Although I can't recall the exact content of sex education back in middle school or the more recent events of high school, I do recall that we did discuss sexually transmitted diseases in depth. Logically so, given that they're viewed as the medieval key hoped to keep chastity on lock.
Whenever I tell people that I used to work for a porn ministry, X3Church, usually all they hear is the "porn" part. Understandably, it throws them. I mean, what do you say to someone who nonchalantly says they work in porn? But then when I repeat the word "ministry", it still doesn't clear things up. Actually, even more confusion comes across their face. So, what the heck is a porn ministry?!
Long story short, right around the time my first book was released, I connected with another author who had the same publisher. When I went to his site explaining the purpose of his ministry, I realized there was no Black or female representation.
Black people watch porn. Women do too.
I fit both demographics and so, for nine years, I wrote a weekly blog, penned a book, and went on tour with the ministry. And just what is a porn ministry? Ministry means service. It was a group of people who went to porn shows and strip clubs, spoke at colleges and churches, connected with people in the porn industry (Ron Jeremy actually used to go on tour with the organization), and did all kinds of other things to 1) teach about the destructiveness of porn and 2) show people that God loves them no matter what (one of my favorite shirts of theirs was "Jesus Loves Porn Stars").
Listen, I know that porn is popular but make no mistakes about it; it has a destructive side. There are PLENTY of studies to support that porn affects our brains much like a hardcore drug would and there are plenty of stories about how porn damages marriages and relationships (something Terry Crews and Kirk Franklin have been pretty open about) especially when it comes to effecting emotional intimacy and providing unrealistic expectations in the bedroom.
But there's another side of porn that I want to share; one that I'm not sure a lot of people really think about.
How I Got "Hooked" on Porn
I'm about to tell my age but here we go. My first memory of pornography was watching an episode of Red Shoe Diaries as a kid. I snuck and watched it while everyone was asleep one weekend.
After that, my next memory was watching some videos at a "play cousin's house" (he was such a freak—SMH—LOL). But it didn't really become something that I was "into" until one of my college sex buddies took me to his friend's apartment. When we walked into the bedroom that we planned on having sex in for the first time, some hardcore porn was already playing on the television. I was both disgusted and intrigued.
To me, porn is a lot like roadkill. There's something shocking about seeing a dead possum on the side of the road and there's something shocking about seeing two people gettin' it in. It's scary and sexy and confusing and erotic and weird—all rolled up into one (kind of like how sex is with a new partner).
Hmph. Now that I think about it, porn became such a part of the sex I had with that individual that I think it was hard for me to separate the two experiences once we were done. What I mean by that is, porn had become so ingrained into my sex life that I didn't know how to "break it out" just because that guy and I "broke up". And so, off and on, porn stayed with me throughout the years until I ultimately decided to take a break from all things sex back in 2007.
Not to say that I didn't go on a few "porn vacations" (abstinence is hard, chile!) from time to time. Yeah, I must admit that even with all of the data I saw and people I talked to (one of the guys who worked in the ministry actually killed himself due to the shame of his porn addiction), I still didn't see porn as being "all that bad".
That is until I met someone at one of our anniversary parties.
What Got Me Past Porn
While on a shuttle to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the organization, I sat next to a woman who looked really familiar to me. For most of the ride, I couldn't place it. But what I do remember is she was super shy—and jittery. Almost to the point of being paranoid.
When I tried to make light conversation, she wouldn't make eye contact and when I asked her what her name was, she didn't answer. Still, I felt like I knew her personally.
Later, I found out she was the featured speaker for the party. As I listened to her share how she used to be in the porn industry and how it ultimately ruined her body, destroyed her self-esteem, and made it very hard for her to live a "normal" life, it hit me. I recognized her because she was one of the porn actors (I'm not big on calling them "stars" and believe me, the scenes are usually sooooo fake that it's basically acting anyway) that I used to masturbate to.
And that hit me like a ton of bricks. The very same person I was using for my own sexual release is the woman who hates her life, contemplated suicide, and was so wounded that if you merely bumped into her, she was rattled.
Here I was: A woman, using another woman.
I was playing a direct role in what ultimately chiseled away at her health and well-being. She was my entertainment. And it was destroying her. That was enough to make my stomach turn and to not look at porn quite the same way ever again. The people on those scenes are real human beings with real (oftentimes crazy) background stories, and that's hard for me to take lightly.
Yeah, I know that porn is a multi-billion-dollar industry, so it's not going away anytime soon but I do hope that my own experience with a porn actor will at least provide another perspective.
Working in a porn ministry and interacting with a porn actor is what got me over watching porn.
It's as simple—and complex—as that.
xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.