Few people know about the summer I struggled with porn and erotic chat rooms. I realize this kind of confession from a Christian woman may be shocking. And that is precisely why we need to talk about it. We need to stop pretending men are the only ones who can struggle with porn and lustful masturbation.
You may be wondering: But why? What’s the big deal with watching porn, reading erotica? And masturbation is not, like, murder! The big deal is what no one told me when I was a teenager, curious and with a low sense of self-worth. I grew up knowing I should save sex itself for marriage, but I didn’t know what to do with the rest of my God-given sexuality.
So for me it started because I was curious; curious if I could experience what sexually suggestive scenes in mainstream movies implied. And it continued because I didn’t have a strong sense of how much God loves me. It continued sporadically into my early 20s, escalating to that summer when I began watching porn and participating in erotic chat rooms.
By God’s grace that summer of struggle is now a hazy memory, but I do remember the self-loathing. I was surprisingly ashamed. I say surprisingly, because culture tells us how satisfying the pleasure of enjoying your own sexuality is. So I wasn’t expecting to feel even lonelier, degraded rather than gratified.
No one tells you how “dirty” you can feel from it. Or how it doesn’t ease loneliness, it increases it. Most movies, TV shows, and certain best-selling books won’t pull the curtain back from their pride, lies, and greed. They won’t tell you (often because they’re blind to it) that their message of “sexual freedom,” is actually a mechanism of bondage.
If they’re not blind to the impact they can have on lives, then they simply don’t care about it – don’t care about you. And boy is there ever an impact: I remember what it felt like for a then-boyfriend to confess to watching porn while I was in the next room. And I’m reminded of the countless times I hear of porn devastating marriages or leading to adultery. I even wonder sometimes what seeds it sowed that eventually blossomed into my own adultery.
But it’s no wonder it does so much damage in people’s lives, married or not. Because no matter how much we try, we cannot expect to step outside of God’s design and not experience side effects of that. No matter how much permission the world gives us to lustfully “liberate” our sexuality from the “prudish” parameters of monogamy, modesty and abstinence – that human permission cannot override God’s divine design.
And just because we may not like God’s design, doesn’t change the design and how it functions. You may not like that your car needs gasoline, but that’s how it was designed. You wouldn’t dare try running errands on a tank of orange juice, so then consider how much more reverence we should have for how we’re designed.
Even “secular” science has shown how certain acts of sexuality can alter our minds, memories – and even brain chemistry. This is especially true for men, but ladies we have to stop pretending we’re off the hook. In fact, according to XXXChurch.com, 9.4 million women access adult Web sites each month.
I am so grateful for churches, ministries, and other organizations that are raising awareness and aiding men struggling with porn. But sometimes it feels like there is too much finger-pointing going on. Truthfully, I get tired of the testimonials that depict the woman as a victim, and the husband as the “bad guy”.
That’s why blogger Sarah Markley’s marriage testimony was so refreshing to watch the other day. In it, she talks candidly about her use of porn – as a Christian woman – prior to committing adultery. We need more candidness, ladies, and without it we’re not doing ourselves any favors by pretending we never struggle sexually.
We’re also not doing our brothers in Christ any favors: what kind of sisters are we to not stand with our brothers? Certainly with a subject like porn, and struggles with sexuality, there needs to be wisdom in how we women collaborate with or encourage men. But one of the best things we can do is start taking off our masks with other women.
In fact, I’m not sure I’d be writing this right now, if it weren’t for a courageous acquaintance who confided in me a few months ago. She shared with me about her struggles – and like Jericho, walls came down. And therein lies the beauty of God’s design, when we confess and receive forgiveness; when we bring things into the light; when we get real with each other.
That’s also part of the good news about His design. We’ve forgotten – at times me, too – that we can experience the best fulfillment within His design. That God is not some stale prude who just doesn’t understand us and our needs. (After all, sex was His idea in the first place!) But we have to stop believing the lies. We have to start getting real.
And when we make mistakes, we have to remember that we have a Redeemer at the ready, with loving, healing arms wide open.
Rebecca Halton is the author of Words from the Other Woman: The True Account of a Redeemed Adulteress. She’s currently enjoying Nashville, where she works as a professional writer and wishfully daydreams down aisles of cowgirl boots. But as a former military kid Rebecca’s learned to make the most of wherever God leads her – and not just geographically. She’d love to personally connect with you, through www.rebeccahalton.com.