I always knew I would enter the sex industry.
My understanding of worth and beauty was so entangled with that of the porn stars I had grown up idealizing, that entering the industry was inevitable. Leaving, on the other hand, was something I never expected.
My earliest memories are intertwined with pornography and abuse. My understanding of myself as a young child was that I held no worth except for the times in which I was sexually exploited. I was never treasured, loved, or valued daughter. I was burdensome, disposable, interchangeable. I was praised only when adults told me how beautiful I was or when my abuser expressed what a good job I’d done during my exploitation.
A feeling of otherness was deeply rooted in my heart. This feeling kept me bound to trauma and the enemy’s lies, far past the duration of my abuse. As a teen, I put myself in situations that reinforced this cycle of victimization. My sense of worth was utterly dependent on what HE said of me. Whoever HE was in my life at the time.
I thought I found a family in the porn industry
As a young adult, the porn industry reinforced this for me. Those ideals of beauty and value I was groomed with flourished in this industry. I remember finishing a shoot early in my career and going out to eat with the other “talent” and crew thinking, “this must be what family is.” I felt wanted there, they didn’t just discard me after the shoot like other men in my life had, and for the first time, I had control of what I would or would not do with my body. Or, at least, the illusion of control.
My first time in church
A friend who owned an adult film distribution company brought me to church for the first time on Easter 2013. I was indifferent towards God, and I assumed he was indifferent towards me as well. I had no anger towards him, and I blamed him for nothing. I understood there were so many who were worse off far more deserving of his love. My understanding that Jesus died for my sin was a proclamation of guilt, not a demonstration of immeasurable love. This one encounter with the cross set into motion a series of events that would eventually lead me to freedom.
That Easter, the Holy Spirit exposed a piece of myself I had boxed up with my childhood dreams, the idea that there could be something better, something more. What I saw in the families of the pastoral team at this church destroyed my world view. I saw families that loved each other, men that valued their wives, daughters, and other women simply because they existed simply because the Lord created them to love and be loved. Christ loved them as he loved me. I was exposed to love. It was so terrifying; I ran for the next three years. I was angry and hurt. I journeyed deeper into the industry, sacrificing all boundaries and crossing the final lines I thought I never would in hopes that I could still medicate this wound on my own.
Consumers of pornography aren’t the only ones deceived; performers are equally misled. We’re told we’re loved, valued, and important, but are manipulated and exploited. By New Years’ 2017, I was ready to die. I was lonely, brokenhearted, and desperate. This desperation led me into a willingness to do whatever Christ asked of me, to give up anything he wanted. It was only then that I could comprehend he wanted nothing FROM me and everything FOR me. He both had and was the answer–the balm in Gilead, the living water. My career in the industry worked for a while. It did medicate my pain, but every day I had to journey back out to that well in my shame and receive my daily dose. What Jesus offered needed only to be taken once. Staying in Godly boundaries for our lives may take daily, sometimes hourly, work as we unlearn destructive or worldly habits, but his one-time gift of grace is sufficient to cover every failing.
The risk of rejection is real
The enemy tells me every time I share my story, that I will be rejected. He says that although Christ has redeemed me, made me whole, and even pure, no one is Christ-like enough to see me that way. Satan tells me that no man will ever be enough like Jesus to see me as pure and faultless as Christ does. He tells me the same things he has said to me since I was a child: “You are different.” What has changed is that while I still get my value from what “HE” says, my “HE” is now Christ. He has given me the gift of walking into each new opportunity and taking that risk of being rejected. That risk is there, it is real. But the Lord’s unparalleled approval and acceptance are greater than any rejection.
Redemption has changed my life from medicating, and survival to one of contentment and abundance–an abundance of love, of challenge, of dreams, of fellowship, and always of grace–an offering extended equally to us all.