If you aren’t familiar with it, Only Fans has become one of the fastest growing subscription-based porn sites to be invented. The site allows anyone to upload any amount nude photos and videos of themselves and charge their “fans” a monthly fee to view them.
As you can imagine the bulk of the content creators on this site are women, and the bulk of their patrons are men. The site recently got public attention amid the COVID-19 pandemic as actresses, and other performing artists began using this as a way to supplement their income due to a lack of work available to them.
To be fair, Only Fans is not only used for pornography but to say this is the majority of their creator base would be a massive understatement. Now men using pornography is nothing new, but what is unique is the idea that Only Fans and other porn usage are safer and cleaner ways for humans to engage in sexual activity. This may sound like a strange and foreign idea, but this idea is very ancient and occultist in nature. It is a form of philosophy called Gnosticism, and it has been present in many iterations for years.
The Gnostics believed that our souls are essentially good and the fundamental issue we face is that our bodies are trapped inside these “embodied prisons” that are the cause of our suffering. They suggested that the only way to save ourselves from these prisons was to access a “higher” and “secret” knowledge that would allow us to ascend beyond our body’s limitations. What was paramount to the Gnostics was transcending the body and entering into the realm of the freed mind, because the body was bad and it was only the spirit (mind) that was good. Can you see the connection? Porn places the bodily experience of sex into the realm of the mind and the world champions this as “safer” and “healthier”, because the consumer’s body and the participant’s bodies are absent from the act.
Now any Christian would agree that porn is not good for the producers or consumers, but our premise for saying should be distinctively different from that of the world right? In general I would say yes, we view it as sinful and that we should stay away from anything close to it. Our solution for men in the church that engage with porn in the church is to: confess the sin, delve into a “deeper” relationship to God, and pray for it to go way. While this solves the man’s problem in his orthodoxy (right believing), it does nothing to solve the issue of his orthopraxy (right living) which is perhaps the more pressing issue. The church instructed him not to continue in this behavior, but failed to give him a meaningful alternative to that behavior.
In this scenario, the church has left a discipleship void. It’s like we told the thief in Ephesians 4:28 to no longer steal but stopped there. This leaves the thief vulnerable to begin to follow his old way of life again, or perhaps something far worse. This, I believe, is where we are at in the church when it comes to our counsel towards men that have fallen into sexual sin. Once they grasp the concept of having a deeper relationship with the LORD the question is “Now what?” What are these men to do with this energy? What these men are looking for, primarily is fatherly guidance that would lead to a more disciplined and principled life. As a result, many Christian men have turned to the “Manosphere” for help in this area and have found a sub community there known as the “NoFap” community.
NoFap is an anti-masturbation movement and online community. Members of this movement say avoiding masturbation for prolonged periods improves the trajectory of their lives and their sexuality. The men in this community suggest that making NoFap a way of life they become more productive, greater amounts of energy, and are less prone to sexual temptation in the long run. While this may seem obvious to those of us who have read Proverbs that suggest a more blessed sex life if we “…rejoice with the wife of [our] youth” and “let [your wife’s] breasts satisfy you at all times”, we very seldom speak this way to the men in our church. There seems to only be an emphasis on the inner work of rejecting sin, but no aspirational goal post for men in our church to set in its place. I think moving forward, we need to attach both inner repentance and faith in Christ with outer disciplines for men to engage in otherwise men will attempt to simply try to will themselves into a pure sexuality. Protestants are generally afraid of being perceived as “too legalistic” or “work-based” but the reality is that true faith produces good works and if we have men in our church that consistently struggle with porn usage then it might be time to call their bluff and “let a man examine himself to see if he is of the faith.”