The First Time I Saw Porn

I originally sat down to write about what all I’ve learned about pornography from research and then how the Bible looks at porn and what it does to marriage. I still want to write that post, but as I thought about the topic, my mind wandered back to the first time I saw porn.

Blog post title + XXX-adults only wordsOne little research tidbit I’ll include here is that the average age a person is exposed to pornography is around 13. And that’s how old I was when I was at a friend’s house and she reported that her older brother kept Playboy magazines in his closet. He wasn’t home, and she offered to show me one.

Curiosity impelled me to say yes.

I’d seen adult magazines in convenience stores behind sealed packages that blocked out the private areas of women sprawled on their covers, and I’d heard stories of the sordid features of porn magazines. I wanted to find out for myself what was going on inside those slick covers.

My friend pulled down one of the magazines, and we flipped through. I couldn’t tell you what all was in there, because only two pieces have stayed with me all these years. I’m going to describe them in as clinical a way as I can. One was a sexual fantasy story about a woman on an airplane who engages in various activities with several passengers. The other was an image of a woman wearing barely-there lingerie (not covering breasts or genitalia), positioned in a way that focused on her private parts.

I can’t conjure up the specifics of either the story or the image. However, I absolutely remember how I felt. And that’s what I want to share.

I admit that I was fascinated. My curiosity was assuaged, and I was amazed that this whole world existed. Who were the people who put out a magazine like this? Who wrote sex fantasy stories? Who posed for nudie photographs to be shared with anyone willing to pay a few bucks to ogle the page?

But mostly, I felt violated. My stomach muscles tensed, and bile rose to the my throat. I felt creepy and wrong and just off-kilter. Something inside me revolted against the idea of treating women and sex this way. It almost felt like a personal attack as well: Was this what men thought women were good for? Was this what they really wanted women to be? Were we just a collection of body parts? I certainly hoped not.

But then I had another moment of curiosity. Not just about what men wanted, but what my own body was doing. Was I only feeling tension and disgust? Or did something else in me, some strange trigger reaction, want to know more about this whole world of sexuality and what it all meant? Yes, I was repulsed, but also intrigued.

A wave of guilt followed. Not only did I think I’d get in trouble if my friend and I were caught looking at a girly magazine, but I felt it was wrong — both what this magazine was doing and my choice to look. I also knew what I’d seen wouldn’t soon disappear from my mind, and I’d be wrestling with these thoughts a while longer.

Yet another part of me just felt sad. I felt sorry for women who allowed themselves to be treated this way, as merely a tool for sexual arousal and fantasy. The photographed woman especially made me wonder about who she really is, and did anyone looking at the picture care? Or was she only valuable for the size of her breasts and her willingness to strike an erotic pose?

Now when I saw this magazine, I knew very little about sex. At that point, I might have held a boy’s hand. But in a way, my lack of sexual education and personal experience allowed me to look at the magazine with fresh eyes. And my personality is to mull and reflect thoroughly about my experiences. Had I reacted with such aversion purely because of my religious background, or was something else going on — some more deeper and instinctive response?

Of course I didn’t answer all those questions at the tender age of 13.

Throughout the years since, I’ve actually grown less concerned about the rules and more concerned about hearts, relationships, and honoring the Lord. And from that place, I’ve lost all that curiosity and fascination I had when I first saw porn. Yet, I’m left with the same disgust and sadness.

Whoever that poor woman was that appeared in the Playboy issue I saw, she was someone’s daughter and deserved better than to be consumed by greedy eyeballs wanting a cheap thrill. Honestly, even I can’t remember anything about her face, and that’s a shame. Wasn’t she a person? And yet how did I treat her? Like the object she was displayed as being.

That is nothing like how God tells us to treat others.

Some husbands (and some wives) say that looking at porn isn’t a big deal — they just like looking at naked women; it has nothing to do with how they feel about their wives; and it doesn’t affect their intimacy in the marriage bed. Some men suggest we ladies have just made up all this brouhaha about porn being bad and we get our panties in a twist over nothing.

Men still looking at porn: Do you know what your choice says about your view of women? Your view of sexuality?  Do you understand why it upsets so many wives? If you think it’s okay to treat women that way, what might your wife conclude about how you view her in the marriage bed?

Yes, you say it’s different, and I believe you to some extent, but your actions don’t send the right message. They’re making your wife feel emotionally unsafe.

Okay, someone out there is saying: “But my wife is different — she understands / watches porn with me.” You might even argue that it’s helping your sex life. But tell me what you’re doing to that person posing for you: Can you imagine Jesus ever treating someone the way you’re treating that porn star, as a collection of arousing body parts?

Do you recall how you felt the first time you saw porn? Because I suspect you had a mix of emotions too. Some of curiosity, fascination, and perhaps even arousal; but also something sinister in the back of your mind, the pit of your stomach, the core of your heart.

Maybe that sinister feeling was a warning, a nudge from our conscience.

Ultimately, porn is sin. Pure and simple. And it’s time to seek something better.

Praying for Sexual Health

One of the obstacles many couples face with sexual intimacy is their health. That can include anything from chronic illness to physiological problems to mood disorders. While sex is good for your health, sound health is also good for your sex life.

Most Christians have a lot of experience praying about health issues. We pray for those in our midst who are facing life-threatening disease, for those dealing with the consequences of an accident, for those having medical tests and wanting optimistic results.

But have you prayed about the health issues that impact your own marriage bed?

Blog post title with close-up of woman with praying hands

I suspect if I polled spouses, a strong majority would say that poor health has at one time or other negatively affected the sexual intimacy in their marriage. But do we recognize those issues readily? Do we bring those before God?

One of the two Greek words most used in the New Testament to mean healing is iaomai, which brings with it the connotation not merely of good health but wholeness. Yes, it refers to physical healing (like when Jesus healed the Centurion’s servant and an official’s son), but it’s also translated as being made whole.

I believe God wants us to operate from a place of wholeness in our marriage beds.

Of course, I don’t mean that every spouse will experience perfect health. Some of us will nevertheless face challenges, because this is a broken world, but we can pray for God to help us deal with our health issues.

Sometimes it means asking for God to put people in our lives—friends, mentors, doctors, therapists—who can give us answers and treatment. Sometimes it means asking Him to guide us to the answers we need to fix what’s amiss (see The Unveiled Wife’s story). Sometimes it means asking for strength and support to cope with physical issues that won’t go away, but can be managed. Sometimes it means asking God for a divine kick in the pants to get ourselves on that diet or exercise program we’ve been meaning to adopt. …

(Sorry, I had to stop to stare at myself in the mirror on that last one.)

Sometimes it means meditating before Him about what wholeness would look like and asking Him to point out where our health issues are. We might have overlooked how stress or depression or physical pain have hampered our sex life, until we look to our Heavenly Parent and ask Him to tell us what’s happening with our marriage bed. Like a doting mother, He may check our temperature and diagnose what’s wrong. If we’ll ask, and then listen.

I don’t know what this looks like for you, but I know that health challenges are a common issue with us marrieds. And I’m wondering if we’re really praying to be made whole. Not just for the sake of feeling better, but so that we can experience better physical intimacy in our marriage.

How have you prayed for health in your marriage? Have you prayed about health issues that affect your marriage bed?

“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well” (3 John 1:2).

Q&A with J: “How Does Satan Target Women?”

A commenter recently asked:

J writes: “[porn] is everywhere, and Satan knows exactly how to target men. (He’s got other ways of targeting us women too.)” … How does Satan target women? And what do women do regularly that Christians call out frequently as sin?

Blog post title + arrows flying at target, with one bullseye

I could give you a long list of ways I believe Satan tries to sink his crafty claws into the hearts of women. But the focus of what I do on this blog, and the context of this commenter’s question, is in the area of sexuality.

So the question really is: How does Satan target women regarding sexuality?

Get ready, ladies, I’m going to give you to you straight.

Image of Betty Davis with "Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy night."

All About Eve (1950) – Bette Davis

I mulled over several options. Are we ladies targets in the area of erotica? Yes, to some extent. Gate-keeping and sexual refusal? Yes, for some women. Immodesty? Yes, we can have that problem. Emotional affairs? Yes, some women are easily drawn in.

But those don’t apply to women largely. They are struggles wives definitely have, but not with so much frequency and generality that I can confidently say, “This is where Satan has our number.”

Rather, as I thought about the wives I’ve heard from who are harming their marriage bed, and as I delved deeper into the Word of God for the biblical answer, here’s where I concluded women on the whole have a big sin problem: We’re naggers. Complainers. Whiners.

Just look at what Proverbs says:

  • “Better to live on the corner of a roof than to share a house with a nagging wife.” (21:9, HCSB).
  • It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife.” (21:19, NLT).
  • It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a contentious wife” (25:24, NRSV).
  • “A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm; restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand” (27:15-16, NIV).

Truth is, we ladies are wired to notice when things aren’t how we think they should be and then to speak up about it. That’s not a problem in and of itself, but we can put this inclination on overdrive. We can easily become nagging wives. Even, and sometimes especially, in the area of sexuality.

All my life, I’ve heard complaints like:

  • “All men are perverts.”
  • “Men only want one thing.”
  • “He doesn’t care about romance, just sex.”
  • “I can’t even undress in front of him with being ogled.”

Or maybe the tables are turned, and she‘s the one with the higher drive. So the complaints become about him not satisfying her needs, not being like other men, not being manly (what a dig to a guy already struggling with low libido).

Many wives complain when sex isn’t done her way: the timing she wants, the atmosphere she wants, the initiation she wants, the activities she wants, etc. Such that sex itself becomes an area in marriage where he’s walking on eggshells, and you’re judging his performance like the Simon Cowell of sexual intimacy.

Some of you are now saying, “But I’m not a big complainer.” You’ve still likely had your moments. I certainly have.

Even the sex-positive wife in Song of Songs had a short fit of complaining when she was sound asleep and her husband arrived home wanting to make love:

I slept, but my heart was awake.
Listen! my beloved is knocking.
“Open to me, my sister, my love,
my dove, my perfect one;
for my head is wet with dew,
my locks with the drops of the night.”
I had put off my garment;
how could I put it on again?
I had bathed my feet;
how could I soil them? (5:2-3).

I can just hear the whine in her voice as she says, more or less, “Seriously? I just took off my robe, and you want me to put it back on and open the door for you? You want me to get my feet dirty to let you into my bed? I want to sleep, not have sex. Can’t this wait until morning?”

And it’s not just about sex itself. In various areas of our marriage — household, parenting, finances, relationship, religion, you name it — we think we know what’s what and then let our husbands know with disrespectful words, critical tones, and grumbling attitudes.

We become prickly.

And our quills-out approach might be the very thing killing our sexual intimacy. Because, frankly, who wants to make love to a porcupine?

Porcupine saying, "What do you mean I'm not sexy?"

It’s a battle we have to fight, because it includes our physical makeup. Even from young ages, females express emotion more than males, although some of that is certainly social conditioning. However, in research studies, women consistently report experiencing negative emotions, such as fear and anxiety, more than men.

So we’re more emotionally expressive and more anxious. Now add in our biology of the hormonal highs and lows that come with menstruation, pregnancy, and eventually menopause, and you have a recipe for a Big Nag Sandwich.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that we women don’t have legitimate concerns. I absolutely hate when you bring up a reasonable issue to some guy and he asks, “Is this ’cause you’re ‘on the rag’?” You want to reply, “No, it’s because you’re a jerk!” But at same time, let’s fess up and admit that our hormones can increase our intensity.

And just like Satan is happy to use male biology to dangle the temptation of porn underneath men’s noses, he’s more than happy to twist our biology for his ends. If he can take our fear, our anxiety, our expressiveness, and our hormones and fashion that into a quarrelsome, nagging, contentious wife who tears apart her house and marriage bed with her own hands…he’ll do it.

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down” (Proverbs 14:1).

By contrast, Proverbs 31 describes the role model wife this way:

Strength and dignity are her clothing,
  and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
  and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (31:25-26).

Yeah, that woman is not a complainer.

Today’s question included this: “And what do women do regularly that Christians call out frequently as sin?” I have to admit that we don’t call this out often enough.

It’s certainly in the New Testament as well:

  • “Do everything without grumbling or arguing,  so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky” (Philippians 2:14-15).
  • “Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! (James 5:9).
  • And do not grumble, as some of them did — and were killed by the destroying angel” (1 Corinthians 10:10).

This clearly makes husband-bashing a problematic pastime. We gals might be surprised when our ladies’ circles get visited by the Destroying Angel.

I’m feeling uber-convicted right now myself, wondering where I’ve fallen short in my marriage. How have I made our sex life more difficult with my nagging attitudes? Have I nagged specifically about sex? Have I become prickly?

And have we ladies been letting each other get away with sin? I really hope there isn’t a chorus of men saying, “Here! Here!” in the comment section (though I promise to publish reasonably worded comments). Rather, I hope we women will own up and hold each other accountable.

What can we do to avoid being the nagging wife who makes her husband want to retreat to the corner of the roof? How can we change so that our husbands are instead drawn to us into our marriage bed?

What Makes Sex Intimate? Try Affection.

I had an interesting conversation with my husband recently about casual versus committed sex. Why is committed sex so much better? Casual sex can actually feel quite physically pleasurable, but it lacks the intense satisfaction that marital sexual intimacy provides.

One reason research has revealed is that men get a wash of feel-good chemicals during sex that isn’t nearly as strong in casual relationships as it is in committed sex. Another study showed that men responded positively to the faces of their partners, over images of other women, due to the presence of oxytocin, a body chemical released in especially high doses during lovemaking. And of course, hubby and I discussed the deeper emotional and spiritual meaning of sexual intimacy in marriage.

However, I recently came across another interesting aspect that didn’t surprise me, though I was happy to see it show up so clearly in the research: One primary reason that sex feels so good is the affection we receive from our partner. It’s not just the arousal sensations but the closeness and physical touch we get when we make love.

Couple lying in bed and holding hands with blog post title

This particular study used three different methods to look at what the link between sexual pleasure and affection might be. First, they conducted a survey that showed “a strong correlation between sex and positive emotions, but only when affection was factored into the equation. When affection was removed, the link almost disappeared.” You hear that? If it’s just about the sex, without genuine affection, you don’t get the positive-emotion payoff.

The researchers also had 200 participants, mostly marrieds, keep a journal tracking their sexual frequency and “erotic feelings,” as well as times they had non-sexual intimacy and affection with their mates. The result? “Sex correlated with positive emotions almost exclusively when it also led to affection (more than 90% of the time across all of the couples’ journals).”

Finally, the study asked 60 couples to track their sexual and non-sexual affection in real time on their smartphones. Participants reported affection after sex, but also hours later — demonstrating that affection was a positive consequence of lovemaking.

So are we having sex in part to get affection? It seems that’s a factor. Is sex more meaningful when paired with affection? Absolutely.

Of course, I believe all of this is God’s design for sex. Marriage provides the perfect context for daily affection as well as frequent lovemaking. From this research, it appears that the affection might be more important than the sex in giving you the positive emotions of intimacy with your spouse. However, when both are present in your relationship, they feed each other. Sex increases affection, and affection leads to sex.

Sex increases affection, and affection leads to sex. Click To Tweet

That is God’s beautiful design.

How should you use this information in your marriage?

Well, some of us are more naturally drawn to affection, and some are more drawn to sex. And oftentimes, people from different categories marry each other. And then there are those who have simply shut down both affection and sex in their marriage. Be honest with yourself: Do any of these sound familiar?

  • “I’m not having sex with him unless and until he spends a lot more time on romance and affection with me.”
  • “I’m tired of him wanting to be cuddle but not wanting to have sex. If he wants to touch me, why can’t he arouse me too?”
  • “I try to turn her on, but she takes too long to orgasm. So I just go after my own climax.”
  • “It’s been months since we made love, and we rarely touch anymore.”

Those are just a few examples, and I’m sure you could come up with others, but they illustrate what I’ve heard from various marriages. Some spouses are aching for more affection, and some spouses are aching for more sex. And some marriages are desperately in need of both.

But I’m not sure it matters as much which comes first: sex or affection. Or maybe it does matter, in that you should figure out what your spouse desires and try to meet that. Great marriages arise from spouses who make an effort to satisfy their mate’s deepest longings.

Great marriages arise from spouses who make an effort to satisfy their mate's deepest longings. Click To Tweet

Of course, it’s best if both of you are putting forth that effort. However, one spouse can ignite change in a marriage. So rather than thinking about what you’re not getting, maybe you should consider what your spouse longs for.

Because if it’s affection, providing that might lead to more sex. And if it’s sex, that might lead to more affection. And all of that will produce more positive emotions about each other and your relationship — that is, a greater sense of intimacy.

Regardless, most of us marrieds could spend more time on affection during sex. That is, we could slow things down and spend more time touching.

So ask yourself: Where do I need to invest? Affection, sex, or both? Then go do that. My prayer is that positive emotions and intimacy will follow.

Sources: Forbes.com – The Reasons Why Sex Makes Us Happy May Not Be What You ThinkPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin – More Than Just Sex: Affection Mediates the Association Between Sexual Activity and Well-Being; WebMD – How the ‘Love Hormone’ Works Its Magic

What Happens When You Pray (for Your Marriage)?

I’ve been writing a lot about prayer on Saturdays here on my blog, with the hope and encouragement that you’ll spend more time in prayer with God — specifically about your marriage and your marriage bed.

This past week, a Catholic friend of mine shared a video that caught my eye, and I thought it was so good I wanted to share it with y’all. I don’t know this priest, but his name is Father Mike Schmitz and he apparently has a YouTube channel, a podcast, and more. But I loved his points about the Power of Prayer:

What if you tapped into that power of prayer so that:

  1. You become a cause agent for positive change in your marriage and marriage bed?
  2. You are changed to become a better partner, companion, lover?
  3. You deepen your relationship with your Heavenly Father?

Aren’t those worthy goals to make prayer a priority this coming week?