7 Steps to Beat Pornography and Masturbation


7 Steps to Beat Pornography and Masturbation

The goal is a pure heart: chastity is positive actions not just avoiding evil.

The biggest curse among men in the Church today is masturbation and pornography. We live in a “pornified culture” where sex is considered the goal of life; bikinis, twerking, and Photoshopped babes are everywhere; an average beer commercial today would have been considered porn only 50 years ago. The majority of men – and a decent percent of women – views pornography regularly. What makes this epidemic worse is that everyone pretends it doesn’t exist.

I don’t intend to discuss the deeper meaning of human love – read Theology of the Body – or modesty – read Wendy Shallit. I just want to offer concrete steps to end these self-destructive activities.

  1. Keep in Shape

Justin Fatica has made the prayer workout. It’s intense! But if you ask Justin where it all started, he talks about how he was addicted to masturbation and a priest told him he needed to work out instead. If you can control your body’s urges in one thing, you’ll be more likely to control them in another. As well, being in shape helps regulate your sleep patterns in a healthy way which reduces temptations while in bed but not yet asleep.

  1. Go to Confession ASAP

This is the simplest: once you fall, go to confession at the next opportunity. First of all, there’s the sacramental grace that removes the previous sin. Beyond that, confession helps guys who are not strong enough to break this habit cold turkey. Often these guys will find that if they go to confession and make a sincere intention not to do view pornography or masturbate again they’ll last 2 weeks but once they’ve fallen the first time, if they don’t go to confession, they can fall again in days. Returning to confession will make falls further and further apart till hopefully they’re non-existent.

  1. Put Filters on EVERY Device

If you have ever intentionally viewed porn online, you need filters on every device, period. Even if you haven’t, put them on to be safe so you don’t accidentally view it. You might know you can get around it, still do it so you have your conscience bothering you for 5 minutes before you view pornography rather than the 10 seconds.

As a side note to parents: if you don’t have a filter on any device your son has access to, he WILL see pornography. It is no longer might. Pornography-promoters try to get kids addicted; even if your kid doesn’t want o see it, there’s a scummy businessman trying to make your son view it to increase his bottom line.

  1. 7 Steps to Beat Pornography and Masturbation

    Maybe say “YES” too

    Don’t Say “No,” Say “Yes” to Something Else

This is a little counter-intuitive. What we usually think we need to do when we have a temptation is to say “no, No, NO, NO!!!” However, it works much better to say “yes” to something else. This can be something positive like saying a prayer or doing something nice for a friend or it can be neutral like watching a DVR version of last night’s SportsCenter or reading an adventure novel you like. This is better for 4 reasons: First, it gets your mind focused on the other thing rather than the temptation. Second, a “yes” gets stronger every time you say it but a “no” generally gets weaker. Third, we as humans can only say “no” to something well after we’ve said yes to something more important or better. Fourth, trying to make your mind blank makes it easy for temptations to return.

  1. Be accountable to a Friend

This is the toughest one: find a friend, maybe a spouse parent or brother and tell them you have this problem. Some can beat this addiction without this step but if it’s taking you more than a few months to overcome it, you need a friend to be accountable to. Then you need to ask them 2 things which re-enforce steps 3 and 4. First, you need to get a kind of web filter called accountability software where your friend gets e-mailed a list of every website you view with a green (Disney), yellow (bikinis) and red (porn) color-coding system. They have the password so you can’t uninstall it. Second, you need to ask them to be available to talk when you’re tempted. You don’t want them to talk about porn or anything like that. You want them to tell you interesting stories or talk about a theme that interests you – this is saying “yes” to something else by asking them to talk to you about it.

  1. Know your triggers

If you always view porn when you’re searching the internet randomly between midnight and 3am, do NOT go online then. The toughest thing is that you need to find a calm moment and analyze what causes you to fall. Often times there will be things you can’t avoid such as the temptation to masturbate as soon as you wake up or something like that; but, even in those cases, you need to figure out a way to beat the temptation a few times then repeat what worked. Oftentimes, previous steps such as staying in shape and saying “yes” can be a big help.

Sometimes, this can be harsh as pornography is often an escape. In such cases the trigger is a deeper rooted wound from the past that we need to deal with to be able to conquer pornography and masturbation. How to deal with wounds depends on the wound, and goes beyond my scope here.

  1. Pray!

Ultimately, we would never be strong enough to beat these temptations alone. We need God’s grace. And for that, we need to pray, to ask him for it. I would particularly recommend asking Mary to protect your purity since she is the most pure.

[Thanks to my friend, Fr Juan José Hernández, LC who suggested step 6 which I missed in my first draft.]

EDIT: 8 months after I wrote this, I realized another step I missed here but is more important than these.

Teens need to experience Christ. I am a Catholic religious priest with the Legion of Christ who tries to help them do that. Part of doing that is running this blog. Currently I'm stationed in the DC Metro area preparing material for RCSpirituality.org (Regnum Christi Spirituality Center), studying an advanced Theology degree, and helping youth ministry freelance. If you need help with your youth ministry, such as retreats, talks, programs, volunteer training or consultation, contact me via Twitter or Facebook. You can buy my book Spiritually Mentoring Teenage Boys in paperback or on Kindle.


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  • Joe Chia

    Pray the Hail Mary and ask Mother Mary to help you overcome this problem. Also command the demons of pornography etc to leave in Jesus’ name and call upon the blood of Jesus to cover you and your thoughts.

  • theofile

    You have to know that pornography addiction is nasty stuff. It invades your psyche even when you’re not looking at it. It changes how you look and feel about the opposite sex. You can’t handle it by yourself. You need God’s help to become free. Admit your helplessness and pray.

  • Virginia Pierlot

    ya Joe chia I’d do spirtiual prayer like devotion to st. John

  • HenryBowers

    Another difficult step: if you’re in therapy for your trigger, but your therapist doesn’t think porn use is a sin, your concern about it will prick their conscience, and they will gently try to poison you with lies to assuage their own conscience. Recognize that they are LIARS and switch therapists, if necessary.

  • bluesuede

    Very good article. Even Christians believe you can use porn and it doesn’t effect in any way your communion with God. They won’t listen, because they don’t see it’s wrong and they don’t want to give it up.

  • Laud

    I need to share another truth about this issue, you see I am married to a man that was a porn addict. This was long in the making for him, as he was exposed to it quite young. Our marriage like many before us and many now have suffered tremendously over this evil past time. I would advise all young men and women that use this as an escape to really look hard at what it is that you are doing. You are setting yourselves up for such great losses later in life, and for now you are completely short changing yourself. You are literally changing your brain, your brain is becoming dependent on this and it will slowly drive a wedge between you and real people. You will begin to see people so differently, it will render you incapable of true intimacy with your spouse, and in the end be honest doesn’t it always drive you to shame, guilt, and embarrassment? Connections with real people will almost seem so hard that you would rather isolate yourself when you can just to keep your secret from ever coming out. You see the science on this is out and it is fact that porn and masturbating are indeed the new drug. Online porn is far far more detrimental to your brain and health than the old time stuff, not to say that the old time stuff was better. Just that the online stuff has far more reaching effects. Altogether it is offensive to God and to whomever you claim to love, for porn literally kills all love. You won’t know this until you start seeing certain patterns in your relationships and in yourself that become the main stay of your life. Look into the Porn Effect, Fight the New Drug, and Reclaim if you are serious about recovery, do it for yourself now and for your futures. May God bless your efforts Father, peace.

  • chiddy Rabbitt

    Before you look at porn think about this. That woman you are lusting after could be on her way to an early grave via a drug or alcohol addiction because she hates what she is doing but sees no way out of her situation.

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  • Kathy Clubb

    Fr. Matthew, this is the most helpful and practical post I’ve found for Catholics battling with porn. I read it months ago when you first published it and have linked to it in my post about tools and resources to beat porn: http://lightupthedarkness.net/de-porning-culture/

  • Brian Elgin

    Do you believe Mary is alive? This last part disturbed me quite a bit. Nothing has ever indicated that Mary was free from sin. In fact, the bible states that none but Jesus has EVER lived their life completely free from sin. What is the basis for worship of Mary?

    • Mary being free from sin does not mean she is worshiped. The Apostolic Tradition holds she was assumes by God into Heaven at the moment of her death.

  • These are all essential tools for conquering porn compulsion. Thanks Fr. Matthew.

    For men who want a more detailed step by step guide on equipping themselves with these tools, I created a video course on it: http://catholicmenconquerporn.com/courses/overcome-porn-addiction

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