Every Man's Battle: ch 3, pp 21-22
Once again we step into the warped psyche of Fred Stoker as he warns us about falling into "sensual pits".
These pitfalls happen easily since much of the sexual immorality in our society is so subtle we sometimes don't recognize it for what it is.
Thank God you're here, Fred. Whatever would we do without you.
One day a fellow named Mike was telling me about renting the video Forrest Gump. "Boy, it was great!" he exclaimed. "Tom Hanks was brilliant. I laughed and cried all the way through it. I know you and Brenda rent good movies for your kids. You should get this one. It was really clean and wholesome."
"No, we won't be bringing Forrest Gump into our living room," I responded.
Taken aback, Mike asked, "Why? It was a great movie!"
"Well, do you remember that scene in the beginning where Sally Field has sex with the principal to get her son into the 'right' school?"
I like how Fred writes the "Uh..." even though we regularly insert "uh"s and "um"s in our speech, but we don't give it much thought. This gives off the illusion of Fred actually "pwning" someone.
"And how about the bare breasts at the New Year's party? The nude on-stage guitar performance? And in the end, when Forrest finally 'got the girl' in the sex scene, she conceived a child out of wedlock. These aren't the kind of things I want my kids to see!"
I partially agree with Fred here (and it makes me nauseous), Forrest Gump is not for the littlest bittiest babies. I also partially agree with Fred Stoker that water is wet and grass is green. I also find it odd that Stoeker would have preferred it if Forrest and Jenny had used protection that night, since he seems to emphasize the "conceived" here.
Mike slumped into a chair. "I guess I've been watching movies for so long I didn't even notice those things."
Are you noticing? Think about it. Suppose you drop your kids at Grandma's for the weekend and decide to watch Forrest Gump with your wife. You rent the video, pop some corn, put your arm around your wife, and hit "play". After much laughter and tears, you both agree that Forrest Gump is a great movie.
But you got more than entertainment, didn't you? Remember the grunting and panting between Sally Field and his principal? And how, when Sally Field next appeared onscreen, you briefly looked her up and down and wondered what it might be like to have her under the sheets? You had your arm around your wife while thinking it. Then later, after you retired to bed for a "bit of sport" with your wife, you replaced your wife's face with Sally Field's, and you wondered why she couldn't make you grunt and pant like the principal.
I wanted to find out if what Stoeker was saying about the movie Forrest Gump was true, so I rented the DVD a few nights back. This is my response to Fred's diatribe:
- Forrest Gump is rated PG-13.
- To all my heterosexual male readers: You see that picture on the right? That is Sally Field as she appears in the movie right before her character sleeps with the principal (and keep in mind this is the least amount of clothing she ever wears in the entire movie). It doin' anything for ya? Now, usually when I say that James Dobson and his followers masturbate to things like Leave it to Beaver, I usually mean it in a metaphorical sense. But man, Stoeker is into some a freaky shit. Of all the movies and scenes Sally Field has ever been in, he chooses this one as an example of a film inducing "lust".
- That "sex-scene" with the principal. You don't see it. You see Forrest sitting on the tree-swing outside his house while you hear the principal make a bunch of wheezing nosies (sounds like a monkey having an asthma attack). Afterwards we don't even see Mrs. Gump in the actual bed (the scene ends with the Principal exiting the house and talking to Forrest on the porch). So apparently Stoeker must also find the ape-like orgasmic wheezing of a fifty year-old man to be boner-inducing.
- In the guitar scene Jenny is naked, but she's on a stool. The guitar she's holding is huge, and covers pretty much everything from the front. I'm no film-student or anything, but I think the nudity is supposed to symbolize her vulnerability. This scene is supposed to induce a few emotions in the viewers of the film, but I don't think unbridled animal lust is supposed to be one of them. I also find it ironic that in the movie, Jenny gets kicked out of the girl's college because the people running the school were concerned about her magazine photo-shoot related "impurity" tainting the good name of the school, which resulted in her working at the nudie-bar in order to support herself. From Fred's reaction to this I can take it that he has a thing for weak women. He is a Promise-Keeper after all.
- The scene where Forrest "got the girl", he didn't. Jenny leaves him because she feels that a "dirty" woman like her doesn't deserve Forrest. The scene where Forrest "gets the girl" is when Jenny invites Forrest to her apartment, introduces him to his son, tells him she's sick, and asks Forrest to marry her.
- About the character of Jenny in the movie teaching the wrong kind of "values", let me get one thing clear: Both the author of the novel "Forrest Gump" and the creators of the movie never intended to present the character of Jenny as a woman who always makes the right decisions. It appears to me that, in Fred's eyes, since a "dirty" woman like Jenny is presented as a sympathetic character in this film (and not vilified), she is being held up as a role model in the narrative (and therefore the film "endorses" sinful behavior). This fits in with the Maddona/Whore dichotomy present throughout Fred and Steve's worldview that we will be seeing more of in later chapters.
"Come on," you reply, "This stuff happens all the time."
Wai-wai-wait! I said what?
Actually, what I was going to say was that a) I'm not married, and b) maybe you shouldn't define a sex-addict as "someone who doesn't have a life-consuming obsession with sex" and c) You are projecting your own hangups onto others, you are in no position to ethically provide others with proper sexual-addiction counseling, and YOU NEED PROFESSIONAL HELP!
And Freddy, since you've felt the freedom to put words in my mouth (as well as the mouths of whoever happens to read the book) allow me to return the favor:
I proceeded to offer Mike's children candy to enter my white, unmarked van. "I'm going to teach you kids something that was taught to me by James Dobson at a Promise Keepers convention I attended." I told them, reaching for my belt-buckle.
Recently I've gotten my hands on a copy of Dr Anne Wilson Schaeff's Escape from Intimacy: Untangling the "Love" Addictions: Sex, Romance, Relationships and I must say that I find it a better book for understanding sex-addiction than Every Man's Battle for reasons that include, among others: that it is by a REAL DOCTOR, contains a bibliography, and its author isn't trying to sell anyone action-adventure novels and Music CDs. But another significant reason is how the book "talks" to the reader.
When Shaef writes about the actions of sex addicts, she will write like this (from pg 34):
The Sexual addiction process will use others' addictions (such as romance and relationship addictions) to meet its needs; I do not find that process is really looking for intimacy. In fact, I believe that sexual addiction is a way of actively avoiding nurturance and intimacy. Sexual addicts use relationships to get their fix. They are not really interested in love, romance, or relationships; however, frequently, if they pretend they are, they stand a better chance of getting their sexual "fix" under culturally approved circumstances.
This basically says to the reader: "This is what a sex-addict does. If you do this you may be a sex-addict and should get help." Now look at what Fred wrote:
But you got more than entertainment, didn't you? Remember the grunting and panting between Sally Field and his principal? And how, when Sally Field next appeared onscreen, you briefly looked her up and down and wondered what it might be like to have her under the sheets? You had your arm around your wife while thinking it. Then later, after you retired to bed for a "bit of sport" with your wife, you replaced your wife's face with Sally Field's, and you wondered why she couldn't make you grunt and pant like the principal.(Emphasis mine).
So here Fred is saying to the reader roughly something along the lines of: "YOU'RE A SICK, HORRIBLE SEX-ADDICT for watching Forrest Gump and doing all these bad things I imagined you doing, Person-Who-I've-Never-Met-Before. So if you want to stop being a FILTHY, SICK, DISGUSTING PERVERT that obsesses over sex in movies, you should start obsessing over sex in movies like I do."
The way Fred writes is at times accusatory, the intent being most likely to induce feelings of guilt in the reader and yet simultaneously (as we will go more into next installment) feelings of victimhood. When Fred does this he seems to be projecting his own hangups onto the reader (and automatically assumes they are all married men as well).
In my opinion, Fred doing this could be quite harmful to actual sex-addicts addicts as it inspires in the addict a feelings of powerlessness and a lack of self-worth, which can prevent people (not just men, people) from owning their addiction and getting the proper (i.e: no product discount club-card) help they need. But then again I have no credentials, so I'm just as qualified to give advice as Fred.
EDIT: Dec: 13, 2007.
Just something to add to that last bit. I've been reading more of Escaping Intimacy as well as Dr Patrick Carnes' Out of Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction and I just gotta correct myself. Addicts by definition are in a way powerless to control their behavior. But there is still a problem with Fred's rhetoric above besides the obvious projection. On pages 38-40 of Out of Shadows Carnes describes the level-one sex-addict with a compulsive masturbation problem. Unlike Arterburn and Stoeker, Carnes actually beleives that masturbation can be a healthy thing (score another point for Team Sanity) but he also beleives it, like all good things, can be twisted in self-destructive ways:
For the addict however, masturbation becomes a degrading event. Masturbating four to five times a day for years on end becomes a secret life. It is the central part of every day. At the least the feeling of frustration or loneliness, the addict struggles to find a private place to masturbate. Unlocking the office door, walking out of the bathroom, or driving in the car, addicts are certain no one else is as obsessed as they are.(emphasis mine)
Part of that certainty comes from the collection of judgments and beliefs they hold to be true about masturbation. Messages from parents, family and church have left no doubt that it is a character flaw. As a result addicts may carry some equation in your head: Masturbation equals failure. Masturbation equals a loss of manhood. Masturbation is not feminine. Masturbation equals punishment.
One addict tells a story about his Catholic upbringing. Each Saturday, his father would ask if the boy had to go to confession. Since masturbation was a sin, both by and father knew what had to be confessed. The father would talk to the boy about how he would become a man when he conquered his urges. The boy would sit in his shame, he dreaded Saturdays.
It later turned out that the father was simply telling his own belief, his own myth, to the boy. The father was a compulsive masturbator who believed his problem was simply a lack of self-control. In his desperation to prevent the same pain for his son, the father relayed the myth that locked him into his own addiction. (The same ideal of manliness that added to the father's shame was passed on to his son.) Paradoxically, he recreated the same addictive system for his son out of love. As addicts go, this is a common story.
The son translated the message in a particularly damaging way. He felt that God would punish him for his masturbation. In fact, he believed that nothing would go right for him for the twenty-four hours following each time he masturbated. Given the power of his expectations and his daily masturbation, his life was an unending cycle of failure and disappointment. His compulsive masturbating was central to the self-fulfilling prophecy of God's punishment.
That's the weird thing about Fred and Steve's ministry, it is not so much a way as to help sex-addicts as it is to make sex-addicts. Something we will be exploring in later entries.
So I apologize for my earlier error with regards to addiciton and powerlessness and remind the reader that these bloggings are not intended as therapy (except for me as a way of expressing my anger at how irresponsible Fred and Steve are) or counselling materials.
But some of you* out there may be saying "But Cynic, there are sexual images all around us, like magazine covers, sensual music videos, women with breasts right in front of their bodies, classic cars, asthmatic monkeys at the zoo, flowers that look like vaginas when you squint at them, and lumpy mashed potatoes that that remind you of "lady-lumps" from the hit single My Humps which in turn reminds you of the Black-Eyed Peas causing you to fantasize about Fergie wearing a skin-tight veterinarian's outfit while holding a miniature banana-shaped inhaler. All of these can lead to us to giving into our throbbing biological urges in the wrong way; resulting in us engaging in carnal relations with our own cousins and siblings, ending up with more Bestselling Christian Self-help book authors being born. Doesn't Fred have a point when he says that sensuality is everywhere?" To which I say yes, but something that concerns me more is the unhealthy obsession that "Pure-minded" individuals like Stoeker&Co. have with it.
While reading Dr. Schaef's book, I came across the case-study of Molly, a sex-addict, but not in the way you'd think. (pg 16):
Molly is obsessed with sex. She thinks about sex constantly. She finds it filthy, disgusting, dirty and repulsive. Much of her time is focused on how to avoid sex with her husband.
Whenever men approach her in any way, she sexualizes the interaction and is sure they only want one thing. Molly is afraid of men, afraid of sex, and terrified of her own sexuality. Formerly, we may have called her frigid. Unfortunately, like many of our psychological conceptualizations, the concept of frigid did not take in the element of addiction.
And the case of a Father Aloysius, a Catholic priest that had two sexual affairs with women** (pg 23):
Father Aloysius had made a decision to be celibate and then tried to force his body into compliance. Hence, his life was dominated by the constant struggle to remain celibate, and he was obsessed with sexual fantasies that, he felt, were warring against his celibacy. Much of his life was spent obsessively thinking about this problem and trying to control his sexual feelings. When I met him, it was clear he was living a life of obsession and torment. His "struggle" over his sexuality was occupying much of his waking hours as well as his dream life. Father Aloysius had become a sexual addict. His life had become dominated by his sexual feelings. When I first met him, he was depressed and feeling hopeless. He was fearful of maintaining his celibacy and totally at the service of the struggle. Whatever was going on with his sexuality was the center of his day. He had crossed the line from fantasy to addiction. Instead of having resolved the "struggle" in a way that worked for him, he had become obsessed with it.
On pages 33-34 of Escaping Intimacy, Dr Schaef gives us information on levels of sexual addiction. This list in very simmilar to Dr Patrick Carnes's list in his book Out of Shadows (more on that in later chapters). However, the most visible change is Schaef's addition of a new level:
Level One, repressive sexual addiction, includes persons who are obsessed with repressing sexuality - their own and others - and are totally preoccupied with sex. Included here are such characteristics as frigidity, impotence, sexual righteousness, obsessive sexual purity, nonintegrated celibacy, religious sexual obsession, sexual anorexia, and treating of others as sexual objects.*** All of these are forms of sexual addiction and can be just as destructive to the individual and society as is sexual acting out.
We will touch back on these later, but it is important to keep this in mind. One thing I recommend doing is if you ever get your hands on both Every Man's Battle (or one of its age/marital-status/gender/blood-type/eye-color/ice-cream flavor preference-specific editions) and Dr. Schaef's Escaping Intimacy, read them side-by-side. It will scare the crap out of you.
Could be, but listen to these troubling words from Jesus: "I tell you that anyone who looks lustfully at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:25).
In light if this scripture, piddling things like objecting to Forrest Gump may not be minor legalistic meddling.
Actually, it still is. The trouble is that you get your definition of "lust" from the back of a porno DVD. According to Countryman the word translated as "lust" there (epithymeō) is used in the Septuagint's translation of the tenth commandment. Covetousness, looking at what is not yours with a sense of entitlement, is the essence of adultery. And even if the word is being used in the sense of mere sexual feelings, the passage is followed by this:
If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
Jesus here is using hyperbole to illustrate the seriousness of the sin, he isn't condemning sexual desire any more than he is requiring mutilation to enter paradise.
If you have trouble with watching Forrest Gump, then don't watch Forrest Gump. And if you can't watch Forrest Gump without obsessively focusing on the sex at expense to everything else in the movie, you're the one with the problem and not your buddy Mike.
Such subtle influences, added to hundreds of others over time, provide more than a hint of sexual immorality in our lives. Soon, the effect isn't so subtle anymore and not so fun.
As Mama always used to say: "Sexually Immoral is as Sexually Immoral does."
*I have an excuse for addressing my readers directly: I'm a blogger. The purpose of this blog is not therapy, but mockery; satire, if you will. And note how I used the word "some".
**Am I supposed to feel this sense of relief when hearing about Catholic priests having sex with women?
***Interesting thing I came across on the blogosphere were some responses by feminist bloggers Kyso Kisaen and Jill Filipovic to Fred Stoeker's take on the Rebelution Modesty Survey. For those of you who do not know what the Rebelution Modesty Survey is, allow me to explain: It's some weird kind of Bizarro-Universe cybersex site where perverts, instead of telling women (who they have never met and will most-likely never encounter IRL) to take their clothes off, tell women (who they have never met and will most-likely never encounter IRL) to put clothes on; thus allowing themselves to live the illusion that they are Noble White-Knights concerned with honoring women when they have just reduced their Sisters in Christ to the status of asexual cam-whores (like shoe-on-head, but more sad than funny). Some of these guys even think they are being Christlike when judging women by the clothes they wear.