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Backward Porn Addiction: Drawing Attention to Yourself

I think most of us understand the traditional definition of porn addiction. Typically, it’s in the context of a guy lusting after a girl. Active lust toward another person is still the primary way porn is acted out in our culture. A backward porn addiction carries a similar idea of lusting, but directionally it’s different.

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It’s when a person intentionally attempts to lure the gaze of another person through physical manipulation, either by what he/she is wearing or by how he/she looks. The motive is if you draw attention to yourself, you will feel better about yourself.

I never heard the term–though I am familiar with the concept–until I was discipling a couple a few years ago. The wife began to talk about her struggles with what she called a backward porn addiction.

I was amazed more by her humility than the new term. She shamefully shared how she found a perverse pleasure in capturing the gaze of guys. She continued to talk about her fixation on her appearance. This overconcern about her physicality had leeched into other sinful areas of her heart. The result was that she dressed for other people rather than for the Lord.

She also talked about how she felt affirmed when guys looked at her. Though she knew what she was doing was sinful, and her hermeneutic regarding love had become mentally twisted (2 Corinthians 10:3-6), she did not know how to change.

She struggled with life-long battles of insecurity, which was a life-dominating pattern (Ephesians 4:22). Her method for resolving this problem was to dress in such a way that others took notice. Especially men.

Her surprising humility opened the door for a few questions, which she was eager to discuss. For this chapter, I will redirect some of those questions to give you an opportunity to reflect on your motives about modesty, clothes, appearance, individuals, and God.

  • When you dress in the morning, do you think more about God’s gaze upon you or other people’s gaze?
  • Do you dress to put the Lord’s name on display or your physicality on display?
  • How does the glory of God impact your thought life when it comes to your appearance?
  • Would your closest friends (or spouse) say you are overly concerned about how you look?
  • Can you leave your residence without being sinfully controlled by how you look?
  • Are you free to not wear make-up?
  • Do you secretly compare yourself to other women?
  • What feeds your thinking more: (a) how the culture views beauty, or (b) how God thinks about beauty?

Backward Porn Addiction

My friend was not actively pursuing traditional porn avenues, though she was hooked on a feeling that motivated her to feed her porn addiction in a backward way. Her “reverse porn problem” led to other ancillary sins that connected to her core heart problem.

One of those ancillary problems was the subtle pleasure of feeling smug (self-righteous) in her judgments about dirty men who looked at porn. Because her addiction was not as apparent as dirty men looking at porn, her reasoning ran along these lines:

Guys are sleazy. They disgust me the way they gawk at women.

While her assessment was correct about lust-hungry guys who fill their lust cups through gawking, her choice to dress in such a way to draw attention to herself was not more spiritual, biblical, or honoring to God. Her self-righteous posturing and hair-splitting had dulled her mind to the point of self-deception (Hebrews 4:7-8).

Two people’s porn addictions may be going in different directions, but both of them have corrupted and captured souls that snatch God’s glory for self-glorification. Typically, a backward porn addiction manifests in three ways:

Checking Out the Competition

My friend told me how it’s a common practice when women are in a group to “check out” the other people in the group. While some people do this for ideas about clothing or maybe because they enjoy the way their friend dresses, there is a darker side to people gazing. The heart issue of insecurity (fear of man) is what motivates a person to be overly concerned about how they look.

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How to Overcome the Fear of Others

Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. – 2 Corinthians 10:12

My friend added,

We are checking out the competition to see how we compare. Part of what is going on is we want to see what the other woman has, or if what we have is better.

She was referring to the other woman’s physique. Paul suggested that a person like this is without understanding. This kind of “backward theology of clothing and appearance” manifests in two ways.

  • She believes if she were more attractive, she would feel better about herself.
  • She believes she does not look as good as other women, which tempts her to envy, jealousy, anger, bitterness, or even depression.

This kind of fear motivates her to find the fatal flaw in the other woman, which gives her self-righteous soul a boost. One of the pitfalls with this sort of theology is when the other woman is incomparably put together in such a way that there is no need to compete. Unable to meet that “beauty requirement” leads to despair for the competitor.

Always comparing yourself to others is one of the reasons porn is so devastating to a woman. In her mind, she cannot compete with what her husband is looking at in the cyber world. And she can’t!! It’s like competing with a Marvel comic strip.

There is plasti-woman, insta-girl, and ready-for-action cyber babe–the fake people our culture grades as perfect tens. No sane woman can compete with this kind of instant fake-ness, and no biblical-minded woman would want to.

Adultery, though the competition is not as plastic or cyber, still shatters a wife’s world because she knows–among many other devastating things–that the competition has ousted her.

I appreciated my friend’s honest and transparent willingness to make the conversation about her need for change, rather than hijacking the conversation as a ruse to deflect from the hidden idolatries of her heart. Most people have a hard time discussing a worldview that is so thought exposing. In essence, she was revealing the secret handshake among the fraternity of women.

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Fear of Man

Capturing the Gaze of a Man

While competing with women is part of the problem, there is another turn to this addiction. A backward porn addiction is also a woman’s subtle desire to capture the gaze of someone. Gaze capturing can be a deceptive and appealing drug for the insecure person.

She feels a sense of power when she makes a man look twice. Though she may be disgusted at the thought of adultery, she is flattered by his gaze. Her soul is in a battle over opinions:

What does he think of me?

Or what does God think of me?

Whose opinion drives your clothing choices?

Whose eyes or attention are you trying to attract?

Some women become angered by this kind of discussion. They say there is nothing wrong with trying to feel sexy or look attractive. They continue by laying the entire problem in the man’s lap if he looks too long. Yes, it is the man’s fault if he looks twice or lingers too long, but it is naive and deceptive to rebuff any responsibility toward the human community.

I know when I am manipulating a situation, which is a gift of God’s Spirit to bring such gentle reminders about my actions. No Christian should be that detached from their real motives, which includes how we care for others.

Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. – 1 Corinthians 8:13

Let me paraphrase:

Therefore, if (the way I dress) makes my brother stumble, I will never (dress in a way that may capture his attention), lest I make my brother stumble.

Others will argue, “I could dress in a burlap sack, and a man would lust after me.” Probably. Some men. However, when the argument immediately shifts toward others without careful consideration of yourself, you’ve already crossed biblical lines (Matthew 7:3-5). Lustful men lust. I get it. The more humble starter question should model my friend’s thoughts by examining your heart motives first.

  • Do you dress in a way that could capture the gaze of a man?
  • Will you honestly and humbly answer that question?
  • If you are genuinely unsure, will you ask someone their opinion of you?
  • Would you ask the Lord to give you the grace and courage to assess the way you take care of your body?

These questions would make an excellent conversation between husbands and wives, as well as a good discussion for a small group of women.

Looking for Male Shepherds

This problem does not land squarely on women. A woman’s body appearance and clothing selections are also a leadership responsibility for the men in their lives, especially dads and husbands.

  • Dad, how are you shepherding your daughters regarding their temptations toward sensuality?
  • Husband, are you aware who is “hitting on your wife?”
  • Is your wife “eye candy” for others?
  • How are you guarding your wife’s heart and reputation?
  • Are you culpable for how she appears before others?
  • Do you know the difference between being culturally relevant and sensually tempting?
  • Are you engaging the females in your home about these things?

You should already know that the females in your home struggle with insecurity. The biblical record affirms that all people–male and female–struggle with some form of fear of man (Proverbs 29:25). This awareness motivates you to index forward from wondering if they care what others think about them, to being intentionally redemptive in their lives.

Practically Illustrated: Candy’s parents said she would never go to the mailbox without putting on make-up. They saw this as a positive thing. They were glad that she cared about herself. Her parents were not discerning.

Fear of man controlled Candy: what people thought about her mattered more to her than anything else, even God’s favorable opinion of her. She was a fearful idolator who believed she needed to pay close attention and exacting detail to how she looked to others.

Rather than shepherding her through this life-dominating sin pattern, they applauded her desire to be attractive. Her insecurity and emptiness grew. Trying to maintain beauty for people’s approval is for the insecure person like what crack is for the addict. Candy needed to be freed from the beauty trap and reacquainted with the gospel.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Not only are Christians saved by grace, but grace is the means through which sanctification happens. The Christian’s complete salvation–including sanctification–is a gift from God. The insecure person, who is in bondage to the beauty trap, will seek to overcome her problem through her works by over-caring about what she looks like or what she wears.

Let’s suppose Candy did overcome her insecurity by making herself beautiful enough to feel better about herself. She would still be in bondage because she would only be as strong as her ability to stay beautiful.

She could even be discreet about how she overcame her insecurity, but she would always have this low-grade fear of losing her ability to stay beautiful (2 Corinthians 1:8-9, 4:7, 12:7-10). Beauty’s deception and accompanying legalism are not sustainable. It’s an insatiable fixation that leads to more sinful and painful manipulations.

The primary deception is that she will see her insecurity as a clue to compete with her culture. She’ll misdiagnose the real battlefield: she’s in a tug-o-war with the only one who can free her (James 4:6). God wants to release her from the grips of a controlling culture so she can find peace in Him alone. Freedom comes through weakness, not strength (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Call to Action

May I appeal to you?

  1. Husband, is your wife susceptible to a backward porn addiction?
  2. Dad, is your daughter becoming addicted similarly?

If so, will you come alongside them to care for them? Ask the Father to give you the insight and opportunity to speak with them. Learn, love, and lead them to a more effectual and practicalized outworking of the gospel. There is a truer, purer, and more powerful beauty found in Christ (1 Peter 2:3-4).

Ladies, may I appeal to you?

I have several questions throughout this chapter. Will you take them to the Lord, asking Him to expose to you what He already knows about you (Hebrews 4:13)? Will you find a friend to help you unhook from the bondage of people control? If we can serve you in this process, all you have to do is ask here.

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