On William Struthers’ “Wired for Intimacy” and the abuse of sex.
The gospel of God sufficiently speaks directly to the root of the problem of porn.
For over twenty years, the students of Wheaton College, and certainly countless others, have benefited from the continued neural research of Dr. William M. Struthers. The focus of Stuthers’ investigative efforts is to determine the neurological mechanisms that accentuate behavioral arousal. He is an expert in the areas of compulsory sexual exploitation, the abuse of pornography, and the neuro-ethical and biological corollaries of one’s spirituality and personhood. Dr. Struthers continually advocates in opposition to the wide array of sexual exploitation, from pornography to prostitution to human trafficking, by lecturing locally and abroad on the subjects from a scientifically informed faith-based perspective.
The primary thrust of Wired for Intimacy concerns the biological ramifications of pornography on the brain, especially in males. Struthers asserts that pornography not only subverts the divine gift of sex through the vilest forms of debauchery but also fundamentally alters the male brain through cheapened, corrupted versions of what God intends to be holy and beautiful. Mankind loses the sacredness of his sexuality as he is sold on the superficial gratification offered in the allure of pornography. “Something about pornography pulls and pushes the male soul,” he insists (44). It is this push and pull on the masculine psyche that preoccupies Struthers’ attentive examination. He begins by analyzing modernity’s fascination with pornography as a “business,” which has put the industry of allurement in the vernacular.
Next, he discusses the repercussions of pornography, citing its addictive tendencies, which allow one to fulfill their sexual needs and desires on terms they control. Porn’s penchant for the fantastical and the invention of imaginative intimacy proselytizes one’s ability to relate to the opposite sex. “As porn and fantasy take control of the mind,” writes Struthers, “it becomes a dream theater that is transposed over the waking world” (45). Struthers then moves to consider “Your Brain on Porn” by investigating the physical aftermath of an abuse of porn. This consideration is well-conceived and is augmented by substantial technical precision and thoroughness. He concludes the book with some brief biblical reflections on one’s masculinity and how to finally live unburdened from the tyranny of pornography.
This is, perhaps, indicative of the shortfall in Struthers’ work. He succeeds in relaying an exceptional biological view of porn’s effect on the brain. He rightly maintains that “pornography takes human sexuality out of its natural context — intimacy between two human beings — and makes it a product to be bought and sold” (20). Where he fails, however, is engaging one with a theological framework in which to understand pornography and strive against its onslaught on the soul. Wired for Intimacy is saturated with statistical data and biochemical findings that enable one to grasp the problem of pornography; unfortunately, little time is spent equipping one with adequate biblical methods to combat it. Struthers incorporates “physiological science with secular psychological themes,” but allows limited space for a more robust spiritual conversation (Payne, 345–46). Though one might benefit from a healthy consideration of the degenerative physiological effects of pornography, in order to obtain a semblance of freedom, one must not move past what the Bible says on the matter (1 Cor. 6:18–20).
In Franklin Payne’s review, he suggests that “Struthers’ discussion of the ‘image of God’ displays his weak biblical orientation” (346). One might retort that a theological treatment of porn is outside the scope of Struthers’ intentions. However, because of Struthers’ own declaration of faith, his presentation of biology without theology introduces a treacherous road to actually experiencing deliverance from the clutches of porn’s allure. The lasting impression of Wired for Intimacy is that one must rely more upon demonstrable techniques and “professional help” when confronting an addiction to pornography as opposed to the truth of God’s Word. It ought to be anticipated that a Christian with the education, credentials, and reach of Struthers should entertain every opportunity to not only offer empirical evidence but also biblical testimony for their worldview. The gospel of God sufficiently speaks directly to the root of the problem of porn (1 Cor. 6:9–11). Regrettably, the author dedicates too few passages to such a message. As a result, Wired for Intimacy functions more as a supplementary work as opposed to a comprehensive exploration of the subject.
Franklin E. Payne, review of Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain, by William Struthers, Themelios 35.2 (2010).
William M. Struthers, Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2009).