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Robert Weiss PhD, LCSW, CSAT

Josh, married to Ashley for 12 years, started using porn in his teens. He enjoys it as a sexual outlet, has never kept his usage a secret from Ashley, and has not, until recently, experienced any negative feelings related to his porn use. So what happened? On a whim, Josh started watching videos of transsexual women. He now finds this turns him on. A lot. And he’s freaking out about it.

Josh’s tale of woe is hardly unusual. In fact, we hear stories like this all the time from individuals who struggle with pornography. This is because porn is revelatory, meaning pornography can reveal elements of the user’s arousal template that he or she was previously unaware of or simply repressed.

Typically, as tolerance and escalation develop, users search for more intense or outré images and videos, and in the process they either intentionally or inadvertently view pornography that touches the deepest, darkest corners of their arousal template, igniting fires that previously did not exist. And once these attractions are revealed, they don’t go away – even when the user wishes they would.

NOTE: Porn does not create arousal where there is none. For porn to reveal a turn-on, that turn-on must already be in the person’s arousal template to some degree, even latently.

In short, porn can reveal turn-ons of which the user was previously unaware. This occurs relatively often with same-sex attractions, trans attractions, kink, fetishes, and all sorts of other sexual behaviors. Individuals see these activities, and suddenly they know something new about themselves. What they choose to do with that information, of course, depends on the individual.

Many people are grateful for the variety the internet provides. They can explore their sexuality in healthy and fulfilling ways no matter how weird their turn-ons might seem to others. Others, like Josh, spin themselves into sexual shame and find themselves wishing that newly revealed parts of their sexual arousal template would go away and stay away.

Individuals who struggle with elements of their sexual arousal template need to know three things: (1) Once turn-ons are revealed, they’re here to stay; (2) There is nothing wrong with having non-traditional attractions; and (3) They needn’t act on these desires if they truly don’t want to. That said, it’s important to identify and accept these turn-ons as natural elements of their arousal template.

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If you or someone you care about is struggling with pornography, help is available. Seeking Integrity offers inpatient treatment for sex and porn addicts, as well as low-cost online workgroups. At the same time, offers a variety of free webinars and drop-in discussion groups, podcasts, and more.