When I was formulating a worldview of sex and sexuality – thinking about women and how to relate to them – I had a lot of help from Playboy. Starting very young, I was exposed to the explicit images of pornography from friends of mine whose fathers dabbled in the dark side of sex. This is an odd thing to think, but you have to remember that this was before the advent of the internet when explicit images of women were sought and bought quite purposefully and intentionally. That is to say it shouldn’t have been that easy to come by. But it was.
I don’t remember a lot of images that have passed before my eyes. I will have trouble detailing the particulars of what my coworkers were wearing today. I can’t even recall what color the bridesmaids wore in the wedding I officiated this past Saturday. But I don’t think I will ever forget the image of my first centerfold. I know what color the woman’s hair was, the sheet, the pose, the whole thing. She was holding a book and if the book had had a title, I probably would have been able to tell you that too. And I wasn’t even in middle school. The power of the pornographic image is unmistakable.
In this age, it has become almost accepted that men (and women, too) will look at pornography. My job as a pastor is to tell you that looking at pornographic images is bad. But most people don’t feel bad when they look at pornography. Most people look at pornography because it feels good. It is an entirely solitary way to experience what God meant for us to experience together. Sex and sexuality, from a Christian perspective, is never something experienced alone. The loneliness of the man and the Lord declaring something “not good” tells us that he was lacking something to complete the experience of humanity. That he needed more than just a sexual partner is absolutely true. But it is also absolutely true that he needed a sexual partner. Sex, as it turns out, isn’t a solo flight.
Yet porn, in its alluring way, has offered us just this – solo sex. It comes in any flavor, with anybody, doing anything imaginable, and mostly for free and without the pesky involvement of something I like to call “other people”. The effect on sex and sexuality is devastating. Naomi Wolf, a feminist critic I’m told, makes this comment. “The onslaught of porn is responsible for deadening male libido in relation to real women…. For most of human history, erotic images have been reflections of, or celebrations of, or substitutes for, real naked women. For the first time in human history, the images’ power and allure have supplanted that of real naked women. Today, real naked women are just bad porn.”