Lust. Sex. Porn.
If those words made you squirm, you may not want to read ahead. Likewise, if you're of the prudish variety, because here I openly, albeit reluctantly, share with you my experience of, and thoughts on, pornography.
Reluctant because people can be jerks. Some people refuse to see the transformational work of Jesus in the lives of others, and sadly these are often the same people who preach it.
Reluctant because I have children who need not be shamed or shunned on my behalf.
And reluctant, well, because I'm a woman, and women don't struggle with porn....right?
The Internet was not an accessible thing when I was a teenager. It hadn't yet infiltrated every aspect of our daily lives.
Mobile phones weren't capable of sending or receiving texts, let alone photos and videos. In fact, back then, mobile phones were black bricks with aerials that required manual extension for each and every conversation.
I had no access to, nor any real knowledge of pornography, and so it was not a part my formative years.
I developed a curiosity toward porn when Jordan and I were a few years into our marriage.
We'd stopped going to church, our relationship with God was practically non-existent, and the circle of friends we were keeping saw porn as no big deal, just something 'everyone' does.
I knew pornography had been a big part of Jordan's life before we were together, and this knowledge made me irrationally angry and jealous. I felt as though I was missing out on something, and I really do hate to miss out.
I decided, in my great wisdom, that it would be a fabulous idea to introduce pornography into our marriage.
Jordan and I were solid, our sex life active, it could only add to the passion, what was the harm?
Surprisingly, Jordan was not keen, not keen at all.
I think his reluctance was mainly due to the fact that he thought it must be a trap. I mean, what wife encourages her husband to view porn with her?
However, he was also concerned that it would create marital tension, he felt as though porn was just something that was not needed in our relationship.
I disagreed. I won.
Porn was not exactly what I had expected.
I knew it would be graphic, but this, this was beyond graphic.
This was not like the sex scenes in a movie.
This sex wasn't just sex.
Porn sex was different.
The bodies were 'perfect', the positions, acrobatic.
No one had a single hair follicle visible anywhere on their perfect bodies. And visible their bodies were. Microscopically so.
Everything was up close and zoomed in. Nothing left to the imagination.
There was no kissing, no intimacy, no love, just animalistic, self-gratifying acts of sex.
And yet, I took the bait... I was hooked.
Jordan would beg me to come to bed, asking if it could be, "just us tonight", instead of us and whatever random couple had piqued my interest on screen.
But I couldn't stop. I didn't want to stop.
Frustrated, Jordan would storm off to bed whilst I sat glued to a computer screen, searching, waiting for the perfect body, the perfect couple, the perfect image. An image I could never find.
The searching became a drug.
I would search while Jordan was at work, I wanted to find the perfect woman to present to him. A woman who wasn't overweight, a women whose body was not marred by stretch marks, and the not-so-flattering effects of gravity. He deserved her. Not me. This searching had become a bizarre act of self-loathing and self-punishment.
I found myself looking at women on the street, wondering what they were like in the bedroom, passive or dominant? What were they okay with, what weren't they okay with? Did they have secret body piercings, tattoos? Pubic hair?
It was disgusting. I was violating them with my mind.
And no, I'm not sexually attracted to women, the images I been viewing had warped my thinking, been seared into my memory.
I no longer struggle with porn addiction or a desire to view it.
I no longer have pornographic images haunting my mind.
My God is the God of freedom, for those who truly desire it.
I still have to make the choice not to let my mind wander. I still have to choose not to click on Internet articles, links or videos that may contain questionable material.
I still have to make a choice to disengage from sexually explicit conversations.
I still have to make a choice to view each and every person I encounter; male or female, as God sees them. To honor and value them as fellow human beings, created in His image.
I long for the day when I can read a dessert menu, and not be aware that half the names on the list carry innuendo in porn speak.
I still have major body hang-ups and a ridiculously poor body image, something that didn't exist to this degree before I invited pornography into my life.
There is a reason why the comparison game is a dangerous one to play.
I have freedom, but some consequences remain.
I recently had a discussion with a close friend of mine. She has teenage daughters, and we were talking around the topic of this crazy world of porn and sexting that our kids are not only exposed to, but immersed in. Yes, our kids. Our sheltered kids. The ones we watch and monitor, the ones in youth group, the ones being raised in Christian households, the ones attending Christian schools—our kids!
As we talked, my friend told me of a blog she'd come across, written by a young man who was imploring women to show some self-respect by removing any and all hair from their pubic and genital region, making sure that all women heard his message loud and clear, that they should be sporting a Brazilian. He wrote that pubic hair is 'disgusting' and he was physically incapable of maintaining an erection if a girl had any hair 'down there'.
Are you freaking kidding me? Seriously?
This, this is the world our kids are living in.
This is why we need open—and I specify: age appropriate—dialogue with our kids!
Our daughters do not need to grow up believing that there is something wrong with their body because it does what it was designed to do, believing that they are worthless, unattractive and disgusting unless they remove all their body hair.
They do not need to grow up believing that they have to perform all manner of sexual acts in order to deserve and receive love.
Our girls need to know that someone who would seek to bully, pester or coerce them into doing anything they are uncomfortable with does not truly love them and does not need to be indulged.
Our sons do not need to have their thinking warped by loveless, lust-filled images of sexploits. Images that are edited and produced to create and fulfill a need that can never be satisfied by just one viewing.
They do not need to have unrealistic expectations of women, relationships, sex and all sexual acts.
Our sons need not suffer sexual dysfunction because the images that are on repeat in their mind, have formed a new and flawed perception of 'normal'.
We need to tell our kids not to avoid porn just because it's wrong, but why it is so wrong.
We need to explain exactly how it devalues both sexes, and damages soul and spirit.
If I, as an adult woman over the age of 25, whose brain had finished developing, could have had her thinking rewired by viewing pornography, how much more susceptible are our adolescent kids to damage from pornographic material?
We need to educate our children about exactly what it is that the porn industry is feeding into: sex slavery, human trafficking, child exploitation.
I literally had no idea that this industry was fueling a hellish existence for so many young women, and men too.
I wonder, had I known back then, what I know now, would porn have been any kind of turn-on at all?
We shouldn't educate our children in order to guilt them, but rather to equip them, to empower them to make choices that benefit not only themselves, but others also.
We need to teach our kids not that sex is dirty or wrong, but that it is quite the opposite.
Sometimes marriage sucks! It's not all white picket fences and fields of flowers. Sometimes it's just tumbleweeds and barbed wire. But to have the privilege of becoming one flesh with someone who totally gets you and is committed to you during the hard times, is a gift that should not be undervalued by images of lust, undervalued by a world that trades in old for new, and is hell-bent on instant gratification.
We need to tell our kids that we understand and remember what it is like to have raging hormones, to tell them we understand what it is like to be sexually curious, to be sexually aroused.
We need to teach them healthy ways to deal with that arousal, and the sexual frustration that those raging hormones bring.
We need to ask our kids how we can support them, and if they're not really sure how, we need to suggest ways. We need to suggest mentors or trusted adults that they can talk openly with and journey with.
We need to teach our kids that God designed sex, not just as a means for procreation, but for enjoyment and discovery. He's not up in the sky sitting on a cloud with a cup of tea, muttering to Himself, "Oh dear, that's a new one, didn't think of that. Filthy humans."
We need to teach our kids that God not only created sex, but the whole biological system responsible for switching on sexual desire.
We need to teach them that our God is an approachable God, that He is more than happy to provide a way to deal with whatever struggles we face in life, including sexual struggle.
And above all that, we need to believe that of our God! We need to experience that of Him! We need to share with our kids, how and when God has stepped in to provide a way out for us. That means inviting Him into our difficult situations, so He can do just that.
I am the mother of a teenage son.
We can protect and shelter him all we like, but eventually he will discover the world, as he is supposed to.
He will grow and mature, and set his own boundaries and parameters.
He will decide what paths he takes and what lines he'll cross.
And we will love him and support him all the way.
But while he is still under our roof, within our grasp, and accountable to us, we will have the difficult conversations.
We will tell him where we've failed.
We will tell him the outcomes of our failure and where we wish we'd taken different paths.
We will be real, we will be unedited.
But most of all, we will emphasize grace.
Grace for failure.
Grace for poor decisions.
Grace for outright rebellion.
Grace for a journey, and not just a quick fix.
Grace for forgiveness.
Grace for redemption.
Grace for transformation.
Grace for us as parents to recognize transformation, as we chose to forget indiscretion.
Bek Curtis is an Australian-based blogger. Check out her blog, Perfectly Flawed.