Saying than men struggle with porn is a lot like saying that humans struggle with sin. It's not a particularly keen insight, with rampant statistics showing how marriages are destroyed, and how thriving the pornography industry is and boasts to be, and how the level of comfort our society has with sexuality and sensuality has permeated even into the church. We are so ashamed of it we don't want to talk about it, despite so many of us all struggling with the same issue.
One question I've pondered for a while though is: do men and women realize that they are enabling the temptation of others?
Facebook is a powerful tool for communication, allowing folks to share content with each other in a way which, while not new, has certainly been more successful than its predecessors at reaching every facet of our culture. You can find and connect with people of nearly any race, religion, creed, political alignment, sexual orientation, and subculture. With such ability to communicate, are we paying enough attention to the content we are associating with ourselves? If someone were to only see your profile, the things you share and like, what conclusions would they draw about you?
While in the past some have sought conviction in men and women about their appearance and clothing in church, and certainly there is still a lot of ammunition to continue that fight, today I'd like to ask folks to look specifically at their online presence, and how the present and share content.
If you have a friend who is an alcoholic, is it wise to meet them in a pub? If you have a friend who has committed adultery, is it wise to meet with them on a beach in the middle of summer? If you have a friend with spending problems, is it wise to meet with them in a shopping mall? So, in turn, if you have friends who struggle with pornography, should you be posting and spreading content which is pornographic?
This is where it gets messy. Much like how some folks can handle their struggles and can control their drinking, their lust, their spending, each person is in a unique position and level of maturity. There are always going to be people who struggle with certain things more or less than others, and that's not intrinsically good or bad, as each of us have our own path and struggles to deal with.
Struggle with sinful behaviors is not a light switch, it's more a barrel of bad water that the world is doing everything it can to keep poisoned. When we drink of that water, we take on the corruption, and the only one who can purify that water is Christ. Christ can purify both the water we drink of and also remove the corruption already inside us, and he does so out of love with no conditions. Even so, when in Christ, our continued sin is akin to the world poisoning the waters again, and instead of waiting for Christ to purify, we just dive in and drink of the corruption again. It is not then a surprise that many of these sinful desires are ones of impulse, and that the desire to act them out can dissolve over time spent in fellowship with Christ. While we've been purified, in this life we are still susceptible so long as we are trying to live on our own strength.
So the messy bit. The definition of pornography from dictionary.reference.com is as follows:
obscene writings, drawings, photographs, or the like, especially those having little or no artistic merit.
It would then seem that things like women in bikinis, pin-up girls, and other types of images which are not obscene and which have artistic merit would not fall under that category. Let's look at part of another definition on the same page, which is originally from the Computing Dictionary, fitting in our digital age:
Still and moving images, usually of women, in varying states of nudity, posing or performing erotic acts with men, women, animals, machines, or other props.
This one is, interestingly enough, much less specific. Remember that at one time, showing a married couple in two separate beds was considered risque. Before that, showing ankle was for a time also on the verge of impropriety. Yet nowadays it is not uncommon to have women on the covers of magazines in the grocery store with little clothing at all. Nudity doesn't include just the privates, nor does it exclude implied nudity.
I find it sad we use artistic merit as some sort of tongue-in-cheek excuse. I can appreciate the argument of paintings or photographs which extol the shape and form of the human body...but that's just thinly veiled idolizing of the human form.
Now what's downright scary though is that a few women have decided to find identity and power in becoming the objectified. One example I am very familiar with is video games, which have a long history of female characters being outright fan service. The “chain mail bikini” where women in fantasy settings are wearing considerably less than the men, even when they are supposed to be fulfilling the same roles in war or combat. Sci-fi is no less innocent, where the fantasies are no longer hindered by the simplicity of technology, but can instead use the guise of advanced technology to justify the lack of clothing, or the depth of the depravity under the guise of advanced civility.
Where this comes into play is activities like cosplay, or costume play, which has become another surreptitious way to get away with objectification without the guilt. “Hey, she's just dressing like the character.” The character, however, doesn't persist after the game has been turned off and the makeup is removed. The character doesn't grow up being told what is and isn't an acceptable body image. The character doesn't have to deal with a husband who is unable to be stimulated by his wife because his sexuality is tied so deeply with fantasy.
It is also ignorant, intentional or accidental makes little difference, to the fact that those female characters were designed with objectification in the first place, which hasn't been reduced now that real women are mimicking those characters. Yet a cosplay gallery is not viewed with as much criticism as “pornography”, though it may be playing with just as much eroticism, though leaving the more intimate elements to the imagination.
There are other examples from my own past, names and faces of women that I have objectified in the pursuit of my own pleasure who are not ashamed of or hiding their choice in profession. Does their apparent acceptance of the role they played in my fantasies make my shame any less? Does the impact to my own mind become reduced when I don't fear them having been abused as part of bringing me satisfaction? Am I really the only one who is affected by my decisions?
At the end of the day, we are given strength to deal with our struggles, if we only rest in Christ. The question you need to ask yourself before you “Like” or share a photo or an album, though, is whether you're contributing to the struggle of someone else you know. Be considerate, because the men are watching.
“But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. ” ~ Matthew 5:28 (NKJV)
“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light,” ~ Matthew 6:22 (ESV)
“And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.” ~ Matthew 18:9 (NKJV)
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matthew 18:6 (NKJV)
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,” ~ Galatians 5:19 (NKJV)
“For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” ~ Galatians 5:17 (NKJV)
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” ~ 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)