August 3, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – At some point yesterday I was scrolling through a rather mundane news article on an equally mundane news site, when my eye was suddenly drawn to the lascivious photo of a beautiful woman prominently featured on the left-hand side of the story. Superimposed on the photo was the headline, “Actresses’ first nude scenes.” And then the words, “Click here.”
I confess that, as attractive as the invitation seemed, I didn’t react quite as the proprietors of the website evidently intended. I did not “click here.” Instead, I got mad.
As a proud, chest-thumping moral Neanderthal, I still believe that sex should be reserved for people who are married, and even then, only with each other (that’s a joke). Indeed, so primitive is my moral code that I even take seriously that much-maligned (and misunderstood) Gospel stricture that “He who looks at a woman lustfully is already guilty of adultery with her in his heart.”
This, of course, has interesting ramifications for someone like myself, who is required to work all day, every day, on the internet. Most of us spend so much time immersed in media that we no longer see it clearly, or have any concept of what life is like apart from it. But if we stepped back for a moment from the bizarre virtual reality into which we have willingly immersed ourselves we would realize that the internet and television are completely, and absurdly, saturated with sex.
Those who have no particular interest in pursuing what is traditionally called “purity” (i.e. reserving sexual thoughts and actions for one person – viz. one’s spouse) may not have noticed this. For such a person, the provocative ads, prurient celebrity gossip, and increasingly ubiquitous sex scenes and soft-core porn come and go, and may or may not be indulged in depending on his or her mood at the time. No big deal either way: if the constant bombardment of sexual stimuli leads to an uncomfortable build-up of sexual energy, there’s always porn and masturbation to turn to for relief.
But try for one single day to stand sentry at the gates of your mind against any sexual thoughts involving any person other than your spouse, and you will be given a rude awakening into how vast is the horde of uninvited interlopers. Surf Facebook, read a news article, browse the latest movie trailers, watch the latest drama (or the news for that matter) – and, if you wish to avoid sexual titillation, you will find yourself switching the channel, clicking to a new page, or covering up part of your screen, for about as much time as you actually spend surfing or watching.
By this point, most online publishers, for instance, have realized that Jennifer Lopez’s sculpted bottom, or Victoria Secret’s latest super-model, or the ‘50 hottest sex tips’, are much more likely to translate into “click-throughs” - and, hence, more pageviews, and more advertizing revenue – than an article, say, about, well, just about anything else.
Such publishers, of course, are simply catching up with what retailers have long known. As C.S. Lewis once put it: “There are people who want to keep our sex instinct inflamed in order to make money out of us. Because, of course, a man with an obsession is a man who has very little sales-resistance.”
Necessity requires that, to a point, we accept things as they are and get on as best we can. When it comes to the preponderance of soft-core porn on television, at the checkout counter, in our movies, at the mall, on our street corners, on the internet, we simply have to do our best to avoid the “near occasion of sin” and pray for the grace to get through relatively unscathed. After all, sexual temptation is hardly new. But yesterday, being abruptly presented with the unwanted, unwelcome, and unapologetically blunt option of ogling a cornucopia of nude actresses, or remaining faithful to my wife, made me step back and take in the cultural landscape.
And, as I have already said, it made me mad.
Consider, for instance, that the entertainment industry has successfully marketed to millions of our children pop starlets whose single ambition in life seems to be to outdo their rivals in shocking the moral sensibilities of the age—which, given the dullness of the aforementioned moral sensibilities, by this point simply means doing everything short of having actual intercourse on stage and in their music videos.
Even movie trailers – prefaced with the increasingly laughable statement that they have been “approved for all audiences” – are more and more playing host to snippets of explicit sex scenes, nudity, and suggestive motions inclusive, with only the “important parts” strategically covered up. But, really, how important are the “important parts,” when confronted with the sight of two nude bodies intertwined, labored breathing and all? The actual movies, of course, don’t leave nearly as much to the imagination.
This is to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of explicitly pornographic websites that have given rise to a prevalence of sexual addiction, even amongst many of our children and youngest teens, that truly boggles the imagination. Ultimately, of course, this is the Rome to which all these other paths lead. Inflame the passions sufficiently in myriad more subtle ways, and then provide easy access to hardcore pornography, and it is only a matter of time before most people follow the rabbit hole to the very bottom. Which is why the pornography industry is raking in billions of dollars every year.
There are those who say: “So, you want to remain chaste? Then don’t look at pornography, don’t click on the links, don’t look at the ads, don’t read the gossip.” Which is all well and good. Except that it completely fails to take into account human nature, not to mention the near omnipresence of sexual stimuli in our culture. Such people may as well say, “Pluck out your eyes,” or “Cut off your ears.” Someone did once say something to that effect, but the Church (except for one notable exception) has typically interpreted the remark as dramatic overstatement.
We can no more “turn off” our senses than we can stop the sun from shining. And as long as the senses are performing their tasks well, and the body is otherwise healthy, the sight of the human form presented in a sexual manner will entice, and set in motion certain thoughts and desires. Of course, as free human beings we have the capacity to reject those thoughts and desires, to gain control of our reactions (and that, indeed, should be our goal), but if we are continually being bombarded with unwanted and increasingly explicit stimuli, the effort to stand aloof can be mentally and spiritually wearing: so much so that for many in a sex-saturated society such as ours, defeat may seem practically inevitable.
In this world there will never be any freedom from temptation, and those who seek to coercively eradicate all occasions of sin are rightly labeled fundamentalists, and dangerous. But it is not Puritanism to argue that one should not have to be bombarded with invitations to see “actresses’ first nude scenes” while simply wishing to read about latest poll numbers, or the weather. If we were walking along the street and someone walked up to us and shoved a copy of Playboy in our face, we would rightly be offended and angry. And yet, we tolerate precisely such behavior from advertisers, publishers and entertainers every day, behavior that can only be termed a form of spiritual assault. It is little different from a drug pusher who offers the first hit “free,” except that the pushers of pornography have the additional advantage of being able to deliver the first “free” hit with or without the viewer’s explicit approval.
This article is not endorsing any particular solution to the problem. The question of how to redress the excesses of a society in which sex has been blown out of any sense of proportion, is a complex and multifaceted one, and cannot, for instance, be reduced to a simplistic legal solution such as enforcing laws against pornography (although that might not be a bad place to start). If I hope for anything it is simply that my readers will share in my anger, for anger is the first and necessary reaction against an injustice. Every day we are being taken advantage of by people “who want to keep our sex instinct inflamed in order to make money out of us.”
Let us reject their advances and send them the message loud and clear that “no means no.”