Monthly Archives: August 2018
Opening the Door to Your True IdentityIt’s basic physiology that an orgasmic response is functional in the male and female bodies of many animals. But the animal bodies of humans have an amazingly elevated status in creation. We surpass all other creatures, including angels, because we embody the image of the Creator. While a sex drive and the capacity for sexual enjoyment are parts of our total selves, our personally integrated self-image finds fulfillment only in reflecting the One whose image we bear. In that divine reflection alone can we realize our true value and true identity as individuals and as a race. The modern church isn’t silent about the porn epidemic. But it fails both society and its many porn-addicted members by ignoring the human body’s crucial role in imaging God. That neglect is behind the many religious attempts to fight porn with woman-unfriendly solutions based on body shame. Yet the Bible’s first and foremost adjectives used for describing God’s image are not theological or psychological terms but physical ones: “male and female.” Because Christians—when it comes to women’s bodies—have generally avoided the practical implications of this divine revelation, I believe God let prophetic voices outside the church have the floor. It may shame us to say so, but those who unconsciously use His principles to denounce pornography are most often feminists. Feminist lecturers are notorious for being the loudest and most outspoken in lambasting our culture for demeaning and exploiting women by reducing them to female body parts. They urge women to rebel against this sexualization—to toss the script that has them playing the role of society’s sex toys. When feminists exhort women to see themselves wholistically—finding their self-worth in the valuable persons they truly are, not in cultural or religious patterns that treat them as sexual objects—they are unconsciously preaching God’s truth. Why do women who hear and heed this part of the feminist message find freedom? Because the truth sets people free. Humanity’s “final frontier” isn’t to explore the cosmos but to discover who we really are. From childhood to old age, the search for personal identity is life’s grandest quest. Only in a personal relationship with “I AM” Exod 3:14), who created us as His image-bearers, can the question “Who am I?” be fully answered. New birth in Christ, who is “the express image of [God’s] person,” (Heb 1:3) begins the resolution of our cosmic identity crisis. But growth in Christ means learning to have His “mind” (Phil 2:5) toward others, who also bear God’s image. If we are putting others—like porn-models—ahead of ourselves (Phil 2:3), we won’t be profiting from their degradation but praying for their deliverance. Practicing Christ’s attitude of self-denial brings a market-crash to pornography, because the economy of porn is totally driven by self-interest.
Closing the Door on a False IdentityA false self-image translates into a false lifestyle. Eve took forbidden fruit because it seemed edible, pretty, and prestigious (Gen 3:6). It promised a world of physical, visual and personal satisfaction. But in warning us about gaining “the whole world” and losing our souls, Jesus said, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it,” (Mat 16:25). By living in surrender to “the mind of Christ,” we lose only our false selves, which have been either squeezed or stretched to fit worldly patterns. In union with Jesus alone we find our true selves, our full humanity. The porn-addicted woman’s freedom comes by living out her true identity in God, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Our human self-understanding comes from being created in the imago Dei. Male and female porn addiction, and the porno-prudery that fuels it, will persist until we mentally abandon the sexually objectified view of the human body taught by our upbringing. God’s evaluation of our naked embodiment—as His “very good” divine image and sacred temple—must reign supreme in our minds and hearts. A divine perspective on human anatomy and sexuality also calls us to a Creator-honoring view of masturbation. Because almost all porn addiction includes a collateral addiction to self stimulation, porn-addicted men and women hoping to find freedom need to evaluate this controversial issue cautiously but realistically. In closing the door on a false identity, the true self in Christ must dismiss the idea that retaining an obsession is essential for emotional survival. But many cycle through transient hope and recurring guilt from a unilateral condemnation of masturbation that isn’t found in Scripture. I believe that a more realistic understanding of the body’s sexual physiology may facilitate closure with this obsessive habit. One danger described by Jesus is mental “adultery” (Mat 5:28). To “look lustfully” is an activity of the imagination. In an imitative way, masturbation spurred by lustfully visualized or fantasized human images implies this mental sin of adultery. Objectifying the imago Dei, even if only imaginatively, is not part of our Christian identity but a latent habit typical of the false self. Shut the door on it. But open a door on realism. In Christ, we remain physiological beings. God’s created the mechanics of orgasmic function to include periodic discharges of the sex drive for our sense of well-being. This psycho-physical urge is often met by nocturnal orgasms. But when marital union is absent or orgasmic dreams fail, is it right to wallow in legalistic guilt for manually addressing this God-designed need? As “male and female” in God’s image, we must live out our physiology whether or not our genitals serve their procreative and conjugal purposes. Accepting our sexual identities means thanking God for the dynamics of orgasmic function. When a physiological build-up peaks, why call its manual release a “glitch” or a “sin,” when we should be praising God for our “fearfully and wonderfully made” bodies? But when someone claims to need masturbation daily or imagines its release must be assisted with pornographic images or lustful fantasies, it’s clear the deceitful false self is still in control.
Conclusion: a New Way of SeeingMen can quit their pornographic game of solitaire by ceasing to treat the female body as a self-gratifying sexual commodity. Women who gamble at the same table can find freedom by no longer treating their bodies as slot machines for pleasure-coins minted by the porn industry. There’s no jackpot of authentic self-esteem won with porn’s “play-money.” Women must stop selling themselves short of their true value as sexually embodied persons. Also, they must strongly resist those voices that sexually objectify their femininity, even if they resound from otherwise respected and honored pulpits. In a complete change of mind (metanoia, the Biblical word for repentance), a porn-addicted woman must learn to see and treat her body as a “temple” of the Holy Spirit, “fearfully and wonderfully made” in the image of her Almighty Creator. Her sexuality and its powerful drives are part of that holy temple and image. In that divine identity alone lies her freedom from porn addiction. This closing poem conveys my strong feelings about the nature of our gender-distinctive bodies as God’s sacred territory. It is perhaps my most impassioned rebuke to society and religion for objectifying women, whose bodies were meant to reflect their Maker.
WOMANShe is woman . . . and much abused: Her lovely womb and breasts and buttocks were infused With sordid meaning, twisted thought, By vain imagination packaged, sold, and bought. A wayward culture holds her chain, And even sermons preach the sex-obsessed refrain That turns her body parts and skin Into ignition points for carnal lust and sin. Yet in her flesh, along with man, She bears the image of the Maker’s master plan For a Self-portrait, so designed That in their bodies they declare His holy mind. God’s leadership and strength is shown In shoulder breadth and muscle, for which men are known. But women’s wombs, that swell for birth, Reflect God’s own heart pregnant with creation’s worth. And in their breasts, where babies feed, We see the nurture from God’s bosom humans need. These signs laid bare in wholesome light Should launch our souls to praise God’s glory at the sight. She is woman. . . . Lord, set her free To be the temple You intended her to be. And let Your church repent her rape, By calling lewd the beauty of her shape. Since in her flesh You wish to dwell, Lord, damn these lies that make her form a path to hell. David L. Hatton, 12/31/2009 (from Poems Between Birth and Resurrection© 2013) Just as this poem expresses my heart’s true prayer, I pray this article reveals the truth that can set you free. Your freedom must begin with Jesus—the Truth Who is a Person and Who makes us God’s children by new birth. That freedom continues as Christ’s view of the body and of human sexuality affirms the sacred, gender-distinctive embodiment of both yourself and others. Believing, adopting and applying His view of reality will close your account with pornography’s fantasy world. God’s grace through the Holy Spirit is ever-present to support your decision to embrace His truth, and the pastoral team at MCAG are here to assist in whatever way we can.
Depersonalized, Then CommercializedIn good mental health, all aspects of a person are integrated. God’s plan of salvation and sanctification targets our “whole spirit and soul and body” (1 Thes 5:23). When bare bodies are objectified, it isolates them from the people who live in them. Also, disassociating gender-distinctive body parts from their owner fails to treat them as true components of personal identity. It reduces men and women to something less than their full humanity. Such a reduction is the essential groundwork for pornography’s success. While God created us “male and female” for the purpose of reproduction (Gen 1:27-28a), He also designed our reproductive anatomy to offer mutual pleasure during sexual intercourse. God blessed us with this orgasmic gift to enhance relational communion between spouses. But this physiological capacity works before marriage and beyond reproductive purposes. This means coitus can be immorally misused outside the marital bond and the orgasmic function immorally abused through pornographic fantasies. Just as objectification isolates the body from the person, so pleasurable sexual activity can become disassociated from divine intentions. This rift—between sexual thrill-seeking and God’s plan for wedded love—commercializes sexuality, turning it into a form of promiscuous pleasure-shopping. Porn is profitable only because sex sells. Objectified sexual thrill is its currency.
The Way In . . . But Why Stay In?Because secrecy surrounds involvement in pornography, some porn-addicted women believe they are alone or in a shameful minority: “Only bad girls, like me, get into such a ‘filthy’ habit.” Others may assume their stories are identical to those of all others who get hooked on pornography. But just as men get drawn into porn in a variety of ways, so do women. My research leads me to believe that most women who presently struggle with porn will resonate with at least one or more of the following scenarios. Some girls started out merely trying to satisfy natural, childhood curiosity. When families and churches failed to provide safe, wholesome avenues for familiarity with nonsexual human nudity, these girls checked out the Web. There, the porn industry filled this educational void from its own twisted agenda. With the ongoing help of pornography, a legitimate fascination with God’s magnificent artistry in the human body gradually morphed into fantasizing forbidden activities on the devil’s playground. Nothing in creation surpasses the grace and glory revealed in the embodiment of God’s image. But pornography uses the awesomely handcrafted beauty in the naked human body as a hook, distorting its glory-filled reflection, perverting its sacred display, and effectively blocking godly thoughts about it. Once captured by porn’s false image of our gender-distinctive anatomy, girls raised in prudish and legalistic environments may see no hope of escape. The shame of their sinful habits—especially when erroneously labeled as “only a male problem”—walls off any hope for help from church leaders whose unreal assumptions merely fan the flames of their shame. Sometimes it was youthful self-exploration that led adventurous girls from pleasant sensations of self-stimulation into compulsive habits associated with porn. God’s marital reason for creating the pleasure of orgasms is not canceled by their misuse. Whether they come from coitus or from masturbation, their divine design includes an elevated brain-chemical “high” that begs repeating:
Orgasm releases a dopamine-oxytocin high that has been compared to a heroin hit, and many regular users of internet porn report experiencing an almost trance-like effect that not only makes them feel oblivious to the world, but also gives them a sense of power that they don’t have in real life. “The PC becomes an erogenous zone. The more you keep trying to put porn out of your mind, the more it keeps popping back in. The brain then learns that porn is the only way to cope with anxiety. . . .” While both men and women may use pornographic images as fantasy-support for masturbation, most men can manually induce a climax without visual stimulus. Some women seek an imaginative narration beyond the visual in order to supplement their stimulation. One woman privately confided to me:
“. . . it’s generally very important to have some kind of story or text – just pictures don’t usually do anything for me, at least. And that makes it nigh impossible to masturbate without fantasizing or using porn to provide that mental component. . . . So while men may be able to orgasm just from the physical act of masturbation, I think women in general will find that far more difficult, and that greatly limits our ability to relieve our sex drives.”When a repetitive neuro-chemical reward is coupled with a woman’s heightened need for the fantasy inherent in porn, she may feel helpless in trying to break free from her addiction. Another sad scenario is where a girl’s first experience with nudity was that of having her own body sexually assaulted. Childhood’s defenseless submission to such degrading abuse can cause her to grow up feeling “dirty,” worthless, never again “normal.” But if she finds her past sexual trauma visually glamorized in pornography, the discovery might distort her memory by reinterpreting reality: “See! My experiences were typical, expected, even desirable.” This can make their porn habit a temporary “feel-good” salve to soothe the hurt of old wounds that become repressed while growing deeper. Or worse, that same girl might have falsely identified with her abuse: “Just like these girls in the videos, I gravitate toward this crap! I’m one of them!” Past sexual trauma, present sexual sin, or even the continuation of watching porn itself—while realizing its wrongness—can perpetuate her sense of defilement. She may hide this falsely adopted self-identity beneath the personal facade of “a normal girl.” Yet this carefully constructed social mask may actually be more her than her unhealed self is willing or able to believe. A woman might have been misled to feel religious shame for even having a strong sex drive—a trait mistakenly preached as only characterizing men. Sadly, this religious error may push her toward involvement with porn as a dysfunctional way to confirm her guilt-ridden self-concept: “It’s my curse . . . I’m so messed up, it can’t be fixed!” Because of such self-deprecating thoughts, porn usage may serve as an indirect form of self-punishment, which a girl imagines she deserves for what she feel is her “oversexed” disposition. This shame factor might also be connected to a fear of intimacy. Imaginary individuals are less threatening than real persons. A sex object comes without the personal expectations of a living subject. Fantasy-lust and cyber-sex require none of the demanding work of a real relationship, like the one sealed in a for-better-or-worse marriage vow between two strong personal wills. The porn addict is seemingly on her own, in control. No need to fear conflict, failed performance, lack of acceptance, venereal diseases, unintended pregnancies, and all the other messy risks that self-sex is able to avoid. But porn’s promise is a lie: the sexual autonomy it offers is a ploy that eventually puts porn in the driver’s seat. I’ve also known women whose first exposure to porn was through boyfriends who had them watch sex-ploitation videos to see how other girls performed the popular perversions. Emotionally duped into thinking, “This is how to win and keep his affection,” they began emulating the persona of submissive girls portrayed by porn stars. The unconscious result of this repetitive role-playing was to adopt the mindset of the script. The role itself took over, giving her a new self-image. She became the star of a distorted drama played out on a stage of sexual props with porn as the director.
Your Investment in Female DepreciationIt’s obvious to all porn-addicted women, as well as to everyone else, that these pornographic portrayals are grossly demeaning to females. The girls involved are being virtually raped, often violently. So, what’s the kickback? Where’s the remuneration? There must be a takeaway. Otherwise, why did so many women devour the erotic “bondage” novel 50 Shades of Grey, turning it into a bestseller and making its movie-version a 500-million-dollar blockbuster? Beyond investing in the porn-drama for orgasmic excitement, a woman can find in porn’s objectified sexual thrill a kind of mental cash-flow. Even if she knows her body isn’t the “eye candy” showcased by porn-models, her equipment still works in the pleasure-market. The more she buys stock in pornography’s monopoly game, the more she gains imaginary sexual leverage, a mental form of sexual clout, validated by its orgasmic payoff. Because porn advertises her value in a consumer-relationship with men, tapping into that evaluation becomes an emotional “fix,” a shot of self-confidence, a reassurance of power in porn’s fictional economy. But her rewards are as fictitious as the treasures won in a role-playing computer game. Contemplate carefully the full impact of this repeating cycle. The porn addict transfers a young model’s deposit of lost personal dignity into her own account as a stimulating sexual dividend. For this transaction to work without realistically falling apart, the porn model must never be seen as a real person with normal desires and emotions. She must remain an object, a tool, a trade-commodity. Banish the thought that she might be a troubled teen, a high school drop-out, or a single mom selling her body like a prostitute to make ends meet. The addict’s mind must stay self-absorbed, focused on self-gratification, until the episode plays out to its literal climax. And the mental block must continue even after the session ends, or guilt from the porn addict’s lack of compassion will only add to the pain of emotional emptiness left by pornography’s aftermath. For women caught up in this depressing game, porn has already determined their net worth in terms of their body parts. They watch men seemingly control the commerce, but they get to treat their own bodies as the sought-after merchandise. Although they must watch nameless girls become objects for sexual consumption, they can make a short-term profit from this arrangement by temporarily joining it, imagining themselves a part of the show. But participation in that fantasy—either to release tension by an orgasmic high or to replenish an emotionally diminished sexual ego—has a long-term downside: the porn-addicted woman spends her true self-worth on imaginary relational assets which are totally worthless in real life.
Endnotes: 1. For an extensive testimonial that exemplifies how shame prevents seeking or finding help from those who legalistically teach prudery and body shame, read the book by Jessica Harris, Beggar’s Daughter (2016).
2. “Why More and More Women Are Using Pornography” in The Guardian (April 7, 2011); quote by Jason Dean, a counselor to the porn-addicted.[Do not stop where Part One of this article ends, that is, with a descriptive explanation of the porn-addicted woman’s plight. Part Two (click here) follows with the heart of God’s answer for her liberation.]