In the 1999 hit movie “American Pie” Jason Biggs plays the character of a sexually inexperienced adolescent whose father attempts to provide him with advice on sexuality by, amongst other things, providing him with “girly” magazines. Paging through erotic books of some sort is something that most teen boys will do if they can get their hands on it, and they tend to get their hands on it sooner or later. The curiosity to explore their sexuality is intense at that age, with a specific focus on the visual. In the movie it is humouristically portrayed as quite normal. Boys will be boys. For some boys this may be quite an innocent way of experiencing something which is still outside of their reach – the forbidden fruit. For others, though, pornography may awaken a very strong urge for more. More of the physical, without spending time developing the emotional complexities forming part of a man/woman relationship. Later, that yearning may grow into a burning, all consuming force for more of this drug called pornography – hard-wiring a boy’s brain to expect what he sees in those porno scenes when he becomes sexually active. The effects may last a lifetime.
Sex sells. It’s true and tragic. The sex industry, and specifically the porn industry is growing globally with an annual turnover of billions of dollars. Human atrocities linked to the sex industry, like human trafficking and forced sex has become well documented. It is an industry that locks on to one of man’s most basic needs – the need for physical touch and intimacy. For men, the quickest form of arousal is by visual means.
The Old Testament story is well-known of King David who was walking on the roof of his palace when he saw Bathsheba bathing. He immediately desired her and, being king, arranged that she be brought to him, even though she was married to Uriah. He then seduced her and later she became pregnant with his child. This act of King David had very serious consequences and even caused him to have her husband murdered in an attempt to cover up his scandalous act. Even David, being a man of God, was not strong enough to resist the temptations of the flesh. Our challenge today is even greater.
With easy access to the Internet wherever we go, porn has become just a click away. Children, and especially boys, are exposed to sexually arousing images at a very young age. We see it in magazines and movies, on television and billboards – it’s all over the place: imagery of the female body portrayed in alluring ways. And because of the fact that men are hardwired to be aroused by imagery of the female form it is easy to understand why “sex sells” the way it does. If King David couldn’t resist it thousands of years ago, how do we think our boys and men will be able to today – especially when it is hurled at us from every angle? It is no wonder that it has (almost?) become acceptable male behaviour to view pornography.
“Boys will be boys”, right? So it’s not entirely cool, but it’s kind of okay and girlfriends and wives try to live with it – even trying to embrace it by participating in the re-enactment of what their men see in the porn movies and then desire to experience. These acts are mostly vulgar, sometimes violent and almost always removed from any form of genuine love and affection. And as the journey into this addiction continues, the need increases for more hard-core stuff to get the same kick – much the same as with any other drug. It is a devastating path to follow. It affects relationships in a very negative way, creating little space for a loving, caring and respectful relationship between a man and a woman. And if you are a Christian (like me) there is just no way you can reconcile porn and Jesus. The re-wiring of men’s brains by porn is a widely discussed subject.
Yesterday I heard one of Beyoncé’s 2008 hit songs on the radio titled “Single Ladies”. We all know the song with its punchy beat. In it, she sings: “If you liked it, then you should have put a ring on it…” Really? On “it”? Okay, so the context is that she just broke up with her boyfriend and is trying to make him jealous by really acting out on the dance floor with another guy. These lyrics link on to the tendency to “objectify” the female form. I guess King David also liked “it” and decided to put a ring on “it” by taking Bathsheba as his wife even if it meant murdering Uriah. I wonder how she felt about it at the time. Maybe she was seduced by his power and grandeur – he was the King after all. But maybe she was forced into a situation to which she could not, or dared not resist. To me it seems that she was seized – an object of desire for the King – to be his wife, whatever the cost. The consequences were devastating and I doubt that the two of them could have shared a loving relationship.
I touched on the subject of our girls needing to feel that they are “lovely” in a previous blog. What does it mean to be lovely in this context? As mentioned in my previous blog, Dictionary.com provides the most fitting description of what lovely means: “Charmingly or exquisitely beautiful; having a beauty that appeals to the heart or mind as well as to the eye; of a great moral or spiritual beauty: a lovely character.” Merriam-webster.com says “Attractive or beautiful especially in a graceful way.” There is nothing lovely or graceful about porn. Period.
What values are we teaching our boys? Are we teaching them that “boys will be boys” and that men are after one thing and that’s just how we are? And that a woman needs to keep her man happy and engaged sexually even if he subjects her to things she doesn’t feel comfortable with, just to keep his attention? You can read what a daddy had to say to his little girl about her future husband here. He sums it up so strikingly at the end of his letter by saying: “Because in the end, Little One, the only thing you should have to do to “keep him interested” is to be you.” Do yourself a favour and read the letter.
We need to understand that pornography is a drug – no less addictive than cigarettes or even cocaine and heroin. Some people may spend time with it and be able to move on, but some men (and woman too!) may get hooked for life, living with the consequences and sometimes not even realising the damage it does.
Boys may be boys, but real men live in faith and build relationships based on trust, love and genuine affection. This is not a battle everyone can win without guidance and support, but the first step is to understand the danger thereof and be willing to tackle it head-on. Like it or not, making pornography part of our lives have consequences. Guiding and educating our children, and especially our boys, on how porn can harm them and their relationships is of critical importance. Our girls need to know that they are lovely and worthy and not just objects of desire for men.
If we can raise our boys to value the beauty within first, they will more easily comprehend the sacredness of physical intimacy. We will prepare them to experience the bliss of growing old with the same person. Time takes its toll and youth disappears, but when your eyes meet those of your lover when you’ve both grown old, the warmth you feel in your heart will still remain long after the physical body has lost its appeal. My prayer is that my children, and yours, will experience this true form of intimacy with their life partners instead of just putting a ring on “it”.