It was a few weeks after my husband and I had separated. I was driving over to his aunt’s house, his temporary residence, to drop off our two-year-old for his bi-weekly visitation.
As I drove down the street, I passed a teenage girl washing a car in her bikini.
Little did she know, a few doors down, a young father had just gotten rid of his smartphone, Facebook account, and half the contacts in his phone in an attempt to save his marriage.
And I realized something that day as I drove toward his interim home. I thought about that girl washing her car, and the show I’d watched on Bravo earlier in the day, and the commercials that had come on during it, and the billboard I’d passed on my way, and the barely-there outfits I’d seen at the restaurant the weekend before. And of course I was hyper-sensitive to all of it because of my circumstances, but all I could feel was anger. Well, anger topped with a heaping spoonful of sympathy for my husband.
Because I realized, he can’t escape it. Sex, that is. Or if he can, it’s going to have to be a conscious decision every second of every day, a total lifestyle change–for both of us–to avoid the constant flood of sexual imagery and allure.
I know that girl wasn’t going out to wash her car hoping to make anyone’s husband slip up. I know the scantily-clad girls at the restaurant weren’t intending on destroying anyone’s marriage. I’m not mad at them or judging them. Because they don’t get it. I don’t know if anyone really can.
This addiction is not like an alcoholic having to stay out of a bar. It’s like an alcoholic having to sit inside a bar with a full drink in front of him and being told, “You can look, PLEASE DO IN FACT, but if you touch . . . you should be ashamed of yourself.”
We tout the motto “sex sells” and plaster airbrushed breasts and muscles all over billboards and magazine covers. TV shows normalize–glorify, even–promiscuity and casual sex. Virgins are framed as the pariahs of reality TV. Many modern-day movies would have been considered pornography in another era, but what difference does it make, because porn is just porn, right? It’s not a big deal.
Tell that to that two-year-old little boy who’s counting on his dad to beat his addiction, the one that led to multiple affairs, so he can someday walk him to his first day of kindergarten or hide a quarter under his pillow for his first lost tooth or help him with his math homework after school or lay with him at night after he’s had a bad dream.
He might disagree. I know his dad does. It’s a big deal to him. It changed his brain, and he wishes every day he could undo what it did.
What so many don’t get is that my husband is one of the good ones. He is compassionate and kind, the hardest worker I know, an incredible father, selfless and loyal to a fault, and loves the Lord fiercely. And he fought like hell to recover from something so many other men are fighting in silence. Because they have been told this is an issue of self-control. That they are dirty. That this is their fault. That real men can fight urges and shut the computer and not cheat on their wives. Real men don’t struggle with this.
But they, just like him, are products of a severely broken world. One that sells, sells, sells sex and then is outraged when sex gets distorted. One that shoves raunchy images down our throats and then cries out in disbelief when sex isn’t respected.
We can’t have it both ways. Either sex is sacred or sex is casual. It can’t be both.
Let me be clear: nothing about sex is casual or flippant or emotionally detached. Our brains aren’t wired for that. Our bodies weren’t created for that.
It took me a while to realize that, why God was so adamant that sex be sacred. Because it’s so insanely powerful. Like fire, it’s beautiful and satisfying (like, really satisfying) when contained, but downright destructive when unleashed from it’s carefully defined borders.
Yes, there are absolutely monsters among us. Always have been. I’m not, and never will be, making excuses for them.
But we can’t be disgusted by the sexual misconduct and not be disgusted by the porn industry that targets 12-17 year olds, the oversexualized Halloween costumes for little girls, the media moguls who’ve decided exploiting the human body is the best way to consumers’ bank accounts, and all the other pieces of our culture that insist on selling us sex instead of integrity. One is feeding the other.
There are good men and women who have been set up for failure by a dysfunctional, hypocritical society.
Who should absolutely suffer the consequences of their actions.
But we should also reevaluate the source of their failure, and stop drinking from the fountain that’s drowning them.