As a young man growing up I came to the conclusion that my struggles with sex, porn, and compulsive lust was just a natural part of being a man. After all, this is what I heard from my friends, from society, and even from the pulpit.
“Carl, you are man, so you will always want sex. You will always lust. You will always have to fight the need to masturbate. You just need to be disciplined enough to fight those urges.”
For some, this type of mindset serves as an extremely heavy burden to bear, especially when living in a media culture that dangles sex in front of you every chance it gets. Consequently, the shame that comes with NOT being able to “control” one’s self can be immense.
For me, it was a free pass.
Understand that in my teens and 20s, I really was not concerned about my relationship with God. Christianity was in essence fire insurance for me, so I got very good at rejecting the pressures of religious guilt and therefore saw my struggles with porn, lust, and sex as completely natural, even expected you might say.
Why would I ever think I needed help or that what I was doing was damaging if porn, masturbation, and sleeping around was” just what a man does?”
Fast forward nearly two decades and a couple of years into my recovery.
I wasn’t looking at porn.
I wasn’t masturbating.
I was pursuing a better relationship with my wife and God.
But, I still saw my lot as a man very much the same.
In fact, I used to say to guys, “Hey man, lust is inevitable. It comes packaged with your penis. This is why we all need accountability.”
My thinking, as it turned out, was common among the other men I talked to. Apparently, we all had grown up with the same cultural assumptions. Additionally, books on lust control and “porn addiction recovery” that touted better impulse control and behavior modification as the solution to our masculine struggles perpetuated these perspectives
And while I was never big on behavior modification when it came to effective recovery, I did swallow the horse-sized pill I was given regarding lust frequency, expectation, and control.
The problems with this manner of thinking are many.
- It leads to either shame or justification.
- It misses the larger issue with lust.
- It further marginalizes women who find themselves struggling with unwanted sexual behavior because not only are they deviant, they are dealing with a “man’s issue.”
- It ignores the reality that attraction and desire are natural, and not necessarily “bad.”
- It overlooks the truth that lust is a choice, not an inevitably.
Now, admittedly, “lust” is more of a topic among men than women. But, that’s primarily because of the one dimensional way we define it. The truth is that lust is an equal opportunity offender , and we all have the option to embrace or refuse it.
So before you buy into the myth that lust is primarily a “man’s issue” and something we need to kind of expect with guys, consider these points.
First, “lust” as defined by Merriam-Webster means to have an intense desire or need, particularly as it pertains to sexual urges. Now, while we tend to demonize this term, having an intense desire for something that’s good isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Regardless, based on this understanding of the word one can see that lust is not JUST a man’s issue, it’s a human issue.
Second, the issue with sexual lust isn’t so much the desire, as the objectification that stands behind that desire. In other words, when we sexually objectify someone (including our spouse) we are reducing that person to a “thing” for the purposes of self gratification. And again, any man or woman can objectify someone else for the purposes of sexual (or emotional) gratification.
Consequently, when we appreciate the real issue with lust, we can better understand how simple behavior modification strategies do not address the actual problem. And in fact, may only serve to still see an individual as an “object” of temptation rather than an object of gratification.
Third, attraction and desire are not bad things. Sure, they can turn that way quickly when left unexamined. But, because you find someone attractive or desirable you still have the option to pursue lust or not.
It’s your choice.
Either go down the road of objectification and indulge your lust or try to control it.
Or recognize the person you are attracted to is a real person with a body, soul, and spirit and therefore deserves to not be reduced to a simple mechanism for sexual pleasure allowing yourself the opportunity to not venture down that road in the first place.
Yes, the battle of lust is a real thing, but it’s a battle you can choose to wage or not, and is not just limited to just those with a Y chromosome.
And as always, if you have any questions about this or need any advice on your sexual and/or recovery journey, ask us anything you want HERE and we’ll answer your question in an upcoming Office Hours segment.