The topic of pornography and sexual ethics is the subject of today’s podcast with Amber Impellizzeri and co-sister/founder, Ashley Giovannucci of Across My Heart. This dynamic sister team speaks out together addressing the banner of sexual ethics in today’s society. Join us for Part I of a two-part podcast with two encouraging sisters in Christ who are passionate about God’s GOOD design from sexuality. ******
Welcome to Empowering Lives with Purpose. And I’m your host, Kimberly Hobbs. I’m the founder of Women world leaders. And we are so happy that you joined us today whether you are new to the women world leaders podcast, or you have joined us hundreds of times we are so happy you are here and we are praying that today, God will share something with you so special to your heart through our topic and what we are talking about today and it is my pleasure to introduce our guest today. I have Ashley Giovannucci. And her sister Amber Amber Impellizzeri. Welcome, ladies, so happy to have you.
Thank you for having us. We’re excited to be here. Yes, we’re very, very excited to talk with you today.
We are excited to have you and today is going to be stepping out of the box and being bold and courageous about what we’re talking about. Today we are talking about the banner of sexual ethics. So we are excited we are prayed up, we ask God for his content that he wanted us to share. And so we pray that you will be blessed today as you listen in and hear about what God has to say. He says that he is working in you ladies giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him. That’s Philippians 213. And it is our hope, as we said, by listening in today that God will touch your heart, maybe spark an idea for you to act upon truth and walk it out in your special purpose. And if this podcast impresses in your heart to share it with somebody we ask that you do because there are so many out there that need hope and healing in Jesus. And that’s our desire to share with you today. So I want to talk to you a little bit about our guests. They are special sisters that God allowed a divine connection to happen between women world leaders, and these two ladies and their ministry. So with over 10 years of experience teaching sexual ethics, Amber and Ashley co founded a cross my heart ministry in 2010 to help the next generation navigate all the confusing messages about sexuality. They do not shy away from any topic, tackling everything from pornography to abstinence, healthy relationships and same sex attraction. Four years ago, they took their ministry online with a team of other young women who are also passionate about God’s good design for sexuality. And together, they’ve written hundreds of blogs encouraging young women to follow God’s ways. Amber is a high school science tutor teaching biology, chemistry and physics. And Ashley is a student at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary earning her master’s in Biblical studies. They live in West Michigan with their husbands, and they are busy raising their toddlers and their babies together. They’ve had the opportunity to speak on the national level and local levels. And they host annual conferences. Last fall, they lamp launched yada yada, which is a podcast, where they get to teach the heart of Christian sexual ethics. Wow, you ladies are busy. And I am proud to serve with you as sisters in Christ. So let’s dive right in. And I’m going to ask you both to share a little bit about your story of growing up and we to where God has led you now in Cross your heart ministry. So that’s gonna be a lot in a short content. So listen up to how they started, ladies.
Well, growing up in Western Michigan, we grew up in a very conservative, very Christian culture. And a lot of the young women that were our friends that were our age, learning about God’s design for sexuality. We’re in what was called kind of the purity movement in the 1990s, early 2000s. And there was a lot of good content being taught about, you know, the gift of sex and God’s design for a husband and a wife to share sexual intimacy. But oftentimes the message was presented in a way that cast a lot of shame, and that almost made it seemed like if you did all the right things, you’d be rewarded. Yeah. And then it was very much. So a list of do’s and don’ts, and kind of missed the heart of why, like it was like to, you know, be able to get married and have sex. And these are all the things you don’t do. And if you make it to your wedding night, then you’re pure. Yeah. And it just marked miss the heart. And so what we saw was in a lot of, you know, girls our age who are learning these things, they were trying to follow all the right, the right rules, but they didn’t have that love for Jesus. And so it created a lot of hypocrisy. And we were just like this, something’s missing here. So in high school, I mean, we were I was a high school student, you had just started started college, we said, Okay, let’s get together and do a girl’s neck just like a fun girls night for the middle school girls at our church have kind of a time where we talk about love and relationships and saving sex for marriage, but cast it under the vision of this, this love for God, and really making him our number one love. And so we did it for the first time. And it was just our hearts passion. I mean, we had the greatest time with these middle school girls, that we started doing it again and again for other churches. And before we knew it, we had done this kind of overnight girls night curriculum, all biblically based for hundreds of girls in the West Michigan area, dozens of churches were getting on board, we were doing these all night retreats, and it was just a great season, that then blossomed into something more. Yeah. Because on one of those retreats, and I’ll never forget it, we have these high school, young high school, late middle school girls come forward, really talking about their struggles with pornography. And it kind of turned the direction of our ministry, from just talking about, you know, saving sex for marriage, and the beauty of God’s designed for relationships, to having to tackle the hard stuff, the shame, little addiction that exists in our culture, as early as you know, these middle school girls that we were getting to know. And so about three or four years ago, taking our ministry online, forming a larger team and starting to talk about things like pornography, same sex attraction, and really not being afraid to, you know, tackle maybe some of the tougher topics that that this that this generation is facing. Exactly. And we’ve really kind of seen it evolve in the last 10 years where, like those, those weren’t things that we talked about when we first started, not because we were trying to avoid it. But even 10 years ago, it wasn’t something that these girls were even really bringing up to talk about. But then eight years, seven years, five years ago, it was like, Okay, wow, yeah, the cult, like, it’s changing, the environment out there is changing, and what these girls are being exposed to and taught. And just, especially with social media, we have to start engaging with these topics. And this next generation needs hope more than ever, because we grew up in a generation where, you know, it was maybe still the norm to talk about, like, Oh, you, you know, wait to have sex when you get married, or, you know, you, you know, just things that were more normal today. You know, the statistics show that only 3% of Americans even save sex for marriage. And 25% of all, search engine, you know, people on online searching for things are looking for pornography. So it’s just overwhelming statistics that show our our culture, our world at large, need hope that it is possible, to walk in God’s ways, even from a really young age. And that’s I think, when we say what our story is, we don’t have a super exciting, radical story of, you know, this just like crazy testimony of your second generation Christians, our parents are the ones that have the really exciting testimonies. We were blessed to be raised in a in a Christian home. But I think because of that, like it’s a it’s a rare testimony. It might not be like him, but you said it well. It’s rare. It’s rare. And it’s not because of anything that we were able to do on our own strength. But because of the power of the Holy Spirit working in our hearts and lives a very young at a young age and also in our husbands lives that we can actually say that that’s something that we were able to save for marriage. And like, I just it’s exciting to be able to share that not so Congratulations, us know, a lot of things. You’re weird. People out there that do that. Yeah, I know there’s people out there that still do that. And you can, it’s okay if you’re one of those people and want to be one of those people.
Yes, absolutely, ladies, I just I am so thankful to God, how he had you raised in a Christian home, you’re a second generation, daughters of the King. And I am just thrilled to have you on today talking about this topic. And he has, I think fast paced you into where you are today. Because there’s so much going on, that you got a lot of training in your upbringing, about biblical truths about the the wisdom that God wants us all to carry. And we can all have that wisdom. If we ask God for it, he’s tells us in giant James one, five, if any of us lack wisdom, let us ask God, and he’ll give it to us generously. And in just in conversation with you ladies, he has poured out His wisdom on you. And I just so deeply admire that, you know, as you speak, and we’re going to do two part podcasts, actually, because these ladies have so much to unpack here. So as you just started to talk about porn and the different wide stretch, technology and social media, porn is so rampant in our society, in our cultures, it is spread rapidly, right? And we have drifted so far from God’s design for us. And that’s what I’d like you to share about right now is, we have drifted far from God’s design, haven’t we?
Absolutely. And you know, the thing about pornography, when we’re talking to the next generation to really understand that it’s formative. And they’re being exposed to it at younger and younger ages. I mean, the average age, a person for sees porn is now between eight to 11 years old. And 80% of those kids are stumbling upon it by accident, or someone showing it to them, they’re not searching it out, you know, their innocence is being taken from them because of the world in the culture we live in, because of technology, because of social influence. And so they’re exposed to something at a very young age that now is shaping their perception of others, and their perception of what a healthy relationship really should be. You know, we talk about dying, God’s good design for sex. And pornography is such an assault on that, because it’s really damaging to your own body, which Amber’s with her science background, I can share all of that information, but it’s also damaged the other person’s body. Now you might think the other person who’s, who’s the other person, it’s a screen, right? Like, how am I hurting another person? Well, when you start to look into the porn industry, a lot of these performers are really trapped in a cycle that they don’t want to be in. And so to have a heart of compassion for the other, and for those performers in this entertainment industry, and realizing those are people with souls and with stories, and we’re exploiting them and turning them into objects for our own enjoyment. Pornography really takes the human soul a human being made in the image of God, and turns them into an object to consume. And that is a dangerous way of looking at another person, you know, it’s harmful. If someone is even because they consent, someone will say, Oh, they want to do it. They’re consenting, they’re making money. But just because someone you know, asks to be shot with a gun, would you do it? No, of course not. And just because someone’s being asked to be shot with a camera, and a very demeaning, dehumanizing way, should you do it? Absolutely. not. Absolutely not. So it’s damaging to the performers, the people in the industry, but it’s, it’s actually damaging to us as the viewers as well, for kids who are being exposed to these things in early age, it’s changing their brains. Yeah, so So pornography actually can change the amount of brain matter. When it’s an addictive cycle, it can change actually the the amount of matter that’s making up your brain and cause certain parts of your brain to actually degrade when cotton and addictive cycle with it. But sexuality or sex in general, when God designed it, okay, he didn’t only design it to utilize reproductive organs. But the brain is actually very, very involved in sex. And there is a wash of different chemicals that come over the brain during that encounter. And there’s three key players okay, there’s three chemicals oxytocin, dopamine and prolactin, there are other ones involved. Those are kind of the three driving forces and dopamine is, is released many, many times during the day and in our lives. And it’s what helps us know that something is enjoyable. It is a part of like a reward circuitry. So when you hear your favorite song of joy, your favorite food, even when you complete like chocolate, that helps you like move towards a goal, like you get a dopamine release. And so it makes sense that this involved it with sex because sex feels good and does something pleasurable. And so dopamine is involved to kind of reinforce that, oh, this is something that we should do, again, because it felt good. And oxytocin is known as the bonding, the bonding chemical. And so it’s very important, like with newborn babies, that moms spend that skin to skin time because mom releases oxytocin and baby releases oxytocin, and it’s a part of bonding us to another human being. And so it makes sense that that also is released during sex. And then the final one is prolactin. And prolactin actually helps regulate dopamine levels. And it actually builds in the brain alongside oxytocin, and helps down regulate dopamine, so that it’s known as the safe sheet satiation part and actually help someone feel satisfied after sex, because it helps bring the dopamine levels down when it’s released. And with pornography, because there’s not another physical body involved. You don’t get that oxytocin release. And prolactin is tied to oxytocin. And so when you don’t get that oxytocin release, you don’t get that prolactin release, you still get the dopamine release, but the prolactin isn’t there. So it doesn’t down regulate the dopamine. So you just get this, this feels good, without it coming down properly. But also because that prolactin is associated with satisfaction, somebody gets in this addictive cycle because something feels good. But then they are actually satisfied, they don’t have that satisfaction, feeling. And so that, that dopamine just continues to drive, drive them back in it. And it becomes a cycle, an addictive cycle. Because of that, that dopamine not being properly regulated because of the lack of the other two that aren’t released properly. And what I love when we look at the brain like this, I think it really speaks to the way God created us in His image that we are created as relational beings, we were never meant to be alone. Sex is not meant to be a solo act. And we can see that as early as the garden right? God wastes no time talking about sex, he created Eve and Adam to be together. In fact, he says it is not good for man to be alone. And when he created Eve, it was this beautiful gift of love and intimacy for Adam and Eve to share with one another because God is relational. And we’re relational in his image. And so pornography really shows that when we try to cut ourselves off from the relational aspects that are core to who we are, it damages our brain, it creates this addictive cycles. And we might say here less and be like, okay, yeah, porn is bad, we get it. But how is this influencing the next generation, while parents are very naive about their kids exposure, or risk owed, that 75% of parents said, My kids have never seen porn. When those same kids who were surveyed, over 50% of them have watched porn by choice. Wow. naivety with parents when it comes to this topic, and so much of our ministry is sounding the alarm about just all of these conversations, because parents need to be having the sex talks with their kids, right? Not just one talk. It needs to be something that’s in the home, that they’re engaging and having conversations about God’s good design for sexuality, not that it’s, you know, something so bad that we need to avoid sex, but something so good that we want to protect it in the right time for God’s design.
Yes. And ladies, I encourage you to just super listen up because I know there’s so many listeners that have young children at home and you just said something that was just mind boggling to me about it starting this as early as eight and nine and 10. So, ladies, we need to be aware of what’s going on within our homes within our children’s lives. So this information, I just felt needed to be shared, like I said, with boldness and courage and God has a better way. He has seen all the different things that are going on in our world today in today’s society and statistics on porn and premarital sex even and living together, married, has become the normal and sin has distorted. Unfortunately, what God originally intended. So can you speak more to the women who are feeling that they’re dealing with some of these site types of sexual sins right now? You know, they they’ve seen pornography, they, you know, maybe in premarital situations where they’re living with somebody, and they’re not married yet. Can you talk about that? And speak to the woman, you know, on sexual sin?
Absolutely. I think what Amber shared about the brain and science can come to sometimes really scared people, they can think, oh, my gosh, I’m an addict. Now my kid’s gonna be an addict. It’s too late. There’s no hope. But we’re saying these things shape and form our desires. And that doesn’t mean you’re hopeless. It means where do you turn for that hope? How are our fears shaped and formed? Where do we go? When we’re angry? When we’re sad when we’re confused? What are we turning to? And this is a great place to invite in the Gospel, because the gospel is the best place to turn not to porn on not to sexual addictions. But where do we go when we maybe feel this hopelessness, and the brain is so fearfully and wonderfully made. And it actually has the ability to learn new paths. So you can have something feels so cemented such an addictive cycle is actually able to wire around those addictive pathways, you can form new habits, you can, you can basically, you can train your brain with the dopamine to human, like intentional, like pursuing after good things, and then being like, Oh, that was a really good choice. That helps me, you know, pursue what I know God has, has for me and almost like, not congratulating yourself in like a prideful way like, oh, yeah, me, but like recognizing, when you take a step towards what God has, and away from what you know, is destructive, you actually can train your brain to release dopamine for those things, and actually help help retrain and rewire. So, you know, being armed with this knowledge that your brain kind of, if you are an addict, addicted cycle is kind of working against you right now can actually empower you to then be like, Okay, let’s make it work for me. Let’s make it work for me. And knowing how to intentionally pray like God, I know these things have been wired in my brain, you know, help those things on wire? Because ultimately, like you have the power to the healing power to touch my body and help Yes, help, you know, and being able to pray specifically. Yeah,
Amber, I am so glad you just touched on that because I it, I want to share and be transparent here for a minute that in my past, I had struggled with sexual sin. And I felt there was an addiction there, I knew there was an addiction there. And I would cry out to God and cry out to God, but I wasn’t ready to make the changes I needed to do. And I love how you just shared about what is important when you are praying to God when you know there’s an issue going on in your life. How do you pray because there’s a specific way to pray, you know, of course, God hears me cried to him for help. And but if we can be aware of the ways to pray, you know, specifically to combat these addictions that are so, so very strong and praise God, you know, he reached me, he reached right through and he helped me so I will tell you right now that there is hope, because I think there was any hope for me, I would cry and cry, God just take away all my sexual desires. I don’t want to do this anymore, because I kept falling and falling. And it wasn’t until I took action. And I backed up my faith and my prayers.
I think that that’s, you know, humbling yourself recognizing, like, what do I actually have to do to get help? Who do I actually help and be vulnerable with because I think people so much still want to keep something a secret, they don’t want to bring out some thrives in the in the dark, it thrives. Don’t want to just like do the thing that’s unnecessary, because we still want to like try to like have a certain level of control sometimes Right? And, and just being able to just just get it out there and be vulnerable with somebody and you know what you need in order to to move towards God’s bestest like you know, the help that you need to ask for and just be willing to ask for it. Humble yourself to ask for it. And I think it’s important to recognize that all of us have have bent desires. Yeah, we all have desires for something, you know, sexual stuff might not be something that you personally struggle with that might not be where your desires have been distorted by sin. But we all have distorted desires for something that God says is not good. Right? And that’s, that’s human. Yeah, that’s the fall. We’ve all had this actually, you know, even in the garden, you know, it wasn’t the fact that she looked at the fruit and desired it, it was the fact that she acted on it. She eats. She just looked at it and been like, you know, that’s pretty that’s, I want it, but I’m going to trust that God knows better. Yep, I’m going to trust that. I’m not going to act on that desire. Yeah. But instead, she did. And that’s where that’s where sin entered. That’s what was wrong. And so to have these desires isn’t wrong, but act on our desires, our desire can lead us into sin. Yeah. But it’s really comes down to believing like you said that God knows best. Yep, that God knows best and that he wants what is best for us. So you know, this is hard, this is difficult. And like you said, we might not want to bring our sins struggles out into the light, and we might not want to have to deal with them. But it is, it is worth it. Because you are changing the course not only of your life, but future generations. Now we opened by Tony being second generation Christians. That’s because we had parents that were willing to break some of those generational sins and generational ties and raised us in a home that we didn’t have to unpack that baggage ourselves. They did that hard work. And they were very actually open with us. Yeah. About their struggle, things in their life.
Do you feel Amber and Ashley, like you just touched on that by them being open and transparent? Did that make a significant change? Absolutely. your teenage years.
They talked about their struggles, they talked about their stories, and the topic of sex was something in the home that wasn’t just a one time sex talk. But something that was a conversation brought up again and again, in different ways, as we struggled through, you know, just the trials of growing up and home with open communication, where we’re talking about God’s ways, being the best, believing that God actually does want what’s best for us. And ultimately, that God is what’s best for us. Whenever we talk about purity, we want to be careful not to fall into the purity culture that we grew up in, that made it seem like the reward for your right behavior was being blessed with a happily ever after. We want to be clear that the true reward for righteousness and pursuing Jesus is just that, Jesus, we get more of God and closeness and intimacy with Him. When we follow His ways. Matthew five eight tells us that’s it are the pure in heart for they will see God that you get to God clearly. And what more could you want in your life than to see God and I think, you know, we can, and we will, because like, we’re gonna we still have another episode that we’re we’re gonna be talking about the things that are going on in our world. But at the end of the day, the only like, we can sit and we can talk about same sex attraction, we can talk about transgender identities, we can talk about all this stuff at the end of the day, you know, the all the confusion in the world, it can only be be made sense of with the clarity that God brings to our lives. Yes. Because pursuing God with your whole heart that brings clarity, it brings clarity to the confusion, it brings clarity to the confusion in the world around us and the confusion of our own desires. Yeah, yeah. Because so much of sin is not is not about just doing what’s wrong. It’s about adoring what’s wrong. We need to and we love sin. You know, it’s not just wrongdoing. It’s wrong and dooring because we use what we love. And so when we fall deeper in love with God, you know, that is what really motivates us to work on some of these things in our life to kind of do the hard work and the humble work of admitting that, hey, I’ve got a problem and I, I need a Savior. You know, I need what God has. And when we when we grow in that love for our Lord. That’s that’s what’s truly transformative. Wow.
When we commit to Jesus, when we surrender to Him, our thoughts, he knows our thoughts. He knows our desires, just like we were talking about, right. He wants us to be happy. He wants us to thrive in how he designed our bodies and feel good, but there is a plan of execution for that. So ladies, I am just so thrilled that you have come on today. And we have so so much more to dive into in part two, because we are going to get on to some of those touchy things that are going on in our site society right now. Like premarital sex, everybody does it right. Everybody lives with each other in why not? You know, let’s just try it before we buy it. Right? And then what about LGBTQ and all the other things, we’re gonna get into that in our next week’s podcast. So I pray that you guys will join back in with us again, and be part and I want to thank you, Amber and Ashley, for taking your time today to come on and share the nuggets of truth that you did. And in next week, we’re gonna unpack even more. So any final words that you’d like to share with the ladies before we close up this week’s podcast?
Yeah, I think one of the things one of the things that we bring up a lot at our our route our retreats and our conferences, and kind of ties into what we’ve been talking about, you know, is that our obedience in regards to our sexuality, whether it’s our obedience or our repentance, they both honor God in you been on a path of obedience and you’re continuing on a path of obedience out of love for God, no, so not just out of like a fear of Pharisee like list of of doing the right thing but out of the love for God, or whether you you know, that you messed up, but you’re truly repentant over it. They both honor God, our sexual jewel repentance, both bring glory to God.
That is so good and so true and so powerful and I am so glad you share that word, Amber. Amen. Amen ladies. So we are going to close for now and remember ladies next week again, Amber and Ashley will both be back sharing with us and we will look forward to that and we want to close out with saying that you are special you are you are God’s masterpiece created a new and Christ Jesus to do the very good things he planned for you long ago. Ladies, he has a plan for your life. And it is his design, how he designed you that he wishes you to follow. So we’re gonna get into that next week. God bless you all, and thank you for tuning in today to women world leaders podcast. All content is copyrighted and cannot be used without express written consent. Thank you, Ashley and Amber Have a great day and we’ll tell you how you can get a hold of them after next week’s podcast.