In today’s culture, our way of being intimate with one another is to give a quick double tap on our friends most recently posted quippy Instagram photo, or acknowledge their wit with a retweet. We’ve created apps, books, and blogs, where we anonymously claim our dark secrets. We caption posts with confessions of our innermost struggles, seeking to share with the world our recent revelation, and await how many likes, hearts, reposts, or reactions we receive. Intimacy has been made calcified and shallow, but our need to be known still remains. Our need for intimacy has crossed over multiple platforms, not barricading itself solely to social media. In the 1990’s, pornography made its most notable progress by becoming accessible to the masses. With the invention of the internet, porn became anonymous. Teens, men, and women, no longer had to subscribe to printed material; instead, they could hide their browser history and clear their cookies with just a click.
A Communities Experience
In 2013, Reddit, a popular social media website, surveyed its sub-community NoFap.. The survey brought to light some of the effects that interacting with pornography has had on its users. Amongst many of the shocking outcomes, one reason that is exceptionally eye-opening. Of those surveyed, less than half of the members of the NoFap community have ever had sex. That means “almost 50 percent of those on NoFap have never had sex in their lives, meaning their only experience with intimacy is purely digital.” With the wide use and availability of pornography, we have created a culture that can be stimulated with a click of the mouse, without ever having to experience real connection.
With the wide use and availability of pornography, we have created a culture that can be stimulated with a click of the mouse, without ever having to experience real connection.
InRealLife, a film by Beeban Kieron, explores the effects of being a digital native, and subsequently, the readily available access to pornography, through a 15-year old boy named Ryan. Tim Adams notes in his article about InRealLife, “[w]hat Ryan knew of relationships, and of women, he had mostly learned from his daily immersion in adult videos, picked up from a menu to suit all conceivable tastes, none of which any longer held much curiosity for him.” Ryan continues to note that he feels that he has “‘ruined the sense of love,’” and that he essentially searches for relationships with women the same way he approaches pornography, “always restless, always looking for the excitement of the perfect transaction, always vaguely disappointed.”
What Ryan experienced is not uncommon among the younger generation, that is why apps like Tinder work so well. We swipe left until we find someone who fits our flavor of the week, disregarding the quirky ‘about me’ section, and typically focusing solely on outward appearance. Dating, relationships, sex, they’ve all become a buffet line: the ability to pick and choose what we want in our ideal partner, and when they no longer become what we want, we switch gears. Our unlimited access to sexualization has desensitized our ability for true connection, true intimacy. Engaging in counterfeit intimacy is like eating a diet of McDonald’s and Taco Bell. It’s a cheap and convenient way to be satisfied. Sure, it offers an ends to a means, but after constant exposure, your body would no longer know how to process real food. It wouldn’t be able to work properly because you’re not feeding it legitimate nutrition. It would create lasting health issues. Our minds, much like our bodies, need to be fed properly to function well.
Engaging in counterfeit intimacy is like eating a diet of McDonald’s and Taco Bell. It’s a cheap and convenient way to be satisfied.
Pornography heightens this false sense of intimacy. It seeks to offer an alternate solution to a problem that has already been answered. It’s filling a void, it’s empty satisfaction, it leaves you hungry and ready to devour the next bite, only to find out that you’re never filled. Have you ever tried to carry water in a bucket full of holes? It doesn’t work. It was never meant to. Its intrinsic value is a show piece, a convenience, not a substitute for substance. We are wired for intimacy, not self-stimulated, disengaging, falsified form of connection.
Counterfeit vs Authentic
As humans, our deepest desire is to be known.
Pornography creates a barrier against legitimate intimacy. Intimacy is not about a “what” but a “who.” It is designed to engage and connect you with another person.
As humans, our deepest desire is to be known.
The purpose of sex is to lead you into a deepening intimacy, into knowing your partner, into being known. The purpose of sex is not self-satisfaction. The original covenant between newlyweds is supposed to mirror the bride (The Church) giving herself over to the bridegroom (Jesus). It is not, contrary to popular cultural belief, to satisfy your sex drive, to find release, or because you or your partner is ‘thirsty.’ It is not self-seeking, which is exactly what pornography becomes. Pornography, in its most basic form, seeks to satisfy a void within ourselves whether its curiosity, boredom, sexual desire, or pain.
You can only give away whatever you have on the inside. If your only form of connection is with a digitalized, highly directed form of companionship, then the authenticity behind connecting will become increasingly difficult. We act according to what we believe, not according to what we know. We know that pornography isn’t real love, but we believe that it will satisfy our emptiness. We know that pornography affects the way we view other people and ourselves, but we believe that it’s done in secret, so it’s safe. We often operate from a belief system we create out of our pain. This pain, this emptiness, this void, is something that can only be healed by a “who” and not a “what.”
We know that pornography isn’t real love, but we believe that it will satisfy our emptiness.
Scriptures promise in Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he saves those whose spirits are crushed.” Scriptures also promise in 2 Timothy 2:13 that “‘If we are disloyal, he stays faithful’ because he can’t be anything else than what he is.” The pain, the cycle, the counterfeit intimacy, it can all be broken when we bring it to the Healer (Hebrews 7:25). His faithfulness is greater than our disobedience. As we bring our pain, our emptiness, our need for intimacy to the Lord, he begins to show us what true intimacy looks like. True intimacy looks like being fully known and fully loved, despite the ugly, despite the mess, despite the difficulty (Romans 8:38-39). When you place the counterfeit next to its true counterpart, the counterfeit becomes less appealing.
I challenge you to place your views on pornography next to your views on intimacy. Do they match up? Which one is more appealing to you? Is it more attractive to be fully known and fully loved, or to temporarily satisfy a void?
Which will you chose, the counterfeit or the authentic?