May-June 1998

 Attn: Click here to read the Article by Kari West and Noelle Quinn

Pornography - What's the Big Deal?

by Laurie Hall

The woman next to me on the plane was talkative. We discussed how many times we'd flown before and shared a bit about our families. Then she asked, "What do you do?"

"I'm a writer," I replied.

"How exciting! What do you write?" she asked, leaning toward me.

"Right now I'm working on a book about how pornography destroys marriages," I replied.

"Oh!" she gasped. "I know what you mean."

Turning away, she hid her face, but not before I saw tears in eyes that moments before had been bright with excitement.

A month later, a friend from church asked me how my book on pornography was going.

"I'm amazed," I said. "Every time I turn around, I find out about more families who've been devastated by it."

Looking me in the eye, she said, "And you haven't even talked to me yet."

The First Shot in the Sexual Revolution

Before Playboy magazine hit the newsstands in 1954, sexually explicit pictures were not readily available to mainstream America. Sure, if he went to the sleazy part of town and knew where to look, a guy could find some "dirty" pictures. That's all they were, though -- "dirty" pictures. No one pretended they were anything more.

Playboy's approach took porn to new levels of acceptability. The marketing strategy worked, too. Playboy magazines were put on regular newsstands with respected periodicals, and pretty soon, that respectability rubbed off.

At one Promise Keepers event, 50 percent of the attendees admitted to dabbling in porn during the previous week.

By 1970 the President's commission on Obscenity and Pornography described the average consumers of pornography as predominately white, middle-class, middle-aged, married males dressed in business suits or neat casual attire. Today, pornography is a $13 billion a year industry.

A Victimless Crime?

We'd like to believe that pornography is strictly an intellectual activity, that it has no behavioral repercussions or emotional implications. We have been told that it's a matter of free speech. We've been told that it's a "victimless crime" because we can't see any immediate victim.

There is no corpus delicti to prove something has been killed. There is no empty shelf to show us what has been robbed. There is no pile of wreckage that can be parked outside the local high school to warn others of the consequences of dangerous activities.

Though there is no smoking gun, there is plenty of circumstantial evidence that a death has taken place. Those who want you to believe pornography is a First Amendment right won't talk about the silent devastation that occurs in the hearts of men, women and children when someone in their family adopts the Playboy philosophy of disposable relationships.

They just argue that pornography is "free speech" and try to persuade you that it has no effect other than the brief thrill of the moment. They want you to think that pornography is but a moment of time in an otherwise productive life.

They don't want you to know that the images of, and experiences produced by, pornography are permanently burned into your mind by a curious mixture of hormones that are released when sexually explicit materials are viewed. They don't want you to know that this mix of hormones becomes more potent when the sex portrayed involves violence or fear. They especially don't want you to know that as a result of this imprinting process, sex for you will now be linked with fear, violence and shame.

They also don't want you to believe that these permanently imbedded images recur at will, much like LSD flashbacks. These recurrences draw the pornography participant further and further into a world of fantasy. Over a period of time, the lines between what is fantasy and what is real become blurred. The mind begins a process of dissolution as thoughts track only one way.

Eventually, the pornography participant becomes an empty shell of a man. Hollow to the core, he wanders through life, seeking only one thing: fulfillment of the lust that has taken hold of him. Every other achievement becomes merely a means to that end. Until at last, instead of spending his time achieving, he spends most of his time fantasizing.

No wonder Proverbs 6:26-28, 32 says, "For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread: and the adulteress will hunt for the precious life. Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul" (KJV).

Just One Bad Apple

Whether we want to believe it or not, who we are affects what our communities are. The way we live our lives affects the way our neighbors live theirs. The way we behave in private becomes the way we behave in public.

We are salt and we are light, and if our salt has lost its savor and our light has been dimmed, everyone around us is affected.

As of April 1, 1990, the population of the United States was 248,709,873. That same year, over 300,000,000 X-rated videos were distributed in our neighborhoods. Since then, sales and rentals of adult videos have risen 75 percent.

In an article about the psychological and social effects of pornography, Dr. Harold Voth, a professor at the Karl Menninger School of Psychiatry, writes:

"By permitting the ever-expanding display of pornography, or sexually explicit material on the printed page, in theaters, on television (regular TV, cable, and satellite), our social structure is being bombarded continuously by powerful erosive stimuli. Sexuality in its mature form is a necessary aspect of the heterosexual bond and the stability of the family. The massive unleashing of sexuality which is occurring in Western civilization is a reflection of cultural decline. It is well-known that an inverse relationship exists between indiscriminate sexual expression and cultural excellence."

The ripple effects of the Playboy philosophy are broad based. In a society where using people is tolerated, more and more people will become "users" resulting in more and more "victims." Those who break trust on the most intimate matters will eventually begin to apply the same mind-set to business and civil-rights matters, saying and doing whatever it takes to get whatever they want.

Pornography is a $12-13 billion a year industry-more than the combined annual revenues of the Coca-Cola and McDonnell Douglas corporations.

In a society where using others is tolerated, the used find their security continually threatened as each day brings a new violation of trust. It doesn't take too many violations of trust for an individual to lose his ability to trust. When the number of untrusting individuals reaches critical mass, the society they live in loses its ability to trust. Losing our ability to trust is a grave matter. Without trust, our souls wither and die. Without trust, there can be no civilization.

The Way of Wisdom

Would it surprise you to know that the ancient Hebrews believed that wisdom is closely related to the things we look at? The Hebrew word for wise -- skal -- gives us the understanding that the things we look at and think about affect our ability to be intelligent and prudent. Because of this, what we take in through our eyes is extremely important.

The eye is the window to the soul. Satan knew this, and because he desired access to their soul, he used Adam's and Eve's eyes when he tempted them to eat the forbidden fruit. First Satan told Adam and Eve that having wisdom would somehow affect their eyes, "for God knows that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:5, KJV, emphasis added). Then, "the woman saw that the tree was good" (Genesis 3:6, KJV, emphasis added). Finally, immediately after they ate the fruit, "the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew they were nakedand Adam and his wife hid themselves (Genesis 3:7-8, KJV).

See No Evil

Opening our eyes to evil has relational consequences. Once their minds were awakened to evil, Adam and Eve immediately saw their nakedness in a new light. Where moments before they had viewed their bodies with no shame, suddenly they felt so much shame that they hid from themselves, from each other, and from God. By focusing the soul on nakedness in a way that produces shame and isolation from self, from others, and from God, looking at evil destroys both freedom (the ability to know oneself) and intimacy (the ability to share oneself with others).

Jesus also talked about how exposing our eyes to evil is related to our ability to be wise. In Matthew 6:22-23, He said, "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" (KJV).

The Greek word for evil -- poneros -- means that which is malicious and deliberately harmful of others. In other words, if our eyes are looking at things that are malicious and willfully harming others, we are closing ourselves off to truth. The result will be a plunge into darkness.

Exploiting others for personal gain is evil in its rawest form. A man who feasts his eyes on pictures that have been made by expiating others is plucking out his own eyes. He is plunging himself into darkness. He will lose his ability to be wise.

Today, we don't talk much about how what we see affects our ability to be wise. We just keep wondering why our society is losing its soul. Could it have anything to do with the window dressings we allow it to have? Could it have something to do with pornography?

I think that it does. I saw my husband lose his soul to pornography. I have held other women and listened to them weep as they told me how their husbands also lost their souls to pornography. Pornography kills the soul, steals the heart, and destroys the mind. Pornography is not a victimless crime. 

Taken from An Affair of the Mind by Laurie Hall. Published by Focus on the Family. Copyright 1996 by Laurie Hall. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

The Price of Unkept Promises

Kari West: One Sunday, after attending church as a family, I walked into the family room toward images of a porn film flickering on the video screen. "What are you doing?" I asked.

I had read about the lewd acts of topless strippers in nightclubs under prosecution by our local district attorney. I was embarrassed by X-rated movies. Ed had occasionally asked me to check into motels with him to watch films like a couple he knew who "got turned on." I refused.

Years later, when Ed filed for divorce, I was devastated by his comment that he now liked "bleached blondes with long, painted nails." I glanced at my short-cut fingernails. All those years I worked for us, I thought, putting you through college, making house payments

Not until I learned of Ed's many affairs throughout our 22-year marriage did I clearly see signs of his early involvement with pornography and understand how porn leads to sexual addiction and is dipping its fingers into men's pockets.

Noelle Quinn: Dan was a busy lay pastor in a mainline evangelical denomination. Writing, teaching, counseling and preaching were his life. He was known for his theological insight, family priorities and creativity.

But Dan became increasingly restless. Something is wrong with this picture, I sensed. But I couldn't put my finger on it until truth exploded in my face. Shortly after canceling our 20th wedding anniversary trip, he told me he was leaving me for a friend and neighbor.

Chicago's Minirth-Meier counseling center claims sexual addiction is the number one reason Christians come to them for counseling.

I know now Dan is only one of thousands of men who are known by others as Christians but whose lifelong porn habits are hidden beneath layers of deception.

Anonymity and Unaccountability

The ravages of pornography creep slowly. In increments, a man allows them to invade his mind, seal off his conscience, stroke his ego and massage his guilt. Often imaginary sex is better than real sex because one's partner, the performance of both participants, and the surroundings are controlled by the mind. Reel sex or cybersex is an instant tension release without responsibility. It is shaped by wandering thoughts spliced together and stored in a steamy fantasy bank.

"Relationships on the Internet are much more sexually explicit and fantasized than anything face-to-face," says Shirley Glass, a Baltimore psychologist. This creation of "an artificial space" allows people to take risks into unknown territory and talk about all kinds of erotic fantasies.

Many men think that porn, in its many forms, is sex without consequences. With anonymity and lack of accountability, no one need know. And what no one knows can't hurt. Or can it?

Kari: Early in our marriage, Ed subscribed to Playboy, browsed girlie magazines when we stopped to buy the Sunday paper and justified swooning at braless women in miniskirts. In the late 1960s, pornography wasn't talked about from the pulpit or in ministry circles. I didn't know to whom to talk or if I was reading too much into Ed's behavior. So I excused it as a "typical male response."

When the marriage ended at his edict, he accused me of not meeting his sexual needs or fantasies. He was good at convincing me I was the problem. All the time I put into exercise and personal hygiene and all the money invested in silky lingerie didn't count. Instead, Ed's angry outbursts kept me from stepping on the truth. He evaded the real issue.

When you can't go back, you go on. So I moved on with my life, forgave Ed's affairs and eventually married a man who validates me. Ed continues to move from relationship to relationship. Once he admitted that the biggest lies are the ones he tells himself.

Noelle: In the last few years of our marriage, Dan gradually removed himself from accountability. He restructured his job so he could work his own schedule and make his own rules. He slowed, then stopped attending church.

Dan alternated between criticism and kindness to keep me off balance. When I suggested we talk, he'd say, "Give me space." If I wanted to rev up our love life, he'd say, "Lots of men my age are impotent."

Eventually, his new woman friend dumped him for another man. Dan hid his grief behind more alibis, then moved away. Alone. Broken. Besides losing his reputation, home and family, Dan lost the most important thing of all -- the trust of those who loved him.

The Real Victims

The truth is a part of Kari still loves Ed. A part of Noelle still loves Dan. Divorce is not a clean-cut separation of two individuals but a ripping apart of one flesh. In a deep place beyond tears, we cry some days -- but not just mourning what we lost. We mourn their loss. We wonder if Ed and Dan will ever face the truth and make the choice to change?

Will they wear the mask of pretense and fantasy into each new relationship? Or will they open wounds to healing, feel their feelings, talk to somebody and admit things are out of control?

The bottom line is that the pornography industry profits while men and women lose. Before you face the consequences that Ed and Dan faced, examine the data, consider the cost. What are you willing to lose? Your wife? Your family? Yourself?

Ask yourself: Can I afford the price of an unkept promise? 

NOTE: Pseudonyms have been used to protect the privacy of all parties involved. Kari West and Noelle Quinn are freelance writers from California and Oregon. They are co-authors of the book When He Leaves.

Additional resources:

The Mind Polluters, by Jerry R. Kirk. Thomas Nelson, 1985.

Faithful and True: Sexual Integrity in a Fallen World, by Mark R. Laaser. Zondervan, 1992.

Pornography: A Human Tragedy, by Tom Minnery, ed. Tyndale House, 1987.

Shame and Grace: Healing the Shame We Don't Deserve, by Lewis B. Smedes. Zondervan, 1993.

Eros Redeemed, by John White. InterVarsity Press, 1993.

Places to go for help:

The American Family Association

107 Parkgate P.O. Drawer 2440 Tupelo, Mississippi 38803


The premier place to get good research on pornography, they also have an OutReach division to help those with sexual addictions.

Enough is Enough

P.O. Box 888 Fairfax, Virginia 22030

(703) 278-8343

Helps women take action against child pornography, hard-core pornography and other illegal pornography in their communities.

National Coalition Against Pornography

Dr. Jerry Kirk, President

800 Compton Road, Suite 9224 Cincinnati, Ohio 45231

(513) 521-6227

Offers training resources, videos, organizational materials, audiocassettes and research reports for use in the battle against pornography.

Jack's Story

My wife has been writing this book for over two years now. She has gone through hell both during my addiction to porn and after, reliving it again and again by putting it into print. She has suffered more than I'll ever understand. I pray that God will show me the suffering and pain she and the children have endured.

It's essential to have a strong idea of what your family has gone through in order for the addict to take responsibility, start giving back and start healing.

You might ask whether it's worth the pain and struggle to recover from sexual addiction. Why not just get along? Well, I no longer want to just get along! I want Christ to finish that good work He started in me, the work I helped put on hold.

The Lord didn't put us here to just get along. We exist to give others hope and live a victorious and fruitful life. Some of the fruits have been so sweet and wonderful -- for example, a pure mind. It's still going through the cleaning process, but my mind is already much better. A clear conscience is also in the works, freeing me more and more as I ask for forgiveness and make wrongs right.

The guilt that I tried to carry is now in the Lord's hands. It is freeing to be able to come to Him when I sin and ask Him to carry that guilt. Being able to talk to the Lord as He walks beside me is the best relationship I can think of. Yes, it is worth the struggle to come out of a frozen state of lust and self-centeredness.

Taken from An Affair of the Mind by Laurie Hall. Published by Focus on the Family. Copyright 1996 by Laurie Hall. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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