Pornography and the Destruction of Worlds

Largeexplosion_zps6c9dd8c9Fantasy can be an incredible creative tool. It can not only delight, but motivate people to live and cultivate healthy attitudes, habits, perspectives, and desires. Sinful fantasy, on the other hand, destroys. When people try to live in a sinful fantasy they are forced to tear down the reality around them. Pornography works this way, it distorts, perverts, and ruins the real world around a frequent user. In order to keep their fantasy alive, the person who desires to live in the sinful world of porn must destroy their real world.

Pornography is not reality. It’s camera shots, digital editing, direction and storytelling. It’s staged sex. It’s fake pleasure. It’s also fake acceptance, fake power, and fake control for those who use pornography. The real world, with real relationships, and real people offers beautiful sexual relationships, but it also comes with effort, rejection, headaches, romantic energies, and time constraints. The real world can’t compete with the sexual fantasy. Naomi Wolf, writing in New York Magazine back in 2003, stated it this way:

How can a real woman – with pores and her own breasts and even sexual needs of her own… possibly compete with a cyber-vision of perfection, downloadable and extinguishable at will, who comes, so to speak, utterly submissive and tailored to the consumer’s least specification?… Today, real naked women are just bad porn. (“The Porn Myth”)

To get to this point of belief, however, a porn user will have to tear down the real world around him, shut it out, ignore it, and devalue it. Real life just can’t compete with the immediacy, tailor-made, excitement of the fantasy world. The path to destruction flows across a three stage process: devaluing people, giving new meaning to sex, and isolating self from reality.

Sexual sin usually starts in visual lust. It starts with stealing glances, prolonged looks. Overtime, however, objectifying others leads to devaluing them altogether. You can’t grade and evaluate someone’s body without ignoring their personhood. This means that a regular consumer of porn will learn not only to devalue the people on the computer screen, but will learn to devalue the people in his or her own life. They will devalue those they rub shoulders with on a regular basis, their spouses, their neighbors, those men and women at the gym. They become less like people made in the image of God, and more like products to be evaluated, consumed, and discarded. This is why anger often accompanies those who are frequent porn users. The reminders that people are in fact people becomes an intrusion into their private world, a reminder of reality. They get irritated with the needs of their families, the chores around the house, the effort required for communication and affection. They become frustrated with a spouse who needs more than just a click of the mouse to be motivated towards sex. They become annoyed with the demands of work, kids, life in general, and frustrated with the stress and business of living. So, anger and annoyance make themselves known because the real world is not like the fantasy world of porn.

Most people think visual lust is a harmless thing. No one knows, no one cares; no harm done. The reality is, however, visual lust always leads to greater destruction. David Powlison has observed:

Innocent pleasures don’t pretend to save you or protect you. They don’t promise you meaning and identity in life. They don’t take life’s fragility, pain, frustration, disappointment, and uncertainty and wash them away. They are not the giver of every good and perfect gift; they are just gifts you enjoy. They are innocent because they don’t pretend to be anything more…(Breaking the Addictive Cycle, 8)

It takes less and less innocent pleasure to push the lever of joy. It’s one of those secrets of the Christian life… In the stained pleasure cycle, the addictive cycle, it takes more and more to push the lever of joy. Stained pleasures have this corroding effect: They always up the ante. (17)

What you think is harmless is going to eventually destroy your world, even if your spouse or your friends and family don’t find out. It will destroy your world because it is teaching to value these people less and less as actual people.

“Images are too static to be exciting for long. Information needs a story to come alive,” says counselor Brad Hambrick. Prolonged use of pornography must eventually give new meaning to sex for it to sustain pleasure and increase excitement. Sexual sin needs a new story to delude us into continuing down its path of destruction. Sexual sin is rarely about sex. There are billion other things that men and women go after in using pornography. In the fantasy world sex becomes about something more than God-ordained union and intimacy between two loving partners. In this stage a user rewrites the story of their sex life so that they appear more desirable, more powerful, more appreciated, more important. Sex becomes a tool to gaining what they really want. In such a fantasy world the real life experiences of sexual intimacy loses its luster. Harry Schaumbaug records one honest man’s evaluation of the difference between fantasy and reality. He writes:

Because, see, if I’m going to have sex with my wife, I’ll have to put down the novel, brush my teeth, and find out how she’s really doing. And I guess we should use birth control, just in case. Then I’ll have to ask what she’s thinking about, how her day has gone, whether she bought the new dress after work, and things like that. I’ll have to tell her a few things about my day, too, even though I’d rather not think about most of it. I’ll have to hold her, caress her, let her know she’s important, and undertake an act that I may not be able to consummate. Or, I’ll be left feeling that I didn’t care enough about her sexual needs. No, I think I’ll stick with the marching words on the next page and masturbate. (False Intimacy, 40)

The new meaning that a user gives to sex makes reality undesirable, boring, and mundane. He or she has so corrupted their thoughts and attitudes that healthy sex just isn’t compelling enough. Healthy sex, after all, doesn’t grant one person power over another. Healthy sex doesn’t make you important and significant. It creates union and intimacy between two partners who love each other and respect each other. Healthy sex understands the words “no,” or “not like that,” or “not right now.” Healthy sex has a different story, one written by God, and one incompatible with the ruling desires of a user’s heart. Eventually, then, a porn user will distort all sexual intimacy, treating their partners as objects or porn stars, or perhaps losing all interest in real sexual intimacy. Destruction continues.

The reality of all sexual sin is that its destruction is not limited to self. The path to destruction is strewn with many casualties: wives, husbands, children, friends, churches, etc. To keep the collateral damage at arm’s length, to continue to enjoy their fantasy world, a porn user must go deeper into isolation. Such isolation not only blows up their lives, but it adds further trauma to those whom he or she has hurt. When we attempt to force others to live in our fantasy world we compound their sorrow. Isolating them, refusing to take responsibility for sin, blame shifting, excusing, justifying, or outright lying only wreaks further havoc on marriages and relationships of all kinds. Isolation destroys reality by blatantly denying its existence.

Porn is destructive. It doesn’t just destroy those who use it, however. It destroys everything they touch. There is a lot of collateral damage involved in using pornography. This isn’t even discussing the whole porn industry with its use of sex slaves, abuse of women, and societal impacts. No, this is just discussing the immediate damage done to those who know and love porn-users. This knowledge, of course, isn’t enough to rescue those who are already hooked on their sin. They need more specialized help. But perhaps it can encourage those who are not yet hooked. Perhaps it can warn those who are curious and intrigued by the world of sexual fantasies. Take these warnings to heart. Sexual sin destroys you, and it destroys worlds.

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