Living in a XXX culture

Growing up and living in the evangelical sub-culture, pornography has always been presented as one of the great evils. Yet pornography and its current mass availability worries far more than just those from a conservative religious viewpoint.

It’s mass availability it proving a problem for lots of people, not least pornographers. Hilton Hotels is phasing out on-demand porn in its hotels not because it’s the right thing to do but because guests who want to watch porn will use their laptop instead.

This mass availability has slashed profits and driven many pornographers out of business. However, in a bid to keep the money pouring in – performers are being paid less and are asked to do more extreme acts.

As an aside the article also flagged up a key idea for anyone wanting to campaign against it: lobby Visa & MasterCard to refuse to process payments to porn sites, as American Express has done.

The Economist recently hosted a debate about online pornography and it’s worth engaging with – even, for once, the comments. It’s revealing (if you’ll pardon the pun) in many ways – not least about how the foundations, or lack of, for ethics and morals that these very intelligent people have.

Too often the only Christian response has been something like this.

It’s true as far as it goes, which as is the case with pornography, is not far enough. Pornography is sex in isolation, sex removed from context, from life and often corrupted. And showing, as this has done, a comment removed from life and context it doesn’t give the full picture.

According to the rules of modern culture to make a winning argument we cannot appeal to revelation but research (only to peer-reviewed evidence based is best). As The Economist points out, “A survey in 2013 by British researchers found more than 2,000 papers related to the effects of porn on teenagers. Only 79 based their conclusions on solid evidence.”

Our arguments, based on an understanding of the Bible, should put forward a clear vision of human flourishing (that word gets used too much). A better approach is to set the call to holiness and purity (which I agree with) in the context of understanding of what has gone wrong and a compelling presentation of how relationships and sex should be.

Trevin Wax offers a summary of five steps in shaping sexuality in the 21st century based on Jonathan Grant’s highly recommended book Divine Sex.

  1. Sex has been separated from procreation
  2. Sex has been separated from marriage
  3. Sex has been separated from partnership
  4. Sex has been separated from another person
  5. Sex has been separated from our bodies

This neatly shows where things have departed from God’s intent. In contrast then an approach similar to these 6 marks of healthy sexuality outlined by Gary Thomas is helpful.

  1. Christian sex is always relational sex
  2. Christian sex supports a relationship rather than being the relationship
  3. Christian sex confronts rather than perpetuates sexual brokenness
  4. Healthy Christian sexuality is about mutually shared pleasure
  5. Christian sex is based in truth
  6. Christian sex affirms your sense of self

Yet the scary thing is, as with most social experiments, is that we have no idea what the effects of this ocean of porn will be. As Christians we must avoid silly scare-mongering but it is very legitimate to ask some questions.

If we ask the question what damage is the mass and often free availability of pornography doing to our culture? Then the honest answer is we don’t yet know. It is the teens of today who are the first to grow up (not with pornography, that’s always been around) but with free pornography, filmed pornography (one of the reasons why Playboy is passé now) and extreme pornography.

It already seems to be shaping expectations around sex – young women (maybe all women) are facing greater pressures into agreeing to anal sex for example. Here’s an example from a recent article in The Economist:

In a study published last year, researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine sought to find out whether porn played a part in young people’s decisions to have anal sex. They interviewed 130 16 to 18-year-olds, some in groups and some alone. Both sexes regarded it as likely to be pleasurable for men but painful for women, at least if they were “uptight” or “naive”. Many of the young men described pressing girlfriends to consent; young women said they continued to be asked, sometimes forcefully, even after repeated refusals.

There are many aspects to our culture that do not align with the Gospel. Consumerism is one of them, the goal of personal-fulfilment and self-actualization is another. Pornography is just another one on a long-list.

I’m a parent to a 7-year old boy and a 5-year old girl. In the scarily-near future the likelihood is that they will hear someone talking about, go looking for it or even have a friend show them porn on a smart phone or computer. I need to be prepared, but more importantly I need to prepare them.

I can’t be afraid of talking about pornography with my children – porn cannot be the best source of my children’s sex education and neither can I trust the schools to do that job for me. I certainly cannot rely on their friends.  No, the job to give my children a healthy understanding of sex, a realistic understanding of the world and its current views on sex – no that will be up to me and their mother.

All that to say, this is why I appreciated this article by Paul Malan about the naked people in your iPod, a glimpse into a conversation with his son about porn. I appreciated how Paul, a mormon, approached the topic – not simply it’s wrong but why it isn’t wise.

He concludes with this piece of advice

You are a clever primate, and you are wired to get turned on by porn. That’s simple physiology. But that doesn’t mean porn makes your world a better place, and it doesn’t mean porn will help you feel connected to others. And that’s really what a meaningful life is about.

The goal in parenting, as with all Christian discipleship, is to train not simply to know the right from the wrong but to grow in faith & wisdom so that we choose it.

Photo by trash world

Leave a Reply