It was the morning of my wedding. I went out to breakfast with my parents and then back to the house to get ready to go to the hotel later that day. My mother had gone to get her hair or nails or maybe both done, and I confided to my father that there was something I meant to get done before that day.
He asked what it was and I told him. You see, I had a long history with something that I had a strange longing to leave behind once I was married. So on the day of my wedding, my father and I took a clandestine trip on a secret mission to the dump. I had a box that was full of pornographic magazines and videos and as I threw them over the rail and in among the rest of the garbage, I felt a relief and a lightening of my soul, and a slight tinge of sadness. In a disgusting way, an era had ended and even though I didn't realize it at the time, it had become an addiction. Today I look back at this as the first of many steps toward a much more beautiful future.
Fast forward to a few years later and my wife and I are preparing class plans for our first session teaching Theology of the Body for Teens at our parish. In one of the lessons it tells a story, the gist of which is that in order to kill wolves in the Arctic circle, the Eskimos would coat a knife blade in blood, let the blood freeze, and bury the knife, handle down, just outside of their encampment. The wolf would smell the blood and come to the knife. and then start licking the knife. Between the taste of the blood, and the numbing effect of the fact that it was frozen, the wolf didn't even realize it when he had gone through the frozen blood on the blade and cut his tongue. The blood that he so greedily licked up was then his own and his frozen tongue would not feel the repeated cutting until the wolf's hunger, eventually, would kill him. Now in researching this post, I found that some people doubt the effectiveness of this method for killing wolves. And I admit, the story could be true, or not. Either way, fact or folk tale, I instantly saw the connection between the wolf and the blood, and me and pornography.
The first time I saw a pornographic image stands out in my mind as being when I was about seven or eight years old. I remember a friend coming into his room with a Playboy Magazine from his father's room. (Well, of course his father had some of 'those' magazines......every guy does it, you know.) Not even realizing what we were really looking at, the thrill of seeing something we weren't supposed to and the excitement of (gasp) boobies! was probably the highpoint of our tiny lives. Soon after the time I saw that first Playboy, HBO came along and brought PG and R-rated movies into the home and it seemed like during that time, every movie had nudity. Even the most innocuous movies had to have a scene with a bare-breasted woman. I remember a movie with a group of suburban housewives who plan a heist from a shopping mall and to distract the crowd one of them, played by Jane Curtin, shows her breasts. I remember there being a big deal because Julie Andrews showed her breasts in a movie. Then there were the high school movies. Yes 'American Pie' kids, I hate to be the one, but it's time someone told you that the concept is really just a ripoff of the 'Porky's' movies that came out when I was a kid.
Then, at about twelve or thirteen, I saw a pornographic video for the first time. Here it was! The thing we wondered most about. What will it really be like? How long does it last? All of the questions that my group of friends and I had about sex, were going to be answered. Here were actual people 'doing it'! I am just now understanding the chemistry of why I can remember those images so clearly, and sadly, the damage that those images did to me over so many years. I will not go much deeper into the details of this, but it is around this age that for me (and most other guys, I imagine) our mental impurity, how shall I say this, began to manifest itself as a physical impurity as well. From here on, let it be understood that pornography and self-gratification are inescapably linked. This is where the wolves find the blood.
From then on, I could always find pornography somewhere. After all, I had two older brothers, my dad, my friends' dads, and, don't you know, every guy does it. There was Cinemax 'Friday, After Dark' and I was eventually even bold enough to record some of those movies. Ah, my own collection! And I struggled along as this sick, perverted scavenger through my teen years. There were video rentals in the eighties, and time when nobody else would be home. I returned one late once and my mother wondered why I had rented 'The Secret Garden', not realizing initially that it was not the child's story. When I was eighteen, I could just buy pornography, and all bets were off. I used to joke with my mother about how proud she must have been that all her sons had rental cards for the 'Moonlight Reader' adult store in our town. It was conveniently right next to the music store. That gave us all perfect cover! I still remember me and my friends laughing because when the store opened, there was an older gentleman sitting out in front for months in a lawn chair with a sign that said, “Real men don't use porn”. I laughed then. Now I would be sitting next to him.
At nineteen years old, the first bar I went to was a strip club. I faked my ID to take a friend there for his twenty-first birthday. A whole new level. Real women dancing nude in front of me. This was an expensive habit, thus relegated to special events. Twenty-first birthdays, bachelor parties, and the occasional evening out with 'the guys'.
Eventually, the internet came. The ease of the internet, combined with what I now know about the damage pornography can do, terrifies me for the prospects of the generations behind me. I moved out of my parent's house and met someone who was 'okay' with my pornography habit.
(Just an aside to women and young women of all ages....DO NOT ACCEPT THIS! Any man who is looking regularly at pornography, is training himself to look at you as no more than a means to satisfy himself. Anything loving that he does for you is conditional upon your satisfying him. Pornography does not help real relationships, it cripples them.)
I would make daily visits to the same website to see the new updates. It was at this point, a definitive addiction. I was the wolf starting to consume his own blood and not even realizing that there was anything wrong with it. After all, every guy does it, right? Surprisingly, that relationship did not work out and I moved back in with my parents.
Shortly after that, I was laid off from my job and rather than cancel my plans to go out to a strip club with my friend that evening, I used my severance check to up my spending limit. This was not a good sign. I had a couple of friends during this time that I would meet for dinner, and inexorably, end up at a strip club. Eventually, I realized that the spending was unsustainable, and stopped going so often. This was a blessing,because just around the corner was the day I would meet my wife.
When I met my wife, she had just returned to the Church, and I would wait for her to return from mass on Sundays before we could go to do anything. One weekend, when her family was out of town, I went to mass with her. “Once”, I said, “and after that, I can't promise anything.” Well, I went to mass that day, and it was like I had returned home. From then on, I went to mass with her and her family every Sunday. Getting the message every week made me re-examine a lot of things. One of those was pornography. Things progressed such that not only did I make my trip to the dump on my wedding day, but I asked my Best Man not to include a trip to the strip club in my bachelor party plans. Me, the guy who faced with unemployment, went to a strip club, did not want one involved in the night of my 'last hurrah'. I was not completely out of the woods yet, but I had journeyed quite a bit. Or at least, I had stopped greedily 'licking the knife'.
I mentioned earlier how those images stay with you. There is actually a chemical reaction that imprints those experiences more strongly in your memory. Even now I can't erase the images I exposed myself to for those years. Please take that as a warning. Like I tell all of the young men in the Theology of the Body classes, once you see those images, there is no way to 'UN-see' them. They are there embedded as a temptation forever. They are the blood-covered knife. A lure to appeal to your basest hungers which ultimately will lead to your destruction.