The photograph was invented in 1839, and in just 11 quick years the word “pornographer” was seeded into our dictionary—unaware of the Zeus-like power and combustive fury that was to come as virtual infidelity would some day be as close as a harmless-blue Click Here.
Once a loathsome industry of photographing haggard prostitutes with drunken johns, this underground market, now more acceptable and mainstream due largely to Hugh Hefner’s Playboy magazine (first edition 1953), is today an estimated $4.9 billion behemoth. Earlier this decade the domain name business.com was sold for a record $7.5 million, as sex.com was valued at $65 million. Perhaps we should call it the Intercoursenet instead, as an estimated 28,258 people every second, mostly men (72%) but also women (28%) view pornography. Every 39 minutes a new pornographic video is being created in the United States.
Christians aren’t immune. When surveyed, 53% of men who attended Promise Keeper said they viewed pornography that week. More than 45% of Christians admit that pornography is a major problem in their home. An anonymous survey conducted recently by Pastors.com reported that 54% of pastors admitted viewing porn within the last year. In an online newsletter, 34% of female readers of Today’s Christian Woman admitted to intentionally accessing Internet porn. One out of every six women who read Today’s Christian Woman say they struggle with addiction to pornography (Today’s Christian Woman, Fall 2003).
If only virtual infidelity were limited to viewing strangers copulate in what was once considered a sacred act just a few decades ago. In order to save, heal and protect our marriages from porn, we need to adopt a broader understanding of this pernicious and slippery world, an understanding that currently and unfairly pins most virtual infidelity on husbands.
The fact remains that electronic media, which includes the Internet, hunts both genders. More and more women are not just viewing porn, they are entering anonymous chat rooms and are more likely to act out in real life what others just type about. And as marketers know, it has always been women who have fantasized about relationships with men other than their husbands through soap operas, not to mention romance novels and magazines such as Cosmopolitan and other little sisters of porn of another kind.
The virtual infidelity that separates husband from wife is more than visual, and has been since fantasy, escape, betrayal, and the need to be held, loved, and understood—in a word connected in body and soul, which is a gift from God. Think of virtual infidelity as anything—images, wood pulp with words on it, chat rooms with words in them—that replace your current spouse with someone else in the recesses of the undisclosed regions inside you, where discontent grows and festers into a new, ugly, and unintended creation.
As this series explains, virtual infidelity tempts both genders in similar and divergent ways. A husband’s temptation toward visual infidelity is erosive: visible from the outside and easier to spot. A wife’s temptation is more subtle and nuanced, making it corrosive: less visible, attacking from the inside and harder to spot, acknowledge and heal.
This double-bladed sword of virtual infidelity is the result of a good desire, human connection, gone in the wrong direction and missing its mark, which is part of the definition of sin. Deep physical and emotional connection can result in a blessed state of relaxation, escape, and elation (the French word for orgasm, La petite mort, means “little death” the loss of consciousness of the world around you). All are God-given, the result of his great love for us. These blessed gifts and connections create a kind of mini-vacation from the usual stress and strain of life that creates mysterious yet real bonds. Unfortunately, virtual infidelity tempts us to take mini-vacations with someone other than our spouse. We need to learn to take them with one another—a sacred and a times difficult act.
Solutions to virtual infidelity pivot from moving from illusion to reality and from a passive to an assertive stance in marriage. Husbands and wives need to bolster their courage and be honest about their intimacy desires, and at the same time, bolster their understanding and be realistic about that they should expect from a gender that is similar but also different.