The last place you’d expect to see a porno would be the living room of a pastor.
But in between my family’s Christmas portrait and a broken, dot matrix printer sat a computer screen. Little did I know the place where I typed up book reports or instant messaged my friends would also become the doorway to an endless amount of forbidden fruit—and an endless amount of guilt.
Growing up the daughter of a Baptist preacher-man, I was the 16-year-old poster child for naiveté. My family had just moved from a small, secluded west Texas town to Dallas, and within a matter of days in my new residence, I was bombarded by the prevalent sexual culture of a big city.
Strip clubs and billboards lined the highways. There was a giant sex store just a few miles from our house. Ignited teenage hormones and the temptation to give in to my curiosity proved to be a dangerous combination.
My parents and brother were fast asleep as I connected to the internet one night. I searched for the word “sex” and within seconds had access to a sea of well endowed platinum blondes doing things with guys (and girls) that I’d never seen before.
Because I lived at home and the only computer was in the living room, there weren’t many opportunities to do my “sexual education research,” but whenever I was alone, I’d quickly satisfy my interest.
I graduated from high school my junior year and moved out when I was only 17 years old. I had my own space with my own computer, and all the free time in the world. I’d go to work (at a local Christian bookstore), come home, and look at porn almost every night.
I frequented erotic chat rooms, watched movies and browsed through hundreds and hundreds of pictures. Soon my porn binges started affecting my performance at work and my relationships.
Of course I never mentioned my struggle to anyone. Looking at porn was typical, even expected, for guys but a girl? A girl who likes porn? I often questioned my sexual orientation.
Why did I like looking at naked women? Was I gay? Bisexual? A pervert? I hated what I was doing so much. I knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t stop.
The cycle continued for years. Binging, feeling guilty and swearing I’d never do it again, only to give in a few days later. I prayed for God to take the desires away. That’s when I realized it was more than just looking at pictures.
I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and I had more than enough pictures saved in my memory to reflect back on, even if I was able to stay off the computer for a while.
So, why do women struggle with this? Although stereotypically we’re not as visually stimulated as our male counterparts, we’re not blind either. There is something about a woman’s body that is beautiful and mysterious and even forbidden, and that toys with our psyche and tempts us.
At least for me, viewing these outwardly flawless women fed a huge emotional need. I was able to put myself in the role of what I was seeing, and by doing that, it made me feel beautiful and accepted.
I was transformed into a perfect, sexy body, and I was desired and wanted. I was able to escape my own flawed physical appearance and be transformed, in my mind, to this perfect woman.
My online activities also played out in my daily life. I was engaged for about a year and cheated on my fiancée. After that, I “dated” several new guys a month, getting physically involved with them in some regard.
According to everything I had seen, to be accepted and loved meant a sexual relationship, and what girl doesn’t need to be accepted and loved? I gave so many pieces of my body and my heart away during those years.
When I was 21, I was in a serious car accident that caused me to reevaluate how I was living my life. At the time, I was pretending like there was no God, except for when I needed His forgiveness, and only then would I come running back to Him. After the wreck, something finally clicked, and I realized that love does not equal sex.
It was at that moment when I decided to turn around—to change my thinking—and then my actions would eventually (and hopefully) follow. I had to say goodbye to my online habits, and to my offline ones as well.
It’s been close to 10 years since my first encounter with online porn, and I’d like to admit I’ve had a perfect run at purity. I wish I could say I’ve always lingered on the right thoughts or shut down the computer when the temptation got to be too much, but the truth is, I haven’t.
I’m still a girl who struggles. I’m still a girl who lives one day at a time, depending on a God whose design for sex and love is so far beyond what I could even imagine. So each and every day, I pray for God to first direct my thinking and then redirect it as necessary.
And I’m grateful that He is faithful to meet me somewhere between the mouse and the computer screen.
Anne Jackson serves on staff at Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN, and is the author of Mad Church Disease. She likes you. Check out her blog at www.flowerdust.net.
This article was printing in the March/April issue of Rethink Monthly magazine (issue #6).