it’s just pictures…right?

Pornography is officially defined as “obscene writings, drawings, photographs, or the like, esp. those having little or no artistic merit.” The American Heritage Dictionary adds a bit to the definition, stating it is: “Sexually explicit pictures, writing, or other material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal.”

Even the US Supreme Court has weighed in on what pornography is and isn’t. Of course, that opinion is heavily weighted in favour of local standards of morality, etc., but it gives space for the Larry Flynts of the world to hide behind. Flynt and other pornographers would say they are protected by the First Amendment, and I can’t disagree with that, but it’s what the highest court in the US said about pornography that really gives them the freedom to move and do what they do.

Regardless, if you ask the average husband about pornography, you might get a “ho-hum” response. As in, “Yeah, Playboy has been around forever. It’s just pictures, right?” But the average wife of the man who engages in (and might be addicted to) pornography generally has a much different response. Most women are cut to the quick by porn, by the idea that there are images that capture their husbands’ attention and takes their husbands’ eyes off of them. Why is there such a different response?

I think it’s because porn shreds the very core of who a woman is and what she thinks about herself as a woman, a wife, and a sexual partner. No matter how she looks or what she thinks of herself, there is always a porn model who is better endowed, younger, more flexible, or whatever. As women age, things change. Once we have babies, things settle where they didn’t before. Age is inevitable, but there are always the ageless porn stars who remind us that we aren’t what we were (or probably never were) and that our men seem to want what they offer and what we are lacking.

If the porn is hetero, then there’s a measure of societal “acceptance” in it — men are, after all, “expected” to lust after women who are well-built. Biblically we know this is wrong, but by the measure of the world, it’s just “normal.” But if the porn is homosexual in nature, there’s added stigma for both the user and his wife. Because a woman knows she just can’t compete with male-on-male porn. She isn’t physically equipped as a man, and as much as hetero-porn tears her self-image down, gay porn does so even more. And then there’s the added stigma of “how did you not know he was gay when you married him?” that compounds her self-doubt and pain.

It’s absolutely deadly. The doubt that comes from comparison and the knowledge that these images are compelling is all-encompassing. It makes a woman begin to doubt every aspect of her femininity and womanhood: she thinks if she was a better [fill in the blank here: lover, wife, companion, etc.], her husband wouldn’t be drawn to these pictures. But somewhere deep inside of her, she knows that she cannot compete with the magazines, videos, and online photos even if she was the best [whatever].

The fact is that the women (and men) in the pornographic pictures can’t compete with themeselves. The pictures and videos are incredibly airbrushed, lighting is manipulated, and Photoshop is an industry standard. By the time these “adjustments” are made, very few models/actresses resemble the finalized image.

Stasi Eldridge wrote a book called Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul. The book looks at who God created us to be as women, but one of the ideas that has resonated deeply with me is this: when asked if they would rather be beautiful or captivating, the majority of women responded, “Captivating.” To me, this is significant. “Beautiful” suggests that physical beauty is where it’s at. But we all know women who are beautiful and can’t hold a conversation, don’t have interesting personalities or hobbies, etc. “Captivating” suggests a physical beauty, yes, but more than that. It’s the ability to be interesting, to hold our husbands’ attention, to revel in how God created us and the giftings He gave us.

I think another part of the equation of why porn is so hurtful to wives is that it reflects the idea that they are not alluring to their husbands. That somehow, fantasy and photographs are more compelling, more magnetic than they are. And beyond our ever-present fears of getting older and not being the “hard body” we might have been at 18, the realization that we haven’t captured our husbands’ thoughts, hearts, and minds is devastating.

It doesn’t really matter that these images aren’t real. The reality is that they steal our husbands away. They steal time, mental energy, and physical energy (if self-gratification goes along with the porn viewing). And they drive an enormous spiritual wedge of resentment between husband and wife. That reality bites. Hard.

If you’re a wife who has been affected by porn and is struggling to figure out what to do, check out some of the links in the blogroll. There are fantastic resources there. If you’re a man struggling to quit the porn habit, there is hope and there is help. You won’t find condemnation at the places I’ve linked to; you will find compassion and a firm hand that will help you step away from your addiction. It’s a hard road to sobriety, because sex is all around us and triggers are plentiful. But it can be done. Look to God — He is the One Who can change hearts and minds and free us from this sort of bondage.

His and his,

For more information on how images are edited and how they impact our psyche and perception, check out these two clips. Evolution and Onslaught are both short, eye-opening films by Dove. .

This entry was posted on 250858H Jun 2008 and is filed under Anger, Forgiveness, Path to Healing, Pornography, Sexual Brokenness, SSA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.