From Playboy Pornographer to Christian pastor: the unlikely story of Donny Pauling
November 2, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – It was the very same day that pornographer Donny Pauling was called in by Playboy and offered $4,000 a day to produce a new lesbian reality series, that he unexpectedly found himself at a moment of crisis.
Pauling had already made millions from pornography over the past eight years, ever since he began shooting porn part-time behind his wife’s back. But $4,000 a day was unprecedented, and there was something about the offer that made Pauling feel that if he took it, he was making his final commitment to the porn industry, and there would be no going back.
As he was driving home after that meeting at Playboy, suddenly he pulled over to the side of the road, and began praying. “I was like, God, it doesn’t matter what I do, you bless me,” Pauling told LifeSiteNews.com in a telephone interview. “And basically what I was saying was, ‘Thanks for the new porn contract.’”
But, he says, “as crazy as it sounds,” after this prayer he immediately felt as if he was “hit with electricity.” The feeling was so powerful, and so unmistakable, that Pauling says he knew beyond a doubt that it was God.
Pauling had already been praying occasionally, after encountering members of the radically unconventional XXXChurch, who make it their mission to reach pornographers, porn stars, and prostitutes with the message of the Gospel. But it was several days after the experience in the car that he says he finally decided to give his life to Jesus, and to leave the porn industry. That was in September 2006.
On September 28, 2006 Pauling wrote on his personal blog: “I’m scared. I really, truly am. Terrified. Petrified. All of those things.” But, he added, “I feel a huge sense of relief and happiness for the first time in a LONG, LONG time.”
The making of a porn producer
While Pauling clearly remembers his first encounter with pornography – it happened in third grade, when he stumbled upon a porn magazine - he doesn’t trace his subsequent problems with pornography to that experience.
It wasn’t until after he got married that addiction reared its head. That was in the early days of the Internet - and easy access to pornography. Pauling found himself spending more and more time online looking at porn, either when he was at work, or late at night, when his wife was asleep.
He became so taken with what he saw that he decided he wanted to produce porn himself. Pauling was self-employed, and worked at his own private office, so it was easy for him to start recruiting girls and doing photo shoots without his wife knowing.
It wasn’t until Pauling physically cheated on his wife for the second time, three years into producing and selling porn, that he finally came clean with her. He called her from a porn convention and told her about his secret life.
“She flipped out,” he says, and that was the end of his marriage.
But now that porn was no longer his dirty secret, Pauling was free to devote himself full-time to producing smut. After his marriage fell apart he moved into his office, quickly found himself another girlfriend, and in the very first month doing porn full-time, he made $50,350.
He was hooked.
How to get out of the porn industry
Pauling ultimately worked as a porn producer for over eight years. During that time he says he made millions of dollars, lived a non-stop party lifestyle, recruited hundreds of girls into the porn industry, and was completely and utterly miserable.
In the first place, he couldn’t ignore the fact that his life’s work was literally destroying lives, especially those of the models he recruited and initiated into the brutal world of porn. When asked now if he finds porn appealing, Pauling responds: “There’s nothing appealing about a girl curled up in a corner sucking her thumb because her mind is so blown by what she’s been doing.”
But it also didn’t help, he notes, that he was motivated in large part by a burning hatred for Christians and Christianity.
The former pornographer traces this hatred to his strict upbringing as the son of a Pentecostal pastor, during which he was taught a “legalistic” definition of God (“God was just a set of rules and regulations,” he says) and witnessed the abject hypocrisy of many of the Christian leaders his father knew.
After he started making porn, he relished running into some of his old Christian friends, who would ask what he was doing. “I loved throwing porn in their faces,” he says.
But things began to change after he met members of the XXXChurch, who every year would set up a booth at the Las Vegas porn convention, and hand out bibles emblazoned with the words “Jesus loves porn stars.”
“Instead of being outside protesting and holding signs telling people that God was going to send them to hell where they would burn in torment,” members of XXXChurch “were inside setting up booths, doing makeup for girls,” Pauling said. “And instead of judging them, they told them that they were beautiful and that God loved them, and that there was nothing they could do that could change that, and that He wanted more for them.”
Eventually, Pauling says, he came to realize that if he were to be a Christian, “this is the kind of Christian I would want to be, and the kind of Jesus I would want to serve.”
The transformation didn’t happen overnight – in fact, it took over several years - but he credits the “love-based” approach of XXXChurch with bringing him to the point where he was able to send up that confused prayer in his car, and to listen to the response.
After that mystical experience in the car, “I quit, and I just walked away,” he says. “I knew it wouldn’t be easy, because I had a lot of bills. So I lost everything I owned. I had property I foreclosed on.” His girlfriend of five years also left him for a manager at Playboy.
“But I was never more at peace, even though it was a tumultuous time.”
How to beat a porn addiction
After leaving the industry, Pauling enrolled in school to become a pastor (mostly, he says, to “rewire” his brain - he has no plans for the time being to actually lead a congregation), and started up an Internet marketing company. He has also travelled the world speaking to millions of people about the reality of the porn industry, and about how to beat addiction.
He says he is convinced that the same “love-based” approach that brought him out of the industry is the same approach needed for those who are addicted to porn, and want out.
“So many people don’t ask for help because they’re sitting there feeling guilty about their actions, saying, ‘there I go, I’ve done it again,’” he says. “I think that they need to realize that, although sin does separate us from God, He still loves them. It doesn’t matter what they’re doing. His love doesn’t change. It’s not conditional.”
Practically speaking, Pauling urges those who are addicted to porn to be completely open with someone they can trust, and then to set up a system of accountability – someone they can talk to regularly about their struggles with addiction.
The trick, he says, is simply never to give up. “I’ve had people come up to me and say they heard me speak two years ago, and they haven’t looked at the stuff since,” he says, “but that’s not realistic for everybody.”
“It doesn’t matter how many times you fall down, He’s still there to pick you up and put you back on your feet.”
Pauling compares the experience of overcoming addiction to that of a child learning to walk. Just because the child falls over and over again, he says, doesn’t mean the father tells him walking just might not be for him.
“God who loves us that much is not looking for a reason to send us to Hell, he’s looking for every reason to bring us to Him,” he concludes. “So just stand back up. Stop letting your guilt get you down.”