Friday, October 17, 2008

Just Give Me Jesus

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Porn addict becomes Jesus addict

My journey down the path of porn addiction began at a very early age. I recall being about 7 years of age when I saw my first Playboy. The neighbor boy across the street had smuggled the magazine from his father’s stash and we would frequently hide out in his backyard to peruse its pages. Gazing at those images, I began to feel stirrings in my body the likes of which I had never experienced before. I was amazed to think that these beautiful women would willingly take off all of their clothes and display their bodies for the entire world to see. I burned those images into every corner of my memory so that I could easily access them anytime I wanted.


So wrote Rick, the author of this Christian blog. Many Christians (including other bloggers) have expressed similar attractions to pictures of naked women. Here, Bill Gnade expresses his battle with lust:

I confess that I am guilty. I have looked at photographs (many!) that are indeed indecent, photographs presented in ostensibly up-scale magazines like Playboy, Penthouse, or some such 'proper' website. I apologize to the women that I've exploited, unwittingly perhaps, with each mouse click. I stand ashamed.

I don't quote either of these gentlemen in order to mock them (no, really). The question I have is why Jesus (or God) fails to renew their nature and make them new creatures in Christ free of such worldly desires.

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

All things, or only some things? But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. Matthew 5:28 This statement of Jesus has always puzzled me (at least if we assume that Jesus is the Son of God or God in the flesh and not just a fanatical cult leader who was a product of his religious time) because if he was who he claimed to be (or at least who the Christian Church claims him to be) then he was the creator of everything and even in his more limited in knowledge earthly incarnation he should have had some notion of why human sexuality is the way it is (was designed?). Without males throughout history looking on women to "lust after" them, none of us would be here. Somewhere in the chain that lead to you and me, a man copulated with a female human purely on the basis of physical attraction and biological urge.

Men are the primary consumers of all that is labeled pornography, be it the cheesecake of Playboy photo spreads or the graphic sex acts of Max Hardcore videos. Yet this is not a "sin" problem, as Christians would make it out to be, but rather a by-product of male sexuality. Why don't women consume porn in the same numbers and to the same degree? Are they less sinful? Are they just subject to different kinds of sin? But if it comes back to biology, how are we in any way to blame? Bill Gnade uses words such as "guilty" and "ashamed", clearly implying something more than simple lack of control of a bad habit. Certainly no sane person would deny that the uncontrolled indulgence of every impulse and desire is a bad thing. We could not have a civilized society if we gave in to everything that is natural and normal from an evolutionary standpoint. Unfortunately some do give in and often end up in prison or worse as a result. But there is a major difference between acknowledging that reality (reality is so inconvenient, isn't it?) and laying a guilt trip on every man (most of us) with a wandering eye; an eye that wanders because nature wants us to spread our genes as far and wide as possible. In which case it's not a sinful nature that's at fault, but God's deliberate choice to design the male brain in that way.


I apologize to the women that I've exploited...

Presumably those posing nude did so quite willingly and with their full consent; this is almost certainly the case with well-known publications such as Playboy and Penthouse. Who was exploiting whom? When a woman wears a provocative thong bikini to the beach, does someone like Gnade feel he is exploiting her if he finds himself momentarily aroused? Does he feel guilty and ashamed, or is it only the private viewing of images on a computer screen that elicits such feelings? Where is the recognition that male sexuality is different than female sexuality when it comes to thoughts and the strong desire to "look". One objection I have to traditional Christian teaching on this matter is the unnecessary guilt that overwhelms so many when they "lust" in their heart, even when they took no action and remained chaste. The teaching of Jesus in the verse above can be psychologically damaging because it equates thoughts with actions; notice Christ says that whoever looks at a women with lust has already committed adultery in their heart. Perhaps one could interpret his meaning as to simply be careful and watch one's thoughts, as they can lead to wrong actions. This is self-control, and most married men have uncounted thoughts of a sexual nature throughout each day without ever cheating on their wives. Of course many are unfaithful to their spouse, but that was happening long before the proliferation and semi-mainstreaming of nudity and pornography. I once heard on a Christian talk radio show a man confess to severe guilt feelings because he had "slipped up" and stared at a photo advertisement on the back of a bus that pictured a sexy young woman in a bathing suit, while he was stuck behind it in traffic at a red light. That is precisely the kind of thing I'm referring to when I say Christian teaching can be extremely harmful, causing one to question completely normal feelings and to interpret them as "sin".

Wet Dreams May Come

I never had an explicit sexual thought at the age of 7. That was too early for me. I remember looking at a copy of Playboy at a pre adolescent age and finding the photos inside a curiosity but not particularly arousing. That would change in a few years, and as I was getting close to twelve years old I found myself living with my mom and her second husband and my sister in a single room in Fat Annie's (as we called her) house. She was a woman with two teenage boys who was renting out rooms for extra income. Mom and Ray slept on the floor in front of the closet, while my sister and I shared the large bed that took up much of the room. Ray had a small collection of nudie magazines that he kept on the top shelf of the closet, and during the very short time we stayed there I suddenly had feelings that I'd never experienced before. I was getting erections just glancing at those photos, and at every opportunity I would sneak off to the bathroom with one of those magazines hidden somewhere within my clothing. I didn't masturbate at that point and had not yet had a wet dream (my first one would come-no pun intended-within the year), but I just could not help pouring over the centerfolds as I lay naked on the bathroom floor with my penis at full attention. That was thrill enough at the time, as it was all a new world to me; one week I had had no such desires and the next week they were all I could think about. Had I suddenly committed sexual sin, when just shortly before I was incapable of it? We all have such stories of our sexual awakening, and if there is something out of whack with the current ubiquity of extremely graphic sexual imagery, then there is also just as equally something terribly wrong with the view that to look at a woman with lust in your heart is something to be necessarily "ashamed" about.

Porn Again

Why do men, and in particular young men, find the viewing of porn so compelling? Would an 80 year old man with severely reduced testosterone levels find as much interest in those pictures as a twenty year old? Has the 80 year old guy become more virtuous and less sinful, or does he just not care much anymore? If so, how can guilt over the mere looking at such images (apart from other issues of addiction, which can come into play with any activity from watching television to eating candy) be the issue. Should you be guilty just for being a man? The extreme feminists would have it that way, and those feminists have a strange bedfellows alliance with the Christian right when it come to the anti-pornography crusades. Men look because it's part of who they are. Nothing, not even Jesus, can ever change that.


  1. Dear SE,

    You raise great questions here.

    Let me first remind your readers that my comments were framed in an essay about the sexual slave trade. Perhaps I have that wrong, but I don't think I do: I've made several references to pornography at my blog, and I believe all of them have something to do with denouncing any and all things that lead to the denigration and abuse of women.

    That said, you ask why men are more prone to pornography than women. Of course, I know you know the answer: men are intensely more visually oriented than women when it comes to sex. Women know this implicitly: otherwise they would not bother at all about how they look.

    Did God create men with different sexual triggers than women? Clearly, if there is no God, nature via evolution surely did give men and women different sexual triggers. Hence, it seems that if there is a God, then it was His intent that men and women respond differently one to the other.

    I will not here get into the whole culpability thing. But I will at least defend Christian men who struggle with sin; I will do so exactly in the same way St. Paul defended his own fallen-ness. Christianity has always taught that saints are simultaneously saints and sinners; that the Christian is in process, expunging the old nature while augmenting the new. There is a war in each Christian's very soul. I recognize that all this begs the question: is looking at pornography sinful? My answer to that is that it is sinful if the person struggling with it says it is (at the very least).

    I was reading the other day somewhere some commentary about the vulgar alleys women have to pass through in order to gain recognition in the porn industry (I think I was reading a story about the upcoming online PG-13 porn channel). Such alleyways are not pretty, even for many of the comeliest and innocent-looking centerfolds. It would be interesting to study psychological profiles of pornstars and porn models; one is tempted to conclude a priori that such women are not what one might call whole.

    Of course, none of is whole. But the fact remains that women are indeed exploited in the porn industry, big time.

    Moreover, this does not mean that men are not exploited themselves. On the contrary, men are indeed exploited as consumers of such imagery and activity: a vulnerability and appetite is preyed upon for monetary gain.

    I would point you to a poem I wrote about the sort of issues facing men who find themselves addicted to sex, prostitution, strip clubs, pornography and the like. Admittedly there are all sorts of addictions out there; there's nary a soul not struggling with something that "seeks" supremacy over one's life. But sexual addictions, as more and more research shows, are intensely powerful, linked as they are in psycho-somatic unity, where mind and body interact. It's one thing for an addict to shun the needle or the bottle; but for the sex addict, his (or her) needle is right in his own brain; nay, it is his own brain.

    Perhaps this passage clipped from the same essay you borrowed from will make my point even clearer:

    Men, lest we forget, are also victims of sexual degradation, in myriad ways. Battered women come to men in all forms: many of us are married to them, our wives having been victimized by fathers or brothers or former boyfriends (the worst culprits, usually), or the culture that begs women to throw their virtues to the wind. But we also, as men, know our own exploitation: We are told everyday in advertisements, books, magazines and porno-promos that sex is ALL we really want; that we are nothing but sex objects too, hungry with lust; that THEY know what we really, really need.

    Lastly, I would have you read (if you feel like it) my post about a murdered girl from the University of Vermont. The last few lines are potent. Check out "But Most Importantly, Our Sons."



  2. Bill, thank you so much for your comment. The "adult industry" as they call it, is indeed a sleazy one, with shady characters with little in the way of ethics filling its ranks, and if you examine some of the ways pretty young women are lured into it, it does make one think; when one buys a hardcore video, is one supporting this exploitation and furthering the ruination of lives? I will write more on this later, when I've had the time to ponder it all.

    You are not wrong to express these thoughts and feelings, and you may be more right than those who defend the porn culture we find ourselves in. I've struggled with this myself, both when I was a Christian and now as well.

    Thank you again, Bill. Your thoughtfulness and humanity always shine through, even when we disagree.



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