Let’s Not Equate Porn and Gaming

Thanks to a Rick Warren tweet, I ran across this article that’s racing across the internet.  Called “The Demise of Guys: How video games and porn are ruining a generation,” it begins:

Is the overuse of video games and pervasiveness of online porn causing the demise of guys?

Increasingly, researchers say yes, as young men become hooked on arousal, sacrificing their schoolwork and relationships in the pursuit of getting a tech-based buzz.

Every compulsive gambler, alcoholic or drug addict will tell you that they want increasingly more of a game or drink or drug in order to get the same quality of buzz.

Video game and porn addictions are different. They are “arousal addictions,” where the attraction is in the novelty, the variety or the surprise factor of the content. Sameness is soon habituated; newness heightens excitement. In traditional drug arousal, conversely, addicts want more of the same cocaine or heroin or favorite food.

The consequences could be dramatic: The excessive use of video games and online porn in pursuit of the next thing is creating a generation of risk-averse guys who are unable (and unwilling) to navigate the complexities and risks inherent to real-life relationships, school and employment.

As a gamer (In fact, one of my proudest media moments is this profile by an online gaming magazine), I cringed.  Look, I know that many, many men and boys spend too much time gaming.  There are also many, many men and boys who spend too much time watching television, playing golf,  or obsessing over sports (and sometimes all of the above) — you name the diversion, and you’ll find people who indulge in excess.  But it’s a category error to equate games and porn.  To do so exaggerates the danger of games and minimizes the evil of porn.  So if I stay up too late Saturday night playing Diablo 3 (and I probable will!), is that remotely comparable to downloading porn?  Simply put, overuse of video games is destructive.  Any use of porn is sinful. What’s next?  An article proclaiming that women are ruined by adultery and Pinterest?

We must, however, do a better job working out the relationship between balance and absolutes.  How many people, having proven themselves incapable of achieving proper balance now argue for absolutes?  No television!  No games!  No carbs!  Conversely, we have so much trouble with the true absolutes — particularly sexual absolutes — that I’ve seen Christians more forgiving and tolerant of unscriptural divorces than they are of bad TV or even inefficient automobiles or non-organic food purchases.

Yes, it’s absolutely true that we guys have problems.  And it’s absolutely true that by many measures we’re approaching a moral and cultural crisis in young men.  But porn is pure poison while a good game is more like a bowl of ice cream: delightful in moderation but destructive in excess.

News Flash: There’s a Middle Ground Between “Porn” and “Prude”

I’m always torn when confronted by the aggressive stupidity of many internet commenters.  On the one hand, when one “feeds the trolls,” they tend to respond with even more aggressive stupidity.  On the other hand, the prevalence of certain arguments is evidence of a troubling mindset and paints a misleading picture of public sentiment.  To some folks, literally any action by a conservative Christian must be opposed, and every form of sexuality must be displayed.  Don’t believe me?  Read the utter nonsense on display in the comments on the Tennessean’s story about Books A Million’s sexuality display – nonsense made all the more remarkable by the fact that the Tennessean’s comments aren’t anonymous.  (My favorite is from a person who identifies herself as employed by United Methodist Publishing who says, “[W]hy are these people so afraid of sex and educating their children about it?”)

Is this Nancy?

Let’s be clear about what happened here.  Nancy took our kids to a much-beloved local book store (something we do frequently), walked with my son to the military history section, and saw a large display that featured uncensored pornographic images.  The display was so large and the pictures so graphic that her first thought was that someone had “punked” the store, had played a prank.  Nancy did not ask the store to remove its sexuality section.  She did not ask the store to stop selling any of the relevant books.  She just asked that the pornographic images not be so easily viewable.

To some people, apparently, that’s the same thing as hating sex, repressing your children, and laying the cornerstone of theocracy.  Here’s one of my favorite comments:

“Because Gays and Lesbians are disgusting monsters that you have to hide from your children, right? [Note: the most offensive picture was definitely heterosexual] Not people that have their own experience to write about and cater to. Heterosexist swine. And what harm comes from your kid knowing that sex exists at a young age. It is a beautiful thing created by God, and this Victorian attempt to cover it up is exactly what has created our hyper-sexualized culture. We should bask in sex as the natural and essential element of human life and relationship and then it wouldn’t become something teenagers are driven to do at a young age and go through lengths to hide their lives from their parents.  It is attitudes like this that emulate the failed Prohibition, you are only fostering a mindset for your children to pursue sexual education without enlightened guidance from parents and other caring adults in clandestine environments like stolen porno rags and internet forums.”

Unbelievable.  Isn’t there a middle ground between porn and prude?  Are people so blinded by their hatred for Christians and love of sexual indulgence that they must defend even public displays of sex acts?  Remember, Nancy was not advocating that Books-A-Million remove a single product from its shelves.

I’m increasingly believing that when it comes to the malicious comments and inane reasoning that dominates much of the internet, (to quote the late Justice Louis Brandeis) “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”  Sometimes bad ideas have to be addressed, and small-minded hatred must be exposed.  Critically, Christians can and should respond to bad speech with better speech.  We simply can’t abandon the virtual public square to anyone, much less the most ill-informed, vicious, and vile members of the secular (or even religious) Left.

Forget Fabio: Books-a-Million Displays Books With Pornographic Covers in Plain View of Children

What’s more fun that taking the kids for a leisurely day at the bookstore?

That’s what I was thinking when I went to Books-a-Million in Spring Hill, Tennessee – a great store, and I’m not just saying that because they’ve helped me hold nice book signing events (for this, this, and this).   We arrived in the wonderful brick-and-mortar store, ready for a day of walking down aisles and finding new reads.  However, I came across something pretty shocking.

Someone had pulled a prank.

There, right next to the nice Civil War section (this is Tennessee, after all) is apparently a “sexuality” section, showing various sexual positions in plain view.  And when I showing, I mean showing.

One book promised to make this the most erotic year of your life with 365 sexual positions – one of which was shown in plain, naked view on its cover. Another was about the art of erotic massage, and had a naked woman’s torso with a man’s hand – barely – covering her.  (And no, I’m not being a prude.  I’ve blocked out the image of the book shelf above, but here are two of the images in case you are wondering what kids walk by in Books-a-Million stores all across the nation – warning, obviously — here and here.)

Thankfully, no damage had been done.  I have a four, an eleven, and a thirteen year old, but they hadn’t seen the display.  I promptly, turned the books face down, figuring some teenage kids had come in and thought it would be funny to put pornographic images out in plain view.

Discreetly, I went to talk to a worker at the store.

“I think someone’s played a prank in the ‘sexuality’ section,” I said.  “It’s probably just some kids, but there are very sexual images that wouldn’t leave much to kids’ imaginations over there.”

The cashier shook her head and said, “Those books on the top shelf are exactly as they are supposed to be.”

“You mean the one that literally shows two people having sex is supposed to be out in plain view?”

She pointed at a poster on the customer service desk.  “You can call corporate if you like.”

A little flummoxed, I did just that.  Instead of shopping for mother’s day, I dialed the number right there in the store.  While I was on hold, another worker explained that these were paid positions on the shelf and that they weren’t allowed to deviate from what corporate dictates.

“But my kids would learn exactly how to have sex simply from the cover,” I explained.

“Well, we have it tucked away next to the military history section,” she said.  “Most kids don’t walk down that aisle. Just men.”

“Tucked away” is not what I’d call the second aisle of a store, in plain view, on the top shelf.  Plus, are we okay sending men over to read about the Civil War, only to have them see pornographic images?  This is what I explained to headquarters, which listened politely and supposedly took down the book title information.

Anyway, I assume that every store is laid out with the same books on full display, so be warned.  Before you attempt to support your brick and mortar book store, realize that you might get your kids hooked on more than just reading.

If you’d like to contact Books-a-Million, please feel free to e-mail them support@booksamillion.com or call them at 1-800-201-3550.

UPDATE: The Tennessean Investigates


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