Progressive Evangelical Female’s story of pornography and sexual addiction

Bec Cranford

I am a progressive evangelical. I like to think of myself as a baptiscostal floating around in the mainline churches.

What do I mean by that?

I mean that:

  • I take the Bible seriously. I don’t worship the bible, and I don’t interpret it literally. I try to use exegesis, and historical context to interpret it. I love the Bible. I love it’s 3,000 plus verses on God’s decrees of Justice to the marginalized.
  • I love creation and I try to care for it. And I don’t mean a literal 7 day creation, but I mean the beautiful world in which we find ourselves.
  • I believe that humans are created in the image of the divine.
  • I believe that we should follow Christ’s example of love for all people.
  • I honor my siblings who are on the spectrum of LGBTQQIA.
  • I believe in loving my neighbor- and especially my neighbors who don’t think or believe like I do. From my Muslim brothers and sisters, to my nationalistic brothers and sisters, to my gun toting republican voting brothers and sisters, to my polyamorous multi-partner brothers and sisters. I love them. I don’t believe like them, but never the less I love them.

So that brings me to pornography and sexual addiction. Let me first say that this article is not meant to bash anyone, demonize them, or call them sinners. It’s not. It’s just my current ramblings over my own wrestling with pornography and the sex industry. Secondly, not everyone who uses pornography is a sexual addict.

Some people say pornography can be helpful. I’ve heard it argued that women who have suffered sexual trauma can watch female-empowering pornography or lesbian pornography and recover from their trauma. I haven’t done the research so I am going to leave that alone. I am not here to do anything but offer my own truth, story, and questions.

Most of the pornography that is readily available on the internet does not, in fact, honor women. It shows them being pounded, berated, called sluts, and pushed into sexual roles that seem demoralizing and dehumanizing.  See that I said most. Don’t jump all over me, and berate me for my views, just quite yet. I realize that there are genres of pornography that lift up gay men, and empower women.

THE QUESTIONS I HAVE

However, does the pornography industry as a whole lead to intimacy, honoring the divine within each other, and living in a way that cares for another human being?

Does it?

Does it objectify people as tokens? Does it strengthen the view of women in our society? Does is show equity and equality in the bedroom? Does watching pornography strengthen the desire one may have for their own mate inside of monogamy? Does seeing images assist our thought life to consider things that are lovely and pure and noble?

How does the fetishization of black women in pornography and music assist the justice of black feminism, womanist theology, or black lives matter?

How does degrading women in the pornography add to sexual trafficking or patriarchy in general?

Do I consider myself a follower of Christ, Does Philippians 2 mean anything to me? Do I desire to follow Christ? Would I humble yourself even unto death? Does my sexuality lift up another person in this type of way? Does my use of pornography honor another person, or does it objectify them?

Those are just some questions I have.

MY STORY

Again, I am not here to bash anyone. I have used pornography. I have sent nude pictures of myself. I have objectified men for sex.  So there we go- public confession. I am the chief of all sinners.

I was also molested by my brother, and by men at church. All of them had been exposed to or addicted to pornography before they used me. One of the males, who molested me at church, told church leadership that he had an addiction to pornography. This was before porn was readily accessible on your phone or internet server.

My own sexual addiction started when I was very young. After being molested, a child usually is either repulsed by sexuality or drawn to it. I began masturbating nightly at the age of 7.  I lived with sexual addiction my whole life. When I was 14 I was introduced to porn. I thought it was amazing. Sexuality, in the pentecostal churches was so purity code laden, and this enticed me. Yet, it seemed to downgrade women.

When I moved to college when I was 18, I had a subscription to Playgirl magazine. I frequented gay strip bars to watch men dance. I objectified over fifty men for sex. I never wanted a relationship with them. I was introduced to drugs when I was 14 years of age and enjoyed the temporary high and escape from my own self-shaming, guilt, and the feelings of dirtiness. Complicating my own sexual history, was my father’s lack of touch and emotional connectivity, and his “outing” me as a lesbian when I was 21.

I was raped when I was 21. The man who raped me, held me down, and said things to me like “You know you like it,” “You love my cock,” and “Wait till I cum on your face.”  He ripped my clothing. I did not welcome his advances. As a matter of fact, I presented as a man during this point in time of my life. Our culture likes to slut shame. Saying things like, “She should not have worn that short skirt.” Well, no slut shaming from me.  But I didn’t even look like a woman. I did nothing to invite him. All people can be victims of rape- trans or cisgender, male or female, gay or straight. Many of the clients I work with who are experiencing homelessness have a fear of being raped at night. Many of them do get raped. One young woman told me she often soils herself at night just so no one will bother her. Do they deserve to be raped? Did I deserve to be raped?  I was merely walking home from work, and had met someone who said he wanted to get high. I enjoyed smoking pot when I was young. I thought that was all that was going to happen.  My boss sat with my in the emergency room later that night. I had nurses and doctors interrogate me and blame me for what had happened. Saying it was my fault. I wonder where my rapist learned to say those nasty things he said to me. I sometimes wonder, if he had an addiction. Rape is an act of power. One of abuse. One that does not honor the divine in the stranger or offer hospitality.

Around the age of 23 I met a man named Isaac at a rave.  He asked me to stay with him after I had sex with him. We quickly fell in loved. He cared for me in a way that no other man had ever done. I was a drug addict and a sex addict. I remained faithful sexually to him. At the height of my drug addiction, I chose MDMA and Cocaine over Isaac, though he loved me. And while Isaac satisfied me sexually and we were monogamous I still viewed pornography and masturbated. I used drugs until September of 2002.

After I had my overdose (and NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE) at the age of 25, I began searching for churches that would welcome a tattooed, spit-fire, tom boy who spoke unfiltered, and who was deeply hurt. I landed at a loving church.  While, I had felt a miraculous “deliverance” of drug use after my death and consequent new life experience in 2002, I had never been fixed sexually or healed of the deep trauma from past wounds.  I broke up with Isaac in 2005 and moved to Florida to study theology after being in the church for about three years. I still could not shake my sexual addiction. I felt like Gomer. I often would read the Prophets, and the apocalyptic literature of the Bible, and feel like I was the one who was so unfaithful to God. I would pray at every altar for God to heal me. I would pray that God would take away my sexual desire. I would tie my hands at night so I wouldn’t touch my body.

Fundamentalism and the purity culture didn’t help my issues. And there was no one to talk to- after all there was “Every Man’s Battle,” but apparently women just walked around in wavy white garments in fields of flowers. I always confessed my sins. That’s what James 5 told me to do. But, I found myself as an outsider. And I just felt like a dirty slut who would never be loved by anyone. While in Bible College, I drove no less than 500 miles to have a sexual encounter with a man who was 20 years my senior. On the way to sin, I felt God telling me that he loved me with an “endless love,” and that I didn’t have to do this. Yet I wanted it. The intoxicating allure of meeting this man felt like cocaine coursing through my veins. I felt powerful and in control. He wanted me. All the way up 75, every billboard said “Repent,” or something about Jesus. Every song on the radio seemed to be about God. But I was headstrong that my lover would give me what I needed. I assumed this would make me feel happy, but all it did was leave me feeling empty. I cried the whole way back to Southeastern University.  I searched for love in sex all throughout my life.

I confessed to my roomate about my devilish sexual desire. I walked in from classes one day to find her speaking in tongues, and pouring anointing oil on my bed, casting out demons of perversion. A funny image. But still, I couldn’t believe it. It was no demon. It was me. I had a wandering heart. And I doubted God could satisfy my needs. His word seemed to say so, christians said so, but i just felt like the good stuff of the christian life was out of my reach.

While in seminary, I began to research what the Bible really said about LGBT issues, temple prostitution, pedastry, and hospitality. My view points were changing on sexuality. But my trauma still had not been healed.

I went to a pastoral counselor who told me not to masturbate, or a man would never be able to bring me to climax. That was all he said. I felt so ashamed. I met my  ex-husband while I was in seminary. I didn’t wait to get to know him before jumping into bed with him. After all, he said all the right things, like “God wants me to marry you,” and it seemed at the time he would be a decent partner to start a ministry with in Atlanta. I was so afraid of being sexually immoral or falling into sin in my ministry. I knew God had called me, and anointed me, but I couldn’t be single and celibate.

I prayed like hell for what I should do.  I had mostly disregarded my conservative friend’s viewpoints on anything, and I felt like God was silent.  I did not love my ex-husband. I was not attracted to him. I just did not want to be alone. And it wasn’t like there was a line of Christian men wrapping around my front door. Honestly, most of the men at my seminary were neocalvinist know-it-alls who thought women should make sandwiches. So I married him less than 12 months after meeting him face to face.

My ex had a history of sexual addiction as well. And he kept some things hidden from me. While he loved me deeply, he was unable to offer much emotional support. He never shared the labor, responsibilities, nor was he much for working. I became verbally abusive. We grew apart. I was kicked out of a denomination, diagnosed barren, and then had four family members die within three years’ time. When my brother committed suicide, I nearly lost it. I had been working 50 hours a week serving those without homes, pastoring Church of the Misfits, and doing an internship at a small Disciples of Christ congregation. I became emotionally abusive to my husband, who seemed powerless to do any yard work, or budgeting, or managing of his life. My constant berating did not ease the situation.

Soon reports came in that he was cheating. (Which I never fathomed, because we were having sex at least every three days.)  Yet marriage is more than just sex.  We started to get counseling. And then my father dropped dead.  Life had quickly dissolved in front of my eyes.  My husband felt alienated by me. I staid angry at him for what I assumed was laziness, and my emotional abuse became constant.

In August of 2015, three pastors notified me that my ex had been on the Ashley Madison hack. This was worrisome- because of the messengers. Some of the pastors admitted their own sexual issues to me. The church seemed to be more sexually fucked up then any place that I knew. Why weren’t we talking about healthy sex? And my own marriage was a sham. My ex’s secret world of pornography, dating sites, financial mismanagement, and sexual addiction became public knowledge. I cared for him. Yet I was hurt. I asked him to move out.

Three months later he moved back home and told me he wasn’t going to work on himself. I decided to file for divorce. I tried dating. And that was stupid. I was bitter and angry about my ex. I also realized that my sexual addiction had not gone away. And now it was back with a roaring hunger.  I joined a 12 step program for sexual addicts. And I closed down my church plant, and started therapy.

I have never claimed to be a perfect follower of Christ. I am pretty shitty at doing so.

Yet pornography and me have had a bad relationship. I am sure I will make many more misteps. I am under the guidance of some great professionals, and I have boundaries up. I don’t look at dating sites after 10 pm. I call friends when I struggle. I reach out to real people, and say, “pray for me.” I redirect my sexual energy in prayer and service.

I sometimes wonder if I will ever marry again or be able to have loving-intimate sex after all the brokenness in my own life.

Yet, I do believe in the resurrection. And my hope is in Christ.

I don’t know what your experiences with pornography have been or sexual addiction.

But mine haven’t been great.

If you are sexually addicted and need help, if you feel like you must have sex, if your sexual urges overpower you, there is help.

https://slaafws.org/

Feel free to leave comments. Don’t be an asshole though. Be kind. Even if you disagree with me.

 

 

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