It Doesn’t Matter If Actors Willingly Undress for the Camera

It’s true that some actors perform nude and/or sex scenes without any form of coercion. Indeed, there are those who almost seem to relish the opportunity to undress for the camera. As Christian patrons, that shouldn’t provide us with any comfort. When we financially support films with degrading sex and nudity, we support a subculture that abuses those actors who do have a problem with publicly disrobing and sexually acting out.

Maybe it would help to look at it in this way. Consider, if you will, two pertinent groups in this discussion. In the first group are plenty of actors—many of whom are not professing Christians—who experience serious reservations about exposing themselves to the public at large. It’s not because they are trying to glorify God with their bodies, their words, or their actions. It’s not necessarily because they subscribe to a Christian sexual ethic. Still, their consciences bother them when it comes to nudity and sex scenes.

That’s the first group of people. The second group consists of Christian patrons. These are people who are trying to glorify God with their bodies, their words, and their actions. As believers, they are bound by the Christian sexual ethic. And yet these people—those who have been delivered from darkness and transferred into God’s kingdom—are the ones saying their consciences are clear when they watch the consciences of others be violated. These Christians pay for actors to be abused and experience no qualms about it.

Brothers and sisters, this should not be!

And yet there’s more to consider than what we’ve already discussed. To continue my line of reasoning from last week: the second part of my nuanced answer to the argument that some actors do sex scenes and/or nudity willingly is this: it doesn’t matter. Not if we take seriously God’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Whether or not actors agree with the nudity and sex acts required of them is actually beside the point. Why? Because it doesn’t negate the fact that they are being objectified and degraded as human beings in what is essentially a pornographic act. It is unloving of us as Christians to support such actions, even when they are free from coercion.

We see this principle at work in Romans 13, where Paul says loving your neighbor includes avoiding adultery. He’s not assuming that all adultery is rape. Some adultery—much of it, in fact—takes place by mutual consent. And in so-called “open marriages,” there are no parties objecting to adultery. Does that suddenly make the adultery excusable? Not according to Paul. By its nature, sexual perversion is sin, even if it’s consensual and socially acceptable.

All forms of immorality are inherently unloving. That’s the Bible’s stance. That should be the Christian’s stance. In contrast to this, the film industry has created a socially acceptable ménage à trois: two actors commit sexually intimate acts, and audiences sit in on the proceedings with complete approval.

It doesn’t matter if you watch a raunchy movie only for the “good parts” or the overall message. It doesn’t matter if you can watch, or ignore, a sex scene while keeping a completely pure heart. It doesn’t matter if you spend less by renting a DVD. If money travels from your account to the producer of that film, your patronage is supporting an unloving act.

The “law of love” (which we’ve talked about earlier) exhorts us to consider the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of men and women in front of the camera. Is that restricting for a movie-going audience? I suppose so. It has definitely kept me from visiting the theater on several occasions where I otherwise would have willingly and excitedly done so.

But this law of love is not “restricting” in a lastingly negative sense any more than monogamy is a negative restriction for married couples. It’s a law that protects, not harms. It’s a law that governs for good, not evil. It’s a law that helps one cultivate the greatest motive known to humankind. In the end, what is truly more freeing: living a self-centered or an others-centered life? The Bible’s answer is the latter.

Think about the implications here. How would it affect you if you put the law of love into practice? What if you refused to financially support movies that objectified actors because you wanted to treat them as real people? Would you not start viewing the actors you encounter in the movies as real people and not just potential sources of eye candy or gratification? Would the law of love not help you fight sexual lust even more effectively with gospel power? Would it not help you keep from focusing on yourself (which is what lust does) and instead focus on the needs of others (which is what a healthy, Biblically-informed sexuality is all about)? Would that not be a gloriously countercultural way to demonstrate God’s love to your fellow human beings?

I think it would. In fact, my personal experience has been that it does. I dare you (in the most positive sense possible) to prove me wrong.

photo credit: Bob Bekian via photopin cc