I know a child pornographer.
Like me, you have probably seen the recent headlines that have exposed numerous pastors, leaders, and people you may not have suspected were involved in child pornography, as being perpetrators and sadly enslaved to the perversion. Some of them I knew personally and was as surprised (and saddened) as the general public at their arrests.
Those hurt by such perversions and pursuits are not just the child victims and their families, but the families, the followers, and the friends of those caught in the bondage of child porn.
Here is the fact of the matter: nobody starts with child pornography.
The purpose of this article is to explain a simple reality to those who may not understand the way that sexual exploitation, perversion, addiction, bondage (whatever you choose to call it) and immorality works: it gets deeper, darker, and more dangerous with time.
The downward spiral
Pornography has been called “a safe drug” by ‘secular scientists’ and neurologists. Due to the way in impacts the brain with diminishing returns and causes the user to continually crave ‘more’ in order to obtain the same ‘high’, it works much like a drug.
As someone who was once captivated with pornography and enslaved to its grip, I can personally testify that what starts as merely mentally objectifying someone often leads (over months, years, and decades) to engaging in physical actions of objectification. The timeline of the process differs for people, but having spoken with hundreds of men since starting Broken Free, the downward spiral has some commonalities.
Porn addictions grow deeper, darker, and more dangerous with time.
What may start by thinking about a sex act with a girl will lead to viewing a simple sex act online for arousal. That will then grow old and one may pursue live chat. That can lead to then physically acting out fantasies with consenting participants. When that grows old, some return online to explore younger ‘seemingly willing’ participants and the porn industry knows this – often sites advertise ‘barely legal’ models. This cycle of online/real-life/online/real-life exploration is common. And, as the age or type of partner becomes increasingly dissatisfying, the enslaved person seeks new highs, experiences, and more risky endeavors.
This process is no different for opposite-sex attracted or same-sex attracted individuals – based on those I have spoken with, and those that science has studied.
You may think that child pornographers are terrible and reprobate people. Indeed the level of perversion they have stooped to is incredibly sad, sickening, and indefensible. However, it is the result of a process that was left a secret, unchecked, or carefully hidden for years.
Indeed there are individuals who have hardened their conscience towards all truth and embraced a lie about themselves, God, and have no regard for anyone other than King Self. Their speed down the spiral is fast and rapidly invasive and destructive towards others. Those who know (at least in part) the truth that God’s desire and design for them is greater than a sum of their passions, compulsions, and emotions are generally slower to give in to fleshly desires that dishonor the heart of God.
But sin, when left unchecked and unaddressed, is progressive and aggressive (James 1:15). A consuming love of self will ultimately exclude all consciousness of others and lead you to complete and utter disregard for the wellbeing of those around you… no matter how young or innocent they are.
Why #MeToo Matters
This is all the more reason why our culture needs to take a long and hard look at ways we normalize objectification of women. No – it is not the media’s fault for the actions that individuals choose to take, but our actions are always given permission by our brains based upon lies, ideas, theology, mindsets and belief systems we adopt.
A consuming love of self will ultimately exclude all consciousness of others.
The more we continue to normalize and turn a blind eye to the increasing presence of provocative material in our theaters, video games, and streaming video services, the easier it will be for those who seek ‘sexual highs’ to normalize their wandering curiosities. Internet aside, I believe that protecting our children from exploitation begins with changing our mindset about how we normalize pornography in general in our culture.
Pornography is not harmless entertainment; its victims are many and its wake is large.
Do all roads lead to the same end?
Some people wonder how there are those who seem to be ‘functional addicts’ or ‘normal porn viewers’, while others descend to the pit of child pornography.
The most dangerous assumption you can make is that ‘your ____ won’t lead to _____.’ Your overeating won’t lead to morbid obesity. Your drinking won’t lead to alcoholism. Your drug use won’t lead to being a junkie. Your porn viewing won’t lead to child abusing.
Just like nobody considers an occasional overeating here and there will lead to morbid compulsion years or decades later, so it is with pornography. Once you have embraced a lie about yourself and others, there is less opportunity for truth to bring you back to ‘reality.’ While there are those who are reading this and thinking “I have been looking at porn for years, and never thought about child pornography – that’s disgusting!” I would challenge you to ask yourself if your current habit is where it all began. If what started as a glance or a thought is now manifesting as staying up all night viewing porn, or having multiple partners, or even regularly viewing adult videos – you can’t honestly say that things have plateaued.
Believe me, Ted Bundy didn’t think his fascination with pornography would lead to his execution on death row for murder.
A dangerous assumption to make is that ‘your ____ won’t lead to _____.’
For me, what began with a magazine photo led to (twenty years later) breaking into hotel rooms to view pornography so that my credit card wouldn’t get traced with the bill. It led to stealing videos from video stores under my jacked and devising elaborate schemes for when the alarms would go off.
How do you know for certain that your fascination with pornography won’t lead to murder? prostitution? abuse? or child pornography?
So what about those who view child porn?
I am grateful that our society protects children and it should always be illegal to harm the innocent among us. While I believe the forgiveness that Jesus Christ paid for is offered to all who are willing to truly repent with Biblical repentance, that does not nullify the need for consequences of one’s actions.
I have sat with men whose sexual sin and promiscuity led to divorce and children who will be raised without a father. I have talked with those who lost their jobs over their infatuation with pornography. I know first-hand the damage it does to relationships, trust, family, and friendships.
Internet aside, I believe that protecting our children from exploitation begins with changing our mindset about how we normalize pornography in general in our culture.
I have seen people I called friends on the news being arrested for child pornography charges. The criminal nature of the perversion deserves the penalty of the law to protect future victims, and prayerfully to awaken those who find themselves in the darkness.
Is there hope?
What I know is that there is freedom for the addicted and confused. There is forgiveness and healing for the broken; that nobody has to stay defined by their past (whether the victim or abuser) and can be transformed and made new through true repentance and a real relationship with Jesus Christ.
Maybe you think that child pornographers don’t deserve that.
Maybe you wish someone had stepped in before their distorted truths about how they viewed people and their perceived rights over others had led them to the darkness of exploiting children.
I do too.
Why and how God chooses to make beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3) remains a mystery to my finite mind. But I know that He is a God who offers forgiveness and a new life for those who ask. Both victims and abusers. Not a life free from consequences, but a life not defined by one’s actions but rather shaped by one’s identity in Christ (Galatians 2:20).
He did it for me.
His love is strong enough to do it for you.
And I did nothing to deserve that.
The child pornographer who I knew for seven years turned himself in after the police raided his home and seized his computers. Did I know about his habits? No. Was I as surprised as everyone else? Yes. I know what it feels like to live a double life and hide it from everyone. I know the shame, the spiral, and the destruction it leaves behind. By God’s graces, I know the reality of the freedom from the chains of pornography, and the process of rebuilding trust and relationships after being exposed and facing the lie I was living for so long.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.