It’s Narcissist Friday!
From time to time I get questions about the connection between p0rnography and narcissism. I confess that I have tried to stay away from the topic. While there is little doubt that viewing p0rn is a narcissistic behavior, there is no causal connection in my opinion. The truth is that we live in a p0rn-infested culture. P0rn seems to be tied to almost everything.
Be aware of two things as you read this post. There will be some triggers here. This is not a neutral subject. Also, I do not consider myself an expert in psychology or sociology. These are simply my reflections on the problem I see.
So, let me address a few direct questions. First, are all male narcissists addicted to p0rn? The answer must be negative. Now, any information we have on the extent of p0rn use, particularly in the church, has to be tempered by the strong tendency to lie and cover up. P0rn today can be hidden very well. So, in any particular case, the narcissist could be lying. But I have met narcissists who did not seem to have any desires toward p0rnography. In fact, some are almost asexual. Their drives take them elsewhere, perhaps to performance at work or in the church. Appearing more spiritual than others, for example, can be an addiction in itself.
Are men who are addicted to p0rn narcissists? Again, not necessarily. Viewing p0rnography, with the resulting actions toward self-satisfaction, is a narcissistic behavior because it is entirely self-serving. P0rnographic fantasies usually (not always) lift up the viewer and create a short-term sense of value or even love. These are false and controlled relationships, almost the definition of ideal for narcissists. The woman who exists to serve the man’s desires and then disappears without demands or needs of her own could be the perfect woman for some. Certainly, p0rnography serves a narcissistic purpose. However, that does not mean that someone who views p0rn, even often, is a narcissist. We have considered a narcissistic spectrum of behavior. There would have to be other factors to determine if a person is a narcissist.
The secrecy of p0rnography in our culture also intersects the narcissistic need for independence and lack of accountability. In spite of the attempts of our culture to make p0rn acceptable (notice how Hugh Hefner was praised for his contributions to our culture) those who view p0rn are still seen as weak and less able to function in healthy relationships. So p0rn viewing results in shame and guilt. In narcissistic relationships, the discovery of p0rn will almost certainly be followed by projection and blame from the narcissist. In other words, it will be the spouse’s fault, if it cannot be denied or covered up. Those who are not narcissists may respond in the same way, but some will confess and apologize sincerely (in spite of later returns to the same behavior). Not all who wish to hide the shame of their addiction are narcissists. Nor are all who don’t seem to have the ability to end the practice.
Much of the popular literature suggests that narcissists are all p0rn addicts. My guess is that narcissists may have a slightly higher use of p0rn than the general male population and perhaps a significantly higher addiction rate. But please understand that the nature of this problem makes any judgment like this very difficult. Narcissists lie easily and, when it comes to p0rn, so do most men. The popular literature rarely defines addiction and viewing pictures or videos focused on stimulating sexual interest is almost unavoidable today. Without sexual imagery and story, much of our fiction (book or video) would disappear, as would a great deal of advertising. We have become an overly-sexualized culture.
We are increasingly told that young women are becoming addicted to p0rn. I find this difficult to believe, at least in the same way the problem presents for men. But it does suggest to me that the culture is pushing us to accept p0rn and the constant barrage of sexual messages as normal. Instead, I think women are being taught to accept p0rn and deviant sexuality as normal parts of healthy relationships.
Please, help your young ladies understand that the broken sexual world of which p0rn is a part does not have to be their world. They do not have to compromise themselves in order to “hold onto” a certain young man, nor do they have to ignore actions they feel are abusive or undesirable. This confusing culture at least allows them to say no, and they should do so. The cost of standing up for themselves will not be as great as the loss from giving in.
So, I would suggest that it is important to continue to treat p0rn and abusive or manipulative sexuality as both wrong and hurtful. There is little argument among reasonable adults that these things cause harm to victims and do long-term damage to those who practice them. There is a normal and right place for sexuality, and there are mutually enjoyable practices designed to be expressed within healthy relationships. Outside of these right boundaries, sexuality becomes something far less than it should be and far more dangerous.
Let me close with a couple other strong statements. First, a spouse has every right to be offended and disgusted when p0rn is discovered. She must neither allow it to go unchallenged nor allow it to cause her guilt. If there is a man who discovered p0rn after getting married, I would consider him almost a miracle. What that means is that men discover p0rn (and learn to hide it) while young. For most, it does not connect with the marriage at all except through the guilt and distance it produces.
Second, we see the fruits of this cultural degradation on the news nearly every day, but young people are often shielded from making the right connections. We hear about the terrible things that happen in sexual crimes, but rarely are they blamed on this “modern” perspective on sexuality. We simply cannot promote a sexualized view of women and expect that no men will act in hurtful and narcissistic ways. To suggest that Hefner is good because he changed our cultural views of sexuality and Weinstein is evil because he acted in accordance with those views is idiotic. This problem has become very large and seems almost insurmountable, but the key is for those who are salt and light to continue to proclaim the simple message of truth.
There is much more that I would like to say on this topic, but the risk of being misunderstood is great. If I have written anything to suggest that this is not a serious problem, I assure you that was not my intent. P0rn is certainly a common problem in narcissistic relationships, but it is also a problem in many non-narcissistic relationships. I also acknowledge that there is little in this post to help you with p0rn in your marriage. That would take more than a post like this could offer. My desire is simply to try to dispel a couple of misconceptions and motivate all of us to stand strongly against this increasing erosion of our moral values. Love cannot stay silent in the face of such abuse and compromise.