Are Women the Solution to the Porn Epidemic?

A wife can’t be her husband’s accountability partner, but she can be supportive.

Fifteen years ago, when I first began researching men, women, and relationships, people in the church were barely beginning to talk about the exploding problem of porn and the visual temptations of this culture.

Today, everything is different: churches around the world host Celebrate Recovery groups, men’s small groups study Every Man’s Battle, and church counselors have in-the-trenches experience and special training.

On Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, pastors challenge men to purity in their thought lives. Every man present intimately understands the challenge being laid before him and the discipline it takes to become or remain a man of honor in this way.

The problem is, the women who are listening generally don’t.

We as women care about our men, we nod along with the pastor . . . and we completely miss the magnitude of what is being discussed. We have never experienced life through a man’s eyes, so most of us have no idea of the challenges a godly man or boy faces every day.

Women have heard that “men are visual,” but we don’t truly understand what that means.

This is one reason all the excellent work being done hasn’t yet made a systemic difference to the problem of porn in the church. A difference to individuals, yes; a change for the Body of Christ as a whole, no.

We need to enlist the intimate awareness and understanding of women, if we are going to support men.

From my research, I have found no other single topic that so deeply affects many millions of men to which many millions of women are completely blind. Women have heard that “men are visual,” but we don’t truly understand what that means.

We are not really aware of what awaits our husband or son once he opens his eyes every morning, the strength of the biological reactions routinely sparked in his brain, or the rigorous choices he has to make every day. We do not understand that even the most godly, honorable man or boy can still be tempted, simply because his brain was designed to be stimulated by sights he was never supposed to publicly see. And we do not always recognize the beauty and Through a Man's Eyes300dpi5x8majesty in God’s creating this visual wiring as a good thing that is intended to bond a husband to his wife.

If we are blind to these challenges and opportunities, we certainly do not know what to do about them. We do not always know how to support the man we love or the son we are trying to raise in a sexualized culture. We do not know how to talk to our man in a way that will make him feel comfortable enough to open up and share, thereby creating more intimacy between us. And in those cases where real and hurtful problems have arisen, in our pain we often don’t know how to walk a road toward wholeness and healing.

A man recognizes when his wife doesn’t understand. Now, since he knows other guys will get what he’s dealing with, he may, thankfully, talk to other men about it. But many men only open up about very personal things with their wives.

A wife can never be her husband’s accountability partner — that turns the wife into the police.

This means that many men may never talk about this particular challenge with anyone. It stays hidden. Any struggle that stays hidden is much more difficult to heal.

Instead, we need to ensure that this issue can be discussed openly. We must ensure that the female half of the population understands. We must be able to be empathetic without endorsing any bad choices. We must guarantee that we know how to protect and talk with our sons — and that we know how to do all of this in a way that is healthy rather than detrimental to us or our relationships.

A wife can never be her husband’s accountability partner — that turns the wife into the police. Yet without a wife’s support, many men never even get an accountability partner.

I speak at a lot of churches, and pastors frequently survey my thoughts after the sermon. One week a pastor and I briefly discussed what “men are visual” means, and afterward a man came up to talk to me. He said he had struggled with Internet porn on and off for years. He wanted to attend the church’s Saturday morning men’s group to get help and accountability and finally kick his porn habit.

But when he told his wife he’d like to join the group, she became alarmed, responding, “What are you saying? Are you saying you’re attracted to other women? What are you saying?”

All he could do was play it off and say, “No, no, never mind, it’s fine.” He wanted help, but he did not want to upset or hurt his wife.

I was so sad for this man. He wasn’t trying to hide his problem; he wanted to address it. But he didn’t know how to help his wife understand. So he still felt trapped. This man’s predicament made me realize the need for this effort. After several years of research, Craig Gross, the founder of xxxchurch.com, and I teamed up to write Through A Man’s Eyes, so women could understand.

Many men — especially in the church — hate these temptations and despise the fact that they may make the wrong choices.

Just to be very clear: it is never a woman’s fault that a man is trapped. Whether a wife understands this or not, her husband is 100 percent responsible for his choices. But many men — especially in the church — hate these temptations and despise the fact that they may make the wrong choices. They want to be free. But many actions they might take to address it — going to a group, installing filtering software, and so on — will almost certainly require the knowledge and support of their wives.

Yes, some men will always make the wrong choices no matter what; some men just don’t care. But most do. They may not want talk to their wives about it — but only because these men do not want to risk hurting their wives and are skeptical that they would ever understand.

What if you were sure your wife could completely understand you, without any condemnation, and be firmly on your team? When I have asked men this question, I haven’t found a single man who would not want that.

Most of our work on this issue in the church has been focused on a cure. It is time to now focus on prevention. It is time to add support from all of us as women who care about our men and boys. Because when a boy is able to talk about these challenges candidly and early on, they may never become true struggles to begin with.

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