Pornography and the Fundy

by Calulu

(Warning, possibly triggering and some of the links are of the not safe for work variety.)

Recently I started thinking about pornography. Not that I was partaking it in, it’s never done anything for me. I might as well be looking at a pile of rutabagas or dirty socks. It is what it is, but it never did much to make me experience sexual feelings of excitement. But then again, I did grow up in New Orleans, with its capacious amounts of ever present sex shops, hookers, strip clubs and just general debauchery. I was jaded about such things by the age of eighteen and have never viewed them as erotic in any way.

Plus I understand the Feminist views on pornography objectifying women and the effect it has on the male mindset about sex. That makes more sense to me as a reason to be anti-porn than any amount of scripture.

But in my old church pornography was rated right up there as one of the worst sins, like abortion or murder. It wasn’t one of those white sugar refined sins, like, gossiping or uh, sassing someone. Oh no, no, no. The usual verses were trotted out to defend the church’s stance against pornography. But some of them always struck me as borderline at best. Porn is not mentioned even as porn did exist in Biblical times.

It’s not like pornography hasn’t been around in some form or another even pre-Jesus. Some of the oldest pornographic depictions go back to 37,000 BC. Some other finds near Jerusalem go back around 10,000 years. I remember about fifteen years back hearing that some of the oldest obscene graffiti dated to Roman times and involved the Roman word for fellatio. The first porn film was filmed in 1896. It is an old form of entertainment or arousal source.

So here we have the church yet again trying to exert control over a population to the extent that they want to nose around in our bedrooms. I heard many times in my old church that the only sex allowed was missionary position man on top get it over with quick strictly for reproduction sex. I didn’t believe it then and I don’t believe it now.

Actually, what business is it of the church at all to regulate sexuality? What happens between consenting adults that doesn’t harm others should be no ones business. So yet again it’s all about control. Why else worry about what happens in the bedroom but for reasons of control.

Back in my old toeing the line during my fundegelical days I knew a few members of our church self confessed that they struggled with pornographic addictions and I felt bad for them. One of the most constant confessors of pornography addiction is the subject of my series “Who Was That Masked Man?” Poor Tom Smith! He’d weep in front of the altar and say he was never looking at online pornography again, making a big public show over his sorrow and repentance. And then six months later he’d confess again with much weeping and gnashing of teeth. It was one of the few times I ever felt bad for him, because to me it seemed like he was merely feeling guilty for being a sexual being, like we all were created to be.

What type of creator God would make people with driving sexual urges and then tell them their own bodies are sinful, leading straight to an eternity in a fiery pit? Some kind of cruel sick bastard?

There was much discussion of how to overcome the desire and sick sick (they thought) behaviors pornography induced in these men. The discussions were almost to the level of the advice in the pamphlet “Overcoming Masturbation” Very silly.

When Tom Smith was on his anti-pornography high horse he’d haughtily offer to put special porn-blocker filter on all the brothers in the churches computer for free, be their accountability partner and monitor it for free. There were never any takers, which told me volumes. Once he came over and offered to do this for my husband. I kind of laughed, turned it into a joke and said I didn’t even own a pornograph (like phonograph? Very old word for a record player..)

Even then I would sit there and think what was the harm in looking at a few dirty pictures if it made you happy and your significant other didn’t mind it. Looking at a photograph of the beautiful curve of a woman’s thigh or nether regions was not going to turn anyone into a masturbation machine or someone that cannot control their carnal urges to the point where they start raping the mass populous. ( I might have to rethink that one. Between the time I originally wrote this I saw in the paper that one of the upright married young men I knew as a God-fearing home-schooled child at my old church has been arrested for rape. Sexual repression strikes again I guess)

The only thing that insisting the church members tamp down their natural in born sexual needs did was create a great deal of guilty secret behavior. Making something forbidden almost guarantees people will do it, it’s that old curiosity, or why is being bad so much more fun than being good thing most of us have at times.

Once we left our old repressive church I started looking up percentages of Christian men that regularly look at pornographic materials or struggle with pornography and came up with some surprising figures. The numbers are almost identical to the unchurched.  Some numbers.

  • Shelley Luben Ministries: 70 % Christian men
  • CNN 70% Christian men
  • Marketwire – 50% Christian men & 20% Christian women
  • 1996 Promise Keepers survey – 50% Christian men

Some of the stats used are from the Urban Ministries website and there is much more information at their website. The stats aren’t that different than the usual sinful out in the world non-Christian.

Interesting that very few surveys included women. The church erroneous believes women don’t look at pornography.

While researching the numbers I found many websites pondering why ‘Good Christians’ struggle with pornography and offering some of the same simplistic solutions listed on the masturbation pamphlet. All recommend ‘focusing on the Lord’ I even found a “Christian Pornography” site that advocates producing Biblical porn instead of the nasty stuff most people are looking at.

Would that be the same ‘Lord’ that designed us to want to smash our private parts together with others private parts?

The areas of sexuality and sexual behaviors is one of the most guilt inducing and dangerous slippery slopes in Christianity. You wanna stop your people from struggling with a biological imperative? Simple.

STOP TALKING ABOUT SEX AS IF IT’S SOMETHING UNNATURAL and then people will stop obsessing over it. And stop pretending that viewing the erotic is something less than normal. The numbers don’t lie even if the people and church do.
Useless useless guilt.

Comments open below

Read everything by Calulu

Calulu lives near Washington DC , was raised Catholic in South Louisiana before falling in with a bunch of fallen Catholics whom had formed their own part Fundamentalist, part Evangelical church. After fifteen uncomfortable years drinking that Koolaid she left nearly 6 years ago. Her blog is Calulu – Roadkill on the Internet Superhighway

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce

About Suzanne Calulu
  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Great post, Calulu! Porn is a topic that seems to get everyone talking and, yeah, it is a hugely divisive issue among feminists. My personal take on it as a feminist is somewhat qualified approval. Qualified because I think there are some legitimate concerns about the safety of the performers, especially women (although I read that less and less porn is being produced by actual companies and is shifting more towards amateurs where hopefully those issues don’t apply as much). And a lot of porn DOES seem to portray women as sexual objects as opposed to sexual agents in their own right, or is just really silly and unrealistic, and I do worry about what effect that has particularly on young boys whose sexuality is still being formed and who don’t have any or much actual sexual experience with non-porn star (I don’t like to say “real”) women yet.

    But none of those problems are problems inherent to simply enjoying being aroused by looking at erotic imagery, which is all porn really is. That just seems like normal, healthy human sexuality to me and I can’t say I understand being threatened by it, or having a problem with one’s partner doing it, even if one is personally not into it. (And I think a lot more people, including and maybe especially women, are into it than will admit it…) It seems like such a non-issue. And I definitely don’t want to hear a bunch of weepy middle-aged men “confessing” their porn-viewing habits to a room full of people. God, it’s embarrassing and awkward just reading that! Too much info, guys! lol

    One tangential quibble, Calulu. This: “I saw in the paper that one of the upright married young men I knew as a God-fearing home-schooled child at my old church has been arrested for rape. Sexual repression strikes again I guess.” I’d be very careful of treating rape as a result of sexual repression or unacted upon sexual desire. Rape doesn’t really have to do with sexual desire or lust, contrary to what patriarchal religion (and patriarchal secular culture, for that matter) teaches. It’s not something men do because they just can’t control their lust, it’s something they do to control and humiliate. I don’t know the circumstances of this guy’s case, but I’d be willing to bet that a general disrespect of and disdain for women, particularly women who are not deemed “pure” and are therefore worthless are what contributed to his feelings of entitlement to rape. And really, this is not so different from why secular men rape, even if they haven’t been immersed in as much explicitly misogynistic or “purity” teachings as fundie men.

  • http://mimitabby.com/blog mimiT

    STOP TALKING ABOUT SEX AS IF IT’S SOMETHING UNNATURAL

    BINGO!

  • http://followingontoknow.blogspot.com Mrs. Searching

    I couldn’t help but notice, when driving across country two years ago with my sister, the apparent huge popularity of porn shops in the so-called “Bible belt.” It seems too significant a coincidence to be ignored.

  • Madamoyzelle

    A university student I knew took the Human Sexuality course taught at our local big U. It discussed everything: sexual diseases, sexual disorders of the body, sexual disorders in the emotions, and so on. I never knew how complex and complicated human sexuality is, until I looked at the text books. It is a SHAME that there are groups of people who want to maintain such ignorance in a human function that is really complicated. It is a SHAME that groups of people want to maintain ignorance in a function that can bring so much happiness and communication between couples when things are working well.There is a great deal more to sexuality than “that goes there.”

    The class also discussed pornography, and there were interviews of young men who used it before they were in a relationship with a woman. All of them, to a man, expressed the surprise of having a real human partner. They came to the realization that not only did their own gratification matter, but now, there was another human being involved, and HER FEELINGS MATTERED, too. It was very interesting.

    Basically, if you ever have an opportunity to take a Human Sexuality course–from a University or institution of higher ed–then do it. You will be shocked at how much there is to know.

  • http://calulu.blogspot.com Calulu

    I used to puzzle over the same thing in Amish country Pennsylvania. Quilt store, horse and buddy, horse and buggy, porn store, porn store, porn store, quilt shop…

  • Melissa

    Porn can be addictive. The changes in brain chemistry involved in watching porn can be enough for truly addictive personalities to soon spend their lives doing nothing but watch porn. Like any addiction it’s that change in focus that’s destructive. For most of us, porn or smut, which I find more appealing, really isn’t that big a deal. We really can separate our reality and our loved ones from the input of porn. As an aside, someone showed fish video of other fish spawning and discovered that even the little fishies are affected. You can increase the chances of your lab fish spawning themselves after they watch the video.

  • http://followingontoknow.blogspot.com Mrs. Searching

    It’s shocking to drive through the Bible belt and see all the porn warehouses. More like Porn belt. It can’t be entirely unrelated.

  • http://brucegerencser.net Bruce Gerencser

    I suspect some Christians would be quite surprised to find out how many pastors view porn.

    As a pastor, I always felt guilty looking at porn. I felt sinful, wicked, dirty. Fast Forward to today. Porn? Blah…doesn’t do much for me. Once it was no longer forbidden it lost its allure. Most men have viewed porn. Like masturbation, it happens.

    Late at night my wife and I will turn on skin-a-max (Cinemax ) for a few minutes. We laugh. Nothing erotic about it. Terrible dialog and predictable story lines. We have come to see that some of the most erotic programming leaves clothes partially on or uses sexual suggestion to get you to use your mind rather than just your eyes. Porn leaves nothing to the imagination. Sensual, erotic programming requires the use of the imagination.

    Is porn art? In the strictest sense, I suppose. Is it good art? Rarely.

  • Christy

    First of all, I want to say that ancient sexual pictures and descriptions are different than modern pornography. Describing or carving sexual things is not the same as taking photographs of actual women, and even if it was, just because something has been around for thousands of years doesn’t make it good. Murder has also had a long history.

    There is absolutely no way to be sure that the porn a person looks at it was done voluntarily and for the purpose of public distribution. Human trafficking for sexual purposes is a huge industry right now, and even the “amateur” porn could be done with coercision or with the person believing the film will be kept private.

    Second of all, sex is natural and good, but pornography often goes beyond sex. Unfortunately when people talk about pornography they could be talking about pictures of girl’s genitals, or they could be talking about pictures of girls being gang-raped. There’s lots of non-religious (pro-sex) people who point out that pornography messes up people’s ideas about what sex is and what women are. Check out Chris Hedge’s book or the excerpt at http://www.truthdig.com/arts_culture/item/20091011_the_victims_of_pornography/ for a critique of pornography.

    Stopping talking about sex as being unnatural does not mean to embrace the use of pornography. There’s got to be some middle ground where a person can embrace his or her sexuality, without requiring the assistance of what is all too likely to be pictures of sexual abuse.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    There is pornography that doesn’t involve pictures or videos of real people like anime, manga or books so if we are talking generalisations, you are doing your fair share. In fact that’s the only pornography I consume and my boyfriend also usually prefers those types too.

    To what people were saying above, I’ve always have the pet theory that the most repressed is a place or culture, the more pornography, kink and the like grow (I use another word in spanish but anyway). Great examples are England in the 18th century, Spain during the dictatorship or Japan nowadays.

  • http://jimpivonka.com Jim Pivonka

    One of the best things written by a woman about pornography, that I have seen in the last few days, is here:
    http://dodsonandross.com/blogs/carlin-ross/2012/06/my-confession-im-intimidatedno-scared-head-back-norway

  • Christy

    Okay, part of the issue is what one defines as porn. Does porn include anything involving sex? Obviously the definition I was writing about is more limited than the definition you are talking about. Are anime, manga and books really porn, or is it erotica? I honestly don’t mean to say anything about the alternative types… I don’t have an opinion on them either way. I just want to argue that there is no sure-safe way to guarantee that any photos or films are really done voluntarily.

    (And I don’t count any film that includes sex and pornographic…. obviously there are lots of films that perhaps would have in the past been considered pornographic but today are just… well, romantic commedies, dramas, etc. These probably don’t involve coersion.)

  • http://calulu.blogspot.com Calulu

    I kept a lot of what I wrote about porn in the article purposely vague because there are so many different types of porn and ways of viewing/using it. I don’t think the problem is the type or why you’re viewing it. I’ve always thought the problem is one of it being so vilified from the pulpit while secretly using it. It’s about that super Puritan mindset in America that everything sexual is ‘dirty’, it’s about repression, it’s about control.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Good points, Paula. (And yeah, England in the 1800s was rife with pornography AND prostitution, no matter what Victorian sexual norms people touted publicly.) Also, it’s just plain hyperbolic to say that there is NO WAY to know whether or not you are viewing porn where the performers are being violated and that, if you’re watching porn films, you’re PROBABLY watching sexual abuse. As I said above, the safety of the performers is a real issue and the sex trafficking industry is extremely troubling. But there are porn companies that put a lot of effort into making sure their performers are there of their own free will and that they are treated ethically. (And there’s things like Dan Savage’s HUMPfest, which is all about people producing their own amateur porn, totally on the level, everything consensual.) As with everything else, porn is easier to regulate when it’s not swept under the rug. (Yeah, aware that I’m sounding embarassingly expert on porn right now but, again, it’s a big divisive issue among feminists, so I’ve made an effort to learn a lot to inform my own opinions.)

    Anyway, like I said above, none of these problems are INHERENT to the basic idea of looking at (or reading or whatever) sexually explicit images for the purposes of arousal. The ethics of producing porn and the ethics of consuming porn are two separate issues. What religious conservatives seem to be railing against is the consumption of porn and I think that is just plain silly or worse. The idea that a person should NEVER get aroused by anyone but their spouse does just not jibe with the reality of human sexuality and it unnecessarily shames people who may have perfectly healthy, honest relationships and healthy sexuality.

    One thing I do agree with you on though–I get really annoyed when people excavate ancient images or carvings of nude female figures and their immediate reaction is “har har, it’s porn!” Partly because it assumes that their could be no other purpose behind creating such an image besides guys getting turned on by it (and really, the human body and even the sexualized human body in art has served SO MANY purposes throughout history) and mostly because it assumes, as so many people did for years, that all physical culture is created by and for men. How do we know that a lot of those neolithic figures weren’t carved by women for their own purposes that we don’t understand? Paleo-anthropologists are coming around to the idea that women, you know, actually did stuff besides sit around waiting to be fed and impregnated while the men were out inventing fire and tools and the rest of human culture. They actually participated! We shouldn’t assume that every nude representation of a woman from the paleolithic era was a product of the Male Gaze.

    And btw, I’ll definitely be checking out that Hedges piece since I greatly admire some of his other work (the little that I’ve read.)

  • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com krwordgazer

    I have two issues with porn. One is that I think the basic premise: “Use things. Love people” is a good foundational ethic, and porn does seem to me to be about using people and thinking of them as things, not viewing them as full human beings with their own lives and stories.
    Second, Jesus’ words about not looking on someone in order to lust after them seem to me to not mesh very well with porn viewing.

    My own theory about why there are so many porn shops in Bible belt areas, etc., has everything to do with patriarchy and very little to do with healthy, respectful sexuality between equal partners. When women are viewed as existing for men, and women are divided into two polarized categories, saints and sluts, then the saints are for marrying and the sluts are for using. Has anyone studied porn use among women in patriarchal religions? I can’t help but think that it doesn’t happen much among those women deemed faithful.

  • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com krwordgazer

    Caveat to the above: I make a distinction between porn and erotica. Erotica is when sex is depicted in literature, film or art, in such a way that it is expressive of the human condition and part of the human story. Erotica is usually an integral part of the work, necessary to the plot or scene, rather than existing for its own sake, and it invites the viewer/reader to see the human characters involved as human.

  • http://ourgirlsclub.blogspot.com/ Ginny Bain Allen

    You’re kidding me right, Suzanne? Pornography is easily accessible to anyone now due to the availability on the Internet. Men used to have to go to adult stores to view or buy porn. Not wanting to be seen by others entering such establishments kept many out, fortunately! Women mainly view porn in order to figure out how to win their men back! satan is loving this evil industry big time!

    Works of art to be ogled at, women are not. Made of flesh and blood, they have feelings, aspirations, and dreams. Our society evaluates the sexual attractiveness of women by creating uncommon, unearthly standards of beauty, causing many to consider they are inferior. We all suffer when women are dishonored by allowing themselves to become immodest slabs of meat on display for all to enjoy. Wives, girlfriends, mothers, sisters, and daughters are wounded when significant males in their lives view nude bodies of indiscriminate women. Males become mesmerized with the so-called ideal specimens, who do not nag or have any expectations of them, who appear to stare longingly back and desire them from screens or glossy, airbrushed pages. Creating fantasy worlds for men, these models cause divisions between men and the women who truly care for them. And folks wonder from whence comes disrespect for, neglect of, and violence directed at women?

    Consider the evils of sex trafficking and child pornography!

    Porn teaches little boys that females are less than they, simply objects to be used for their pleasure. Due to the Internet, children start viewing porn between the ages of 4 and 6 years old! Do you not think this is heartbreaking? How can you not consider the billion dollar industry to be diabolical? Once a man becomes addicted to porn, for it to continue satisfying, it necessarily leads to kinkier and kinkier places. Men masturbate while viewing porn, and it causes them to prefer that to healthy sexual relations with their wives. Porn is addictive behaviour that robs wives and children of their husband’s/father’s time, finances and attention. Porn is the leading cause of divorce. Consider how the consumption of porn led Ted Bundy to become a serial killer.

    According to exemplary Josh McDowell, pornography is the greatest hindrance to children accepting Jesus! Children! If you refuse to believe me, Josh McDowell will set your progressive arses straight!

    How we spend our time shapes who we are, and how we build the persons we are is cause for social concern. At all times we must ask ourselves whether what we are doing is loving or wise. Are we putting the needs and feelings of others above our own, or is the pursuit of our own pleasure the measure of our lives?


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