Coming to Grips with How Porn Damaged My View of Women

I was born two years before the first issue of Playboy premiered, and when I was only six years old, I found some Playboy magazines in my father’s night table next to his bed. I stumbled across them quite innocently enough. Looking back, it was nothing like the porn I looked at as an adult. But it was porn, and I do remember being impacted by the images of naked women.

As a boy of only six, I felt strange sensations looking at the women sprawled across the pages. Feeling excited but also feeling guilty, knowing, somehow, I was looking at something I shouldn’t have. In my young heart and mind, I intended on coming back for more looks because of the good feeling, but I felt compelled to sneak because of the guilty feelings.  Later, I discovered that my father had many ingenious places to hide these magazines around the house, but I’m pretty sure I found them all.

Each month I would look forward to new magazines showing up in different hidden places. This was a little private adventure in my life that I never told anyone about. You see, the sexual revolution had just started (thanks to publications like Playboy) and back then people were not openly talking about pornography and masturbation.

So I kept my behavior to myself thinking I was quite alone in what I was experiencing. I also had a tough time processing information I heard about masturbation. I connected it so much with my shameful sneaking that I couldn’t imagine anyone else doing what I was doing.

The point here is this: something happened to me. The images I was too young to process impacted my soul. Some sort of damage occurred. That is why I liken aspects of that experience to being molested. The women in the photos didn’t know how they impacted a six-year-old boy, but that does not make them entirely innocent. This might sound a little overboard for you. But the way I experienced all this felt, in one way, similar to what some people who have been molested have experienced—feeling pleasure and guilt at the same time and ending up confused and conflicted. How was I to think about women after looking at them this way?

If I felt that my experience of looking at porn as a young boy was similar to being molested, then my looking at porn as a grown man was like molesting women. How common is this: the abused becomes the abuser? 

But I also had to come to the point of questioning my dad’s behavior and how that confused me.  Why did he hide the magazines if they were OK to look at? I didn’t see the magazines laying around other people’s houses. The shame I felt about my inability to process the sexual information I was gathering was huge. I couldn’t get over the idea that normal people probably would go to bed and then go to sleep. I could not do that. I had to do something else first.

Coming to grips with my own personal soul damage was very strategic for me. I certainly believe my indulgence in viewing pornographic images impacted my relationship with women. Among many ways I have disrespected women, speaking to them in a condescending manner is probably top on the list. Dismissing women as too emotional, irrational, and calling them “sweetheart” or “honey” when all I was doing was keeping them in their place. Pretending to listen to them, but all the while trying to catch a glance at certain body parts or saving circumstances in my mind for future fantasies. After all, I could use their body any way I wanted to in my imagination. This is strange behavior for a Christian, I know.  But I have come to see that porn taught me to treat women in a more misogynist manner than I probably fully recognize.

And then it hit me. If I felt that my experience of looking at porn as a young boy was similar to being molested, then my looking at porn as a grown man was like molesting women. How common is this: the abused becomes the abuser?

It’s taken me a long time to repent of the way I treat women. I’m still repenting. I have learned that the healing power of the gospel consists in being confronted with the truth of how I have treated others, and repenting as a result.  Knowing what I deserve even for a glance (Matt. 5:27-30) can be overwhelming.

But knowing God’s call to repentance goes way down to the depths of your heart. It tears away any pretense of false integrity and assures you that you are really dealing with God.  And when you know that the God who made heaven and earth is graciously offering forgiveness and a new start—your heart becomes equipped to change behaviors and attitudes. I needed the healing that only God can provide through what He accomplished in Christ on the cross.

I see it happening with me, and I want to encourage you, men, that it can happen to you. You can treat women as those who are created in God’s image and relate to Christian women as your sisters in Christ.  You can go eyeball to eyeball with the women you talk to and not let your mind wander elsewhere. You can care for their hearts, and later you can pray for them.

This is living by faith and not by sight; this is having eyes that are no longer filled with darkness, but rather with light.


Bob talks more about this on his accompanying video: How Did My Porn Habit Damage My View of Women?  These short videos can be used as discussion starters in small group settings, mentoring relationships, men’s and women’s groups, etc.
Bob Heywood
About The Author
Bob Heywood has been on staff with HARVEST USA since July 2004. For years Bob struggled with using pornography, something he was not aware was having an effect on him, his wife, or his church. He has a wonderful testimony of sanctification and reconciliation by the hand of the Lord. Bob has worked with youth, served as a volunteer leader with HARVEST USA for a number of years, and is an elder at Pilgrim Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. At HARVEST USA he now works with the Discovery Biblical support group for men struggling with sexual sin. He also does one-on-one discipleship as well as presents seminars and leads in training individuals to be small group facilitators.

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