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Wired for IntimacyReview - Wired for Intimacy
How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain
by William M. Struthers
IVP Books, 2009
Review by Hennie Weiss
Nov 8th 2011 (Volume 15, Issue 45)

Writing from the perspective of a devoted Christian, William H. Struthers's book Wired for Intimacy. How pornography hijacks the male brain focuses on the impact of pornography on men's lives. Struthers states that repeated exposure to pornography changes the way in which males view intimacy and sexual relations and the way in which their brains function. According to Struthers pornography degrades both women and men, creates lies of sexual fulfillment, prevents relational fulfillment, numbs the healthy sexuality of men, and constructs intimacy as a product to be bought and sold. Struthers states "our sexuality is one of the strongest forms of intimacy through which God reveals himself as love" (p. 52).  

Many men respond to watching pornography in ways that Struthers deem unhealthy, including the cognitive use of denial, minimization of the effects of porn, normalization, rationalization, and even celebration. In short, pornography corrupts intimacy. Struthers believes that men genuinely seek intimacy in relationships with others. Pornography however, is not a neutral experience, but a whispered promise of intimacy that does not include personal exchange or interaction with others.

In part three, The Consequences of Porn, Struthers discusses whether or not pornography is an addiction and the similarities between drug addiction, effects of drugs and the use of pornography. In part four, Your Brain on Porn, Struthers explains how pornography affects the male brain, including the three major sections of the brain, the hindbrain, midbrain and forebrain. Struthers also includes a discussion of the impact of testosterone, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, endogenous opiates, oxytocin and vasopressin.

In part five, Struthers then moves away from the discussion of the brain to engage in what it means to be Made Male in God's Image. Struthers discusses being created in the image of God (imago Dei), being made male (in terms of genetic/chromosomal sex, gonadal sex, internal sex, genital sex and brain sex), and the concepts of maleness and manhood. Differences between women and men such as sex attributes and brain functioning are noted. Struthers asserts that these differences do not indicate superiority or subordination, but that they are averages and that diversity exists. In part five, Struthers also discusses how our consciousness emerges from the brain, how some brain regions are hardwired for sexual arousal and how others become programmed by experience, which increases the risk for pornography addiction.   

Struthers also engages in a discussion about masculinity, how men learn masculinity, the biblical understanding of masculinity, and how we can direct and empower masculinity. In terms of discussing the male need for intimacy, Struthers states that meeting relational needs is part of living a full life. The concept of sanctification (the process by which we are made holy) is integral to the understanding of intimacy. According to Struthers, the process of sanctification extends to our sexuality and intimacy with others. Men need to share common bonds with other men as well as with their partner (the woman they are married to). The single person should live a life of celibacy but engage in human interaction based on shared values and commitment as a form of intimacy. Heterosexual, married couples should not focus solely on intercourse (false intimacy), but maturing intimacy based on love, forgiveness, mercy, grace and perseverance. A lack of maturing intimacy may lead men to view pornography. The discussion of masturbation is described by Struthers as the fragmentation of body and mind that may cause problems in a marriage.

In the last section, Rewiring and Sanctification, Struthers discusses the process of becoming sanctified through recovery from porn addiction. Recovery is based on several concepts. A person must confess to their problems and repent, but they should choose a person to confess to wisely. The root of the problem should be assessed, triggers identified and the concepts of masculinity, sexuality and intimacy should be evaluated. Mentors, counselors or treatment programs may be valuable tools to consider in overcoming addiction and move towards sanctification. Struthers ends the section by discussing sanctification and states that we need to understand how we are made, how we are wired and what we are made for.

As Struthers is a devoted Christian, the intended audience of the book, or those who will most likely gain the most from this book, will also be devoted Christians. The book is not limited to Christian readers, but the distinct views of Struthers's in terms of sexual intimacy being between a married man and woman, the fact that single people should abstain from sexual encounters until marriage and the disconnect between body and soul in terms of masturbation may not sit well with others who do not agree with such statements. Diversity in terms of sexual orientation is nonexistent in the book as Struthers focus on the intimacy and relationships of heterosexuals, which is another reason why those who share Struthers views are more likely to be the intended audience of this book. Those who are of a different religious affiliation, agnostics, or atheists may feel less inclined to read Wired for Intimacy.

Struthers does write in a manner that is easily understood even though many readers may usually find the structure and regions of the brain fairly difficult to comprehend. As such, Struthers does a great job in explaining the various "tasks" of the different parts of the brain, and how they are connected, while also using images to invoke understanding. One of the major strengths of Struthers writing is the way in which he ties together such concepts as pornography, intimacy and sanctification throughout the book, thus making it easier for the reader to follow his arguments.


© 2011 Hennie Weiss


Hennie Weiss is a Sociology graduate student at California State University, Sacramento. Her academic interests include women's studies, gender, sexuality and feminism.


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