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.
One 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.