When Arousal Becomes Frightening

In my work with sex and porn addicted men, I come across a recurring question: “What if something arouses me, but it also makes me really uncomfortable?”

A lot of the guys I work with can actually feel fear in response to some things which they find arousing. They might find themselves wrestling with contradictions like “I’m a straight man, but I’m turned on by gay porn,” or “I’ve found myself looking at transsexual material, but I’m still into women.”

It’s understandable that a lot of men might feel confused, ashamed, or even frightened when they find themselves looking at material they might have never even considered before. I want to take this opportunity to walk through this issue with you, so we can take a look at what’s going on here together, and get to the bottom of these new and confusing feelings.

Why is This Happening?

Let’s get one thing out of the way up front: the reason you’re looking at material you never thought you would, is simple. It’s because porn addiction is a progressive disorder. You might have started out looking at a women’s underwear catalog when you were younger, and that was enough to cause arousal. Later on, it was more graphic pornography that got you going. Perhaps after that, you followed certain fetish sites to achieve the same feelings. Finally, you had to cross boundaries you weren’t entirely comfortable with.

This is really a form of conditioning. In a way, as your addiction has progressed, you’ve built up a tolerance to different types or porn over time, so you’ve had to seek out harder stuff to maintain the high you’re used to feeling. In that regard, porn addiction is very much like drug or alcohol addiction. A drug addict might begin by taking an extra Percocet pill to get through the day, but wind up shooting heroin before they know it.

The same thing happens to porn addicts, but because porn addiction isn’t talked about as openly as other types of addiction, the escalation stage can truly blindside addicts. They don’t expect to progress or “get worse” the same way alcoholics do. They just figure they’re hooked on porn, and that the same material will always work for them.

Then one day, it doesn’t.

Addicts Can Veer Off Course Pretty Fast

It’s no secret that there’s a world of questionable porn out there. Guys who end up addicted sometimes find themselves wading into this dangerous, borderline territory. A guy who likes “teen” porn might find himself looking at younger women (or at least women who appear to be younger) and feel completely disgusted with himself. A man who is into bondage porn might find himself looking at more violent material – stuff that maybe doesn’t appear to be entirely consensual.

Some men who wind up looking at this material feel absolutely sick with themselves. Logically, they understand that they don’t want this, but they’ve now conditioned themselves to seek it out. They understand the problems that can surround this type of material, but can’t seem to stop looking at it.

This is usually when someone will finally pick up the phone and call. I’ve spoken to some men who are suicidal as a result of their sex or porn addictions. Men who are terrified of what they might do next, who feel powerless in the face of their arousal.

But here’s the big secret: you can stop this before it ever gets this far.

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This Stops When You Start Talking About It

Sexuality is a big part of life, but we don’t often talk about it. Even people who are into what one might call “vanilla” sex aren’t likely to open up about it. So, since sex in general is so taboo, it makes sex, which appears to deviate from that norm, seem all the more upsetting.

The truth is that your fascination with sex started small, but then grew out of your control. You never felt like you could turn to anyone to talk about it, so you never got any perspective on what was happening. Arousal isn’t always a one-to-one correlation. Watching gay porn as a straight man doesn’t “make you” gay. Watching transgender porn as a straight man doesn’t mean you’re no longer attracted to your female partner.

What this usually means is that you have an addiction that’s been left untreated and unaddressed for so long, that you’ve begun spiraling out of control.

There is a healthy, fulfilling sex life out there for you—one where you feel comfortable with your desires, and can express them in a healthy and respectful way with a partner. But before we can get there, we have to unpack this addiction that’s eating away at you.

We begin that process when you reach out for help. We’re listening.

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