Ladies, what would you say if
…your boyfriend told you he masturbates?
…your husband confessed his struggles with pornography?
…your brother is actively unchaste?
I have come to the understanding that many females are blissfully unaware of the sexual (and, thus, spiritual) struggles men encounter in daily life.
If you think your special male is different, you may be right, and you may be wrong. A quick glance over the culture and conversations with male friends, however, give me the confidence to say that majority of men folk would side with me.
Ladies, for many of you, the first response to any of the above may be disgust. We may take it personally. We might see all three as a defilement of the men we love. We might turn away, and reject the person.
But how does God see it? Man’s steady struggle for grace and holiness; a want and need for authentic love; an aching to be fulfilled.
Society’s consensus on all of the above is that these men are exhibiting a healthy sexuality and should not be deterred from their efforts. Catholicism responds that these men are participating in faux love, which may hinder their very ability to truly love in the future. Even if the right person comes along, she may not be their desired fantasy. This is a difficult pill to swallow for girls who grow up dreaming of a strong man to guide them, only to realize that he too is human, and in need of strength to guide him.
I’m not going to rely on statistics for this piece, and I’m going to put the Church’s teachings aside for now. These struggles are real and are happening to real people, most likely very close to you. This is a lesson in how to love. This is not a theoretical argument for chastity, this a battle cry. It is uncharitable not to talk about it, letting the subjects fester, allowing people to suffer from lack of fellowship in a time of need.
First: The Action.
To begin, there must be an understanding of what the man is struggling with, and how to charitably support him. Supporting him does not mean approving of what he has done. Rather, show that there is a concern, out of love. Love is what drives the desire to help sanctify behaviors and beliefs which are detrimental to the inherent dignity of his personhood and the personhoods of those around him. These individual acts may be personal decisions, but they will and do affect the people around him.
Second: The Attitude.
I like to think people inherently know pornography, masturbation and fornication are wrong. The bigger question is then, Is there a willingness to turn from these actions? As we so clearly saw in Prohibition times, nothing will be solved through denying people of what they desire. In fact, they will want it more, simply because you said “NO!” Men have to have a reason to turn away from evil, want not to desire it, and actively seek God’s grace and help in the process. In the very sorrow of Jesus in the Garden, so many men will feel the truth of their own humanity: “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
Women, witness virtue and kindness, and do not be passive in the sight of sin. Reject only the action, not the person. The time for disappointment is over; it is time to heal. Especially in times of trial, all people want to know they are still loved and accepted, even with their faults.
My approach these three topics is similar to how I approach gossiping: the action does not initially seem wrong when you’re doing it. You might even think you’re doing a good thing by talking about the other person!
Then, you start talking about that person all the time.
Next, you start thinking poorly of that person because of the conversations you’re having.
Finally, the rationalizations begins: Everyone does it! What’s so wrong about it? I can’t help it, it just comes up in conversation.
This attitude detracts from free will. We humans were given the awesome powers of free will and reason—what a powerful duo! Why would we let anything take that away and control us?
Third: The Aspirations toward Greatness
Self-control is not an easy road, but neither is following Christ and keeping his commandments. St. Francis of Assisi was known to throw himself down hills, even into snow banks, whenever an unclean thought crossed his mind. I do not recommend that type of violent behavior,but I do applaud his physical willingness to rid his mind of such mental temptations. Even if one does not act on the thought, dwelling on it can be just as poisonous.
If you are a woman talking to a man, you have to approach the subject empirically. The point of any conversation should be to plant a seed, not win an argument. Stick to facts and do not emotionally-center your appeal. A true change of heart must come from within the man, and resentments will form from forcefulness.
A good website available is The Porn Effect. Matthew Fradd, the founder of The Porn Effect, had a “profound conversion” at WYD in Rome and created the website to “expose the reality of porn for what it is; a weak and whimpering counterfeit of love which is emasculating men, degrading women and destroying marriages. We are an online community which offers support and encouragement to those affected by sexual sin.”
If the person you are talking to still does not see what is wrong with their behavior, put a face to it. That’s what Shelley Lubben is doing. Lubben is a former porn star who started a non-profit to vocally and publicly decry pornography and the incredible horrors of the industry, as well as help get other porn stars out of the industry. Visually using people to arouse one’s self is parallel to using a person physically.
This is not going to be an easy conversation. This may be a continuous cross to bear, as overcoming these desires will be an on-going battle to “stay clean.” A priest is also a good person to seek counseling with too, as well as frequent use of the sacraments. In a worst case scenario, where facts or consequences mean little and his actions are becoming an addiction, an intervention may be necessary. If this is the case, an ameatur is not prepared to handle this. This has no reflection on you or the other person’s relationship to you, and should be handled by a professional (preferably Christian, so as to avoid any secular conflicts).
In our world, sexual deviancy is rampant and even encouraged, sexual images are easily accessible, and men pressure each other. If a Christian man struggles with this, do not condemn him. Help him. Love him. Inspire and encourage him. Pray for him. We as women must support men in their struggles, while not enabling.
Blessed John Paul II said the problem with pornography isn’t that it shows too much- it’s that it shows too little. Love between two people does not only happen in sexual situations. The desire for sex points to the reality of true love, which is most beautifully seen in the sacrament of marriage (two people chastely faithful to only each other) and the sacrament of holy orders (one person offering up their chastity to God alone). Sexual sins confuse authentic love and the desire for love.
There are so many ways to show a man real love, and how to genuinely love. Women, eternity is worth having the awkward conversation or two. Step up. Be a woman.