By Andrew Bauman
Her poster hung from my dorm room wall. She was a model; tall, blonde, slender, attractive. I went out of my way to tell guys who visited my dorm room, “Look who I date when I’m at home.” I stood tall, proud of being the subject of envy from the other guys; it made me beam.
She was body.
What I did not tell them was that last time I took her out on a date, I literally wanted to be anywhere else other than with her. It was painful. I was so bored. She was very quiet, timid, and we didn’t share much in the way of common interests, such as speaking. I could not wait for the night to end, yet that didn’t stop me from flirting with her and continually trying to seduce her, getting physically close with my body and yet further away with my heart.
She was soul.
But I only treated her as body. I had yet to integrate within myself the fusing of sex and soul, so I could not treat her, or anyone I dated, any differently. I was shallow. I was selfish.
Porn taught me how to relate that way; that sexuality and emotions, or my truest self, were completely separate. These women could have my body (if only in my fantasies), but they were to never access my heart and soul because that was far too vulnerable. I, in turn, could never access theirs either. The more beautiful the woman, the more prone I was to objectify and attempt to separate these two attributes, both within them (literally hanging a poster in my dorm room) and within myself. This resulted in making myself more of a machine or animal, killing authentic desire for intimacy and going numb with artificial means of connection. When we engage in looking at pornography or other sexual practices of objectification, we have to turn off our connection to our body. We remove ourselves from what we are actually doing: the act of objectification, pornification, and degradation. We convince ourselves “all men do it” or “I am not hurting anyone” or worse, “Well, if my wife was more sexually available to me, I wouldn’t need to do this.” We lie to ourselves in an attempt to shield ourselves from the shame of our poor choices in dealing with our pain.
Another way we foster this disconnection of sex and soul is through experiencing triangulation, typically from a parent. For example, picture growing up being forced to act as a surrogate spouse for your emotionally anorexic mother. You are expected to fill the gaps of love where your father is absent or disengaged. You are there for her, listening to her pain, talking when she needs you. She, in turn, is involved and present to some degree in your life and meets many of your emotional needs. Emotional intimacy is extremely high; you even argue in a highly charged way, like spouses do. When this emotional intimacy is so intense, it creates a psychological split between your sexuality and your emotional core, because in healthy relationships the increased emotional intimacy should correlate with increased sexual intimacy. (Check out The Healthy Relationship Indicator and my book, The Psychology of Porn.) When increased sexual intimacy to match the intense emotional intimacy is not an option, like in your relationship with your mother, then you seek out high sexual intimacy with zero emotional intimacy to fill in the gap (i.e., pornography). Porn use is a perfect fit for an emotional incest survivor. When sex is separate from soul, sex is reduced to a commodity, which increases the chance of sexual violence and harm. (See: Intersection Between Domestic Violence and Porn.)
If you have experienced this triangulation with your parent/s, it is a major part of your psychosexual development and who you are today. If this dynamic remains unexamined in your own life, you will continue to reenact it in your current relationships. Sex and soul must be fully integrated for healthy sexuality to be attained.
Andrew J. Bauman is Co-Founder & Director of the Christian Counseling Center: For Sexual Health & Trauma (CCC). He is a licensed mental health counselor with a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology from The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology. He is currently working on his doctorate from Northeastern University. Andrew is the author of four books, Floating Away: A Book to Help Children Understand Addiction, Stumbling Toward Wholeness, The Psychology of Porn, and (with his wife, Christy) A Brave Lament. You can find out more about his work at www.andrewjbauman.com and www.ChristianCC.Org.