Porn addiction is en vogue right now. Not a day goes by when you don’t read the story of some tight-fisted, white-knuckle so-and-so who fell too far down the rabbit hole watching some sexy bunny’s holes. It’s classic tabloid fodder for the generations that haven’t grown up with the internet: “BEWARE THE WHITE WRATH”… or to paraphrase the Ramones “THE XXX TOOK MY BABY AWAY”.
As you would expect it’s never really positive. Porn addicts are always identifiable by their sallow cheeks, pale skin, glassy eyes, twitching hands and jizz-encrusted trousers… stumbling around like zombies muttering “yeah suck it, you bitch” to crowds of people parting like the Red Sea in blind panic and… well look you get the picture. Porn addiction is a real thing. It exists and appears to be affecting a great number of people. And yeah, sure… it’s *easy* to make fun of porn addiction and its victims. It’s akin to how we might hear or read about a sex addict, think about patting them on the back, tipping them a wink and saying “yeah ok buddy sounds awful”.
It’s reminiscent of Mitch Hedberg’s line about alcoholism being one of the only diseases you get yelled at: “Alcoholism is a disease, but it’s the only one you can get yelled at for having. Goddamn it Otto, you are an alcoholic. Goddamn it Otto, you have Lupus… one of those two doesn’t sound right.” Remember the snide remarks that permeated when Michael Douglas told the world he was a sex addict? “Goddamn it Mike, stop putting your dick in things!”
So it’s fair to say that porn addiction isn’t dealt with as seriously as it should, could and would be. A vicious cycle of a lack of knowledge, fear, stigmatization and mistakes swirls around the whole issue and tramps it further into the dirt, away from prying eyes and any help afforded to those in the mire. And with life being what it is, there are a number of interpretations of the most efficient way to ‘cure’ those with a porn addiction. In layman’s terms, the dividing line seems to have been drawn right through the middle of the religious and non-religious methodologies. In the interests of fairness BaDoink spoke with two individuals from either side of the Porn Addiction Parallel. Our first chat is with Stephen Kuhn of the Belt Of Truth Ministries. Their fastidious faith-based approach has attracted ire in some quarters for what its perceived focus on money and the reliance on trust in a higher power to turn your life around.
Stephen himself is a former porn addict and has utilized his past experiences to try and treat those who come to him for help today. But can a belief in God help end such potentially traumatic and damaging habits? And what does Stephen’s Ministry have to say when faced with its many detractors?
Was Belt of Truth Ministries established to deal with porn addiction or does it have a history prior to that?
I started Belt of Truth Ministries shortly after I found freedom from my own 20-year porn addiction. I realized that I had spent most of my life believing what I thought was the truth, but none of it was actually working for me. But then once I was taught the real truth in those areas, freedom came naturally. Belt of Truth Ministries is how I try to help other men discover those same truths that set me free.
I understand you yourself were a pornography addict. Can you tell us a little about how this came about? At what point did your viewing habits/consumption turn from a ‘leisure activity’ into something you could class as an addiction?
I was hooked from the moment I found my first magazine around the age of 12. Back in those days, it was much harder to find porn, but I still looked at it every chance I got. Even then, I tried to stop looking but could never resist its pull for long. There were multiple times when I threw away all my magazines, but I always went back and bought new ones within a few days.
My addiction really exploded when I left for college though. That was the first time I had access to the internet (and a lock on my door). By the end of my first year I would frequently stay up until three or four in the morning mindlessly surfing porn. I had no concept of time as the hours ticked by. Eventually, pornography alone was not enough for me and I started branching out into real-life encounters as well.
I always assumed my addiction would go away when I was married, but it actually got worse. After six years together, my wife had become so tired of all my lies, affairs, and uncontrollable porn use that she filed for divorce. You would think I could have seen how out-of-control my addiction had become long before that, but it took her leaving me for be to finally admit I had a legitimate problem.
How did you deal with the addiction?
I spent 20 years trying to “deal” with my addiction and it never worked. That’s the problem with trying to manage your own addictions: if you were capable of managing the behavior, it wouldn’t be an addiction in the first place.
Once I learned the truth about how Jesus sets us free from the bondage of unhealthy behaviors, everything changed. Now, I’m not talking about the “follow the rules and be a good person” BS that poses as “Christianity” these days. That mindset actually fed my addiction because I knew deep down I couldn’t follow the rules. What did change everything for me was realizing that Jesus came to set me free from my sin, which means I first had to admit I couldn’t free myself. I also learned that He loved me unconditionally, even while I wasn’t perfect (because none of us ever will be). Truths such as those helped me to understand the true Gospel of Jesus, which over time has caused my desire for porn to all but disappear.
The crazy thing is that by no longer focusing on trying to fix my behavior but focusing on how Jesus has changed me instead, my behavioral issues have pretty much taken care of themselves. It’s amazing to realize that freedom from porn addiction isn’t learning how to fight better; it’s learning how to let Jesus change the desires of your heart so you no longer need to fight at all.
What are your views on pornography as a whole? Do you wish for the industry/concept to be totally eradicated or would you allow it provided people don’t fall into the traps of addiction?
I would encourage anyone to do some research into the reality of the porn industry before making that decision for themselves. The truth about what goes on behind the screen (sexual abuse, drug addiction, emotional manipulation) is heart-breaking. In addition, no matter where you get your porn – even if it’s from a free site – it’s extremely likely that you are helping finance sex-trafficking organizations. So to say that porn is a good thing or that it isn’t hurting anyone is simply not true.
If you read my story, you can see many examples of negative consequences directly resulting from my porn use. It distorted my view of healthy sexuality, caused me to objectify women, taught me to become a pathological liar and caused untold amounts of heartache and suffering for my wife.
I am not alone in my experience. 68% of all divorces list pornography use as a contributing factor. 41% of surveyed adults admit they feel less attractive due to their partner’s pornography use. 30% said their partner’s use of porn made them feel like a sexual object.
Even if you’re not in a relationship and only use porn in isolation, it can still have a negative effect on you. For instance, there are new insights from the scientific community linking porn use with an increase in instances of erectile dysfunction in young men (the average age is now 25).
Research has also shown the hyper-stimulation of frequent porn use changes your brain to become addicted to such intensity. Normal, everyday activities – and relationships – will become less pleasurable as your brain adapts to desire something much more potent.
So, even if you do think porn is a good thing you’re still hurting yourself. You may not see that now, but eventually it will become undeniable. And when that day does come for you, God will be there waiting for you with open arms.
Critics of the Ministries and its teachings will say that your exercises and programs are a money-making exercise hidden behind a thin veneer of potential salvation. How would you respond to those criticisms?
The easy answer is that I haven’t made any money from Belt of Truth Ministries. Someday, yes, I hope it generates enough income to pay for it’s own expenses, but as of today I am still paying off the debt I incurred in order to set up the website and begin developing resources.
My main goal at Belt of Truth Ministries has always been to get this message of freedom out to other men, which is why all of our article and resources are completely free. I do have a book available – 10 Lies Men Believe about Porn – but even that I am giving away for the cost of shipping if you purchase it from the Belt of Truth bookstore using the code 10LIESFREE.
And as for the ministries that do try to “sell salvation” to those who are willing to pay for it, I can tell you they offend me (and God) just as much as they offend you. Salvation is a free gift from Jesus, already paid for by His work on the cross alone. It’s not even based on our ability to become good enough, so how could it be based on our ability to give enough? The truth is that if there were any way to earn salvation apart from Christ giving up His life for us, I’m pretty sure God would have gone that route rather than allowing His Son to die.
How many people have the Belt of Truth cured? What would you say is the average age of each person you treat? Am I right to assume the majority of those who come to you are male?
Belt of Truth Ministries hasn’t “cured” anyone. That’s not my goal, or my job. Only God can heal the hearts of men, and he does that through Jesus. My goal is simply to help men understand the true Gospel, and to help them trust Jesus to make those changes in them as well.
As for how many men whose lives have been changed… that I don’t know. I don’t keep track because it’s not about numbers for me. My main goal is to connect fully with whomever I’m with as if they are the most important interaction in that moment—because they are. I hope that even as Belt of Truth continues to grow, I will still be able to connect with guys on the same level as I do now.
I do know that the audience I write for is predominantly male. However, there is a growing population of women who struggle with pornography who come to my site, but I have a list of women’s-specific ministries I refer them to whenever they contact me for personal advice.
Have you had any of those you treat relapse or fail to complete the course?
Of course. Almost every addict will relapse at least a few times on his journey to recovery. I can’t think of a single guy who hasn’t. But I always encourage them to try and learn something from their relapse. What caused it? How could you have been better prepared? How do you think God views your relapse?
I remember the last relapse I had as I was beginning to walk in freedom. That was the first time I realized that God didn’t abandon me when I looked at porn. I always thought He left the room and that I would need to clean myself up and somehow fix my behavior before He would let me back in. After that relapse though, I realized God was still right there with me, continuing to love me even while I looked at porn. He wanted to wrap His arms around me and help me find freedom, not reject me for being a failure. It took a relapse for me to be in a position to receive that image. So, for that reason, I’m actually thankful for that last relapse.
Is there a point at which the Ministry’s work will be complete? Or is this an ongoing battle for you?
I think it’s pretty clear that porn isn’t going away, and as long as there’s porn, there will be porn addicts. So I don’t see my work with Belt of Truth ever being complete — at least not until Jesus comes back.