In 2010, I launched a seasoning blend company called Shakedown Spice. A unique line of all-natural, all-purpose seasoning blends, carefully handcrafted in Baltimore, Maryland with a purpose…yadda, yadda, yadda.
Long story short, don’t bother looking for it at your local supermarket. As part of my lifelong enrollment and continuing education at the school of hard knocks, I was forced to dissolve the business in 2013.
The whole experience taught me to be more observant of consumer behavior. I only mention this because the way we behave as consumers during a crisis—particularly the crisis that struck our nation last year—can shed some light on our own habits in the crisis we face as consumers of porn.
Consumers of porn?
By “we” I don’t mean everyone in the broader sense, but I do mean anyone who looks at porn. As Christians, it’s rather uncomfortable to think of ourselves as consumers of porn. Porn is one of those “pesky” sins that we intrinsically oppose on a hypothetical level, yet cannot seem to part ways with in reality. Acknowledging that we might be “consumers of porn” can also cause us to feel as though we are “buying into” or (even worse) “funding” the problem, even though we hate its existence and have yet to spend a single dime on it. It paints the image that we’ve wandered into a virtual megastore, and despite being surrounded by millions of other options, chose to b-line it right to the porn aisle.
Pornography eventually consumes us, which reveals the self-destructive, cannibalizing nature of such a sin. In order for porn to consume us, we must first consume it.
When we look at porn, we become preoccupied with it. We devour it. We obsess over it. We absorb it into our subconscious.
We expend and exhaust our resources into our porn habit (physical, emotional, spiritual, and sometimes financial), while somebody else inadvertently profits from it.
A consumer is anyone who utilizes an economic good, service, or item for personal, public, or private use; and since pornography meets some or all of these qualifications, we are consumers of porn—like it or not, getting it for free or not. It’s why we have our favorite websites branded into our brains and invest hours of our precious life “shopping around” for pics and videos that quench our carnal desires.
For the record, I’m not pointing this out to make anyone feel more shame than they already do about engaging in porn; however, if we can face certain truths about our behavior, we can begin to reframe our perspective of the crisis we are facing and understand how to change the outcome.
We are facing a crisis.
As the future became a frightening and uncertain reality in March of 2020, key U.S. states including California, Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska (where cannabis is legal) were reporting 50% sales increases (1). Online alcohol sales in the United States rose 243% in the week ending March 21 (2). Most concerning (but certainly not surprising) was Pornhub’s increase of 12% in global traffic from February 24 to March 17. Such an increase, despite one senator’s call to the DOJ to investigate allegations of rape and the trafficking of minors by Pornhub on March 9th of 2020 (3).
It should come as no surprise that the crisis we faced in March of 2020 would cause a steady rise in porn viewership and other forms of vice. After all, so many of us thought the world was coming to an end. Why not eat, drink, and be merry as the saying goes, eh?
But it should also be pointed out that while it may have exacerbated the problem, it wasn’t as if Pornhub’s web traffic numbers were shrinking prior to the lockdown of 2020.
Christian men were finding themselves in the midst of a very personal crisis long before COVID-19 was added to the lexicon. In a pastoral letter published back in November 2015, the USCCB called pornography a “public health crisis.” An article published by Baptist News Global referred to the ongoing porn crisis in the Church as an “epidemic” (4). Whether you are dabbling in pornography, compulsively looking at pornography, or psychologically dependent on pornography, you have been (or are currently in) the throes of a major crisis.
How did we get here?
When we are in the midst of a crisis, we can easily lose sight of how we arrived at such a place. Perhaps it is the symptom of a greater problem?
We experienced some sort of trauma or a life-changing event (LCE), such as illness, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or the severing of a close relationship. Consequently, porn became an escape mechanism, creating another crisis unto itself.
Or, perhaps porn IS the spark that ignited the crisis in the first place?
Prior to looking at porn, everything was Hunky Dory, and the moment our guard was down, curiosity got the best of us.
Either way, with porn as a part of our daily or weekly ritual, we find ourselves face to face with a crisis of conscience. Caught in the snares of an impulsive habit we cannot break no matter how disgusting or dissatisfied it makes us feel afterwards. We keep it to ourselves, acting as if everything is fine and trying our best to blend into the crowd as it quietly tears us apart inside.
Panic Buying in Crisis
Facing a major crisis can cause us to engage in all kinds of bizarre behavior. We saw the first fruits of this on a national level in March of 2020 as store shelves normally stocked to the brim with paper towels, napkins and toilet paper were emptied out in the blink of an eye.
This phenomenon known as panic buying is often dismissed as an act of selfishness, foolishness often arising from group think, or mob mentality. While this is partially true, it’s a bit more complex, and if we can understand the root cause of such behavior, we can begin to notice some similarities to the porn crisis we are facing.
To gain some more perspective on this, I referred back to a paper published in 1989 by Strahle and Bonfield titled, Understanding Consumer Panic: A Sociological Perspective.
The paper suggests that in a crisis situation, there is a breakdown in the intellectual abilities of the individual in terms of processing information, assessing the environment, and analyzing alternatives (5). This can cause us to panic, which in turn leads to the bizarre phenomenon commonly known as panic buying.
Panic buying is really about maintaining a sense of control in situations that we are powerless to control. In other words, when we find ourselves in stressful situations where our options and time to react are limited, we tend to make rash decisions that only satisfy our immediate need to feel a sense of control over that situation.
We do this by reaching for the low-hanging fruit. We make a mental list, prioritizing what is most urgent in a crisis. Instead of dealing with those priorities, we ignore them and simply check a few boxes at the very bottom of the list. This is one of the reasons (as a nation) we hoarded paper towels while faced with the crisis of a looming pandemic. It’s also why (as individuals) when we encounter a crisis we tend to rush to our favorite porn sites.
Let’s look a closer look at how these three perceptions relate to our porn crisis:
1. Processing information during a crisis
The fog of porn causes us to have tunnel vision. Our brains cannot think clearly. When the heat gets turned up and we feel a lack of control in our personal lives, our priorities can become misplaced. There are usually immediate emotional needs that require our attention. Our children need us. Our wives need us. Our friends and extended families need us. And instead of facing whatever the issue is head-on, we allow our mind to scurry off to that dark and lonely place.
We like that dark and lonely place….
It feels safe and secure in there. We feel hidden from the world, our problems, and maybe even hidden from God, like Adam mistakenly felt in the Garden of Eden. And it’s there, in that dark place, we can peruse our favorite sites and feel completely relaxed and in control. Lost for hours in a world of make-believe and sheer ecstasy.
Experiences and events that should cause us to feel pain and empathy are obscured by the darkness. The sting and the consequences of our own behavior are forgotten in the darkness. Then all at once, we emerge from the darkness, and all that was lurking in the shadows—the pain, the hurt, the inevitable—they hit us again like a rushing wave. And so, we begin the addictive cycle once again, convincing ourselves that one day, everything will magically return to normal.
During a crisis, we also process information through the lens of irrational group think. It’s a natural defense mechanism we use to avoid feeling stupid or inferior when we make irrational decisions. A strange combination of, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, and the FOMO (fear of missing out).
“If everyone else is buying boatloads of toilet paper, I better get some!”
“There have to be other stressed out Christians who are looking at porn. Why shouldn’t I?”
2. Assessing the environment during a crisis
As it relates to a porn crisis, assessing the environment comes down to two things: being aware and being prepared. When the first whispers of a global pandemic and the possible lockdown of our country began making the rounds, nobody knew what to expect. Many of us were too terrified, uncertain and unprepared to deal with such a threat. Feeling such fear and a lack of control, many panicked and reached for the low hanging fruit. We hoarded paper products. We binged on Netflix. In our crisis, porn is ALWAYS the low-hanging fruit. It’s an easy fix for the moment, but it solves nothing. It’s never enough to satisfy our long-term hunger. We always come back for more.
So, how do we prepare?
Know your triggers. The word trigger seems to have a negative connotation associated with wokeness and emotional fragility these days. In the context of addictive behavior, it is any environmental, social, or personal cue that urges or “triggers” us to act out and sin. I devoted a whole chapter to this in my book about overcoming porn addiction. While it’s nearly impossible to avoid every trigger, it is imperative that we always remain aware of what they are. Then, we must devise a personal and realistic plan to avoid them at all costs. As C.S. Lewis once said, "We can’t stop the birds from flying above us, but we can stop them from making nests on our heads."
We tend to be more vulnerable and susceptible to being triggered when our guard is down. Recovery programs use the acronym HALT: hungry, angry, lonely or tired. This is going to look different for everybody. Maybe you are emotionally drained. Are you stressed or overworked? Maybe you have to accept the reality that you are powerless (at least for now) over your ability to fight the urge when you are alone and with a computer.
This is where programs like Covenant Eyes should be part of your preparedness plan. I’ve heard every excuse in the book from men who refuse to sign up for Covenant Eyes. “It’s too costly.” “It will slow my computer down,” etc. These are the same types of excuses we use in any crisis situation to rationalize our fear of dealing with the difficult issues that we have no control over. It’s time to stop, think and be rational. Spare no expense. The only way to end this crisis is to deal with it head-on.
3. Analyzing alternatives during a crisis
The third perception in the paper that causes panic buying is the perception of potential but closing escape routes.
We must remember that a closing escape route is not the same as a closed escape route. This means we can ALWAYS choose to escape potential danger in a crisis. In other words, we don’t have to choose porn as our means of escape. Since we cannot always avoid a crisis, we must choose to bypass the low-hanging fruit and set our eyes on something higher.
When we consider what a crisis is, we may define it as a condition of instability. A catastrophe. A dire situation.
This is all true, BUT, if we expand on what the actual definition of a crisis is, we discover that a crisis is really just a turning point. A stage in a sequence of events that for better or for worse will determine the outcome of future events. This means that the choices we make in the midst of a crisis (choosing to look at porn, or not) will greatly impact the future outcome.
The longer we go without looking at porn, the further removed we are from it. As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, it may not ever get easy, but over time it WILL get easier.
You’re in the midst of a crisis. A turning point. Take a deep breath, and fight the good fight!
1) Cannibis Sales Hit New Highs in US and Canada. NY Post, published 03/24/2020. Reuters.
2) Neilson data cited from drinkstrade.com. Alana House. Cited 03/31/2020.
3) Ben Sasse Calls for DOJ Investigation into Pornhub over Sex Trafficking. Breitbart, published 03/10/2020. Katherine Rodriguez.
4) The ongoing epidemic of pornography in the church. Baptist News Global. 01/27/21. Analysis: Michael Chancellor.
5) Understanding Consumer Panic: A Sociological Perspective. William M. Strahle. E. H. Bonfield. Rider College. 1989.