SEX WEEK – Media Pornography and True Sexuality

At the heart of pornography is sexuality haunted by its own disappearance.

Jean Baudrillard

narcissus

What is real, and what is illusion?

So here’s a cool story: God made Adam and Eve, man and woman. He created them to be together Apparently, God created them Good, but not quite Perfect. Woman came out of Man (hence the name) in a rather elaborate story:

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” 19 Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”

24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

God needs to create a creature like Man as a suitable helper. None of the others will do, and none of the others will work. God made man in His image, but even then it was insufficient. God needed woman to fulfill this other half of the human equation, the other side of God’s image. It is in this that they become complete. I imagine we could, also, include consummation, childbirth, and the development of family into the huge equation.

It’s no surprise that Jesus addresses this directly in Matthew 19 and Mark 10 (the former will be the reference used here) in the issue of divorces. These were completely legal under the Jewish law system presented in the Pentateuch, and it lists explicit guidelines. We tend to view most of the Old Testament through the lens of condescension; a wrathful God doesn’t love His people, yet somehow He allows for divorces. Strange, no? Yet Jesus controverts this previous idea, precisely because it was a system designed for sinful men who could not know any better (Matthew 19):

Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” 4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” 7 They *said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?” 8 He *said to them,“Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. 9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Clearly, Christ does not play around with human relationships. If we find him saying “no divorce”, then why not take it at this surface level? Furthermore, we move forward and see that the Church exists as the Bride of Christ. The metaphor isn’t just a metaphor, but a real and distinct way of looking at how the Church should act. To make a long story short with a host of references to support it, I use Ephesians 5 to demonstrate the significance of the relationship:

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Imagine that Paul would put  a right and proper marriage side by side with the Church. There’s something to the comparison, and it’s not just there to demonstrate a lesson. The very structure of reality, in a way, mirrors the doctrines and truths of Christianity. If it didn’t, then Christian ethics for thousands of years would not emphasize the pursuit of virtue and justice as a means to become more like Christ. How do you become more like Christ, who was celibate (as far as we know and as far as the evidence takes me), in the role of marriage? You reflect Him through your refusal to accept compromise in family matters, and by treating your spouse exactly as Christ would treat the Church.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy,cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

This isn’t some mere trifle. The importance of Christ and the Church echoes that of the familial unit. The relationship between men and women, in perfect complementary union, demonstrates (if in an imperfect way) the union of Christ with the Church. Its symbolic significance means we should strive, as much as possible, to preserve that relationship in the way God intended. Even with its pitfalls due to sin, men and women as equal partners can show the love of God and express it within their marital union. They become a new family in the bond of marriage. The consummation doesn’t just “seal the deal”, but it is the very real spiritual union between two people. They are married forever in God’s eyes, regardless of whether you want to believe that. It’s the apex of creation, almost! The act isn’t just an act, but a part of the whole sphere of sexuality that God placed precisely for the reason above. True sexuality comes from God, and has been demonstrated pretty clearly in Scripture

I suppose that’s why I don’t believe premarital sex sounds like a good idea! Not that those who choose to remain single are wrong to do that. The early Church certainly encouraged it (perhaps a bit too far), and there’s Scriptural warrant for it in Matthew 19:

10 The disciples said to Him, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.” 11 But He said to them, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.”

That doesn’t make someone who is unmarried of a lesser distinction any more than getting married means “giving into mutually shared lusts”. Celibate or not, each shows us another aspect. A calling is a calling; some will get married, some will not. However, in every case to show the image of God requires us to act in a way appropriate to us and to God regarding sexuality. It is constitutive to your personality only in that it demonstrates your personal convictions, no more and no less. Not everyone needs to experience it, and not all of us were designed for it.

So how can you represent such a complex human relationship in a video game? Well, the only way sinful human beings could possibly due it – reduce it to the level of the physical act. I can’t imagine a single one where sex hasn’t operated as a quicktime event (God of War, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas’ unreleased Hot Coffee feature), a means to show the connections between characters in a spectatorial mode that is completely restricted to a voyeuristic visual experience (Heavy Rain) or as the culmination of dialogue trees (take your pick of a favorite modern BioWare game). In what case did these, truly, show us something meaningful about human sexuality? They didn’t, all told, and if you imagine they did, you’ve seriously been warped by our culture obsessed with physical acts of pleasure.

We cannot do anything to show sexuality well, because it’s not designed to become a voyeuristic visual/audio medium. It is a private act between two people that has real spiritual implications, and no matter what, it’s certainly NOT meant to be watched by millions of people in digital form. I just can’t imagine a single place where it could possibly become mechanically satisfying or integrated well, because it’s not a game and not a mechanic. To insert it, therefore, we need to reduce it to one part of the whole, and that is where the sin occurs.

The Matrix Jean Baudrillard

The Matrix is kind of like that.

Our culture is increasingly becoming pornographic; it’s sex without sexuality, sensuality, or pleasure, or actual human connection. It is the brute fact of the act described without ANY investment into the real thing other than our tendentious connection to it in “real” life. Sexual sins reduces sex from a relationship to an act. The desire becomes the primary element in the equation, a selfish and prideful desire of self. That’s lust, whether or not it’s sexual at all. But to go one further, we can say the worst sexual sin might be the neutralization of desire from the act. It’s even further removed from its origin, precisely because it has stripped it of all meaning. So that is the ultimate problem: the removal of meaning from things God provides. Consciousness of sin is much better than not knowing any better at all (Romans 1). When people say hell is separation from God, I think that is what they mean: not that I know God exists, but that I can’t possibly come to that conclusion any more. The knowledge literally doesn’t exist; the disconnect appears so wide that I can’t even imagine it.

It’s the creation of a pornographic culture and an empty world that I find utterly destructive. This goes for everything, not just sex; it’s the excising of meaning from everything, and it will kill our culture in the end. In other words, it’s rather drab and boring to see the simulation without the right thing, but to make the simulation the real? That’s a frightening thought, and one that looks to be upon us if Baudrillard is right:

Sex is everywhere else to be found, but that’s not what people want. What people deeply desire is a spectacle of banality. This spectacle of banality is today’s true pornography and obscenity. It is the obscene spectacle of nullity (nullité), insignificance, and platitude.

We can attach pornography to literally anything in our world, from violence to media to an obsession with royal babies, We fixate on others to emulate the experience of being in that place vicariously, not so much as a desire but…just to do something. Anything. It’s a bit different in the first world having “free time” than living on a subsistence farm, is it not? There’s not a lot of difference between narcissism and pornography – they tend to run in the same circles. The surreptitious summation of it all comes from this: Christian and non-Christian alike find themselves co-opted by media pornography.

Yet I don’t characterize video games in this mold, because games also represent a part of human experience. We talk about video games, discuss them, and strategize as humans did for thousands of years. They don’t need to be pornography, even if they tend to descend there for some into a fantasy wonderland. That’s up to the individual, as I’m sure I have said many times. I talk about them all day long, and somehow that never gets old. We can insert nearly every human experience in there, though.

Sexuality need not transform into a ghost of its true self. Christ already shows us the way; now we just need to follow it and walk away from the media pornography.

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.
  • Stephen Lefebvre

    That’s very well thought out and placed. You’ve really dissected the function of pornography and the function of how we as humans play out pornography or its equivalents. It reminds me of the link that has been found where serial killers gain a sexual gratification from killing (and doesn’t necessarily have to involve performing sex). The function of porn is existent in other forms in our lives, most definitely true!

    One thing that made me do a double take is Matthew 19:9-12. I think what you were trying to say was that the disciples confirmed in verse 10 that in that time, people divorced a lot and got married all the time. Is that what you meant? Seems plausible I guess. It makes me wonder how much different the culture was compared to the present besides the obvious differences in technology. Also, when Jesus said in verse 11, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given,” I’m having trouble understanding if he means his own statement in verse 9 or the disciples’ statement in verse 10. I’m having trouble comparing whichever statement to which he’s referring to what he is talking about with the Eunuchs in verse 12. Tell me, does a eunuch have the ability to have sex at all, and was Jesus considering the fact that a eunuch’s purpose for having sex is not able to be fulfilled in marriage, so that his statement about adultery doesn’t apply to them….or more like it’s not possible to apply to them? …Utterly confusing, dude. 😛 Maybe I’m thinking to hard into it to really get it.

    • Zachery Oliver

      Thanks! I have been thinking about this for a while, and why people get addicted to pornography but don’t really find gratification from it. What does the Internet call it, Rule 34? If something exists, there is pornography of it. And why is there so much? Because the desensitizing occurs after a while. It’s a little different from violence because suffering doesn’t come into play with digital violent actions, but pornography’s a whole different ballgame.

      The “eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom” has been much debated over the 2000 years of Christendom. Some take it literally, other spiritually, but the focus comes from what one is willing to give up. Some are called to celibacy, others not, and there’s nothing wrong with that (same thing I think of pacifism: some are called, and some are not).

      I imagine it’s in the same vein as cutting off limbs that sin, you know?