“I didn’t know the difference between rape and love”: Laura’s Story

STF AdminAwareness, Freedom, Healthy Sexuality, Rape Culture, Women

The following was originally sent to us a few months ago after the release of Jonathon Van Maren’s Culture War. It communicated the world that young women are are growing up in so well that we asked if we could post it. This brave young women edited it slightly and sent it back in the format of a blog post. This is a 100% true story.

***The following letter contains non-graphic descriptions and scenarios of abuse that could be triggering***

Dear Jonathon,

I’m writing you because at every church gathering I’ve attended that dares to mention porn explicitly, it’s done with an half joking disclaimer, “of course this is for girls too…but guys you know what I’m talking about”

That assumption is wrong.

I’m the one you’re fighting for.

I’m the girl who grew up in a Christian home, who attended all the right Christian camps and memorized all the right bible verses and vacation bible school songs. I’m the one who had parents who wanted to protect me from the “evils” of our culture.

And I’m the one who is fueling the industry you are fighting against.

I can’t finish your book. I’m not going to tell you how I got it, or which friend made the connection. You see, Jonathon, I’m not ready to leave the cloak of anonymity. But I’m also not prepared to remain completely silent.

When you write that porn fuels rape culture, I picture white sheets in a room that’s neither dark enough nor isolated enough to make sense of what is about to take place. I picture saying no the first time, and watching his bright, brilliant smile when he told me I couldn’t stop him. I feel myself repeating those words, because maybe, he just didn’t understand that this wasn’t a part of the “game” we indulged in—that I didn’t want to this to continue.

I don’t want to write to you about the fact it did continue. I’ve attended counseling, found support with close friends, and I’m healing. I recognize now that what happened was wrong. I’m writing you because there is a “now” in that sentence.

Maybe I should censor my language, but if you are writing for the girls of our nation, there is something you need to know. Something your circle may be untouched by (and for that I am eternally thankful). The BDSM community–and I’m not talking about horrific, abusive, fluff portrayed on TV shows like 50 Shades, I’m talking about the relationships that become a lifestyle–uses “safe words” because by nature of the “games” themselves, you consent to levels of pain, degradation, and abuse that, even physically, your body naturally rejects. The reason I told him to stop out loud is because I knew neither of us would take notice of the obvious, primal response of my body recoiling in pain as we “made love”.

See, I’ve heard it said that porn is sex-positive, that it loosens the inhibitions imposed on us by a generation of self-righteous prudes. What they don’t tell you when you click that first link is that it loosens the inhibitions biologically imposed for self-preservation, the instinct to flee situations which threaten your physical and mental well-being.

Porn doesn’t just kill love. It rewrites it.

It teaches boys that it’s okay to ignore the tear-filled eyes of their companion (as for some reason, that’s a response even the most hardened of porn actresses very rarely can subdue). It teaches men to relish taking advantage of those weaker, to be unencumbered by details as minute as expressed pain.

I’ve read your articles: I know how porn alters the brain, and how its consumption fuels the objectification of other human beings.

That’s not what scares me.

Because, while porn is teaching boys to objectify women, it’s teaching girls how to be better sex toys.

Don’t google that term. I know exactly what you’ll find when you do, and her heart isn’t silicone. I take comfort in the fact there are still people who can recoil from obvious debasement and objectification that names women as inanimate trinkets for someone else’s pleasure. Because for so many of us who have willingly, and perhaps even unconsciously, embraced the lie porn teaches, we don’t recoil.

Porn doesn’t just kill love, it rebrands itself as love.

It teaches you that there is no fundamental difference between the guy who calls you beautiful, and the guy who calls you a slut, so long as it’s used as a phrase of “endearment.”

It teaches you that no action, “game” or expression is inherently vile enough to be wrong, so long as there is the flimsy barrier of consent.

Then, as addicts slide down that slippery slope of deprivation, it teaches you that it is a badge of honor–of “love”–to push the boundaries of consent past the level your body is physically equipped to bear. And then, it tells you it’s liberating to chose a “safe word,” so that when things get to the point that even unconsciously your mouth forms the two letters every two-year-old knows to protect themselves from unwanted harm, you and your partner can continue.

The funny thing is, even at the most basic level of instruction, the BDSM community recommends choosing a “safe” word or phrase so bizarre that it could never slip unintended into the conversation. Because, mere exclamations–“ouch” or “you’re hurting me” or even, as is so often said, “please stop”–aren’t enough to justify ending assault. No, your mind may be speaking these obvious expressions of discomfort while your heart truly wants the pain to escalate. And the saddest part is, the porn industry makes that completely true. I know because I’ve lived it.

Porn manipulates love.

See, when I’m picturing the prospect of future relationships, I’m not scared of men because I was raped.

That day is what prevents me from sleeping, from reading certain chapters of your book, from engaging in certain conversations. But it’s not what makes me scared of love.

I’m scared because the most violent, degrading, and objectively wrong encounters were at my insistence. I’m scared because I recognize the relationship I had was wrong, but I don’t know how to ensure it doesn’t happen again. I’m scared because I associate sex with pain, and no amount of logical understanding of the concept it is inherently wrong for someone stronger to hurt someone smaller just because they physically can, can change the hours of indoctrination I’ve experienced through porn.

I can deal with the truth that I’ve been raped. I don’t know how to recover from the fact that my view of sexuality is inherently selfish, painful, and degrading. That the things I’ve seen, the things I’ve read, make Brock Turner’s worst actions more gentle than the things part of me still wants.

Our society imposes an ‘age of consent’ because they recognize before a certain point of maturity,  you can not legally, or sincerely, agree to an action, no matter how deeply you’ve been deceived to believe that you want it. Most kids will be exposed to porn before they reach that age. Some, like me, may even participate through recording sexuality explicit material of themselves for people they think they should love. The connections built through porn addiction will last far past the time our government removes the safeguards meant to keep people from unknowingly “consenting” to an action that will harm them.

You cannot consent to being abused.

Porn teaches girls that it is sexy to be hurt. Not “sexy” in the sense that it will appeal to the guys they fall into bed with, though that is undoubtedly a part of the indoctrination as well. Porn teaches girls to desire being hurt, being treated as less than human, and less than the image of God in which we’re created–no matter our brokenness.

When our generation jokes about being single, and laughingly admits they are scared of commitment, for some it isn’t because the monotony of biblical marriage scares them. For some, it’s because we have no context to recognize the difference between love and abuse.

We’ve been taught passion, but no one’s ever explained the difference between the boy that says “I’d lay down my life to protect you, as Christ gave himself for the church” and the boy that smiles when he asks you if you are still bleeding, three days after the last time you had sex.

The only thing that distinguishes between abuse and “kinks” is consent. But, as someone who believes very strongly that we should respect women in all areas of life, including sex, I think we need to address the lie behind that statement. The same way a heroin addict can’t “consent” to another hit, whether or not he knows it contains the sedatives that will end his life, those indoctrinated by porn can’t “consent” their Maker-given rights away. Girls can’t “consent” to being hurt, no matter how many times TV tells us that being hit is sexy.

Our society deserves better. But because of a fascination with porn, our society doesn’t know what better looks like. No amount of pepper spray, or anti-rape apps can protect me from the reality I can’t currently, emotionally respond to a healthy sexual relationship. I’m living with the consequences of my actions, and my own addiction to porn, and I’m rebuilding a proper concept of what love looks like. Your movement encourages me because there are still people who can build their sexual identity from the starting place of love, rather than trying to figure out what love looks like from the broken shambles of unhealthy sex.

I’m not worried about walking home in the dark late at night, because my fears do not lie in being raped by strangers. I’m scared of entering another relationship and not recognizing, or seeing the significance of, the physical and physiological suffering caused by actions to which I consent.

I’m asking you to keep fighting because, if I can ever enter into a relationship that doesn’t distort love, it’s going to need to be with a guy who still recoils from symptoms of pain as something vile, something that invokes compassion rather than lust. Because after years of addiction to abuse, it feels impossible to separate pain from love.

Thank you for revealing the ways porn rewrites love.

~ Laura

This isn’t the first time we’ve received a letter like this, and we can’t begin to describe just how many girls come up and talk to us after presentations and share similar stories.

If you are in a similar situation, you have the right to get out.

If you are in a community afraid to discuss this, you can speak up.

And all of us need to speak up and speak out that People deserve to truly know love.