Overcoming Pornography (Part 3): Learning about Sex and Healthy Sexuality from our Family

As tough as we might think we are sometimes, Mark Laaser says that “we are all fragile beings and need to be protected from harm, loved, nurtured, affirmed, and touched in healthy ways.” I’ve thought about this quote a lot over the past year, and especially within the last couple of months of my life. My wife and I just brought our first baby into the world a little over two months ago, Everly Kris Dickson. (I say “we” brought her into the world, but Ashley is the real hero in the story. She did all the work.) Nonetheless, I want to love Everly, “Evie,” as much as humanly possible. Unfortunately, i realize the cold hard truth; Evie will not just get my good traits. I know that I will not be a perfect dad. However, I do want to love her in a manner that results in her feeling protected, safe, nurtured, and affirmed. As weird as this may sound, I also want Evie to learn what a healthy touch is from me.

Most of the men and womenI work with, who struggle with pornography, did not come from a healthy family situation. Some of these men and women know the baggage that their family has given them. Most, however, do not know and understand the depth of hurt their family bestowed on them, and now is resulting in a possible struggle with pornography. Now, before we put all of the blame on our families, lets also recognize that our family might not have known what they were doing to us. Most likely, your family did the best job they could, with what they had been given. This post is not an excuse to be judgmental and blame our parents for the mess that we may or may not be in today. We are adults and at the end of the day, if we remain stuck, that is on us. However, it is naive and even unbiblical if we do not acknowledge the “sins of our fathers” as part of the reason why we may be struggling in the current moment. So what do the experts say happens in an unhealthy family unit, that could potentially lead someone to struggle pornography and not understanding healthy sexuality? 

One author describes two kinds of safety issues that happen in families:

  1. Invasion
  2. Neglect/Abandonment

This invasion or neglect happens within four main areas of our life. A family member or close friend can invade or abandon us:

  1. Emotionally
  2. Physically
  3. Sexually
  4. Spiritually

For example, a person can be emotionally invaded through name calling. If your mom or dad criticized or teased you excessively, or made you feel like you were worthless, then you experienced emotional invasion. On the other end of the emotional invasion spectrum is what experts call “emotional incest.”  As Laaser says, this emotional invasion might have sounded like the following statement from their parents: “You’re my special buddy, and I don’t know what I would do without you. You make me so proud.” This form of emotional invasion forces children into adulthood too soon, by placing pressure on the child to provide emotional support back to his or her parents, in which they are unable to provide. 

Another example which can lead to unhealthy sexuality is physical abandonment. My daughter, who is 9 weeks old, has to be held in our arms a lot. However, this is natural for newborns and even helps them thrive.  Not just when they were newborns, I often speak with men and women who struggle with pornogrpahy, and they were “touch deprived” as a child. Consequently, as a person grows older, “people will often substitute sexual touch for the healthy touching they really need. In families who have absence of affirming physical touch, children may pursue misguided sexual avenues."

There is SO MUCH MORE I want to say on this subject. In full disclosure, I have had a hard time with narrowing these posts down to the most important information I believe you need to have today. This is why I split the last post in this ‘Over Pornography’ series into 2 parts, and is why I will most likely do the same with this post. I hope you are getting a lot from these posts, but either way, I am enjoying writing them. I will leave you with a closing thought/conviction of mine.

To anyone reading this post (especially my Christian brothers and sisters),

Our kids and families will learn about sex. My daughter will one day learn about sex. And it better be from her mom and dad. I realize that you may not know how to teach your kids about the truth of healthy sexuality. I highly encourage you to study and research on your own before you do begin to teach them. More importantly- live it in front of them! We often learn by what see, not always by what we hear. Lastly, I love the Church. However, the Church has failed our children by not unashamedly teaching them about sex and healthy sexuality. If church leaders do happen to teach their congregation, it is often through the use of phrases like, "sex is bad,” or using words like “fornication” or “perversion.”

Again, our kids and youth will learn about sex. Where and who are they going to learn it from? In a perfect world, they would learn it from his or her family. However, I believe that a lot of families are not equipped to speak accurately on the topic of sex and healthy sexuality. Therefore, I believe the Church has a mandate to teach families about healthy living, including living with an understanding of the gloriousness of sex and healthy sexuality. I will even be as bold to tell you this: If your church leaders or pastors never talk about the beauty of sex and healthy sexuality, I would strongly encourage you to personally speak with your church leadership. If they won’t listen, know that you have the freedom take your family elsewhere. I am grateful to be apart of a church that is not afraid or bashful to teach families and kids about sex and healthy sexuality. I pray you will be able to say the same.

borrowing hope,

Zach