If you don’t already know this, my number one policy in blogging is this: be honest. Honesty takes precedent over thoroughness (as in, sometimes I will allude to honesty but I will not expound at risk of putting someone else under the bus) although thoroughness is very helpful when it’s possible.
The following entry has been on my mind for a while now, and it’s something I’ve hesitated greatly on. This could make or break me. I may or may not post this on my other social media outlets, and I’ll be frank: I’m somewhat scared of this.
But alas, here goes.
I hate pornography for a number of reasons, not least of which is its detrimental perspective towards women; its potential to skew perspectives towards sex; its addictive qualities; and its ability to create unreal schema about sex.
I hate pornography because of its grey nature that people try to mask as black and white. What I mean is that people try to categorize things into what’s porn and what’s not porn, and in my opinion – if you’re using it to masturbate, if you start to get an erection, then it’s porn. I almost said it’s “probably” porn, but no – it’s porn. They don’t have to have their clothes off for it to be porn. It doesn’t have to be in motion to be porn. It doesn’t even have to be intercourse to be porn. It can be nude photography. It can be a webcam feed of a girl who sits there naked. It can be a girl in a bikini. It can be a brief scene in a movie that’s not even sexual in nature, but involves the removal of clothes.
I can say that because I have used all of those before. We are, I believe, too conservative in our use of the word “pornography.”
I hate pornography because it gives you such a wide range of choices: do you want a brunette today, or a blonde? A redhead? Skinny, or only sorta-skinny (because let’s face it, most of our sexualized culture favors the skinny.) Big or small breasts? Inside or outside? Wearing anything fun or playful, like an apron or a nurse hat?
I hate that aspect of porn because the reality is that if you want to have a monogamous relationship, you don’t get a choice. Your spouse is your “type,” your spouse is your choice. If your spouse is 25 years old, 5’7″, 120 lbs with brown hair, you don’t get to choose between a teenager and a twenty-something. You can’t choose their hair color, or their weight. But porn gives you those options, and it’s disgusting for that. I don’t even have to call it disgusting – it’s just plain unrealistic.
The reality is that pornography sets you up as a consumer. It tells your brain to approach sex as something that is for you, something you can set your parameters for, something that is entirely self-serving. Sex isn’t self-serving. Not real sex, anyway – not good sex.
Good sex exists between two people who love each other, who trust each other, who don’t have to walk on thin ice with each other. Good sex exists between two people that have seen each other at their worst and stay patient and committed.
Like a sacrament, sex is an outward display of an inward grace – it is literal, physical vulnerability and nakedness leading to oneness and connectedness which represents the inward versions of that: emotional vulnerability, total honesty, sharing all things, accepting every detail, the beautiful and the ugly.
Pornography doesn’t prepare you for that. Pornography tells you that if someone doesn’t shave their pubic hair, then you can just readjust the search engine to get someone who does. But your spouse doesn’t exist within a search engine.
Pornography doesn’t prepare you for the awkward parts of sex – the initiation, the questioning of “is this really happening?” or “do you want to right now?” Pornography doesn’t set you up for rejection. Pornography doesn’t prepare you for when your partner says, “not tonight.” If anything, pornography sets you up to always get your way, and when things don’t go your way, there’s no telling how you’ll react.
In pornography, you’re the boss. And while that may sound good to all the frat guys out there, it’s not a good thing if you want to be…well…a generally decent person.
Sex is one of the following for everyone: god, gross, or a gift.* If it’s god, you’ll do whatever it takes to get it. it’s the highest priority. You serve it, you keep coming back to it, it’s your greatest desire, and you worship it. If it’s gross, you avoid it. You’re afraid of it. You don’t want to touch it, and when you do, YOU feel gross.
But if it’s a gift, then it’s handled well. It’s not something you can lose, it’s not something you grip too tight, it’s not something you can hold too loosely. It’s something you give, and something you receive. It’s a two way street of giving and receiving.
The world, however, doesn’t look at it that way. The world articulates it as “getting some,” “getting off,” “Netflix and chill,” “screwing,” “messing around,” etc. etc. We’ve managed to take a holy, sacred thing, and make it ordinary. And that’s less disgusting and appalling and more sad.
It’s sad to have two people who are incapable of keeping up a relationship over a long distance have sex. It’s sad to have a guy who gets annoyed when his girlfriend gets sad or remotely emotional and yet they still have sex, and then they break up because he can’t stand her anymore.
It’s sad to have two strangers who meet at a party and find each other attractive go back to one of their places, have sex and never talk to each other again.
It’s sad to have two people who are divided on what they’d do if they got pregnant (abort or keep) have sex.
Am I old-fashioned? Sure. Too romantic? Romantic, maybe – but not too romantic.
The reality is this: we can choose to look at sex purely as animals. It’s a need to be fulfilled, it’s something to be done for reproduction.
If you want to look at it that way, then that’s one thing. In my opinion, it’s not very decent – you risk a lot of hurt feelings (because as much as we want to detach emotions from it, there’s a lot of chemical release in sex, usually bonding chemicals that draw two people together) you risk pregnancy and either a fatherless child or a murdered child, you risk a lot of disease, etc. So – that’s one option.
Or, you can look at it as sacred. To me, that makes a lot more sense. It makes sense that if I’m going to let someone see every aspect of me, I’m going to make that emotional and spiritual – not just physical. It makes sense that if I’m possibly going to impregnate someone, I’m going to be around tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after. And the day after. Etc. It makes sense to me that if I’m going to have total physical unity with someone, I’m also going to have total emotional unity. The sex will be preceded and followed with, “I love you.” (quick aside: how the hell does our culture think “I love you” is so weird when sex is so casual?)
I realize that I sound pretty damn fundamental here, but here’s the reality: in the past, I looked at abstinence and chastity and celibacy and virginity as something you do because it’s right. I believe that, but instead of saying “I still believe that” it’s more technically accurate to say, “I believe that again.”
I believe that after having discussions about whether or not I should have sex with a girl, and we didn’t agree on what to do if we had an accident. I believe that after lots of back-and-forth decision making on what we should do. I believe that after being told “I don’t want to mess around” when I didn’t even make a move.
And, I value it more now – I understand more than ever the good and the bad of it. Intimacy is fun, and it feels good – but man, does it burn when that person disappears from your life. It’s not so easy to shake off.
So, in a weird way, I’m almost thankful for how messed up our culture is when it comes to sex – I’m not thankful for the damage its caused so many people – it’s almost a back-handed thanks: thanks for showing that it doesn’t work to just get off; thanks for showing that there’s a very-less-than-best way of going about the whole sex thing.
*Borrowed this idea from Mark Driscoll.