Humanization: 11 empathy hacks to destroy porn addiction

Humanization (empathy) may reduce unwanted arousal.

Scientists have proven when you objectify someone into a sex object, you remove their humanity. They become a tool for your viewing (or touching) pleasure.

So learn in this article how to humanize and guide the train away from a track you know you’ll regret.

Humanization Pinterest pin

All tips! (click to jump to that section)

  1. What’s their favorite vegetable?
  2. See the overlap, not the differences
  3. Insecurity
  4. The work required to maintain that body
  5. Pain empathy
  6. 32 Parts, or, see their (non-sexual) biology
  7. A Christian perspective on humanization
  8. Reverse aging
  9. Winter clothes
  10. Self-empathy and POMO
  11. Remember your why

If you want to know the science, though, start with the next heading.

Dehumanization definition

Dehumanization is when you discard a person’s humanity in exchange for their biology. When you don’t see a brain, heart, or soul. When you ignore everything above the base level of the pyramid that makes up who they are.

Objectification is similar. The focus of your arousal conveys to you “this sight is a tool to use for my sexual satisfaction.”

For instance, how do you see someone like this?

black woman wearing red evening dress on couch

(You can’t see her face. That makes dehumanization easier.)

Or this?

Muscular shirtless man doing pushups in the rain

You can see both of these in multiple ways.

See, the issue is objectification is required for sexual arousal to a partner, on-screen or off. It’s a matter of when to flick the switch, and yes, you have that control.

Humanization is how you do that.

Humanization definition

Rehumanization and empathy symbol

In short, it’s when you see the person for more than their sexual organs.

I can’t find science proving this works, but I found plenty proving the opposite: that lustful objectification removes the capacity for empathy, according to fMRI scans.

In Loughnan et al’s studies,

“As objectification increased, mind attribution decreased and moral status was withdrawn… depersonalization is an important aspect of the objectification process itself.”

Whereas in Cogoni et al.’s experiment, modifying the coverage of clothes actresses in a video wore reduced empathic feelings toward women. In co-author Siliani’s words,

“This reduction in empathic feelings towards sexually objectified women was accompanied by reduced activity in empathy related brain areas. This suggests that observers experienced a reduced capacity to share the sexualized women’s emotions.”

They expand that

“…participants attributed less sexiness to the personalized women… compared to the objectified women” and “we observed reduced empathic reactions toward objectified women as compared to personalized ones.”

Given this, I propose that by increasing empathy, objectification and thus unwanted arousal may sizzle out. Empathy may equal humanization.

And since it’s harder to fight emotion with logic (your brain stem versus your prefrontal cortex), I’m going to teach you how to fight it with empathy.

Humanization involves you and another being on similar wavelengths.

It gets harder the longer you look at it

Before you peruse these hacks, remember: it might as well be impossible to practice humanization when you’re looking at porn.

The most basic rule is to shift your attention spotlight and become aware of your surroundings as fast as you can, then do the below.

Easier said than done? Print out my Remember Your Why in 4 Steps worksheet & poster, fill in your answers, and tape it near your computer or wherever you need it.

Because the war is just a series of battles, but you have to remember what you’re fighting for.

I also suggest following this advice from porn addiction therapist Craig Perra:

  • Don’t look for more than two seconds
  • Don’t look twice
  • Observe the world around you that you’ve been ignoring

External resource:
Craig Perra’s “How to Stop Objectifying and Oogling” exercise

Attention spotlight: when on a screen, your brain shines a light on it and the world around you basically disappears. When off your phone, you notice nature.

1. What’s their favorite vegetable?

“…to qualify as a person an individual must be seen as possessing a mind and as deserving moral consideration.”

Loughnan et al.

Unbelievably, it may be enough to just ponder what the actor’s favorite vegetable is.

Fiske proved this with amygdala scans. The amygdalas– that part of the brain that processes fear, stress, aggression, and out-group hate– of her subjects activated to different degrees when she showed them pictures of various outgroups. People of another race, homeless people, and drug addicts.

BUT IT DEACTIVATED WHEN THEY WONDERED WHAT THAT PERSON’S FAVORITE VEGETABLE WAS.

This is utterly stupefying with massive implications!

clothed female model sittting in urban setting (practice rehumanization with her)
I wonder what her favorite vegetable is? Rutabaga? Bok choy?

And this really works for me! It’s incredible how simple this humanization is, but then, I’ve been away from porn for a long time. Someone with sensitized pathways due to frequent use may find it harder.

The best thing is it works while looking at the object of your attention spotlight. If you stumble on an attractive figure in image search or wherever, this instantaneous humanizing result tones down dopamine spikes and delays acting out.

That’s why it’s #1 on this list. But we’re nowhere near done yet.

2. See the overlap, not the differences

Empathy Venn diagram
Quote from The First Pokemon Movie (1998): "We do have a lot in common. The same Earth, the same air, the same sky. Maybe if we started looking at what's the same instead of what's different... well, who knows."

Love may be the core need behind addictions of every kind. It may be the reason we do anything in life: to obtain it. And your paragon wants that, too, no matter in what way they’re going about it.

Media twists our messages about what is lovable (see next hack), and many amateur performers, beyond the money motivation, do it because other people finding them sexy affirms to them “I am good enough.” Not that they’re all this way, and labeling doesn’t help, but just imagine:

“This person wants love, too.”

Pity can also work, like: “I hope one day you understand what love is, and that this is not it.”

Instead of objectifying them by focusing on their body, humanization teaches us to care about their well-being. If empathy is deactivated when we objectify, then maybe love is, too.

3. Humanization for the insecure

In middle and high school, I was bullied for being a dork. So for over 15 years, I still haven’t been able to throw away the bone-shaking insecurity from my belief that I’m “unlovable.” After all, I don’t have lots of money, the perfect body, a manly personality, or a social circle that confirms I’m not a creepy loner.

…but my harem will always be there for me when I feel down! (So many porn addicts have this same excuse.)

And how much media out there starts their sales pitch by wounding you with that same message? “You’ll never be good enough if you don’t buy our wound ointment.”

Propaganda sells more than products, it sells ideas.

Sexy models on a beach. One man, one woman. Quote by Brené Brown: "Ads sell a great deal more than products. They sell values, images, and concepts of success and worth."
from my Instagram page

You don’t have to pass the wound on just because someone wounded you first.

Be strong. Break the cycle.

Women have particular hardships in this. So if you’re an insecure straight guy, humanization will involve emotionally recalling the pain you feel at not being “good enough.”

Don’t subject your future soul mate to that, when you can at least a little bit heal her wounds. Wouldn’t you want her to do that for you? She’ll be grateful and loyal…

4. Being sexy takes a ton of work

I’ve met only one 10/10 in my life, but I wasn’t attracted to her because I didn’t love her. She was a normal person, not a succubus. But still, it took a lot of work for her to get that body.

  • eating healthy
  • hard, frequent exercise
  • And of course, all the products that promise to enhance her attractiveness: makeup, skin and hair care, teeth, fashion, and more (and the money for them)
  • + she had to win the genetic lottery to begin with

Do you look like a model? If so, you know how hard it was. If not, have you tried? IT’S INTENSE PAIN FOR YEARS!

Then think about the realities of picture:

  • angle
  • lighting
  • weather, if outside
  • color saturation, distortion, and filters

Your models don’t look good from every angle, in every lighting, in every outfit. You see an unrealistic glimpse of 10/10 that you’ll probably never meet in real life. (see self-empathy and POMO below)

What you are allowed to see (the tip of the iceberg) versus reality (most of it below the surface)

Nor will you ever meet that standard. Would you treat yourself that way?

5. Pain empathy for humanization

Even the tiniest insect recoils from harm. When we recognize that common ground, we see how closely we are all connected.

– Bhante G., from the afterword of Mindfulness in Plain English

If your performer is in scripted, professional porn, imagine they’re in pain. While this may not be the case, it’s a fair bet. (Yes, I know this is a controversial argument.)

For instance, here’s a quote from a porn company executive:

“Amateurs come across better on screen. Our customers feel that. Especially by women you can see it. They still feel strong pain.”

– Carlo Scalisi, owner of 21 Sexury Video (sorry, I lost the source)

This doesn’t apply, of course, if they’re doing their own recording. But you can imagine other daily painful things they go through.

  • Does your perfect model menstruate? Imagine the pain, cramps, and irritability.
  • Give them the flu or suffocating allergies.
  • It’s worked for me to imagine them groaning at the clock, frowning, waiting for their retail job to end. (Most of us work jobs we don’t like.)
  • And how about anger, stress, and fear from outrage news?
crying woman

6. 32 parts meditation: true humanization

Truly, this is how to stop dehumanization.

Attempting to suppress thoughts paradoxically multiplies that which you’re trying not to think about. You must escape into something that fully occupies you and puts you “in the zone.”

See also:
How to Stop Cravings with Tetris (don’t think of a pink elephant)

So try this visualization exercise.

The Buddhist 32 parts meditation (warning: some surgical images) involves visualizing a “zooming-in” on selected parts of the body and seeing them as biologically, neutrally, and non-lustfully as possible.

And I don’t mean the parts you’re salivating over. I mean:

  • Teeth
  • Skin (when zoomed-in is a greasy, belching cheese grater)
  • Kidneys
  • Lungs
  • Blood
  • Bile
  • Intestines, feces, and so on

To a somewhat different degree, this is humanization. We are, after all, clumps of squishy gore.

Anatomical full-body x-rays for rehumanization

I got this from Buddhist practitioner u/athanathios on Reddit, so let me give his description. In response to the question of “How to control lust?” his instructions for the 32 parts meditation are:

“Typically you would try to discern this in meditation, but walking around, you can try to see people as just a collection of hairs, skin, muscles, flesh, etc, if you do this over and over again, then you will start to neutralize these feelings, as you are not seeing the aggregate beauty, but instead, the parts. If you can actually rationalize this deeply and practice it takes all the lust out of it.”

He says this is the second-most powerful technique, only bested by repulsiveness meditation. That is, imagining your desirable model as a corpse in progressing stages of decay. (Effective.)

Side note on disgust

As arousal dampens disgust, so disgust dampens arousal.

Sexual arousal can override weak disgust, at least in women, according to a study by Dutch sexologists Borg and de Jong. In other words, you’re not you when you’re horny. Your disgust switch gets flicked off, or at least dialed down many notches.

So if the 32 parts meditation strongly disgusts you, good! Disgust kills lust.

Just make sure to not use your new powers in situations when you want to maintain arousal.

7. Christian advice on humanization

(All from the New International Version)

“For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.”

1 Corinthians 11:12

I’ve found that porn kills love, but love kills (desire for) porn.

So we can aspire to be like Jesus and love. That is, humanization for ourselves.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

John 13:34

Because

“The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.”

Romans 8:7-8

And lastly, I’ve come to view sex as sacred. It’s a controversial topic, but Internet whoredom is to me one factor for the hedonistic slide in the Western world toward the decadent end of the late Romans. They had rampant access, too.

So because porn digusts me, and it’s not part of my identity to engage in a thing designed by wicked actors to keep me stupid and passive, I don’t consume it.

See also:
Don’t, Shouldn’t, Can’t: How refusal framing motivates change

Lastly, I’ve heard stories of men who rediscover a color, a vibrancy to life when they stop focusing single-mindedly on sex. As porn viewing goes up, their meaning in life dies and they stop caring about everything for a few days, waiting for the monochrome ugliness of the world to evaporate.

There’s something to be said about the pursuit. Porn is life’s cheat codes.

8. Reverse aging

Empathy and love are psychologically congruent (neighboring), so love is part of humanization. Dehumanization ignores it.

One trick I’ve found nowhere else is imagining the person aging in reverse.

Jump from whatever age they are now to 10, then 5, 2, and a newborn. Imagine them tended to in their crib by a loving 2-parent family, and empathize with the parents. Somehow, this love switches off my lust for their current form.

That’s someone’s child! (sibling, friend, schoolmate, etc.)

That love Jesus has for everyone is consonant with our feelings toward infants, in our reverse-aging humanization.

9. Give them winter clothes

Consistent with the Cogoni study I linked under “humanization definition,” imagine your model wearing bulky winter clothes and shivering outside, taking ginger steps to get their mail without slipping on ice. Fewer clothes = more objectification. More clothes = more humanization.

And I don’t mean in a winter fashion-shoot way.

Blonde model in furred winter coat, thick pants, gloves and boots in the snow
She’s a swimsuit model, by the way. This isn’t so effective, though, is it?

10. Self-empathy and POMO

See also:
POMO: A non-squishy guide to kill social media envy

I’ve read a lot of articles, and a lot of advice from addicts. The only way to avoid POMO (the Pain of Missing Out) is to not look at those things that generate it.

You don't know what you're missing out on if you don't know what you're missing out on.

Whether it’s social media, image search, or even iStock which I had a problem with for a bit, avoid scantily-clad rich models at a tropical resort (or similar). This is humanization for yourself, and self-empathy.

What’s self-empathy? It’s reminding yourself that an image will linger painfully in your mind long after you look away. Usually, it’s an awareness of the impossibility of you experiencing that thing that now you want only because you saw it and now you want it.

“You covet what you see everyday.”

– Hannibal Lecter, The Silence of the Lambs

Then you go through all the reasons you’re not “good enough” for that to happen to you: money, age, your body, travel restrictions, even just finding several 10/10’s lounging around a pool. It’s all POMO.

It gets easier to stop coveting when you don’t look at it.

You can protect yourself from future pain with my Find Your Why in 4 Steps poster. (see above or #11 below)

Humanization challenge: hentai

Cheerful, suited anime girl with purple hair and bright pink eyes

But what about hentai? How can you practice humanization and empathy on animated characters?

Well, we empathize with fictional characters all the time. Books, movies, anime. The trick is to make an emotional connection, say Bal and Veltkamp, and that’s what we’ve been doing throughout this article.

It might be more difficult if things like setting, fashion, and comportment (like high-pitched voices) differ substantially from our world, but it can be done.

I did it myself by imagining a slime girl. (yeah yeah i used to look at hentai too… but not slime girls)

A gumdrop-size ball of slime with eyes and a pink bow
slime girl baby

Given that she would be so different, strategy #2 worked best. Where do we overlap?

We both (all) want to be happy, safe, and validated. She had women’s rights and loving parents when she was a child. She dealt with daily stessors, from fearmongering news to an interminable job and people being rude to her. (Slime-ist?)

Most hentai characters are humans, of course, but I wanted to prove empathy and thus humanization is possible even for outlandish nonhumans. It is.

Even if they’re presented as dumb outlets with impossible proportions, all things on this list work for hentai characters (except #7). In particular:

  • give them human rights
  • “This person wants love, too.”
  • they’re likely insecure
  • eating right and exercise, products, genetic lottery (?)
  • daily stressors
  • 32 parts
  • reverse aging
  • winter clothes
  • (especially) camera angle / pan, color matching, and anything cartoony
  • You can even feel humanization for the voice actors and artists, who are gig workers and likely disgusted with themselves but need the money

Call it ridiculous if you want, but it works. People can feel love and empathy for animated characters.

Summary: humanization

On the left, happy man embraces woman. On the right, miserable man is hooked up with many wires to a computer screen.
© “Substitution” by Miles-Johnston on DeviantArt

Love and empathy lead to humanization, since objectification switches off empathy. Find common ground and remember everyone wants to be free from pain, safe, validated, and happy, even animated fictions.

The techniques go in this order:

  1. Don’t look for more than two seconds
  2. Don’t look twice; be present with the world around you
  3. Don’t objectify, personify with whichever hacks speak to you at the moment
  4. If all else fails, 32 parts meditation or repulsiveness (decaying corpse) meditation

When we objectify, we lose empathy. So regrowing empathy may dampen objectification and unwanted sexual arousal.

But in case one day you stop caring and think “why should I?” (it’ll happen), grab your free Find Your Why in 4 Steps worksheet below. I promise you, it’s the most powerful tool I’ve ever used.

11. Remember your why

Humanization: 11 empathy hacks to destroy porn addiction

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