Relational Costs of the "12-Year-Old Story"
I call it the "12-year-old story." It can take different forms, yet almost any man who's fallen into the porn trap has one.
Mine occurred at a Boy Scout camp. A tent counselor, about 18 years old, showed 7 of us his porn pictures.
Then he introduced us to the lust-filled feelings which come from auto-eroticism. Today that would be
called sexual abuse, for which the teen would be prosecuted and labeled forever as a sex offender.
But that's not where I'm leading with my 12-year-old story. What I want parents to see is that those
sexualized images gave me something which I had not received from my parents—feelings of closeness
and warmth and physical love. Of course, I was experiencing false intimacy, but it felt like getting all
the hugs I had sought but never received from my mother and dad. It has often been said that porn pursuits
in adult men are attempts to fill up some vacant love-hole in the habitual user's soul. But often those
pursuits are triggered early in a young boy's life by the incidental viewing of pornographic images.
to which God
called me after my deliverance from a 22-year double life of habitual sexual sin deals with the aftermath
of boys' 12-year-old stories. Many of the men to whom we minister have broken or damaged marriages because
of the sexualized conditioning they brought into those unions from seeking and dwelling in the pseudo-
intimacy of porn.
Pursuing, viewing, and being energized by porn images and other sexual activities gave me feelings which I
now recognize could have been quelled by a few rightly given hugs and some affirmation from my mom. Now,
don't get me wrong. I don't blame my mother or father for lacking the ability to provide me with those
hugs. Nor do I blame them for my introduction to porn, which occurred in a place they felt was
safe—a Boy Scout camp. But I do recognize that what I got from all those years of trying to fill up
the love-hole in my soul with porn was a damaged ability to provide my wife with the love she so
desperately sought and deserved.
If a boy pursues porn, it may also be because he's looking for a sense of love and respect missing in his
parents' relational interaction. God's Word tells us what a man and women desperately need from a
marriage. Ephesians 5: 33 (NIV) says, "Each one of you [husbands] also must love his wife as he loves
himself, and the wife must respect her husband." This little jewel of Scripture presents one of the great
truths which can fuel the fires of marital fidelity and intimacy. In fact, a powerful
ministry—Love and Respect
with Emerson and Sara
Eggerichs—currently helps couples realize what they can do to make Ephesians 5:33 a reality in their
God saw fit in His grace to save my marriage, my parenting, and my life through many Christian decisions,
discipleship, and discipline. And He restored the years that the locusts of lust ate. But so much of my
development and later life was a waste-ground of sexual sin and perverted views of male-female
relationships, relational intimacy, and marital fidelity.
So where does this lead you as a parent? My answers here are very personal.
- First, do not withhold appropriate physical or emotional expressions of love from your developing
children, especially your sons. A young boy who is neither hugged nor affirmed by his parents is fodder
for the enemy when he begins dealing with the feelings he'll experience when he first views porn. I cannot
recall, prior to my 12-year-old story, being hugged by my mom. Trying to be stronger than my mom, my dad
followed suit. Later in life, I got all those hugs back, but that was after almost 25 years of lost hugs
and dangerous pursuits into sexual sin.
- Secondly, do all you can to give your boy the understanding and affirmation he needs to feel both love
and respect. Of course, a younger boy first needs to feel love. Later in his development, he will need to
feel respected as a person. And it's the latter which he requires in a marriage. As the Eggerichses point
out, a man will not be able to supply his wife the love she needs unless he gets the respect he needs.
Give your children, especially your young men, closeness and caring and affirmation, spiced with many
hugs, which will confirm all those feelings. Then when—not if—your boy comes across porn,
he will not as likely mistake the feelings when he sees those images for the hugs, love and respect he's
already experiencing from his mom and dad.
Add your closeness, love, and respect to all your attempts to protect you child from porn, and it will pay
big dividends in real relational love and respect in your child's marriage down the road.
Bill Berry, Ph.D. was delivered from severe habitual sexual sin through God's grace and with the
help of Christian discipleship. After retiring from a 33-year healthcare career with the Veteran's
Administration, he became an ordained minister and founded Battle Plan Ministries which he co-directs with his wife, Elly.
Through speaking engagements and a worldwide online ministry, BPM helps Christian men walk away from
sexual sin into purity and reaches out to help wives who often become the silent victims of their
husbands' sexual sin.
-Ed. Note: It was Bill Berry's testimony that God used to convince our son to seek help.