How to QUIT Porn in 2024: 5 Tips

Street Theologian
19 min readDec 27, 2023
The Gambler Vasily P All images from Wikimedia Commons unless mentioned otherwise

Building offensive and defensive strategies

When the barbs of life strike you in 2024, will you turn to porn and masturbation for refuge? Or will you start looking somewhere else that offers a more permanent solution?

I’m not a doctor, I’m not a psychologist, I’m not a theologian either for that matter (that’s why I’m called Street Theologian). Seek professional advice. Despite being more common in males, porn use can be an issue for both males and females.

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We’re all fallen, we’re all broken. This article offers hope starting in the dark, hard, broken place we are at. Join us for the journey.

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Sex trafficking case

In January 2020, a US judge awarded $17.5 million in damages to 22 women who featured in GirlsDoPorn videos who were lied to and coerced into making “amateur” sex videos. There were multiple cases of women, such as Jane Doe, being raped for hours, experiencing heavy vaginal bleeding with nowhere to go while it was all being filmed.

The man who killed his brother and parents to watch porn

Grant Amato, spent over $200,000 USD for a live nude camera girl from Bulgaria and killed his parents and brother to make it easier to steal money to fund his expensive habit.

Grant Amato: Twitter

Porn is a powerful force. Is there any way out from an addiction?

Today we’re giving you some tips for 2024.

Don’t go into 2023 hooked on porn

Three tips we gave for 2023 were:

  1. know your triggers (HALT- hungry, angry, lonely, tired)
  2. get comfortable being uncomfortable
  3. face reality about yourself.

We’ve written two other pieces on this topic you might wish to read:

Will the next CS Lewis be lost to video games and porn?

12 Reasons most Christian men are hooked on porn and what to do about it

If you want to head straight to the tips head towards the bottom of this article!

The stats

According to porn researcher, Simon Lajeunesse, “Guys who do not watch pornography do not exist.” In 2009, when Lajeunesse tried to study porn’s impact he couldn’t find any college-age males who weren’t using it. This was well before the covid years surge in porn use!

91.5% of males, 60.2% of females viewed porn in the last month?

A 2020 study of 1392 adults found 91.5% of males and 60.2% of females had viewed pornographic content in the past month. Note, however, women were far more likely to consume written pornographic materials than men who were much more likely to consume visual content.

What about in churches?

Sadly, the stats imply regular porn use amongst young males in churches is by far the norm rather than the exception.

A 2019 Freedom Fight survey of over 1300 Practising Christian college students concluded that 89% of Christian men surveyed watch porn at least occasionally with 61% viewing it weekly.

Many of the students surveyed had leadership roles in campus ministries. More than half the males surveyed claimed to be addicted to porn.

Even amongst more senior pastors and church leaders, porn use is far more widespread than many expect. A 2016 Barna Group survey indicated 21% of youth pastors and 14% of pastors admitted they struggled with using porn at the time of survey.

What’s the problem and is there hope?

Porn use is a cancer on the mind. Destroying relationships. Trashing potential. Leading to cycles of depression and shame. Perverting countless minds.

Ensnared in cycles of addictions, many of us are scared to even talk about the topic or face the reality of the dark thoughts that frequent our minds.

Yet, the Christian message rather than inflaming levels of shame or beating us down further with no way out, offers a deep solution to chronic porn use and masturbation habits.

Humanity is far more twisted than we are prepared to admit. Far more dark, far more immoral, far more perverse (Jer. 17:9, Is. 1:5). Yet, by implication, Christ’s love and light reaches far deeper than we could imagine.

Fear of consequences v genuine morality in the heart

We often act “morally” out of a fear of consequences rather than an underlying sense of morality or desire to live in a way pleasing to God.

Exemplifying this, when a man continues to lust after a woman who is not his spouse, he is saying he has no moral issue having sex with her.

This stands whether she is married or not, wants him or not, is underage or not but he is fearful of the consequences- what will she think, how will it impact his marriage, what will the authorities think, what will people around him think, what if there are pregnancy of STI complications etc etc.

The concern in such cases is consequences, not morals. It’s a drastically different form of “morality” to that espoused by Christ himself who, on the Sermon on the Mount, taught with authority that lustful thoughts are tantamount to adulterous sex acts (Matt. 5:27–28).

Research indicates feeling guilt can drive healthy change while feeling shame can exacerbate porn use.

Why stop? 7 Reasons

Given the widespread use of pornography, it is unwise to simply assume people think there are good reasons for stopping so here are a few below:

  1. Dangerously self-centred: If you are a Christian porn use goes against the sexual ethic taught by Christ concerning lust (Matt. 5:28) and the New Testament teaching that sex organs exist to give pleasure to a husband or wife in marriage (1 Cor. 7:4) rather than to be primarily self-serving. If you’re not a Christian, we’re glad you’re here! You might want to start with some of our other articles if you’re keen to explore Christianity.

2. Stress and depressive symptoms: Unlike PVI, porn and masturbation use can drive depressive symptoms, immature psychological defense mechanisms, poorer reactivity to stress and more as noted in the paper below:

Masturbation is Related to Psychopathology and Prostate Dysfunction: Comment on Quinsey (2012) It is difficult to reconcile the view that masturbation improves mood with the findings in both sexes that greater masturbation frequency is associated with more depressive symptoms (Cyranowski et al., 2004; Frohlich & Meston, 2002; Husted & Edwards, 1976), less happiness (Das, 2007), and several other indicators of poorer physical and mental health, which include anxious attachment (Costa & Brody, 2011), immature psychological defense mechanisms, greater blood pressure reactivity to stress, and dissatisfaction with ones mental health and life in general (for a review, see Brody, 2010)..In contrast, PVI is very consistently related to better health ..The only sexual behavior consistently related to better psychological and physical health is PVI. In contrast, masturbation is frequently associated with indices of poorer health (Brody,2010; Brody & Costa, 2009; Brody & Weiss, 2011; Costa & Brody, 2011, 2012).

3. Women and children: In consuming porn you’re helping an industry that exploits women and childen. There have been numerous court cases in this space in the last few years. Women are the targets of violence and aggression in porn roughly 97% of the time. A study of 304 best-selling porn scenes found 88.2% contained physical aggression while 48.7% contained verbal aggression.

4. Less motivation and energy: Consistent porn use can lower your baseline dopamine levels making you less happy overall. Achieving substantial temporary increases in dopamine with minimal effort through porn and masturbation can be a highly demotivating force in the long run.

Reward Foundation

5. Seeking greater hits- Coolidge effect: as porn use can offer substantial increases in dopamine for 4–5 hours due to the novelty factor in a way sex often cannot, there becomes an increased desire for more violent and extreme scenes to maintain a high. New body types, new nationalities, more extreme scenes, more violent acts. The search for a new high continues.

Reddit

6. Avoidance: porn use is an avoidance tactic whereby you can be numbing the pain of the world by imagining you’re having sex with someone you’re not rather than meeting issues in your life head-on.

7. Studies: We could list many more reasons but here are some studies to summarise some other reasons (links to the studies are in the hyperlinks):

Guardian comparing porn and heroin

  • Feeling down: People who use porn as a self-soothing technique tend to have low levels of emotional and mental wellbeing
  • Intent to rape: Frequent porn consumers are more likely to express an intent to rape and less likely to intervene in a sexual assault
  • Poorer relationships: Porn consumption is the second strongest predictor that a relationship will suffer and substantially increases the probability of a divorce ceteris paribus
  • Distress: Individuals accepting of porn use tend to experience psychological distress when their partner watches it
  • Loneliness: Porn use can make you feel more lonely
  • Less satisfied: Porn use can lead to lower levels of mental health and poorer life satisfaction
  • Sex objects: Males who watch porn are more likely to objectify women and hold degrading and dehumanising attitudes toward women whereby they are viewed as mechanical sex objects which need to be manipulated a certain way to get a result like “instruments or robots
  • Exploiting the young: “Teen” is the most common word used in porn titles out of a study of over 130,000 titles and was also the most common word used in porn titles that included references to sexual violence

The main point

While I would encourage all of my readers to aim for a porn free 2024, it is crucial to note that should be nobody’s main goal for the year.

Eliminating porn use is like stopping an oil leak in a vehicle or eliminating an unnecessary expense.

We are called to be more like Christ and to bring glory to him through our character and fruits. Moreover, each of us has unique gifts, calling and potential. This is a response to the free gift of salvation God, who loved us before we loved him (Rom. 5:8) has given us.

Redirecting focus and energy

Eliminating porn use helps concentrate time and energy into cultivating godly character, gifts and callings rather than being an end goal itself. It helps foster closeness to God.

Paul in Ephesians and Colossians, doesn’t merely urge us to put away the former self deluded by its lusts (Eph. 4:20) or to put to death impure and evil desires (Col. 3:5) but to replace the former self, with a new self, clothing ourselves with love, humility and patience (Col. 3:12–14). The new self is created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24).

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With this in mind here are 5 tips for a porn free 2024:

1. Radical honesty- Admit the full extent of your darkness to God

Self-deception is the norm. We feel a sense of shame because we like to think we are better than we are and can’t accept the notion we frequently fail ourselves.

Paul knew this internal struggle very well (Rom. 7:18–25).

We say Christ died for our sins, yet in reality, hold on to lies that there are parts of us too dark for Christ to forgive us for. We trick ourselves.

In ourselves we are nothing, in God everything.

Psalm 32:2 reads “blessed is the man.. in whose spirit is no deceit.”

David then outlines that when keeping silent before God, in other words, living in deceit and self-deception, not confessing sins or dark intentions, he feels a real heaviness and misery with his bones wasting away (v.3) and his energy sapped (v.4).

Finding refuge

Yet, in acknowledging sins (v.5) and iniquities (v.6) before God, David finds refuge in God (v.7), experiencing steadfast love, joy and rejoicing (v.10–11).

In believing Christ died for our sins (1 Peter 2:24 etc) and confessing our sins to God (1 John 1:9), we need to be real and radically honest about the extent of our fallenness.

Dark hiding places

We function as if God forgives some sins yet like to keep other parts of our dark nature hidden from him as if we are ashamed.

These are the hiding places of darkness within our souls and if we simply open the door and admit this to Christ, we can make way for the penetrating light of the Gospel.

Admit to God what you’re tempted to think. Who you’re tempted to lust after. What you’re thinking of doing to them. How much pain you’re in and why. What you’re hiding from your wife. How much you’re struggling. How much of a hypocrite you feel like. How you feel consumed by shame. Be as specific as possible. Christ meets you in your filth. Ask him to forgive and shape you.

Doc Goldenberg

Chances are if you’re badly enslaved to addictive patterns of porn use there are dark aspects of your nature, behaviour or thoughts, you’re not yet prepared to admit or bring before Christ.

You’re not called to carry the burden alone (Matt. 11:28–29). The warm, compassionate and gentle arms of Christ meet you where you are and sympathise with you in your pains (Heb. 4:16, 5:2).

Your view of God?

Do you have this view of God or do you view a God who holds everything against you and is not prepared to forgive the depths of your guilt?

He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. — Hebrews 5:2

What our moments of weakness reveal about us

When are you weakest and most likely to turn to porn or masturbation as a refuge? These will be your moments of strength training.

Ask yourself at what cost you will give in to you porn use or if you will resolve not to give in no matter what?

The moments we’re more likely to fail are the moments we see true glimpses of how dark our nature can be. An accident, loneliness, fatigue, angry moments, a rejection, a breakup, a job loss, a death in the family, an injury and on and on it goes.

Caught off-guard

If you want to beat a porn addiction you need God’s grace to go through such painful events and not give in.

Off-guard moments show who we are. As CS Lewis eloquently pointed out in his analogy of the rats and the cellar in Mere Christianity:

If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.

What you’ll learn

Yet, through this struggle of ending this bad habit you’ll learn a lot more about your desires and nature than you would have otherwise. As Lewis adds:

On the contrary, those who are seriously attempting chastity are more conscious, and soon know a great deal more about their own sexuality than anyone else. They come to know their desires as Wellington knew Napoleon, or as Sherlock Holmes knew Moriarty; as a rat-catcher knows rats or a plumber knows about leaky pipes. Virtue — even attempted virtue — brings light; indulgence brings fog.

2. Offensive and defensive physical strategies

Porn addiction is not just a spiritual issue- it is a physical issue as well!

Porn addicts have an “out of shape” brain.

Neural pathways have been formed and frequent dopamine hits through erotic content are sought.

This is partly why you can be forgiven in Jesus yet your brain can scream at you like crazy to watch porn! Don’t forget this. Healing takes time.

A screaming brain is a rewiring brain.

For an addict, porn and masturbation become a means of medicating a void. You feel lonely so you watch porn. You feel rejected so you masturbate. It’s an unhealthy coping mechanism used to try and boost your dopamine levels.

Integrated Men’s Health

Rewiring is not easy. Intense pain through withdrawal symptoms can be experienced. Headaches, dizziness, shaking, inability to sleep and more are all symptoms which can be felt by recovering addicts. Your brain is taking on a new “shape”.

How long to change a habit?

It can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to change a habit. Initial relapses can be part of the healing process but don’t give up.

Through the pain is coming healing. Through the property of neuroplasticity, your brain is able to rewire.

The longer you’ve been addicted the longer it will likely take.

Healing is possible

However, healing and change is possible. Be patient. Don’t give in. Let the pain take its course and do its job. Giving in slows the physical healing required to rewire your brain.

Starve the animal of lust. Don’t give it a crumb. It’s an all out war (1 Peter 2:11).

Silly excuses and brain tricks

Your brain will think of all sorts of silly excuses and look for replacements. Instead of watching hardcore porn you might start browsing profiles or reading erotic content more or fantasising more about people you know in real life who aren’t your spouse.

Don’t give in to any of these temptations. Your brain is just looking for new dopamine hits.

Image Courtesy of Lawrence V. Tucker, M.D., PLLC, Diplomate, American Board of Psychiatry & Neurology and Appearing in the Conquer Series

Endure the pain. Embrace it for healing. That’s your brain rewiring.

Embrace physical discipline. Engage in new mental pursuits. Cultivate your creative talents through new outlets.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable

Pick up a new sport. Do new forms of exercise. Push yourself physically and mentally. Fast. Do long hikes. Build new social circles. Develop better sleep routines. Become more disciplined with what you eat.

Physical discipline

Uphill sprints, social sports, muscular endurance exercises, cold showers and ice baths can be a great exercise for improved self control and discipline while simultaneously boosting dopamine levels.

Have offensive strategies to foster greater levels of wellbeing (eg. exercise, regular cold showers, sleeping well etc) and defensive strategies for when urges strike (eg. emergency cold shower, HALT- hungry, angry, lonely or tired? Understand why, do emergency push-ups or squats, call a friend etc).

3. Monitor your attention

Do you think about what you’re thinking about? Where does your mind go if you go for a walk alone or when you first wake up in the morning?

We’re called to examine and test ourselves seeing if Christ is in us (2 Cor. 13:5, Hag. 1:5). To test our own works (Gal. 6:4).

Setting your mind on Christ

To set our minds on things above, things of Christ (Col. 3:2). To think of good and noble things worthy of praise (Phil. 4:8). To pray always, being grateful and rejoicing (1 Thess. 5:16–18, Eph. 6:18).

Christ is in believers (2 Cor. 13:5) and God works in them to will and to do (Phil. 2:13).

Bring your dark and dirty thoughts, wavering attention and disappointments to him and ask him to continue to shape you. Be grateful to him for the countless undeserved gifts you receive in life (1 Cor. 4:7) and for the positive changes he is making in your life.

Where is your ATTENTION going? 5 Biblical Ways to refocus your attention

Reflect on the past

Don’t forget where you came from. Reflect on your story of redemption as the Israelites did (eg. Joshua 4:19–24) and Christ urges his followers to do through the Lord’s Supper as they proclaim his death until he comes (1 Cor. 11:26).

4. Replace a bad habit with a good one- Cultivate character and gifts to serve others

Porn addiction saps substantial energy and focus. In males, substantial energy and resources go into producing semen.

Passive consumption or active growth?

Time and energy which could be spent developing musical talent, serving the marginalised, studying the Bible, teaching others or fine tuning apologetics knowledge is trashed on watching people have sex while fooling your brain into thinking you’re reproducing.

Active growth is rejected for passive consumption.

Redirect your time, energy, and attention to living in love for God and others (more in point 5). Replace a bad habit with a good one.

Suppose you feel called to music. Cultivate it. If you’re called to teach. Pick up a book and start learning.

If you’re called to counsel others start reaching out to friends in need.

Not sure where to start? What did you like doing when you were a teenager? What significant needs do you see as being unmet in the church or the world?

Still not sure? Ask God for wisdom (James 1:5–7, Luke 11:7–13).

When the mind is not focused or concentrated it is more susceptible to seeking dopamine hits through lustful fantasy.

Without inspiration, what’s left is bare, aimless ferocity. Without desire for an ideal, what’s left is lustful fantasy and the seduction of free-floating images that find no anchor in actual projects.. Solution: more work, more money, more drink, more weight, more things, more infotainment.

James Hillman, The Soul’s Code

5. Find pleasure in God

Under a Christian view, the desire for pleasure is a God-given one. At God’s right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).

Peter speaks of indescribable joy and rejoicing through knowledge of God (1 Peter 1:8).

Yet, if we seek God simply for the pleasure he offers we miss the point and will miss out on it. If we seek God simply for pleasure, pleasure is our ultimate god and dangerous idol.

Pleasure ensues from a pursuit of God but if we pursue pleasure directly it will run away.

When God feels distant

That’s all well and good, you might say, but where do I start as God feels so distant?

Here’s a few quick suggestions:

  1. Admission: Admit to God that he feels distant and ask him to give you wisdom, increased faith and closeness to him (2 Peter 1:3, James 1:5–7) while seeing the emptiness of treading your own path (Prov. 3:5–6).
  2. Asking: Ask God to give you a more grateful heart which seeks to constantly rejoice in him (Phil. 4:4, 1 Thess. 5:16–18). Think of all the many gifts he has given you (Jam. 1:17).
  3. Awe: Rather than seeking to find a fancy path to achieve pleasure from God, zero in on your own darkness and need for God, realising his grace is all you need and his love meets you in your fallenness (James 4:4–6 etc). In a paradoxical fashion, realising your fallenness before God is the catalyst to produce good works through the grace of Christ (Eph. 2:8–10).

If you want to read more in this space you may wish to read the Life of God in the Soul of Man by Henry Scougal, Enjoying God by Tim Chester or Humility: The Joy of Self-Forgetfulness by Gavin Ortlund.

Recap:

2023:

  1. Know your triggers
  2. Get comfortable being uncomfortable
  3. Face reality about yourself

2024:

  1. Radical honesty- Admit the full extent of your darkness to God
  2. Develop offensive and defensive physical strategies
  3. Monitor your attention
  4. Replace a bad habit with a good one- Cultivate character and gifts to serve others
  5. Find pleasure in God

The path forward will be challenging but in the struggle there is healing, meaning and the ultimate Helper in Christ who meets us where we are at, suffers in our place and stoops down into the broken and dark corners of our soul to offer life, light and liberation.

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Where is your ATTENTION going? 5 Biblical Ways to refocus your attention

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Street Theologian

Theology and apologetics for those who want to get their hands dirty