Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Author, & Activist
Trigger warning: During this episode we discuss child sexual abuse- listener discretion is advised.
This week’s interview is with Jay Stringer. Jay is a licensed mental health counselor from Seattle, WA, the author of Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing, and the creator of the Unwanted Sexual Behavior Self-Assessment that guides individuals to connect the dots between their story and their porn use. Listen to Jay and podcast host Garrett Jonsson discuss the nature behind porn addiction and how addressing the root of the issue can be an effective way to reaching long lasting freedom from it.
To learn more about Jay, visit his website: jay-stringer.com.
Click here to access the resources discussed in this episode.
To learn more about the harms of pornography on consumers, relationships, and its larger societal impacts, visit FTND.org.
To support this podcast, click here or text CONSIDER to 43506.
Thank you for listening, as you go about your day we invite you to consider before consuming.
FROM THIS EPISODE
- Article written by Jay: Support For Partners That Feel Betrayed By Their Partner’s Porn Habit
- Article written by Jay:3 Ways Facing Shame Can Take Away Its Power
- Need help?Try Fortify.
- Check out Jay’s websitehere.
- Jay’s book: Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals Our Way to Healing
Garrett: What’s up people? I’m Garrett Johnson and you’re listening to Consider Before Consuming a podcast by Fight the New Drug. Before we jump into it, we want to let you know that during this conversation we discuss unwanted sexual behavior and child sexual abuse listener discretion. Today’s conversation is with Jay stringer. Jay is a therapist, author and speaker who helps individuals break free from unwanted sexual behavior. We hope you enjoy this episode Consider Before Consuming.
We want to welcome to the podcast Jay stringer. Jay, if I miss something as I go over some of your accolades or some of your credentials, just chime in and tell me other things that you’re proud of that you’ve accomplished. Um, you meant, I know you’re an author. Um, have you written several books or just the, the one Unwanted?
Jay: Just Unwanted. So it’s a funny quote. There is also an English crime author by the name of Jay stringer as well. So I get that question quite a bit of, “At what point did you switch over from writing crime fiction to addressing unwanted sexual behaviors?” Different authors?
Garrett: Yeah. Okay. Um, and then you’re a researcher and a licensed mental health counselor. Um, of those three, which are you most proud of, Jay?
Jay: Uh, I would say, uh, the licensed mental health counselor. Um, I mean, I’m just, even just coming from a, doing an intensive with a client this morning and, uh, that’s probably the, my favorite thing that I get to do is to kind of, uh, work with someone who feels like their relationship to porn. Their relationship to some type of sexual behavior has gotten them into a lot of trouble, destroyed a lot of their relationships, and then really journeying with them to help them understand their relationship to porn, how it got, uh, established in their lives, and then really helping them to own their sexual story in a way that they just haven’t before. So I think just getting to watch people go from a place of, uh, just feeling like they’re a really broken, that there’s something really wrong with them, to them beginning to own their own story and have a sense that, uh, there, there’s a new path forward in life. So that is by far the highest privilege that I have.
Garrett: I like that. Did, uh, your work as a licensed mental health counselor did that, uh, did you do, were you doing that before you started doing research and offering the book?
Jay: Yes, very much so. So I had been a licensed mental health counselor for about 10 years and part of what I was observing was that men and women were arriving in my office with almost no understanding of what it meant to actually outgrow porn. Um, if they came from more of a conservative type of background, they tended to just do a lot of what I just referred to as lust management, where they try and bounce their eyes, they try to stop their thought life. They might try and get into some type of accountability relationships, some type of monitoring on their computer to try and get them to stop it. Uh, but as one of my clients said to me recently said, “Jay, when I’d been having the same conversation with my accountability partner for 10 years, I know that something isn’t working.” So that tended to be more the conservative crowd. And then, you know, uh, Seattle tends to be a little bit more of a progressive city and I would say the name of the game here is to be kind of very sex positive.
So this is primarily about removing a lot of the shame and stigma associated with people’s sexual choices. Uh, and while I have like no pushback at all, I’m that language. Part of what I was discovering was that it wasn’t really helping people to outgrow their kind of compulsive relationship and out of control sexual behavior. And so that was kind of the point for me as a professional of, uh, you know, on one hand we have indulged sexual fantasies and pornography is as if they mean nothing at all. And then this other paradigm of, uh, let’s be really afraid of our sexuality. Let’s try and monitor it, let’s try and suppress it. And just kind of getting a sense of, there has to be a third way out of here of how can we actually invite people to understand their relationship to porn, how it got formed. And then if we can do those things, we can actually invite them to new path forward. So that was the decision to, I asked about 4,000 men and women to basically tell me their story, uh, and really wanted to get a sense of how does our story, our past, our childhood and some of the difficulties that we’re playing that we’re dealing with in the present. How did those things shape our, uh, relationship to pornography to this day.
Garrett: That’s cool. So I like that. So the first way is you talked about the conservative way, you talked about the progressive way. Um, you talked about the third way is kind of like “outgrowing porn” is the term you use. And the way you’re doing that, if I’m understanding you correctly, is by really digging deep and figuring out why they were turning to that behavior in the first place.
Jay: Yes. Yep. So it’s this kind of sense that our, the relationship that we have with almost anything is not random. Uh, but it’s a direct reflection of the parts of our story that remain unaddressed. And so, I mean, one of the, one of the ways that I’ve thought about this even recently is, uh, I mean, I can remember I was in grad school living with a bunch of guys as we’re all getting our master’s degrees. And one of my friends work the closing shift at this local Starbucks. And, uh, one of the things that he would do is bring in all of these day-old baked goods like Apple fritters, uh, maple donuts, uh, a lot of different yogurt parfaits. And so, you know, a couple of evenings a week, our kitchen counter just became the stadium of, uh, just a lot of unhealthy food. And so, uh, I began to kind of indulge in a lot of that and with, you know, wake up the next morning after eating an Apple fritter with kind of white chocolate sauce, chocolate sauce, drizzled all over it and being like, “I hate myself.
I don’t like what I’ve done.” And then in that process, uh, in my self contempt in my hatred would begin to look for something that would kind of assuage, uh, some of that kind of toxic feeling that I was having. And that became kind of a lot of my involvement with porn. And so then I had one behavior that kind of made me feel like crap. And then I found another behavior that kind of reinforced those feelings. And so during my healing and outgrowing process, I needed to understand what was the relationship between feeling like crap and then pursuing something that reinforced those feelings. And in my own therapy work, part of what my therapist brought me back to was, uh, my nickname in middle school was donut. And so this was, you know, I showed up to middle school, uh, rocking a striped white shirt and a jelly donut, and it drizzled all over my shirt.
And this is the era of Pillsbury Doughboy commercials. And so people used to come to my belly at the bus stop and go, “Ooh.” Uh, and yeah, a lot of it did begin there. And so then, you know, late in the evenings, uh, where does a middle schooler who’s feeling a lot of shame, uh, but doesn’t have a lot of language to begin to process some of the trauma, some of the abuse that was occurring. Uh, I find comfort in food again. So I’ll eat Brownies, I’ll eat half of a carton of ice cream. And then as my sexuality begins to develop, uh, part of what I have at some level as the internet or pornography. And so for me, uh, part of my healing process of being able to actually outgrow it was to get a sense of where did porn first show up in my life?
Well, it showed up in a place, uh, of a lot of trauma, a lot of heartache for myself as a middle schooler. And I mean, I think if we’re honest, middle school is just a prototype of health for most, it’s so brutal. Um, and yet simultaneously, that’s when our sexual arousal, uh, just developmentally we’re coming online. We may have been introduced to porn years prior and so it gets woven into something that we go to for relief. But then simultaneously after you’ve been in it long enough, you also know that you don’t feel great about your life, about your integrity. It’s not something that you’re deeply proud of. And so that is kind of what I began to see with my own life, but also clients is that, um, a lot of times we spend most of our life trying to stop porn or get rid of it.
But in some ways we have to pause for at least a season in our healing journey to ask the question of why, how did it get established, when did it get brought into our life? And in that way, our, you know, relationship to pornography can be something that is accompanied with a lot of shame, but simultaneously it can be the very context, the very crucible that allows us to find healing.
Garrett: I like that. Um, one question, I have old before that question, you mentioned 4,000 men and women, but I didn’t catch, you mentioned you asked them something, but I didn’t remember what you said.
Jay: Yeah. So, I mean, as a, as your listeners know, a lot of the porn industry keeps track of a lot of data’s of like data with regard to what people search for. Some of the top search for terms on the internet, right?
Uh, on one porn site alone, two years ago, I believe the world watched 4.6 billion hours of porn just on one website, uh, which is equal to 5,000 centuries. And so, uh, we have a lot of data out there that says how ubiquitous pornography is, how many people are using it, but we don’t have a lot of data as to what is the why that’s driving it. So how does our story past and present go on to shape our arousal template are the things that we look for on the internet. Uh, and so that’s what I really wanted to research is, uh, kind of what were people’s relationships like with their mom and their dads and some of the communities that they were part of. Uh, what experiences like trauma or things like sexual abuse did people go through in childhood? And then I asked a lot of questions about people’s present day life.
So were they anxious? Uh, did they feel like they had a lack of purpose or depression in their life? Uh, and then I asked very specific questions about what people actually searched for on the internet. Um, whether that’s mother oriented themes, uh, you know, almost any genre of pornography out there. And part of what we found after putting all of this together was that our sexual fantasies and our relationship to pornography could be both shaped and predicted by the parts of our story that remained unaddressed. And so what that meant was that our relationships with our moms and our dads actually shaped our involvement with porn. Uh, some of our formative sexual experiences, if they were abusive, would go on to shape our, uh, our relationship to pornography in the future. And so to me, that’s really what, uh, we need to consider before we’re consuming something is what is the role that pornography played in our life, um, before it became something that we just went to compulsively and addictively.
So, um, in your book unwanted, you mentioned that there’s five key childhood drivers of unwanted sexual behaviors. Is that what you’re referring to? The, the breakdown to five?
Jay: Yep. So some of the research that’s not mine, uh, basically said that if you look at a lot of people who have unwanted sexual behavior, compulsive sexual behavior, even a type of sexual addiction, uh, they come from families that tend to be either very rigid or very disengaged. And so when you think about a rigid family system, uh, this is like a lot of rules and lots of regulations. So if you get a bad grade on a test, if you do something out of line, uh, you might get a belt, uh, you might get hit in some way, you might get a look of shame. And so what ends up happening to a lot of us if we’re growing up in kind of very rigid family systems, is that you’re watching a lot of hypocrisy take place.
You’re, you know, that maybe your mom or your dad rules the family with kind of an iron fist and yet they are accountable to no one. And so you have to get a sense of, uh, when you’re exposed to that, your anger has to go somewhere. So you’re, you’re powerless and yet you, you are very angry and that needs to show up somewhere. And that’s a lot of times the relationship that people have with porn is that it gives them a place to find power. It gives them a place to get exactly what they want against the backdrop of a family that almost blocks them from having anything that they want.
Garrett: It’s almost sounds like if we’re growing up in a family that is rigid or disengaged, it’s like we’re searching for connection that wasn’t there.
Jay: Exactly. Yep. And so, and I think that that’s when we look at pornography, we know that there’s some level of arousal to it.
Um, but at the same time, we also know that so much of pornography, as you all have pointed out so well, has a lot of exploitation and a lot of violence to it. And so to me, that’s what we have to look at as pornography exists at the confluence of two rivers, both arousal. And, uh, in some ways the, the need to find power. And so that, that’s where growing up in some of these family systems, I, I come into life feeling like I’m an orphan, feeling like I’m not really loved. Uh, no one really comes to find me. But then in pornography I actually see eyes, I see a body that seems to be available. So there’s something about me that attaches to that. But then simultaneously, if we, you know, go through a lot of our own bullying, our own trauma, uh, some of the anger, some the hurt, some of the rejection has to go somewhere.
And that’s where in some ways, you know, the bodies of men, women and children become a place where, uh, we can be aroused by, uh, by a type of manipulation and coercion of someone. And so I think that that’s a really critical piece of outgrowing porn is that it’s not just enough to kind of say, I’m self-medicating. Uh, it’s not enough to just say that I, I felt lonely and rejected and therefore I went to porn far more. We have to engage that part of the reason why we go to porn is to find a realm of power, to find a realm, uh, of getting exactly what we want, when we want it.
Garrett: Interesting. So we talked about rigid or disengaged families. Um, what are the other four?
Jay: Yup. Uh, so I mean a part of where kind of the rigid, disengaged family takes you is really a life of abandonment and that’s really what you are key keying in on earlier, Garrett with like we, we ended up going to look at it somewhere. Uh, but the other kind of category is, uh, what’s referred to as triangulation or emotional enmeshment. And this is basically when you’re married to a parent. So, uh, this might be your father, uh, is, you know, works a pretty successful job, uh, goes on a lot of business trips and your mom begins to confide in you about some of the difficulties that she’s having with her husband. Um, she might say he’s not around enough or he doesn’t talk to me enough. Um, so what ends up happening to the life of a lot of children and adolescents is that they feel like they have to fill what was lacking in that marriage breakdown.
Um, and so, you know, this is much more stereotyping, but a lot of men, I would say grow up feeling like they have to kind of be really good people to their mothers because they realize how flawed of a husband their fathers were. And I would say in some ways the opposite with women is that they end up growing up to be, you know, their fathers princess. Uh, they are the Apple of their father’s eye. And so part of what we have to step into is that if a father, a mother has more delight in their children than their own spouse, uh, that’s going to wreak havoc in a family system. Um, and so how does the wife feel when the father takes the daughter out to ice cream and spends a lot more time with her, uh, than even his own wife? So triangulation kind of creates that emotional bondage to a parent, but in many ways you didn’t make a formal Val to kind of be there in sickness and in health.
And so what ends up happening with a lot of adolescents and certainly as we become adults, is that we feel some level of ambivalence around moving away from our moms and our dads, um, that we know that we don’t want to be in that type of enmeshed relationship. And then pornography kind of gives us the ability to two step dance between on one hand on being there for my mom. Um, but in many ways I’m being used by her because I’m fulfilling her emotional needs not mine. So I have to find something outside of her to begin to find joy, to be able to find some level of desire. And so that’s a really, a lot of what we’re stepping into is, uh, pornography in some ways can help us get rid of that triangulated relationship, but in the long run, it ends up binding us to something new that that is equally unhealthy.
Garrett: I think I’ve, I’ve heard it said before that to truly be vulnerable, you still have to have boundaries. Right. And it sounds like kind of what you’re saying is like, unfortunately these parents involved in triangulation is they, they really don’t have boundaries. They should be there.
Jay: Yes. Yeah, very much so. So part of what we did with the, and I know that a lot of these examples are on family systems. People are probably asking, well, what’s the connection then between these family systems and our relationship with porn? And what the research showed is that there’s actually a direct one. So, um, men who tended to look at pornography dealing with kind of more college age students, uh, younger adults, uh, race that suggested to them some level of subservience. Uh, what that showed was that they, um, were dealing with a lot of lack of purpose and their present day life.
Uh, but they also had fathers who are very, very strict with them. And so that’s kind of the writing on the wall for a lot of us as men is that, um, one of the reasons why we pursue pornography, to see someone more submissive, to see someone, um, in a, in a position where we’re able to find power is that it actually gives us the opportunity to find power, uh, against a father against a family system where we really didn’t have much. And so, as you know, some philosophers have said, uh, “The pain that we do not transform, we transmit always someone else has to suffer because I don’t know how to.” And so that becomes part of the healing process for a lot of us is to be able to go back to some of those wounds, uh, where people powered over us, where we were traumatized and to not take refuge in pornography, but to really allow our hearts, our minds, our bodies, to break into, feel sorrow over some of those formative experiences that we went through. So if we don’t grieve our story, uh, something of pornography is going to be really appealing to us.
Garrett: So in your, uh, your practice as a licensed mental health counselor, as you sit down with these people and start to discuss with them their why behind, why are the seeking after this behave, why are they engaging in whatever behavior they’re engaging in? In some cases it’s pornography. Um, do you feel like once they start to understand and they’re looking over those five key childhood drivers of unwanted sexual behaviors and they start to understand those five and they start to maybe identify maybe one or two that “Hey, like I experienced that.” is that helpful for them once they’ve realized they keep it from why they’re there?
Jay: Yep. So, um, the, the fifth one that we found was, uh, and I’ll answer that question by answering the fifth one, which is a childhood sexual abuse.
So one of the kind of tragic findings in the research was that, uh, the people who had the most compulsive use of pornography, those that answered five out of five on the Likert scale had sexual abuse scores that were nearly 24% higher than those who did not look at pornography at all. Um, and so what we know is that our relationship to sexual abuse as children is go on to have a negative effect on our relationship and compulsivity with pornography much later in life. Um, and so it, at least when I was growing up, whenever I would hear the phrase sexual abuse, I’d always think about some kind of creepy guy strolling through the neighborhood in a white van, uh, that was going to abuse a child. But most of what we know from the research is that somewhere in the range of 80 to 90% of people who are abused actually know their abuser.
So more likely than not, this is a, a, a neighbor, a camp counselor, uh, someone in a church setting, uh, maybe a peer that’s, uh, in your class or maybe someone that’s a couple of years older than you, a babysitter. Um, so at some level, these people know that you come from either a very rigid family or a very disengaged family or maybe some type of relationship with a lot of emotional manipulation. And so whenever abusers are beginning their grooming process, they don’t start right with some type of pornography introduction or genital abuse. Part of what they’re doing is that they’re trying to invite you, uh, into something that you’re, that your heart and soul are hungry to experience. So that could be quality time with you. Uh, it might be an abuser saying to me, “Jay, you have a really great baseball arm. Do you want to go and play catch some time?”
And so if I grow up not really having a mom or a dad that want to play catch with me, that initial involvement with that person is going to feel so right before it begins to feel wrong. And so as someone is in that grooming process, part of what the abuser is trying to do is to create oxytocin, create trust, create bonding so that when they begin to escalate the level of sexuality, the level of kind of, even pornography in the relationship, you don’t think right away I need to leave because this is something that just is really weird or it’s something that’s really off. They’ve actually positioned themselves in a relationship of trust to you. And so what ends up happening is that people move from trust to maybe some type of sexual content where they bring in a pornography or maybe invite you to touch them.
And so what ends up happening in that situation is that your body will release a lot of cortisol and stress and wondering if someone will find out about what you’ve done. And then, you know, in the process of showing someone pornography and the process of someone touching our bodies, what comes naturally to most of us is that our bodies do experience some level of arousal. It’s not that we are aroused at the abuse, but when we see pornography, when someone is engaging us in some type of genital touch, our bodies are going to feel madness. That on one hand this isn’t safe. But potentially on the other hand, there’s something about my body that experience some level of what could be called arousal. And so in the midst of sexual abuse, it’s diabolical that you feel trust with someone, but then you feel cortisol, adrenaline, you feel a lot of shame, you feel abused, exploited.
You don’t have anywhere to go because you’re in a disengaged family or you’re in a very rigid family. And so what ends up happening to a lot of people is that their first sexual template, um, and their first sexual cocktail is this kind of mixture of stress, arousal, bonding and shame. Um, and so what ends up happening later in life for many of these men and women is that they don’t feel sexually alive unless they’re recreating something of that childhood sexual abuse template. Uh, and although that might sound confusing, if you begin to think about some of even our relationship to pornography, we know that, you know, if you are using pornography masturbating, you are going to develop some type of oxytocin bond even to something as simple as your phone. Um, and so on one hand pornography gives you this experience of bonding. You feel like you’re connected to someone or something.
But then you also fear that if you’re watching it at work, if you’re watching it at home, that someone might find out about it. And so your body will release what’s called cortisol and stress of what if I’m found out, what if something happens here? Uh, but then you also feel some level of shame, some level of what you’ve participated in, what if someone finds out and then you try and find some way to numb it out maybe with food, with another substance or more porn. And so if we were to analyze that scene, uh, on one hand it is about finding porn to self medicate something or because we’re bored or lonely. But in many ways we’re trying to recreate what our bodies are used to experiencing. So this is very similar to what I was recreating with food and with porn, uh, was actually something that was trying to get my attention about something in my past that needed to be healed.
So, I mean, I’ll share two quick stories of just clients that all, you know, make up something of the story but hold enough of the truth of what the story is. So, um, so one of my clients, uh, you know, basically came in to see me because she was struggling with her relationship to pornography. And when I began to kind of ask her to tell me her story about her relationship with porn, uh, one of the things that she told me was that she said, “Jay, I feel so messed up that I’m a woman that’s struggling with porn. I feel like I shouldn’t even be in this. I don’t know why I’m in it.” Um, and one of the things that she described was, uh, she was working, uh, as a nanny for a local family here in Seattle. And, uh, what she didn’t realize is that they had a nanny cam, uh, as part of their kind of surveillance in their home.
And what they saw was that she had put a child down for a nap and then she started going through the master bedroom, uh, going through the, you know, the drawers, closets. And she said when they came home later on that night, uh, they fired her because they thought that she was trying to steal money. But what she told me is that “Jay, I was actually trying to find porn. I was trying to find sex toys. I was trying to find something sexual.” And so when I asked her kind of, you know, “This probably wasn’t the first time that you ever look through someone’s house to be able to find sexual material. Do you have any sense of when that began?” She went back to a time in middle school where she would do a lot of cat sitting and dog sitting for neighbors and uh, she found a storage box full of, uh, a neighbor of hers pornography.
And that became in her kind of mind was just this kind of treasure of sexual content.
Garrett: There’s some type of stimulation there. She was trying to recreate.
Jay: Yes. And then we’ll, and I said, well, how did you know to kind of look for these things? And she said, um, and I asked her what her first exposure to pornography was and she said, well, uh, it was actually, uh, at my grandfather’s house. And so I said, tell me that story. And part of what she said is that her and her brothers used to, to, uh, their grandparents house during the summer. Both of her parents worked and her brothers would be given a lot of chores to do outside raking leaves, mowing the grass, weed eating, those sorts of things. But she was asked by her grandfather to clean the guest bathroom. And so he was really particular about his glass cleaner and kind of said, you can find it underneath the bathroom sink.
And I just want you to make sure that you get all the windows clean. And I want this thing spic and span. Well in the guest bathroom, uh, underneath the kitchen sink next to the glass cleaner was his stack of Penthouse. And so part of, you know, just back to that question that you asked earlier, is how does it, how is it helpful to kind of know your family system and involvement with porn? Uh, how is that helpful for the present for her? What she needed to come and face was that she wasn’t just kind of this perverse young woman that was indulging in porn. She was set up by her grandfather to have a relationship to pornography. He, he gave her Penthouse magazines at an age of seven for her to look at throughout the summers. And so for her, that was part of the grieving process and also a lot of the anger of what kind of grandfather does that.
And in many sense, that’s what we have to come to face is that’s a, that’s a type of sexual abuse where when you leave children, uh, young children, adolescents with unlimited access to pornographic literature and pornographic videos and pornographic photos, uh, that’s going to wreak havoc on the sexual development of a child. For her, that was part of the process of owning that she’s never had a choice in her sexual story. She did have a choice, but what she was set up for basically shaped the trajectory of her life. And so for her, a lot of this process of being able to see what her grandfather set her up for was part of her being able to reclaim her sexual story in a way that she could determine what she wanted for it.
Garrett: It’s almost like she realized that she was a victim in a sense. And um, and that, that realizing she was a victim probably made her feel a little bit more normal. I’m sure that helped.
Jay: Yes. Because the, the, the story that shame tells us the story that our isolation tells us is that there’s something kind of not quite right about who we are. And that could be from, you know, kind of toxic religious systems that could just be from, uh, whenever we don’t talk about something as a society, part of what gets internalized is that there’s something kind of not quite right about who I am. We have to have far more responsibility with regard to what we’re setting up in our children’s lives. So, I mean, I think that that, you know, the age of the really has changed so much. Um, but that doesn’t excuse a parent from really being able to have those critical conversations about the role of pornography. Um, be able to set up a router networks and some type of monitoring to actually be aware of what’s happening.
Garrett: Right. And then ongoing conversation.
Jay: Exactly. Yeah. Well we’ve talked a lot about how we help a person determine how they got there. Um, the next step in your book is why do I stay there? And again, that’s, I guess we kind of covered that already too. It’s that seeking the arousal cocktail, the original arousal cocktail, just sometimes because of the way our brains work, we’re seeking out more and more often and sometimes a more hardcore version. But that’s, is that, is there more to the part of why we stay in that unhealthy state?
Jay: Yeah. So, I mean, I think part of this question of why do I stay as really inviting all of us to consider if I didn’t have porn, uh, what would I do when I’m really angry at a partner that doesn’t want to have sex? Uh, what would I do? Uh, if I’m really bored or I look up on Instagram and I see that my friends are hanging out and I wasn’t invited, what am I going to do in that moment? And so for what we find is that for most of us, uh, pornography functions a little bit like a squatter in our lives. And so what I mean by the, the issue of a squatter is that, uh, my, my wife and I were moving in the Seattle area from one rental house to another rental house. And, uh, uh, only about a mile apart. But on one of the Saturdays we were packing up everything, uh, and we had our, you haul almost completely full.
And then my wife kind of made the statement of J we totally forgot all the baby stuff in the basement. So, you know, baby strollers, uh, bests and nets, uh, little walkers, those sorts of things. And I said, uh, I’m exhausted. How about we just come back, I’ll come back in a couple of days and just get it. She said, great. So we get back to our new place, uh, unload everything. And then I think it’s like Monday or Tuesday. And I decided to swing back by our old house and I started walking up to the front door and I had this really ominous feeling come over me and I looked up and there was this man peering between the curtains that basically said these expletives of get the heck out of here. Um, and so in that moment I have this choice. Do I either confront this guy who’s squatting in my old house or do I just let those things down the basement end up going to Goodwill, which is where they are bound to go anywhere anyway.
Um, and so I think I made a wise decision to leave. Uh, but what struck me after I left my house that day was that this guy knew that within three there was nobody home, uh, and he took up residence. And so I think that that’s a lot of what we’re dealing with culturally, uh, when you look at the, the rates of pornography that are so widespread in our society is that if we don’t know who we are and if we don’t have a sense of what we want our life purpose to be or where we actually want to go in life, we’re going to allow a lot of squatters into our life. And so even if it’s not porn, we know that the average American watches about four and a half hours of television a day, a Netflix will know that we will binge and binge and binge through a whole series.
So I think that that’s part of what we have to do is not just make Netflix, uh, the bad object or, I mean, I think pornography has so much degradation and harm to it, but I think we also have to allow our compulsive relationship to these things to reflect back to us, our cultural state of, of who we are. Um, and I think what we see there is that if we don’t really have a sense of this is what I want my life to become, these are the things that I care about. We’re going to find squatters that show up, that give us something to do in our boredom. They give us something to do in our anger. Um, and so I think that that’s part of why we stay is that we don’t really have a better alternative in our lives to move forward with.
Garrett: You have done a few, uh, written pieces for fight the new drug. And as I read through a couple of those, um, one of my favorite quotes from you was that when we turn to pornography, we are really, I’m just paraphrasing. When we turned to pornography, um, we’re kind of allowing pornography to still some of the best versions of ourself. Right? Cause we’re, yes, we’re not, we’re not, uh, we’re not, we’re not becoming our, we’re not reaching our full potential because we’re turning to this instead.
Jay: Exactly. So one of the fascinating, the not surprising findings in the research was that, uh, men who lacked a clear sense of purpose, meaning they didn’t know where they wanted to go with their careers, they felt like they looked back at their life and saw a lot of failure, didn’t find a lot of motivation to do something new with their life.
Uh, they were seven times more likely to increase their involvement in pornography. Um, and so that’s that sense of yes, it’s, it’s pornography is stealing from us. It’s stealing some of the best ages of our lives. It’s stealing from some of our relationships to our partners. And so I think that that’s what it means to outgrow porn is to kind of look at the why behind how it got introduced to our life. But then we also have to say like, this thing is stealing from me. And that, that stance of defiance to be able to say, I don’t want pornography to ruin another relationship. Um, because that’s, that’s the trap of pornography is that we go to it because we do lack purpose, but then we start using it and then that robs our ability to actually desire a greater purpose later on in life. And so it just becomes this awful cycle of, uh, I don’t like who I am. I don’t know where I want to go in life. So therefore all use porn, then I use porn, then I feel even more stuck. I feel an even greater level of dissatisfaction and who I am. And so what do I do with that? Well then I’ll just go back to porn because that will help me at least remedy some of the experience initially. And so it just becomes this really, really maddening diabolical cycle in most of our lives.
Garrett: One of the, one of my favorite, uh, examples you gave in your book. And by the way, we’ll link your book to, uh, to this episode just for our listeners. Um, the book, let’s see, I’m trying to look at the exact title. It’s unwanted, how sexual brokenness reveals our way to healing. Um, and Jay talks a lot about spirituality in his book and has some religious references in it as well. Um, and so just know as you go there, if you’re looking for that, great. If you’re not great.
Garrett: Um, you can, uh, you can decide what you want to go with there. But I wanted to mention one of my favorite quotes from your book or favorite examples from your book was about the looking out the window on a, on a warm day and you see a lawn full of weeds and you talked about having, okay, the determination like, “”Okay, I’m going to go cut these weeds. I’m sick of them, I want to, I want to get rid of them finally, once and for all. And then you walk out what out there. And I think the term you used was like you walk out there with the purple scissors you had from kindergarten.
Garrett: And, uh, you start cutting two inches above the surface. Um, and I, I think a lot of us, especially a lot of our listeners are going to be people who have tried to go out and cut the weeds in their yard with the purple pair of scissors cutting two inches above the surface. So what if you can give our listeners, like this has already been really helpful. The, the why, why are we here? This has been so helpful for, for, for me and for I know will be for our listeners, but what’s the tool? Instead of using purple scissors and cutting two inches above the surface, what is, is if you can break it down to like one or two tools that stand out that are going to help people actually get rid of the weeds in their yard.
Jay: Yeah, sure. So, um, I mean you mentioned my book Unwanted. Uh, another resource that I designed, uh, for this fight is something called the Unwanted Sexual Behavior Self-Assessment. And so this is about 160 questions that’s based in a lot of the research that I did, uh, that you can take. And basically it asks you a lot of those questions of your relationship with your mom, your dad, formative experiences that you’ve been through in life, uh, some of the difficulties that you’re facing in the present, and then some of the details with regard to what you actually searched for on the internet. Uh, and so after you take the self assessment, uh, you’re going to get a 40 page report that gets generated from your responses that actually provides you with compass headings about the key contributors in your story that are leading to your unwanted pornographic involvement.
And so it’s a really great tool to begin to kind of say, um, what are the features in my story? What are the certain themes that I really need to be able to transform if I’m going to find my way out of here? Um, and so that’s a lot of what I’m inviting people into is you have to identify the unique reasons that bring you to porn and sustain your relationship to porn if you’re going to find a way out of it. So, you know, one of my pretty common kind of relational dynamic might be that, you know, one partner wants to have sex, the other one doesn’t. And let’s just say the guy, um, is the person who wants to have sex. And what ends up happening is that his partner might say, no. Uh, and then what ends up happening is that he feels really angry.
Maybe his partner turns over, it goes to bed, and then he feels so much anger. He feels so much rejection. And then what ends up happening is that then he starts looking at pornography. And so, uh, you can kind of see the madness of that purple scissor approach of just trying to say no in that moment is going to do absolutely nothing to him. He has to kind of begin to work with how to, how to confront himself in the midst of really difficult feelings that we all encounter in life. And so, uh, you know, one neuroscientists kind of just uses this really helpful phrase that says, name it to tame it. And so what he says is that whenever we come into something really difficult, whether it’s the rejection, betrayal, anger, um, sadness, depression, um, is that what we’re supposed to do is to be able to name that emotion and name that experience.
And that is like a really good mother. I really good friend, a really good father that begins to kind of see our face and say, there’s something about you that feels really sad. Uh, there’s something about me that’s really angry. And so when we are able to name our own emotional life, uh, the mirror neurons that we experienced in the midst of that really help calm our bodies. And so that’s the other kind of just really practical tool, um, is that when we feel bored, when we feel hurt, uh, when we feel anxiety, uh, what does it mean for us to sit with that experience, to name it, uh, and then to allow our breath, um, to even breathe for about a minute with, uh, if you can breathe six or seven times within a minute, what that will, uh, allow is your parasympathetic nervous system and your Vegas nerve to actually send the all clear, uh, and all calm message to your body.
And so that’s that experience of how, how do we, um, read our emotional life and calm our bodies? Because if we’re not calming our bodies, if we’re not attuned to our emotional life, there’s something about pornography that’s going to become really appealing, um, precisely because it gives us something of an antidote to those, those unwanted emotions that we’re experiencing.
Cause I mean, this is kind of more complex, but there’s, you know, a sympathetic nervous system, which you’ve probably heard fight flight response. Um, it’s basically the accelerator on our system. And then we have something called the parasympathetic nervous system, which is basically the brake. Uh, it’s responsible for our body’s experience of rest and digestion. Yup, exactly. And so that’s, that’s a, that’s a huge tool that isn’t just helpful for outgrowing pornography. It’s just helpful as a human being to be able to know how to calm ourselves and reorient ourself at the end of a really busy day. To be able to put ourself in a position to actually experience breast, to be able to experience calm. Um, and so, uh, we, it’s all about increasing awareness. Exactly. Which is easy. Yep. So if you can kind of hold that sense of, I don’t want squatters in my life, but at the same time I need to be able to learn how to calm my anxious thoughts. Um, I need to be able to take some of my anger, um, and know that I can regulate my own aspect, regulate my own emotions. In the midst of that, that experience of turbulence, then you’ve fundamentally changed the game for yourself above that.
Garrett: I love that. Um, I wanted you to talk to shame very quickly. Um, I loved hearing you talk about, uh, that quote by Andy Catholic Casa Grande day, and I think it’s so, so important for our listeners as we’re talking about how do we get out of here from our current state and work and work towards a more healthy state. I love this, this quote that you always use. Can you talk to that a little bit about how we can address shame?
Jay: Oh, sure. Um, so, uh, what Garrett is referencing is, uh, some of you all may have seen the show, uh, Shark Week on the discovery channel. And one of the main videographers, camera men for that show is a guy named Andy Cassa grom day. And he was interviewed a couple of years ago, and they basically said, Andy, what in the world do you do when you’re in the, in the waters with a great white shark? Um, and he said, it’s very counterintuitive, but what you do is you swim directly at the shark with the camera. Um, and the interviewers were like, what? Why would you even do that?
Garrett: As you said that I literally got chills because I’m just like, this is scary.
Jay: It’s crazy. Um, and so what he says is that you, uh, swim at the shark with the camera and the shark will actually bump its nose against the camera, uh, realized that it’s not food, and then get really freaked as to, I don’t know what this thing is.
And so, uh, you know, if you think about a great white shark, everything in the whole entire ocean, except for maybe an Orca whale, is going to swim away from you. And so when there’s something swimming at the shark, it triggers a defense mechanism and the shark and the shark says, I need to get the heck out.
Garrett: You’re raising its cortisol.
Jay: Exactly right. And so Andy has this phenomenal phrase and he says that if you do not act like prey, they will not treat you like pray. Um, he nuances a little bit later and he says that unless they’re an adolescent and then you need to still be watching, you still need to watch out. Um, but I think what he’s saying really shows us that all of us have great white memories. We have great white stories in our lives that, uh, we would prefer to run away from.
But the reality is, is that, um, if we are running away from shame, it’s going to catch us and it’s going to find us. And so one of the best things that we can do in our healing journey is to actually turn towards our shame and to invite good friends, uh, good people in our life to know where we actually Harbor that shame. Um, and so what we find is that in turning to face our shame, that shame actually becomes far less powerful than we initially believed. But it takes a lot of adrenaline and noradrenaline and cortisol to begin to turn and face it. Um, but I think that that’s what we discover time and time again is that, uh, you know, the more that we feel shame, the more we want to run. If we can get into that pattern of turning to face our shame, uh, we disempower shame itself.
Garrett: Yeah, I love that. I think as I imagined that videographer Andy Casa Grande day, as I imagined him the first time ever, that he’s going to swim directly towards a great white I w I wonder like what his cortisol levels were doing and I’m sure they were spiking. And I think that that can relate to us as individuals, as we start to address the harmful effects of pornography in our individual lives are. As we, as we begin that process, it’s sometimes not a pleasant process. Sometimes our cortisol levels are going to spike because it’s, we’re so used to not telling the truth and we’re so used to not having awareness that it kind of feels uncomfortable almost like as he were swimming towards that great white and then he figured out a very cool tool that if you swim straight towards it, that it’s a useful thing. It’s health. So for our listeners, it’s like as you start to move towards a more healthy state, as you start to increase awareness, as you start to find healthy ways, healthy things to turn to, um, as you start to tell the truth to yourself and to others about your challenge and start to address this shame head on, know that it’s going to be uncomfortable at times.
Jay: Yes, that’s so important to mention because that’s often what people have to deal it. It’s that two fold choice of I can either deal with the pain of a compulsive relationship to pornography and what that does to my may erectile dysfunction, what that does to my relationships or I have to actually turn and face some of the pain that’s driving my relationship to it. And so both choices actually have a level of pain to them. You don’t get to escape.
Garrett: There is no easy way out.
Jay: There is no easy way. Um, but part of what I think people find is that when they can kind of go back to their story, grieve some of those experiences find anger, a healthy anger for a lot of those experiences, they begin
to feel like they have something of their life back. And so that, that’s really the invitation is into healing is you don’t want to live to pray to shame for the rest of your life. It’s a really miserable way. Um, but if we can begin to turn towards it, uh, we actually get to redirect where we want our life to go.
Garrett: I love that. Well, Jay, you are doing lots of good in the world and we are grateful for your time today. As we’ve talked, I know that I’ve learned about myself more. You’ve, you’ve opened my mind to kind of, um, some introspection of what are some childhood drivers that affected my life. And so I know that our listeners will also benefit from, uh, from what you’re doing. So thank you.
Jay: Garrett. Thank you so much for having me on the podcast has been such a joy.
Garrett: Thanks for joining us on this episode of Consider Before Consuming. Consider Before Consuming is brought to you by Fight the New Drug.Fight the New Drug in the nonreligious and non legislative organization that exists to provide individuals the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding pornography and raising awareness on its harmful effects. You need science facts, personal accounts. If you’d like to learn more about today’s guests and the conversation we had, you can check the links attached to this. As you go about your day. We invite you to increase your self awareness. Look both ways, check your blind spots and consider before consuming.
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