This past Wednesday, on September 27, 2017, Hugh Hefner passed away in his California home, the famous Playboy Mansion. He was ninety-one years old. The world has reacted as if it has lost a legend. Many articles have been written in the few days since his death, but it was this one, that held my attention. No, it doesn’t mention Hefner by name, but it is an examination of an industry he helped modernize and culturize both at home and abroad. The author cites studies for and against pornography, but concludes:
“The question of cause and effect comes up a lot with research into porn: does porn attract more people with sexually aggressive tendencies, those who are in unhappy relationships, those with smaller reward systems in their brain and those with sexual addiction – or does it cause these things? It’s a tricky area to research – but until the answers are more definitive, the evidence so far suggests that the likelihood that porn has a negative effect very much depends on the individual consuming it.”
Honestly, I was once a man firmly in her camp; by this I mean, I used to believe my pornography viewing was both private business and practically harmless because I “knew how to handle myself.” As a matter of fact, my decade and a half long dance with the Devil began during my teenage years when I stole a few Playboy magazines from my dad’s stash in the garage. He eventually caught on to my deception, but to my amazement, decided to pardon rather than punish me. He said, “Fool me once, shame on me, son.” Mistaking patience for permission, I kept stealing magazines. He caught me again, and said, “Fool me twice, shame on you. You’re grounded.”
I had underestimated the old man, but I would be more careful next time. I convinced him to let me get a part-time job at a local restaurant, all the while planning to save enough money to buy my own laptop so I could continue viewing porn in peace. I even took the extreme measure of buying pornographic DVDs from an older co-worker that he would copy onto blank CDs for a nominal fee of two dollars a pop. Man, did I think I was clever.
Many years later, I met a beautiful young woman (who is now my wife), who I decided to deceive just like dear, old dad. I told her I had thrown out my entire porn collection (which consisted of DVDs, magazines were so retro), but I neglected to tell her I still used the ever-present wi-fi signal to satisfy my sin. I knew the Bible spoke against adultery, but I reasoned as a non-Christian it must mean the physical act of having sex with someone other than your spouse. I would never sink this low, I further assured myself. Furthermore, I am normal. All men like porn, in fact, not liking it is what means there is something wrong. Yet, I was putting myself squarely at odds with the Bible; indeed, the very words of the Lord, from Matthew chapter five, verse twenty-eight when He said,
“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Over time, I began to experience many negative consequences associated with my pornography viewing including addiction, resentment toward my wife, the desire to add both physical and verbal aggression to our intimacy, the desire to isolate myself from others so as to engage in the act of viewing porn, and others. It became a cycle, and worse, one I was in vehement denial about. I continued to rationalize my problem as though it did not exist. Forgive me if these last few sentences sound like an advertisement, for they are simply the truth and testimony of my life. Finally, I found a way out of the cycle when I was gifted tickets to a Christian marriage conference called “Weekend To Remember” run by FamilyLife Ministries.
It was here God brought deep conviction into my soul for the sin I was hiding on a daily basis from everyone. Everyone, that is, except Him. I learned about a company called Covenant Eyes and sought an accountability partner to assist me in avoiding pornography. I wish I could claim that was the day I stopped viewing porn and never looked back, but I cannot. What I can say, though, is that even though repentance and accountability brought temporary shame and embarrassment, they also brought freedom from chains I had long since thought were so tight and rusted over that they would never be removed.