Dismantled by Love is one of the heavier songs I’ve written, but it has undoubtedly instigated the greatest volume of response I’ve ever received from friends, fans, and random listeners alike.
I have felt very strongly about pornography for a long time, ever since the first crystallized moment when I myself saw a pornographic poster flash past my eyes at a music shop when I was a little girl. My mom, who was next to me, was browsing through posters, looking for Van Halen (shopping for my brothers), when suddenly – there it was. Mom took in a sharp breath and moved us away immediately: she was shaken, and said nothing.
I remember in that moment feeling incredible sadness, shock, and worry: in my tender mind, I couldn’t understand why the woman in the photo would expose herself that way, couldn’t fathom that someone would have requested her to do so. The thing that bothered me most of all was the anonymity: to all appearances, she had no name. She was no one. She was just lurid eyes, bleached hair, and impossible boobs. And although I had no concept of sex at the time, something innate sensed the fracture between the person and intimacy. I sensed the exploitation and degradation of it; and I will never forget that sorrow. “She was a little girl once, too,” I thought. “Where is her dad? Does he know?…” I never was able to process those thoughts aloud, as sex was taboo in the house, and anyway I wouldn’t have known how to articulate the feeling of dread the image burned into me.
That was the only time it ever happened, thankfully, the only time I ever saw it; but porn caused wounds in my life down the road, tangentially. It caused disappointment, disillusionment, and most of all – anger. It led to damaged trust in relationships and contributed to my giving men a weary eye. In my hurt, I became quietly self-righteous and untouchable. I wasn’t able to see how much I was acting out of fear, nor was I able to feel compassion toward those who had let me down.
But by the grace of God, my own heart was dismantled and rebuilt through friendship.
Some of the most incredible people I know – the truest, deepest friends, the bravest souls, the most generous hearts – shared with me about their past (or current) struggles with pornography. They trusted me enough to explain the very painful and complex reasons why people become drawn in to pornography. In the first place, the human body is beautiful and good, of course, and it possesses an inherent mystery and attraction. (Just read Love and Responsibility: JP II didn’t shy away from discussing the sexual impulse at length.) We are sexual beings and ought not be ashamed of that.
But when that natural impulse obscures the face of the human person – when arousal becomes the most intense experience – emotional, physical, or otherwise – in a given day, there is something much deeper at play: there is a fundamental lie at work. This lie, as described to me by these courageous friends – which could have been planted anywhere along the line in childhood, could have been reinforced through years – says:
“You are neither loved, nor lovable: in fact, you are loathed. So it makes no difference if you loathe these other people and treat them as mere bodies. They cannot reject you: of course, if they knew you, they would surely hate you. You are immanently leave-able, forgettable… But they do not know you. So there is no harm done. Loathe yourself further: but at least make it indulgent. You are neither loved, nor lovable. But you have nerve-endings, so why the hell not celebrate that, at least.” A hell-hole of pride and fear, self-loathing and loneliness.
As I came to understand better the broken-heartedness that exists beneath most pornography, I came to identify with that broken-heartedness, too. Shoot, I struggle with wondering if I’m loved and loveable on the daily. That’s an old wound that sometimes feels all mended, and other times bleeds freely. It doesn’t manifest in pornography use, but it does manifest in pride, avoidance, comparison, pettiness, etc: I, too, fail to believe I am loved and loveable, and rather than deal with the terror of that thought, I lash out at those around me, or curl away from them altogether. I fail to take in their faces, to reflect on the beauty of the soul behind their eyes…
Anger is always a secondary emotion, they say. (Stay with me.) It’s the easiest one to give in to, because it makes a person feel big for a moment, big and in control. But it’s really just a cop-out, a defense mechanism to avoid scarier emotions. There is a perverse pleasure in anger & unforgiveness – you feel so damn convicted that you’re RIGHT, and everyone else is a troll and beneath you – you feel some kind of twisted power.
I’m no psychologist, but I get the inkling that lust acts in the same way. Lust is a secondary passion. It’s a cover-up, a momentary escape that makes the brain feel rewarded – read, “liked.” And likewise, there is a perverse pleasure in lust – a person feels, for a moment, powerful. Likeable. Desirable. This is easier than uncovering the lie that informs the passion, the lie that informs the rage: uncovering the lie that impels you to uncover others in disgrace, be that through sharp words or by reducing them to a naked form.
Baby, we all have broken hearts. It ain’t just you. Reach out in faith and speak. Brene Brown put it beautifully when she said,
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending out lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love, belonging, and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of the light.”
I am forever thankful to my friends who spoke up and shared their stories with me: by their illuminated wounds I experienced healing in places I did not even know I needed it.
Brother, sister, anyone reading this who’s asking if they’re loved or lovable and feeling burdened by the way that that fracture manifests in your life:
you. are. truly.
l o v e d.
And this song is for you.
Edit: In the event that anyone thinks my stance toward those who struggle with porn is a lenient or naive one, I assure you that I detest pornography with every fiber of my being, and my heart breaks for anyone who has been wronged by it. Knowing the root of a disordered behavior does not make the behavior less wrong, nor does it soften the blow of its repercussions. There are some who persist in the degradation and infidelity of pornography without remorse or concern for those who are being harmed, and the only appropriate response to such behavior is alarm, sadness, and – at times – removal from the situation.
But if anyone unreasonably thinks that I ought to be espousing the idea that those who struggle with pornography are messed up perverts, and that they are their actions, and therefore deserve to be detested, I invite you politely to go shit in your hat.