Steve Arterburn in his co-authored book Everyman’s Battle, shares a personal story.
“In 1983, my wife, Sandy, and I celebrated our first anniversary. One sun-splashed Southern California morning…I hopped in our 1973 Mercedes 450SL, white with a black top… I always loved driving along the…Pacific Coast Highway…
I never intentionally set out to be girl-watching that day, but I spotted her about two hundred yards ahead and to the left. She was jogging toward me along the coastal sidewalk… My eyes locked on to this goddesslike blonde, rivulets of sweat cascading down her tanned body as she ran… Her jogging outfit…was actually a skimpy bikini…
My eyes feasted on this banquet of glistening flesh as she passed on my left, and they continued to follow her lithe figure as she continued jogging southbound. Simply by lustful instinct, as if mesmerized by her gait, I turned my head further and further, craning my neck to capture every possible moment of my mental video camera.
Then blam!… My Mercedes…plowed into a Chevelle that had come to a complete stop in my lane… I got out of the car – embarrassed, humiliated, saturated with guilt, and unable to offer a satisfying explanation. No way would I tell this guy, ‘Well, if you’d seen what I saw, you’d understand.’”
Arterburn is honest. For ten more years, he spinned in the cycle of lust, deceived by its power. But he eventually broke out of the cycle and wrote a book about addictive sex.
Sex is a beautiful thing, but it can get twisted. Addictive sex is done in isolation and is devoid of relationship. Addictive sex is secretive. Addictive sex is devoid of intimacy. Addictive sex is victimizing and women are just objects or body parts. Addictive sex ends in despair. Addictive sex is used to escape pain and problems. Our addiction deceives us. Instead of bringing our sexual energy to our wives, we take it other places, especially in our anonymous place.
To prevent a sad story of deception, to empower men to lead in the church, to enable them to lead in their families and personal lives, Arterburn asserts that we must win the war inside. Thousands have wrecked their lives on the jagged reefs of immorality. This is how it all begins, “I was driving down the road one day…” Or “I was surfing the internet one day…” Or “I saw her at work one day…”
Hungry, angry, lonely, tired, stressed, depressed, frustrated, and sometimes discouraged, the tendency will be to turn to the “banquet of glistening flesh” to get another “chemical pop”, an epinephrine rush, an internal hormonal high, to jolt us out of the boredom of life. But we lose something of our true selves when we seek to fulfill our sexuality on our own terms.
A routine banquet of glistening flesh is not “harmless fun”. In his book, The Centerfold Syndrome, psychologist Gary R. Brooks, Ph.D., identifies five principal symptoms of what he describes as a “pervasive disorder” linked to consumption of soft-core pornography like Playboy and Penthouse. Pornography is not harmless. Here are the symptoms of living with the centerfold syndrome:
1. Voyeurism — An obsession with looking at women rather than interacting with them. Brooks contends that the explosion in glorification and objectification of women’s bodies promotes unreal images of women, and distorts physical reality. Sex without attachment.
2. Objectification — An attitude in which women are objects rated by size, shape and harmony of body parts. Brooks asserts that if a man spends most of his emotional energy on sexual fantasies about inaccessible people, he frequently will not be available for even the most intimate emotional and sexual moments with his partner.
3. Validation — The need to validate masculinity through beautiful women. According to Brooks, the women who meet centerfold standards only retain their power as along as they maintain perfect bodies and the leverage of mystery and unavailability. And the great majority of men who never come close to sex with their dream woman are left feeling cheated or unmanly.
4. Trophyism — The idea that beautiful women are collectibles who show the world who a man is. Brooks asserts that the women’s-bodies-as-trophies mentality, damaging enough in adolescence, becomes even more destructive in adulthood. Furthermore, trophies, once they are won, are supposed to become the property of the winner, a permanent physical symbol of accomplishment and worthiness. This cannot be so with women’s bodies.
5. Fear of true intimacy — Inability to relate to women in an honest and intimate way despite deep loneliness. Pornography pays scant attention to men’s needs for sensuality and intimacy while exalting their sexual needs. Thus, some men develop a preoccupation with sexuality, which powerfully handicaps their capacity for emotionally intimate relationships with men and for nonsexual relationships with women.
Women are beautiful because God made them that way. But they are more than “a banquet of glistening flesh.” If we are going to achieve true intimacy with a woman, then we must understand God’s view of purity. In order to experience sex as God designed it, we need to be walking the road of purity. No matter what you’ve been involved in up to this point, God is ready and waiting to help you get back on that road. To get there, you’ve got to make a serious commitment to restoration and a new view of women. Throw-off the centerfold syndrome. Stop believing the lie it proposes and avoid the unecessary crashes that are sure to happen when women are merely “banquets of glistening flesh.”