First off, my apologies for this odd break from my usual subject matter, but, every now and then, I feel the need to write about something relevant to our own times.
Recently, I followed a link from Facebook that a friend had posted. Advertised as a PSA-style expose of sex-trade human trafficking (something I am moderately familiar with due to the places I've been with the military), it turned out to be a pseudo-advertisement for an American Christian outreach group that specializes in pornography awareness and other sexually-oriented social issues. “We have to kill sexual exploitation at its root,” the makers of the video repeatedly claim – referring to porn as the source of the sex trade, “The root of the problem is the heart of man.”
From the get go, something in this production did not sit right with me. Complete with crisp and flashy graphics, a stirring soundtrack, and gritty stock footage – the makers of the film did a good job making a rather unpleasant topic emotionally resonant and attention-grabbing. I have also seen at least two or three dozen others just like it. Quotes and parts of this video replayed in my head as I spent over a week meditating on what I had seen and heard there compared to what I have seen, heard and experienced first-hand in real life – and how vastly different the two are.
Now, before I proceed any further with this, allow me to explain what this piece will not be about. I am not, by any stretch of the most creative imagination out there, attempting to defend, justify, or excuse the societal epidemics (yes – epidemics) of pornography and other sex industries that have ravaged our country and created perhaps one of the most sexually dysfunctional societies on the planet. The folks at Unearthed Ministries did get one thing very correct about porn – how dangerously fantastic it all is. The entire premise of porn is fantasy – the actions, the dialogue (if there is any), the portrayal of sex, etc. all of it is as fake as it gets. Hell, half the time, even the showcased anatomy isn't real. But, because of its pervasiveness in our society, entire generations of young men and women are growing up with wildly unrealistic expectations and misconceptions about the one aspect of our natures that is supposed to be the most intimately fundamental. So, if you think I’m going to spend my time and effort in an attempt to justify any of this, I suggest you stop reading now and resolve to never interact with me ever again because you clearly know nothing about me and, therefore, I have no interest in maintaining any kind of a relationship with you.
What I do see wrong with how contemporary Christianity attempts to resolve the porn/sex industry issue revolves primarily around two points: the nature of the sex industry in general and, more importantly, who is to blame for it all. In regards to the first point, I have heard (as have most males raised in church-going families) the litany of evils of sexual moral offenses and their grievous societal impacts recited ad nauseum from a thousand different voices. Getting bombarded with all that right at the same time puberty fired up all eight cylinders of my budding sex drive did a wonderful job of damn-near making a neurotic out of me. As time went on and events in my rather interesting life took me to environments radically different from the one I had come from, I started to realize just how ignorant of these moral evils those well-intentioned voices really were. I cannot tell you how many times I've heard the tired line recited (including in the Unearthed video) about how “porn is the cause of human trafficking and the sex trade.” As someone who has spent the past several years in countries that have way less moral compulsions about prostitution than ours does – this is just ridiculously incorrect. To put it bluntly, when we speak of “the world’s oldest profession,” we don’t mean porn. In fact, pornography (as we know it today) is a relative newcomer onto the stage of sexual vices compared to occupations that predate it pretty much back to the beginning of fallen human social interaction. To lay all that at the feet of porn is just sadly uninformed. That isn't to say it has no adverse societal effect (the FBI has some very compelling evidence on the correlation between individuals who sustain long-term addictions and crimes they tend to later commit), but what I too often encounter within anti-porn activist groups are essentially “virgins talking about sex” (pardon the shameless pun). If these movements are to ever gain any ground at all, they have to know the nature of the beast they face – how it moves, how it thinks, why it is … unless they too are under the spell of sexual dysfunction found in our society and fear it too much to really learn anything about it.
Directly related to this – and on which I will spend the majority of my focus – is how these contemporary anti-porn/sex industry movements handle the issue of blame. Who is to blame for the widespread use of porn in America? Why does this problem exist? Whose fault is it, anyways? Go back and watch the video again – what is their answer? That’s right – men. Go look at every manifesto and mission statement of damn-near every other anti-porn group out there and you will find the same theme: it’s the fault of men and their “disordered” sexual appetites. Most of the time, it’s never worded quite that bluntly, but it’s unmistakable to anyone looking at them with any sort of honesty. There exists in our society, in both religious and secular circles, a pre-programmed criteria when it comes to the sex industry – that of Woman = Victim and Man = User/Degrader/Abuser/UltimateOriginOfFault. Even in film and media, the typical trope of strippers, porn actresses, and prostitutes is to portray them as the helpless or unawares victims of sinister skeezy men who shamelessly use and abuse them for their own benefit. Many years ago, I attended a several day-long seminar on Catholic sexual morality that used Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body as its central inspiration. During the portion on pornography, the speaker encouraged all men to rise up and apologize to the women for the “abuse and crimes” they had caused them through porn usage. At no point were women required to do the same … for anything. Testimonials of guilt, written by men, can be read on several porn addiction ministry webpages and publications. Contrast this to the message of an organization like StripChurch – a Protestant organization exclusively geared for reaching out to women currently in the sex industry (and that also inexplicably has a marketing strategy that opts for names that are both painfully awkward and disastrously confusing) – whose message is entirely about love, support, and – more importantly – protection.
Suffice it to say – this image does not match up to the one that I have personally encountered. If you've hung in there with me thus far, buckle up or I may lose you here soon. The circumstances of my life so far have been exotic to say the least. Both in the service and before that, I have gone to places and found myself exposed to environments and people vastly different from those that I came from. While I never lost sight of my moral foundation (even if the grip was shaky … one thing you will never hear me claim is to be perfect or above failure), these exposures changed my outlook on many of these moral issues and granted me a perspective that, frankly, I believe is invaluable. One of the most critical has been the perspective on the sex industry in America and who is truly at fault. To me, the female monopoly on victim status is as unrealistic as the portrayal of sex in porn itself. I actually had the opportunity a few years back to converse for quite some time with an actual porn actress (not an A-lister by any means, but rather worked for a local producer) at a social event. After several rounds of drinks, I asked her point-blank how she could engage in an occupation like that. “Don’t you ever feel used,” I asked, “doesn't it get degrading?” Her response floored me and forever changed the way I saw the sex industry and those who participate in it. “Used?” she replied, almost cracking a smirk, “Honey, it’s the best job ever. I have something to sell and business is good.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but this … this doesn't sound like something a victim would say. As time went on, I kept seeing and hearing more of the above from women that contemporary anti-porn activists were telling me were the ones being disenfranchised by men. Yes, these strippers and escorts who drove around in sports cars I could probably never afford and who earn, on average, over six figures a year(!) … these were the “victims” that I, along with my fellow men, needed to apologize to. I was recently at a bar where, among the patrons that night, there were two “off-duty” strippers. Once again, after several rounds (there’s an old Russian saying that has proven to be perhaps the truest thing I have ever known in my life so far – “drunken words are sober thoughts”) they began gleefully recounting all their “tricks of the trade” and how many guys they had virtually bankrupted while on the job. It was like a kill tally to them, and, like two fighter pilots back at the airfield club, they showed visceral pleasure in recounting it. “Boys are just so stupid easy,” one of them finished with. On the flipside, I have known men that have virtually been ruined physically, financially, and (most importantly) spiritually by the sex industry. Young servicemen that find themselves in horrific marriages to older strippers using them to gain access to military benefits, men who get conned out of entire paychecks at strip clubs, homewreckers that prey on unsatisfying and vulnerable marriages for financial gain … all this and more have I seen at least two or three instances of in just the past few years. Is it possible that we men have been victimized as well? Is it possible that, by means of porn and the sex industry, our natural sexual desires have been twisted and manipulated for the benefit of unscrupulous women?
I am not recounting all this to claim that the sex industry epidemic in America is somehow entirely the fault of women – that would be just as wrong and useless as saying it’s all men’s fault. But, the inconsistency and lack of information that pervades those movements trying to counter porn and the other epidemics we face cannot be ignored. Since the beginning of time, interactions between the sexes have essentially been a two-part phenomenon. We men have always been the more aggressive and assertive of the two – including sexually. It’s how we were designed … with good reason. As Camille Paglia (a woman that I am unabashedly madly in love with – the fact that she is 66 years old and a lesbian does not deter me in the slightest) recently wrote, civilization would not have existed had it not been for men aggressively hacking it out of the wilderness, building the cities from the bare rock, and then manning the walls to keep the savage world at bay. Why then does it seem, in our own times, that all anyone (ie. women) wants to do is change this about men? Which brings me to the question that is probably in the mind of every woman reading this so far – “what does this have to do with me?” I’m sure practically none of you have ever even begun to entertain the thought of becoming a porn actress or a stripper – the very idea is hopefully abhorrent and one you would outright condemn. But, is there still possibly some share of responsibility that belongs at your feet for all this?
Perhaps one of the greatest tragedies produced since the “pornographicization” (yes, I made it up, Spellcheck – deal with it) of our society is how utterly dysfunctional inter-gender relationships have become in recent times. While the pervasive availability of porn is maybe not the cause of this, it certainly fuels the phenomenon. Both men and women today are bombarded 24/7 with dozens of confusing, inconsistent, and sometimes outright malicious voices all dictating what to be, who to be, and how to be it. This has created a social atmosphere that has, thanks to women’s liberation, mostly blamed men for just about everything wrong that we encounter. Whether you wish to admit it or not, the overall attitude in American society is Male = negative and Female = positive. The public school systems have virtually outlawed any activities that are overtly male in nature. You see it in commercials, sitcoms, comedy films – often the smart, independent, preppy woman has everything under control and the male assumes some character ranging from well-meaning oaf to helpless idiot. More and more, pop-culture tends to demand that women assume leadership of their relationships and men need to be “put in their place.” This often translates into many of the relationships I have witnessed myself. I will immediately admit that I am single – do I know all the little niceties of the interpersonal exchange that takes place between men and women within long-term committed relationships? No – however, contrary to extremely popular misconceptions (especially amongst my more conservative, religious peers) being single does have some incredible advantages, the primary being that I am free and unbiased to make outside observations on other relationships I encounter. A secondary advantage is being able to express, with complete honesty, what I observe without fear of being banished to the couch. Frankly, I've seen a disturbing amount of relationships amongst my friends and peers (both secular and religious) that operate from this philosophy of female priority. Often, she runs most of the affairs and his interests are often categorized as secondary. I have had private discussions with male friends of mine who complain bitterly that their wives even use this mentality in their sexual lives – it happens on her schedule and on her terms only. And then women like this find themselves shocked and hurt when they discover years later that their men have been seeking out the fantasies of the virtual bedroom for fulfillment.
If any women reading this are beginning to feel defensive by now, that’s a good thing – it means you’re at least considering your possible role in the epidemic of dysfunction between men and women in our society. My overall point with this entire piece is to show just how far off the mark contemporary efforts at stemming the tide of pornography and sex industry usage are. I will probably lose every female friend I have by saying this, but, ladies – these problems will never actually begin to be resolved until women in this country look into the collective mirror and honestly ask themselves, “what responsibility do we bear for this?” Over the course of several generations, women collectively played a part in crafting a society that has alienated and outright banished genuine masculinity – condemning men to either jettison that which we were always meant to be or live it out through deviant means. Our natural sexual attraction to you all is not something to be suppressed out of misguided pseudo-feminist “morals” – nor is it something to be teased out in front of us like a carrot on a stick to manipulate us to your own ends. It was how we were designed to take the initial first steps into a journey that would culminate in “cleaving together and becoming one flesh” with you. Take it from me, if you really want to give the porn industry a run for its money – make men desire you instead! It isn't hard, most of us are very easily satisfied, just let us be who we were created to be. Words really can't describe how much a beautiful woman means to the male soul and it saddens me that we live in a time that does everything it can to convince women and men that it isn't real or that it's "disordered" somehow. Trust me, porn has nothing on the real thing – compared to a true, loving, honest, balanced, passionate relationship in which genuine masculinity and femininity mutually complement the other, the rest is just an empty husk pathetically trying to emulate that which it never could. For my part, allow me to apologize to those women who have encountered the men who have genuinely failed – failed to treat you with the honor, dignity, respect, and passion you deserve. Believe me when I say that we condemn men like this to an even greater degree than you do – it’s the few rotten ones like that who ruin you all for the rest of us.
Take this for what it is – a topic that was on my mind for several days. Writing is my form of catharsis. If I offended any women out there, well … I still get to sleep in my own bed tonight. Now, if you will excuse me – I need to get back to my search for Ms. Paglia’s address and what sort of flowers she prefers.
*Now back to our scheduled programming ...*