i have spent a lot of time in my life researching pornography. first as a (seemingly) hopelessly addicted consumer and now as a porn crusader of sorts, bringing what little illumination i can to the dark (but ever-brightening) paths that lead to a sun-drenched freedom.
so when it was published today that researchers at Princeton had determined that young men objectify women in bikini’s, i can’t say i was particularly surprised. but i was interested. it turns out that when men look at images of scantily clad women, their “brain areas associated with handling tools and the intention to perform actions” are activated. my translation of this is that in some sense women lose the “imago dei” that we’ve all been infused with and become merely steps along a path to self-centered personal pleasure.
one of the most insightful thoughts i’ve read on this topic of pornography and objectification is from Dennis Lyle, the rector of Mundelein Seminary, who contends that nudity alone is not the problem with pornography. after all, places like the Sistine Chapel are covered with nudity, yet they do not seem to lead us down these difficult paths. instead, he insists that:
the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much but that it shows too little. It doesn’t reveal a totality of the human person. Pornography draws our attention only to the external, so we never really arrive at a true appreciation for the person as he or she is. The person becomes an object … like a toy or a tool.”
with lust, we’re not concerned with the individual that it’s directed toward or the creation’s representation of the Creator. we’re totally consumed with how that individual might satiate our own relentless desires. and the same holds true when sex is used as advertisement fodder…we no longer see the humanity in individuals, but instead see products only as the means to the end of gratifying ourself with that object of our desire.
so what, right? is any of this really news? and if it is, what does it mean? well, a couple of thoughts. first, for people who claim to follow after Christ:
–men: I Timothy 5:1-2 reminds us that we’re to treat female friends as sisters…with absolute purity of thought. perhaps this thought will serve as a diversion from the rabbit trail that our minds start to run down next time we get distracted by some woman who’s lacking in the clothing department. let’s covenant to value our sisters as reflections of our Creator.
–women: we (men-folk) know you want to look beautiful. and we affirm you in that…feel free to look beautiful! but please also be considerate and thoughtful about the end result of the clothing (or lack thereof) you choose in your quest for beauty. this doesn’t mean you have to dress in formless robes. just maybe think about how you can “help a brother out,” so to say.
and for everyone, no matter who you follow…
-none of us want to be viewed simply as objects, do we? we want people to value us for qualities that will last…our character. all of our outward trappings will wrinkle and sag and age. but our integrity only grows more enchanting as we refine it. so may we all walk in ways that affirm those around us…not as tools for our own personal plundering, but as humans rich with hope and dignity.