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Monday, May 3, 2010

Good Luck with your "Victory Over Porn," Ladies!

Posted by Dan Savage on Mon, May 3, 2010 at 11:12 AM

It's nice to see the NYT acknowledge that women also "consume pornography," as the saying goes (a saying that makes porn sound like so many cakes with edible photos printed on them), but too bad it's in a long article about—blah blah blah—sex addiction and guilt-ridden Christians.

It was the final session for the women at Westside Family Church’s Victory Over Porn Addiction group, and the youngest member, a 17-year-old named Kelsie, had not had a good week. “I slipped two nights this week,” she said, to nods of support from the other women in the group. “I decided that every time I’m tempted I’ll just let everything out to God,” she said, “then pray specifically for someone else, do selfless acts, to get away from being selfish.”

The group’s leader, Crystal Renaud, offered gentle counsel. “Pray for yourself, too,” she said.... The programs at Ms. Renaud’s group and at XXX Church diverge from secular sexual theory by treating masturbation and arousal as sins rather than elements of healthy sexuality. Emphasis is on recovering “sexual purity,” in which thoughts of sex outside marriage are illicit.


I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that Ms. Renaud's programs do more harm than good. People are naturally horny and teenagers—male and female—are almost supernaturally horny. Telling teenagers that they're not right with God when they experience arousal and/or masturbate isn't helpful as teenagers typically exist in a state of near-constant arousal. And masturbation is not just a natural and healthy and safe way for teens to explore, it's also an effective way for teens to give themselves a break from those states of near-constant arousal. (Maybe it would be okay with Ms. Renaud if her charges only masturbated about the sex they hope to have inside marriage? Would that be licit enough for her?)

And Ms. Renaud's advice is spiritually harmful. Telling young adult that they're is not right with God when they're horny and/or masturbating is as good as telling young adults that they're never right with God. And... well... I'm not sure if I want to bring this up and I'm pretty sure that Ms. Renaud will dismiss this as concern trolling on my part... but for what it's worth: When you force young people to choose between healthy sexual desires and a judgmental sex-negative, sex-obsessed God, they don't always pick God.

Oh, and for the record: porn addiction is bullshit. Some people don't know when to push back from the computer, but porn isn't a drug, it doesn't create a chemical dependency. You can "consume" it compulsively, you can—if you're an idiot—prioritize porn over all other pursuits, neglect your family and friends, etc. But it's not heroin. And a girl who "slips" and looks at porn twice a week does not have a problem.

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