Sexual Abuse and Porn – A Correlation

pornabuse

I’ve been meaning to write this post a long time, but as you can imagine, it’s not exactly the easiest can of worms to open.

I’ll start with my own story, a painful one to admit, told stark on the page of my memoir, Thin Places.

Early on, my father dulls me to the dangers of pornography. It starts with his penchant for nudity, the way he assumes it to be perfectly normal. In one black and white picture, I am sitting nude on his friend’s lap—a man who is also naked—reading a story. My father asks me to bathe him, to wash his back, to pour water on his head, all while he is stark naked in his claw foot tub. He shows me myriad pictures he takes of unclothed women—some I recognize as his girlfriends, others I don’t. I remember one slew of pictures he’s particularly proud of: a series of photos where women pose in his bathtub, bubbles surrounding their parts of flesh like the Puget Sound surrounds the San Juan islands. I cringe when he sells some of these black and whites mounted on tag board at his quirky garage sale.

One picture haunts me still.

I am standing outside completely naked next to my terrified friend. I must be nine years old, the age my youngest daughter is now. Making the correlation between her sweet innocence and me back then brings tears to my eyes. I remember when the picture is taken. We are at someone’s house near a beach—a wild tangle of grounds that a gaggle of kids try to conquer. We scour the beach. We make faces when the adults say they’re making clam spaghetti. And as dusk nears, my friend, another girl my age, and I decide to be naked. Am I the instigator? My father? I doubt it’s my friend because I can see the look of horror on her face in the picture my father takes of us.

Old growth evergreens stand behind us. We are skinny and pale in the shrinking light. She wears shock on her face, her eyes wild with shame. She is covering herself up as best as she can, but she has only two hands. The contrast between us is night and day. I wear no such shocked expression. My face is serene, like the Virgin Mary in renaissance paintings. I cover myself because my friend does, but because my father has normalized nudity, I look as if I’m watching the Brady Bunch on TV. Just another day with my father snapping pictures.

That photo captures how I have been groomed to think it’s entirely normal to be nine and naked with my friend. As nine turns to ten, then pre-adolescence turns to adolescence, the rape at five and this normalcy of nudity boils inside me like a witch’s brew. And I start an addictive journey. It begins in fifth grade when I follow a group of kids from school to an attic where piles of pornography woo me into a dirty addiction.

I battled that addiction into my teens–something I was told women don’t face. (I’ve thankfully read other books that help me to see the rampant nature of porn for everyone, not just men). And in that, I faced a terrible dichotomy in my Christian walk. I knew sex was to be revered and saved–it was a holy act confined to marriage, but in the pictures and prose I read, it was a salacious, self-gratifying act, full of deeper and deeper levels of depravity. I couldn’t reconcile the two in my mind, so when I was able to walk away from porn, I shut the door entirely.

This, of course, made seeing the sexual act as beautiful quite difficult. I’ve been on a journey of learning to reclaim that, and it has not been easy.

In the midst of all this, I became and advocate of sorts for others who have suffered from sexual abuse. And the more I advocated, the more I saw the insidious effects of porn. Now, I’m not saying porn causes sexual assault. There are many people who have watched or used porn who do not prey on others, just as stats don’t show that if you’ve been sexually abused, you’ll be doomed to also become a predator. People choose to assault.

But, porn can influence aberrant thought. And with that aberrant thought, some people choose to exploit another. The question becomes: what influences their choices to violate? The problem with porn is that it  causes many to become completely desensitized to depravity. It exemplifies a sexual act without community, a one-sided self-centered endeavor, and it’s often exploitative on the other side of the screen.

You may say porn is harmless, but I would assert that any time a man or woman or child or trafficked victim is objectified for sex, and that objectification is proliferated, it breeds corruption of the mind and addiction in the actions. In short, people grow tired of simply seeing everyday depravity; eventually some choose to act it out on willing and unwilling “partners.” Some delve deeper into porn involving children.

“Porn users demand a constant stream of new, increasingly violent and fetishized content. In order to keep up with this demand, more women and children become prostituted and trafficked.” National Center on Sexual Exploitation. (2015) Pornography + Sex Trafficking: The Facts. [Accessed 29th December 2015] http://stoptraffickingdemand.com/facts/?

All this, of course, gets back to money. Porn sells. Porn makes money. People who sell other people in human trafficking make money. Pimps make money. Porn creators make money. And when there is a lot of money to be made, there will be exploited victims–those who have no voice. Children, trafficked people, the down and out, the drug-addicted, the runaway, those aging out of the foster system–they fall prey to an industry that, like a monster with an insatiable appetite, must become more and more depraved to thrive.

And when these kinds of pornographic visuals make their way into someone’s mind, they stay there. But not only that, the images and videos normalize aberrant behavior. They cause people to think that bondage is welcomed by everyone. They preach self-satisfaction at the detriment of the object. Porn transforms people from image bearers of their benevolent Creator into impersonal objects to be used for selfish pleasure, all outside the context of relationship. And if that message stays imprinted in someone who already possesses a predatory bent, the combination has the potential to become criminal.

Consider some of these statistics if you don’t think there’s a problem with porn in our world (source):

  • Porn websites net more traffic than Netflix, Amazon, & Twitter combined. (HuffPost)
  • 35% of all downloaded content are porn-related. (WebRoot)
  • Child porn is one of the fastest-growing online businesses. (IWF)
  • 624,000+ child porn traders have been discovered online in the U.S. (Innocent Justice)
  • Porn increased marital infidelity by 300%. (WebRoot)
  • At least 30% of all data transferred across the internet is porn-related. (HuffPost)

And these (source):

  • Every second 28,258 users are watching pornography.
  • Every second $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography.
  • 40 million American people regularly visit porn sites.

Sexual abuse occurs when someone deems another person as a dispensable object, when he/she believes his/her sexual gratification trumps another person’s will. It’s an act of power and control, often involving violence, threats, and bodily harm. Much of what is watched online exemplifies this kind of objectification.

Having grown up in a highly sexualized environment where my father created pornographic images before the massive proliferation on the Internet, I understand this connection. I know that my father’s foray didn’t end with images–those images were sometimes acted upon. And that’s why we need to take a serious look at the insidious, criminally-charged nature of pornography as a disgrace and evil blight upon our world. Because pornographic images, videos, and words do have a negative impact on the minds of those who watch. One can become addicted to porn. Porn can ruin marriages, opening the door to serial infidelity. It can fuel fantasies that sometimes morph into rape realities.

The problem is that porn is everywhere. It lurks, and it brazenly parades itself. The industry is well-fueled and lucrative. Perhaps there needs to be another movement like MADD called Mothers Against Porn Proliferation (MAPP–I just made that up). Or maybe the church needs to continue to explain the beauty of sex within marriage. Or maybe we need to talk more openly about porn addiction in our pews (yes, it’s there). I’m not sure of solutions, but I do believe this: sexual assault is one of the most insidious weapons Satan uses against humanity, and porn, likewise, can be a means to that end.

It’s time we become outraged.

I think of that little girl standing naked beneath the evergreens, the lack of fright on my face, the way I’d been groomed to believe it was normal to pose without clothes. I shiver to think of what more could’ve happened to me. And I weep for how many people have been victimized for the sake of another’s twisted pleasure.

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