Pimpin' Jesus: Kirk Franklin is Addicted to Porn and the Functionality of Christianity for Profit
Kirk Franklin: I been around all the church people who were super spiritual but you saw them doing dirt. I didn't want to be a hypocrite, a fake church doer. I didn't wanna be a fake church goer.
Oprah: I know exactly what you mean. I call those people pimpin' Jesus.
I had heard Kirk Franklin was addicted to porn before it was revealed that he was going to be Oprah. This, of course, was rumor so I didn't know whether or not to believe it. Little did I know that my suspicions would be confirmed very soon. Today, Oprah talked to Kirk Franklin about his addiction to pornography. I must say that I was surprised and I wasn't surprised. I don't remember where I heard it but I have always known that everyone is actually 3 people in one : the person you are, the person you want to be, and the person you show other people. Kirk Franklin the gospel singer is what he shows other people.
The interview initially started with Kirk's reminiscence on his life, specifically his formative years and how the addiction to porn started. He was abandoned by his mother and never knew his father. At the age of 4 he was adopted by his 64 year old Aunt Gertrude. By the age of 8, he stated, he became addicted to porn. He further discussed a sort of "rite of passage" for boys, stating that 'everyone' has that uncle or older brother who has a stash of porn under the bed or in the closet. Through his first interactions with porn, he became hooked. He further extrapolated, saying that his first sexual experiences began when he was 9 --- the shock waves through the audiences were palpable.
While he recounted these experiences, much of the time he prefaced them with "in the 'hood" or "you see in the 'hood". I find this significant because I have heard through conversations and my own reading and watching of interviews with mostly Black male hip-hop musicians who grew up in the 'hood that early sexual experiences aren't all that uncommon, probably because the adults in the household had to work and the children weren't heavily supervised and especially in big cities like New York, L.A. and D.C. the time a child spends in innocence is relatively short compared to when they reach experience. Big city life makes you grow up faster. In Kirk's case, his aunt was by any definition elderly and set in her strict Baptist ways. So Kirk was really left to his own devices when it came to sex. By 14, Kirk Franklin was a pro. At that time his aunt was 74.
He grew up in a strict Baptist household and this directly antagonized his obsession. He repeatedly talked about not wanting to be a hypocrite but not knowing what to do about his obsession. At 15, he went to his pastor saying that he wanted to be a true Christian and not live this duality. The pastor told him that he would grow out of it; it would go away. Kirk said that this was about the worst thing he could have said because it didn't go away, it got worse. Growing up, he said he had never seen a married man anywhere, including the Church, who was faithful to his wife.
Kirk admittedly said that he was a 'ho. He had mutliple relationships with multiple people. He would have a concert about Jesus and the Lord and then proceed to have sex with the first woman or women he could get his hands on. Then watch porn. There was a time, he said, when he couldn't go to NY or L.A. because porn was too readily available. When he got married, he thought the marriage would cure the addiction but by his own admittance, it made it worse. His wife Tammy is indeed a beautiful woman and this, Kirk said, played a role in his decision to make her his wife. He thought, I have a beautiful wife with a great body --- I don't need porn. But he almost immediately tried to bring porn into the marriage; he wanted to get his wife to watch the videos and look at the magazines; he wanted to turn her into a porn actress who would perform for him. But Tammy wasn't having it.
Kirk said he hit rock bottom when he tried to rid himself of the porn, driving to a dump and throwing it away. He went back home crying and depressed and at 3 in the morning he drove back to that dump site and searched through the rubbage until he found the porn. This is definitely rock bottom. During the interview, I was most interested to hear from Tammy. She said that Kirk told her face to face about his addiction while they were in L.A., away from their 4 children. Tammy said their sex life during their 9 year marriage began to get weird after Kirk started wanting her to do more and more adventurous things sexually or as Kirk terms it "Showtime at the Apollo". Kirk even said that he would bring the images of the porno actresses into the bedroom with his wife; how could he not. Tammy also expressed self-esteem issues when confronted with her husband's unusual sexual requests and addiction to porn.
Now enough of re-cap. Several things stuck out in my mind as a result of the interview.
- If Jesus was a rap star , he'd be the Tupac of Christianity -- Jesus was many things --- he was a revolutionary, he was a preacher, he was doctor/healer, he was a man of the people. He dedicated his life to the fulfillment and bequeathal of unconditional love and service to humankind. Now this is in no way an attempt to compare Jesus and Tupac because trust me, Tupac is no Jesus but they are both being pimped in death. Tupac, like B.I.G., is an icon of hip-hop. Upon his murder, his music was used to promote the careers of other artists. Likewise, Jesus is the MAN in Christianity. Upon his death, his image has been pimped for the benefit of hoards of people -- leaders, priests, religious icons, colonizers, etc. In essence, I believe Kirk Franklin's use of gospel and in essence Jesus was pimpin'. Clearly the man was knee deep in demons, pornography literally consuming his life since he was eight. After concerts, he would engage in crazy sex with multiple people and then consume himself in more porn immediately after. Jesus was clearly not on his mind but maintaining his lifestyle was, so he continued to sing in the name of Jesus and do his dirt.
- Black Male Heterosexual Politics (Briefly) -- Black men have always been portrayed as extremely sexual people with humongous sexual urgies and instincts and the equipment to back it up. But its my contention that this behavior is many times taught if not encouraged in the Black community. Specifically in the music industry, Black men are expected to be sexual. Music videos ARE porn, especially in hip-hop. Kirk Franklin is pretty much credited with bring gospel to the mainstream, often blending funk and hip-hop beats into his music. He grew up without a real male figure and being introduced to porn and sexuality at such a young age compounded with the horrendous example of overtly promiscuous married men in church, his resulting obsession with porn is not surprising. Men are expected to be sexual, especially Black men.
- Performance as Performance, not Performance as Reality -- Kirk Franklin is a performer. Kirk Franklin is a man. These are facts. I think its important that people do not confuse celebrity, image and performance as virtual markers of reality. These are images promoted to sell a product, whether that product is music, fantasy, a movie, etc. Audiences often confuse the performance with the person. This confusion often leads to revelations of hypocrisy and disappointment. Pornography is a type of performance, a fantasy that's purpose is to fill a void or offer temporary fulfillment to certain needs. For Kirk, the hypocrisy is compounded more than let's say a revelation that Lloyd Banks's is addicted to pornography because of his supposed commitment to God and gospel music career. Performance is people just that ---- performance.
- The Strong Black Woman Archetype -- I have a problem with this term. I admire and do respect the strength that Black women have timelessly exhibited but I feel this image has become essentialized. Compound this with the sexism too often found in most religions and I believe this causes women to develop silent psychoses. (Read Charlotte Perkins Gilman's brilliant The Yellow Wall Paper) Tammy was almost a little too calm and forgiving for my comfort. Even Oprah exclaimed, "Come on Tammy, you're not Jesus"! Kirk frequently repeated that Tammy was a strong woman, strong Black woman and Tammy sat there quietly and smiled, supporting her man. Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that Kirk shouldn't be supported but damn -- this man was addicted to porn during your entire marriage (before ya'll even met) and brought these women into their bedroom (figuratively of course). What I appreciated so much about Terry McMillian's interview is her unabashed honesty. She got upset! She felt and she let this man know how much he hurt her and how deceitful he was. I think Tammy was held back by her religion and the image of the strong Black woman.
nugatory -- adj: 1. Trifling; insignificant; inconsequential 2. Having no force; inoperative; ineffectual
"Illusion is the first of all pleasures"
--- Oscar Wilde