I’m cross posting this to both this column on Donny’s Ramblings as well as the column I write on the XXXChurch website. I’m thinking this is gonna be a long one.
Wendy, my ex-wife, and I are pretty good friends. We were high school sweethearts. We dated 4 years and were married 6 years. During 3 of those married years I produced porn behind her back: first on a part time basis, later full time.
After our divorce, Wendy and I maintained a unique relationship. Our son deserved parents who got along. Who cooperated with each other. Who loved him despite their differences, and who demonstrated that love, in part, by keeping their personal disagreements out of his life as much as possible. That’s what he received.
Now, as a Christian, everyone talks about the two of us reuniting. “Wouldn’t that be the ultimate display of God’s healing power?” they ask. Or some similar question that means pretty much the same thing.
I can’t say the two of us haven’t discussed it, but I can say that at this point such a reunion doesn’t look very promising. We’re friends. Best friends. But there’s a lot of… baggage between us, you might say. Some very painful experiences. Some very bad memories.
Wendy has accepted my apologies. She’s forgiven me. She’s an amazing woman. Forgiveness and re-committing one’s entire life to the person who caused so much hurt… well, those are two completely different animals.
Sometimes she has an issue with this blog and with my speaking engagements. Oftentimes she has “issues” with me over a variety of other topics. There’s a lot to work through.
When she recently asked me why I don’t focus more on what porn cost us while blogging or speaking I asked her if she’s actually read everything I’ve written or listened to all that has been spoken. Admittedly, she doesn’t read a good portion of what I write. It’s easy to understand why. A lot of the topics written about here are still a raw wound in Wendy’s life. She definitely didn’t deserve what I put her through.
Tonight I’m writing a bit more about the personal costs. I’m going to rip myself open for this one.
Straight, blunt talk.
To start, I’ll have to share more of the details of my past. Only by doing so can I paint the picture of what my lifestyle choices have cost.
Like most males, I had a personal interest in porn. I preferred to look at solo models. Hardcore sex content didn’t really interest me. The visuals that “got me going” didn’t involve other men molesting the fantasy women I viewed.
My first adult magazine was one left in a park where a friend and I played. I was in grade school. The images intrigued me. The corny words beneath them are still in my mind to this day. I can literally tell you what was written beneath my favorite images.
I also remember buying magazines from a liquor store near my home when I was in the 10th grade. The clerk had to have known I wasn’t 18, but he sold them to me anyway.
Still, my interest in porn was an off-again, on-again thing. It hadn’t consumed me.
What really got me was when I was showed photos of a woman I knew. The photographer, her husband, had no evil intentions. He was just proud of his wife. What happened in my mind is almost indescribable. Not only was it a turn on to see someone I knew so exposed, I started thinking that I could have one helluva good time picking up the camera and pointing it at willing models of my own. I’d never considered photographing a nude female before that time, but afterwards it is something I wanted to do very much.
I found a private party willing to part with cash for photos. I also did a bit of research and found companies willing to buy.
At first, I photographed a few girls I knew. It wasn’t hard. I can’t describe it, but there’s something intriguing to many woman about being photographed nude. With less money than you might imagine, it was easy to change “Yeah it might be fun to pose naked but I’d never actually do it” into “Yeah, I’ll do that… I’ve always wanted to pose nude.”
I’m a smooth talker when I want to be. That definitely helped.
In my own home, I once photographed a girl who had been a High School classmate. Wendy was at work. To show off, I emailed some of the photos to an acquaintance I’d met on an instant messaging program. He sent a few of the photos back to Wendy. That almost ended in divorce. She didn’t believe me when I told her I wasn’t sleeping with the girl. She didn’t believe I’d done it for money (and even if she had believed the money part, her feelings on the matter wouldn’t have been much different).
We got over it as best we could. She assumed I wouldn’t do such a thing again.
I didn’t want to hurt her, but I didn’t want to give up the thrill of making money by photographing naked women. I decided I’d just have to work harder at hiding my “work”. And honestly, at that point the money wasn’t the major motivator. I was addicted to the rush of having models expose themselves to me. I was addicted to producing pornography.
Later the thrill would subside and I’d be motivated to “go big” by the desire for money and the desire to throw my actions into the faces of the religious hypocrites I’d been around each church service, all of my life.
I was caught again when I forgot to erase photos off the card of our digital camera. Earlier that day I’d done a “test shoot” of a model so that I could email her photos to a client for approval. When Wendy saw them I convinced her they were pics my friend John had found online, and that I’d had him transfer them to my compact flash card so I could look at them later. A few rocky days later and we’d moved on.
I kept shooting models behind her back.
A day came when I slept with one of them after a shoot. I hated myself for it. I decided to hide my actions from Wendy but promised myself that if I ever did such a thing again I was going to come clean.
While Wendy was pregnant I continued shooting models. With a baby on the way, you’d think that if there was any decency left inside of me I’d stop what I was doing. I didn’t. I congratulated myself that I hadn’t slept with other models. I congratulated myself for “keeping it professional”.
When Caden was a newborn I started my first porn sites.
While on a business trip to Los Angeles I was called by a model who’d worked for me a few weeks prior. She was also in Los Angeles and wanted a ride home. We spent the night together in a hotel along the way.
A few weeks later I kept the promise I’d made to myself: I told Wendy the truth about my “work” while on another business trip to Phoenix.
That was it. I never again spent the night in the home we’d made together.
In my case, what did my “porn life” cost?
My self respect? Surely.
A great wife? Absolutely.
What else did it cost? I’ll share some of what I know, but there are many “costs” that I do not even comprehend myself.
It cost my son, the most important person in the world to me, the chance at having his mom and dad at home when he arrives from school. It cost him the chance to witness what relationships are supposed to be like. To witness how a man should love his wife. To witness how two people who love each other should learn to bend and give and compromise. I don’t have the chance to help Caden with his homework as I’d like to do, because I’m not usually there when he comes home from school. My decisions took that opportunity away.
It cost Wendy intense personal anguish. One day she had a husband she loved, the next she was living in the house we shared with only her infant son to keep her company. I can’t imagine how crushing that must have been. I can’t imagine the gut wrenching anguish and tears she must have experienced.
Just a few months later, when I’d started dating Belinda and was “living it up” as a man who was all of a sudden able to freely, openly produce pornography, I can’t imagine how horrible it must have been for an innocent mother to watch me drive away with our baby boy in the car and another woman in the passenger seat.
She once told me she was unable to watch a romance movie for 2 years after our separation.
The only way I can cope with this stuff, by the way, is to realize that the wretched man who did all of these things has been forgiven and given the chance to start with a clean slate. THANK GOD FOR HIS GRACE. And thank Wendy for hers, as well.
Wendy wasn’t the only one affected. Her entire family grieved with her. Her entire family was thrown for a loop, wondering how something like this could happen to someone who definitely didn’t deserve it.
Wendy’s little brother, with whom I’d been very close since he was an infant, all of a sudden lost a loving “Uncle” figure.
Amongst my friends and family, many lives were thrown into turmoil by my actions. The fallout affected others more than you might imagine… more than I might imagine… more than I’ll ever fully comprehend.
If I were to stick my finger in a light socket, the resulting shock would not be a punishment. That shock would be a result of my free will to make a bad decision. Cause and Effect.
If you were passing by me when I had my finger in that socket, and I grabbed you, the shock you’d receive wouldn’t be punishment either. You’d be affected by MY free will… by MY bad decision. You, as an innocent bystander, would experience pain because of the actions of another. Again, Cause and Effect.
And so it goes in lives all over the world. Innocent children are killed because of the free will actions of their parents or some complete stranger. Innocent husbands are torn apart because of the free will of their wives, who have affairs. Innocent wives are hurt because of the free will actions of their husbands, who can’t control the impulse to consume pornography.
I realize there are some who make the claim that pornography can enrich the sex lives of couples who consume it. I am not going to debate that particular issue at this time. But what I will say is that there are many wives who are NOT OKAY with their husbands consuming pornography. It doesn’t matter if the husband thinks there is no harm in it: if his wife has a problem with it, he shouldn’t do it, pure and simple (I’m not going to get into the moral reasons to stay away from porn at the moment, either).
When we were married, Wendy used to be “hurt” by several things. I used to think some of the things that hurt her feelings were ridiculous. I’d get upset that I had to walk on eggshells and watch what I said out of fear that she might be hurt.
As I age and experience life, I have begun realizing that she had a right to be herself. She shouldn’t have been expected to change for me. I either needed to make myself compatible with her, or choose not to be with her, or she could choose not to be with me.
Regardless of a person’s moral beliefs, this same concept applies when we start talking about whether or not pornography hurts marriages. The fact of the matter is that many women are indeed hurt (yes, even outside the spiritual arena) when they find out their husbands consume pornography. You, my constant reader, may personally believe it’s ridiculous to feel that way, but the fact is, it DOES hurt, for whatever the reason may be. In such a case, a husband needs to stop watching porn. He needs to respect his wife’s feelings. He made a commitment to her, after all, for better or worse.
He needs to stop hurting the innocent with his free will decisions.
My personal attraction to porn led down a path that ended up costing everything that should have been valuable to me. I was too daft, too bitter, too selfish to see what really mattered in life. The same can be said for those who allow pornography to control them, or who have chosen to produce it without regard for the lives of those involved, or those who have chosen to act in it, or…
Thank God that Jesus Christ can and will set those free who want to be set free. I am glad I accepted that freedom. I may never recover all that was lost, but I have already recovered so much.
If you’re struggling, reach out for help. It’s there for the taking.