Sexual Struggles on the Field

by Amber Goodloe, LPC

Olive Tree Counselor

Many of us know or have heard that “pornography is a problem” and “people today struggle in sexual areas,” but I wonder how often these statements are applied to “them:” the non-believer, the younger generation, men, adults, weak people, those who were abused as children, gross people – and I’m sure the list could go on.  The fact is, everyone is susceptible to struggling in the area of sexuality – including men, women, children, and workers!  Due to easy accessibility through technology, the number of people exposed to and viewing pornography has skyrocketed, and Josh McDowell said in recent years that, “pornography’s probably the greatest threat to the cause of Christ in the history of the world.”  That’s an incredibly strong statement, but comes with the backing of research that shows that in the United States 50% -70% of pastors struggle with viewing pornography, 50% – 70% of teens and young adults see pornography at least monthly whether or not they are looking for it, 35% – 55% of women have viewed pornography, and women under 25 are more likely to consistently view it, all according to a 2016 Barna survey. 1

But let’s expand this topic to include sexual struggles beyond pornography: addiction to erotic novels, an overactive sexual fantasy life (not about a spouse), compulsive masturbation, inappropriate child to child sexual behaviors, unresolved sexual abuse, sexual assault on the field, and sexual difficulties in marriages.  These are just some of the issues we have seen on the field.  I bring this up to highlight a few things:

But let’s expand this topic to include sexual struggles beyond pornography: addiction to erotic novels, an overactive sexual fantasy life (not about a spouse), compulsive masturbation, inappropriate child to child sexual behaviors, unresolved sexual abuse, sexual assault on the field, and sexual difficulties in marriages. These are just some of the issues we have seen on the field. I bring this up to highlight a few things:

  1. Workers are not immune to sexual struggles (and actually, due to the high level of stress experienced overseas we might be even more susceptible).
  2. Sexual struggles are not confined to men only; many women today struggle greatly in this area but are more likely to feel isolated in their struggle and experience a greater sense of shame.
  3. Children and teens today are at a higher risk both for viewing and becoming addicted to pornography and masturbation, and also for acting out what they see in videos with those around them – siblings or friends.  This can result in some very damaging experiences, along with shaping their view of sexuality in unhealthy ways.

Looking at this list might seem overwhelming or discouraging, but there is hope and recovery is possible!  The first step to any recovery process is to recognize and acknowledge what the problem is, and then to find resources for addressing the struggle.  So, if you or someone you know is struggling in these areas, try to find a trusted friend to talk through this with, as the journey to freedom cannot be completed in isolation.  Once you have found someone who can be your ally in this journey, you may consider reading a book or doing a study together.

Due to the widespread occurrence of sexual struggles in recent years, there has also been an influx of materials produced on this topic, so here are just a few ideas to consider:

  • Surfing for God: Discovering the Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Struggle by Michael Cusick
  • Every Woman’s Battle by Shannon Ethridge
  • Redeeming Sex: Naked Conversations About Sexuality and Spirituality by Debra Hirsch
  • No Stones: Women Redeemed from Sexual Addiction by Marnie C. Ferree

For some, professional counseling will be a vital part of recovery, as sexual addictions/compulsions are deeply rooted in a person’s heart and brain. This takes intentional “re-programming” of the brain to overcome, and part of that process is understanding the roots of a sexual struggle, which a professional can help you with.

As you read this some may ask, “How do I know if this is a real problem in my life?”  Here are some questions to consider:

  • Do I lie about my sexual thoughts, activities, or behaviors?
  • Has my need to view pornography/masturbate/read explicit novels/etc. interfered with, or taken precedence over, other personal and professional commitments, hobbies, and relationships in my life?
  • Am I unable to stop despite multiple attempts or negative consequences?
  • Do I have guilt and shame associated with my thoughts and behaviors?
  • Has someone else in my life mentioned it might be a problem?
  • Am I consistently and intentionally doing something in secret?
  • Am I using sexual fantasies or behaviors to relieve uncomfortable feelings?
  • Has my child become excessively withdrawn and appear to be isolating and using technology more than usual?

If any of this rings true for you don’t hesitate to reach out to a friend, mentor, leader, or counselor for support in helping you seek and find freedom and healing.

 

Reference:

1Barna, The Porn Phenomenon, (2016) https://www.barna.com/the-pornphenomenon/