Four additional points, following up on yesterday’s post…
 I say “certain experiences” of art, relationship, and prayer are needed for the maturation of one’s erotic life because not any experience will suffice. We need experiences that are not just pleasurable and transitory, but experiences which are joyful, challenging, enduring, and transformative. There’s a major difference between listening to a Katy Perry song and learning to play the piano. The full exercise of one’s erotic life looks much more like the latter, while those of us lacking in maturity tend to stay stuck in the former.
Perhaps “experience” isn’t quite the right word here. What we need, rather, is relationship (with art, prayer, other people, etc.), which requires both commitment and asceticism (in both practice and disposition). Love and happiness are not states of prosperity simply fallen into, but are achievements, often against all odds, requiring a moral effort, gratitude, and a certain vision.
 My counselor and I have spent many sessions exploring the intersections between my own pornography use and my relationship to my erotic life. One particularly helpful realization was a connection between my attachment to pornography and feelings of disassociation from my sexuality. She and I suspect this connection arose partly from internalized shame associated with my perceptions of my Catholic peers’ expectations and fears about acceptance in Catholic communities.
To be honest, I was skeptical of this idea at first, worried that my counselor was just blaming Church teaching and wanting me to abandon it. But she wasn’t. I realized that these attachments to porn had much more to do with my fears about some Christian communities, and with my relationship to Church teaching (as opposed to the teaching itself). Currently, I’m working on these issues by trying to be more intentional about where I find acceptance, and also by being creative in my approach to Church teaching, focusing on what actually helps me to live it out, as opposed to what everyone else thinks I should do.
 One concern presented by many over the question of “same-sex relationships” and “same-sex intimacy” involves the question of the Catholic concept of “near occasion of sin.” I don’t have a final resolution to this question–nor do I think I could or should. But I will say: I believe that for the average 20-something American male, ownership of a laptop computer and/or smart phone presents a much nearer occasion of sin than even sharing a bed with a romantic partner. This isn’t to say that sharing a bed with a romantic partner is something to be done casually, but I’m also not insisting that all 20-something American males throw away their laptops and smartphones.
 If you are a gay Christian struggling with pornography, there’s one way of reading all this, which concludes that your porn issue is the fault and responsibility of conservative Christians, rather than yourself. This view has more or less legitimacy, depending on your response to a few questions:
- Whether you think you are powerless or empowered to make your own decisions in difficult situations;
- Whether you want to be treated as a child/dependent in your communities or as an adult/agent; and
- Whether your communities coerce/dictate your lifestyles and decision-making or whether you act with the freedom to make your own choices.
In each of these possibilities, I believe I am called as a Christian to pursue the latter. Thus, I am ultimately responsible for my choices, even if others may also have varying degrees of culpability. Children and bureaucrats blame others for their bad choices. Christians don’t.