Don Jon (2013)

Published: Feb 22, 2014 |Updated: Mar 3, 2023


Don Jon is the story of Jon, a self-absorbed New Jersey-guy who loves his porn. It’s a sad and funny tale of a boy-man who has lost his ability to be truthful and to connect intimately with a woman. And while the woman of his dreams, his “perfect 10” may get him turned on in a way he never has before, it will take another and altogether more real woman to initiate him into his full humanity. Don Jon is a courageous movie and this review is essential reading for any man who beats off to porn regularly.

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Genre Drama, Comedy
Production year 2013
Director Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Male actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Addicted to misery

Don Jon is a piece of competent and courageous movie making about a very important theme. Joseph Gordon-Levitt takes us, in his directorial and screenwriting debut, into one of the most sacred and shameful sanctuaries of modern man: The moment of sitting down with a computer in search for tits, ass and release from tension by way of a five second cock sneeze.

Yes, Don Jon is a movie about porn. It’s a movie about money shots, sweaty closeups, and waste bins full of crumpled tissue paper. It’s also a movie about a condition that has become epidemic among modern men: The inability to connect intimately with a woman due to excessive time spent in the shangri-la of virtual sex.

This movie is a beautiful opportunity to explore the theme of addiction in much more depth than has previously been done on this site.

Don Jon’s porn

Jon – or Don Jon as his friends call him – is a self-involved New Jersey-based bachelor who loves his porn. Jon puts it this way: “There’s only a few things I care about in life: my body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls and…my porn.” And from very early on, it’s evident that emphasis is on the latter; of all the blessings Jon has in life, none is more sacred than the pleasure of watching women he doesn’t know fuck men he doesn’t know on his laptop.

Jon’s exterior is carefully maintained: He is fit, working out at the gym regularly, and styles his hair true “guido”-style. In fact, Jon is a guy bearing a striking resemblence to the young, immature men in the MTV-phenomenon Jersey Shore. Levitt denies that any such link exists, however. He rather attributes inspiration to an older and deeper archetype, the “east coast tough guy”, encountered previously in movies like Rocky.

Aside from his porn, Jon finds enjoyment in going to night clubs, shooting the shit with his buddies, and pulling beautiful women for superficial one-night stands. This is his image of success and his friends, not having reached manhood themselves, admire him for it.

Jon’s success, however, is surface only. Under his swaggard, womanizing exterior, Jon is emotionally immature and sans authentic power.

The archetypal source of addiction

In the archetypal system King, Warrior, Magician, Lover, addiction is the domain of the Lover archetype. The Lover is that deep part of us that longs for pleasure, connection and a loss of self in Other. It connects us with the appreciation of beauty, music, fine wine.

It is the inner quality you felt that time you sat in silent, loving embrace with the woman you love, watching the July sun set to the smooth undalating rhythms of your favorite music. In those moments, your self faded out and blended with her and the eternal mystery of endless nightfall.

Had you not had a consolidated psyche that night, however – that is, had you not healed the trauma of your past, built a solid self-structure and learned that ultimately what you seek is internal and not external validation – you would have found yourself confused, merging with her in ways that diminished you.

This is where the tension arc between the Lover and the Warrior plays in. Without a bounded self, our desire to merge leads to pathology. That is, when the Warrior has not, under the auspices of the King archetype, carved out a place in time and space that is distinctly me, and set up defensive structures around the perimeter, we have no self to lose, and moments of potential magic end up in inevitable misery by way of archetypal inflation.

When the sense of self is strong, however, we can allow ourselves to safely suspend it. In those eternal moments that make up the meaning of our lives, we find ourselves at the wellspring of the mature Lover.

We will then have learned, unlike Jon, to lose ourselves not out of pain, but into love; not out of loneliness, but into communion.

Porn: One addiction to rule them all

Addictive tendencies tend to arise as defense mechanisms to unhealed trauma (my upcoming blog post “Dancing with addiction” will provide much more information on this). But addictions can also be learned. And for behavior to be easily turned to addiction, it needs to satisfy certain requirements. Says psychiatrist Norman Doidge in a 2013 Telegraph article:

“Pornography satisfies every one of the prerequisites for neuroplastic change, – that is, the brain’s ability to form new neural circuitry. The most important condition is the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that gives us a feeling of exciting pleasure, which porn triggers. The more often you watch porn and get the dopamine hit it delivers, the more the activity and the sensation become entwined in your brain.

Since neurons that fire together wire together, these men got massive amounts of practice wiring these images into the pleasure centres of the brain. And because plasticity is competitive, the brain maps for new, exciting images increased at the expense of what had previously attracted them.”

In other words, the more you watch porn, the less you are going to be turned on by real women. This is why porn may eventually make you impotent – your brain simply won’t be firing pleasure signals when you are with a beautiful naked woman. Your brain essential “forgets” that real intimacy is a pleasurable experience.

Jon, luckily, has managed to escape impotence. Though his capacity to connect intimately with a woman has fared worse.

Barbara’s siren call

Barbara, played by Scarlett Johanson, is a “dime” in Jon’s view. A perfect 10. And when he sees her standing, in a moment akin to revelation, at the bar in a nightclub, he heads in, intent on conquering another woman, this goddess in red.


Barbara doesn’t play by his rules, however. She is not interested in being conquered, enjoyed and discarded within the span of one night. That sequence of events would be at odds with the Hollywood romance fairy tale she wants to live out in her life.

No, Barbara takes her time. And Jon is not used to taking time, to invest in a woman. And in the face of that slow pacing, Jon’s integrity unravels completely.

Not only is his integrity kaput; he also reveals himself as a man who can be completely dominated by a woman’s sexual siren call. In one scene, the two have been on a date and Jon wants to follow her inside. Barbara, however, isn’t ready for that. She is a tease, though, and rubs her ass against his crotch while talking sexy. Jon comes in his pants and is left out in the cold. We can only imagine the level of humiliation he must feel. While Jon may have impressive biceps, it’s clear who is in charge.

We’d do well to remember here that the amount of pussy a man gets is in no way an indication of his level of manhood. His ability to stay empowered in his sexuality in the face of the feminine’s siren call is, however.

Dr. Anne Wilson Schaef’s definition of addiction is simply “anything we need to lie about”.  This definition fits Jon uncomfortably well. Jon’s addiction has stripped him of real power and made him into a liar.

He exhibits the dissonant behavior that is so typical of immaturity – a cool attitude externally, but a total lack of spine internally. In this behaviour, we see how archetypal shadow in one quadrant (Lover) easily triggers archetypal shadow in another (Magician).

This clip from Jon and Barbara’s first sexual encounter demonstrates Jon’s behavior:

It’s a sad thing to see a man say “only losers watch porn”, when he himself is addicted to it. It’s a telling glimpse into Jon’s self-image.

The tantra of Esther

Jon doesn’t get true satisfaction from sex. His porno addiction has wired his brain to want blowjobs, money shots and doggy style sex; all those sexual acts that look great on camera. His conquests, on the other hand, want intimacy and the missionary position.

It takes a lot of courage to call anyone on their bullshit, especially in the domains of intimacy and sexuality. And it’s clear that Barbara lacks the emotional maturity required to take on that role without emotional drama.


The recently widowed and emotionally wrecked Esther does not at first seem a likely candidate for the job. She is in a bad state and Jon feels uncomfortable when he first encounters her on the university stairs. But somehow, a relationship develops between them. And when Barbara eventually drops Jon because of his porn addiction, Esther becomes a woman of great importance to Don.

In this clip, Esther and Jon have just fucked in the back seat of a car whereupon Esther asks Jon why he prefers porn over real pussy:

Do you ever jerk off without porn,” asks Esther? That’s a game-changing question right there. In my experience, most men are totally dependent on visual stimulation or sexual fantasies in order to get turned on when they masturbate. Solo-sex for men is often an act lacking in intimacy and self-love. It becomes an aggressive beating off race towards the empty conclusion of a five-second cough sneeze.

If you masturbate like this, you will limit – even lose – your ability to bond intimately with a woman. Of course you will. How can you be intimate with a woman when you cannot be intimate with yourself? Authentic sexual power, even for men, requires loving self-acceptance, without which we are ill-equipped to truly penetrate a woman.

A man who is in deep acceptance of and connection with himself will become an instrument of not only pleasure, but also healing. If you have not yet experienced fucking a woman to a place of such deep surrender that she weeps – as the trauma of unlove is leaving her – you are missing out, brother.

In this next clip, Esther feeds Jon some humble pie before she opens him in a way he has never before experienced:

Oh my god, you haven’t come in a week,” exclaims Esther in this clip (Jon has stopped watching porn). I really enjoy this response. It’s as if Esther knows that his abstinence is another game-changer.

While it’s not explicitly stated in the movie, frequent ejaculation is a source of apathy and disconnection in many men. If you jerk off to porn (to the point of ejaculation) regularly and wonder why you have no willpower to make things happen in your life, I have provided you with a whole host of reading material and supplementary videos in the sidebar to the right (yes, if you jerk off to porn regularly, I challenge you to watch them in service of your joy and wellbeing).

Jon has stopped watching porn, hasn’t come in a week, and soon after experiences true sexual pleasure for the first time in his life. This is no coincidence, brothers. By willingly stepping out of addiction by way of a good woman’s inspiration, Jon moves out of archetypal shadow towards a more mature Lover.

Coming back to ourselves

Jon’s conditions for maturity aren’t ideal; his mother is hysterical, his father aggressive and his sister shut down. His friends applaud his life of one-night-stands and Barbara is a bit of a narcissist whose ideals live in la-la-land.

But Esther is connected to the realm of feelings and has the courage to speak what is true. Her husband and son died in a car-crash; what does she have to lose?

Esther initiates Jon into his humanity. A whole new world opens, one in which superficial appearances, fitting in and addictions cease to run the show, and authentic love and connection take their place. This, of course, requires a different level of vulnerability and transparency altogether, as the contrast between the sex in clip #1 and clip #4 should highlight.

Jon’s life has been all about the exterior. He has engaged in creating the perfect facade and chased the fulfillment of his addictions. And it has kept real connection, real fulfillment at bay.

And that’s the deal, brothers. Addiction grows out of a deficiency of love and when we become addicts, we basically make love deficiency the director of our lives.

And that is a fucking miserable and worthless way of spending a life on this planet.

(if you are an addict, stay tuned to the upcoming blogpost about working with addiction; I wish you joy!)

Powerful ideas from Don Jon

  • Excessive use of porn trains you to be lonely and have problems with sex
  • A good woman doesn't love your facade; she loves your real self
  • Surround yourself with friends who don't buy your bullshit
  • If your level of attraction to a woman arises from looks alone, you will never find real fulfillment
  • Addiction will likely turn you into a disempowered liar with no self-respect or integrity
  • Many men fear commitment not because they are studly Don Juans with an endless appetite for women, but because real connections with women leave them disempowered and clueless
  • When you engage in activities you know are bad for you, it will be followed by shame (indicated in this movie by the fact that Jon obsessively cleans his apartment every time he has succumbed to his addiction)

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