When it comes to the damage pornography does to a person’s soul, i offer myself as Exhibit A.
The ways pornography caused me relational pain are too many to list. The fact that pornography left me a shell of a man and eroded my soul becomes increasingly clear to me the longer i live away from it.
i have had a lot of time to examine how i became addicted to pornography, and i have worked with many men, listening to their stories to understand the way porn has operated in their lives.
At Intentional Warriors we talk quite a bit about the pull of pornography. We talk about why and how it appeals to us, and how to respond to it in light of the counterfeit it is.
It is a counterfeit. And yet, there is something that pornography gets right (sort of). And that something is the secret to its success.
In C.S. Lewis’ work The Screwtape Letters, there is a point in the correspondence between Uncle Screwtape and Wormwood at which Screwtape says about God:
He’s a hedonist at heart. All those fasts and vigils and stakes and crosses are only a facade. Or only like foam on the sea shore. Out at sea, out in His sea, there is pleasure, and more pleasure. He makes no secret of it; at His right hand are ‘pleasures for evermore.’
Elsewhere in The Screwtape Letters the uncle says:
Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.
It’s important to remember that, because the context is the correspondence between a devil and his protege, when Screwtape says “Enemy” he is referring to God.
The point is that pleasure is God’s domain. He created it.
This is where pornography sort of gets it right. The world of porn expertly depicts — whether it is real or faked — pleasure. God is the creator of pleasure, which He intends for us to experience. The crucial distinction is that in pornography the pleasure is stolen and corrupted, which is why porn doesn’t get it right.
The pull is grounded in the fact that in pornography the “actors” put on a show of pleasure, and even ecstasy. We, as people designed in the image of God, are made to experience ecstasy.
But the substance of the performance in porn is not connected to the God who created the pleasure. Pornography takes what is legitimately beautiful when done in a mutually monogamous marriage relationship: sexual union, the giving away of oneself fully to another; and divorces it from its right context.
However, the beauty of sexual intimacy, the beauty of Eve, and the compelling connection of ecstasy with the deep places of our hearts are divine in nature, and the beauty of God as expressed in the pleasures He has created is irrepressible. Therefore, even the corruption of beauty and pleasure in pornography still hints at the beauty and the pleasure of God.
Pornography is not the beauty and pleasure of God, but within pornography the hint remains; like the wafting of the faintest remnant of a sweet aroma. The counterfeit, as with all counterfeits, bears a likeness to the genuine article. This is what makes the counterfeit so powerful.
By definition it must be as close to the authentic item as possible, for what else is a counterfeit?
This is porn’s secret to success.
The counterfeit exploits the genuine article with such power because sexual union is a “great mystery” (according to Paul in Eph. 5:32) that encompasses our heart, soul, mind and strength in a way that nothing else does. Sexual intimacy in the one-flesh relationship of man and wife is the closest thing on earth we have to the union between Christ and the church, Paul says.
We crave the Divine Union, and that — ultimately — is porn’s secret to success.