that are rare. They’re not.

The question I want you to consider with me is this: Is illicit sex worth it?

In particular, are adultery and pornography worth the cost?

On a regular basis, I teach that sex is a gift from God, and it is. Regardless of the current level of satisfaction in your marriage, sex is a blessing from the Creator. He wants you to experience loving, creative, and exciting sex with your spouse. That’s God’s plan, and after over forty years of marriage, I can tell you from firsthand experience—it’s awesome when His plan comes together.

Few want to hear this, and even fewer believe it nowadays, but illicit sex outside of your marriage, including adultery and pornography, are costly. Tragically, we humans tend to focus on the “fringe benefits” of immorality rather than the high cost of our infidelities.

According to researchers:

  • 41% of marriages include either physical or emotional infidelity by one or both spouses.
  • 22% of married men and 14% of married women have strayed at least once during their married lives.
  • 74% of men and 68% of women say they would have an affair if they knew they would never be caught.
  • Over 30,000 people are viewing porn every second of every day.

Apparently, unfaithfulness is a relatively common issue, and immorality is far too widespread.

I’ve written about this topic before (find the article here at Charisma News), but let’s take a deeper look.

Why do so many fail?

There are many reasons, but here are some:

  • Sexual boredom (we think the grass is greener elsewhere, and that sex outside of our marriage will be better).
  • Unmet sexual and emotional needs in our current relationship.
  • The love of the chase.
  • The thrill of conquest.
  • Insecurities about our physical and sexual desirability.
  • The pleasure of sin (though momentary and fleeting).
  • Addiction to a feeling rather than commitment to a covenant.
  • Fantasies that we believe are better than our reality.

There may be additional reasons why some spouses wander, but perhaps the biggest reason is that we haven’t considered the high cost of our forbidden sexual exploits.

The costs of an affair that we forget or choose to ignore:

  • Damaged or lost relationships with your friends, children, and extended family.
  • Severe financial impact due to divorce.
  • Loss of your God-given mission and purpose in life.
  • Emotional damage and lost joy.
  • Loss of respect for yourself and by others.
  • Potential physical illnesses (STDs are still rampant).

A strong motivator toward moral purity is weighing the costs of moral failure. Ask anyone who’s been down that disastrous road and they will tell you, “It’s not worth it.”

In fact, many years ago, I had one guy tell me quite bluntly, “When it’s all said and done, an orgasm is just an orgasm, and my moral failure cost me just about everything I truly value.”

Wow.

We all know that drinking poison will kill us; we are aware of the cost of that irrational act. However, we foolishly toy with adultery or pornography thinking no harm will come, but it does.

Someone recently asked me, “Do you ever struggle with temptation?”

Without hesitation, I said, “I’m a male and I’m breathing. Of course, I’m tempted. But temptation isn’t the problem. Jesus was tempted in every way I am. The sin occurs if and when I stop resisting and give in.”

So what can we do?

As a husband or a wife, what steps can you take to help you delight in the spouse of your youth and to help you stay true?

  • Flee sexual immorality. Don’t linger or dawdle. Run from temptation! Stop reading the trashy romance novels. Turn off the TV programs that stir unholy desires.
  • Have the long view. What will your failure or unfaithfulness mean to you and your family in the years and decades to come?
  • Install accountability software and filters on your computer and smartphone.
  • Count the cost and imagine the worst not the best if you fail. (This should be sobering.)
  • Ask godly friends to support you in the battle and to hold you accountable.
  • Establish and maintain wise and holy boundaries. (For example, never be completely alone with an unrelated member of the opposite sex. It’s impossible to commit adultery if you practice this one relationship rule.)
  • Walk in the light and the power of the Spirit.

In hundreds (and maybe thousands) of conversations over my many years of life, it’s become clear to me that we all wrestle with the flesh. Frankly, every one of us is just one bad decision away from disaster. You’re kidding yourself if you think you’re beyond the potential for a moral fiasco.1

Not now. Not in this corrupt world. Not on this side of eternity.

But the good news is God is faithful, and He will always make a way of escape for you.

You just have to take the God-given off ramp.

How Playboy Can Shape Our Conversations in Church

By Jason Soucinek

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Last week Playboy announced that it would no longer show nude photos of women. Apparently nude no longer sells.

And that is a big deal. Why? Because in our sex-craved culture, nude is not enough!

I’ve heard some rejoicing for this decision and I can understand why. These voices believe Playboy disappearing means the demand for pornographic magazines is changing. In some ways they may be right, but not for the reasons we might think.

As our culture continues to be exposed to more graphic and salacious images, Playboy just doesn’t fit the script any longer. What we are now exposed to on a daily basis is the same or worse than what just a decade ago people were hiding under our beds, away from the eyes of parents. We now live in a 24/7 porn-saturated culture. Whatever your passions could possibly desire we can now find online instantly.

Playboy themselves acknowledged this fact by admitting they have been overtaken by the changes the magazine itself brought to mainstream culture. “That battle has been fought and won,” said Scott Flanders, the company’s chief executive. “You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passé at this juncture.”

Sadly, he is right. They have won and are winning.

In fact, Playboy reported an increase in online readership when they choose to remove nudity from their website last August. As a result the average age of Playboy’s reader dropped from 47 to just over 30, and its web traffic jumped from four million users per month to 16 million per month. 

I think the reason for this increase lies in our desire to reignite the imagination many have lost. Think about it: most porn today leaves little or nothing to the imagination. Today’s porn is raw, in your face, and incredibly unrealistic. Don’t believe me? Check out the multiple studies found here and here.

We are so over stimulated with pornographic images that when we are asked to use our imaginations once more, the rush and excitement feels new again.

Research is showing we are becoming more and more radical in our pornographic addictions. At some point our brain becomes numb to raw, little-left-to-the-imagination images. Playboy has figured this out and wants to once more entice an audience by showing less skin, leaving the reader to use their imagination once again.

Porn is not the same as it was. It has changed. And so must our conversations surrounding this topic.

We must be bold, in the church and outside of it, because if we don’t we are going to lose some great opportunities to bring light into the darkness of so many stories. The church, better than anyone, has the ability through the work of the Holy Spirit to spark the imagination of the human brain as it relates to sex in powerful and new ways.

But this can only happen if we are willing to talk about the difficult stories (including pornography use) that often come as we talk about our sexual brokenness. The only way someone trapped in the cycle of habitual porn watching will hear the good news of the Gospel is if we are willing to talk about this bad news in their life.

While Playboy is adapting to show less skin, we need to be more raw, open, and transparent in our conversations about pornography and sexuality. In order to heal, we need to expose our struggles in ways we might not have ever thought necessary (or possible) a few short years ago. It is only through bringing our own weaknesses to light that we fight off the darkness.

We can be the ones winning, if we only start the conversation.

I Watched “Hot Girls Wanted” And Here’s What I Discovered About Porn

By Julia Feeser

Tressa, one of the young women featured in

Tressa, one of the young women featured in “Hot Girls Wanted.”

Hot Girls Wanted is not a documentary for the faint of heart.

Hot Girls Wanted premiered on Netflix last month and has since been generating buzz. And not the kind of buzz you usually see from a film featuring attractive women – instead, this documentary exposes not only the realities of working in the porn industry, but the skewed vision of sexuality and intimacy that young people hold.

Hot Girls Wanted was produced by writer and actress Rashida Jones and follows the lives of four girls, all between the ages of 18-19, as they take their first steps into the world of amateur porn.

The film is rife with numerous scenarios that most people would find disturbing: girls seeking these amateur porn jobs from an ad they found on Craig’s List, the depiction of abuse that many girls suffer (because, as one porn star puts it, “In the amateur porn world, you’re just processed meat. As long as you have [a body] that’s all that matters. They don’t care who you really are.”), girls as young as 18 put in scenes with much older men, and the overall belief among the girls that sex is a commodity, something that can be separated into distinct categories of physical sex (porn) and intimate sex (a romantic relationship).

I went into watching Hot Girls Wanted with an agenda: I was going to highlight just how messed up these young girls’ view of sex and sexuality was and how our society holds no value for real sexual intimacy or waiting until marriage, etc., etc., etc.

And while I could very well go on about those things that I did see prevalent in this documentary, I actually came away with something altogether different and deeply humbling:

I understand why people want to watch pornography.

Porn is, without a doubt, alluring; it’s mysterious, it’s forbidden, it’s shocking, and it appears to be an easy way to get a sexual “fix.”

Porn showcases a desire that is already within me: to experience sexuality, touch, intimacy (although porn is mostly devoid of that), and relationship. I have always thought of porn as a disgusting means to this end, knowing the type of scenarios porn depicts. However, porn’s hook is that it calls to these desires, awaking something in you that says, “If you watch this, you can feel a little bit of what you’re longing for.”

But porn is also incredibly dangerous to those who watch it, leading to deeply negative consequences such as broken relationships, addictive behaviors, and a warped vision of sexuality, to name a few.

It’s easy for me as a non-porn user and sexual integrity advocate to stand on the sidelines and point fingers and say, “Watching porn is bad and you people who watch porn are unhealthy and twisted and have no self-control.” But the truth is, a majority of people who watch porn are those who have become trapped in a world of using pornography to fulfill otherwise normal sexual desires.  

And as I was watching Hot Girls Wanted I had this realization that I could just as easily be one of those people sucked into turning to porn for sexual pleasure and fulfillment of a much deeper longing. 

Watching porn is not something anybody should be doing, and yet the truth is that every single one of us is susceptible to porn, in one way or another.

We are sexual beings, and whether we are actively seeking it or not, we crave the feelings and experiences that come along with sex and relationships, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. But as sinful beings, our sexual brokenness leads us to often seek after those things in ways not good for our well-being, porn being one of them.

What I discovered by watching Hot Girls Wanted is that I’m not exempt from this temptation, and I would wager a guess that this is true for the majority of us as people who are curious about sex. Because of this, it’s deeply important we understand where we are turning to for information about sex and how we are experiencing sexuality, because most of us are capable of going about this in a way that is not only unhealthy for ourselves, but unhealthy for those we are in relationships with, myself included.

If you or someone you know is struggling with pornography, we want to help. Learn more and purchase life-changing resources. 

How To Deflate Your Porn Addiction

This comes from our partner, XXXChurch, and highlights a serious issue and steps to free yourself:

deflateWhat we’ve learned from this DeflateGate controversy.

1. If you cheat or lie the truth will always come out.

2. It’s better to confess than get caught.

3. Your legacy matters.

4. Consequences are real.

Below are 10 Things you can do to deflate your addiction.

1) Prepare for discomfort.
Let’s be honest, if you’re going to learn to live without porn and masturbation, you’re going to experience discomfort on many levels. Some people are so addicted that experiencing sobriety leads to withdrawal symptoms (like depression, irritability, etc). If this happens, it will be especially important to press through the pain. God will provide much-needed strength as you learn to persevere through the trial and temptations ahead. (Forest Benedict)

2) Practice self-forgiveness.
Many people can receive God’s forgiveness but are unable to forgive themselves. Feelings of shame and self-criticism can surface constantly for those addicted to porn, and many people think that beating themselves up will lead to change. Ironically, the truth is that self-criticism and shame play key roles in perpetuating addiction. Thus, learning to relate to yourself with the kind of grace that God extends to you will contribute to a victorious year. Forgive yourself for past choices and when you go astray next time, and then forgive yourself again.  Then get back up ASAP and keep moving forward. (Forest Benedict)

3) Don’t trust willpower.
Will power always fails eventually. Trust the tools and people in your life to keep you accountable. (Dave Willis)

4) Find at least one person who you can trust with everything.
It feels so natural to hide our struggles in order to appear like we have it all together. As long as your junk stays hidden though, it will fester. It will continue to control and torment you until you deal with it. Luckily, God has given us a plan for bringing that junk into the light: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed (James 5:16).” It’s a simple plan, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Be courageous though. Find at least one person who you can share your junk with so that nothing in your life remains hidden. Dig it up, talk about it, pray about it, and bless on another as you share your victories together. (Stephen Kuhn)

5) Keep stats.
Take note of the times when you’re tempted to watch porn the most. Is it when you’re stressed? Is it when you feel insecure? Is it when you’re bored? Knowing your “triggers” can reveal a lot about the root of your interest/addiction. It can also help you to figure out what you should do in place of porn. Stressed? Exercise. Insecure? Pamper yourself. Bored? Watch an appropriate movie. (Shellie R. Warren)

6) Understand what “Fleeing” really looks like today.
If porn and masturbation are a temptation for you, avoid porn gateways. Let’s be real: who can watch a two-minute soft-porn sex scene in Game of Thrones without lusting? If sexual temptation is your struggle, then don’t play dumb and go see 50 Shades of Grey. In fact, take a realistic peek at the times you’ve failed in the past and retrace your step to locate lusting gateways and “triggers.” The apostle Paul didn’t say, “be a little bit careful” of these things… he said “RUN AWAY!!!” (Jonathan McKee)

7) Recognize your God-given nature.
Embrace, accept, and celebrate the fact that God has created us as sexual beings and that the desires that come with this aspect of ourselves are to be honored. Honoring our desires does not mean denying them (that is a form of dishonor). Rather, honoring our sexual desires means lining them up with God’s intent for them – to draw us into committed, loving relationships with God, with others, and even within ourselves (Matthew 22:34-40). (Randall Ajimine)

8) Start asking the right questions.
When you feel tempted, locate that temptation within your body and ask yourself, “What am I medicating?” The truth is that “acting out” isn’t the problem – it’s the medication for the real problem. Let 2015 be the year where you plunge below the surface, shed the guilt and shame, and start asking the deeper questions about yourself. (Seth Taylor)

9) Change your outlook.
Stop dwelling on the negatives and start focusing on the positives. What’s good in your life? What could be even better? Then ask yourself how porn use or masturbation is limiting you in these areas. Stop making it so much about why you need to stop these negative things and more about why you want to increase these positive things. Envision a better life and then go for it. Knock down those things that are stopping you from the full realization of what life has to offer by taking advantage of the tools and resources you have available to you. (Carl Thomas)

10) Do it one day at a time.
Any lifestyle change begins with a daily commitment to live differently. Don’t focus on having to abstain forever. Focus on living today free from porn. You can do it. Then, you can wake up tomorrow and do it again. One day at a time you will overcome. (Dave Willis)

x3watch.pngWhatever you do, you can’t do it alone. You need people in your life to help you, to love  you, and to hold you accountable. If you want to go fast – go alone. If you want to go far – get accountable and open. Download X3watch Premium today for the BEST online accountability software and filtering solution.

Pornography as art?

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Never before has pornography been as accessible as it is today.

I was reminded of this fact when recently Paper magazine tried to ‘break the internet’ with images of Kim Kardashian showing her backside on the front cover and going fully nude on the inside. Many have celebrated and praised the magazine and Mrs. Kardashian for these ‘tasteful’ images. But we have to ask the question: How is this any different than Playboy which, as of this writing, is still considered pornography?

In our oversexed world it is becoming easier and easier to pass these images off as art. No longer is sex or nudity something we reserve for the bedroom but as something to be exploited and treated as a commodity. In the instance of Kim Kardashian what seems to keep these images from becoming x-rated is the photographer who took them, Jean-Paul Goode. Goode is famous for his work, which is featured in museums around the world, making Kim Kardashian more of a muse and icon than someone posing naked for a magazine.

Over the years magazines have rarely shied away from gratuitous nudity. Jennifer Aniston, Miley Cyrus, Zoe Saldana, and even pregnant Demi Moore have taken it all off, though with creative placement covering up important parts. While nudity in the public forum is nothing new, the public discourse on whether or not this is pornographic has all but disappeared, even as the frequency of these images has increased.

A similar thought passed my mind this last summer when Keira Knightley posed topless for Interview magazine. She is most famous for her starring role in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Her desire was to show the public what she ‘really’ looked like. She was tired of having her body manipulated by airbrushing and wanted to share an image free of editing. At the time she said, ‘OK, I’m fine doing the topless shot so long as you don’t make them any bigger or retouch.’ She went on to say, ‘I think women’s bodies are a battleground and photography is partly to blame. Our society is photographic now.’ And she’s right, we do live in a photographic society, which is the reason it becomes important to clearly define ‘porn.’

Historically, most dictionaries define pornography as printed or visual material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal. Groups like Fight the New Drug share how pornography rewires the brain, heart, and ultimately the way we engage in relationship with the world around us. Harvest USA says that pornography is anything the heart uses to find sexual expression outside of God’s intended design for relational intimacy. For all of my life, my parent’s life, and my grand parents life that has been true of pornography, until now.

Britannica online points out that porn is defined by society: Because the very definition of pornography is subjective, a history of pornography is nearly impossible to conceive; imagery that might be considered erotic or even religious in one society may be condemned as pornographic in another. Thus, European travelers to India in the 19th century were appalled by what they considered pornographic representations of sexual contact and intercourse on Hindu temples; most modern observers would probably react differently. Many contemporary Muslim societies likewise apply the label “pornography” to many motion pictures and television programs that are unobjectionable in Western societies. To adopt a cliché, pornography is very much in the eye of the beholder.

That is exactly what we find happening here in the United States. Magazines like Paper and Interview are changing the way we think about pornography by labeling it art. But in reality this is pornography. Or, to be more exact, this is soft-core pornography, which is sexually explicit images that are ubiquitously found in advertising. Dr. Gary Brooks, a psychologist at Texas A&M, has published many articles on the harmful effects of pornography and in particular, soft-core pornography. He states, ‘The problem with soft-core pornography is that it’s voyeurism – it teaches men to view women as objects rather than to be in relationships with women as human beings.’ According to Brooks, pornography gives men the false impression that sex and pleasure are entirely divorced from relationships.

The sad truth is that soft-core pornography, like the images of Kim Kardashian and Keira Knightley, are appearing now more than ever before. If you disagree that these images are art you’re labeled a prude or someone who lacks the ability to see this for the beauty the rest of the advertising world says it is, art. That is one reason we do not see much discourse on this in the public sphere.

Interestingly, three years ago she was crying on the shoulder of her mother, Kris Jenner, on the show ‘Kourtney and Kim Take New York’ after a W magazine spread came out and she was unexpectedly naked saying, ‘You can see my nipples, you can see my asscrack.’ She did agree to be naked, though she was supposed to have been painted silver with objects digitally cover her privates. When the magazine was published she found something very different exclaiming, ‘Oh, my god, I look more naked than I did in Playboy.’ In fact, she goes on to share how she wanted to be known for something more than her naked body. Well, it’s obvious she changed her mind…much like the rest of the United States is changing its mind about how pornography is defined.

We need to be alert to the desensitization of how we view pornographic images. As pornography is being redefined by advertisers, we need to also remember what science and research shows it to be, a force that is destructive and changes the way we see others. In an effort to counter some of what we see in our media, it is important we take the following steps with our kids and ourselves:

Clearly define what pornography is. As our society begins to change how it perceives and defines images like those of Kim Kardashian and Keira Knightley, it is important that parents and churches don’t do the same. One of the clearer definitions comes from Tim Chester in his book ‘Closing the Window.’ He says anything we use for sexual titillation, gratification, or escape, whether it is intended for that purpose or not, is pornographic.

Understand the impact that pornography has on our culture. We have to start being honest with the fact that pornography is rewiring our brain. In his book ‘Wired for Intimacy’ Dr. William Struthers says, ‘As men fall deeper into the mental habit of fixating on [pornographic images], the exposure to them creates neural pathways. Like a path is created in the woods with each successive hiker, so do the neural paths set the course for the next time an erotic image is viewed. Over time these neural paths become wider as they are repeatedly traveled with each exposure to pornography. They become the automatic pathway through which interactions with woman are routed….They have unknowingly created a neurological circuit that imprisons their ability to see women rightly as created in God’s image.’

Realize that we are made for relationship. Scripture tells us that we are made in the image of God. We are created to be in relationship with Him and others, just like He is in relationship with Himself through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But pornography demeans and objectifies others. It causes us to see the other as someone who is there to meet our needs. Research shows that when we are exposed to pornography, it becomes harder to be aroused by a real person or relationship.

Recognize that porn distorts God’s design for sex. Whether they want to or not, the majority of teens are getting some of their sex-ed from pornography. Researchers have repeatedly found that people who have seen a significant amount of porn are more likely to start having sex sooner and with more partners, and to engage in riskier kinds of sex. Sex is meant to unite two people. It is meant to lead to children and it is meant to recall, and even reenact, the promise that God makes to us and that we make to one another in the marriage vow. Pornography promises only to leave us lonely, empty, and unfulfilled.

Don’t believe porn is something we just have to accept. Although the number of images has increased over the last few years we should not think it is ever okay. Porn is never part of a normal and healthy relationship. As more and more data shows the negative impact images like these have on the brain and heart, the more important it becomes to educate our youth and young adults to push back.

Porn – Not Just a Male Issue

The-porn-industry-is-a-multi-billion-dollar-moneymaker-that-will-soon-Pornography is an epidemic in our culture. Even the most progressive of voices are realizing the negative impact it is having on relationships, both platonic and romantic. What began as small murmurs have become loud cries for help. For the longest time those that struggled with porn were left to either figure it out or feel embarrassed for sharing their struggle.

Statistics only reinforce this truth. You can view some of the specifics by clicking here and here. I’ve also written briefly on it here. One thing that is not often discussed is the growing number of women who have or are struggling with pornography. It is the silent world that few are willing to talk about. That is why I am thankful for women like Project Six19’s intern, Katelyn.

I asked her to briefly share her testimony. Hopefully they move you as much as they moved me…

“I am a woman who has recently chosen a new lifestyle; one of health, beauty, and strength. I have chosen to embrace me. To become the woman I am meant to be. Each day, I wake up and know that it is MY day. Today, I feel beautiful. Today, I am going to do something great. Each day is a new adventure, a different journey; each more exciting than the last. Tomorrow will bring more joy than today, if at all I thought possible. Each day is full of precious moments, filled with beauty, joy, and reflection; reflections of who I am and who I used to be; the progress that I have made. Today, I am a beautiful woman of God, one who has a bright future and has been washed clean of her struggle with pornography. It all started when I was about 12 years old.

It could be anything; a scene in a movie, that pop up on the internet…anything can trigger the curiosity. Pornography played a large role in my life for about three years, until God called me out of the pit. The journey I went on was difficult not only because pornography is like a fish hook that won’t let go, but because I went on it alone.

According to our society, pornography is a male issue. Not only is it somewhat of a taboo to talk about for males, but it is an issue that is simply not addressed for women; especially in the church. I went through this struggle in my own little world, thinking that I was the only female to have ever struggled with this. There was shame tied to what I was doing, and then there was more shame built on top of the loneliness. Pornography is NOT just a male issue. More women than you would think are struggling with pornography and someone has got to stand up and be a voice. Women need help.

I am one woman, but I have a voice; a voice that I will use to encourage healing and restoration in the lives of women struggling with pornography. I want to talk about it. I want women to know they are not alone. I have been there, and let me tell you, the feeling of being alone in such a place of struggle is unbearable.

We, as a generation of beautiful women need to stand up for the broken. We need to have the courage to talk about the things that aren’t talked about; to deal with the areas that women ‘are not supposed to struggle with.’ Women are carrying these buried burdens alone. Something needs to change. We need to be women clothed in strength and dignity; women who stand for those who can’t stand themselves.”

Even Porn Stars Need Jesus…

I came across this story a few days ago. It is touching and powerful. Ron Jeremy and Craig Gross of xxxchurch.com have been debating one another about the impact of porn on our society for years. During that time, however, the two became good friends. It was their friendship that ultimately lead to what we discover in this interview…Ron Jeremy came to know Jesus. Something that I am always reminded of is how individuals come to know Jesus through relationship. I’ve seen these two debate and what I see in this video is something I could have never imagined in my wildest dreams. Personally, it is empowering to see Craig Gross be so engaged in Ron Jeremy’s life…even before he ever became a believer. Such a beautiful and moving testimony. Check it out!