For those who have known me for a while, you have heard of my struggles with pornography. It is something I have fought with since I was about 12 years old, encompassing now the majority of my life.
It may surprise people to hear that my faith in Christ Jesus is not what gives me the most pause in my struggles with pornography. I know I am saved by Christ Jesus, and no matter how much I look at pornography and lust in my heart that will never change. All my sins, past, present, and future are forgiven. Yes I am adding sins to that cross, but nothing can take me out of the arms of Christ Jesus. Indeed, this situation, my continued state of struggle in my saved state is one reason why I react so negatively against antinomianism, and why one of my greater theological interests is in the theology of sanctification.
But when it comes down to that, when I am depressed against my continued sin as it relates to my struggles with pornography, what helps me the most to turn away from that evil in my life is to remember that there is a person there behind that image. Some say that pornography is a victimless vice. Unlike drugs or alcohol, a person sitting at home looking at a magazine or a computer screen is not bothering anyone. Lets set aside the effect that person’s action has on the people around them, especially if they are married, have kids, are in a relationship, or frankly anyone in their live. Rather let’s look at the person on the other side of the screen.
Statistics have regularly shown that significant portions of those involved in pornography (in particular the women involved), have some kind of traumatic experience in their past. Emotional abuse yes, but more so physical abuse at the hands of someone, whether a family member or a stranger. This trauma sends them into a self-deprecating spiral and into a “career” which only enforces those feelings of guilt they have for something that was never their fault to begin with.
Other women get involved, at least initially, to “pay the bills”, such as struggling actresses or models trying to make ends meet. Once in, the very structure of the industry makes it almost impossible to leave voluntarily. They become consumable objects based on the demand of those looking at the images in magazines or online.
It is a feel good lie that those who look at pornography sometimes tell themselves, that everything is always consensual. There even are statements by the sites and magazines that tell us this is true. Yet how do we know? We don’t! Indeed there are prostitutes in this country that are all but slaves to their “pimps”, who work the streets at the command of someone else, who have no say in the matter. In many cases all pornography is, is the filming of these prostitute encounters.
But lets say that we can guarantee beyond a shadow of a doubt that a particular website or magazine only has 100% consensual acts, that no women are coerced in anyway, and all are checked out by a psychiatrist to make sure they are not driven to this because of abuse in their past; that we can prove that that woman is doing this because they genuinely like doing pornography. What then?
For me this comes down to one undeniable fact. That woman is someone’s daughter; she is someone’s sister, someone’s mother, someone’s cousin, someone’s wife, and someone’s best friend. I think how I would feel if 30 or so years in the future, after I have a family and the kids leave the house if I were to be looking at porn online and suddenly find myself looking at my own daughter! The disgust at myself would be unbearable! Even now, there have been times where women that I have seen on these websites have looked very much like girls I know. Schoolmates, friends, even family. And it bothers me! It sickens me! And I get worried, wondering if it really is them! If everything is all right, or if there is some pain in their past that is driving them too this.
And then I think, does it really make a difference if I know the person or don’t? I mean, why should my reaction be any different if I see someone I think I know (assuming it is just someone who looks like them), when those women actually have fathers, brothers, sons, cousins, friends, ect of their own! Is it ok to look at images of other peoples daughters but not my own? Indeed, I would not want people lusting after images of my daughter, sister, cousin, friend, even if I am not! So why do I do it to the woman in other peoples lives?
They say that pornography is a victimless vice, but that could not be further from the truth.