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Further Reading

Undercover

Porn Free

Continence Is the Sine Qua Non of Masculine Love

by Terrell Clemmons

After having watched porn "for most of my conscious life," New York comedian Ethan Fixell decided to go without it for 30 days "to better understand how it affected my life on a day to day basis." As it turned out, the answer was "quite a lot." On the downside, he discovered that he was "unable to permanently let go of my lifelong masturbatory crutch." On the upside, it got him thinking about ethics. "What if," he wondered, "there was another way to consume porn? What if, rather than restricting ourselves from [it], we could demand a higher level of quality from the industry?"

So he asked some porn stars how to find "ethical porn." By buying directly from only top-tier professionals, he was told, he could avoid supporting producers who take advantage of nonconsenting performers. Or, alternatively, he could buy homemade, amateur porn in which the subjects have filmed themselves. Users should support safe, consensual, ethically made porn, he concluded, and if they do, there's no reason to feel guilty about it.

It's interesting, isn't it, that Ethan felt guilty about his porn habit. And it's nice that he started to take concern for how women were being treated. Now, if only he'd realize that there is also a need for him to take concern for himself.

Users of Women

Everett Fritz harbored similarly warped ideas about girls and sex until a pivotal evening in his basement when he was seventeen. He was pumping iron, seething mad over an attempted sexual assault on his friend Katrina from youth group, when he distinctly heard God speak to him. Why are you angry at this boy? You are no different. Everett started to argue but quickly came up short; he was a habitual user of pornography. "I stood there in my basement, completely stunned. I had been convicted by God, who knows all and sees all. . . . The intentions of my heart were no different from that other boy's." Whether or not he'd ever assaulted anyone physically, in the privacy of his own heart, mind, and soul, Everett knew, "I was a user of women."

This came as a devastating revelation. Although there had never been anything romantic between him and Katrina, he really cared for her. He had not been able to protect her from that other boy, and he realized in that severe moment that he, himself, posed a similar threat. The realization brought him to tears, and he set his mind to slay the beast of his own lust in order to protect his future bride from himself. "I wanted to be a good man, not a weak boy."

Prioritizing Love

He started by examining his understanding of love and sex. Good sex, he realized, is really about a relationship of love. And love is not about using people. On the contrary, love means actively willing the good of the beloved, which requires selflessness and sacrifice.

But porn use and masturbation are solitary, inward-oriented pursuits. There is no relationship, and certainly no love involved. Everett did not want to end up alone in life, and he came to see that a utilitarian attitude toward women would wreak havoc with his prospects for lifelong love. He knew a course correction was in order, but after struggling valiantly for some time, he, like Ethan Fixell, found that he couldn't "just stop."

But in contrast to Ethan, Everett took a different route. He surrendered the whole problem—personal helplessness, guilty conscience, and all—to Christ. It was the beginning of his passage into manhood.

Dragon Slaying

Today, Everett is the executive director of the St. Andrew Missionaries, a Catholic organization dedicated to discipling young people. He tells his story in Freedom: Battle Strategies for Conquering Temptation, which he wrote specifically for teenage boys like the one he used to be. He recommends six practices for boys to incorporate into their lives if they want to overcome the relentless lures of sexual sin and move toward masculine maturity. Two have to do with cultivating spiritual and emotional health: prayer, and writing or journaling as a means of knowing oneself. The rest have to do with training or disciplining oneself, much as a soldier or athlete would do to achieve optimum performance.

But he isn't all discipline and no compassion. Everett believes that sexual addictions are often out-of-control attempts to self-medicate the pain of some unaddressed woundedness. "The wound is usually associated with a sense of inadequacy, deep loneliness, or feeling like they are not worthy of love." For him, early exposure to porn and loneliness in the wake of a family move were the seeds that gave rise to his habit. "I was an insecure teenager . . . and had no firm identity."

Some of the lies that drive sexual sin are, "You are inadequate," "Women will never find you attractive," "No one loves you," and "You are doomed to be alone forever." But these lies can be rooted out by looking to Christ to be the all-sufficient source of love, counsel, and companionship. Everett writes as a Catholic, but the principles are broadly applicable to any Christ-based faith. Regardless of his religious identity, a man fully affirmed in Christ can get freed from slavery to porn and grow strong enough to love a woman with a protective, selfless love. She wins.

Freed to Love

And so does he. Most people agree that nonconsensual sex is out of line, but is there really that much harm in porn and masturbation? Yes, Everett says, there really is. "A boy grows into a man as he learns to put his strengths, gifts, and passions at the service of others." But two of the biggest obstacles preventing that passage today are masturbation and pornography. Why? Because they enslave a boy to the gratification of his own selfish appetites.

Granting that there is such a thing as "ethical porn" (which I don't), Ethan Fixell may salve his troubled conscience by using it ethically. But he will short-circuit his prospects for love and a meaningful relationship with a woman because inwardly he'll remain an enslaved user, of both porn and women. "Our biological tendency toward prompt and efficient arousal can be tamed," he says, "but it's not going anywhere." I suppose what he was getting at is, "Boys will be boys . . ."

But boys can become men. Everett Fritz recalls the day he realized he'd really been set free. During his senior year of college, he went on a week-long mission trip to Panama City Beach, Florida. It turned out that the mission week coincided with MTV Spring Break. This meant that he and his companions would be sharing the gospel amid a morass of sloshed up, nearly naked, overgrown adolescents. On the last day, he and a friend found themselves in front of a stage where a disc jockey was holding a "booty shake off." Each girl contestant got 60 seconds to twerk it up while the guys cheered her on. Everett's companion said to him, "I don't need to be looking at this," and walked away. Everett completely understood.

But he stayed, his heart heavy. He reflected on the contrast between what the girl onstage had been created for and what she was doing with her otherwise beautiful self on that stage. He didn't lust after her. He felt only pity. It was so degrading.

"It occurred to me in that moment that I was free. . . . I could see the person and love her for who she was and I could feel compassion for her because I was free of the temptation to lust after her. I was free to love."

Later that year, after graduation, he happily accepted the very manly role of becoming lifelong lover to his high-school sweetheart and love of his life—Katrina. 


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