Sara and I wanted to write a letter to you about something we don’t often talk about: pornography. If you are anything like me, you were introduced to pornography at a fairly young age. You may view pornography as normal and just as something that men and boys look at (whether it’s videos or photographs). You may believe it exists because guys need it. I engaged in pornography and masturbation because it felt good and I then justified this behavior with the belief that guys need to release the hormonal/sexual tension that arises in them. Yet, like me, you may also see this as an embarrassing and addictive behavior. But what you probably don’t fully realize is the distorted view pornography gives you of women and how it hurts not only them, but you as well.
When I would look at pornography I justified it by saying that it’s not hurting anyone; it’s only between me and the images I am looking at. Upon becoming a follower of Christ, those images, videos, and ideas stayed in my head. As I continued to date, I realized that I had unfair and unattainable expectations of the women in my life. Their inability to reach the expectations set by pornography repeatedly left me frustrated and feeling unsatisfied. Looking back, it is clear that my pornography use hurt me and my relationships with women. It also hurt my relationship with God. When we do not view others like God does, we are separating ourselves from him.
I agree with Andy that most people don’t realize the negative consequences of pornography. The problem is that you have grown up in a culture that has a “pornographic view” of women: the view that women are to serve as sexual toys or exist as nothing more than temptations for men. It is a view that makes it difficult to understand women as equals and partners and therefore makes it easy to treat women as less than human. The reality is that pornography robs and steals life, and separates us from each other.
So I am glad that you are reading this letter. First of all, I want you to know that you don’t need to live in shame if you are struggling with pornography. God wants to do the work of restoration in all of our lives. Yet I also don’t want you to be ignorant of the devastating effects of pornography. Let me explain further.
As a Christian woman, I have experienced the effects of pornography in my own life and have seen it affect the lives of those around me. Many wonderful women I have known live every day believing that they are inadequate and incapable because they cannot live up to the ideals they see around them. These images are something we cannot fulfill, not only because they consist of the most beautiful people in the world, but also because they portray an animalistic sexiness that no fully human woman embodies.
I once worked with a youth group in which there was one student in particular who would never make eye contact with me or follow my directions. However, when our male pastor came alongside of him, he would listen. The reasons why this happened are many, but it is significant that he had grown up in a family with a father who was addicted to pornography and, at the age of thirteen, was also addicted himself. He was unable to show me respect because women were not people to engage with as leaders — they were images that existed for his gratification.
Hearing stories like Sara’s is important because it is uncommon to hear about the problems caused by pornography. It is a topic most of us are afraid to talk about. How often have you heard about lust and pornography in your church? Possibly never. I sure hadn’t. I want to challenge you to begin talking about the problem — if you don’t become comfortable discussing this area of your life, then the healing and correction process can never begin.
Overcoming the addiction to pornography is not easy, nor is it something that can be done by yourself. I know I am where I am today because I have recognized my failures and now, through a lot of prayer and accountability relationships with some solid men, I have worked through this addiction. Now I have come to the point where I have accepted my forgiveness from Christ for my past lustful pornographic mistakes. I am not perfect, nor do I claim to be. Will there be mistakes in the future? There will be. I confess that I do not have all the answers nor do I think I have fully mastered a healthy sexuality. Every day is a constant struggle and battle with the temptation of lustful desires, but the difference now is that I recognize the temptations and know how to combat them with Christ’s help and the help of close friends.
If you are battling against the temptation of pornography, I encourage you to be honest with yourself and to also open up and be real with some people you can trust. They are most likely struggling with the same temptations. You might want to check out a study that has been very helpful to me called “Lust Free Living.”
Being in relationship with Andy has been amazing. He is a man that I know sees me as a whole person. I can’t tell you how freeing and life-giving this is! I don’t feel the need to be anyone other than who I am, and I know that I provide the same support and love to him. I am passionate about seeing pornography come to an end because as we address this sin, we become united as the body of Christ, and men and women can live in a place of compassionate trust with one another. Andy and I could not enjoy a healthy relationship if we allowed pornography to rob us of this unity and trust. You see, our humanity is only enhanced as the fullness of each other’s humanity is embraced. As you continue to view women as your sisters and as fully human, you will find your own humanity and life becomes so much richer. This is authentic relationship the way Christ intends.
I hope that through our letter you understand more of how pornography devastates both men and women. We encourage you to take the step of courage and begin acknowledging this problem so that you can be free to experience God’s love more fully, and love your sisters in the vein of the promise of Colossians 3:9-11: “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”
Know that we are praying for you as you walk this journey!