Theology of the Body and Recovering from the Harm of Pornography

“Every man who enters a brothel is looking for God.” This quote, attributed to G.K. Chesterton, is one of the foundational concepts of Saint John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body,” which is a collection of talks the pope gave on human sexuality. Theology of the Body (TOB) teaches that in the Garden of Eden our sexuality was pure and revealed the image and likeness of God. But sin created disorder and blurred our ability to see God in the other. In our disordered state, when we look at each other sexually, we hunger for our intimate connection with God.

We may briefly experience good feelings and emotions that come from true intimate fellowship with our sexual partner, but our sexual experience is like the leaky cistern that cannot hold water. We again become thirsty. Those of us who have fallen into the hole of porn addiction repeatedly turn to the empty fantasy world, which leaves us thirsting for true connection while feeling as though we are moving further away from the living water.

I have often pondered Genesis 2:25: “Adam and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame.” What I find intriguing about this verse is that God found it important to identify the state of nakedness with the absence of shame. However, after eating the forbidden fruit, “The eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”

TOB teaches that when we were created, God saw that our bodies were “very good.” When Adam looked at Eve, and when Eve looked at Adam, they each saw God in the other. Both felt free and safe to share their complete selves with each other. TOB teaches that God the Father is the “Lover,” Jesus the Son is the “Beloved,” and the Holy Spirit is the manifestation of that love. Therefore, similar to the triune God, the husband in a marital relationship is the “lover,” the wife is the “beloved,” and the children born from the sexual union of the couple is the manifestation of the love they have for each other.

Since we no longer are able to access that perfect union and fellowship that was experienced in the Garden of Eden, we may feel as though we are hopelessly lost. I would love to say that each of us could capture the beauty and wholeness that Adam and Eve were said to have experienced in the Garden of Eden through sex but I don’t think it’s possible on this side of heaven.

However, I can say that as I have worked on growing closer to God through the discipline of reading daily Scripture, bringing my brokenness into the light through fellowship with other Christians, and seeking to be fed through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, I have both grown in my trust of our Lord’s daily provision of my needs and my relationship with my wife has improved steadily over the years. In the Eucharist, Jesus says, “This is my body given for you,” which is also a model for how to live our lives. Yet, in our disordered viewing of pornography we are saying the opposite: “This is your body, which I will take for my own pleasure.”

When I was introduced to TOB last year, I was excited to hear the concepts presented. I longed for the experience of intimacy, which I conceptualized as being “totally vulnerable and totally secure” at the same time. The concept to “know and be known” is often talked about. I always thought that in getting closer to my wife I would get closer to God, but when I lost that closeness with my wife I became frustrated with her, angry with myself, and often prayed to God, asking why he made us with such different sex drives.

I have come to realize that I had the formula backward. As I grow in my appreciation for the goodness of God in my life, as I experience his love, my wife sees my ability to delay gratification and focus more on connection, and our relationship improves. We are all a work in progress, but I rest on the promise God gives us in Scripture: “I am convinced of this, that He who has begun the good work in you will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus” Phil 1:6.

Jim Gorski is a 57-year-old father of four children who has been married to the same woman for 34 years. He completed his master’s degree in social work in 1984 and has directed church music groups for the past 39 years. He remains a grateful child of the most high God and strives to trust in God’s loving mercy and His ability to provide for Jim’s every need.