PORN: The Faithful Lover

By Blake Engelman, LPC

“Porn is vicarious and voyeuristic at its core, but it is also something more. Porn is a whispered promise. It promises more sex, better sex, endless sex, sex on demand, more intense orgasms, experiences of transcendence.”*

I imagine right now you may be thinking, “Is he serious with this title? Calling porn a lover? A faithful lover?” Consider two neurological pieces of information before we continue:

First, the human eye cannot differentiate between screen and reality. The eye operates as if the viewer of pornography is actually having sex with the performer.

Secondly, the human brain is equipped with mirror neurons. These neurons activate when we watch others doing anything. Did you just see a man across the room itch his beard? Your mirror neurons just lit up like you itched your beard. Is the woman in the car next to you singing like no one’s watching? You were. Your mirror neurons just activated as if you were belting out your favorite Taylor Swift song. Are you sitting in front of a screen watching two people have sex? You know where this is going by now. Your mirror neurons are firing as if you are in the scene, as if you are having sex.

So a quick review: your eyes think you’re having sex and so does your brain. Neurologically porn tricks your brain into thinking it’s really making love with the performers on the screen.

The above, while startling, may still not answer the question: Why call porn faithful? Pornography is designed and orchestrated to heighten arousal, cause the brain’s pleasure center to fire, and to hook the viewer with erotic and sensual images and sounds. This combination creates a dynamic where the viewer uses the other, the individual(s) on the screen, for their pleasure and to meet their emotional needs. Pornography becomes whatever the viewer needs it to be.

  • It validates,

  • it provides a sense of power and control,

  • and it distracts from emotional pain and real-life problems and relationships.

  • Porn works. It works faithfully. It is a faithful lover. Porn shows up every time, never suggests that the viewer is an average or subpar lover, and doesn’t ask the viewer to take out the trash, feed the dog, or do the laundry after. If it asks anything of the viewer, it’s to keep watching. To stay and experience more pleasure.

A real-life husband or wife can’t live up to the fantasy created by pornography, or the dopamine dump experienced when watching pornographic material. The effects of porn on relationships are well-documented. As comparison, objectification, and unrealistic demands creep into the sexual relationship, the viewer’s neural pathways are strengthened as the appetite for intense, novel, and endless sex is sought. With 68 years worth of pornography on the world’s most popular porn website alone , no real person can compete. Pornography becomes a buffet for the viewer to enjoy, repeatedly.**

How does a person break from pornography and re-engage with their real spouse? How are the physical and emotional needs redirected towards a loving, mutual relationship? Focusing on the symptoms and the actual act of viewing pornography, while reimagining what to do in the moment can be helpful. However, symptom management only goes so far.

Instead of asking why porn, it’s helpful to ask how is the porn faithfully caring for the person? Why the pain? Why the insecurity? These questions can begin a deep, vulnerable, and transformative process which help the person discover what really ails them, and how porn is stepping in to faithfully soothe, distract, and alleviate.

Through honest exploration of their story, an individual can come to know true faithfulness in relationship with a real lover.


*Struthers, W. M. (2009). Wired for Intimacy. How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain.

**Porn Stats, Covenant Eyes - 2018 version, page 6

Ready to take the next step with unwanted porn use? Purchase this online course.

Ready to meet with a counselor to begin your own journey toward health and healing? Blake specializes in working with men with unwanted sexual behavior.