• mbkastleman

Porn Addiction and the "Funnel"—Why Do Good LDS Men Get Pulled into Porn?

Updated: Feb 27

(this article is an excerpt from the book, The Pornography Paradox: Why LDS Men Are Too Often Trapped in Pornography and Sexual Addiction—And How to Break Free.)


Anyone who has battled porn addiction knows the complete bewilderment and utter frustration with what I call the great mystery. Why do we repeatedly yield ourselves to the siren's call when it goes against everything we believe and hold dear? Why do we cast aside or ignore those we love most to narrowly and coldly pursue pleasure? Despite having endlessly vowed to never give in again, why do we continue making the same selfish, foolish, destructive choices?


This huge paradox of behavior creates a LOT of confusion and shame, especially in the religious men I work with. Among these good men, I have helped many of my own faith—the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I wrote an article titled, "Why LDS Men Suffer So Much Shame From Porn Use." Yet, it's not just men of a particular faith that suffer this shame. I've worked with porn-addicted men all over the world and they all share this shame, confusion and the "great mystery. Here's how one described his long experience with this baffling mystery:


What Were You Thinking?!


When my addiction urge would hit, it was like another totally separate person would take over. That guy didn't care about anyone or anything except his sexual goal. He was completely narrowed, calculating and unfeeling. When the acting out was done, it was like my real self would wake up and come back into focus. That's when the hell would always start. This condemning voice would shout in my head—"What have you done?" "What were you thinking?" "How could you have given in again?" "You're just a worthless pervert!" "You'll never be free of this!"


No matter how much I analyzed it, pondered on it and broke it down, I could never understand how I could become something so uncaring and cold. I would see it coming and try to resist and be strong, but it was relentless and ruthless and I usually ended up giving in to "that other guy." The confusion, frustration and self-hatred were overwhelming and brought me close to suicide several times.


I can so deeply relate to this good man's honest description! For decades, I too was buried in the frustrating confusion and utter mystery of my addiction. But through a series of miracles and divine interventions, God led to me to the man who would shine a guiding light in the darkness and help me solve the great mystery.



Dr. Page Bailey


It was fall, my favorite time of the year. I was on one of many calls with my teacher and mentor, neuropsychologist Dr. Page Bailey. With his home and headquarters in Portland, and my residence in Utah, we often had long conversations by phone.


The study topic that day was prompted by a simple query: "Page, why is it that so many good men can forget everyone and everything they care about under the influence of pornography and sexual temptation? Why is it so powerful?"


That was the day Dr. Bailey introduced me to the concept of The Sexual Funnel, which forever changed my understanding of my own addiction challenges, and in the years ahead, would become a foundational principle in all of my counseling, teaching and training work. It would become invaluable in helping men break free from porn addiction.



The Sexual Funnel

Imagine in your mind an hourglass, wide at the top and slowly narrowing down to a very small passageway in the center and then expanding to a wide opening at the bottom. This illustration can help you understand how the brain behaves during a sexual experience. As Dr. Bailey so often reminded me:


Mark, sexual climax is the most narrowly and powerfully focused biological event in which the brain can engage. This crescendo experience can only take place on a very narrow runway. In order to reach this place, the brain must narrowly focus its attention and block out all distractions. This is achieved in the Funnel.


When we feel sexually aroused and decide to pursue that urge, the brain immediately starts to narrow its focus as it releases a wave of internal chemicals, including: dopamine, testosterone, endorphins, norepinephrine, serotonin and oxytocin. These neurochemicals cause the brain to block out all distractions and focus full attention on the sexual process. They can also provide a host of positive benefits or extremely negative consequences, depending on how we choose to use the Funnel.


The farther down the Sexual Funnel we travel, the more narrowly focused the brain becomes in its thinking and attention. The brain's primary goal is to eventually arrive at the very narrowest part of the Funnel, sexual climax, where a final tidal wave of internal chemicals is released. After this crescendo experience, the neurochemicals dissipate and the brain returns to its wide perspective. There is literally a brain science behind porn and sex addiction!



One Funnel, Two Very Different Outcomes


God designed the Sexual Funnel experience to be highly intense and very powerful. Why? Because He intended to give couples a divine gift that would benefit and bless them in the myriad trials and opportunities of married life. To understand why the Funnel is so powerful, let's look at it from two very different perspectives—healthy marital intimacy and illicit sexual behaviors. While the same kinds of chemicals are released in both scenarios, the experience and especially the outcome are radically different. Viewing pornography will be used as just one example among a host of illicit sexual behaviors to which the Funnel principles can be applied.


Healthy Marital Intimacy: In a healthy marriage relationship, the Funnel experience causes husband and wife to focus narrowly on each other, block out the world and any negatives in the relationship. The Funnel creates a healthy dependency between husband and wife. Each spouse can remember the smallest details of their beloved’s features, actions and cherished moments together. The special and sacred shared intimacy is locked in the memory and can be a strength and buoy during life’s trials.



The Funnel experience forges a powerful bond between husband and wife, producing a feeling of oneness, closeness and attachment. This bond is as strong as the bond a mother and father have with their newborn child. The Funnel creates deep feelings of calmness, satisfaction and release from stress.


When husband and wife emerge from the narrow part of the Funnel, their wide perspective returns. The intimate experience leaves them feeling deeper love and appreciation, a stronger bonding and attachment, more fulfilled, energized, positive and better equipped to work individually and together to succeed in their overall lives and family responsibilities. How we learn and choose to experience the Funnel in our marriage will largely determine whether we experience true intimacy or just having sex.


Pornography Viewing: With pornography use (and other illicit sexual behaviors) chemicals released during the Funnel experience cause the viewer to focus intensely and exclusively on the sexual images. His brain shuts out all other truth and reality, including thoughts of God, family, beliefs, consequences or future goals.


Because the Funnel creates temporary feelings of escape, self-soothing and release from the stress and pressures of life, it creates a powerful chemical dependency linked to the images.

The Funnel causes the brain to record and remember every sexual image with vivid clarity, years or even decades later, resulting in a constant, frustrating battle to eradicate them.


Many jump into the Funnel when they're feeling lonely, disconnected, emotionally needy and craving real human intimacy. Because the pornography experience is all fantasy, with no real human connection or sharing, the viewer is left feeling even more empty, lonely and wanting than before.



The Hopeless Dialogue


When the porn viewer emerges from the narrowest part of the funnel back to a wide perspective, his rational thinking returns and the hopeless dialogue begins: “What have I done? What was I thinking?”


The answer is, he wasn't—and in fact, couldn't—think. When he descends into the Funnel outside the safety of its divine purpose, he gives up his ability to “think.” The overpowering flood of chemicals overrides his cognitive thought and reasoning abilities. “What about my wife, my children, my values, my covenants?” he pleads.


He can’t believe how easily he has fallen yet again into the trap. He is hopeless in the face of his nemesis, his Goliath. How it all happened is a mystery to him. What he doesn’t understand is that when he allows himself to enter the Funnel outside of marriage and pits his beliefs and commitments against one of the most powerfully focused and narrowed events the brain can experience—climax—his willpower fails every time!


If this all sound familiar, but you're still not sure if you have an actual porn addiction, you may gain some insight from this infographic—https://www.reclaimcounselingservices.com/are-you-addicted-to-porn


If you're ready to stop plunging helplessly into the Funnel and you want to break out of porn addiction once and for all, here's some information about my counseling program for porn addiction.


If you want more information about HOW to break free from porn addiction, here's an article that will help—https://www.reclaimcounselingservices.com/overcome-porn-sex-addiction