Why

Sources:

I like

I like porn:

[A]

  • I like looking at the photos
  • I like watching the videos
  • I like making up and elaborating porn-based sex fantasies
  • I enjoy masturbating

Disgusting and shameful to admit declare these things explicitly — I daren’t say “confess” — but it’s no good to lie about it either. It’s a problem that I do these things; it’s perhaps more of a problem that I want to do them, I enjoy them.

I like other things just as much, if not more:

[B]

  • I like the feeling of power when I am on form
  • I like the warmth of people smiling at me
  • I like the full-body sensuality of yoga
  • I love the feeling of being alive when I am plugged into a good book

Indulging in set B pleasures has no effect on my ability to enjoy set A activities, but indulging in set A pleasures weakens my ability to enjoy set B activities. On that criterion alone I should avoid set A and prefer set B.

More generally, enjoying set B strengthens me, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually. I am happier and better company.

Over-indulging in set A weakens me. It erodes my ability to concentrate or follow a path. I become bored, irritable, depressed. The very definition of a vice.

My ability to enjoy set A activities seems very robust, and always available. The slightest trigger will set my mind or my eyes or my hands wandering.

Set B seems harder to hold. Either I put it off because I think I don’t deserve it (there is always work to be done), or it seems beyond my power. I noticed after making up these two lists that A are voiced actively and B passively — really it is the other way around.

Conclusion/CTA

  • how can I envisage B as active? As creating myself (rather than expending myself, in A)?
  • gravitate towards B
  • find B substitutes when I am triggered towards A (diary exercise: given a specific trigger that led me to A, think of a B that might have answered)

Old Testament reading plan 2022

BookmM
Isaiah2Jan, Feb
Jeremiah2Mar, Apr
Ezekiel1May
The 12 Minor Prophets2Jun, Jul
Song of Songs, Ruth, Esther1Aug
Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Daniel1Sep
Job1Oct
Proverbs2Nov, Dec

After the Prophets (the 12 Minor Prophets stands for the books Hosea to Malachi), I’m doing a bit of damage to the ordering. August is my wife’s birth month & I thought it would be inspiring for me to read these three books about women. I don’t know the Ruth and Esther stories at all. The Song of Songs … I know all those things Christians say about it being a metaphor for the church but the poem is clearly about sex, the smells and tastes of sex, the physical passion of sex.

I’m giving myself a bit of slack with Proverbs, partly as I might want to dwell and abide over verses more than with more narrative books, partly to give Psalms the new year.

I’m minded to let the Psalms sprawl over at least the first half of 2023. I’ve read through them a couple of times already. This time I might do something special (read some crit at least; try writing versions — a sonnet of Ps 19?).

Word of the Year 2022: Face

Using ‘face (v.)’ as a gloss for “turn to” (ἐπιστρέφω epistrephó) in these two verses:

1 Thessalonians 1:9 “… you turned to God from idols …”


Acts 26:20 “… repent and turn to God …”

The emphasis being my effort to turn towards good things (& celebrate successes, however minor) rather than my efforts to turn away from bad things (& beat myself up for failures).

‘face (v.)’ brings ‘face (n.)’ for free. In my prayers and in my approach to Christ that is something I neglect — simple adoration of His face (meanwhile my attachment to porn is a kind of adoration, worship of faces, surfaces). I’d like to address that neglect, and spend time somehow in adoration of Christ and the face of God.

My vague plan is to alternate — v, n, v, n, — month by month, with a more specific theme for each month. January’s theme is …

Casting my net wide / Clutching at straws

… finding easy things to turn to, in moments of boredom or rest — “downtime” — that are wholesome and nutritious (eg not porn, not doomscrolling twitter). More on this later, but some examples I am using so far:

  • a puzzle
  • a game of chess.com
  • a lesson on duolingo
  • a set prayer or scripture reading [lectionary]
  • a poem
  • a short chapter of easy reading

Imaginary Friends

Do I believe in God? Really? Do I really think Jesus is near me? Isn’t he just an imaginary friend?

I fret like this about Jesus being real over and over again, but I never stop to consider how real these women are, these Ashtaroth. I just fall to my devotions without thinking.

The story about Dagon in 1 Samuel 5:1-5 resonates with me strongly:


1 After the Philistines had captured the ark of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2 Then they carried the ark into Dagon’s temple and set it beside Dagon. 3 When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! They took Dagon and put him back in his place. 4 But the following morning when they rose, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained. 5 That is why to this day neither the priests of Dagon nor any others who enter Dagon’s temple at Ashdod step on the threshold.

Two things in particular strike me about this passage:

  1. This wasn’t a statue or an icon of Dagon that was being thrown about — it was Dagon itself.
  2. Even after all this happened, the Philistines continued their worship of Dagon.

Dagon was real: a lump of wood or stone you could stub your toe against, or break bits off. Dagon — the god — was imaginary: it had no power against the Lord. The power it had for the Philistines was entirely down to their own faith and adoration, their devotion.

Porn is real just like Dagon was real. The magazine on the table in front of me is real. The models and actors onscreen are real. Porn goes out of its way to show that “this is really real they are not just pretending”.

And porn’s power is as fake as Dagon’s was. The boost I get from porn is entirely down to my own adoration and devotion, my “faith” even. I have trained myself with masturbation to have self-fulfilling expectations. Before and as well as that, secular culture lays out plenty of temptations and signals. But even given all that, my devotion to porn, my turning to porn when I need … something … is my choice. The power porn has over me is given to porn by me.

And just as the Philistines kept returning Dagon to its pedestal, however much I learn, I keep returning to my pics and vids.

Porn is at least as much an imaginary friend as Jesus is, but my attachment to porn, and my doubts about my faith in God, make the fantasies seem as real as the paper they’re printed on.

“So, …, what?” as my business coach might say.

  • I hope this realisation will help weaken my attachment.
  • I remember that yoga is sensual pleasure as well as good exercise. That, and not masturbating, can be my sensual treat.
  • My wife is a sensual treat too, though one with emotional complications attached (eg risks of rejection). Perhaps I should take a few risks.

Home Alone 2

From Sunday DLW will be away for a while (on family business), possibly up to three weeks, during which time I shall be home alone. This is unfortunate for a couple of reasons:

  1. Sara will be away for her birthday. I had been getting a bit over-keen on the idea that we should have a short break away together — perhaps getting this visit out of the way will mean she feels she has more time for relaxing. I have presents to send her away with and presents for when she returns. I can make sure I am ready to receive her back lovingly.
  2. Three weeks is a lot of evenings alone in the house for me to succumb to weakness. Unlike last time I don’t have any plans in that direction. In fact, it was much harder than I’d expected to get back on the wagon afterwards, so I’d quite like to stay clean this time. That would be an achievement I think, if I managed to keep my eyes off and my hands off all that time.

I shan’t be taking time off work, but what I shall be scheduling daily yoga and prayer time, including both spoken and written prayer. I’ll stick to those schedules whatever else happens.

Worshipping the Ashtaroth

Sometimes I turn willingly to the Ashtaroth, purposefully
A sensual evening for less than one
Sometimes I turn happily to the Ashtaroth
Sometimes I don't
...
The editor blankly waits for my input
Distant clients set my pace
Data streams, accumulates, challenges
I am the learner, the investigator, the one who likes puzzles, the genius
The house overflows me with chores and tasks
The wife expects my support
The ripe day waxes, wanes and crumbles
I am the flexible one, the listener, ridiculous, cook and cleaner
Where am I apart from I?
...
I am the mirror of your affected desire
I am the mood of all your choreography
I am every body in this picture
Flood my palm
A blush of shock
               of pleasure
               of shame

Reset #pornfree

And they forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.

Judges 2:13

As predicted (or planned), my wife Sara was away for a week, and I have been worshiping the Ashtoreths. After day 117 of the streak, I reset the counter to zero, where it remained until Sara returned.

In that last blog post I had a few ideas for avoidance techniques — things to do that were “as” attractive as looking at porn. Well I didn’t do any of them. They were never really in the race.

I revisited the old haunt I mentioned, and got up-to-date. I dusted off an old twitter account. I toured a few other old haunts too.

I had set limits and rules, but of course in the heat of the moment such rules are forgotten or abandoned. However, I seemed to stick to the most important ones. I didn’t end up drenched in porn, didn’t have an eye on it during the day (the twitter account I ended up not using at all), or even every evening. I wanted it to be a treat and a relaxation, entertainment, and it has been.

Consequently, I have no feelings of shame or regret. I enjoyed the holiday.

What now? Perhaps now is the real test: how easily can I go back on the wagon? A voice will be telling me I don’t need to — if I can start and stop any time, why stop now? — but watching porn with one eye while the other eye is looking over your shoulder is not really a treat.

Porn and masturbation go back on the shelf, and I develop those other attractions that don’t require me to watch my back.

Assuming re-wagonning goes well, this will be the last post in the #pornfree category.

Susannah: a confession

#pornfree is going well (though the real test will be how I recover from a fall). That leaves one last bad habit to confront: looking.

Going back to the office after a long time WFH is a good time to break bad habits, and this is a good bad habit to break.

I have nicknames for a few of the women in the building — Clip-clop, Slinky, Pneumatic, … — I keep an eye out for them, entertain daydreams and fantasies. The woman in the office next door, my nickname for her is just Slut. Her presence is the strongest trigger — her voice, her footsteps, the sight of her waddling along the corridor, the sound of her car arriving — can flip me into a sudden overpowering hunger.

The David and Bathsheba story is not really useful here, in fact it’s rather gratifying to the voyeur: David gets to do what he wants to the girl, and she doesn’t have a speaking part (iirc) so remains an object of desire to be used as desired.

Slut’s real name is Susan. I looked to see if there were any Susan’s in the Bible, and found the “deuterocanonical” Daniel 13. I read it, transfixed and horrified, as if under a spotlight, feeling as if the story had been written directly about me.

9 And they perverted their minds and turned away their eyes from looking to Heaven or remembering righteous judgments. 10 Both were overwhelmed with passion for her, but they did not tell each other of their distress, 11 for they were ashamed to reveal their lustful desire to have her. 12 And they watched eagerly, day after day, to see her.

I want to use this story as a memory aid, a “reverse trigger”.

The men ambush Susannah when she is alone, and threaten to accuse her of adultery if she doesn’t let them “lie with” her. Susannah refuses and calls for help (“it is better for me not to do it and to fall into your power than to sin before the Lord.”), she is accused and condemned. The young Daniel intervenes and cross-examines the men, and they are exposed, humiliated, and executed.

Unlike Bathsheba, Susannah is a strong and memorable character in the story — stronger and more central (her steadfastness and faith) than Daniel really, though the happy ending is important.

The men are repugnant and weak, each acting as a tempting devil for the other. In cross-examination, Daniel describes each of the men as being cut or sawn in two. That is the experience of being overcome with a repulsive desire.

Two strong images to hold on to and use are:

  • the men being sawn in two by their weakness and their desire:
    “this repulsive desire that cuts me in two”
  • the root cause of the men’s sin, their failure to look to Heaven:
    “Let Me Look To Heaven” LML2H

Have the second pinned to the wall somewhere visible in my office. Be ready to use them both.

Counting the days #pornfree

I have stopped counting “days since” — in the sense that I am no longer using length of the “streak” as a motivator. Although I let my eyes linger over certain photos in the press longer than I should, there is no pull from the old ways. The habits are broken.

However, I have noticed that I am counting “days until”. As the lockdown rules are easing, there is now a real prospect of either me or my wife Sara spending a few days away (on business, or family responsibilities) — in other words, of me having a few evenings to myself.

I find myself looking forward to revisiting a particular old haunt. I feel confident that I’ll be able to indulge while S is away without losing self-control once she has returned. I’ll be able to start a new streak!

Who knows? I have surprised myself in the past when I have not taken advantage of this kind of opportunity.

How to avoid? Have other goals that are “as” attractive:

  • creative writing: write a story, or begin one
  • yoga blowout: do morning and evening sessions every day for sensual overload
  • prayer challenge: pray out loud

(I do know the “days since” count ofc, and log it in my diary: it’s 87.)

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