The last several posts on this blog have offered some answers to the hard questions of what it is we’re looking at when we look at porn and why we do it. In this post, I’d like to explore the compulsive or addictive side of this behavior and why so many men say things like, “I know it’s wrong, and I know it’s ruining my relationships (or my job, or my health, etc), but I just can’t seem to stop.”

In his book, Sexual Healing, David Kyle Foster uses a diagram to show the downward spiral of compulsive or addictive sexual behavior. It looks like this:

Temptation to Lust or Fantasize

Acting Out

Feeling Guilty

Experiencing Shame or Self-Condemnation

Turning Inward (closing out feelings and friends)

Desiring to Escape

Temptation to Lust or Fantasize

When I first saw this diagram, I objected to it to it because it seemed to assert that lust is always the first step. (In my last blog post, I said that I didn’t think that was necessarily the case.) Then I looked at the diagram again and realized that, even though it looks like a series of stair steps, it actually represents more of a spiral staircase that keeps repeating itself, AND I recognized that we can get on that staircase at any one of those steps. So, in one sense, it doesn’t matter whether I look at porn and then get discouraged and depressed or whether I am feeling discouraged and depressed and turn to porn as an escape. One step feeds into the other.

The New Testament writer James describes the progression this way: “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death” (James 1 : 14 – 15 NLT). We could look at words like “desire” and “entice” and equate them with sexual temptation, but I would challenge us to consider the full range of steps shown above. Have you ever been “enticed” by the “desire” to turn inward or escape? Have you ever been “dragged away” by feelings of guilt or shame that you allowed to grow unchecked?

There’s a saying that if we keep doing something that we claim we don’t want to do, there’s a payoff for us somewhere in that behavior. If you’re feeling trapped by porn, it’s worth asking where the payoff is for you. Do you think that these steps are correct. Have you seen them in your lives or others?

Is the 1st Step Temptation or Fantasy?