If you’ve ever been romantically involved with someone in the 21st century, you know this struggle is real.
When I was younger, I remember how much porn and nudes ran my life. I’d bounce around from girlfriend to girlfriend seeking physical satisfaction and intimacy. That desire pretty quickly consumed my life and many hours of my day. I’d get home at night and Snapchat my girlfriends, use all the right words to tell them how beautiful they were, how much their eyes shined, and how special they were to me, then slowly work my way into asking for them to send pictures with their clothes off.
And it worked.
But even though I could get girlfriends to send me those photos and I’d have the exhilarating thrill of the moment, it didn’t make me feel “happy” or fulfilled. Instead, it left me thirsting for more.
It’s ironic that society calls people who are lusting “thirsty”. They’re “thirsty” because they’re looking for something to quench their lack of the Living Waters. The crazy part about nudes, porn, and sex are that they aren’t water- they’re sugar. They’re sweet for a bit, but they just make you thirstier in the end.
As I grew in my Catholic faith, I began to recognize that when I was turning toward fulfillment in Jesus, I didn’t need porn anymore. Every single time I’d ask a girlfriend for nudes, I didn’t have the intimacy I desired. I took the beauty of her body (made in the Image of God) and would distort it into a momentary tool for my pleasure. Something was wrong. The “truth” I had been living that porn, nudes, and sex were good for me didn’t seem so true anymore.
Here’s the truth: Nudes. Aren’t. Intimate.
In fact, nudes are the opposite of intimate. There is a very real person in that photo, who you (hopefully) desire the absolute best for. Yet, nudes take that 4-Dimensional person and stick them in a 2-Dimensional photo. Intimacy requires that you can touch the person, hold them, and share your hearts with one another. You can’t do that through a photo. So while you may be seeing the other person without clothes on, you aren’t being intimate with them. If anything, you’ve just become intimate with your phone.
This is the literal objectification of the person- you’ve taken your phone and the image of a partner and made it into a tool for lust. You’re no longer giving yourself and receiving a mutual gift of self, you’re using someone. Nudes distort intimacy by making your relationship about the image only. While it’s very private to share those photos with someone, there aren’t levels of the intimacy of nakedness- you’re either all in or all out. You can’t give or take bits and pieces here and there; true intimacy is a full gift of self, which is found in the physical spousal act. Sex in marriage is a total gift of self to one another. Nudes give only an image of yourself and don’t ever allow any actual physical intimacy with your partner.
My biggest moment that brought about a change of heart was when an ex-girlfriend sent me nudes unasked for probably the dozenth time. I definitively remember reading the text on the picture. She wrote, “Maybe this will make you actually want me.” That felt like a stab in the heart. Not only did she want to be wanted, but she was objectifying herself to try to get me to want her. Yet, I hadn’t wanted her, I had only wanted her body. There was nothing about her personality that I actually felt was compatible with me. How would it have been fair to make her go through more tears and heartbreak and more objectification of her own body just because I wanted to use her body for pleasure?
Nudes don’t give you the naked picture of who someone is, they just show you what they look like without clothes on. Nudes won’t fulfill that desire you have in your heart. As I started to realize that I wasn’t actually looking for an attraction of a person, but rather the image of their body, I knew that I was drowning myself in sugar. The craziest part is that while I was struggling with a desire for intimacy through a porn addiction, the one thing that fulfilled me was near invisible: God. It was through the realization that the invisible was fulfilling more than the visible that I came to understand that true intimacy would never be found until I saw my partner for who she was and not what she looked like.
Getting over a porn addiction is not an easy struggle and will take accountability, discipline, and control. However, until you truly recognize in your heart the dignity of yourself and your partner, you will never truly be able to overcome that struggle. The search for intimacy shouldn’t lead you to reject physical image in any way, but rather it should teach you that intimacy is found in more than just the physical. If God can call us into intimacy with His invisible Self, then we can be assured that the intimacy of the spirit is far greater than any physical pleasure or image can ever give us.
Ever since coming to that realization, I’ve seen women in a whole new light. I thought I understood how beautiful women were before, however after seeing how special the spirit of a woman can be, I saw a beauty that truly reflects God. This journey is one that each man and woman has to take themselves, but the reality of the situation will always remain true: your partner is worth more than just an image.