This post will not be for the faint of heart, and is questionable for children to read. It will not be explicit, but it will be difficult to explain and understand without context.
As an early-thirty-something male, I’ve found myself trying to fill voids I didn’t know I was trying to plug. In fact, I have tried to fill voids that didn’t even exist, particularly in terms of my own sexuality. I am certain I am not alone in this regard. I am not sexually promiscuous by nature, but that does not mean that I have not objectified women in my heart.
I am speaking, of course, about sexual imagery, up to and including pornography. In today’s world, sex is absolutely everywhere. Television, print and internet are virtually inextricable from our lives, and pornography and other sexual content is inextricable from those media. It is ubiquitous, much of it is free, and it is varied and multitudinous. My previous post was partly about standards of beauty, and how they are bullies in our lives. Now, I’d like to make a point against the sexual nature of much of this imagery. I find it condemnable, but perhaps not for the reasons I expected. There are plenty of verses about committing these acts, and this is only a smattering of the most obvious ones:
“Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18).
“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).
“For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world” (John 2:16).
Yes, of course the Bible warns us about adulterous thoughts and actions, and particular about adulterous women–as though being an adulterous man is any better–saying that they are sinful. That may well be, but my objection to lustful, sexual imagery (explicit or otherwise) is that it is hurtful, and in ways to which I never really thought I was susceptible.
Firstly, if sex surrounds a person, and sex is everywhere all the time, it perverts expectations about what is actually “sexy.” This is particularly true of pornography, but is also true of Victoria’s Secret commercials, of daytime soap-operas, and even of prime-time dancing competitions. We see what society tells us “sexy” looks like, and what sex looks like, and the bar is set impossibly high. Instead of valuing things like independence, self-confidence, and good humor, we look at someone’s shape, height, and the amount of skin they’re willing to show us.
Secondly, when we see sex everywhere, it becomes difficult to blur the line between what is meant to be sexualized, and what should be humanized. I feel like I’ve been conditioned to see sexual context everywhere I look. This has put tremendous strain on my personal relationships, even if I haven’t been able to see it in the moment. It also puts strain on my worldview, friendships, and courtships.
Thirdly, when we see other people each other as objects, even when that “object’s” beauty is revered, we lose sight of that person’s humanity. When we see a man treat a woman like his plaything in a video, or see a woman prettied and made to look like a doll in a photograph while she sexualizes herself with a pouting face, we start to see them as playthings and dolls. When women fawn over a well-muscled man with a pretty face, that man is likewise reduced to a piece of flesh, and he is treated with similar disrespect. Ultimately, this hearkens back to the golden rule, which I’ve written about before. If I am not loving my neighbors as I love myself, then I am being disrespectful of them.
Finally, and in relation to my previous post, these sexual images amplify my own insecurities. Like I said, I’m not a bad-looking guy, but if I compare myself to models and adult stars, of course I will find shortcomings. Worse, I will start to think that everyone else sees those same shortcomings in me.
In the end, the person I have hurt most by partaking in these indulgences is myself. Perhaps the most poignant verse I could find was from Proverbs, Chapter 6, verses 31 and 33, where it is written “He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. He will get wounds and dishonor . . .” As the verse says, these wounds are self-inflicted.
For this reason, I have made a conscious decision to abstain from pornography and lustful imagery. Some of it is easy to avoid, but some of it is decidedly more difficult; in some cases I must make a conscious decision to turn away. Do I really believe that looking at a woman lustfully would condemn me? The point is irrelevant. My true aim–my deepest desire–is to love others as I want to be loved, and to treat them how I would want to be treated. I am greater than what I look like, even on my best days, and I should endeavor to see others that same way.
As a great teacher of mine (Yoda) once said: “Luminous beings are we! Not this crude matter.” We must see that luminosity.