Many Jesus-loving Christians—young and old, male and female—are falling prey to porn and the bondage it brings.

Their friends or family, often out of their own pain or frustration, may shame, rebuke, or offer pat suggestions like “Just pray more,” or “You need more faith.” Others say, “It’s an issue of the heart.” While remarks from well-meaning fellow Christians may be true, they’re often not helpful. And while a struggle with sexual sin such as porn use may be a heart issue, it’s also a head issue.

To learn how porn affects the brain and why it’s so addictive, I consulted someone with some stellar gray matter. William Struthers is just such a person: a Christian biopsychologist with a PhD. He lives and breathes brain science, and he does so as a man of deep faith. Several years ago, he wrote Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain, and it helped me understand how sexual encounters, both positive and negative, affect us.

I want to begin by saying that most of the information Struthers shares also applies to women. Just like men, women have been exposed to porn, and many of them would say they’re now addicted to it, or to erotica, which is basically written porn. Porn is not a male problem; it is a people problem. Porn is arousing to humans, who are by God’s design sexual beings, and its effects on the brain don’t discriminate based on gender. Though some may be better at resisting the pull of porn, many struggle with it and long to walk in freedom from it.

Struthers acknowledges that women can become addicted to porn, but because it is predominately men who are addicted, they are his target audience. I hope this won’t deter women from reading it, because it will help them understand how their husbands, children, and they themselves can be vulnerable to porn. It contains truth that can lead us to freedom.

Wired for Intimacy begins with this dedication:

“For every man who longs to be known as holy and good.”[1]

At the very outset the author speaks to the heart of all who walk with Jesus and struggle with sexual sin or their sexual past. In Christ we are fully righteous, holy, and blameless. We long to be known as the holy and good people we are. But sin has a way of keeping us from believing our identity in Christ. Sexual sin is especially complicated, corrupting bodies, minds, and hearts. Struthers understands that reality, and his book seeks to be a means of God’s grace, helping us to better appreciate our design, how we are created for relationship, and how counterfeit sex such as porn steals our ability to relate and be fully known.

Struthers points out that our culture is saturated with porn, from magazine covers in the checkout line and ads on computer screens to extremely harmful and degrading porn in the dark corners of the Internet. We cannot not see it, and the tamer expressions of it often lead people to seek out the more extreme. It’s dangerous. It’s intoxicating. And it’s a lie. The author calls porn “the perfect storm,” where technological, cultural, and psychological factors converge. I believe this is true, and the convergence is made even worse by spiritual forces of darkness that seek to draw us away from God’s best.

The first part of Wired for Intimacy explains how pornography works in the context of a porn-saturated culture that has corrupted God’s perfect design for intimacy. It explains in laymen’s terms the chemical responses in the brain that sexual encounters elicit. Many of the chemicals associated with sex work to bond a couple at a deep, soul level. These same chemicals are released whether the encounter is within the safety and security of a loving marriage or outside God’s design in counterfeit sex, such as porn, erotica, or hook-ups.

In the second part of the book we learn more of what it means to be created in the image of God, as relational beings, with a need to know and be known. Struthers reveals many of the unique aspects of the male wiring and what it means to be masculine. He explains that sexual attraction is God-given “relational energy,” saying,

…it pushes us. It is rooted in the relational image of God. The tension we experience when the drive for intimacy kicks in propels us to seek communion with others. Human sexuality allows for the mystery, beauty, diversity and complexity of human life to be explored and for deepening bonds of intimacy to be formed. We have to move away from thinking that the sole purpose of our sexuality is intercourse.[2]

With the voice of a loving father, Struthers draws upon the biblical and scientific truth that our brains can be rewired, basically reprogrammed, as the neurological pathways that porn created begin to heal over and as new, better, healthier pathways are formed. He explains how God can lovingly use our struggles with sexual sin to sanctify our souls.

When God wants to give us more, He often begins by opening our eyes to the things that give us less.[3] Porn is something that not only gives less; it steals more. And when God reveals the truth of our sexual design and shows us that none of us are immune from the temptation of sexual sin, I believe we can begin much-needed conversations that lead to deeper intimacy with others.

I hope you’ll read Wired for Intimacy to gain a better understanding of the allure and trap of porn and how easily one can fall into it. The truth sets us free. I believe God desires for us to talk more openly and honestly about relevant, sensitive issues such as bodies, lust, porn, and sex. Wired for Intimacy can help equip us for these important, life-changing conversations.

If you’d like to walk more authentically with those you love, or you need freedom from sexual sin yourself, check out the resources on TrueNorth’s website, or e-mail me. I’d love to hear your story and perhaps lead you to some good, next steps.

Anne Kerr

Founder and CEO of TrueNorth Freedom Project in Atlanta, Georgia

Photo credit: Malik Earnest

[1] William M. Struthers, Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain (Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2009), Dedication.

[2]. Ibid., 160, emphasis added.

[3]. Paraphrased from sermon by Louie Giglio, “The Stuff Underneath the Fluff (sermon, Passion City Church, Atlanta, GA, March 15, 2015).