The Sexual Revolution has been revolting (in more ways than one) since the early 20th century. With each new phase of the revolution, views and attitudes toward sexual matters become more relaxed and less taboo. The change in attitudes is not simply a more open-mindedness that we have toward sexual behavior. Rather, it has taken on all the energy of a tidal wave to move our views of sexuality into close-mindedness. By “close-mindedness” I mean that we have closed our minds to what are obvious evils, detrimental to individuals and societies.
Two such areas that epitomize the close-mindedness that the sexual revolution manifests itself with are pornography and abortion.
Pornography and Abortion are backward – counter-intuitive – in that they seem to defy our normal sensibilities. A mother’s intuition is to care for and protect her child, whatever the cost might be. Likewise, a man’s intuition is to protect and defend a woman as though she were a sister or daughter. Abortion and pornography turn our back on our universal sense of duty to serve those we’ve been entrusted with.
When we take a step back from the politicized nature of these issues, its simple to see how horrific these two acts are. The deliberate taking of the most fragile of humans lives is barbaric. The voyeuristic participation of sexual intimacy with someone’s daughter or sister in a manner that so disrespectfully devalues the “performer” is sickening.
Re-Stating the Obvious
Looking closely at how our culture reacts to these acts makes it obvious that they are inherently offensive.
The movie Unplanned, which tells the story of a Planned Parenthood director who becomes actively anti-abortion after witnessing an abortion, was given an R rating because it depicts “some disturbing/bloody images”. Any guess what activity the movie depicted that was “disturbing”? The bloody images were not a butcher preparing a steak. It was a scene portraying an actual abortion. Even Jurassic Park, which features people being ripped to pieces by dinosaurs only has a PG-13 rating. Watching an abortion is truly disturbing.
Organizations like the Invisible Girl Project attempt to bring awareness to regions, like India, where newborns are killed because they are girls and carry a cultural burden. This is obviously grotesque, yet in the US, we can abort a baby on similar grounds and be legally justified.
Likewise, its almost universally accepted that pornography is not the kind of thing you put out in public. If you have pornographic material out in a restaurant, you may be asked to leave; if you’re at work, you may be fired. We still have public decency laws. We all know that pornographic material is offensive, which is why its mostly used in private.
Empirically, pornography can no longer be regarded as harmless. Mary Everstadt in a Weekly Standard article about the failures of the Sexual Revolution reminds us:
The damages caused by pornography are legion: Pornography use is frequently cited as a factor in divorce cases; therapists report increased demand for treatment for pornography addiction, including for children. Is it any surprise that many of the stories to emerge from the MeToo moment seem drawn directly from the narratives of pornography?
Pornography’s effects are not only on individuals, but also move our culture. Catharine A. MacKinnon writes in Big Porn Inc.:
Mass desensitization of a major segment of the viewing public has a corresponding effect on the rest of popular culture. The audience for popular culture is the same as the audience for pornography….
Popular culture, from advertising to legitimate film and books, has to become correspondingly more explicitly sexual… The powerful conditioning of the huge proportions of the male public makes them demand that the women around them look and act in conforming ways. We increasingly live in a word the pornographers have made.
Yet, pornography and abortions are defended, promoted, and celebrated by many in our culture as some of our most valuable contributions to society. Seeing how militantly and passionately our culture defends these evil actions makes us look insane; like we have lost an ability to think and act sensibly.
New York’s latest abortion law removes just about any limits to abortions. Gruesomely, it removes any protections to the life of a child who has survived an abortion attempt. That child can legally be left to die. The bill was signed to the applause of hundreds and of course has been lauded as progress for “women’s health”.
This sparked comments from other politicians that border on absolute lunacy. Virginia governor Ralph Northam spoke on a radio station about a proposed abortion bill:
The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.
Alabama state representative John Rogers debating a bill that would ban most abortions gave this rhetorical gem:
“Some kids are unwanted, so you kill them now or you kill them later.”
Pornography has been defended in court, as in 2002 Ashcroft vs. Free Speech Coalition where they defended the “freedom” to depict persons who appear as children in pornography. Needless to say pornography enjoys as much acceptance and success as any other art. Even in cases like Miley Cyrus appearing nude, although somewhat covered, at age 15 on the cover of Vanity Fair or the 10 year old drag queen who performed at a gay club being celebrated on NBC’s Today Show. Vanity fair and NBC show the approval and perseverance of porn promotion; even the pornification of children.
How does this happen? How does a culture turn into a culture of death and decadence? How does a culture end up putting its seal of approval on killing children and turning our daughters and sisters into sex objects?
Behold, the power of sexual desire.
Our culture’s infatuation with abortion and pornography should warn us of the power that our sexual desires can lord over us when untamed.
From the beginning of human history, people have been held captive to their sexual desires. King David, chosen king of Israel, author of many Psalms, was so enchanted by his desire for Bathsheba that he committed adultery and murder. If a man after God’s own heart can be driven to murder by his sexual desires, than the rest of us ought to respect its power to persuade.
In our present age, the problem with denouncing any consequence of the sexual revolution — of which pornography and abortion are probably the most heinous — is that denouncing them suggests that we should curb our sexual appetites.
This is what I believe to be the fundamental reason that all the outrageous consequences of the Sexual Revolution have been allowed to not only persist, but be rationalized and legalized by civilized people. Declaring abortion and pornography as immoral and/or illegal as a culture means that as a culture we must change. It appears that though we stare in the face of a failed sexual revolution that objectifies women, hurts and kills children, and destroys marriages, we are unable to change. The Sexual Revolution was meant to free humanity. Instead, we seem to be held captive; prisoners to our sexual desires.
Sex and the Christian
The modern Christian may be in an awkward position regarding their view of sexual intimacy. Christians know that sexual intimacy is a God-given part of male-female relations within a marriage. But it is obvious that we, as a group, are not satisfied. Polling from the Barna group indicates that one-half of Americans, aged 18-30, who are “practicing Christians”, actively seek out pornography in a year; and nearly one in five married Christian men actively seek out pornography in a month. Its for reasons like these that Josh McDowell has said1:
I would personally say from all my knowledge now that pornography’s probably the greatest threat to the cause of Christ in the history of the world. It’s that serious.
What I think this shows, at the least, is that Christians have underestimated the power of sexual desires and the power of an over-sexualized culture. The Church has bought the lie that sex is for pleasure. So, young Christian’s thoughts of sex are simply self-centered pleasure events; and marriage a simple means to that end.
We might think that in the context of a marriage, lust would not be an issue. If one has a partner, then lust for others should naturally go away, right? But if we have been taught that the goal of our sexual desires is pleasure, well, I’m afraid we fall into the hedonist paradox; that is, seeking and obtaining one’s desires only increases desire, and rarely satisfaction.
For this reason, sexual desires should never be thought of as existing simply for the sake of pleasure. God instituted marriage and sexual intimacy for the sake of family building. Sex should grow the bonds of marriage and produce children. Pleasure is an incentive, but not a primary goal. This is not the modern Christian view of sex, but it has been espoused in books like On The Meaning of Sex, which looks at sexual significance from a philosophical and Christian perspective. The material will be similar to John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, where sex is not simply a means to pleasure.
Likewise, we might even think that we are unaffected by an over-sexualized culture. If one is satisfied with one’s spouse, one would not look for sexual material anywhere else. But, our over-sexualized culture further encourages us to be unsatisfied with our spouse. Not only are sexualized images and ideas everywhere we turn, but we are shown the most sensationalized (unrealistic) forms of sexual intimacy. We’ve been set up for dissatisfaction.
As a result, the Christian ought to be fully cognizant of the way in which a culture that treats sex as an insignificant means of finding pleasure (like eating a donut), has affected our thoughts and feelings about it. We must make sure that we have a proper perspective of human sexuality that includes God’s purpose for male-female differences and the objective of the sexes. And finally, we must find strategies and build habits for distancing ourselves from our culture’s liturgy that glorifies sex for the sake of pleasure and makes it mundane and insignificant.
Cause for Optimism
In his 1982 book The Battle for the Family, Tim LaHaye conveyed a sense of optimism in America’s intolerance for pornography by saying that with enough outrage, the Moral Majority will put pornographers out of business. That, unfortunately, does not look very prophetic at the moment, but the past few months have given reason to believe there are large amounts of Christians fed up with the erroneous sexualization of our culture and its consequences.
Millennials have been shown to have a surprisingly negative view of late-term abortions. Bills passed in Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri, have significantly limited the legality of abortion in those states. Alabama’s new bill has all but eradicated abortions in that state. Many believe that Roe v. Wade is in the scope of this movement of anti-abortion legislation.
Also, a group of students petitioned Nortre Dame to institute a internet filter to discourage the use of pornography; which is against student policy anyways. This shows that there are increasing amounts of people (even young people) who understand the detrimental effect that improper sexualization has on society.
Let us pray that more brothers and sisters in the faith are bold enough to take radical stands against a sexualized culture, and are disciplined enough to introduce and uphold God’s intention for human sexuality within their families and communities.