Porn: The latest girl fad

When my daughter Ashley married, I asked the bridesmaids to gather in a circle for a moment of prayer. My friend Xuan joined hands with us. A very fine seamstress who has often been referred to as the Vera Wang of the Northwest, Xuan made the beautiful red Aoi Dai that the bridesmaids wore.

Xuan had a story she wanted to share with the girls. It was a story of war.

She had been a young girl of 14 when war came to her country. Sometimes, even now, Xuan will crawl under the bed trying to escape a terror that exists only in memory — the recollection of the day her village was bombed.

She ran for shelter with her best friend and her nephew. But the five-year-old who was thirsty broke from Xuan’s grasp. She saw his body shattered like a clay pigeon in flight. Xuan’s best friend later died from injuries sustained in the bombing.

The bombing lasted years. Years in which Xuan grew up and married a South Vietnamese soldier, had his child. After her husband was killed, Xuan had to support her infant son. She did what so  many young girls her age did during those years — she sold the only commodity she had — herself.

No matter how bad the economy gets, the sex trade always seems to thrive.

Years passed before Xuan managed to wrangle herself free from a life as a prostitute. She married an American soldier and moved to Montana where she studied dressmaking. But decades would pass before Xuan would wear the traditional Aoi Dai again.

That day, the day of my daughter’s wedding, was only the second time in all those years that Xuan had felt worthy enough to put on the traditional dress of her native land. The other was when a documentary she had a role in – Regret to Inform — won an Emmy.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Xuan since I went to Portland to hear author Anne Jackson speak last week. I didn’t know Anne Jackson’s story that well. I knew people who knew her, that sort of thing, but I didn’t really know her story, or much about what her new book — Speaking Freely — was all about.

The event was held in Pastor Bob Hyatt’s backyard. They served salsa and chips and beer. It’s the first church event I’ve attended in my entire life where beer was part of the menu. I grew up Southern Baptist and attend a Nazarene church. That ought to explain that.

We sat in lawn chairs around a fire pit with other folks from Evergreen Community Church, while Anne told us her story of growing up a Southern Baptist preacher’s daughter. When she was in her teens, life as she knew it came crashing down. Anne wrote that in her other book — Mad Church Disease. Her parents left the church in the midst of all that and still have not made their way back.

Anne took the path of least resistance through addiction. All the typical addictions — smoking & drinking & drugging & exploiting others. And one more. An addiction I have never ever heard a girl speak to before, in or out of church. Anne was addicted to porn.

I didn’t even know that was possible — for a girl to be addicted to porn.

I was in a church years ago when a visiting pastor asked all the boys present who had a problem with masturbation to stand. Nearly every boy 12 and older in the church stood up. Then he asked all the men with the problem to stand. I liked to fell out over all that. I don’t like theatrics from the pulpit and I most certainly don’t approve of humiliation as a form of coercion. It’s one thing to be accountable to another person. It’s quite another to shame a person, especially a kid.

A couple of years ago I gave my son-in-law a devotional book — one designed for men. One I obviously had not read. My daughter said her husband tossed it when he realized nearly every devotion in the book was about masturbation. Great. Score one for the mother-in-law.

I raised three daughters and one son. I had a checklist of things I worried about for my daughters in particular — eating disorders, teen pregnancy, broken hearts. But never not even once in a blue moon did I worry about the possibility of a porn addiction.

I wouldn’ t even know how to go about having that discussion with my daughter, and I suspect I’m not the only one. But then my girls didn’ t grow up during an era when Madonna and Britney making out was acceptable television fare.

An article in Christianity Today reports that an estimated 3 percent of women are sex addicts. And Oprah said that it’s reported 1 in every 3 online consumers of porn are women. Some reports estimate that 9.4 million women access adult websites every month and a handful of those include child pornography. We’ve gone from Tupperware parties to well.. plastics of a different nature.

Years ago, when I wrote my memoir about the impact of war on children, where I first told the story of my friend Xuan, I made appearances all across this country. From Good Morning America to NPR to New York’s New School University and Chicago’s Vietnam Veteran Art Museum. I spoke at so many places I was only home a total of six weeks that entire year.

To date I have sold a total of 5,000 copies of After the Flag has been Folded (& that includes the total sales of the hardback version). This for a book that ought to be required reading for every member of Congress.

And the book that was number one on the New York Times bestseller list that entire year?

How to Make Love Like a Porn Star.

Six months before our daughter married, Xuan returned to Vietnam and set up shop, a seamstress school where she taught tailoring skills to other young girls. It was, Xuan explained, her opportunity to reclaim that which she had lost in her own young adult life – a sense of dignity and respect. She would teach young girls sewing skills so that they would never have to resort to prostitution the way she had to.

Anne Jackson grew up in a community where she said “I had to impress God by impressing God’s people.”

She said she came about to write Speaking Freely by trying to figure out what’s the one common thing that we all share  — brokenness.

Broken people have rough edges, Pastor Hyatt warned.

Anne is headed to Haiti soon. She’s going to be working with some other broken people, the victims of the earthquake, remember them?

Good for Anne.

I don’t know a thing about porn addictions, but I do know that the best way to pleasure one’s self is to serve others. And I don’t mean in the bedroom.

About Karen Spears Zacharias

Author. Speaker. Journalism Instructor. Four kids. Three dogs. One grandson.

  • http://middletree.blogspot.com JamesW

    Have you had a chance to read Permission to Speak Freely yet, Karen? I got it and couldn’t put it down. Devoured it in 2 days. As you no doubt know now, she discusses her porn addiction in PTSF. Like you, I was surprised that it’s becoming a big problem among women, but once I consider the messages our media is sending, I am surprised that I am surprised.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      James: Anne read from that chapter that evening. I gave the book to my daughter. She’ll read it first and then I’ll borrow it. :)

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  • http://fireboy48.wordpress.com Joel

    One of the things I love about reading your stuff is when your southern heritage slips out. “I liked to fell out over that” is a classic.
    On a more serious note, as a man dealing with sex addiction, it’s hard to get people to take it seriously. Every time you mention it, the response is usually something like “Oh, I’m addicted to sex, too” followed by laughter. A woman having this problem brings up an entirely different mindset. And, it ain’t a good one.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Joel: Yeah. That southern heritage is sweet. And regarding the sex addiction thing? I recall a few years back when a young man I was interviewing, a young man I knew, confessed that he had a sex addiction. I honestly didn’t know what to say. I hated that for him because I knew he felt rejection and that was the last thing I wanted to communicate. So thank you for sharing here. Do you think these addictions are indicative of some other issue?

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  • Nicole

    I struggle with porn, masturbation, and lust. I actually heard that 17% of women struggle with porn addiction. I’m also a 19 year old girl. I know tons of girls at college (a Christian college) who struggle with these things in addition to the girls who REALLY struggle to make it to the honeymoon without pouncing their fiance.

    Did you know that until the 17th to 18th century, women were considered the horny, s*x obsessed ones? Thomas Aquinas believe that women were dominated by s*xual appetite and men were dominated by reason. So I wouldn’t call it the latest girl fad, as much as the corrupting, destroying power of sin no longer being able to be hidden.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Nicole: Sorry to take so long getting back to you. I did not know that history. So do you have any insights as to why you and others of your generation struggle so with porn, masturbation and lust? Any insights on what led you into this struggle?


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