Takeaway: Social and personal effects of pornography really are more devastating than I thought.
The promise of Wired for Intimacy is that it can speak to the problems of pornography both from a Christian/theological/moral perspective and a neurological/psychological perspective. Some people are drawn more to one type of argument or the other. But I think it is important that there is an attempt at both sides. Without the theological, there is just a pragmatic science. Without the science, it is one person’s theological system against another.
The first half of the book progresses from definition of pornography, to the social issues that occur because of pornography, to the neurological effects on the male brain from exposure to pornography. This is the heart of the book. The main issue identified neurologically is the potential for creating sexual triggers that are based more on pornography than a sexual partner. And the earlier a person is introduced to pornography the more likely that sexual response will become dependent on pornography and create sexual dysfunction when sexual response is desired with a human partner.
Sexual response for a male is more complicated than I would have imagined. There are a variety of chemical, hormonal, and other neurological responses that usually occur in the progression of arousal through to orgasm. But when pornography is used, several of the steps are skipped. When the brain becomes used to skipping steps, the ability for a man to have a fuller sexual response becomes limited. (There is a lot of neurological science in the book that I am skipping.)
For readers that are Christians I think that chapter 2 (Corruption of Intimacy) is important. But for readers that are non-Christian (as most of the negative reviews on Amazon indicate) there is a need for a discussion that is based in science but uses more abstracted moral argument that is not based solely in Christianity. Even counselors that are Christians and pastors could use assistance in helping people that may be starting at a different theological point. That being said, as a Christian, the fact that pornography inhibits the ability to hear the Holy Spirit I think is important (but that really only works if pornography is an addiction and the case has to be made scientifically that there is an addiction.)
The second section of the book is about how to move to ‘sanctification’. This section was useful as a starter, but really is just a start. I think the most useful parts of the second section are when the discussion talks about the difference between being a physically adult male and an emotionally adult man. There is a difference and many articles and books have been written about it, but this is a good summary of the difference but focused around how pornography can be involved in stunting the emotionally development of men.
I have heard many speakers talk about the dangers of pornography, but usually it is abstract moral discussion. The specifics of why pornography (especially when used by teens and young adults) can affect the long term sexual activity, even within a monogamous, otherwise healthy marriage relationship. I think that real and serious discussion of this material should be a part of every church youth group.
The biggest weakness of this book is how it focuses on men. That is an editorial decision and I think is fine. But I wanted much more discussion of the differences between male and female response. Instead, most of it was simply reduced to a description of the male response and then saying women are different, but no real discussion about why.