Women and Pornography

Triggers: Identifying Every-day Things That Can Lead to Lust

Over the years, I have often written or spoken about triggers.  Usually, when I do, I get an e-mail from someone asking:

“What does it mean to ‘find your triggers?’  What does that look like?”

I realize that as a former addict who knows her triggers, it is ‘easy’ for me to say “find your triggers.”  For those of you in the middle of your struggle, though, and even for those struggling to stay out, marching in and saying, “Find your triggers” is about as helpful as walking in and telling you to factor a perfect square trinomial.

As a former math teacher, I know exactly what I am talking about.  That does not mean everyone does.  Part of my job as a math teacher was to show my students what that ‘factoring a perfect square trinomial’ looked like.

So, I decided to take a few Fridays and do this little series about finding your triggers.  I cannot (repeat: cannot) possibly ever list every single trigger on the face of the earth.  Instead, I hope to help you learn how to identify yours.  I may have touched on this process before, but I really want to go in depth here.

Triggers are not always obvious

We can get confused because we think triggers have to look like sex.  That make sense to us.  However, not all triggers come labeled.  Shirtless man walks into a room and wraps his arm around me- trigger. Code Red.  Sound the alarm.

Beyond being awkward and a major invasion of my personal space, that is an obvious trigger.  Someone else could look at that situation and raise an eyebrow.  If I struggled with that people would understand.

This is how we think of triggers especially in the context of purity and modesty.  We see a woman scantily clad and immediately recognize her as a walking trigger.  She could ’cause men to stumble.’

So, when we try to find our own triggers we get a little confused.  We sit back and evaluate our lives looking for the equivalent of the scantily-clad woman- a reason that is understood by others.  But she/he/it just isn’t there.

Our struggle seems disconnected, even bizarre.  There is no universally recognized ‘trigger.’  No general rule.  For the record, there isn’t necessarily one for guys either, which is what leads me to this:

Triggers are not always sinful

Sexting your boyfriend.  Not only is that an obvious ‘trigger’ but it is a sinful one as well.  It is wrong.  Black and white, easy enough.  Reading 50 Shades of Gray would be another blatantly obvious, sinful trigger.  Fantasizing about your boyfriend in bed, not so obvious (to others), but sinful.

Again, they’re not all like that, and some of us can get so frustrated looking for the big blaring sin in our life that is causing us to fall when it might be as simple as a pair of headphones or the hand lotion we use.

Hand lotion!?  Yes.  See?  Not obvious or sinful.  Just an every-day object that no one would think twice about could be a trigger.

Those are the types of things I want to address in this series.

Over the next few Fridays, we’re going to walk through the “Four Levels of Triggers” (I’ll explain them next week) in the hopes that this will help you be more aware of the different triggers in your life.  Some are avoidable, others are not, but knowing what your triggers are helps so much in your walk of freedom.

Update: In 2022, I released an ecourse and free ebook on Triggers. You can find that here.


  • Allison

    I was surprised at myself the first time I realized that a certain scent of soap was a trigger for me. Of course, now it makes perfect sense to me, but I was overwhelmed the first time I recognized the danger
    I’m looking forward to reading what you have to say about this very applicable and relevant topic.

    • Jessica


      Thanks for stopping by! I completely understand the scent of soap thing. For a while, I had a lotion that was the same. Just a normal every day body lotion but the smell of it would trigger things. It was definitely a strange realization and I felt bad throwing out a half-used bottle of lotion, but you gotta do what you gotta do!

  • Daniel Bryan

    Jessica, I agree that there are many triggers that can lead to lust. Many times it is the stress of my daily responsibilities that “triggers” me and makes me want to run to lust. I’m looking forward to reading more of what you write over the next several Fridays.