When I was 21, full of “p*ss and vinegar” as they say, I drove to New York City from my home in Toronto. I was with my friend, Steve, who was only 19. We wanted to see the sights – Times Square, the Empire State Building, Central Park, the Statue of Liberty – and we stayed at the Edison Hotel in Manhattan. Times Square, in the early 1980s, was like Sodom on steroids. Pornography was everywhere. I had not yet turned my life over to Christ, so I did look at the dirty magazines in the stores. The pictures graphically depicted copulation and oral sex. At the time, having this stuff on legal, public display was quite shocking. In Ontario, “hard core” porn was still illegal.
In the early 1990s, Steve went back to New York on business and stayed in the Times Square area. “Are the porn stores still there?” I asked him. “Yes, but it’s gotten a whole lot worse,” he said. “Instead of just ‘normal porn’ they’re selling really disgusting stuff. People urinating and defecating on each other; really sick stuff. I can’t understand it!”
I read somewhere that all long-term, gross indulgence in sexual immorality ends with sadomasochism. Shame and the desire to be humiliated underlie masochism while the desire to get revenge, to punish, and to feel superior underlie sadism. As one’s indulgence in sexual immorality progresses through its various stages, the true nature of this evil is gradually revealed. There is nothing wrong with the naked body, as such, and nothing wrong with sexual intercourse, as such; however, there is something spiritually wrong with us that motivates us to indulge in sexual sin.
This inclination is rooted in the Fall of Man. Man’s Fall was due to pride, and, immediately after, man felt sexual shame. A Presbyterian pastor once told me that only after the Fall did power (the desire to dominate and feel superior) become an intrinsic aspect of human sexuality. The same idea is echoed in Dietrich von Hildebrand’s study, Humility: “We have to great enemies to conquer within us: pride and concupiscence. The two are mostly intertwined in some definite manner.” In Paradise Lost, John Milton, defined human sexuality after the Fall as the sign and solace of original sin.
Man fell because he wanted to be God. He rebelled against God and became spiritually perverted. Because man is composed of body and soul, this perversion was mirrored in his sexuality. Sadomasochism is the ultimate expression of this perversion. To be God, one must be God over others. That is the basis of the desire to sexually dominate, use, degrade and humiliate. Hell must be a place where the demons torture the damned in a perverted desire to be Gods.
It takes a great deal of human effort and, especially, God’s grace to overcome the very strong inclination to sexual sin that is the common heritage of Fallen humanity. One must follow the example of the Saints who diligently practiced humility and chastity. The inclination to sexual sin then remains as in a vault, unable to destroy a man. However, the moment man turns away from God and relaxes his moral defences, the desire to “count for much” (pride) and the corresponding desire to satisfy dark sexual yearnings become irresistible.
The journey which begins with “innocent” indulgence in “soft” pornography and mild sexual immorality will, if unchecked, gradually bring the sinner to a loveless, egocentric world where evil and chaos reign complete. Someone once wrote that sex, as God intended, is about love and life while pornography (and sexual sin in general) is about hatred and death.
The way to overcome our deadly inclination to sexual sin is to remain close to God. Fly to Him the instant an impure idea comes into your mind. If you give the devil even a very tiny opening he will try to bring the whole of hell into it.