Discovering inner health and transformation
It is sometimes argued that watching porn helps some adults with a low libido become more sexually aroused, and also that with some people it reduces anxiety and even adds spice and novelty to their sex life with their partner. However, such ideas perhaps need to be treated with caution, given the wide continuum of what is nowadays considered as porn: from the soft porn of striptease to the hard porn of brutal violent sex.
Today, with a few clicks on the internet, a lot of watching porn is possible for free in the form of photos and videos. Many social conservatives see watching porn as an inherent social evil. But can there be any harm in watching porn as sexual entertainment?
Children watching porn
Children find it easy to access porn: age of first exposure is getting younger as they learn to browse the internet. One concern is that the innocence of childhood is taken away prematurely by watching porn with its arousing sexual scenes.
Another concern is about what the individual child learns to find erotic. You see something, and it stays with you. You can never erase it from memory. The question is asked whether patterns of early sexual arousal might tend to stick for life? Can scenes that children are exposed to affect the way they see themselves in later sexual roles? Does it lead them to believe they should behave in this way in order to social conform and be seen as cool.
The love ideology
A roving sexual appetite can be regarded as a natural ‘wired’ state of particularly the male mind. Watching porn is clearly a natural pleasure. Porn tends to be created from a male perspective and so the men have only one thing on their minds, and the women are there solely to satisfy the men’s needs. Does this not make men more prone to see women as sex objects? Women are regularly portrayed as ready, willing, and able to do whatever the man might choose. Teenage boys accept this more or less uncritically. This means no thought is given to the sexual pleasure of the female partner. Women can also be drawn into porn where it indulges and adds to their own sexual fantasies.
A concern about people watching porn without the emotional involvement of the sexual partners, is that one sees sex not as a wonderful expression of love but as a natural pleasure divorced from its spiritual dimension. Swedish sex researchers Lofgren-Martenson, L. and S. S.A. Mansson found that most teenage girls embrace what the researchers call “the love ideology” — the idea that love legitimates sex. These teenage girls disapproved of porn because it represents sex without the emotional involvement of a loving relationship.
Watching porn may “facilitate orgasm but it can also leave the individual feeling empty and disconnected afterwards.” (clinical psychologist, Leon F. Seltzer).
According to spiritual philosopher, Emanuel Swedenborg, if a man grows spiritually there is a change in his male attitude. As he forms an exclusive relationship with a woman, love of sex is transformed into love of one of the sex. Mature love means concern for the pleasure of the partner as well as one’s own. In this way the erotic delight of both is increased.
Swedenborg maintains that as adults we all have an innocence to us — the innocent child in us — and once sullied it is damaging to our spiritual health. Those watching hard core porn seem to require more and more extreme scenes to arouse and satisfy their erotic desire. They are becoming sex addicts. Has not the sex addict a lessened ability to forge a deeper union with someone else?
The mature sexual relationship
Swedenborg writes that a spiritual attitude is a deep desire for a one to one relationship. It involves not wanting to hurt your partner by having sexual activity outside the partnership or by fantasizing about such behaviour.
In his book Conjugial Love he maintains that a person’s love and respect for a lasting partnership, can become more and more purified. He also says that purification takes place to the extent that people stay away from what is impure. There was no widespread pornography when he wrote in the eighteenth century but he said this impurity includes not only infidelity and loose sexual conduct but also things like smutty thoughts about someone. The more “chaste” our thoughts and intentions are, the more we are led by the Spirit towards happiness in an enduring relationship. In other words impure sexual thoughts are perversions of the chaste attitude of conjugial love.
The internet is revealing that life is more fascinating than we had ever imagined. However, it also seems it is uglier in the real world than many of us realised.
Why not ask the lawmakers to ensure that internet feeds are porn-free unless adults, who are free to choose for themselves, specifically request it. Sign in rather than sign out. It might be argued that the internet is uncontrollable. But Iceland’s government are hoping to do something. Perhaps where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
Posted on7th March 2013
These days we have world-wide communication over the internet and through television. I, like many more of us, live in a multi-cultural society – having some sort of contact with people whose forebears originate from other continents. In other words I can see or hear most of the world’s spiritual beliefs either in the home, on the street. With so many different cultural ideas, I do wonder does it matter what I believe?
As a result of this variation people can ‘pick and mix’ different ideas about life that might seem sensible. At the same time I am aware there is a growing ethos of not discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, or sex.
Does it matter what I believe about life?
No wonder then that we have a pluralistic mentality that has infused our social consciousness and a spreading attitude that there is more than one world-view or way of thinking that leads to everlasting happiness.
Less and less people these days identify with any one system of belief and fewer affiliate themselves to any one organised religion. I suspect quite a few others ask my question – Does it matter what I believe? What is seen as narrow-minded dogmatism is out. There is a realisation that no-one knows it all and that we all get some things wrong from time to time.
So we even hear the attitude that it doesn’t matter what you actually believe as long as it suits you and you find it helpful.
Does it matter what I believe less than what I feel?
Many psychodynamic counsellors assume that their clients’ emotional life is primary in defining who they really are and that what counts in whether therapy is successful is their feeling of self-acceptance and self-responsibility. According to this view the sort of person one becomes is determined more by how one feels about things than how one thinks; one’s concerns and sympathies rather than one’s ideas and beliefs. So, the question ‘Does it matter what I believe’ becomes less important.
Certain sanctimonious characters portrayed in Dickens’ novels come to mind. Uriah Heep clerk of Mr Wickfield’s believes in his humbleness – and is continually boasting of it! Heep’s writhing and scheming, and his cold, clammy nature, makes one’s skin crawl in David Copperfield. Readers see through such hypocritical behaviour and judge a character by his or her inner feelings and desires rather than by what they say they believe.
Does it matter what I believe about right conduct?
But another school of counselling takes a very different line. The extent to which thinking affects behaviour is central to cognitive therapy. Here what you do is thought to be affected by your beliefs. Challenge unrealistic beliefs and you can change the problematic feelings they give rise to. If you believe in honesty, fairness, and generosity then you may try to improve your behaviour to act according to these principles.
So perhaps what you think and believe does matter after all. There does seem to be a huge variety of beliefs around; ideas concerning the meaning of life, one’s final destiny, human suffering, and so on.
Does it matter what I believe about the perennial philosophy?
Despite this apparent divergence of beliefs, however, a well-known scholar Roger Walsh, has pointed out there are actually 4 basic spiritual beliefs that have endured across centuries and are found in all the world’s main religious traditions. These have come to be known as the ‘perennial philosophy’. These are belief in :
1. Two realms of reality – a realm of physical objects and a realm of consciousness or spirit, not limited by space or time.
2. A divine spark within us usually said to be inseparable from the source and foundation of all reality
3. The improvement one’s spiritual nature as the greatest aim of one’s human existence.
4. Our ability to recognise these claims testing them against our
Some people may believe in none of these assertions. They may think they have no religious beliefs: but isn’t that in itself a belief? Many people seem to be attracted to similar ideas without putting their thoughts into words. They have intuitions but no clear thinking to clarify their perceptions.
Does it matter what I believe about the spiritual?
Students of human development have said that we need to learn about civil and ethical ideas before deciding which ones to conform to or rebel against. Likewise I would like to claim that most of us learn some spiritual ideas – for example those of the ‘perennial philosophy’ that Walsh has written about. Ideas such as that of a consciousness of spirit that goes beyond time and space, a ‘golden rule’ of doing to others as we would wish them to do to us and the concept of a divine source.
Believing in civil and ethical standards enables you to behave well. Perhaps in the same way acknowledging the spiritual dimension enables you to find a new personal orientation in life’s journey.
Unless you acknowledge a divine source why else would you try to meditate deeply or pray? Without a belief in an eternal life why else would you try to live life now as you mean to carry on doing? Without belief in a ‘golden rule’ why else would you play fair by others even if you could get away with deception?
Without believing what is ethically right, how could we recognise the wrong-things we get up to, our bad actions that we hide from others?
So what’s the answer? Does it matter what I believe? I’m still not sure. However I suspect the answer is both ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
Yes, in that my beliefs can guide my life — what I do, how I do it and how confident I can be I am on the right tracks. But no in the sense that in the end it is not what I think and believe that will save me from unhappiness but rather the feelings I have towards others and whether I love to live my life according to my lights.
Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
Posted on29th January 2012