Is she addicted to pornography?

Hi John,

You seem to be one to never shy away from difficult topics, so I hope this one isn’t too much. Something that has been plaguing me a long time is porn. You see I am a gay woman. A common response from within the LGBT community to others who are still “questioning” is to watch some porn. Try some straight, some gay, some lesbian—see what turns you on the most and notice your reaction to each type.

At the outset, this actually sounded like it might work. Problem is, I’m a Christian, and porn is bad; a sin, right? After much internal agonizing, I decided that viewing one or two clips couldn’t hurt. So I took the plunge and watched a few, hoping for a concrete answer. I got the answer: yeah — I’m definitely not straight. But I opened up a new can of worms. Now that I know about my sexuality, I find I really enjoy watching porn. So much so, that I’m afraid of becoming addicted. I try to console myself that it is better than being promiscuous myself–right? So now I’m stuck dealing with this sin thing. I’ve finally begun to move beyond believing my orientation is a sin (although I’m still not sure about the concept of “acting on it”). Watching porn however, definitely feels like a sin. I think I have stepped into a probable lifelong struggle. Thanks for listening.

Wow. I have just about no idea how to respond to this letter. For one, it’s all about a topic that I pretty assiduously do avoid writing about, which is porn.

There used to be that social adage about how you should never discuss religion or politics. But out here in the daily chat-fest that is the world-wide cyberspace cafe, religion and politics is about all anyone does talk about.

But sex? Not so much. Not here, anyway. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in five years of blogging, it’s to never write anything at all about sex or porn. People lose their freakin’ minds. (Even in my recent I have HAD it with this mother*$#@ porn on this mother#@#* plane!, you’ll notice I never actually say anything besides, “It’s still not okay to look at porn in public, right?” Cuz I’m artful like that.)

But here this person has written me, with what sounds like a pretty significant concern of hers. So now … what to do?

I was going to just run her letter, and then say, “So, people, what do you think?” But that’s … less than artful. (Though you better believe I do want to hear your responses to her.)

So. Let’s think.

Well, her question doesn’t have anything at all to do with the morality of porn, right?

Oh, crap. It does.

Okay, here’s what I’d like to try. I’m going to below run her letter again. Instead of afterwards answering it as a whole, I’ll insert right into it, sentence by sentence, whatever response I have. That way maybe … I dunno. But let’s try:

Hi John, [Hi!]

You seem to be one to never shy away from difficult topics [Wrong--but thanks!], so I hope this one isn’t too much. [I'm sure it won't be!] Something that has been plaguing me a long time is porn.  [Something that's been plaguing everyone for a long time is porn.] You see I am a gay woman. [Cool.] A common response from within the LGBT community to others who are still “questioning” is to watch some porn. [Really? I've never heard that. But duh. Totally makes sense.]  Try some straight, some gay, some lesbian—see what turns you on the most and notice your reaction to each type. [Again: totally reasonable. I've watched gay man-porn before. Impossibly enough, I think it made me even more straight.]

At the outset, this actually sounded like it might work. Problem is, I’m a Christian, and porn is bad; a sin, right? [No. Well, saying "porn is a sin" is like saying, "water is fun." Depends on the entire context of the consideration. Playing on a slip 'n slide is fun; drowning in a freezing ocean isn't. Two people in love making love isn't wrong; essentially forcing drug-addled people to have sex for money is extremely wrong. But, given the dynamics of your individual concern here, I don't think it's a sin for you to watch some porn.]

After much internal agonizing, I decided that viewing one or two clips couldn’t hurt. So I took the plunge and watched a few hoping, for a concrete answer. [Wow! I wonder how this will come out!] I got the answer: yeah — I’m definitely not straight. [Right. Well, that would do it.] But I opened up a new can of worms. Now that I know about my sexuality, I find I really enjoy watching porn. [No way! That is too funny.] So much so, that I’m afraid of becoming addicted. [Oh. Well, that's obviously not funny. Sorry.]

I try to console myself that it is better than being promiscuous myself–right? [Of course right. but ... it's not like your choices in life are to either watch porn or be promiscuous. you can do both; you can do neither, etc. But you knew that.] So now I’m stuck dealing with this sin thing. [What sin thing? You mean that you're sinning by watching porn? I don't think you are. If you contact me in two years to tell me your life has fallen apart because all you ever do anymore is stay inside and watch porn, I'll encourage you to think you've got a problem. But for now I think it's a very safe bet that God will have no problem whatsoever with you, as you're learning about and exploring your sexuality---which you should do, which is important---viewing some porn].

I’ve finally begun to move beyond believing my orientation is a sin (although I’m still not sure about the concept of “acting on it”). [Well, get sure about that. You're gay. That's perfectly fine; it is not a sin. You get to be fully and happily gay, the same as I get to be fully and happily straight. I get to have first girlfriends, and then a partner for life; you get to have first girlfriends, and then a partner for life. Those are the rules, no matter what any narrow-mined fools might tell you. You have a right to your sexuality; not being sure about that absolutely will ruin your life. Believe that now, or on your deathbed wish you had.] Watching porn however, definitely feels like a sin. [Well, you're talking about your libido here---about your sex drive. That's ... a whole huge universe of extremely complex dynamics and dimensions. For now, just keep it simple. When you want to watch some porn, watch some porn. Experience it. Think about it. Track what about it you do not process as sin, and why; and track what about it does feel to you like sin, and why. You will, by nature, be discerning; you're not going to run outside and start sexually molesting women, or anything. Give your self some time around this whole thing. You'll find your balance.] I think I have stepped into a probable lifelong struggle. [Well, dealing with sex and sexuality is a lifelong struggle, for virtually everybody. We're all crazed sex machines, basically: what to actually do about that---how to handle that, how to balance that with the rest of your emotional needs, how to ... not end up getting arrested all the time for masturbating in public, etc.---is an ongoing concern for everyone. Trust this: if you end up feeling guilty for the fact that you watch whatever amount of porn you do, you will have officially joined 99% of the human race. The truth is that that kind of guilt---that level of guilt, for exactly that degree of "transgression" or indulgence---is just part of life. It's can't be escaped. While down here on earth, we will do earthy things.]

Thanks for listening. [You're welcome! Thanks for writing!]

Right. So that worked out pretty well.

[Oh: the picture I used to illustrate this post is from an episode of "The Family Guy," in which Glen Quagmire discovers Internet porn. It is Quagmire stepping out his house for the first time following that discovery.]

When your parents love who they want you to be more than who you really are
When Bad Christians Happen to Christians in Love with Non-Christians
She's 17 and bi--and her parents won't allow it.
"It was terrifying for a young girl just beginning to realize that she was a lesbian."
About John Shore

Increasingly I want to communicate with my readers through my free email newsletter, which is just a simple, direct and personal email from me that I'll soon be sending out every three weeks or so. If you would like to receive this email in your inbox, subscribe to it on my website, or by using the subscription box about halfway down the column on the right. I wouldn't think of using your email address for anything but my e-newsletter (to which you can always unsubscribe with the click of a button). Thanks, and looking forward to communicating with you in this more intimate way.

  • http://audioarchives.blogspot.com spinetingler

    Porn, like anything else that people enjoy, is fine in moderation – but only you can decide at what point you exceed that level.

    If you find yourself sacrificing the basics needed to sustain life in favor of porn (or TV, or jogging, or collecting ceramic pigs), then that may be the point to consider slowing down. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jon-Storvick/513675673 Jon Storvick via Facebook

    Great piece, John.

  • Adara Pallady via Facebook

    I like the format as well as the responses.

  • Marko Myllyniemi via Facebook

    I’ve never commented before, but this time I must say, I totally agree; you gave good advice! After all, I’m gay and Christian, and I’m not ashamed to admit, I don’t consider watching porn a sin!

  • Lymis

    All other considerations aside, it seems to me that it has to matter whether the porn is taking over her life or in some other way keeping her from living her life fully. If it’s keeping her from dating, or if she were in a relationship and it was keeping her from connecting, then I would definitely say that it would be a problem.

    In the meantime, it may be keeping her sane, and it appears that to some degree at least, it has answered for her the question of “definitely not straight” – which is often answered by other people by hiding who they are and trying their best to use a relationship with an unsuspecting innocent person as the way to test drive the solution. A period of overindulgence with porn certainly beats a sham marriage and the resulting damage to spouse and (possibly) kids.

    John, this is a wonderful response. I’d put it in the same general category of “Here’s a coin, should we pay taxes?” that Somebody or Other once answered. Well done.

  • p.

    I dunno. First, I question whether watching porn will help anyone figure out their sexuality — because its hard to know what might turn you on. Lust, or identification with the actor/actress. But, whatever.

    And then I wonder — do we really want to disconnect sexuality from relationship? Is all that talk about objectification relevant here? Objectivizing bodies — as if they have nothing to do with the people to whom they belong?

  • Gary

    John, thanks for another rational and balanced response to a subject dealing with sexuality. It seems there is so much church induced hysteria over this sensitive subject that it is nearly impossible to be objective. But once again you found a way.

  • Susan in NY

    John Said <>

    This line cracked me up. I have so many wiseacre remarks to say, that I am just going to leave the line as it is.

    Susan in NY

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    “All that talk about objectification”? Did I miss something?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    Wow; you really DID leave that quote alone, Susan!

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    Thanks, Gary; I appreciate this.

  • http://thaliasmusingsnovels.com/ Lore

    To the letter-writer: Would a legitimate television show produced for a mainstream cable network be acceptable to your conscience? If so, check out The L Word. There are many clips available on youtube. Actually, you could have just checked out The L Word in the first place and avoided *porn* porn altogether.

    Also, it might make a big difference if you open yourself to the possibility of dating women and finding a wife. I’m not saying you won’t want to look at stimulating imagery anymore, but it may not feel as necessary once your brain accepts that this isn’t the only, or even the primary, means of sexual expression available to you.

  • Diana Avery via Facebook

    “Ya know, you’re gonna have to face it, you’re addicted to porn.” Kidding. I haven’t read the post yet!

  • http://pathux.wordpress.com/ Pat

    Great response, John! There is this thing called ‘the cookie jar syndrome’ in which you desire what you are told you can’t have. Remove the finger-wagging, and you find that ‘s it’s ok to have a cookie and you will not necessarily want to gorge yourself. It generally works that way with porn. Not always of course. But there is treatment for that. :)

  • Katrina

    I, too, am a gay woman who reads your blog. Thank you so much for this response. While I am not a porn-watcher (well…hardcore anyway), it’s so refreshing to read how being gay is not really an issue. Your blog helps me to calm down and breathe.

  • http://www.facebook.com/julietdorriswilliams Juliet Dorris-Williams via Facebook

    John.. I heart you.That is all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nea-Bryant/100000197161695 Nea Bryant via Facebook

    i don’t like porn. but i’m willing to admit that the only thing i think is sinful about it is when people are being exploited. (um… porn “actors”) or when those standards are imposed on the non-porn affiliated. (there should be room in our society for every single variety of breasteses.)

  • Patti

    Educating ourselves about the porn industry can help us decide what is sin for us as individuals or not. Just like eating animals. If we decide it is ok as a whole concept but are empathetic we will choose the meat that was raised and butchered humanely. I happen to feel like anything that I indulge my lusts on whether it be possessions, food or sexuality I have an obligation to be aware if inhumane or degrading conditions were enforced during the production. That disqualifies porn for me. And I think most porn users would agree that once they have looked at what is sure to have been the best conditions it is extremely difficult to not move on to seedier material. So, I think that the guilt and shame one feels is caused more by an internal consciousness that we have just enjoyed something at someone else’s demise. Most porn stars make extremely little money for what they do while their sleazy bosses rake in the money from the users. Most female porn stars are barely of legal age, an age where we are still figuring out our lives. Most of these girls will do one movie only because what they were lured into was not what they were promised. And most do not use condoms and are lied to about VD screening so they start their lives out with disease. It is very difficult to keep these things in mind once the users hormones have coursed through their bodies. But if you are addicted to porn and want to quit, start educating yourself about it. Eventually you will start caring more for other people than caring about your sexual tension.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Blaine-Williams/100001220897612 Blaine Williams via Facebook

    I had the exact same response you had when she wrote, “Now that I know about my sexuality, I find I really enjoy watching porn.” It just struct me as funny. But obviously it concerns her. Maybe there is an underlying fear of addiction in general, otherwise why would she jump to that concept.

  • http://www.zahnzone.blogspot.com LisaZ

    Great response! While porn is stimulating and can be fun, it is a far cry from the true intimacy that we humans (sex-crazed as we are!) long for. Being open to your true sexuality, whether gay or straight, and finding a significant other with whom you can share that, seems a much more fulfilling way to live this out.

    Porn may or may not be “sinful” but an addiction that cuts us off from other human beings or even ourselves and what we want from life, likely is.

  • BS

    Why can’t more people understand this!?

    Moderation, in all things, is the key to a healthy balance in whatever endeavor one undertakes.

  • Brian Sheahan via Facebook

    This was an awesome read, John. Thanks!

  • Melody

    Ditto. It’s a touchy subject, but it certainly can be approached objectively.

  • Melody

    I agree. Everything in moderation. I’m not into porn because I find it unrealistic, but as long as it’s not an addiction, I don’t have a problem with people watching it.

  • Melody

    WORD. It isn’t black and white like people want it to be.

  • Gary

    I find it entirely possible to care for other people and to view and/or read erotic materials. I am very selective of course.

  • Patti

    Yes, I imagine selection is key. I guess it’s like any other business. If we don’t buy the exploitation then they won’t make it.

  • http://www.fibertarian.com/FiberWordPress Maria

    John, I can’t read your blog at work because I end up laughing so hard and people look at me funny. Then, I can’t even explain what I’m laughing about. So sad!

    I loved your response and I agree that the issue is definitely not because she’s gay. My friend and I had this discussion the other day. We have been conditioned for fake guilt on so many things from childhood and to this day I’ve had to fight all of my childhood issues and biases. You seem to cover a bunch of them in your blog. Thanks for that!

  • Gary

    Yeah I really have no desire to view the typical industry crap. And there is much heartache associated with it.

    But healthy sensuality and an appreciation for the beauty of this God given sexual desire, this I find quite wholesome.

  • Diana A.

    “Well, dealing with sex and sexuality is a lifelong struggle, for virtually everybody. We’re all crazed sex machines, basically: what to actually do about that—how to handle that, how to balance that with the rest of your emotional needs, how to … not end up getting arrested all the time for masturbating in public, etc.—is an ongoing concern for everyone.”

    See, it’s this kind of observation/admission that makes you, as an adult convert to Christianity, so valuable. This is the kind of thing that a lot of life-long Christians would have trouble admitting to themselves, much less anyone else. You really are the boy in the story of the Emperor and His New Clothes–the one who didn’t know that only “stupid people” couldn’t see what the Emperor was wearing–and thus, was the only one able and willing to admit that the Emperor was “nekkid as a jaybird.”

    Keep at it John. The Christian community needs people like you. So does the rest of the world.

  • Diana A.

    My understanding is that See’s Candy employees are allowed to gorge on all the candy they want while at the store. The first three days, they pig out. After that, the employees generally level off to about three pieces of candy a day. I don’t know if this is true or not, but I can see how it would be.

  • Tim

    The secondary issue here seems to be about addiction. I’m not sure sex addiction is a possible diagnosis in any context (I have been reading on this).

    My two cents, as a gay man halfway through dealing with something similar is this: does it get in your way of the rest of your life? Does porn or lust get in the way of work, friendships, romance, your relationship with God, or anything else? If so, you have an issue somewhere (and it may not be the porn, it may be the ultra right-wing bundle-pants friends or your perception of God). If you get far enough that the porn becomes the issue then there are spiritual disciplines, therapies, and personal choices that you will have to make, sister. Until then, be true to yourself and figure out what you need to figure out.

  • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

    I’m not into porn. As I’ve said before, as far as “drive” goes, my car is parked (and it seems to the surprise of many, I’m happy with it). It’s not that I haven’t encountered it – I encountered my dad’s stash of magazines when I was 11 or 12 and went “Ew!” I totally respected my dad’s right to be dad, it’s just that I wish he didn’t keep it out in the open/easily seen like that.

    The idea of live-action porn is something I personally find really skeevy – because, while it is not the viewer who is being promiscuous, by purchasing it, you’re basically endorsing other people to. (Unless you only watch porn by committed couples who want to show their bedroom lives to the world).

    Drawn and written stuff, I’m easier on – fiction, though when I encounter a heavy sex scene in a novel or in a comic (being read becuase of some greater story), with my asexual self, I just roll my eyes and laugh – a lot – depending on how the scene is written. I remember reading one of the “Earth’s Children” books – the ones about a woman’s travels through paelothic culture – and that’s what I was reading the book for, the take on the hunter-gatherer culture and the exciting hunting scenes… then I get to the scenes of woman and her boyfriend and after reading so many of these describing his tree-trunk sized tool, I started skipping the “love scenes” because I just couldn’t take it anymore! And, then, of course, there’s an anime I like which is not hentai-proper (“Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt” – it’s a comedy about a pair of loser angels who were kicked out of Heaven), but is borderline – and all the porny stuff is played for laughs. (I’d never show it to my old church, but I’m glad to share it with people who enjoy loads of WTF comedy). I assure you, I got hot from neither, it’s basically all humor to me, (even when it’s meant to be serious).

  • Amy

    I was right there with you until that last point, John. I have absolutely no guilt about enjoying porn, and know a lot of people who feel the same. We’re not lying about our feelings, we just don’t think that sex is wrong. In my eyes there’s a big difference between personal behavior (which includes condoning exploitation by shady film companies) and what you watch or think about in private. I can enjoy watching a woman being completely uninhibited (or pretending to be) without losing my own boundaries.

  • Amy

    I’m sure that being an asexual person really affects your views on this. Thanks for sharing your perspective!

  • Andrew Raymond

    Double ditto. Well done, John.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nwbuckeye Pat Hux via Facebook

    I commented on the article, saying that the cookie jar syndrome is responsible for our fear of such addiction. We always seem to want what we are denied. Permision to have a cookie now and then often changes the whole dynamic.

  • p.

    Yeah, well, its not like I actually know what I’m talking about! But when the subject comes up, people sometimes talk about the “objectification” of (generally women’s) bodies. Which I think means to make an object of them, to forget, or ignore, or not care — that there is a real human being inside whose feelings and emotions are connected up to whatever their body is doing.

    Maybe if we thought about what it would be like to be an actor in a pornagraphic movie — we’d get some insight. How would that feel? Is it. . . in some sense, dehumanizing?

  • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

    I do have a question in regards to this – forgive me if I am being imprudent…

    I’m too lazy to look up the exact verse, but I remember Jesus saying something about “adultry in the heart” for a man “to look at a woman who is not his wife with lust.”

    How do you interpret this in light of porn? I’m not being accusatory, just curious. I mean, do you interpret Jesus’ words to be more about the men of that time being willing to leave their wives without financial support to go on and chase tail (thus their lust directly hurts someone), or do you interpret it in the light of “instinctual/physical inability to uphold all the Law” or what?

    I know a lot of what we consider “lust” today really is a matter of instinct. Even those of us who aren’t actually interested in doing the deed will get weak in the knees or stiff between the knees depending upon gender when we someone good looking walk by — which makes me wonder if Jesus was getting at the latter (and that we shouldn’t worry about it too much unless we’re actively hurting someone).

    All I know is that I don’t want things to go “reverse” in terms of judgement – I don’t want to be seen as stupid, horrible, crazy (er than I know I am) or something else horribly wrong with me because I’m not into porn. (I’ve already been judged by people for that. It’s NOT nice).

  • Diana A.

    I think Jesus was making the same point that he made a lot of other times in the scriptures–that people should spend less time judging the sins of others and more time making sure that they themselves didn’t fall short of the mark.

    If I remember the context correctly, this was said during the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus was quoting the law (“Thou shalt not commit adultery.”), but then adding his own spin to it (“But I say that if you even look upon a woman with lust, you are committing adultery in you heart.”)

  • Melody

    Agreed. I take that passage under the context of ” You’re no better than anyone else, so what are you doing judging anyone else?”

  • Diana A.

    Re the “Earth’s Children” books–Stephen King refers to them as the “Sex among the cave people” series. Or at least he did in one of his novels.

  • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

    I only ever read “The Mammoth Hunters,” which I picked up at a thrift store. The culture of the hunters was neat, and the hunting scenes were exciting, but I know why people on the Internet call the character Jondalar “Dongdalar.”

  • http://ReverendCarlJohnson.com Rev. Carl Johnson

    Brother John,

    With the proviso that obviously, NO ONE should be coerced to act in or watch adult media, I believe the only way possible that enjoying the fruits of the flesh would be sinful or wrong, in my mind, is if doing so hurts yourself or another. Granted, that can cover a lot of ground and a couple of thousand ‘what ifs’…designed for discussion among philosophers, truth seekers, and coffee shop BS’ers among the rest of us. YMMV.

    I maintain that if watching porn hurts my mate, or cause me harm, then it’s wrong FOR ME. For consenting adults, I have no problem, nor should anyone else.

    And, FWIW, it has nothing to do with sexual orientation or identity.

    All best!

    Brother Carl

  • Lasafara

    I’ve never commented before, but I wanted to say something on this post. I only started following you recently, and it’s so nice to see a worldview so similar to mine while still sharing my faith!

    I also wanted to thank you for this post. At my old church, the pastor tackled this problem as well. However, he actually split the sermon into two parts. First, he spoke “only to the men” and talked about not looking at porn because it was wrong. Then, he spoke “only to the women” and talked about dressing modestly so as not to entice the men. I was honestly so angry I emailed him with a two-page letter and told him it would be my last time coming to the church. The very idea that porn is something only men have to deal with, and that only women need to be concerned with dressing appropriately enraged me!

    Fortunately for me, although the pastor was never willing to completely back down from his stance on pornography, he took the time to listen to me, apologize for how he’d come across, and acknowledge that he was wrong in dividing his sermon down the gender line, and I ended up with a very supportive Bible Study Group that did not always agree, but was willing to listen and discuss things. However, I never really felt comfortable with the idea that porn was evil/a sin, particularly because I stick exclusively to fictional, non-exploitative genres. It always seemed to me that God created our sex drives to be a beautiful thing, and so long as it is done in moderation, it is fine. Particularly as a single woman nearing 30, it has felt for a long time that the Christian community wants to believe that I don’t have a libido, that it’s somehow easier for me to be alone because I couldn’t possibly crave companionship and touch. So I guess what I’m saying is thank you for reminding me that it’s okay to have a sex drive as a woman, and thank you for being willing to approach this topic!

  • anna

    This is an honest question, not meant to be snarky, passive aggressive or judgmental – but to honestly gain understanding on where John and other believers are coming from when they say that viewing porn isn’t a sin. There are countless passages on the sinfulness of engaging in lust – not just with our eyes – but even lust within our imaginations. I can list them if asked, but I don’t want this to overly long. The thought that God would embrace or be indifferent about our lustful desires to self gratify ourselves (I suppose not always) to pornography seems to contradict too many passages to count. Obviously the wrath of God wouldn’t come down on our heads, but as Believers, isn’t he calling us to at least strive for something higher?

    I’m ignoring, of course, the horrors of the porn industry, but that’s another issue.

    So my question – If you’re a Believer and you don’t think viewing porn is a sin, I guess I’m just asking for someone to elaborate on how you came to that conclusion? Any passages to support? Do you think verses on lust don’t apply in this context? Again, just looking for understanding – no judgment here on alternative views.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    Please do note that I did not say anything nearly as simple as “viewing porn is not a sin.” I instead took some pains to make clear that’s it’s all a good deal more complicated than that — as did you (inadvertently or not), with your parenthetical “I suppose not always”.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    I’m glad you commented, Lasafara. This is really good.

  • Chris

    Anna,

    The way I learned it in the congregation I was raised in and the seminary I’m attending (which admittedly are both pretty progressive) the commands and prohibitions provided in the Bible are to teach us how to both love *and* unify with each other. Any prohibition that the Bible provides us is to teach us how to not fracture relationships (and therefore live in love and unity), but that doesn’t inherently necessitate a literal interpretation of “don’t ever, never, ever do this thing no matter what”. So the passages regarding lust/sex/whatever should be taken in this context. If you’re lusting after someone, if you’re being sexual with other people (or just with yourself), how does that affect the quality of your relationships? If you’re married and you like to watch porn, but that makes your spouse uncomfortable, then yeah, lusting and watching pornography will create problems and could potentially fracture your relationship. If you and your spouse enjoy porn together as part of your healthy, supportive, happy sexual relationship, then what’s the problem? If you’re questioning your sexuality and you find porn to be affirming, pleasing, and maybe even helps you relax a little bit about sex for when you finally enter into a sexual relationship, then what’s the problem?

    So that’s one interpretation from a Believer on why and how porn/lust/etc. can be okay.

  • anonymous for a moment

    By fictional non-exploitative, do you mean something like ecchi (anime porn, basically) or written porn?

    Where there are no actual actors engaging in the sex scenes…

  • anonymous for a moment

    I’m not far from asexual, and i keep wishing he would say “except for the asexual folks” in these kinds of posts.

    Although i did get to like some yaoi.

    I think my husband would like that ecchi story you mentioned; i will have to tell him about it, maybe we will watch it and laugh together.

  • LSS

    She *could* jump to that because it’s one of those things we are cautioned to watch out for.

    Now it’s not just a sin, it’s a psychological problem so our culture has both a religion-based and a science-based complex about it.

  • Jennifer

    Wow, this was me a few years ago. I would watch porn but stay away from the lesbian stuff. I felt it was too much of a temptation. (I know, that’s weird….) Anyway, a couple of years ago, my sexual identity finally knocked on my door too hard to ignore. I gave in and watched a little bit of lesbian porn. I was absolutely shocked at how free it made me feel! I did not feel guilty, or dirty, or ashamed like I did when I watched straight porn. Just like that, things finally started falling into place. I dealt with my issues, finally, and began accepting myself as a lesbian. I can remember actually watching videos and crying….bawling…..because I finally felt alive sexually. So I know how the writer of the letter feels. I started looking for lesbian themed tv shows and movies and found plenty to help me out. The L Word was OK, but really unrealistic as far as the characters go. But I found a lot of movies via Netflix. Some documentaries, some just movies. I reached out to gay friends who got me involved with my local chapter of PFLAG. It’s only been a couple of years, but I now have a wonderful relationship, and life is wonderful. So please, please do not beat yourself up over watching porn. God can….and will…..use anything to teach us more about ourselves and our lives. It may be wrong for some to watch, but not for others. As you deal more openly and honestly with your orientation, things will calm down and you won’t be drawn to the porn as much. I went through the whole “sin” thing too. Don’t let that be a mill stone around your neck. Reach out, embrace life, and know that there is a wonderful woman waiting to discover just how wonderful you are too!!!! Good luck, my dear, and God bless you!!!

  • anna

    Chris –

    That was a really great response, thank you. I see your point and in a lot of aspects, I tend to agree. But I’m also left with some “what ifs.” For instance, is your definition of “porn” referring to a sexual love scene between a loving couple or perhaps books with erotica and sexual content? Because if you are, then I tend to agree with you.

    But, if you are using the word in this way – then I’m afraid we’re making light of an extremely heavy word. In fact, porn is often quite the opposite and usually refers to (and these are real titles) movies called “Bend the Bit*h Over” or “Barely Legal Sluts” (it gets far worse, but I’ll spare everyone). When I was young a friend put on a porn movie that included a girl who looked incredibly young being anally penetrated by one man while gagging and regurgitating on another man’s penis. To me, when I think of God – when I think of the work of Jesus on this earth – I think of Him protecting us from this – not condoning it. So I guess when you say, “what’s the problem?” – to me, that’s the problem.

    Perhaps I’m more passionate about this issue because of the research I have done on porn for my thesis. What I found made me quite confident that the porn industry is one of the most satanic and particularly abusive industries still legal today. The idea that we can engage in watching it without it causing any spiritual harm because “we’re not hurting anyone else” just doesn’t ring true to me – or at least oversimplifies it to a dangerous degree.

    Also, you talk about sin relating in our relationships with others, but what about our relationship with God? We’re called to Christ-like – right? Wouldn’t spending an evening watching an 18 year old, coked out girl, having extremely rough sex with two men at the same time certainly, at the very least, put a little distance between us and the Lord?

    Listen, I don’t say this to be judgmental. When I was single, I mean – the need for a sexual outlet was so overwhelming and I struggled with this constantly. Trust me – I get it. I have loads of compassion and understanding for myself and others who struggle with this issue – so I worry that I may be coming off as someone being judgmental – trust me, I’m not. I’m just weary of the comments that seem to compare it to “eating ice cream” – fine in moderation. Do I think this brave woman who wrote John is swimming in a sea of sinful debauchery? Of course not – and I want to be clear that my questions here are only in response to the responses made to John’s post – not to her letter to John.

    Anyway, I hope my thoughts are taken well. This can often be a very emotional issue.

  • Gary

    Anna, You have asked a very sincere and excellent question. I appreciate the genuine desire for dialogue in your post. I would like to respond because I believe your question is not only sincere, but strikes at the heart of the whole issue of sexuality and sinful behavior for the believer.

    First of all I believe we need to understand what it means to lust…since clearly Jesus declared to do so is sinful in the context of looking upon a woman “to lust” . Of course lust has also been used scripturally to mean things which are not sinful as in the same root word found in Luke 22:15 which meant eagerly desired. (This was in reference to Jesus desire) So it is important not to take the simple generic undersdtanding of lust as often provided by the church. The typical church definition of lust is pretty much any sexual thought. This is simply not biblical…and is a direct affront to God’s design. Few would argue that we are designed by God to be attracted to others in a sexual way. And contrary to what church teaching would imply…this desire is not magically switched OFF until after the marriage vow. It is simply the way we are designed. Even in the context of situations outside of marriage…sexual desire is often spoken of in the bible without condemnation or indication of God’s displeasure in any way.

    So then what does it actually mean to “lust” after someone? When lust carries the negative connotation in scripture there is a connotation of an intent to posses, to take what is not lawful. In fact in the command not to covet, one of the illustrations is “thy neighbors wife”, along with various others of his possessions. In the context of Jesus statement…I believe this becomes clear. “To commit adultery” then is literally taking that which one is not entitled to. Hence…David sinned with Bathsheeba where he did not sin with his other women some of which he was not married to. Jesus was right…if you desire to take that which does not belong to you…then you are already guilty in your heart.

    But does this mean that to view a person and have a healthy sexual appreciation is to lust? It certainly can become lust. But the act of sexual desire is not lust outside of the context of covetousness. If I look at a image of a nude woman and it creates a sexual response…have I lusted? I say no. God designed me this way. I have no intention of seeking this woman out and taking her for my own. I am simply have a natural sexual response clearly placed in me by design of my creator.

    Of course some can not handle sexual desire without sexual sin. Some cannot handle alcohol without becoming an alcoholic. Some cannot handle food without giving in to glutenous indulgence. Yet scripture speaks of the desire for both in very positive ways in places when understood and controlled. We are told that everything is ok for the believer…but not everything is profitable. What makes a thing unprofitable? That which we are mastered by…rather than being masters of.

    I know that has run on long…but lust is a word whose meaning has been totally corrupted by the church. Sexual desire is natural and God given. It is beautiful. It is good. Sexual desire in the context of covetousness becomes a forbidden condition of lust.

  • HJ

    Wow, thank you. It’s so incredible to hear from someone who knows the exact experience! ” I can remember actually watching videos and crying….bawling…..because I finally felt alive sexually.”. This, exactly!! It weirded me out so bad when it happened too. So many emotions are welled up together there. In a mere several minutes you get all these answers about being yourself, and about being human. It’s overwhelming. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • Gary

    Now continuing on…as for the examples of porn you provided with titles such as “Bend over Bitch” and others…clearly those are disrespectful and foster an attitude of objectifying people in a very selfish fashion. Clear violations of the law of love wouldn’t you agree? I would never defend any form of erotica (porn) which either depicts or implies a type of violation of God’s primary directive of love for others. I think this is one of the reasons why this subject is so difficult to discuss rationally. There are so many negative and exploitative examples of porn and this is what most people think of when the term is used.

    But to classify all types of erotic literature according to these examples is to pollute and ultimately define the beauty of God’s gift of sexuality by the standard of these man made perversions. This is a travesty to the beauty of sexual love. We should be able to celebrate the depiction (even graphic) of sexual love as God does in the Song Of Solomon. This is a book that is very pornographic in nature. When any serious study is given…it becomes clear that the sexuality portrayed in those few chapters would get the participants kicked out of a very large percentage of churches today. But there is no problem in the sexual acts, nor in their description in a very titillating manner, or God would not have inspired this book.

    So to answer your question…I think the verses on lust (properly defined) should guide our usage of sexual material. So is viewing sexual material sinful lust then? Well…the answer is the same as in many other behaviors. Is eating sinful gluttony? Is consuming alcohol sinful drunkenness?

  • anna

    Gary, I very much appreciate this response. Also, explained in the way you have, you have articulated my feelings about it in many ways. I just responded to Chris, who also took the time to articulate his perspective very well.

    I don’t take issue with this spiritual perspective to sexual desire – in fact, the open and honest approach is why I’m drawn to progressive Christian perspectives. You said “Sexual desire is natural and God given. It is beautiful. It is good” – beautifully said, and very true. However, if someone uses that sentence and attaches said sexual desire to justify watching pornography and implies God is at the very least, indifferent – then there I am lost. I’m lost because of what pornography often is and can be. I went in more detail in my response to Chris …

    Thank you so much for taking the time to address my question.

  • anna

    Gary, I wrote this before noticing your second response. You answered it in a very wonderful way, and I agree. Thank you.

  • Gary

    When you read my 2nd comment I suspect you will discover we are pretty close in our conclusions. What you find objectionable in much porn…I do as well.

  • Gary

    Ah the hazards of forum discussions…LOL.

  • Chris

    Anna,

    No worries, you came across perfectly. I really feel like you, Gary, and I seem to be on the same page. There undoubtedly is pornography that is destructive and promulgates destructive behaviors and stereotypes, which we may want to avoid. But I think once we delve into that aspect of pornography we’re also delving into the issue of consumer responsibility. So maybe we should differentiate between pornography as an idea, and pornography as it can exist. So take these couple of examples: 1) Gary’s example of alcohol and alcoholism. There’s nothing wrong with alcoholism, but there *can* be something wrong with the way a person consumes it; and 2) Products that were made with child and/or slave labor. There’s nothing wrong with the individual product, but there *can* be something wrong with the way a product is produced.

    So maybe, as we aim to behave as responsible Christians, and therefore as responsible consumers, we should concentrate less on the idea of pornography itself and more on the way the pornography industry operates.

    In fact (maybe you already know this) there already is a movement kind of like this within the porn industry. I’ve found several pornographic sites and companies that are specifically aiming to make porn “safer,” in that they practice things like more fair employment and pay, not doing the “barely legal” shtick, using condoms at all times, and other practices (I’ll spare readers the gory details) that make the sex a lot safer for the performers. I truly believe that porn can be safely produced and consumed, but that’s something that we as a society have to work for and work towards. But in the meantime, we shouldn’t be ashamed or afraid to consume it, we just need to be mindful.

    I hope this answers your questions! You brought up excellent points that I think are really relevant and necessary in any discussion of this type.

  • Christine

    Ok, way too curious not to ask and particularly because I have great respect for your comments (and still do!), as you know, Gary, but if you do not want to answer, please feel free. What I am wondering is *how* are you very selective. By that it simply mean, how and what do you select? Because the general impression, at least as far as I can figure, is that, between the objectification being portrayed and being actually done behind the scenes, it is basically inescapable in porn unless you are watching friends home movies. Where are you finding this “wholesome” porn?

  • CPUDELL

    The slopes slippery mate, enough people at sliding down it already, don’ t invite more.

  • DR

    Hi Anna,

    I think that many of us do believe that watching porn actually might be ok in moderation.

  • Driftwood2K11

    I believe porn can be very humanizing, in that it shows us as who we are on our most basic levels. We have lofty ideals, and goals, to strive for something better, but at the same time, we have these carnal desires that (usually) cannot be ignored. There’s no shame in finding someone attractive sexually, and there’s no shame in wanting to consummate that attraction. If I may say so boldly, sometimes you just want to watch people sweat and grunt like the homo sapiens they are.

  • HJ

    I’m the fear-of-becoming-addicted letter writer. I just want to say thanks so much John for responding to this one! And many thanks for everyone’s responses!

    So many people will not confront the sex part of the difficulty of coming to grips with one’s *sex*ual orientation. But it’s a bugger of a topic. I don’t feel badly about thinking women are pretty, or liking the way they dress, or day-dreaming about maybe finding a partner some day. But I do feel badly (guilty?) about thinking about them sexually. Before I came out (to myself), I didn’t think I was straight, I thought I was asexual. So I’ve had to “come out” in terms of being sexual at all, and *then* move on to the reality of not being straight. Reading everything here so far has been extremely helpful. Thanks again, from the bottom of my heart!

  • Luke

    Per “love your neighbor as yourself”, it is wrong to exploit someone to their detriment in order to satisfy your own needs and desires, even if they consent to it. Porn can be sinful in that regard, but so can buying tomatoes (picked by exploited migrant workers). It is an impossibly high standard meant not to condemn, but to inform and guide an understanding of how we are obligated to one another. Of course, this ethic would not pertain to purely fictional porn that does not involve actors, at least as regards the consumer. It might still be a problem on the love-yourself side, which is a debatable point and one that doesn’t need all that much external authority.

  • Robin

    I am a chemical dependency counselor…I have seen firsthand what the sex industry has done to people…it is primarily exploitative of those who are vulnerable. It has torn apart the lives of the many women I have worked with who struggle with addiction, abuse and poverty, leaving them more abused, ashamed and addicted. As a Christian, I cannot feed into an industry that treats sex as a cheap thrill to entertain people while callously abusing others to make money. Sexuality isn’t the issue…the porn industry is. Sex and sexuality is a beautiful thing, treating it as cheap and meaningless minimizes what God wants for us. Sorry, just cannot sit back and say that porn is OK when I know firsthand it is not.

  • Diana A.

    “Dongdalar!” LOL! But yeah, the books do focus an awful lot on “pleasures” between the two main characters. Otherwise, though, they are good stories.

  • http://www.asad123.com Asad123

    Patti, your comment is the best one on this subject. You are clearly looking at this issue in a complex, sophisticated way. I like what you said about how we need to use our own guilt as a moral barometer.

    John, I respect you for discussing this topic, knowing full well the criticism you might have to face. You showed a great deal of compassion and sensitivity in your response. However, I disagree with the advice you gave the author of the letter. If she is worried about becoming addicted to porn and she feels guilty about watching it, she should try to avoid it. Perhaps she needs to wean herself off of it gradually, but this idea that everybody does it so it’s not that bad is not right.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    Asad: Gimme a break. I never said anything close to “everybody does it so it’s not that bad.”

  • Molly By Golly

    Agreed and please substitute above variations of “porn industry” with “misogynist, Christian churches” for an equally valid statement. Without being primed by church and culture to think of themselves [women] as deficient and subordinate to men, men as wicked, and the world as fallen, your clients would likely have enjoyed different lives. (This is not a comment on your work or your faith, Robin. I am grateful people like you are out there helping others.) We must first change the culture of oppression and exploitation within our own faith. We will then be able to see clearly what we must do about these problems within the other parts of society.

  • http://www.buzzdixon.com buzz

    One note: Being attracted to a specific type of porn does not necessarily mean you are that type of person (though admittedly the odds are good…). Many people are interested in things they would never do in real life but are curious enough about them to watch somebody else doing it.

  • Molly By Golly

    Isn’t almost all work transactional and dehumanizing on some level? If you or I stopped doing our job do you think our employers would keep us on because we’re such swell people? Are we not more than our work as well?

  • Don Whitt

    There are two things about this I think the letter writer needs to think about:

    Porn: You’ve used this as a means to divine orientation. Cool. You’ve also felt a sadness about it that is natural because you’ve experienced an intimacy with images of strangers with whom you’ve established no relationship. That’s weird. Porn is creepy to most people. That’s normal.

    You’ve come-out. That’s new and fresh and, in our society, not excepted by everyone and that’s weird, too. I apologize for all of those who have issues with that. I wish you the best in your path towards self-acceptance and love. There are so many of us in the world who wish you the best. There aren’t enough daily affirmations about that, but we do care and hope for the best for you. Good luck!

    Straight or gay, all of us have stepped into a life-long struggle. That’s the deal. Get used to it. You deserve respect, love and happiness. Help yourself to get it. Find friends who will help, too. You’ve a great start coming into John’s community.

  • Donald Rappe

    The word porn carries any discussion so far down the field. I find discussing porn without considering how some of it is made to be like discussing the pros and cons of anti-semitism without considering the Judaicide. Perhaps there are better ways for people to affirm their sexual orientation. Maybe try visiting gay oriented clubs? Meeting gay people in some other way? At church?

  • vj

    What a great bunch of well-articulated responses this has generated – so much good advice and food for thought.

    I would only add that, since the letter-writer self-identifies as a Christian, it may be appropriate to suggest that she consider that the ‘guilt’ she feels about watching porn might be the Holy Spirit counselling her against watching it? Obviously this is a personal and indivdual matter, but I think that we need to mindful of the Scriptural mandate to not allow our own liberty in matters of conscience to cause ‘weaker’ believers to stumble. (I’m thinking of the early church, where some believers had no problem with eating meat that had been offered to idols, while others felt that to be sin; the former were advised to refrain from such food if their liberty caused the latter to follow suit in violation of their own conscience).

  • Driftwood2K11

    Good point, Molly. In fact, modern job training includes forming into more of a collective rather than an individual, the idea that without the team you’re inadequate. Humans as individuals are not desired in most work environments, because that leads to individual thought and idealism, something that might disrupt the work flow and diminish profits (heaven forfend!). People do this willingly, and don’t feel cheapened (though I’m sure they don’t feel appreciated either). How is porn any different in that regard?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    excellent contribution, vj.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    excellent

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    very well said, Don. Thanks for this.

  • LSS

    i felt that way about being heterosexual. It must be harder as lesbian because you have EXTRA guilt conditioning from the church. I wonder if it would help to read up on the purity culture that gets imposed on women. i can’t remember names of posts but a search might find it on this blog. A lot of the discussion was in the comments, actually, and i dont’ know if the search function searches the comments. Some was on a post about a woman who was raped as a teen and her pastor told her she should rather have provoked the rapist to kill her than live having lost her virginity. That is an extreme example of the purity culture but if i remember right, it got us into some big discussions in the comments about other implications of that distorsion of christianity (of course this problem exists in other religions, too, but you and many of us here are coming from christian background and have absorbed those complexes with a christian flavor).

  • Lymis

    HJ,

    It’s entirely possible that once you find someone to be in the kind of relationship you are looking for, that your sexual desire will orient primarily to them. You’re supposed to think of your partner sexually. That’s how we’re wired. And the sort of attraction you are feeling is one of the ways we’re drawn into those relationships, and what cements them when we’re in them.

    It’s often stranger for gay people who come out to themselves later, or who come out publicly later – but in part, what you are now going through is what most straight people go through when they hit puberty, just with a whole society oriented toward directing them on how to navigate it (for better or worse.)

    Those of us who start later are often surprised to find that the feelings that we avoided when we were younger didn’t go away, but were waiting to leap on us full force when we opened the door. Mentally, professionally, and socially, you are your own age. Right now, sexually, you are 16. It may help to think of yourself that way, and if necessary and appropriate, parent yourself a bit.

    Be ready. The first time you fall in love, you’ll be 16 all over again, with everything that it involves (“why didn’t she call!?!”). It’s natural, and it’s wonderful, and in a better world, you would have done all this when you were a teenager.

  • Lee

    I’m sorry if this is repeated elsewhere, as I tried to read through the comments, but may have missed something. There a LOTS of amazing thoughts and ideas here, but I didn’t come across detailed thoughts on the ethically created porn out there, where the creators are clear about creating porn/erotic films with everyone involved being there of their own volition, not feeding addictions, not being harmed.

    It’s been a while since I’ve looked into this in detail, but I think a good idea is to look for lesbian porn (if that’s your pref) made by women for women. I’ve certainly seen some amateur gay (male) porn where the participants are quite enthusiastically enjoying themselves and don’t seem to be there to feed their addictions or seem otherwise exploited. My guess is it would be hardest to sort through the heterosexual porn to find some that feels not exploitative, but I’ve heard from friends that it exists.

    On a personal note to HJ: when I was coming out, the woman I was falling in love with asked me to watch a well known lesbian film, When Night Is Falling. In the scene when the two women finally kissed my reaction was to audibly gasp (not from shock, but more from arousal) and then to cry like a baby. I can only say that it was a defining moment in terms of my understanding of myself—it wasn’t long before being okay with my orientation came in line with being okay with my sexual self.

  • Giselle Michaels

    Thanks John, for being a voice for compassionate Christianity. I especially liked your advice about self-examination:

    “For now, just keep it simple. When you want to watch some porn, watch some porn. Experience it. Think about it. Track what about it you do not process as sin, and why; and track what about it does feel to you like sin, and why. You will, by nature, be discerning; you’re not going to run outside and start sexually molesting women, or anything. Give your self some time around this whole thing. You’ll find your balance.”

    Asking oneself “what about this makes it feel sinful?” can be the first step in finding a balanced Biblical morality that is uncorrupted by the traditions of Men.

  • DR

    Wow. So true.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    A lesbian friend of the blog has recommended this site for ethical porn:

    http://feck.com.au/

  • Lymis

    (the site is Australian.)

    Is it just me, or is there something delightful about the idea of ethical porn coming from “down under?”

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    I did see/know it’s Australian. But (besides the funny joke!) that’s not any kind of problem or anything, right?

  • Cici

    Feck is the group behind the sites Project I Shoot Myself (http://ishotmyself.com/public/main.php), and I Feel Myself (http://www.ifeelmyself.com/public/main.php)

  • Lymis

    Nope, just the joke!

  • AG

    My concern with using porn is all about the participants being exploited. How can they do that for any period of time and move on to a normal loving relationship? Especially now that every last film clip will live forever on some corner of the Internet. It’s a pity, because if I did not have this concern I could enjoy it! How about literotica instead? Now that it is available in eBooks, not even innocent trees are getting sacrificed for it! And you can even indulge on planes without the people around you needing to see a thing other than your Kindle ;-)

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    that is so funny.

  • HJ

    Thank you so much Lymis. You bring up some wonderful points. Especially about being a sexual teenager. I’m trying to hold out hope to find the kind of partner I’d like some day. Sometimes the hope can be difficult.

  • HJ

    You are so right. It is often helpful to think of it from that perspective. That is a struggle for heterosexual’s also because of the churches guilt conditioning. The timing is just different.

  • HJ

    Thanks so much John! And of course for your response. So very thankful for it.

  • Diana A.

    There is this.

  • Jennifer

    Hi HJ,

    I am glad that you responded, and I am glad that I helped. Please know that you are not alone. It is hard coming out….especially to yourself. That may be the hardest part of all. But do the work, because it is worth it to fully become the beautiful woman God created you to be. Remember that you are wonderfully and beautifully made in His image, and He has knitted you together in your mother’s womb. He will never reject you for being a lesbian…..NEVER!!!! You will have lows and highs, but He is always with you. And thank YOU for the feedback….I am glad that I could help!!!

  • Jennifer

    Lymis has incredible insight into this! I went through a period of time when I just couldn’t stop hungering for every woman I saw. I felt so awkward!!! I wanted to kiss every neck! I finally realized that I was, indeed, going through sexual puberty…..in my late 40′s!!! I also finally understood why teenage boys get so stupid!!!! You will learn how to parent yourself. And you will have that first love, and the awkwardness that goes with it. Don’t lose your hope. It will all be worth it when you finally meet the woman you are supposed to be with, and you feel butterflies for the first time!

  • Susan in NY

    OK, so the quote is not there. ha ha. snort. Well, you will just have to wonder what it was that was so darn funny.

    S in NY

  • LSS

    Some straights are slow bloomers and all the teenage stuff happens -for example-10yrs late (in my case probably for neurological reasons, but probably also background). So, like they’re all saying, don’t sweat it. And like they were telling that older guy that’s comtemplating just coming out now? Now is as good a time as any of us has got to be ourselves!

  • Lymis

    Part of the reason that hope is hard to hold out for is that society has put a huge amount of effort into making darn sure you don’t have any hope whatsoever. They didn’t want you to even realize you’re attracted to members of the same sex, much less envision a healthy, loving, fulfilling sexual relationship with someone.

    Straight relationships are destined, easy, automatic, and effortless. (Ha.) The right shoe fits the only girl in the kingdom with tiny feet, the right frog gets kissed, the right corpse in a glass coffin gets kissed, and the curtain rushes down and an automatic “Happily Ever After” is declared. Every story, every movie, every TV show, every print ad and every sermon tell people from childhood that even if they screw things up, if it is Destined, then there’s pretty much Nothing You Can Do to Stop It, and you are guaranteed your One True (Heterosexual) Love.

    Of course you have no mental image to hook your dreams on. When did the Princess ever get the girl? Heck, it’s only recently that Princesses started even trying to rescue themselves and meet their Prince halfway – they’re supposed to sit sighing in a tower for years until the right guy climbs over the rosebushes.

    What fairy tales told you how a same-sex relationship works? What childhood stories had Nancy Drew get help from her wonderful gay uncle and his partner? Heck, Will & Grace is still the gold standard for “realistic and positive” gay characters on TV and when did you see Will even date on screen, much less find someone to be in a serious relationship with? One serious boyfriend who wasn’t introduced until what, 6 years into the show, and they broke up after only a few episodes, only to be reintroduced in time for the series finale.

    But for kids? One of the only books that ends with the Prince marrying another Prince is the subject of lawsuits to prevent children from “being exposed” to it – in a state where gay people can legally marry!

    We have to blaze our own trail – and that’s one of the biggest benefits of the LGBT community (communities?). It’s worth getting out there and meeting people IN same-sex relationships, so you know what they can look like – including that, like straight relationships, they don’t come with guaranteed happy endings, and they take a lot of work, but they can be hugely worth it.

    And, on the plus (?) side, most of the women out there got raised with the same mixed messages. It’s not like all lesbians except you are living guilt-free, happy, and uncomplicated lives free of internal homophobia. They won’t think your history is weird or disgusting – they likely share it.

    Hang in there. To channel Dan Savage, it gets better – if you let it.

  • Allie

    Lymis, there is actually a fairy tale (it’s closely related to the tale which Disney made as Mulan, and I will have to find the exact version for you) where the princess gets the girl – and a sex change! The 18th or 19th century couldn’t quite envision Happily Ever After for two chicks, but it went as far as imagining them falling in love, wishing there was a way they could live happily ever after, and seeking a magical transformation.

    Your point about society and tales of heterosexual love is well made, but I thought knowing that there were exceptions might cheer you up.

  • Ben P

    I think this is the first time I have to disagree with you John. I see the merit in trying to figuring out your sexuality but porn can be a slippery slope. You know it’s effects and have probably heard of many struggles with it. But I feel one shouldn’t be encourage to continue to watch it. The more you see, the harder it is to see less.

    Good post, I like hearing about topics you try to avoid.

  • Lymis

    There are also Greek myths and other historical stories – even some Biblical ones, that hint at same-sex love, and yes, they are there – but in some ways, the fact that you have to dig for them, plow through translations that change sexes or the endings of stories, or expurgated versions simply reinforces the point. No matter how many Mouseketeers there are, none of them are going to pair up as a same-sex couple any time soon, and Disney isn’t going to have a gay character, much less a gay happy ending, any time soon.

    So we have to make our own stories, which can actually be amazingly freeing. Seen from the outside, the incredible indoctrination straight people go through is pretty impressive – and pretty restrictive when it doesn’t quite fit. One of the blessings of being gay is that since the standard stories don’t fit us, we get to design stories that fit us better.

  • http://kellythinkstoomuch.wordpress.com KellyK

    I love being able to have discussions like this. This group is fantastic.

    I think that there are a lot of things to unravel in trying to figure out what’s sinful, and I like John’s idea of looking deeper into it to try to figure out what specifically feels like sin.

    For me personally, the idea of objectifying people seems sinful. Both actual harm done to them through the porn industry and just cultivating an idea that a real human being is a toy for your amusement.

    Partly this is a feminist issue for me, since women get told so often that we’re not really people in our own right–we’re just here to please men. That’s not to say that objectification of men is any less wrong (I won’t be going to see the Chippendales, for example), but the effects are different. (Stepping on someone who has fallen is always wrong, but if it’s just you, it’s not likely to kill them. If it’s a hundred people, they’ll be trampled to death.)

    On the other hand, objectification and exploitation is all around us, in practically everything. Pretty much all entertainment teaches attitudes that aren’t healthy, and almost anything you buy exploited someone somewhere down the chain. So I think everyone has to decide what stands they want to take and what lines they want to draw for themselves.

    As far as addiction, I think shiny new fun things are always a little addictive when they’re new to you. If I get a new computer game, playing it is the only thing I want to do, for a couple days, maybe a week. (Not to the extent that I blow off work or forget to eat, but I do end up shorting myself on sleep now and again.) Then it gets incorporated into the normal routine of my life, and eventually set aside because I’ve finished it, or gotten bored, or whatever.

    Sex-wise, when I discovered masturbation, I did it a lot. (Every day to every other day, which may be a ton for some people and not for others—people’s sex drives vary.) But when it stopped being this amazing new thing (though still fun), it stopped being quite so consuming.

    I think that you’ll know you have a problem with porn if, as other people have said, it affects the other areas of your life negatively. Even if you find y0urself wanting to watch it all the time at first, that may not be addiction so much as just the newness of it.

  • http://asad123.com Asad Jaleel

    What did you mean when you wrote, “Trust this: if you end up feeling guilty for the fact that you watch whatever amount of porn you do, you will have officially joined 99% of the human race.” ?

    Are you saying that 99% of people watch porn or that 99% of people feel guilty about something?

  • Diana A.

    Reading for context helps: “[Well, dealing with sex and sexuality is a lifelong struggle, for virtually everybody. We're all crazed sex machines, basically: what to actually do about that---how to handle that, how to balance that with the rest of your emotional needs, how to ... not end up getting arrested all the time for masturbating in public, etc.---is an ongoing concern for everyone. Trust this: if you end up feeling guilty for the fact that you watch whatever amount of porn you do, you will have officially joined 99% of the human race. The truth is that that kind of guilt---that level of guilt, for exactly that degree of 'transgression' or indulgence---is just part of life. It's can't be escaped. While down here on earth, we will do earthy things.]“

  • Michael

    i damn near went insane with argument that ensued after the F*cking porn on this F*cking plane post. i dont think that even this blog, as agreat as it is, is safe for this topic. heres hoping for a civil convo though. finally my opinion. i think porn is okay. if you dont thats fine. please dont persecute me for my beliefs, i wont persecute you for yours.

  • Michael WBL

    this is a great idea! it reminds me of imagefap.com (user submitted porn usually made by the user) but better. to bad i have no money lol.

  • http://www.facebook.com/LizzCodner Lizz Codner via Facebook

    hehe I read it, but forgot to like it on facebook. Apparently, so did everyone else.

  • Lisa Metzler via Facebook

    Okay, okay….guilty as charged! Yes, I read it, and yes, I liked it…but I like everything I read on your blog, John. Just forgot to get technical with it! LOL!

  • Gina Paterson-Bryant via Facebook

    Brother John that was awesome LOL! well done :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joel-Steven-Voicedude/100000252793563 Joel-Steven Voicedude via Facebook

    Can I like, share, and comment?

  • http://www.facebook.com/JeffBean1 Jeff Bean via Facebook

    Um, John? I comment on your blog and no one I know knows. I like it on Facebook and everyone I know knows. Capiche?

  • Melissa Striegel Chamberlin via Facebook

    I just moved on to discovering what it is about porn that was so intriguing. Perhaps you could say I got distracted? Just kidding. Actually, I just read this for the first time now. Good response to her, and I especially like the Holy Spirit angle. As a Christian, I don’t claim to understand the Holy Spirit, but I do know that there are a number of things that are not good FOR MY LIFE that are perfectly fine for others…beer being on the top of that list. One is too many, and a case is not enough…this could fall into that category for her, but she will not know until she crosses over the line a few times. Guilt is a powerful emotion, especially when one has used it to make decisions for their life without much thought to the source of their guilt.

  • Karen Miller via Facebook

    Liked and shared. Guilt is a strong motivator. But you already knew that. (:

  • Roger Loveday via Facebook

    LIKE~!!! :)) ~~~ She only feels “addicted” because she feels guilty. Who feels addicted to food because they eat 3-6 times per day? Time to grow up and fight absurd fundamentalist guilt feelings, and take responsibility for one’s own life.

  • Danielle Perata via Facebook

    That has to be the most compassionate, rational answer to a question about porn I have ever read, and frankly, a perfect response to ANYONE wondering about that. Good one, John!

  • Karen Rowland via Facebook

    awww, poor John! lol!
    first off- I think Jeff said it quite well. it is a sensitive topic and not one I might want to expose to every Christian buddy of mine for perusal by re-posting!….
    and to further analyze the low response:
    as we all skim by at a rapid rate over our FB scrolls, we search quickly for things that might relate to us,etc. to read further…
    Perhaps your audience is by and large not a group of women addicted to porn. I’m not personally, so likely, I ,too,ran right by it. The title may just have interested too few people. (too small of a “niche”market there, methinks!)…
    but too soothe you,dear offended author:, I read it, enjoyed it and you are right-it was a great exchange of ideas!!,

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joanne-Elliott/100001065501295 Joanne Elliott via Facebook

    I really enjoyed your postings on this.

  • Peggy

    I, like you John, do no feel that anything anyone does in the privacy of their own home and it not directly or indirectly hurting someone is okay by me. I think she is confusing her feelings about porn and her feelings about her sexuality. They both hit the fan at the same time and I think she is dealing with a guilt stew. Perhaps a little therapy to sort it all out would be good.

  • LSS

    You’d be surprised how many girls and women are shamed into feeling that. And probably guys, now, too.

  • Wendy Mueller via Facebook

    It’s one thing to public ally support someone who enjoys porn, but if a person (certainly not *me*, right?!) likes the pieces in FB or shares it, that person’s friends might think they are admitting to using porn themselves. And maybe we’re not quite ready for that. By the way, I likes your post!

  • http://www.unchainedfaith.wordpress.com Amy

    There are some fantastic newer writers creating fairy tales with LGBT heroes. Melinda Lo and Tamora Price come to mind. I’m not gay, but I got well and thoroughly tired of the lack of diversity in literature. I don’t like the “happily ever after,” princess-in-a-tower type stories, and I don’t like that non-white, non-straight characters are always bit parts/sidekicks/stereotyped. When/if one of my kids comes out, they need to have already seen that they have heroes. And if they turn out to be straight, then showing them the beautiful diversity of our world will hopefully make them better people. Maybe if I had grown up reading those sorts of stories, it wouldn’t have taken me 10 years to get a clue and realize my fundie-induced “love the sinner, hate the sin” beliefs were so wrong. Maybe I could have avoided hurting someone dear to me if I had understood her better back then.

  • http://www.facebook.com/john10423 John Gragson via Facebook

    sorry, i am with Wendy. i liked the piece all right, did not quite agree with all of it, but i won’t “like” on FB anything with the word “porn” in it, too easy for that to be misconstrued.

  • Brena

    I really think the part about adultery in the heart is the cover to cover problem with avarice, greed, covetous envy. When women were adopted property more than we now think of having a wife then the woman’s desired were ignored. It was on the men to stay away from other men’s wives because women could not easily get away from a pushy man. Everyone expected her to obey.

    Like Jesus said about food that it is not what goes into you that can defile you but what comes out of you can. I think it applies to all of our senses. Watching porn for discovery and self-knowledge can’t make you an adulterer. Getting crushes on movie stars doesn’t insure adultery is in your heart, so crushing on a porn actor wouldn’t insure that either. Watching porn as an extension of your relationship with someone else is not making you feel adulterous. Just like with everything else, if you are intending to be creepy and lewd then you will be that way if you only watch “G” rated entertainment too. We are discovering ourselves and building ourselves all of the time. Discovering ourselves cannot make us build ourselves to be aimless sex monsters. Building ourselves is only easier after discovering more of ourselves. And everything you discover seeds of in you does not have to be built upon. That personal power needs to be recognized early so we don’t confuse discovering an enjoyment with being addicted. That, in my opinion, is the reason socialized guilt that is used to control people is so damaging; we spend more time worrying about what is going in our minds that it skews what we should be building in ourselves. It is the fear of porn that makes me worry. I do not worry about people who see it for what it is: sexy, or gross, funny, or horrifying. Those people know who they are are their porn watching will just be a reflection of who they are and who they are becoming. Then they will be okay with their choices, they will be okay with those who don’t like watching porn, and there just may be less business for the exploitational horrible stuff that harms people.

  • gmknobl

    The term porn, short for pornography, automatically implies something bad in our society. I prefer the term erotica but that gets criticism for sounding like an intellectualization of some “everyone knows” is bad.

    So, porn it is. And in U.S. society it’s seen as bad but everyone does it. That’s sexual repression for you. Look, unless there is abuse involved, it’s okay. Two or more consenting adults doing things that two or more consenting adults want to do that does not involve harm is okay. Unfortunately, conservatism does not allow for that statement. In fact, conservatism doesn’t allow for much of anything fun or normal but only that which is accepted as valid by the top, mostly white, mostly males running things.

    Look, the only society I am familiar with that possibly has more sexual repression is Japanese society and even that’s going away. The repression comes out of fear of some horrible things that might happen, and legitimately do on very rare occasions. But it’s very rare. And it’s even more rare when the society is not repressed. But when things are really repressed, bad things happen way more often.

    Now, I’ll likely get accused of having no data to back me up. Look around you, read history and judge from that. I won’t give you data that’s available so just suck it up and open your mind.

    I think she’s dealing with a guilt complex as she as much as admitted to that for her probably sexual orientation. Again, repression of what is actually normal is causing her problems.

    Ma’am, you’re normal. Unless watching the stuff interferes in a big way in your daily life, your job, your family, etc. and becomes a real obsession, like an O.C.D., you have nothing to fear. When you are single there are few ways of taking care of your sexual impulses. You either ignore them or, uh, take care of business yourself, or find someone else. That’s it. The first can cause repression if you aren’t careful and that’s bad. The second is normal. Read Masters and Johnson. The third is normal too but use your head in all circumstances and note if things are getting out of hand and starting to control you rather than you (or you and your significant other whenever that happens) controlling them. That’s it.

    Lastly, in a society that’s open and not repressed on sexuality, you are more likely to have reasonable precautions taken within the porn industry yourself because they won’t have fear of asking for precautions to be taken and people won’t have fear of putting reasonable precautions into effect. In a sexually repressed society, precautions on abuse, diseases and drugs are not taken as the industry is not reasonably addressed for fear of ruining someone’s reputation in anyone of a number of ways. Therefore bad people or people who do bad things get in power and stay in power. There are responsible good people in the porn industry. There are bad ones. With repressive conservatism in power, things only go from bad to worse and nothing is addressed properly. With open minded, intelligent attitudes towards sexuality, things can improve. Sure, bad things will still happen but you never entirely get rid of bad things from every segment of society. There’s just less bad.

  • Gary

    Sorry Christine I did not notice this question before just now.

    How am I selective? Great question actually. For my personal taste…typical porn movies are of no real interest to me. Yeah they can turn me on so to speak…but I have found them to be silly and certainly exploitative. I abhor what is commonly referred to as the money shot. Talk about objectifying women and having a complete lack of loving intimacy. I mean if a couple likes it fine…but for me it represents an emotional disconnect right at a time the opposite should be taking place. (Trying very hard to be discreet here…lol) Most industry produced porn knows no other ending. Simply not interested.

    There are special interest forums and groups one can join where real couples share and post videos and photos of themselves for members only. Real people, real relationships, real bodies. these can be enjoyable to watch as a couple, especially if the libido is a bit low and in need of a jump start. (Not usually an issue but on occasion) We are not presently involved in any such groups so I can’t provide specifics…but Google it if you’re interested and you’ll find them. There are also some great video series we have purchased from online sources that are explicit but educational. The Better Sex series comes to mind as does a couple we have purchased on the Kama Sutra. (And best of all…no money shots…lol)

    We prefer still photos over live action though. Easier to visualize our own style and personalities in the scene. Again…the pay sites cater to fetishes and the bizarre and exploitative. We don’t ever pay for erotica from any typical porn producer. No need and wrong stuff…and why support the industry that clearly does harm? Plenty of great artistic nude and semi nude work out there that is quite beautiful. I actually find a well written story to be more stimulating than photos or videos. (I know men are supposed to be visual creatures…go figure…lol) Still it is true that nothing is more erotic than the mind when truly engaged. Story sites that are free and rely on user submitted work is my preference…and more natural.

    All in all we are very sexual creatures and love to celebrate our sensuality. We are not exhibitionists and don’t share our own stuff…but would have no moral qualms about doing so if we desired. We don’t use erotic materials all the time…in fact not all that often probably. But when we want to jump start things…or simply enjoy a walk on the sensual side…we sometimes include erotica.

  • Erin Carpentier Dammen via Facebook

    Maybe people are like me…at work and afraid to click or do anything with that word in it!

  • Donald Rappe via Facebook

    Who wants other peoplle to know we are thinking about porn?

  • Ashley C

    Well, my only issue is that I’m at work and the combination of liking or responding to a FB post and one that has *gasp* porn in the title might be just enough to raise the eyebrows of some coworkers (though being on FB is part of my job, so that alone isn’t normally an issue). However, when I get home you can bet that I will not only be ‘liking’ this but also sharing it!

    I personally believe the only sin in ‘taboo’ sex subjects like pornography, strip clubs, etc are the ones we bring to them ourselves. And I say this as someone who at one point had a significant other who was truly addicted to pornography, to the point that it ended our relationship and left me with a LOT of emotional baggage to sort through.

    Now, many years and one very happy healthy functional relationship later, I have realized that the issue in that relationship wasn’t the people on the screen having sex in front of a camera. It was my then sig other’s obsession with it, to the exclusion of intimacy with me and to the point that when we WERE intimate, it was warped by the influence of what he was watching.

    I firmly believe that pornography is just like alcohol. Some people love it, some hate it. Some people use it to enhance their own relationships and entertainment, some to substitute for something else that is missing in their lives or try to drown their own ill feelings in it. Different people have different preferences when it comes to type and strength. Some use it responsibly and some abuse it horribly to their own detriment. But at the end of the day, it’s the INTENT, not the product that either helps or hurts the user.

  • Melody

    Right on, Ashley. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

    VERY well said, Ashley. Terrific.

  • Gary

    Love it!!

  • Michael WBL

    here here ashley i concur!

  • Christine

    Thanks so much, Gary for the long and very personal response. I have a much clearer idea of what you mean now. Really appreciate it.

  • Jill

    So true Diana A! A quietly dormant part of my psyche now lights up from reading John’s words regularly. Talk about addiction… friends of mine are wondering if I’ll convert!


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