Porn: Not just Weiner's problem

Years ago when I was working at a beat reporter, I interviewed a delightful young man who had the good fortune to work with one of the most notable producers in Hollywood — Quentin Tarantino. He’d landed the job as a production assistant or something of that nature because he knew somebody who knew somebody. That he was from a smallish city in Washington state made his opportunity seem all that more glamorous. But after they wrapped the movie — and I can’t for the life of me remember what the movie was — he returned home.

I was writing what we reporters commonly referred to as a “fluff piece.” Nothing earth-shattering. Just a nice little vignette about his time in Hollywood. So the last thing I expected from this good-looking twenty-something was for him to blurt out that the real reason he came back home was to get therapy for a porn addiction.

Addictions are a common ailment in my family, so it’s not like I’m the Church Lady on these matters. I kept my poker-face intact but the entire time I was like: WoW! You have got to be freakin kidding me. You? Porn? I knew the young man to be a stand-up kind of guy. He was well-loved in the community, a leader in his church young adult group.

I had the same sort of reaction last year while in Portland at an event where Anne Jackson was speaking. It was a casual gathering in somebody’s backyard. I’d never met Anne before but had heard a great deal about her from various friends. Her new book “Permission to Speak Freely” was out and she was going to read some of it. During the course of the evening, Anne told her faith story. Embedded in that convoluted tale of her faith journey was a little snippet about how she became addicted to porn. Up until that moment, I swear I’d never ever heard of a women and porn addictions. I didn’t even know it was possible for a girl to have such an addiction.

The confession this week by New York’s Rep. Anthony Weiner that he has been involved in inappropriate online encounters highlights just how insidious a porn problem can be. Asked why he sent sexually explicit photos to women online, Rep. Weiner said he didn’t know why. It was dumb. Stupid, he said.

Anthony Weiner is married to a beautiful, smart, and engaging woman.

But she, apparently, wasn’t good enough. That’s the lure, and trouble with porn: you want what you don’t have and don’t want what you do have.

Naomi Wolff deftly explains the affect of porn on male-female relationships in The Porn Myth:  But does all this sexual imagery in the air mean that sex has been liberated—or is it the case that the relationship between the multi-billion-dollar porn industry, compulsiveness, and sexual appetite has become like the relationship between agribusiness, processed foods, supersize portions, and obesity? If your appetite is stimulated and fed by poor-quality material, it takes more junk to fill you up. People are not closer because of porn but further apart; people are not more turned on in their daily lives but less so.

Real women, no matter how beautiful or smart or engaging, cannot compete with a man’s online addiction.

Says Wolfe: “For the first time in human history, the images’ power and allure have supplanted that of real naked women. Today, real naked women are just bad porn.”

Not that it keeps women from trying.

Women are taking extreme, some would suggest self-mutilating measures, to keep their mates interested. There’s been an alarming increase — 70 percent — in the number of women undergoing labiaplasty (commonly referred to as designer vaginas)  according to a study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Dr David Veale blames the surge of surgeries on easier access to explicit sexual imagery. “We haven’t completed the research, but there is suspicion that this is related to much greater access to porn … This is to do with the increasing sexualisation of society – it’s the last part of the body to be changed.”

And if this weren’t shocking enough, earlier this year, The Virginian-Pilot reported that the number of child pornography cases increased 218 percent from 2003 to 2009. Nationally arrests for child pornography rose 2,500 percent in 10 years. Between October 2008 and October 2009, more than 9 million U.S. computers were identified as having shared child pornography, according to the Justice Department. U.S. Attorney Neil McBride says the industry was dying until the Internet and other online networks jump-started a troubling epidemic.

On the surface it may appear that Rep. Anthony Weiner has just made a stupid mistake.

But in reality this is more than just a bad locker room joke.

Porn is a national epidemic. It is threatening our jobs, our marriages, our mental, emotional and spiritual well-beings, and most important of all, our children.

And where is the church on this?

How many of you have heard sermons preached on this matter? How many of you would feel comfortable seeking help for a porn addiction?

If someone confessed to you that they had a porn addiction, how would you go about helping that person?

Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Will Jesus Buy Me a DoubleWide? ’cause I need more room for my plasma TV.

About Karen Spears Zacharias

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

  • http://middletree.blogspot.com James Williams

    I am fairly certain that my time getting stuck in that web, which lasted about 18 months in the late 90′s, was an addiction. It’s everything you said it is, Karen. It’s harmful to the man who’s into it, it’s devastating to the wife, does damage to the marriage which takes years to heal, (and then it heals only if the man is committed to integrity in this area, and if the wife is willing to forgive), and ultimately takes its toll on society.
    Most secular commenters joke about this issue and just do not get the seriousness of it.
    To answer your last questions: yes, our pastor has preached about this in church sermons, and I mean he’s been blunt about it. About its effects, and about how God views it. It’s nothing short of idolatry, and I am thankful for a pastor who has not minced words.
    Additionally, those who have served in leadership of our men’s ministry over the years have given us several occasions to discuss it within the context of men’s ministry events.
    If someone told me they had a porn addiction, I would recommend the following:
    1. Get good reputable Christian counseling, which could be a pastor who has experience in this area, or could be a professional counselor. I went to one for a year and God used that time in amazing ways.
    2. Get the internet out of your home and off your phone, at least for a time. If you absolutely must have it, then place the computer in the middle of the living room and never, ever stay up late at night after your wife has gone to bed.
    3. Get into a ministry where you serve others.
    4. Fast one day a week. You’d be surprised how helpful this is.
    5. Find a person who’s a close friend and not family member who you can confide in regarding the struggle as you work through breaking the addiction.

    There are probably other things which will come to mind later, but that’s off the top of my head, and what worked for me.

    Thanks Karen, and if you are reading this, Anne, thanks to you too. I was blown away by “Permission to Speak Freely” and highly recommend it to anyone reading this comment who has not read that book.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      James: Great advice. Appreciate your honesty here. Obviously this is a much more pervasive problem than most of us care to admit.

  • http://middletree.blogspot.com James Williams

    Kinda disappointed at the lack of response so far. Maybe you should have mentioned Lady Gaga. This topic is extremely important in its potential damage to individuals, marriages, churches and to our culture.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Yes. The #monsterfamily is in itself a type of porn — from their taglines, to their twitter names, to their online photos.

  • http://www.garynelson.wordpress.com Gary

    Actually, Karen made a subtle Lady Gaga reference in this post when she said, “I kept my poker-face intact…” POKER FACE one of Lady Gaga’s biggest hits of all time… Very smooth, Karen…

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      I’m going to have to go look that up, now.

      • http://www.garynelson.wordpress.com Gary

        Yeah, the video pretty much is soft porn…so it was a nice tie into this post lol!

  • Steve Taylor

    Well, there is a direct connection between the hyper-sexualised messaging of Gaga and the mega-media-Wall-Street-exporters-of-violence-for-profit. Sadly of course, we’ll not see the outcry today regarding child porn, the exploitation of women, or the degradation wrought by such cultural depravity. Incredibly obvious bridge from the posting from yesterday and today. And sadly the little monsters will never see it. They’ll simply be consumed by it. And so we continue the struggle for even in all the insanity, they are worth the effort… for the Word became flesh.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Thanks for that reminder, Steve. But you are right about the traffic — thoughtful consideration of hard topics isn’t what the general public craves. It’s the sensational.
      Can’t you just hear the Israelites singing: We want a C-E-L-E-B-R-I-T-Y?

  • John in PDX

    James -
    1) you had a soulution to the problem. No response needed for most.
    2) how many people can be as honest with themselves as you are? Not many. Could be why AA only has a 25% success rate.

    Gary -
    Thanks – I will get Pokerface on iTunes over the weekend – just for Karen.

    Regards,
    John in PDX

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      You mean Madonna had it all wrong?
      Instead of singing I’m a Material Girl — she should have been singing: I’m a Delusional Girl?

  • Lois Trippett

    Porn is another drug of choice. It affects chemicals in the brain similar to mind altering drugs. We have become so relationally broken, so many deep dark holes, that people turn to something to fill the void. Most addicts started in teen years, and it seems mostly due to Father wounds. My husband was one of those. Of course Jesus is “the answer”, but WE are His body. We have to develop relationships. We havea to quit thinking church is staring at the back of someone’s head for an hour every week. We have to develop authentic community where we can share our struggles and help each other through the inevitable wounds of this life. We have to take off the Sunday masks where we hide our hurting addicted prone selves. When His body become His body we are empowered to heal ourselves and others.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      A good word, Lois. Thank you.

  • http://www.stephaniessmith.com Stephanie Smith

    Karen, great post, thank you. You stated another reason why romance novels are NOT porn (via Her.meneutics post and Relevant’s recent articles): a man addicted to porn will sacrifice a real woman for an illusion, it’s true. But a woman who enjoys a good novel with a romance in the plotline will gladly toss her book for the chance to meet and engage a real, live man! I guarantee it.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      I must’ve missed those articles. I didn’t even realize it was a discussion.

  • http://ironacres.blogspot.com jas

    I will never forget the Sunday morning that I was approached by a gifted and intelligent young woman tearfully asking for prayer as she had just discovered her handsome fiance, about to graduate from law school in another city, was addicted to porn. He had assured her that he was seeking counsel from his pastor, and an accountability situation. I often wonder if they were able to get beyond that rocky start and establish a sound relationship in marriage. The current stats on child porn and the sexual slave trade should get much more publicity than LG. I am afraid the moral climate, or lack thereof, in this country is drifting dangerously close to apathy on this issue.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      I think we are far past the apathy stage…

  • http://koinepdx1.blogspot.com AF Roger

    Pastor Rick McKinley and staff at Imago Dei Community in Portland address this subject during worship on a fairly regular basis. An Imago Dei mentoring program between older and younger men (I’m mentoring a twenty-something who is struggling with it), and the support groups known as “Refuge” are dealing with it head-on.

    Never heard the subject brought up in mainline churches I’ve attended (and am a member of). True in part because the average age in most mainlines is so much higher.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      I can honestly say I’ve never heard a sermon about it. Sadly.

  • Mary Bartram

    Well, talkin about PORN…I think some of commertials are porn….IE: The Hardee’s Turky burger one, all the one’s about ED…give me a break do I really want to hear about the fact that a guy can have four hour erection. And should young children hear it six times an hour. I didn’t not even know what an erection was until I was fourteen.
    OMG…some of the stuff out there…Victoria’s Secret ads? Need I go on…I don’t think so. Even The ad’s on the internet. They just pop up and you don’t want them.
    GOD help us….

  • Karen Spears Zacharias

    I agree Mary.

  • http://www.godhungry.org Jim Martin

    Karen, I have been behind on reading your blog and read several posts this morning. This particular post is very good. This is a HUGE problem on a number of levels.

    Amazing that porn is mainstreamed in this culture. At the same time, as a culture, we are relationally illiterate.

    Thanks for your candor.


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