On Porn, and how Cyndi Lauper Can Help You Find Yourself

Over the past week or so, there’s been a story that keeps popping up on various online news sites (I saw something about it on CNN.com, Foxnews.com, Yahoo, and Drudge Report), regarding a young woman—a freshman at Duke University—was “outed” by a classmate as being a porn star. Ostensibly, she chose this particular career path because college is really expensive and she needed help with her tuition.

As an adult student nearing completion of my BA, finally, I can personally attest to the truth of this. College is freaking expensive. I chose the student loan path, however, rather than trying to break into the adult film industry as an overweight guy in his mid-40’s with more hair on his back than his head.

What got my head to spinning a little bit about this young woman was not her work (no, I did not try to find any, though I am certain it would have been easy), but a comment she made in an interview. There was a very short blurb on CNN where she said words to the effect that she found performing in porn “freeing.”

Who is freed?

As I can only speak from a male perspective, I would submit to anyone who cares to listen that porn isn’t freeing at all—quite the contrary. It’s enslaving.

It’s my belief that her attitude is something symptomatic of this current generation, which has somehow found itself steeped in moral relativism rather than any sort of values, traditional or otherwise. Hey, go ahead and do it if no one gets hurt. And sometimes even if they do.

Porn is freeing? It is not. I only wish I were not speaking from experience. If you want statistics, I am sure there are plenty of articles out there that will give them to you. That isn’t what I wanted to talk about today.

Porn is dangerous and harmful in so many ways. It is not, as the industry and those partaking in it would have you think, harmless or victimless–in my opinion, not to the consumers or the performers.

This line of reasoning, however, is what makes it so easy to fall back into the habit of looking at that shit and rationalizing it as simply entertainment.

Why is it harmful?

Again, from a male perspective, it gives young people–young men–a highly skewed (and highly incorrect) perception of what sex should be like, and how women (or men, I suppose) view it.

It objectifies both women and men and makes the act itself often a carnal buffet of grossness, supposedly meant to be titillating but often more along the lines of nauseating, at least to me.

Perhaps those without “religious” values or some kind of moral center would think of porn like the performers and partakers do, but it is so difficult for me to get my mind around that way of thinking, now that I realize the truth of it, and think about my own kids potentially getting involved in it or with it.

This young woman at Duke is not freeing herself, no matter what she might say or think. Kudos go out, I suppose, for her entrepreneurial spirit. She found a way to pay her tuition without going into debt. Yay.

Numerous meaningless sexual encounters with people who likely view her as little more than a…means to an end.

Meanwhile, young men (and possibly women—I don’t know anything from that perspective) are partaking in her work and developing an image in their little heads about what women are like, and what they want from a sexual encounter (which, I believe, is meant to be—as designed by God—within the framework of a marriage). In my opinion (and in my experience), that is not a game of naked Twister with…uh, visible results.

As someone who was single for most of my adult life, there was a time when I held that image of women that porn wanted me to. I am thankful that God showed me the truth of it. I was chained up by that nasty garbage for a number of years, and I know plenty of other men who were, too, at one point or another. I know men who have had their relationships and their marriages threatened by it, and lost to it.

It’s not harmless, people. It’s not victimless, either.

I can’t say how performing in porn damages the female psyches of young women.

I can’t say how it damages the psyches of the male performers, either.

What I can say is that if left unchecked, it can be an addiction like any other addiction. It can affect and even ruin lives. It can prevent or harm otherwise healthy relationships and marriages by giving men and women unrealistic and unhealthy ideas about sex and love, in a sense.

My personal belief is that if you reduce sex to a simply biological act, then you are detracting from what it was designed to be. The formula that porn tries to sell people is false. It’s smoke and mirrors. It’s bull, completely.

If you had a daughter, would you want her to be a porn star? How about your sister? Your mom?

Would you instruct your son on how to find the “best” porn online?

Rhetorical questions, certainly, and I hope the answers would be “no” if given.

All I know is when I was slave to that crap I was lost in almost every way a person can be lost. I found my way out, by the grace of God and the accountability of people I trusted. You can, too, if you’re stuck in that particular rut.

I was thinking about that stuff all the way to work today, and I remember asking God what to say about it? How can my words mean anything to anyone?

I was driving down 95 when the words of an old 1980’s song occurred to me, from the unlikely Cyndi Lauper.

If you’re lost you can look and you will find me

Time after Time

If you fall I will catch you, I’ll be waiting

Time after Time

I don’t know if that will mean anything to anyone else, but it did to me.

Clearly, she wasn’t writing about God. But that’s what the chorus made me think of today. Funny how that works.

Of Ragamuffins and Scars

Back in 2007, author and speaker Brennan Manning gave a conference at my church in San Diego. He spoke over the course of three days on many topics, but at the center of it all—in my opinion—was the first talk he gave, which was titled “Healing Our Image of God and Ourselves,” or something close to that. My pastor had quoted from his writings many times over the few years I’d been there, but I had never read one of his books, and never heard him speak. He was quite a character.

He wore these very old, but clean-looking jeans patched over with many different colored pieces of cloth. He had on a blue chambray work shirt and his white hair was cut short. He looked to be in his late 60’s, and his voice was somewhat slurred from his many ailments, except for when he became passionate, or was quoting scripture. Then his voice carried a bell-like clarity. I remember there was quite a line to speak with him, and I never really had the chance, though I did walk close to him at the front of the church and he gave me his signature “hi.”

Healing Our Image of God and Ourselves.

One of the stories he shared was when he was at an extremely low point in his life, he had fallen into the depths of alcoholism and homelessness. He was laying on a sidewalk near a building, I think, and a woman with a small child walked by and told her child not to look at “that filth.”

Manning’s great revelation had been that God loved him just as much in that state of disgrace as he did at the moment he was speaking at Canyon View Christian Fellowship.

I was thinking of that talk when I got out of the shower the other night and was looking in the mirror and contemplating shaving. I took inventory of my scars, and it occurred to me I was a bit of a patchwork, much like Manning’s jeans.

Scar on the heel of my left palm from broken glass—check.

Three scars on my right shoulder from my rotator cuff repair—check.

Four scars on my abdomen from my gallbladder removal. Check.

Several small scars on the back of my head from an Alaskan street. Check, again.

Many more red spots and scars on my arms, legs, and torso from my psoriasis. Checkety check.

Numerous scars on the inside, from the wounds both intentional and unintentional—sometimes those scars are the ones that hurt the most, and make me feel the ugliest.

I wished for a moment that they weren’t there—all my scars, both seen and unseen. I wanted to be whole and unmarked for my wife. My scars are ugly, or at least they make me feel that way. Always have. For the most part, they aren’t my fault, and there’s not a lot I can do about them.

They are ugly.

I stood in my bathroom and I wiped the steam from my mirror and I thought about an old man nearing home, speaking to a church full of eager listeners about how they can learn to see God differently, and hopefully also learn to look at themselves differently, through the eyes of a carpenter.

Yes, my scars are perhaps not aesthetically pleasing. But they are part of who I am. They detail my path to Christ, who has a few scars of his own.

He traded his beauty for my ugliness, my rags for his Glory.

I looked in the mirror and asked God, “Do you really love this?”

I snapped out of it without hearing an answer, and I shaved my neck and the upper part of my cheeks (if I don’t I get the bumps, man). I put on my sweatpants and a tank top and I went out to the living room to hang out with my wife a little before bed.

She was doing some work on her laptop and she looked at my for just a second. I could see the love for me in her eyes, and I knew without question where it came from. I had my answer. She put her laptop away, and as I sat down, she reached out her hand for mine.

And as I sat next to this beautiful and Godly woman that it had taken all the events of my life to lead me to, I found myself grateful for my scars.

SWC

Uno, Dos, Tres, Catorce

It was fourteen years ago this month–the exact date escapes me.

My friends and I were on our way to Peoria, Arizona for a Padres Spring Training game, with a stop along the way at my friend Ken’s father’s vacation spot on the Colorado river, somewhere between Blythe, CA and Yuma Arizona. Not really that far, relatively speaking, from Martinez lake. A little place called Walter’s Camp, which was not a lot more than a small store selling bait and tackle, and renting boats. There was a small park for mobile homes, and perhaps a couple dozen (I’m guessing) fishing cabins and halfway decent vacation rentals along the river.

During the day, people water skied some, or kayaked. You could swim in the river if it wasn’t too cold, and a little ways down was a sandbar where people would hang out and drink, and enjoy the sun. At night, though, it was a little bit different. The cabins were far enough apart and it was dark enough that you could have a good amount of privacy while still getting your party on. I don’t know about everyone else, but we would usually indulge in almost medieval amounts of beer, and often were still in fairly bad shape when we headed off to the game the next day.

It was the sort of fun that it seemed only single young men could have, and with the exception of Ken, the other three of us were exactly that. This particular trip, though, was a little different for me.

Over the past year or so, I’d developed a healthy curiousity about God, thanks to a good friend I’d met at Grossmont College, otherwise known as Harvard on the Hill. It would have been a fair statement at the time to say I was seeking in earnest. I wanted answers to what in the blue heck I was doing on this weird, sad, and sometimes outright tragic planet. To that end, my friend introduced me to his pastor and friend, an ex-chaplain named Tim Wakefield. He was a really great guy, and had a lot to say about Jesus, and what he could mean to a life. My friend was a great example. He’d come from a serious drug addiction and almost losing his marriage to leading worship and beginning his own road to pastoring.

I was developing a friendship with Tim as well, and was started to feel comfortable at his church (Calvary Baptist, in Linda Vista). Then the week before our trip to Peoria, he was killed in a motorcycle crash, while in Arizona.

I thought about cancelling my trip, but I knew my friends were counting on my being there (and also on my car), and decided to go anyway. I couldn’t stop thinking about Tim, and how messed up it was for God to take him when I had barely gotten the chance to get to know him. I also knew his family would he utterly destroyed, and wondered what would happen to them as well. And to me, for that matter. Who would help me find my way to God, if that would even still happen? I was angry, and sad, and looking forward to getting into my 30 pack of Bud Light and forgetting about things a little.

I remember driving up and unwinding on the back deck a little, looking down at the river and talking about whether or not the Padres were ever going to get back to the level of excellence they’d shown back in 1998. Right about sunset, my friends went to the fire ring in front of the cabin to get a bonfire going (because alcohol and fire sound like a great combo when you’re in a certain state). I remember hearing them call to me to bring the beer coolers, and I stood up from my chair and lifted a cooler in each hand. I looked down at the river, and for some reason, I decided to walk down the short ramp to the boat dock.

imagesCASQ7M75

(That was pretty much the view I had, although I didn’t take that picture. I Googled Walter’s Camp, and selected the image–it was perfect)

I thought about Tim, and thought about God, and thought about all the shit that had happened in my 32 years that to all intents and purposes pointed to the absence of God, rather than the presence. It actually surprised me when I started crying.

I remember crying out something almost primal, more sound than words, and then dropping the coolers at my left and right and dropping to my knees on the dock, ripping out both knees on my Levis. It was about as simple as that. I would later read something from CS Lewis talking about his own conversion, and he referred to it as giving in and admitting that God was God. That’s what it was like. There was no voice from above (at least not then), but it did feel as if a blanket or maybe a strong arm dropped over my shoulder and I remember slapping my palms onto the dock and saying something like, “God, please…

My tears cut the wood beneath my bowed head and I waited for…something. I could hear a cabin maybe three down having a party, and smell their fire as well as the one in front of our cabin. The Rolling Stones song “Midnight Rambler” was playing and I could see people milling around on their deck and down on the dock when I turned my head to the side:

1-1367879038447

(I’m pretty sure this is the exact cabin, but it was fourteen years ago and I was tipsy and emotional so I can’t say for certain)

and then it was like…being enveloped by a sense of peace about things. They weren’t totally OK then, and weren’t even the next day, or for a while after that. In fact, our weekend continued on our planned course. Something was different, though. I stood up, and I knew God was real, and wanted to know me, and have me know him. I hadn’t known that when I fell to my knees. It gave me hope, and that was something I hadn’t really had before. I knew I had a long way to go, but now I also knew I would not be alone on the journey.

That was how it started, fourteen years ago.

Today, things are different. I live a short drive from Walter’s Camp, but I’ve only been back once since that time, and it was over a decade ago. I’d like to go back sometime, and take the kids and Jen. I’m doing about as well as I’ve ever done, and life is pretty good.

I love God, and I love my family. My wife is my best friend, and we’re coming up on five years of marriage. It never would have happened had it not been for that day in Walter’s Camp.

images