Judging by the hits on Saturday night's piece, folks like to read and write about porn. No big surprise there. What is more uncomfortable -- especially in Christian circles -- is to admit to using it. Even the phrase "using it" is euphemistic; what we generally mean is "viewing it and masturbating to it." Just typing those words in a blog that so many of my friends, parents, and students read is difficult! And yet as with so many things, our silence feeds our shame and our sin.
In order to research, teach, and lead on gender issues, I don't need to be perfect or flawless. However, given that one of the basic tenets of feminism is that the "personal is political", I do have a moral obligation to seek to match my language and my life. I owe that to myself, my partner, my family, my students, my church, and (above all) to God. That means that on an issue such as pornography, I need to be clear that I have struggled with it -- particularly since the advent of the Internet!
For those who might be interested, I use (and hereby endorse) two different bits of software that help me to honor my commitments while I work online. On my home computer, I have Hedgebuilders software installed; it's a very effective server-based filter, reasonably priced. It allows me unlimited access to virtually everything legitimate I could want, while blocking porn completely. (It can also be configured to block gambling and white supremacist sites; I rarely have the urge to visit either). On my work computer (on which running Hedgebuilders is technically problematic) I have put up X3 software (a free program from the excellent guys at XXXChurch). X3 doesn't block anything, but it reports my user history to a guy friend of mine who has agreed to be an accountability partner.
I recommend both with enthusiasm. They work. Like all humans, I am deeply flawed. Like Paul, I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. But I do have a vision for the kind of work I feel I am called to do (vocationally and avocationally) around faith, sexuality, and masculinity. And in order to do that work, sometimes I need some help and some accountability. And (all thanks to God), I am not ashamed to publicly proclaim that I -- like most men -- need that help; I am also grateful that I have been given the strength to ask for it.