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Monday, February 23, 2009

Ambient Pornography

I was reading an entry by Dr. Albert Mohler entitled Pornography, Public Culture, and the New Administration, and a little phrase caught my eye. He starts out by saying that pornography is everywhere and mentions, first, this notion: "ambient pornography". Now, Dr. Mohler is talking largely about an extremist lawyer, David Ogden, who has been appointed to the President's cabinet as Deputy Attorney General of the United States, and this is Dr. Mohler's concern. But the phrase, "ambient pornography", is haunting.

All good Christians know that pornography is evil. It's not like I'm raising any controversial position here. Oh, there may be a few who haven't caught on yet. "Well, what my wife and I watch in the privacy of our own bedroom is not any problem" they might assert. "We're not using it for lust, but to spur our interest in each other." Yeah, fine, you tell yourself that. Then think it through. If the couple who lived next door came over and asked you to join them in sex, you'd recoil. "No, we can't do that. That would be wrong." "Oh, okay," they say, "then why don't you just come over and watch us have sex?" "Oh, no, that's no better." You're taking the moral high ground here. You know that this is involving yourself in their bedroom activity and that's wrong. "Oh, okay," they counter, "then how about if we video what we do and let you watch that?" Perhaps now you can begin to see the fallacy of "What we watch in our own bedroom is not a problem." So we're all (or, at least, mostly all) clear that pornography is wrong.

What we generally miss is this concept of ambient pornography. It seems that the obvious hides the ambient. You know, how that works. Turn on a street light at night and it's quite effective. That same light during the day is almost invisible because the sun is so bright. In our world, pornography is so prevalent that the ambient almost disappears. Almost. Not quite. In truth, ambient pornography is everywhere. It's on the cover of magazines at the grocery store checkout. It's on billboards as you drive. It's in the commercials that punctuate the shows you watch on TV. It's in the shows you watch on TV. Essentially, pornography is that which is designed to stimulate sexual desire. It may be pictures, videos, or even text. It may be overt or covert. But our society is geared toward stimulating sexual desire, from the obvious X-rated stuff to the "ambient" car advertisement that suggests "buy this car and get this girl."

One of the most subtle of the pornographic genre is what I call "female pornography". It's the romance novel. It's your typical Harlequin romance novel. No, these aren't aimed so much at explicit. They're aimed at subverting women, offering them in fantasy that is intended to stimulate desire what they don't get in reality. It's subversive. Women think "It's only a story," but the story is telling them "What you have is second rate! This is the way it could or should be!" It is the same fantasy content for women that explicit pornography offers men, except in a form that is more suitable for women.

Here's the problem. As we work very hard to avoid that obviously evil pornography that knocks on our door on the Internet or the video store, we open ourselves up widely to the ambient pornography of everyday life. Because it's ambient, we accept it without analysis. And because we don't filter it (either by blocking it entirely or, at least, examining and recognizing it), it soaks into our thinking and subverts it. We swallow the poison without recognizing it.

I'll be the first to admit I'm not entirely sure what to do about it. We are to be in the world but not of it, so to speak. Paul says we can't leave the world (1 Cor 5:10). There has to be some effort, then, put into filtering it. We need to guard our minds. We need to watch what we "eat and drink" in terms of print and picture. We need to recognize the problem. It may be that we need to remove overbearing influences in our lives like that television that beckons to us every day to watch the world's idea of "normal" that God would find increasingly vile. I don't know all of what we need to do. I do know that we need to be aware of this problem. Ambient pornography is everywhere, and doing nothing will continue to degrade your life.

2 comments: said...

Here, here, I concur!

My mom taught me as a teen that romance novels were female porno. It was a saying I never heard again until the last 10 years.

We had extended family who read them faithfully, but my mother started to read one and immediately knew it was tempting her mind to sin against God and my dad. She got rid of it and never again would pick one up.

Now I admit, my mom and I have enjoyed a couple of the Christian "love" stories that have been made into movies. However, they are not saturated with LUST.

Thank you for reminding me how wise my mother was/is!!!

I truly have been saying the same things for years...that all of these ads, shows, half-time entertainment, etc is all about stirring up lust and I think it even tempts men towards full-blown porno.

The way that has become acceptable to dress with women walking around with pants hanging so low on their hips and their shirts high up enough to reveal the just SCREAMS at men. I honestly feel sorry for men trying to walk in purity of their eyes and minds for the sake of God and their wives.

Great article!

Blessings to you!

Anonymous said...

I agree with both of you. I speak often with my children about what they see in the culture around them. Praise God, my 17-year-old son backed me up when I was explaining to my 12-year-old daughter that because men are hard-wired to respond to visual cues, it is important for young ladies to dress modestly. And my children know they are not allowed to shop at stores in the mall whose advertising shows that what they are marketing is naked teenagers. ~10km