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Why Fighting Porn Must Include Fighting Shame

We often hear the argument that shame is a good thing when it comes to quitting porn. Research, however, shows the opposite.

By October 13, 2021No Comments

We often hear the argument that shame is a good thing when it comes to quitting porn—that shame actually helps motivate consumers to quit porn for good. Research, however, shows the opposite.

According to a 2011 study of porn consumers trying to quit porn, researchers found that shame tended to drive porn consumers further into a cycle of unhealthy porn consumption rather than helping them change.Gilliland, R., South, M., Carpenter, B. N., & Hardy, S. A. (2011). The roles of shame and guilt in hypersexual behavior. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 18(1), 12–29. https://doi.org/10.1080/10720162.2011.551182COPY 

Participants who felt some guilt over their unwanted porn habit, however, tended to move people toward healthy, lasting change.Gilliland, R., South, M., Carpenter, B. N., & Hardy, S. A. (2011). The roles of shame and guilt in hypersexual behavior. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 18(1), 12–29. https://doi.org/10.1080/10720162.2011.551182COPY 

Related: Fighting Against Both Porn & Shame Is More Than Possible, It’s Necessary

So what’s the difference between guilt and shame?

Guilt

  • Labels behaviors as unhealthy or “bad”
  • Can be healthy
  • Motivates lasting change
  • “What I did wasn’t great—I want to do better in the future.

Shame

  • Labels the person as “bad”
  • Always unhealthy
  • Often fuels a cycle of unhealthy behaviors
  • “What I did was bad, I am a bad person.”

Shame does not help people quit porn or let go of unhealthy habits. If you’re struggling to quit porn or if you have a loved one with a porn habit, know that shame is not a healthy way to motivate meaningful change.

Related: It’s True That “Porn Kills Love,” And So Does Shame

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How can you practice breaking the cycle of shame if you struggle?

  • Talk to someone
  • Remember that this habit does not mean you’re a bad person
  • Be kind to yourself
  • Be patient with your progress

As one Fighter shared with us:

“Lately I haven’t viewed or honestly even wanted to look at porn. Long story short, I remembered who I truly am—a dude with a good heart who made some poor decisions and got sucked into an addictive cycle… Then through an amazing woman and some vulnerable conversations… it showed me I’m still lovable. It broke the power shame had on me.”

Related: How Avoiding Shame Can Help With Healing From Betrayal Trauma

Even if you’ve had a porn habit for most of your life, it doesn’t have to be part of who you are as a person. You can change and live a healthier life, free of porn and free of shame. Give yourself permission to change. You got this.  

If you’re looking for help to quit porn, we recommend Fortify, which is a free, science-based recovery tool.

RelatedWhy You Should Stop Feeling Like A Bad Person For Watching Porn

Need help?

For those reading this who feel they are struggling with pornography, you are not alone. Check out Fortify, a science-based recovery platform dedicated to helping you find lasting freedom from pornography. Fortify now offers a free experience for both teens and adults. Connect with others, learn about your unwanted porn habit, and track your recovery journey. There is hope—sign up today.

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