I remember when I was around 10 years old, my friends and I walked around town during recess one time. One of my buddies at the time led the group to a small culvert along the railway tracks where he hid a Playboy magazine to show everyone.
Clearly this wasn’t the first time the guys had been sneaking away porno mags from their older siblings. As the only firstborn in the group, it was obvious to them that this was my first time ever looking at one. At first I was kind of shocked. My adolescent mind had been so preoccupied with hockey cards, video games and Star Wars memorabilia that the thought of girls in a sexual manner wasn’t even a blip on my radar. But as my friends gathered around the magazine to gawk at the pictures of women in questionable positions, never did I see the day when such curiosity would get the better of me. I stared for a bit. It was new, enticing, yet I was overwhelmed with a paranoid suspicion as though someone was monitoring my every move and thought.
I think my parents did a fine job at instilling a respect for the fragility of sexuality in me at a young age, but that certainly didn’t mean I never struggled with lustful thoughts. In fact, one of the things I struggled with the most was a sense of feeling emotionally insecure with my own body, let alone being around members of the opposite sex. I was sometimes confused about why the world’s outlook on sexuality was in direct contrast with what I was taught at home about sex being saved for marriage.
One thing I can definitely appreciate about the sexual revolution is how it encouraged people to not be afraid of their own bodies and to freely express themselves. There is definitely something to be said about feeling confident in our own skin, appreciating our bodies the way they were created, knowing full-well what we like and don’t like, and the meaning of consent. Given this, I can fully understand why some of those who would have grown up in religious circles would feel resentful, as though their sexuality had been suppressed throughout their entire lives.
Although I’ve always made a conscious effort to avoid pornography, I’d be lying if I said that I’ve never struggled with it. The funny thing about it was I found it to be as easy to avoid as buying cigarettes or alcohol – out of sight, out of mind. But I certainly wasn’t safe from stumbling across sexualized imagery on TV commercials, billboards, storefronts in shopping malls or on the internet. Because ‘soft-porn’ is such a normalized part of our culture, many would say that looking at it out of enjoyment doesn’t do any harm to anyone.
However, I would argue that even the most mildly intriguing images in arts, entertainment and advertising are notorious for creating false expectations of reality.
What I discovered about myself was my struggle with being visually stimulated was directly linked to my longing for companionship, to feel loved. As odd as it sounds, I’ve felt betrayed by allowing these media-outlets to make me think that every woman could possibly mimic the very images they produced. But when you’ve been in a relationship long enough to know your partner well, you begin to realize that your inner fantasies are just that – fantasies. They are mere pictures in the mind that do not resemble anything close to reality, and the irony is these lifeless images do absolutely nothing to reciprocate the kind of love you would normally receive from a real human companion. Like alcohol, they provide a temporary sense of enjoyment, but in the end they leave you empty, unfulfilled and longing for more. Over time, the body’s tolerance for regular alcohol consumption increases, and one drink suddenly doesn’t satisfy the way 5 drinks would do in one sitting. Similarly, regular indulgence in a certain type of imagery or activity eventually becomes boring, which can often lead a person to seek more exciting (or possibly more disturbing) means of gratification.
As a tradesman, I work in a field that is largely male-dominated, and it isn’t uncommon to hear coworkers refer to women in such suggestive manners. The dirty jokes and demeaning talk have always been rampant, and it takes a brave man to stand up to such derogatory behavior in such an environment. I once had a coworker whose girlfriend was a manager at an erotic massage parlor. He used to talk about how some of the workers at this place would listen behind the walls of the private rooms to make sure their clients weren’t trying to ‘pawn off’ or rescue their girls. I also remember when a few other co-workers pinned up posters of strippers they encountered at a nightclub all over the washroom walls, bragging about the lap-dances they received from them. As a newly promoted foreman where I was working at the time, I didn’t know what to do about it. As pleasant of a sight it was to look at the images of these attractive women, I eventually took the posters down and threw them in the garbage to their dismay – of course, without them knowing it was me.
Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy Magazine, passed away at the age of 91. I can certainly understand mourning someone’s death regardless of their lifestyle. But what I found disturbingly ironic was how many people, including some outspoken feminists, were celebrating the legacy this man left behind – the very thing they claimed to stand against! Many of my readers will probably disagree with me and say that Hefner never made anyone do anything against their will. Some would even argue that former porn stars who suffered emotional and physical trauma are no different than Hollywood, musical or sports celebrities who claim their profession ruined their lives. Such a comparison is the symptom of a culture that embraces an ideology of narcissistic relativism. It completely invalidates the experiences of these poor women and ignores the very root of the epidemic of the spiraling sexual crisis we are facing today.
Although we may think that what we do with our own bodies doesn’t affect anyone else, what we often forget is that every action has an eventual (if not immediate) consequence. Some would argue that if women are freely exploiting themselves through pornographic media or working in the sex trade, that people have no right to tell them what to do with their bodies and that it’s okay to indulge as long as it’s consensual.
I fully agree that we ought to respect people’s free will and their right to do as they will to themselves. However, I would argue that indulging in the exploitation of another human being is still a form of dehumanization – even if it is consensual. Many people of good conscience would be hesitant to have sex with a drunken girl due to the fact that she isn’t in her right mind to give sufficient consent to the one who’s sober. Even if a sex trade worker is fully aware and not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, many of them resort to this type of work due to unfortunate circumstances. Regardless of whether what they offer is consensual, there’s no denying that willingly indulging is taking advantage of their situation for the sake of self-gratification, and does a complete disservice to the fact that these women deserve better that being treated as mere objects of pleasure.
The sexual revolution began as a rebellion against what was viewed as an oppressively moralistic society, and continues to do so in modern times. Since the 1940’s, the pendulum has swung into the opposite direction, and it won’t be long before people who hold traditional views on sexuality become a tiny minority. But ever since feminism has shed light on the problem of rape culture in our society, how has the free use of pornographic indulgence and the sex trade helped suppress the objectification of women, especially under the banner of ‘If it feels good, do it?’
Wouldn’t this mean that men are the ones who benefit the most from ‘consequence-free’ sexual gratification? Regardless of the comparison, sports injuries do not directly result in broken families and aborted children the way sexual exploitation does.
A priest I knew once said, “Where you put your eyes determines your thoughts.” It’s common in most religious circles for people to emphasize the idea of not causing somebody else to stumble – whether that be regarding alcohol or drug use, or practicing chastity. But the reality of this world is people will dress and act as they please, and sheltering ourselves from it does nobody a good service. But something we can do to discipline ourselves is to be self-aware of where our eyes wander, and to view the opposite sex as human beings as opposed to objects to serve our desires.
Giving into lustful urges and allowing our fantasies to dictate our expectations of the opposite sex requires no effort on our part. But to practice self-control and chastity?
That’s going against our own natural tendencies. That’s rebellion!