Mar 18, 2019 | Corey Porter
A magnetic attraction to beauty
Even as a young boy, I remember being attracted to beautiful girls staying short term in our home. It wasn’t lust, I didn’t even know what sex was. I just felt an invisible, magnetic pull towards their beauty. My little boy crushes were common. I would often think of their beauty long after they left our home.
I remember repeatedly holding onto and smelling one of our couch pillows. A blonde girl had used it to sleep on during her stay at our home with her missionary family. I thought she was so beautiful, angelic-like, and the shampoo she used made the pillow smell so good. Smelling that pillow allowed me to hold onto my feelings for her, although I could not have expressed them at the time.
On another occasion, two teenage girls stayed at our home for a few weeks in the summer while doing some Bible clubs for kids in my area. I was totally attracted to the one girl. My mom bonded with the other one and considered her a daughter; she still talks about her with affection to this day. I had affection for the one I thought beautiful.
Sex naivety, I felt the social oddball
During my early teenage years, I felt like my naivety and lack of curiosity about romance and sex made me an oddball socially. My peers started taking an interest in girls; some started asking them out. I heard rumours of one guy, a grade ahead of me (grade 8), who already had a kid. Come to think of it, I think he must have repeated grade 8; he had a beard. Girls who possessed exceptional physical beauty were the new talk amongst the boys.
In grade 8, as my class was gearing up to go home, I looked across the room and saw one of my classmates put on a black ball cap with printed bold white letters, “I love sex!” I remember thinking to myself, “I don’t even know what sex is.” Neither my parents, my school, nor my church ever gave me any talk on such matters. I felt strange seeing the peers I had grown up with moving into this mysterious and uncharted territory.
My first exposure to nudity
Despite my attraction to beautiful women, my first exposures to female nudity were shocking and disturbing. I attended a birthday party for my friend and, together with his dad and other friends, we watched a movie in the basement. Suddenly, there on the screen were mature women exposed.
I remember feeling shocked. I quickly diverted my eyes from the screen and waited for the parent present to fast forward the movie or turn it off, much like my parents did if there was even a hint of any sexual suggestion at home. The movie played on. I didn’t know what to do with that experience. I never talked about it with anyone. I wasn’t aware of a culture that had very different opinions on sex.
One day in grade 9, while walking home together from high school, one of my friends pulled out a porn magazine from his backpack. Thankfully I was walking a little ahead of them. I froze socially again, not knowing what to do. I knew it was wrong. In fear I pretended to ignore them, and simply continued to walk ahead of them, not wanting to look at the images.
The more I saw my peers dating and getting physically involved, the more I awkward I felt. It was like they were living in a totally different moral universe. The more time progressed, the more I felt odd and left out because I didn’t have a girlfriend, nor did I join in with the boys in their increasingly crude sexual joking or preoccupation with looking at suggestive images.
In grade 10, my social supports fell apart completely. I was having a hard enough time navigating the confusing teenage social complexities between the sexes with my childhood friends, with whom I had a long history. When my family moved to small town nowhere, so my dad could be a pastor, I failed to make any new friends at my new school.
I still had to spend my recesses, lunches, and school bus rides within earshot of my peer group. I soon overheard all the juicy gossip about who was sleeping with whom. Suddenly, circumstances forced me to live close to the party crowd I had previously been able to avoid. Much of their conversation centred on sexual experiences and drunkenness.
I was terrified of relating to my new peers. I froze socially. I hardly spoke a word for two years. I was in an emotional crisis, socially anxious and becoming thoroughly disappointed in myself, spiralling downward into depression.
Unlike my school peers, I wasn’t about to pursue girls in my social circles and initiate sexual relationships with them. Even in my new surroundings, when a girl expressed her interest in me, I had no idea what to do. I froze. I just stared straight ahead and kept walking, never acknowledging I heard.
Due to my social awkwardness, I felt a social misfit. I started to believe that there was something seriously wrong with me socially. I alienated myself. I was bored, lonely, and disappointed in myself. I was in a dark place.
That fall, something within me shifted. I suddenly found my eyes not only captivated by attractive women, but had a strong longing to be with them romantically and sexually. I found myself curious about the female body, something I had previously avoided and judged my friends for.
I discovered images in advertising that allowed me to explore my sexual curiosities about the female body without getting into trouble. I started to watch TV shows that allowed me to fantasize and grow my desires for romance. For much of my life moving forward, both printed and digital media didn’t only radically influence and shape my desire for beauty, romance, and sexual pleasure, it was my primary experience of beauty, romance, and sexual pleasure. I was suddenly obsessed with looking at images of beautiful women, and entertaining romantic and lustful thoughts.
In a matter of weeks, my actions became habit.
Guilty and confused
Growing up in a conservative Christian home, I felt guilty for having these new sensual curiosities and feelings. I didn’t dare let anyone know I was entertaining them. Because I was so concerned about outward appearances, for fear of getting into trouble, I kept my outward persona of a good boy, while secretly looking at sensual media to stimulate myself.
With my new cravings for beauty, romance, and sexual pleasure, part of me envied my peers for how they could live out their desires without hindrance in real life. I sometimes resented my Christian morality, those restraints that prevented me being more open with my sexuality, disallowing me to fit in socially with my peers. I often felt odd in the company of my male peers for not having a girlfriend or being active sexually.
But with my growing dependence on sensual media came the realization that my infatuation with these images of beautiful women would remain forever mere fantasy. Despite my habits, I was losing hope that I would ever experience a real dating relationship. What attractive girl would like a loser like me?
One day in French class confirmed this. I overheard two girls in my class talking about guys who use porn. “They use it because they can’t get a real woman to sleep with them.” I knew they were right.
And so for much of my teenage to adulting life, that is where I stayed, secretly entertaining media-fed fantasies, distant from any real woman, and especially distant from the very girls I wanted to get to know, or had interest in, but I had no clue how to relate to. As a pastor’s kid, I knew I would never get away with a sexually active dating relationship anyway.
What motivated my obsessions?
Why did I suddenly crave sexual pleasure? Why did this powerful combo of romantic and sexual desire for beautiful women feel like the ultimate kind of love I just had to experience? What was its appeal?
My soul was in pain. In my new context, I felt totally alienated from my peers. I felt like a complete outsider. Eventually most of my peers just left me alone. I was desperate to feel loved. Overhearing the conversations of my peers also made romance and sex look so much fun.
I thought if I could just experience impassioned physical attraction, romance and sex with a beautiful woman, that would surely be the ultimate way of knowing that I was lovable, that I was worthy, that I could find ultimate fulfillment. But only attractive and socially adept people, I believed, were desirable and worthy of love.
I didn’t feel like one of those attractive or socially adept people. More and more, I was coming to the sobering reality that my experience in real life did not match my on-screen expectations for beauty, romance, or sex. I failed to possess those magnetic looks or a personality that could attract such a beautiful woman. I was socially unable to enter into, let alone sustain, such intense states of physical attraction and romantic chemistry that I had witnessed on screen.
My only hope for experiencing fulfilling passionate romance was to find it in fantasy.
In university and my early work life, my dating history was a confusing string of romantic relationship attempts that got messy, flopped, and fell apart. I was stumbling from one infatuation to the next, without making any real progress in a long term committed relationship. I never realized that this was the consequence of navigating my dating relationships primarily based on beauty and attraction I had seen on screen—which were no help at all in the area of learning to relate to real women.
My only hope for experiencing fulfilling passionate romance was to find it in fantasy.
In university, I took a step of courage and started to confess my sexual sins with a few of my trusted Christian friends. I found out many of them were struggling with the same temptations. I wasn’t alone. We learned to confess and pray for one another regularly. I was learning to be authentic and receive forgiveness and grace.
By God’s grace, despite my covert attractions, infatuations, and sexual failures, I was able to serve in ministry alongside many fine godly women. I learned how to relate to them in friendship and care. Even if I felt sad that nothing romantic materialized with those I liked, I learned to ultimately want what was best for their well being.
God worked through my friendships and failures with these women to help me see more than their beauty, romance, or sexual potential. I got to know and value their person. God was also making me into more the man that he meant me to be, preparing me to be a husband.
I was very open about my struggles with the girl I dated who is now my wife. It was hard to confess my sexual sins and at times I felt it was a deal breaker for our wedding. The grace and forgiveness she shows me is purely from God. There have been times when she has forgiven me when I could not forgive myself.
God is using my marriage and male accountability to restore me to a more healthy attraction to beauty, romance and sex. I would hate to see where I would be today without these.
Beauty worth worshipping
If one thing is evident, I have an innate desire to worship, adore, and be one with beauty. And, next to God, for me, what other being is so tempting to worship than a woman of beauty? It is no coincidence that so much of our language, when describing the beauty of a woman, has the ring of worship.
Consider the reference, “She is a goddess,” for example. But I can barely handle the lesser loves of human physical attraction and romance that comes down from the fountainhead of all beauty: God.
I have carelessly messed up and squandered my desires for beauty, physical attraction, romance, and sex. God has me in process of renovating my affections. I have a great need to follow the beauty I see in bodies and souls back to that fountainhead. I need to trace the beauty back to its source, my maker. My soul desire for love and beauty can only be met in God alone.
My problem is not that I fail to worship, but that I have misplaced my worship. I have made lesser things – the beauty of a woman, physical attraction, romance and sex – ultimate. I am constantly tempted to worship the beauty of the creature—the physical and soul beauty in the best humans out there—instead of the creator. I am humbled. I don’t even handle these lesser attractions well; how then can I handle the fountainhead of beauty himself?
But no human beauty or romance can satisfy these insatiable desires of my heart. They aren’t magnetic enough or substantially good enough, neither do they last. It appears as if I have been distracted from real beauty, often failing to allow myself to be raptured or caught up, worshipping the beauty of God. Instead I have settled for lesser beauty, physical attraction, lust, and romance. It is no mistake that the primary picture God uses for the relationship between Jesus and the church is marriage. I so easily break up with Jesus and give my soul to other gods.
To be honest, I still struggle to see, experience, and speak of God’s beauty. I still often get more enamoured with the beauty of a woman who is attractive to me. Yet if God is everlasting beauty and the creator of all physical and soul beauty, I can only find my ultimate satisfaction in his beauty. I struggle to see his beauty because I cannot physically see it; one day I will. In this life I have to deepen my gaze into his character. He himself is the beauty that my soul longs for.
As I am drawn to God’s beauty more and more, I find that there is no fading of his beauty or corruption of his soul. This is why he is the ultimate beauty my soul craves, and worthy of my ultimate worship. Oh, that I would see and experience his beauty more, so that I would be less enticed by the beauty in this world.
As I draw near to his beauty, I see the ugliness of my soul, I see how far I fall short in my beauty of body and soul. But it is here that I find the inner transformation in a forgiving, gracious God who cleanses and beautifies my soul. Jesus is my only hope for the beautification of my soul. He takes the foul and dirty sin of my soul and imputes his righteousness into me. His love is unconditional, and it is transforming me.
It is taking a long time to redeem my notions of beauty, romance, and sex. I so easily fall into old patterns and habits. I still get attracted to beautiful women and entertain thoughts of romance or sex. But I am getting better at being open about that, confessing it to my wife and other brothers in Jesus, turning away, and repenting. Asking God to redeem and change me from the inside out.
“I could mend my soul no more than my face.”
Orual from CS Lewis’ Till We Have Faces
Here are some Bible verses that have encouraged me as I continue to grow:
Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. (1 Peter 3:3-4, NIV)
As the Scriptures say, “People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades. (1 Peter 1:24, NIV)
Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. (Proverbs 31:30, NIV)
In part, I was inspired to write this article after reading “The Confessions of Saint Augustine” (354 AD). He wrote of his own lifetime struggle with lust for women. That is why his quote resonates so much with me:
“You awaken us to delight in Your praise, for You made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” The Confessions of Saint Augustine
Only God is the ultimate beauty in which I can delight. His beauty and attraction is uncorrupted, unchangeable. Only his soul connection to my soul can satisfy.