Writing at Patheos.com, Timothy Dalrymple tells perhaps a familiar story for many: “I first saw pornography by flashlight in an underground fort I had built with my brother and friends,” he said.
When he first looked at those pictures at nine years old, Dalrymple says they were “seared into his mind.” And the way he viewed women was deeply changed.
He explains, “It was not the last time I would see pornography, or naked women when I shouldn’t…Whether they’re photos in magazines, images on the internet, scenes in movies, or stolen glances, their imprint sinks deep into the male mind, it shapes its patterns of thought, and remains there for years, even decades. You cannot unsee them…”
But Dalrymple says all of that changed when he became the father of a little girl. The images remained, but he was forced to ask himself a painful question: What if these images were my child?
That’s the same question Martin Daubney, longtime editor of the British magazine “Loaded,” asked himself when he became a father in 2009. Last month in the UK Daily Mail he told the story of how he spent eight years pushing this “soft porn” magazine to raunchier extremes to compete with rival publications and the internet.
He thought of his work as “harmless fun,” and dismissed his critics as “party-poopers.”
But when his son was born three years ago, Daubney had a crisis of conscience.
“It…changed my views so forcibly that within a year I’d quit a dream job… I started seeing the women in my magazine not as sexual objects, but as somebody’s daughter. To think that girls who posed for our magazine had once had their [diapers] changed, had once been taught to take their first steps and had once been full of childlike hope…it was almost heartbreaking.”
After Martin quit his job and began devoting more time to raising his son, things became even clearer.
“I am ashamed at the way I used to defend the magazine…” he says. “When I edited Loaded, I’d often get asked ‘Would you want your daughter to appear in topless photos?’ and I’d squirm, but I’d feel obliged…to say ‘yes’.”
If asked the same question today, Daubney says he’d have a different answer: “Not on my life.”
Becoming parents drastically changes the way we think about things like pornography because we’re forced to remember that these de-humanized objects are those made in the image of God. As Chuck Colson used to say, and my colleague Eric Metaxas points out in his book on Bonhoeffer, the first step to destroying or abusing human life is always dehumanization.
And that’s why one of the great tasks of the church is to continue sounding wake-up calls whenever we can — to each other and to the culture. Lives are at stake.
And that’s exactly what was done recently by Robert George, co-author of the Manhattan Declaration, and Muslim professor Shaykh Hamza Yusuf in a letter they co-authored to hotel chain executives. In it, they petition for the removal of pornographic movies from hotels by asking the same question Dalrymple and Daubney asked.
“We beg you to consider the young woman who is depicted as a sexual object in these movies… Would you be willing to profit from her self-degradation if she were your sister...[or] your own beloved daughter?”
George and Yusuf are putting a face to pornography, and reminding us that those depicted aren’t just images but real people; and it becomes infinitely harder for us to use them for our selfish pleasure once we see that.
To read this letter, come to BreakPoint.org. And I’ll also link you to today’s “Two-Minute Warning” video. In it, I deal with how deeply pornography and other aspects of our culture’s sexual brokenness have victimized women, and men. It’s part two of our four-part series.