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for years. But Renaud’s burgeoning movement is of a different strain of abstinence advocacy. Her ministry is labeled antipornography, but it also aims to treat masturbation without porn when it involves lustful thinking (and what masturbation doesn’t?). When you peel back the layers, the core of her crusade is against sexual thought—even within marriage—unless those thoughts are about your husband while you are engaging in intercourse with him. The word masturbation originates from the Latin term masturbare, a combination of manus (hand) and stuprare (defile), thus “to defile with the hand.” In the 1830s, influential Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham lectured boys on the “immense evils” of masturbation and said it caused warts, constipation, insanity, and a host of other maladies, including death. Modernday evangelists have also always quietly tsked-tsked at masturbation, but only recently have more Christians begun speaking out publicly against it. During the midterm-election campaigns in November, a 1990s MTV video resurfaced online of Delaware Senate candidate and abstinence advocate Christine O’Donnell discussing the perils of masturbation and lust. “The Bible says

for women. Christian literature has also begun addressing it as a female affliction in self-help books like Every Young Woman’s Battle: Guarding Your Mind, Heart, and Body in a Sex-Saturated World, a title by Shannon Ethridge and Stephen Arterburn that urges girls to “embrace sexual purity as a preferred lifestyle, not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well.” For Renaud, this sort of mental “purity” is a state of mind she came to after years of struggle. She grew up outside Minneapolis and moved to Kansas City when she was 10. That same year, she discovered a dirty magazine in her older brother’s bathroom. She had never seen male genitalia before and became increasingly curious, searching for it whenever possible to learn more. When she hit puberty, she says that curiosity turned into compulsion, and she added masturbation to her porn-seeking behavior. Renaud wasn’t attending church at the time, although her family considered themselves Christians, and she says she was reluctant to reach out to the Christian community for fear “they could see [the pornography addiction] on her.” When she was 15, she attended a Christian

The core of Renaud's crusade is against sexual thought— unless those thoughts are about your husband. that lust in your heart is committing adultery, and you can’t masturbate without lust,” O’Donnell says. “If he already knows what pleases him and he can please himself, then why am I in the picture?” she asks, throwing up her hands. Most abstinence advocates still rarely specifically address masturbation publicly and tend to cluster it into the issue of pornography addiction like Renaud does. But leaders within this Christian movement have made it clear that masturbation is most definitely included in their efforts. Craig Gross, the founder of XXXChurch.com, one of the first online communities for Christian porn addicts, says, “Our view of sex is that God designed sex for a man and a woman, not a man and himself. I think a kid walking into marriage with a 10-year addiction to masturbation is more troubled than a kid who lost their virginity on prom night. It’s trading sin for sin.” In the past, Christians have tended to treat pornography as a male problem exclusively, setting up counseling groups for wives to deal with their husbands’ porn addictions. But a focus on females has grown considerably in the past decade. XXXChurch.com added a section for women in late 2004, after reportedly receiving numerous emails from women acknowledging that they, too, suffer from porn addiction. With the slogan “Globalizing God’s Army to Battle Sexual Addiction,” L.I.F.E. Ministries launched in 2001 and soon added services

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summer camp and heard the pastor talking about “a Father in heaven who loves you unconditionally regardless of what you do.” “Knowing what I had been experiencing shame-wise, I was like, ‘Yeah, I want to feel that,’” Renaud says. From then on, she became active in the church and vowed to end her masturbation and porn habits. “I’ve been sober for seven years now,” she says of her masturbation-free life today. That life also includes living with her parents and her small dog, and having an active social life online that involves tweeting and updating her Facebook status multiple times a day. Her other interests are football (especially the Kansas City Chiefs), baking, George W. Bush, Eli Manning, Glee, Dexter, and country music. Renaud’s 26th birthday party in November was a group outing to see the musical Rent. And ironically, one of her favorite television programs is Sex and the City, though she watches the edited version on TBS and admits she felt “more than a bit triggered” while watching the first movie on the big screen. Although some married women participate in Dirty Girls Ministries, Renaud’s crusade is largely one for single women like herself—those struggling to find their place in an increasingly online-focused world where tantalizing secular influences are always available with the click of a mouse. Most of the young women who come to Renaud for help had Internet ac-

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issue 67  

issue 67, portis de rossi

issue 67  

issue 67, portis de rossi

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