My Father’s Porn
A painful walk toward healing.
by Amber Piper*
I was a seven-year-old cutie when I discovered my dad’s pornography. I had seen porn before at my uncle’s house. While it cut my female core, it fit my uncle’s character. He was a terrible man, so I could expect him to have this terrible thing in his house.
But not my dad, I thought. He loves Mom. At least he always says so. True, dad playfully flirted with my aunts and other women friends, but he always treated them and Mom kindly, unlike my uncle who obviously hated females.
Pain of porn
The magazine I saw that day was the typical 1980’s girlie magazine — nothing hard core, nothing violent. Nevertheless, as I turned the worn pages of studs with their voluptuous, seductive-looking women, something died in my soul. Although we weren’t raised with any kind of religion and never went to church, I knew seeing those images was wrong. I would never be the same.
Like Adam and Eve in the garden after the Fall, I suddenly became aware of my own nakedness and began to feel ashamed of my body and of my gender. At one point, I felt so much shame that I recoiled inside every time I had to undress to shower or change clothes.
Aside from shame, I also began questioning my father. I wondered why he had this thing that was so scary to me. I wondered what made him look at naked women and if there was something wrong with my mom. Then I wondered if there was something wrong with me.
The older I got, the more my body looked like those women’s bodies in the girlie magazines. If my dad looked at naked women he wasn’t married to, I reasoned, why wouldn’t he try to look at me that way? This became the fundamental, haunting question of my life.
I couldn’t stop fearing that my dad would want to also see me naked. Spending any time alone with him was paralyzing. Hugs and kisses became agonizing. Yet there was still a desire for his approval. It was like a war — one of hungering for dad’s affection while struggling with what getting that affection might mean.
Psychology of seduction
In dealing with sexual fear, some girls decide to make themselves unattractive through poor hygiene or by gaining weight. I didn’t have the strength to make myself overweight, for I was sure I’d lose his approval.
I decided to become a beautiful, controlling seductress instead. If my dad (and eventually any other older man) approached me, it wasn’t going to be because he was perverted but because I was so alluring, he couldn’t stop himself. It would be my fault, not his. I would take the choice away from him.
I knew I had to turn on seduction the second I thought my dad or any other man was coming after me. I had to make it a way of life; seduction had to define me, and eventually it did. I could control boys by the way I held my body, used my eyes, flattered with my tongue.
Coping through control
I could also control my emotions by completely asphyxiating them while engaging in sexual acts. I practiced this every time I masturbated, which was at least once a week by the time I was twelve years old. Some use pot, others heroin. Orgasm was my numbing drug of choice.
I was not shy about hiding my body from my parents, as long as they were together. When I’d get new swimsuits or dresses, I’d model them seductively as I’d seen women do on TV and in magazines. My family would cheer and hoot. As far as I know, that is as far as it ever went with my dad. But I was always tense, always ready.
My reputation preceded me the first weeks of high school. When I’d meet people from other middle schools, the boys would tell me they’d heard about me and call me degrading names. Though deeply wounded, I believed those names were true.
After a year, I couldn’t handle the rejection and tried to redeem myself by hooking up with a “good boy.” If I could be the girlfriend of this nice, straight-A boy, then I must be good. Jeremy wouldn’t have me if I were a bad girl, so I had to hold on to this safe relationship at all cost.
As such, I completely lost my identity and became all that Jeremy wanted me to be. When he threatened to break up, I desperately clung to him. He rejected me more.
Looking back, I see that Jeremy’s rejection was a part of God’s wooing me. Soon after, I attended a youth group meeting and heard the good news about Jesus Christ for the first time. A boy sang about God being all he needed, not some girlfriend or a 4x4 truck. God whispered in my soul, “Amber, I’m all you need. I love you more than any boy could. You don’t need Jeremy. You need Me. I’ll never leave you.”
That summer I “honeymooned” with God. With help from my youth pastor’s wife, I totally turned around. In fact, when I started the next school year, a new, good reputation preceded me. People who used to be cruel asked what happened to me. I gladly professed my Redeemer.
The fury of my sexual addiction and need for control were not fully appeased, however — only subdued. While I stopped making out in gym class with a different guy every week, I pursued longer relationships with shy Christian guys who moved slower.
But those relationships all ended the same way: me seducing boys for a time, us giving into a sexual act, and me walking the aisle the next week in church to repent of it.
When I was 20, I was diagnosed with Human Papillomavirus (HPV), or genital warts. I finally brought my self-defeating prophecy to fruition: I was just like one of those women in the girlie magazines: unworthy or unable to get the good guy who really loved her. Now the possibility of winning a decent man was entirely out of the question.
My promiscuous ways would have continued had I not come face to face with the possibility that I had contracted Hepatitis B. My despair and self-hate was so consuming that I chose to engage in unprotected sexual acts with a man I knew had chronic Hepatitis B.
Desire for healing
After confessing this near-deadly choice, I realized the depth of my hurt and the dishonor I was bringing to Christ. Like the sinful woman in the Bible who pushed through her shame to anoint Jesus, I pushed through my shame and asked Him to heal me.
When I started this walk toward healing, I kept saying to myself, It’s not like I was abused. All did was see a little porn. It’s the American pastime!
Early on, I was so focused on killing the bad fruit (acting out sexually), I failed to examine the root cause. Once I dealt with the bad fruit, I saw other bad fruit sprouting in non-sexual areas.
One of these was an inability to have a genuine quiet time. Although I memorized Scripture and practiced all the other Christian disciplines, nothing could shake the subconscious fear I had about being alone with God. During a counseling session with my pastor and his wife, I finally realized that I saw God as my dad and that God was just waiting to take advantage of me when we were alone.
I also saw that my early exposure to Dad’s porn influenced the way I viewed my God-given femininity. I despised womanhood because to be feminine was to be weak, in both physical strength and emotional fortitude. I wanted no part of that weakness, which the women in the magazines (and later, in videos) all shared.
Instead, I became just like my father. While I was effective at getting the job done, I left wounded people — usually men I trampled on — in my wake. This also remains a troubled area for me, and I’m praying that God will allow me to fully embrace my femaleness as His plan for my life.
Living with lies
While I read all the marriage books and prayed that God would renew my mind, I still hopped in my honeymoon bed, subconsciously believing that the entire reason women were given in marriage was to sexually satisfy their husbands. I saw women as commodities and receptacles of men’s pleasure.
Running parallel to that lie was the belief that sex and love are mutually exclusive and may even be the opposite. The ability to suppress my emotions during sex, now with my husband, came right back. I put on my game face, copped a centerfold smile, and shut down my soul. It didn’t matter that I never felt emotionally connected to my husband. Sex isn’t about emotion; it’s about orgasm. It didn’t matter that I was beginning to despise my husband’s God-given desire for me; sex was despising.
Reviving a feminine heart
The most excruciating task of all this has been undoing my marriage bed. Although we’ve been married for six years, I’ve only just begun to be fervently honest with my husband about our sexual relationship. How I wish I could tell you that he received it well and that our bed has become a place of complete safety, oneness, and love. But that would not be true.
Sleeping with a Playboy bunny is easy; it requires no work. Tending a fragile, blooming flower is much harder; it requires emotional intimacy, gentle touches, understanding, and time. Asserting that right to be cherished and adored is even harder. Honestly, I sometimes regret rocking the boat and walking toward health. It’s easier to travel the known, to put on my game face and check out emotionally.
But God is bringing my feminine heart back to life. He is pursuing it and wants it to experience good, safe feelings again. And while the light I walk toward seems to fade in and out (sometimes weekly), I believe by faith that He won’t leave me where I am.
Amber Piper is a pseudonym.