Pornography From Another Perspective

So let me just start out by saying that the title of this entry is a bit edgy for even me. Pornography is an uncomfortable and awkward topic. And my thoughts here are likely going to be uncomfortable, awkward, and provocative for some folks.
Some years back, there was a “disturbingly candid” essay by a pastor in the Christian periodical, Leadership about his struggles with pornography. There were several noteworthy insights about pornography from this essay, but I’m going to focus on just one.
The insight is that the pastor was attracted to these images because they were unreal. The women in the pictures never had bad days, they were never anyone’s daughter or mother, never crabby or demanding, always suited his moods, needs, and wants. There were no mood swings. They were always respectful and encouraging. They were unreal.
Dan Phillips (via Pyromaniacs 29Mar2011) continues this thought: “That is why so many women resent actresses and models, in general. It isn’t catty pettiness or smallness. It is that they know how visually-tempted men can be, and they know that they can’t compete with a fantasy …”
In other places, the unreality of these women has been exposed by the use of photographic manipulation and the recognition that, at the best, merely one to two percent of women have – at any one point in their lives – ever looked anything like the images that are displayed. The vast majority of real women just do not look like that. The women in the pictures are unreal.
Any so-called ‘relationship’ the man viewing these images had with these women was fantasy, wishful thinking, a daydream, a willing delusion. The whole basis of pornography is anchored to the pleasure that this fantasy creates. And none of this is really news. We understand male pornography pretty well.
What about female pornography?
Hold it – what?? Is there such a thing?
Most certainly. The mistake is to think that female pornography is about beefcake male models at Chippendales. That is a significant minority of what I have come to recognize as female pornography.
Let’s back up and take a 50,000 foot view. What is it that makes images of naked women a starting point for male pornography? It is because they are images. Men tend to be far more visual in their ‘attractiveness’ criteria. Men are attracted to visually pleasing women. To be blunt, men want to have sex with a physically attractive woman.
Now let’s look at the other side. Are women attracted to visually pleasing men? Sure, but that is not nearly as strong an attraction as to emotionally pleasing men. Stereotypically, women want romance, conversation, emotional connection, relational intimacy, and so forth. To be blunt, women want to have sex with an ‘emotionally attractive’ man.
So what is female pornography?
Where can women readily gain access to depictions of emotionally attractive men? Where can they perceive of men who are always attentive, relationally intelligent and engaged? Men who express unconditional love, romance, and excitement?
Romance Novels.
Romance novels are full of men who are unreal. The males in romance novels speak and act very differently than the vast majority of real men – men who actually exist.
A real man comes home from work sitting at a desk where he can’t be as active as he should be and so has put on some pounds. He’s battled the actual job, fought against the tyranny of an idiotic organization, and run the gauntlet of stop-and-go traffic for an hour. He comes home and is exhausted, grumpy, and wound up. He is curt and needy. He’s unreasonable, to be sure. And when he crawls into bed with his wife after the two of them have had a couple of tense moments during the evening, he still wants to cuddle – on his terms – which ultimately means sexual intercourse.
Traditionally, the man in the romance novel is not like this at all. He looks like Fabio-Robert Redford-Brad Pitt-George Clooney. He leaves work in the middle of the day at a moment’s notice and rushes to his lady-love to assure her that he really, truly, deeply loves her and engages in generous slow-motion cuddling for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. This is not a man who really exists. He is a fantasy. He is not real.
By the way, the current version of the romance novel male circles around vampires, shape-shifters, etc. Oh, and let’s not forget the male homosexual market.
Romance novel readers Love That Man. They buy books to relive this fantasy experience again, and again, and again, and again … Sound familiar? There are A Lot of books being sold to support these female addictions. Whatever else you may call them, romance novels are clearly making a lot of money. To top it off – they are displayed and on sale by the yard-length shelves at Walmart, Target, Kmart, and other fine ‘family-friendly’ stores all over the country.
It is more than interesting for me to observe that digital book readers (such as Kindle) are much more popular among women. The technology of the digital tablet is partly fueled by the market demand for electronic books. “Romance readers buy in volume and velocity, making them optimal digital readers.” I am reminded of a quote that I heard in the early 1990’s. It went something like this: “All emerging publishing technology (books, photography, movies, radio, VCR-DVD, internet) has been propelled by two forces: religion and pornography.” Think I’m making this up? Check this out: http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/157/angela-james-harlequin-ebook. 
Kindle technology and female pornography – linked at the hip.

Yes, Virginia, there is female pornography. I hope your mother is having a responsible conversation with you about it. Just as I hope that your daddy is having a responsible conversation with your brother about pictures of naked women. And that is pornography from a different perspective.


Weird “Christians”

Generally, those in the pastorate very much want to interact with people outside their church. We see ourselves not only as helpers but also as those with the ‘treasure in jars of clay.’ We want to help and we have something of value that we want to share. But it gets weird, in some cases.
We got a call from a guy some time ago who initially asked about the church but then had very specific questions. The call was initially fielded by our church secretary who took the name and number of the caller and said she’d gotten rather flustered by him. The questions were getting specific and she did not feel confident to address them.
So I called this guy. It was a very unpleasant conversation with this guy insisting that churches don’t do the things in the Bible. His grammar was poor and his manner both abrasive and confrontational. At one point he said that we should never do things that are not in “the book.” So I asked him about democracy, automobiles, and English – all things that are not in the Bible that he himself participates. Not many people like being drawn into a debate like this. I’m one of those, as well. It went like that for ten minutes.
Finally I asked what church he regularly attends. He said he goes to lots of churches. But I asked; do you attend any one church regularly? No, he replied. I offered, "Then you yourself are not obeying the fellowshipping commanded in the book of Hebrews." (Hebrews 10:25). He was quiet for a second and I followed up with the fact that his whole conversational posture here was argumentative. He denied that – of course – and insisted that he was “just asking questions.” I don’t know about you all, but somebody who tells me they are “just asking questions” is not “just asking questions.” Every lawyer knows that hostile cross-examination is always done “just asking questions.”
He had a theological hot button about being saved. How did it really happen? I quoted the epistle to the Romans – one of the most powerful discussions on our need for salvation in all of scripture. But that wasn’t "good enough" (scripture isn’t “good enough?”); at the same time, he insisted that I find a place in the Bible where people were actually saved because they believed on Jesus and were baptized. I countered, if the Apostle Paul says that’s the way it is, then it is true. The Bible doesn’t have to provide an example – why do you insist on that? Again, a moment of silence.
He sounded like a “discernment” guy and his whole ‘conversation’ was about telling rather than listening. I gently confronted him on his tone, his attitude, and his judgmental posture and suggested that if he wanted to actually engage the truths of scripture then he would need to do more conversing (that is, listening) than broadcasting. That didn’t seem to be likely so I told him that he would not be interested in coming to our church.
I have no doubt that on some discernment website or blog, this nutcase will state that I or my church do not really believe or practice the Bible.
What is really annoying about people like this is their assumption that they know more than they do. Reading the Bible is fairly easy to do for a literate person – fully understanding it takes a lifetime of rigorous, detailed, and humble study. Those who have actually done that report that the Bible is richer, deeper, far more complex and nuanced than they ever imagined when they began. “Great is the mystery of godliness.”
But for people like my caller (and other so-called ‘discernment’ crusaders), the truth is simplistic and must correspond only with what they wish to believe. They can’t imagine that they might be wrong. Humility is not a virtue and certainly not a characteristic they possess. In fact, actual ignorance and lack of education is held up as a strength. These are weird people.
But what is even more worrying is that there are many contemporary ‘Evangelicals’ who can’t tell the difference. I mean, as an example, people who don’t know the difference between a Benny Hinn (heretic) and Charles Stanley (good guy) – they’re both on T.V. It turns out that actual and real discernment among most Christians is not that common. What passes as ‘discernment’ on the internet is a dressed-up version of old-school Neo-Fundamentalism. You know who those are: the people who don’t seem to be for anything but are very much AGAINST nearly everything. I am concerned because there are a lot of shallowly-planted followers of Jesus who actually can’t tell the difference between real discernment and the angry discernment.
So, what can be done? Is it hopeless? Is there any way to beef-up the true discernment of the average American Evangelical? What do you think?