The following is the thirteenth installment of the “Out of the Closet and Into the Pews” series. The series features members of The Reformation Project’s Inaugural Conference – a leadership conference for 50 straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Christians who are committed to reform.
Return To Me
by Aaron Crowley (BEA guest writer)
Right this second, 28,258 people are viewing pornography. These numbers include men and women from every demographic including Christians. 50% of men and 20% of women who regularly attend church also regularly view porn, and of 1,351 pastors, who were surveyed, 54% admitted to viewing porn in the past year. As an ex-porn star and born-again Christian, it is my duty to share a bit of my story as well as some of my other experiences while in the porn industry. I am not sharing this to condemn or convict anyone, but I am sharing this to open the readers’ eyes to what goes on behind the sexual fantasies lusted after in porn.
Throughout much of the Gospel, Jesus declares that the law is summed up in “whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Matt. 7:12) and to “love one another” (John 13:34). He also declares that we will know bad teaching and false prophets by their “fruit,” or their consequences (Matt. 7:15-20). If we are going to live in a culture that condones porn or especially if we are going to view porn, as Christians, we should understand what goes on behind the camera in the porn industry. We must remember that porn performers are indeed human as well. If the effects on the porn performers are not effects that we would wish on us, then if a Christian views porn, he or she does not love the porn performers.
Let me start by explaining that I am a homosexual. When I started to realize that I had no control over my sexual orientation, that it was indeed a part of who I was, I became depressed. As a child, I had adored God, and I wanted nothing more than to be a disciple for His use in the physical world. When I realized I was gay and that it was something that would not change, as I had wanted it to, I began to doubt God’s existence. How could a God create me as gay and then condemn me for it? This depressing challenge to my faith turned into many failed suicide attempts.
Seeking refuge from myself in some way, I began to go to gay clubs to get drunk and hope that some other man would find interest in me. From my entire college career, I cannot count how many people I had sex with. Sex became a way to self medicate my depression, but after each time I had sex, I would become more depressed and attempt suicide. I became more and more promiscuous and suicidal, and by my last year in school, I decided that I could prostitute myself to help pay my expenses.
By the time I moved to Los Angeles after graduating, prostitution was my full-time profession since I was having difficulty starting the career for which I had studied, film/tv production. I got my prostitution jobs via hookup apps like Grindr, and that is also how I booked my first porn audition. When I met my agent, or pimp, there was no time to waste; it was straight to him taking pictures of me while I got naked and touched myself. After that, he dropped his pants and said, “Let’s see how good you are.” I allowed him to use my body however he wanted, whenever he wanted because he promised me work not only in porn but with prostituting and stripping.
During my time in porn, I had many friends that worked for one of the largest gay porn production companies. The producer of this company insisted that he have bareback sex with some of his more valuable performers. He would not tell them that he was HIV positive. When they would test positive for HIV, he would guarantee them work at his studio with other HIV positive performers. This was a way that he would trap them in his production company. No other company would want to hire them if they tested positive, and the performers needed the money especially to pay for their medication needs. This type of situation is not rare in the porn industry. The performers are treated like a product.
Since 2007, out of 1,500 porn performers, 121 have died from AIDS-related illnesses, suicides, homicides, drugs and other premature deaths. Chlamydia and Gonorrhea infections are ten times more prevalent among adult film actors than LA County’s citizens between the ages of 20 to 24. Luckily, those diseases are curable. However, 66% of porn actors have herpes and 7% have HIV, both of which are not yet curable. Despite these statistics, it is not a law to be tested for sexually transmitted infections before a porn shoot. Luckily, some porn productions volunteer to test their performers, but the tests are usually the cheap and less accurate ones. There is no wonder that the life expectancy of a porn actor is only 37 years while the rest of the population is about 78 years.
While I performed, I had done everything I thought I could to remain safe. I wore a condom, I got tested regularly, and I made sure to check my fellow performers’ genitals before we performed. Still, I caught Chlamydia. I had to pay the medical expenses by myself and could not perform for a month. Financially, this was a difficult time for me.
People assume that porn actors make a lot of money, which seems reasonable since the United States porn industry grosses an estimated 9 to 13 billion dollars in gross revenue annually. However, performers only earn about 400 to 1,000 dollars per shoot, and they very rarely receive residual compensation from distribution and sales. If they catch any diseases or infections from performing, they are usually left to handle the medical charges on their own.
After I got the shot in my butt and took the antibiotics for the Chlamydia for a couple of weeks, I returned to performing. It was not long after that first shoot back that I got a message saying that I needed to test myself for HIV because someone I had sex with had just tested positive. Terror struck my entire being as I remembered that the condom had broken inside of me while having sex with this man. I knew I would be HIV positive. For the first time after years of suicide attempts, I was terrified that I might die. Although I now know that HIV is not necessarily a death sentence, I felt as if my life was finally over.
Many porn performers go through similar situations to what I had gone through. Still each day, one-quarter of Internet search engine requests are for pornographic material. There are over 4 million pornographic websites online, making up 12% of the entire web space. Sadly, child pornography is one of the fastest growing businesses online, and 58% of pornographic material of children is produced in the United States.
The porn consumer, as he or she lusts after the porn actors, is also doing harm to him or herself. In 2003, a gathering of the nation’s divorce lawyers revealed that 58% of all divorces were a result from one of the partners viewing an excessive amount of pornography.
In Matthew 5 verse 28, Jesus declares, “Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” yet Christians still view porn. If we are to declare what Jesus says to be our truth, then we need to remember that we do not love our fellow humans if we are viewing them as sexual objects for our own lustful desires. How does love allow someone to live in an industry that is killing them?
After I was told that I needed to be tested for HIV, for the first time in a long time, angrily, I prayed to God.
“You did this to me because you hate me! You made me gay, and now you’re killing me for it!”
A sense of peace engulfed my soul as I felt Him reply, “I love you.” I just cried. He promised me that I was fine, but He asked, “Return to me because we have work to do.”
When I was tested, it was negative. I dodged HIV, but it did not mean I was immune to it. I know that it was because of God’s grace towards me in my brokenness that I was safe. I quit porn, and God blessed me with a career in the non-sexual entertainment industry in television post-production.
If Jesus says that His teaching cannot bear bad fruit, then any teaching that declares prostitution and pornography to be acceptable must be a false teaching as it clearly bears bad fruit. Because of the fruit that has been born in my life from the porn industry, I know that one does not love others if one views porn. Likewise, because the teaching that homosexuality is a sin bore for me the fruit of depression and self-loathing, which eventually led me to prostitution and pornography, I have realized that the teaching that homosexuality is a sin is not part of Christ’s teaching. Because of His mercy on me, I left sexual sin and became abstinent until marriage. His grace and healing has called me to His purpose, and I now live my life with the desire to fulfill His purpose for me.
Aaron Crowley is an assistant editor at a reality television production company in Los Angeles. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from the College of Communications at the University of Texas at Austin, where he also studied Queer Theory. Now he plans to pursue a Master of Divinity in California to become a pastor. Aaron hopes to bring a deeper understanding of homosexuality in Scripture to the charismatic church community.