Laura wrote in the entry about Lady Gaga:
“Sexual and violent images are arousing. Young adults imitate what they see, and to a certain extent we all do. And, sure while they’re having sadomasochistic sex, they may be thinking, “This is the apotheosis of decay. I am rebelling by indulging in the worst,” but they have destroyed their souls in the process. You may say, “Well, no. They don’t imitate what they see in Gaga precisely because it’s so horrific.” But then I think you deny the subliminal power of the visual, and how exposure to any images of violent sex, whatever the symbolism or intellectual message, makes it hard to perceive and know beauty. Even for married people, it impedes delight in their bodies and intimacy, though it may be temporarily stimulating.”
This is well said, and I wish every one of your readers would get this into their psyche. Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned (Prov. 6:27)? The question answers itself, yet people persist. And there’s no sanctimonious judgment on my part when I say this, because I was among those people. And I’ve been burned by my experiences.
Some philosophical types shrug off pornography as banal, but then, as you’ve indicated, banal is not benign. Speaking for myself, I wish I’d never laid eyes on pornography. I remember the first time I came across it at a sleep-away summer camp when I was 12 or 13. A counselor had showed us a magazine with two European couples engaged in oral sex in some wooded area. I was initially disgusted. But it didn’t take long for disgust to turn to curiosity, then fascination, then titillation, then out-and-out lascivious yearning. In my teenage years (i.e., during the 1980’s), I rented porn videos, which only led my appetite to grow more insatiable. On one occasion, I was at a house party (parents absent) where I watched such videos in a group setting. (Yeah, great crowd I was running with!) Anyway, those of us who weren’t into sex were into drugs. The druggies were upstairs doing their thing. One guy had passed out on the floor after hyperventilating PAM out of a sandwich bag – an act that I remember thinking was an unbearably stupid thing to do to one’s brain cells. Meanwhile, others among us were downstairs, drinking beer, eyes transfixed to the 20” TV screen, with VCR images of group sex, up-close-coitus, etc.
It didn’t occur to me at the time that I was engaged in self-destructive activity that was, in a way, similar to what Mr. Hyperventilation was doing to himself. From 18 onward – I was a relatively late starter, by today’s standards – I began having sexual relationships with numerous partners. I’m sure I crossed the line into experimenting with homosexuality, depending on how you’d define it, but thankfully this side of things never progressed.
In the early 90’s I began to be very much convicted about my own lifestyle, and started looking for answers, exploring Christianity, first from the periphery, then in a more serious way. But still, I had allowed myself to be corrupted, and even though I could intellectually acknowledge the emptiness of casual porn sex, that mental awareness did absolutely nothing to remove the cravings, the unholy desires. (Would that our detached, philosophical friends would appreciate the total depravity of the human heart, and its susceptibility to evil — Jer. 17:9.)
When you said in the above quote that people who live out the porn lifestyle have “destroyed their souls,” I would only modify the statement as follows: they have scarred their souls. Soul destruction can yet be avoided, and in my case I came to Christ in my 30’s, which gave me a new start. But the scars remain. The things I was exposed to and acted out in my teens and 20’s still affect me today. I’m now 42, married to a good woman who never experienced what I did (fortunately for her), but I can tell you that my exposure to pornography has affected our marital life. It’s not an insurmountable problem, it’s not too great for God’s grace, but let’s just say it’s taken time to begin to enjoy normal sexual relations and also to discipline my mind not to drift to pornographic thoughts, which will do me nothing but harm. This has been an uphill battle.
We have two beautiful young children, a girl and a boy, and I regard it as my sacred duty to protect them. Among other things, this means there will be no watching Lady Gaga in my house to discuss why it is empty, bad, or whatever. Just to watch such things is to be defiled, and to open others up to temptation that they may live to curse me for.
— Comments –
That’s very moving. Thank you very much for describing your experience.
Your comment “I wish I’d never laid eyes on it” is painful. It’s painful for all parents. It takes so little to draw people in, and here we are living in a world where pornography is readily available like never before. Our children’s innocence is so imperiled.
I agree with your point that it is a scarring of the soul, not destruction.
Yes, and now the girls are into it. They say porn gets a grip on men more than women, because men are more visual creatures … which is true, but it seems to me that, as they become more masculine in other areas, women are increasingly aroused visually as well.
I think you are right. The more masculine women become, or maybe the more image-saturated our culture becomes, the more they are aroused by images in the way men are.
A reader writes:
Here are excerpts from an interview with Laurie Hall on the effect of porn:
Pornography has a profound effect on the body. For example, there is a neurological impact on the brain. When you fantasize, you create neural pathways. The more you think about a thought, the more you reinforce that neural pathway!
So there is actually a physiological, neurological effect in the brain in the thoughts associated with pornography. Also, pornography causes you to release endorphins, so what you’re really doing is you’re becoming a drug addict. You’re self-medicating. And that’s why it’s so difficult to break this addiction …
The other thing that happens in our soul when we’re exposed to pornography is that our belief system begins to change. It takes as little as six one-hour exposures to soft-core pornography to change your belief systems. Men begin to view faithfulness as a less important quality in their own lives. They come to have great dissatisfaction with their sexual partner. They come to trivialize the crime of rape. They also begin to believe that women deserve to be disrespected. States that have the highest readership of porn have the highest rates of domestic violence and rape. All of that is what happens in the mind when you begin to believe the lies that are attached to pornography…
In order to be intimate you have to live in truth. Intimacy is about allowing somebody to see all the way inside of you. If you’re hiding something from yourself or from them, then you’re not going to allow yourself to open up and allow somebody to come in and see you. People don’t realize that pornography completely robs them of the ability to enter into lasting and satisfying relationships …
One of the things that I realize more and more from all this is – when God says something in his word he doesn’t say it because he wants us to live a life without any kind of joy or happiness. He says it because he knows that certain actions cause consequences that are so long reaching and so devastating. And he wants us to avoid those kinds of devastations in our lives. That’s why he says, “Don’t commit adultery.” That’s why he says, “Keep sex inside marriage because to do otherwise is to cause all the hopes of your life, all the dreams of your life to be completely devastated.” That’s a tough thing to come back from.
The reader adds:
Jenny Speed had some of the same experiences as Laurie Hall. She was frustrated in her desire for an intimate relationship with her husband, and she was blamed by others for their marriage problems. Paul and Jenny Speed now have a ministry called “Whatever It Takes,” and their online articles may be of help to others.
Obviously, Mark’s experience with pornography is tragic and I wish he could have been spared the difficulties it has brought him. At the same time, I could not miss his swipes at this blog’s “detached, philosophical friends.” In light of our recent discussion of Lady Gaga, I think I have reasonable grounds for assuming he intends to indicate me, and perhaps others as well, through the use of this phrase. I have never understood why a calm, reflective analysis of any cultural phenomenon is somehow considered approval of (or at least lack of concern about) said phenomenon. Would the cause of Christ be better served if I were hysterical? Would it be better served by flaming indignation and contemptuous condemnation?
As far as the larger discussion of pornography goes, while I agree that pornography, its use and production involves a great deal of damaging immorality, discussions of this topic among Christians often seem suffused with misandrist assumptions.
In the foregoing discussion, these assumptions are most obvious in the quotes from Laura Hall. In the paragraph where she is discussing pornography and belief change she argues that the causal agent in men’s belief change is pornography. No doubt she is drawing this information from social science studies done in the academy where misandrist, feminist assumptions are thick like flies on rotting garbage. To imagine that these feminist assumptions don’t shape the interpretation of these studies’ findings is naive.
Also, she argues that men who watch pornography “men begin to view faithfulness as a less important quality in their own lives. They come to have great dissatisfaction with their sexual partner.” It is quite possible that a confounding variable is at play here. Isn’t it possible that men who because they know actual, real women, who have had their hearts trampled on by women, who have been manipulated and damaged by our feminist, misandrist culture “begin to view faithfulness as a less important quality in their own lives,” and “come to have great dissatisfaction with their sexual partner.” Some of these men, in their despair, begin to use pornography. Pornography might very well not be the cause of their negative beliefs about women, but a result of experiences with real women that have caused their cherished illusions to crumble.
Hall and others also say that pornography makes intimacy between the sexes more difficult. Intimacy, according to these thinkers means, “allowing somebody to see all the way inside of you.”
This seems absurd to me. Most women say they want to allow someone to see all the way inside of them, but the truth is they only want the Alpha to do that,even then they want to hide much of who they are to keep him engaged. Most women also, I think, have very little interest in seeing all the way inside their man. How successful a husband or boyfriend do you think a guy would be who allowed women to see all his insecurities and fears? Women would run.
Again, I’m not defending pornography. But, I do think that one reason the problem seems so intractable is that those who are concerned about it consistently discuss it in misandrist terms.
Flaming indignation is more important at times than detached analysis, but within the parameters of the Lady Gaga discussion, I don’t think Youngfogey’s detachment was excessive nor do I think he dismissed the dangers she represented. And, that’s why his questions were reasonable: he didn’t say, “Why make such a fuss?”
I agree that feminism is rife in public criticism of pornography. I don’t think Laura Hall’s comment that men “begin to view faithfulness as a less important quality” can be proven. Many married men view pornography and do not seek divorce or have affairs. The problem with pornography is that arouses expectations it cannot satisfy and this may not cause faithlessness but spiritual harm.
Youngfogey says, Most women say they want to allow someone to see all the way inside of them, but the truth is they only want the Alpha to do that, even then they want to hide much of who they are to keep him engaged.
Well, this is extreme. I’m not sure what you mean by an “Alpha man” in the context of marriage. Are “most women” still shopping around when they are married? Certainly some are. And, yes while women claim they want intimacy, they often don’t want others to see their worst faults, still in marriage many women are not so totally self-absorbed or idiotic that they do not think that intimacy comes with a price to their image. The idea that “most women” run from men’s insecurities and fears in marriage is hogwash. What you are saying is “most women” are incapable of love.
The problem with the obsession with pornography by feminists is that they do not at all acknowledge the things women do that are comparably dangerous to marriage, such as indulging their longings for romance, their obsessions with what I have called “emotional pornography.” If visual pornography involves titillation of the senses, emotional pornography involves titillation of the sentiments, causing spiritual harm and danger to marriage.
You wrote “I’m not sure what you mean by an ‘Alpha man’ in the context of marriage. Are ‘most women’ still shopping around when they are married?”
Well, yes and no. While many women will never have an affair or cheat on the husbands, I think the default mode of operation for many women is to compare their husbands to their Alpha ideal, an imaginary composite of every quality they find attractive. Secretly, she considers only this imaginary man worthy of “seeing all the way inside her.” So, while many women are not actively looking for someone with whom they can have an extra-marital dalliance (although many are) they continue to “shop around” in that they compare their husbands to other men, find him wanting and begin holding him in contempt.
One of the claims critics of pornography make is that men who use it will begin to compare their wives to the women they see in the magazines or in the videos. I think this actually happens much less than the critics think. This charge gets its life not from what actually happens in men’s experience, but because women fear being compared and falling short. They fear it because it is what they do to men in their private thoughts. They fear men will do the same.
You wrote “in marriage many women are not so totally self-absorbed or idiotic that they do not think that intimacy comes with a price to their image.” Perhaps, many women are not, but many, many are. Most are, I suspect.
You wrote “I think the idea that ‘most women’ run from men’s insecurities and fears in marriage is hogwash.” Why do you think this? I see it all the time. Women perceive their men as insecure and weak, compare him to their Alpha ideal and hold him in contempt which, I suppose, is slightly different from running.
You wrote “what you are saying is “most women” are incapable of love.” I’m not sure that is what I said, but now that you have said it, I will admit I think that it is mostly correct. I think the majority of women in our misandrist culture, are actually misandrists and have been reared to despise men and yes, this training gets in the way of their ability to love.
I agree feminism has encouraged women to be contemptuous of men, and that this can be seen in millions of divorces. Women have betrayed men, on a cultural and individual level.
But I think you exaggerate, as so many critics in the men’s rights movement do, always reducing the behavior of women toward men to this focus on the “Alpha,” never recognizing other motives, never acknowledging the many women who are faithful and capable of love. What you say is partly true, but you exaggerate.
You wrote, “I think you exaggerate, as so many critics in the men’s rights movement do, always reducing the behavior of women toward men to this focus on the “Alpha,” never recognizing other motives…”
Perhaps you are correct. What motives for women’s behavior do you think I am missing?
What other motives? The desire to care for men and children, to master the needs of others and discover what these are.
The interests of all human beings are partly selfish, and so are these. But not entirely. There is enlightened service to others. I see it among women often.