“To pander to this world is to fornicate against you,” confesses Augustine to God. The worldly culture of today seems to be trying its best to actualize Augustine’s observation in literal terms. In a recent edition of New York Magazine, Naomi Wolf writes about “The Porn Myth,” and cites David Amsden who says that pornography is now the “wallpaper” of our lives.
Exhibit A in support of Amsden’s thesis is the latest issue of GIANT Magazine, which bills itself as “the ultimate entertainment magazine.” Reviewing all aspects of contemporary pop culture, GIANT offers insights into the latest gadgets, flicks, and fashion. It is generally not as explicitly titillating as pop journals like FHM, Maxim, or Stuff.
In the December/January issue of GIANT, we get the following three items. First, “Obscene of the Crime,” an overview of a government crackdown on Florida pornographers. Aliya S. King reports that in Pensacola, Florida, Clinton Raymond McCowen was part of a trio arrested “on charges of racketeering–conducting a criminal enterprise by engaging in prostitution and the manufacture and sale of obscene material.” King bemoans the priorities of law enforcement, sneering at the priority US Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has placed on “not drug trafficking, not white-collar crime, but obscenity.”
And just so you know what constitutes the legal difference between pornography and prostitution, Veronica Monet, a porn activist working to decriminalize prostitution, says, “Pornography is when a third party pays two people, presumably actors, to have sex with each other. How it distinguishes itself from prostitution is that he man having sex with the woman didn’t pay that woman. Instead, another person, the producer and/or director of that film, paid both of those people.” King writes that a conviction of McCowen “could begin to tumble that distinction.”
“When the attorney general,” writes King, “decides to focus attention on pornographers and obscenity and establishes a bureaucracy to tackle those objectives, cases will be made.” Lawrence Walters, McCowen’s attorney, says, “They can just pick anyone out of a barrel.” (More on federal action to fight child pornography here, based on photos of minors that are clothed, but include “lascivious poses one would expect to see in an adult magazine.” HT: Constitutionally Correct. The topic of the sexualization of youth in pop culture deserves an entire post of its own.)
Second, in this same issue of GIANT we are graced with an interview with Snoop Dogg (recently arrested after appearing on NBC’s “The Tonight Show”). When asked, “What king of father are you?” to his three kids, Snoop responds: “I don’t do it how normal people do it. I’m a friend more than a father. I’m the kind to let my kids taste champagne at my birthday–they didn’t like it.” Later on GIANT inquires of Snoop, “What have you told your sons about women?” His replies by citing a verse from one of his more famous anthems, “[Women] ain’t $#!@ but hos and tricks.” (He didn’t say whether or not he also teaches his kids the next lines in the song, which are rather more pornographically explicit.)
And finally, this same issue of GIANT features a 10 page spread on female porn stars who have gone from working in front of the camera to working behind it. Tera Patrick, a paragon of entrepreneurial spirit, says, “When I got into the industry, I made millions for everyone else. Now I make them for myself.” The features include vital statistics, such as the number of “sex scenes performed” by each of these “giants of the skin trade.”
does all this sexual imagery in the air mean that sex has been liberated—or is it the case that the relationship between the multi-billion-dollar porn industry, compulsiveness, and sexual appetite has become like the relationship between agribusiness, processed foods, supersize portions, and obesity? If your appetite is stimulated and fed by poor-quality material, it takes more junk to fill you up. People are not closer because of porn but further apart; people are not more turned on in their daily lives but less so.
Pornography is part and parcel of the commoditization of sex, and so perhaps the rather arbitrary line between pornography and prostitution needs to be challenged, or in King’s words, “tumbled.”
Wolf also notes that traditional morality is in fact more socially beneficial than a pornified culture:
In many more traditional cultures, it is not prudery that leads them to discourage men from looking at pornography. It is, rather, because these cultures understand male sexuality and what it takes to keep men and women turned on to one another over time—to help men, in particular, to, as the Old Testament puts it, “rejoice with the wife of thy youth; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times.” These cultures urge men not to look at porn because they know that a powerful erotic bond between parents is a key element of a strong family.
Wolf worries, in part, that pornography makes real women seem less appealing by comparison with the illusion of the adult film.
Expat Teacher, writing at Good Will Hinton, responds to Wolf’s essay and says, “I’d like to see Christians acknowledge the ubiquitous of porn and the real pull of that temptation, while offering a positive alternative. Sex with a little mystery and discovery is a lot more fun and interesting than a clinical rut in the hay.”
Well, Expat Teacher, I’m with you. And the work of XXXChurch is a good place to start. We don’t all need to agree on the effectiveness and desirability of all available means to combat the pornification of culture to respect the work of XXXChurch’s ministry (their blog is located here). One of the things XXXChurch is doing is work to get porn stars out of the industry, through what they call the “Esther Fund.”
“There is life after porn,” both for the performers and for the consumers. That’s a pretty good alternative perspective to the one offered by GIANT: victimize or be victimized. For as Augustine also confessed to God, “to be estranged in a spirit of lust, and lost in its darkness, that is what it means to be far away from your face.”