Who Do You Think You Are?

Chapter 3: Sex Crash

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I am changing the laundry in the unfinished basement of my childhood home. Despite the summer's heat outside, the basement air remains crisp and cool. An idea strikes me, which feels impossible to ignore. I take off all my clothes and run through the basement and back before hurriedly dressing again, adrenaline racing through me.

I am in the bathroom, standing on the flat edge of the tub, looking at myself in the mirror. All I am wearing is strands of toilet paper, draped across my body. I pretend to do an ancient dance, I pretend to be shocked and angry as my "ceremonial garb" falls away. The indignant humiliation is intoxicating, as is the soft tickle of the thin paper drifting to the ground.

I catch part of a reality television program in which a woman is tearfully explaining how her landlord installed hidden cameras in the bathroom. Later, a man comes to replace our bathroom mirror cabinet. What if he's left a hidden camera in our home? The thought is horrible, and thrilling. What might he see, if I forget he's looking? I clean and examine every nook of the dark wood enclosure.

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My mom is home. I am panicked. I have to get out ahead of this. There is no other way. There is no other way. I tell her, "I typed something into the internet." She is understanding, at first. She waits, expectantly. I cannot speak. The word is stuck deep inside. "Just tell me," she says. Her irritation is rising. Finally she goes to make dinner. An eternity passes. When my dad comes home from work, I know I can no longer escape. At last, I whisper, "naked."

The images from "naked.com" flash through my mind once again. Oily, crimson, and violent. It will be years before I do something like this again.

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In computer science class, some kids are goofing around, sharing a link with the teacher. "Wow, ebaumsworld isn't blocked?" he says. "Why, what is it?" I ask. "Ehh..." he responds, "It's just got some inappropriate stuff on it."

Later, I scroll through ebaumsworld to see what is inappropriate. In particular, I am drawn to the "hot girl" galleries. Each gallery contains a series of non-explicit photos of girls deemed "hot", sleazily nabbed from throughout the internet. Never before had I consciously thought to look at girls in this way, scrolling through, waiting for some sort of spark of excitement. It's different than the thrill of being seen, like when the cute girl in gym class has me grab her hands to stand up from stretching. This was like standing outside of a one way mirror, it was like I didn't exist. An image, floating in space. Does this one make me feel anything?

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I create all sorts of rules and rationalizations to slow my descent into depravity. I look for titillating content in relatively innocent contexts. I play a sort of game on wikipedia, starting on an innocent page and trying to click from link to link towards something that might include sex or nudity. If I look at an image of a girl, and then happen to touch myself later, it's not like I'm masturbating to her. But inevitably, over months and years, I end up at real porn sites, masturbating to real porn and there can be no justification.

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A man at church hands me a book and says that he's been talking about going through it with some of the youth. Every Young Man's Battle by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker. Red-blooded white men with wives and Christian ministries, describing how they prevailed over lust. I devour the book. I had assumed that I was completely and utterly alone, that no one could possibly understand the depths to which I had sunk.

Nothing in the book helps me to change my behaviors, but now I know that it is possible. Now I realize how every thought, every action, every failure feeds into the web I have woven for myself. I have the keys to unlock these chains, but I do not use them, because my failure is truly, deeply, my own. This is who I am: a foul, repugnant horror who spits in the face of God.

- --x-x-x-- -

In my first year of college I feel energized to truly claim my faith for my own, as an adult and independent being. I help to lead a bible study about sexual purity, I idolize the intelligent young white men with beautiful girlfriends who accept me as one of their own, who are willing to fight the good fight together with me.

Even still, I return to porn. God seems to drift further and further away (there are many reasons, but this is chief amongst them). One night, I go alone to a special house in town reserved for prayer. The front door key is held behind a small combination keypad. I stay up all night, praying for God to be real to me, for God to reveal some sort of path out of my weakness, self-hatred, and misery.

I have never felt more alone.

What Do You Hope To Gain?