Porn star Stormy Daniels may be having the time of her life. She may be enjoying her newfound fame, at the expense of President Trump. She may be making boatloads of money with her “Make America Horny Again” tour and other endeavors. But at the end of the day, this is a sad story. Stormy Daniels (originally Stephanie Clifford) is somebody’s daughter or granddaughter. Who wants their child to be a porn star?
But before you read another word of this story, I want to make myself perfectly clear. I am not condemning Stephanie Clifford. And I am certainly not sitting on my moral high horse saying, “What a wretched person she is to make her money like this.”
Every one of us is fallen and broken and blemished in God’s sight, and every one of us needs healing for our wounds and repentance for our rebellion. That’s why Jesus came into the world: to save sinners. And that means you and me.
So, I write with a heavy heart, not a self-righteous heart. And I write, not just about Stephanie Clifford, but about the thousands of others like her, women (and men) whose names we do not know. Every day they denigrate themselves for financial gain (or for notoriety). No amount of money or fame is worth this.
In the early-to-mid 1990s, I spoke regularly at a church located in the heart of Manhattan, not far from Times Square. When driving into New York City from Maryland (where I lived), I would pass some theaters featuring strippers and porn stars. The giant marquis would proclaim their names and announce the dates they were performing.
When I saw those signs, my heart sank. “That’s someone daughter,” I would say to myself. (Our two daughters were born in 1977 and 1978, so that was my first thought. Today, at age 63, I would also think to myself, “That’s someone's granddaughter.”)
I never went into one of those places, but I imagined they were not exactly filled with the high and lofty of society. And based on the absence of lines forming in front of the theaters, it didn’t look like there were many people inside.
Yet here was some attractive young woman stripping naked (or simulating sex acts) in front of these lecherous strangers. I wonder how those men would feel if it was their own child prancing around in front of others? The whole scene was nothing but sad.
Of course, those were the old days. Today, not just striptease, but porn is everywhere. And the porn industry, as massive as it remains, has taken a hit from popular porn sites that feature amateur porn – any individual or couple or group of people who decide to film themselves in action. These days, getting naked and having sex on camera seems as natural as getting dressed and going to work.
But that doesn’t minimize the shame of it all. That doesn’t minimize the pain of making oneself into a sex object. That doesn’t minimize the emptiness of it all.
How many strippers and porn stars also have large drug habits? How many sex performers end up trapped in the cycle of substance abuse, making lots of money by stripping or engaging in porn, but needing lots of drugs to calm their nerves?
There’s a reason people don’t like their privacy invaded. There’s a reason we cover ourselves when we’re in public. There’s a reason secretly-recorded sex tapes are used in blackmail.
Some things belong behind closed doors. Some things are meant for intimate companionship, not public consumption. And when we flaunt that which was divinely intended for modesty, something inside us dies.
I’ve read stories of former porn stars who have become believers in Jesus, and they will tell you that things were not as they appeared to be. People looked at them as if they were gods and goddesses. But so many struggled with depression. So many struggled with suicide or, at least, lack of self-worth. And quite a few were victims of sexual abuse earlier in life. Their fame came at quite a personal price.
I can only wonder how a 30-year-old mom now feels about the porn movies she and her former boyfriend posted online when they were 20. They are on the internet, and they are not going anywhere.
I can only wonder how it is to be the child of a porn star. What do your classmates say about your mom or dad? And are you pleased that the whole world sees your parent naked?
I don’t doubt that some sex stars will say to me, “Don’t speak for me. My life is great. I’ve never been happier or more fulfilled.”
That could be true. I very much enjoyed using drugs from 1969-1971 (and my drug use included shooting heroin). But little by little, my life was degenerating, and if not for the Lord’s merciful intervention, my destructive habits would have cost me my life.
And so, in a sense, the happier Stephanie Clifford and her fellow-performers are, the sadder the story is. They could waste their lives without understanding the divinely intended purpose for their bodies. Without having people look at them for who they were on the inside. Without having the kind of relationships that bring something money and fame can’t buy.
These days, with porn so ever-present, all of us have to watch our eyes and thoughts more diligently than ever. I know I certainly have to, and I trust I’m not in the minority in saying that. We must guard our own souls from pollution, and we must extend a compassionate hand towards those trapped in porn.
But let’s remember that no one is more trapped in porn than the porn star herself (or himself). May God be merciful to them and set them free. Maybe Stephanie Clifford will have a story of redemption to tell one day.