Porn in Spirit

Porn is everywhere. Everywhere. It is, in fact, becoming mainstream, in fits and starts. How are we to react to this fact of existence, in the technologies of the 21st century? As for the Christian reaction, many of the faith point to one certain quote that Jesus Christ was supposed to have said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (NIV) But according to better translators, it is more correctly put this way: “You heard it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman in order to covet her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” [Jason Staples] And this makes far more sense, for it is a smaller leap from coveting to adultery than just plain lust to adultery. The latter juxtaposition in fact seems almost non-sequitor.

Even without that quote, lust is pretty much frowned upon in Christian circles. After all, it’s one of the traditional 7 deadly sins (pride, envy, lust, gluttony, sloth, wrath, greed), though these are not biblical. The more liberal interpretation of these to say, not that we shouldn’t enjoy ourselves—just not to excess. Eat, but don’t pig out. Relax, but don’t be a bum, etc., etc. So can we desire? If we are not being a lech? Or is it that we are not supposed to even look at a naked body without being married to it? Well, as far as nakedness goes, once in the Bible Isaiah went around naked for 3 years. He did it as a “sign and a portent”, but obviously it was not so great a sin as all that. And too, sex itself, even “illicit” sex, does not seem to be so bad a thing, as when the crowd brought around a woman who was caught being adulterous, and Jesus said to them, “Let he without sin cast the first stone.” But what would Jesus think about the technology serving the lust that seems to infiltrate every corner of our lives?

Myself, I would consider what kind of sexuality that Our Lord and Savior might approve of. Let’s try taking him out of first century Judea and plopping him down into our time. And here, I think he would be fine with sex outside of marriage, I think, because it doesn’t mean the same thing as it once did—we have contraception, and inheritance laws are not as much a preponderance (there is DNA testing to tell who the real father is, after all). I do believe he would think that love need be involved, though. So… if those kind of couples—if they wanted to record their nakedness, could they then be in the clear sharing it with other people? Exposing themselves to the world? This would probably be called the most “moral” shores of the porn world.

Other traveled parts would probably be in the same basic landscape of prostitution: sex for money, right? Though it is in a situation where the principals might be able to choose whom to “conjugate” with. And if this is so, it might be possible that perhaps if one’s libido is up to it, some of those involved might actually be people who enjoy their work. Not saying everyone, but one might conjecture there are at least some. Of course, there is no love involved, one guesses, so we wouldn’t have the Lord’s blessing on such unions, but then, would these sins really that bad? We come back to the question of whether exposing oneself in the act is that worthy of condemnation. Sure, we should keep it away from children, but when those producing and those consuming these stuffs are in mutual consent, where everyone is of age and no one was forced—is it so bad?

Of course, there is addiction to consider. Anything that significantly reduces one’s quality of life… if porn is getting in the way of real, flesh-and-blood relationships, then that is a problem. But we have the same problems with alcohol, and other stuffs. There’s also how porn is objectifying women, yes? But so does advertising. And music videos. We probably need an overhaul of how we look at the female sex in general, friend. As for the more “moral” amateur couples, they might want to think about the repercussions of having it all hang out for the entire world to see, but if they’re fine with it, what’s wrong with that? It used to be that marriages were arranged and happened pretty much at puberty, and sex happening there was called normal then. No love needed be involved. Now that we’re marrying later and later, and if we are in a dry spell, porn is very convenient. No, Jesus wouldn’t 100% approve, either making or getting, for most of the cases. But you know what? I think he’d forgive us. Pretty easily, too.

You can believe in the Jesus that takes literally the quote, “If your right arm offends you, cut it off. Better that than your whole body cast into Hell.” But if you really take that view, that only the most saintly people are saved, indeed, only the fully righteous, believe you me that that means almost no one is saved—and that probably means not you, either. Think about this: from the Son of God’s teachings, early Christians (St. Paul in particular) thought that Jesus was coming back sometime in the first century or maybe early second century. It didn’t happen. Every generation since then has thought that it would be the last generation. Life, instead, goes on. And at that point, there are two ways to take scripture: “What is the word saying to us, as literally as we can make it?” or “What is the spirit of the message, and how can we apply it to our life and our world?” Both ways are prone to error, of course. (The proponents of the former think that by being literal that they are therefore more correct. But it might be theirs which is the heresy.)

I digress. The ones who believe in the Jesus that would throw you into Hell because your right hand… does that… and welcomes only the judgmental prudes into the Kingdom… you think the one who asks, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” for the ones who were murdering him… do you truly think he is that petty a bookkeeper? Your fathers were wrong, too, thinking the rapture would be upon them, and they died normal deaths. Why not deal with what the world has to offer, instead of pretending certain parts of that world don’t exist? The genie is out of the bottle. Utopia may be unworkable, but it would be a certain type of dystopia where such rigidly puritan views of how things should be were made the law of the land.

Porn, interesting to say, might be the canary in the coal mine. Yes, there are those who enjoy their work therein, but it is usually a rough life. The young girls who are the current staple crop: why do they do it? Lack of other opportunity. And porn is everywhere. Google had to change the way pictures could be searched, that porn results could only be retrieved if you specified “porn” or “naked” or something. That was because porn would show up within basically any search results, somewhere, whatever you were searching for. This is called Rule 34: there is a porn version of it, whatever “it” is. How on earth are we to deal intelligently with it? Because rendering the world a 1984 to kill it would be a Pyrrhic victory indeed. One bets North Korea has no porn problem. Could it actually be surgically excised from our society? Would we even want to if we could?

Another word for porn is “erotica”. Usually that moniker is reserved for sexually explicit works that are more artistic in nature, but really, their definitions are the same: sensory material that invokes sexual arousal. Also usually, it is determined either one or the other based on what people call “taste”, but you know there’s no accounting for that. If we ban pornography, do we also ban erotica? Could Rodin’s “The Kiss” be counted as erotica? Shall we ban that, too? Or even a part of the Bible, the “Song of Songs”? Might we consider that erotica, too? Except that it is the most tasteful of the varieties? Yes, we draw the line somewhere, but exactly where might that be? and who is to decide it? Not that I’m equating the “Song of Solomon” with “Fisting Lolitas” or something, but if no one is hurt in making it or partaking of it, can we really take the moral high ground, ever?

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. What is more immoral, the one who lets a homeless person die by neglect or the one who beats off to the sights and sounds of other people having sex? Some politicians legislate the former and call it righteousness. Remember that the real sin of Sodom was that they did not help the poor and needy (see Ezekiel 16:49). The word “sodomy” was coined in the Middle Ages meaning what it mean today. It would seem that judgment of others comes from them doing different things wrong than what you are doing, and that probably would include the judging in this essay. But then, what shall we do, right? Shall we not speak up about anything at all? Shall we, about porn, all just become porn stars?

The proliferation of porn is based on the satisfaction of humankind’s most primal urge. It’s mostly geared towards men because (sorry ladies) they usually want it more, at least in the way that can be easily pictured. So what, exactly, can be done about it? If you demonize it, if you make it forbidden fruit, they’ll want it more. But if you make it mainstream, there’ll be even more than there is now. Porn is everywhere now, but it threatens to be EVERYWHERE. This is the legitimate fear. But like we’ve said, the genie’s out of the bottle… and done very bad, bad things to it.

What we can do for starters: how about we have a little education? Or even a lot? At least some. And as we know from the failure of abstinence-only sex education, “Just say no” is not going to cut it. And for addicts? We should think about coming up with some kind of scientifically based treatment, as we have for other addictions. This essay could be seen to be “bleeding heart liberal” about this: addiction is a disease. For when it does cause some harm, let’s stop that harm, not blindly punish what we think is “wrong”.

One thing we cannot do is to ignore the situation. No, we are not going to be able to make pornography illegal. If you want to make a dent in it at all, we must really change the underlying structure of society, at least where it leaves cracks for the unfortunate to fall through. Treat it like you would treat prostitution for the workers, and that’s not to say to make it verboten: those who do it who don’t really want to should be able to have an opportunity otherwise. And for the consumers, treat it like you would treat alcohol: if you see someone whose life is turning for the worse because of it, stage an intervention. There are going to be those who consume a lot and can still do perfectly well in their other facets of their existence, and there are going to be teetotalers, who don’t want to see a bare body part if it’s not in person and belonging to someone that they’re involved with. Neither side should judge the other.

Repeating: pornography is everywhere. At least, on the internet. Perhaps you can keep it away from our younger people, but they tend to adapt to technology much more naturally than those who would keep anything out of their reach. Repeating: educate them. Until puberty, they will ignore it if you actually explain it to them. It simply does not register until the hormones kick in. And even when they do, almost all of them would rather have someone to kiss than spend their time on pictures of something “harder” than that. Even if it’s true you’ll never know what exactly they’ll attune to. Some kids turn into heroin addicts, literally or metaphorically. It’s one of the dangers of the modern world. Don’t make them face that world without something of a map, because knowledge is power. Repeating (sort of): research shows teen pregnancy goes way up if you teach abstinence only. Sending them into battle without arms gets them picked off far more easily.

The last point is that erotica can be beautiful. And once again, beauty is a personal thing, so where you draw the line from “art” entering the realm of the “perverse”—don’t force your viewpoint on someone else, and instead you should let everyone draw their own boundary. Just don’t harm anyone else, or yourself. That’s it. Practical. In either making it or partaking of it. Jesus Christ said that not everyone would (should?) become celibate, that such would be a gift from God. Some people are more of the world, some have a greater spiritual side. Neither side should ignore the other. Treat them like you would like to be treated, with respect. Intelligently, do that, where you walk the world. We are all of us different, and we are all of us the same: we are human beings. You, and the other person. Don’t forget it about the other person.