Marginalizing Porn, Sex, and What Bodies Are For

My post on porn received a thoughtful comment that I want to share. I decided not to approve the comment because it links back to a pornographic site (which I unfortunately clicked on). But I don’t want to come from an angle that silences people who disagree with me. I just want to share the Church’s side of the story.

Here’s what the reader said:

For me the problem with this (I’m male) is that you’re erecting porn as something wholly different from anything else a guy (and a girl – a lot of girls like seeing images of other people naked, having sex, whatever) sees. we all see attractive members of the other sex, we see TV, films, magazines: there are plenty of images to fantasise over, if you want/need to. A real girl or guy is completely different. I’ve watched hot films with my wife which has led to great love- making. I wasn’t fantasising over the images I’d seen: but we were more relaxed, more turned-on, and more adventurous. I’d say that your early boyfriend had a whole host of psycho-sexual problems that porn just exacerbated. Ban porn and people’s interest in other people’s attractiveness and sexuality: it’s normal. I’ve discovered what my real fantasies are partly through “porn” – seen that they’re shared by millions of other people, and been less worried about suggesting them to my wife – she was completely happy, and had similar variations of her own that she wanted to try. Like alcohol, playing poker etc.things that give you an emotioal high need controlling, but in small doses can be fun… Take care.

I have a few thoughts (tl;dr):

  1. Thank you to this guy for extending compassion to my experience. The overall tone feels understanding and thoughtful, and attempts to provide a third road (that is, 1) all porn is good, 2) all porn is bad, and 3) some porn is good). Even though I don’t agree, I really appreciate the way he shared his experience.
  2. However, despite the fact that this road seems safe and non-confrontational (after all, it’s controlled application, everyone is consenting [though I don’t think that’s true given the truth about the porn industry], and it’s not preventing real sex from happening), it’s really just another in a long line of excuses we use to ignore the truth about our bodies and the truth about what sex is meant to be. Pornography hurts the people who make it and over time hurts the people who use it (even if you feel like it’s doing good things for you at the time).

This conversation/worldview/tactic is called “marginalization.” It’s when you take something that is black-and-white and scratch at the edges to find a gray area or two. That way you can agree with someone at the same time you erode the truth, all the while appearing sensible (and making those who disagree with you appear too rigid).

OKSure.gif

 

Here are a few more examples (that I’ve made up, not that this commenter shared):

Alcohol abuse is bad, sure, but having a social drink a few nights a week isn’t a bad thing. In fact, science says it’s healthy for you!

Binging on TV is bad, sure, but watching a few programs throughout the week is just a part of engaging in our culture and letting off a little steam.

Pro-choice doesn’t mean pro-abortion. Just because you think it should be allowed in some cases doesn’t mean you’re about to throw abortion parties and revel in it.

It’s the conversational equivalent of this:

4243-When-You-Agree-To-Disagree

A drink or two every few days might not be bad. A TV program or two every week might not be bad. Being pro-choice might not mean you’re ecstatically pro-abortion. But if you need these things; can’t NOT have these things; choose these things over other priorities in your life; or if life begins at conception (& Catholics believe it does), then these marginalizations are only covering up a more serious issue. They attempt to provide a simple, easy, comfortable answer in the face of complex, difficult, and uncomfortable situations.

In the case of porn, I think that this reader marginalized several truths about sex that I want to stand up for.

1. “You’re erecting porn as something wholly different from anything else a person sees. We all see attractive members of the other sex, we see TV, films, magazines: there are plenty of images to fantasise over, if you want/need to.”

Because the world does not respect the dignity of the human body and because the world fetishizes everything does not mean that those are natural or well-ordered feelings. If anything, the way Victoria Secret advertises its clothing makes it even more clear that the world has got it all backwards.

The world knows that lust is an easy way to get broken people to open their wallets. That doesn’t mean that we are meant to stay broken or let these disordered desires consume us.

Also, this perspective views the world as if everything you see (and in this view, persons are things) exists to stimulate you if you want it to. The person you pass on the street is an individual with a life and a name and inherent dignity. How could you opt to dismiss their 3D existence by “using” their image as a sexual fantasy?

2. “I’ve watched hot films with my wife which has led to great love- making. I wasn’t fantasising over the images I’d seen; but we were more relaxed, more turned-on, and more adventurous. I’ve discovered what my real fantasies are partly through “porn” – seen that they’re shared by millions of other people, and been less worried about suggesting them to my wife – she was completely happy, and had similar variations of her own that she wanted to try.”

If viewing erotic images of other people makes you feel relaxed, turned on, and adventurous, then you are in need of counseling and spiritual direction more than anything else.

I speak of this from experience. Because of my emotional issues, I was drawn to pornography for a time. The satisfaction and attraction I felt for it wasn’t based on “healthy fantasy” or “finding what I’m interested in.” It was a way to get satisfaction while avoiding anything to do with myself, my relationship, or my body. It was a way to skip over the inconvenient pain I was experiencing and jump right to the pleasure part; looking back, it was completely disordered, and completely unsatisfying.

You might jump to say this is just me and my issues, but I don’t think it is. Real Catholic sex — the life-giving, self-sacrificing, completely present kind of sex — is a banquet of emotion, stimulation, and satisfaction. Hiding from or covering up this exchange with toys, pornographic fantasies, or drugs — even if both parties “want it” — is like opting out of the feast in favor of dumpster diving.

And speaking of your “completely happy wife”…

dontbelieveyou.gif

If you dig deep enough, I’d be surprised if you didn’t discover some past sexual trauma or emotional abuse that leads her to accept this behavior in her marriage and perceive feelings of happiness and satisfaction when her husband wants to watch other couples have sex.

4.  “Like alcohol, playing poker etc.things that give you an emotional high need controlling, but in small doses can be fun.”

This is the heart of the marginalization for me, and the reason most non-Catholic and non-Christian readers will disagree with me. Sex does wonderful things for your health and your relationship with your spouse. Sex is fun. Sex is exciting. Sex is sexy. But the purpose of sex is not “fun”.

To quote Pope John Paul II via Christopher West’s Introduction to the Theology of the Body, the consummation of a marriage through sex “fulfills the very meaning of our being and existence.” It is the ultimate expression of love, giving, and self-donation. It is an analogy for the Trinity, and an expression of a state of total love. It requires two completely present people, and it may overflow to give life to a third.

The purpose of Catholic sex is to bring two spouses closer to God. The purpose of pornography, alcohol, poker, and any other human vice is to drive a wedge between your life and the life God wants for you. It’s sent straight from Screwtape, with a health dose of marginalization to make you think you’re too advanced for the vice to really derail you from God’s vision for you so a little bit won’t hurt. And if you and your spouse are helping each other drive that wedge, you’re going to reach the conclusion twice as quickly (…no pun intended).

Advertisements

2 comments

    • hannahjeankahn

      Thank you MM! It’s hard to fight the sense that you can’t share your opinion because “it’s just your problem,” but I think if we keep digging we’ll find that porn is a problem for everyone in one shape or another. Thank you for sharing on your blog, too!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s