With music videos like “Anaconda” and television shows like Dating Naked around for our perusing “pleasure”, a lot of us don’t even have to download porn. It’s all over pop culture. And so, since we’re used to seeing a lot of what used to be only reserved for HBO’s Real Sex, we don’t even catch that a lot of what’s on television is pornographic.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, I believe this is an area where our hearts have grown numb. We’ve become callous to various forms of porn in our entertainment. As I have argued in the past, one “acceptable” version of porn is sex scenes (and many forms of nudity) in major motion pictures.
Is it really fair to label such cinematic choices as pornography? E. Stephen Burnett says yes:
This is a point beyond contention: naked people who act out sexual scenarios in public media in order to get money is porn. So the argument is not truly about whether it is porn; the only real argument is how we respond to it.
Some might say pornography should be more narrowly defined: that it is an explicit display of sexuality with the purposeful intent of stimulating sexual arousal. Because the intention of most films is to stimulate aesthetic or emotional feelings, there is a legitimate difference between what the porn industry produces and what Hollywood produces. So the argument goes.
In all fairness, there is a lot of truth in that argument. However, I’ve already shown how the differences between Hollywood sex scenes and porn are actually cause for greater concern, not less. The differences only serve to damn mainstream sex scenes, not excuse them.
To build on what I’ve already said, this blog series will attempt to expose just how much the two are actually alike (with equally damning results). As I see it, there are six similarities. I plan on detailing these similarities over the course of six separate blog posts, although they will not likely be consecutive. (I know it may not feel like it sometimes, but I don’t only talk about sex and nudity on this blog.)
Let me give a quick and broad overview of where I plan on going in this series. Here are the similarities between porn (which I am assuming Christians can agree is inherently unacceptable) and sex scenes in movies (which Christians are, at the very least, willing to tolerate, if not outright defend).
1. They involve sexual acts.
Sexual acts are sexual acts, whether your hormones are involved or not. Trying to separate “sexual acts for the camera” into a class all by itself is no better than trying to say what you do with your eyes isn’t adultery because you haven’t actually touched anything. You might as well try arguing that everything up until the point of actual intercourse is not inherently sexual.
2. They are obscene and voyeuristic.
Biblically speaking, sex was designed to be private. It is not a spectator sport. In contrast, Hollywood sex scenes and porn films invite us to do something we were never designed to do: watch people sexually act out. For entertainment, no less.
3. They are often tantalizing—for the participants and the spectators.
Note the clarifying word often. We can’t pretend that all responsible adults can always just magically turn off their sex drives when they either 1) get naked with a costar and do everything sexual with them except have actual intercourse, or 2) watch other human beings perform vivid sexual acts.
4. They are wildly unrealistic.
The scenarios conveyed in porn are often outlandish and entirely outside the realm of reality. So are many mainstream sex scenes. The picture of sex often painted for us in movies is fantastic—not in the “man, that’s great” sense, but in the “man, what alternate universe are they living in?” sense.
5. They revel in lust and cultivate within their audience a taste for sex as it shouldn’t be.
Sex scenes in movies are not a practice in celebrating marital fidelity and covenant love. Rather, what is celebrated is, first and foremost, fornication. Adultery and infidelity aren’t off limits, either. Cinematic portrayals of the sex act present us with a myriad of divinely prohibited ways in which people receive fleeting sexual satisfaction. In the process, it largely ignores the one and only place in which we can receive truly soul-enriching, thirst-quenching satisfaction: the marriage bed.
6. They objectify, dehumanize, and damage women and men.
I’ve argued this already in countless other places (the most popular being here), but it bears repeating. With sex scenes, actors are too often treated like characters in a book: figments of imagination without souls or wills; something completely at the mercy of a demanding audience (i.e., us).
So, those are my arguments. Those are the six similarities between porn’s use of sex and the film industry’s use of sex scenes. If you see any glaring (or not so glaring) holes in my propositions at the outset, please let me know. This is a conversation that needs to take place in the church—not so one side can come out victorious, but so we in the body of Christ can be united in our pursuit of holiness as we fight this fight of faith side by side.