Tuesday, July 19, 2016

What You Need to Know About Emotional Porn

 Nine months ago I didn't know what emotional porn was. In fact, I'm not sure how it even became the topic for my senior thesis. But I immersed myself in the subject for five months of the school year, discovering in the process how dangerous emotional porn is and how no one seems to know what it is or how to explain it to someone else.

 I hope after reading this you will have at least a basic understanding of what emotional pornography is, why it can be dangerous, and why we should be careful about the quality and quantity of romance novels we read.

 So what is emotional pornography?  

 Emotional porn is a kind of pornography that emphasizes the emotions and feelings within romance and sex versus the visual portrayal of sexual activity in pornography. 

 To put it another way, pornography can be considered "Men's Pornography" and emotional porn "Women's Pornography". Men's pornography, if you will, is what most of us think of when we see the word pornography. It is extremely visual and satisfies their physical longings. In contrast, women long for an emotional connection, which is why it's called emotional porn.*

 Men's physical needs are strong and they are visually stimulated, so they turn to visual pornography to satisfy that need. Women, however, have emotional needs, and are stimulated by words and emotions, so it makes sense that they would turn to emotional porn, which mainly manifests itself in romance novels.

 In Pulling Back the Shades, which I highly recommend for older readers who don't mind reading some more graphic material, the authors reveal the five longings of women and how many romance novels utilize those longings. Women long to escape, to be protected and cherished by a strong man, to be the only one he needs, and to feel sexually alive.

 These elements of emotional porn are mostly found in romance novels, and for my research I focused on Twilight. I didn't read Twilight until I was in college, and except for the mediocre writing, I was left with mixed feelings; I loved it and hated it at the same time.

 I loved the romance between Bella and Edward. I loved reading about this perfect guy who made Bella feel so loved. It filled a hole inside of me, but it also opened a wound. It made me feel discontent and left wondering where my Edward was and why I didn't have this fairy tale romance. 

 Think about it- the escape a novel brings, how you live vicariously through a character, how you keep going back to the parts of the book where he kisses her and tells her she is everything to him. You keep re-reading it and the only reason you can give is that it makes you happy; it makes you sigh contentedly like you got your needed dose of romance for the day. This is emotional porn at work. But the most important thing I wanted to tell you is that this can be sin.

 First, I'm sure most of us have all done this. Those of us that are romantics at heart as well as avid readers, or even avid chick flick watchers, have all turned back to that favorite romantic scene and sighed over it, wondering when that will be us, and I don't think that's a problem. But it can easily become a problem if it causes us to become discontent with our situation, lustful, or living our entire life in a fantasy. Essentially, it affects women in the same way that a pornographic photo affects men as far as sin is concerned. 

 I'm not saying you should burn every romance novel on your shelf, or that you are necessarily sinning because you read and enjoy romance novels. God wired women to enjoy those things, and so there needs to be a balance. 

 The key to finding that balance in facing the question of whether or not to read romance novels is first remembering that every woman is different in what will cause her to stumble, and second, realizing that it is not necessarily what we read, but where it takes us in our thoughts. It will be different for different people. For one woman, reading a romance novel may be a huge stumbling block, but another woman may not be bothered by them. We need to be in tune to the state of our soul and the feelings that arise from reading romance novels and set our own personal boundaries.  

 In conclusion, I write this not because I hate romance novels, but because I love them. I want to keep pure the greatest romance of all time when Jesus died for His bride, the church. I want to share with you what I have learned so you too know the subtle evils of emotional porn.

*Please note that while I do believe this is the general pattern for men and women, there are always exceptions. Men may find they are more drawn to the focus of feelings and the relationship connection of emotional porn and women may associate more with the visual pornography. It is also true that in all of us there is probably a good mix of desires not just for one aspect of intimacy, so I am not trying to put people in a box. However, men do tend to gravitate more to visual porn and women emotional porn and this is just the way God wired us.  

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

I Don't Have to Get Married?

"Will your sister move back to Michigan?" she asks.

 The church is almost empty except for a few families still lingering in the hallway, including mine and the nine year old girl that has sat next to me, mimicking the way I am lounging on the chair.

 "Probably. She's definitely going back for school."

 "Will you move back to Michigan?"

 "I hope say," I say. "Eventually."

 "Will you move back when you're married?"

 I pause. Her question is like a few more rocks balanced precariously on a boulder. Eventually the stones will pile up and fall soon and I'll have to deal with the emotional break down.

 I try to laugh a little thinking about the lack of guys available let alone ones that would want to date me. "No, I'll definitely move back before I'm married."

 Distracted by her siblings, she suddenly runs off, and I am left wondering where her questions came from. Why would she assume I can't move away unless I'm married? Why does she think marriage is my only option? But then I realize that I think marriage is my only option.

 Actually, let me re-phrase that; the only option I have ever really wanted is marriage, and I want it so much I have convinced myself it is my only option.  

 I have other goals and desires- to write and publish books, to travel to places like Ireland and Japan- but they have never been as high, as important, or as idolized as marriage. 

 Before she left I wanted to say something to her, like, "We don't have to get married, you know," or "Marriage is a really wonderful and beautiful thing, but God doesn't give it to everyone." I even thought of joking, "I don't have to be married to move to a different state."

 But I think I need to tell it to myself more than her.

 You don't have to get married. You want to, oh how you want to, but you don't have to. It would not mean you are a failure. It would not mean a horrible life. It would mean you would be single like the Apostle Paul and lots of other people on this earth.

 God doesn't give marriage to everyone. You may be single for the next five years or the rest of your life. But however long it is God will provide strength each day to get through as well as give you everything your heart desires and more in Heaven when He gives us Himself, our true heart's desire.

 I pray God will give you and me power that only comes from Him to simply be the single women God has called us to be for at least this season. I pray for the power to be content and joyful and completely focused on loving and serving others and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ so that we do not focus on the few things He hasn't given us when He has already promised us an eternity with Him.