Episode 156: Viewing Pornography is A Lot Like Getting A Participation Trophy

Aug 27, 2022

Episode 156: Viewing Pornography is A Lot Like Getting A Participation Trophy

As I was discussing pornography with one of my clients, an odd phrase occurred to me.  Pornography is a participation trophy.  On the podcast we don’t do a lot of porn bashing, mostly because when people come to listen I feel like they already have a really keen sense of shame and know full well that watching porn is not their ideal way of engaging in life. 

And a concept that has been bubbling around in my head for a while is how effective pornography is at engaging people.  Let me tell you what I mean.  First off, I think its really important to recognize that validation is one of the most highly sought after interactions a lot of us chase.  We look to others to validate our views, this is why we see the ever narrowing of our social media spheres of influence.  We want the news programs that we watch to validate our sense of the world.  We want our politicians to validate our sense of fairness or that the other side is doing us wrong.  

Closer to home, we want our partner to validate the view we have of ourselves as a good spouse, a good parent, and a good lover.  Why else would you ask, “How was it?” after dinner or dessert?  We want validation for a number of reasons, most important among them, it feels good. This is part of the reason why, when we ask our spouse if they want to make love and they say no, it can be some of the most disorganizing, frustrating, and invalidating words our spouse can say. 

When they say no, however they say no, it can feel personal, causing us to worry and feel like we aren’t enough, even that our spouse has rejected us.  So many of us feel even worse because we might have put in all kinds of effort to make the rejection less likely by cleaning the house, putting the kids to bed, or whatever we think might keep our spouse from being able to say, “Yes.”

This desire for validation, especially the validation that I’m ok or I’m enough then shows up sometimes as neediness.  I have a client who would view pornography and then after he viewed pornography and told his wife, he would mope and pout until she would have sex with him.  He connected her having sex with him as a re-validation of himself into a person that was worthy of participating in their life.  

As I’ve thought about pornography and it’s capacity to draw people in, although this is not the only reason people view porn, it seems to me that one really clear reason why people choose pornography is that it always validates them. Think about it.  No one ever goes to google and types in a search only to have the system say, “Oh, not tonight, I’m just not in the mood”.

Pornography is, especially in today’s day and age, always on.  It always says, “Yes”. It is willing to try out anything you might want to try.  It like the things you like.  It believes in what you believe.  It wants to please you.  The face it makes is always one of desire for you.  

You see, porn is like the participation trophy of emotional and sexual interaction. You didn’t really earn it, but you got it anyway. The difficult reality is, when we are willing to face up to who we want to really be, most of us don’t want participation trophies. Most of us want our lives to be a mix of real desire and honest growth. Neither of which come at a command, but are earned with effort, over time. 

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