Renouncing porn binds you to it

Image for post
Image for post

I can’t remember exactly where I heard this proverb, but it’s something like this: He who renounces something is eternally bound to it.

After all, what is it to renounce something other than to eternally be apart from it — intentionally? The same way marrying someone bonds you to them for good, so renouncing something (supposedly) separates you from it for good.

I was talking with a friend recently about these two things, and what the alternative is, and related my upbringing as an example. When I was younger, I went to multiple purity retreats and sexual education weekends. The truth is, I’m grateful for these things. They solidified my resolve to be a virgin until marriage and gave me plenty of reasons to remain so, more than just “sex is bad, don’t do it.”

On the flip side, however, my parents never gave much weight to drugs, alcohol or smoking. Whenever my parents would have wine with dinner, they would let my brother and I take sips. They would let us take a drag of my dad’s occasional cigar, both of which led to us coughing and trying to get the taste out of our mouth.

Looking at their approach to sex versus their approach to substances seems to reflect a lot on how I see both as an adult. I have struggled for over a decade with a porn addiction, though I still remain a virgin. I have never, however, been drunk, high, or addicted to any type of substance, and none of those things even appeal to me. I simply don’t care about them.

Do you see the difference? To speak of something (sex) with some sort of ethereal mystique gives it a strong allure, even if all intentions are to keep someone away from it until the appropriate times. Because sex was hammered into me repeatedly as something to avoid until marriage also served to elevate it in my mind to some sort of ecstatic utopia that I was dying to achieve.

However, to mention things (substances) casually keeps them in their appropriate place. I didn’t — nor do I now — care much about alcohol or cigarettes or weed, probably because they were not emphasized much in either direction in my upbringing.

Another problem arises though, because I imagine being a parent someday and I simply cannot picture myself casually shrugging about sexual conversations with my children. I think it’s such an important topic on which they need to be educated in order to combat the world’s laissez-faire way of approaching it. How do we do this in a way that doesn’t also elevate sex to a source-of-all-satisfaction type of mystery?

I don’t have many answers, but one thought I have is this: The model of gross/god/gift.

Some people see sex as ‘gross.’ Think Puritans or fundamentalists who try to scare their kids away from sex for life. This accomplishes exactly what I am talking about — try so hard to drive someone away from something that they’ll eternally be drawn to it.

Others see sex as ‘god.’ It is the end of all ends. It is the source of all happiness and everything must lead to sex. This lines up with a lot of the world’s teaching about sex, as this is the way it’s presented in nearly every commercial, ad, show and film. This too will leave people empty at the end of the day because it forces sex to carry a burden it was never meant to bear.

The Biblical view sees sex as ‘gift.’ It is a good thing, given in the appropriate time and season to the right person. After all, a gift given to the wrong person or at the wrong time can be harmful. However at its core, if sex is a gift then it is a good thing. Not just to bring new life into the world, it is also something to be enjoyed and to increase intimacy.

The problem I keep encountering is that I am always trying to escape pornography — to renounce it — and actually cut it out of my life. I want to not care about it; I want my allure to it to simply die. But I wrestle with renunciation without being bound to the object.

If sex is good, how do I maintain that attitude without slipping too much toward the ‘god’ or the ‘gross’ side?

To put it another way, I believe pornography is harmful, toxic, destructive, and objectifying of human beings. I have dedicated a lot of time and energy to fighting against it. Yet now I can’t help but think that in some weird way, this all has bound me to it more than if I just let it drift away into the ether and disappear from my thoughts.

This is in line with what all good teaching on quitting says: Don’t try to fight your addiction; replace it. Think less about it and turn your focus toward things that are beneficial and fulfilling. If you remove porn, you create a void. That void needs to be filled with something or you will eventually turn back to your vice.

So may we be people who learn how to renounce well. May we learn how to leave worthless things behind and embrace the things which give life.

e

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store