April 14, 2016
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It’s Thursday, April 14, 2016. I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
The world is waking up to the harms of pornography, but glaringly missing is moral concern
The issue of pornography has taken on a new consequence in American society. This with the wtate of Utah, identifying pornography as a public health problem. Now in the Washington Post comes a very interesting article that tells us a great deal about how the worldview of the modern secular age meets its great challenge on the question of pornography, and its refusal to deal with it is a moral issue.
In this case, Gail Dines, who is a Professor of Sociology at Wheelock College in Boston, author of the book Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality, writes about the Utah House of Representatives becoming the first legislative body in the United States to declare pornography a public health hazard, leading “to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms.”Show Full Transcript
She goes on to say,
“The liberal backlash criticized the measure as an antiquated bit of conservative moralizing.” The Daily Beast called it “hypocritical and short-sighted.” One online journal said, “The science just isn’t there.”
Then Dines writes,
“No matter what you think about pornography, whether it’s harmful or harmless fantasy, the science is there.”
She goes on to write,
“After 40 years of peer reviewed research, scholars can say with confidence that pornography is an industrial product that shapes how we think about gender, sexuality, relationships, intimacy, sexual violence, and gender equality for the worst, by taking a health focused view of pornography,” she says, “and recognizing its radiating impact not only on consumers, but society at large, Utah’s resolution simply reflects the latest research.”
Now, what’s going on here? What’s going on here is a strange confluence on the question of pornography as an importance issue, and to that strange confluence is the meeting of those who see porn as a moral issue and feminists who see it as a political issue. There’s a very strange coalition that has existed in recent years between moral conservatives and feminists on the question. They both hate pornography. They both see pornography as a basic problem, but for two very different reasons.
Feminists see pornography not so much as a moral issue in and of itself related to sex, but rather as a degrading presentation of women. On that point, moral conservatives certainly also agree. It is inherently degrading to women, and yet when you look at this confluence of the feminists and the moral conservatives, there are limits to how far they can go together in cooperation, and one of the reasons is that so many feminists, including the author of this article, refuse to see pornography as a moral issue, in and of itself.
The headline on the article actually asked the question, “Is Porn Immoral?,” and then goes on to say,
“That doesn’t matter. It’s a public health crisis.”
What you now see are those who are trying to say we need to deal with pornography as a society, but wait. Don’t assume we have any moral problem with pornography. We simply see it as a public health issue.
It’s really interesting to look at this article. The article tells us of a growing consensus, even on the secular left, that coming with pornography are all kinds of deleterious effects, all kinds of damaging impacts on society. Dines writes, and I quote,
“Extensive scientific research reveals that exposure and consumption of pornography threaten the social, emotional, and physical health of individuals, families, and communities, and highlights the degree to which porn is a public health crisis, rather than a private matter.”
Once again, both those who see porn as a moral issue and feminists who see it as a political issue can understand what’s at stake, but it’s also really interesting to see that the feminists do see pornography in terms of their concern as a moral issue, but they frame the morality in very different terms. They argue, instead, that those, especially young males, who observe pornography, that that consumption of pornography is associated with aggressive acts towards women,
“…an increased likelihood of committing acts of verbal or physical sexual aggression regardless of age.”
What’s identified in the article as a 2010 meta-analysis of several studies found,
“…an overall significant positive association between pornography use and attitudes supporting violence against women.”
Once again, this is where Christians must agree with the feminists. That is exactly what we would expect as an impact and effect of pornography. The degradation of women and the corruption of sexuality we should believe and have confidence will lead to all kinds of negative affects, including aggression, and we should not be surprised by that.
It’s also interesting the extent to which there is now agreement on the scope of the problem. Dines writes,
“Because so much porn is free and unfiltered on digital devices, the average age of first viewing porn is estimated by some researchers is to be 11 years of age.”
Then she goes on to say,
“In the absence of comprehensive sex education curriculum in many schools, pornography has become the de facto sex education for youth.”
Dines also makes very clear that much of the viewing of pornography, even by the very young, is of extreme pornography that is extremely degrading, not only to say corrupting, of sexual morality. The article goes on to document what is now cited as a legal problem and that is revenge porn, pornographic images that have been shared amongst people who are then released to the public in order to shame one partner, generally after the relationship has broken up.
The urgent thing to note is even as the headline in this article asks the question, “Is Porn Immoral?” and then says it doesn’t matter—you’ll notice that on the feminist side, the arguments against pornography are indeed very much rooted in moral language. This is a moral concern. When you’re talking about aggression against women, when you’re talking about the degradation of women, when you’re talking about revenge porn, every single word in all of that terminology is drenched in morality.
You’ll notice that the secular left, and this includes the majority of those identified with the feminists movement, have so bought in to the idea that you can’t legislate morality, that they have to argue that those concerns really are public health concerns; they’re not moral concerns. This is where the Christian world view simply breaks in to say when you’re looking at what is described here as a public health concern, and you deny that it’s a moral concern, that is a form of insanity that cannot possibly help to solve the problem.
Yes, of course, pornography is a public health problem. It’s also a private problem, and it isn’t going to be resolved by avoiding the central moral question, which is, what is happening to our vision of sexuality when it is corrupted by pornography?
Evidence of where the confusion of the secular world leads is found in this article where Dines writes,
“Culture Refrained, an organization I founded and currently chair, is pioneering a strategy to address porn as the public health crisis of the digital age.”
She goes on to write,
“We are developing educational programs for parents, youth and a range of professionals that aim to help shift the culture from one that normalizes a pornographic, oppression based sexuality, to one that values and promotes a sexuality rooted in healthy intimacy, mutual care and respect.”
Now, all the phrases that are used there are ways of avoiding the central moral issues involved in human sexuality. What the advocates of this kind of approach want to do is to roll the sexual and moral revolution back just a little bit, and just on the issue of pornography. When it comes to the other issues of the moral revolution, they are all for it, full steam ahead.
That’s the thing about the sexual revolution, and about the moral revolution we are experiencing around this. When you buy into it a little bit, you have bought into it all. There’s no way to roll back a revolution just a little bit.
Hollywood opposes anti-revenge-porn bill after realizing it could implicate their films
Meanwhile, some time back, Time magazine raised a very interesting issue and a headline article,
“How Nudity Became the New Normal.”
That comes to light with certain current controversies that cannot be discussed in detail on The Briefing, but as you might expect, it has to do with the fact that, increasingly, nudity is becoming celebrated in this society and taken as the norm. Once again, we see a very interesting angle as represented by the feminist world view.
The Time magazine article says that millennials have no problem with nakedness, as long as they are in control. It points to the actress Jennifer Lawrence who complained very loudly about the fact that some sexually explicit pictures had been posted of her on the internet without her permission. She protested vehemently of this, only later to offer herself in a series of very explicit photographs for Vanity Fair magazine.
Time said that, for millennials, it’s the difference between being hacked and choosing to pose for Vanity Fair, and Time says that says something about how millennials think about nudity. Then listen to this statement,
“Nakedness isn’t about a lack of clothing any more. It’s about lack of control.”
Here’s the strange new logic of the feminists movement, as is represented according to Time magazine amongst millennials. When it comes especially to millennial young women, if they are choosing to reveal themselves in nakedness, that’s control and that’s all right, but if somehow the nakedness is outside of their control, that’s a different kind of moral issue.
Now this is where Christians come in to say this is a certain kind of nonsense into which we cannot even enter, but if we do not look at this kind of argument seriously, we don’t understand what’s going on in the world around this. Nakedness is becoming an aspect of our public society, a lack of modesty, an uncovering of the body that would not have been tolerated in western society at any point in prior history.
Now, you see the feminist argument is increasingly, it’s a matter of context and control, not a basic matter of the morality of images of nudity of sexually explicit pictures. As a matter of fact, says Time magazine,
“For many millennials, nakedness can be an expression of strength, as long as you’re in control of the image.”
That explains why so many people, especially young people, and we’re talking here especially, particularly, about young women, post increasingly suggestive and revealing pictures of themselves on social media, pictures they would complain about if they appeared in any other context outside their control. What we’re looking at in the controversies now about nakedness and about so-called “revenge porn” is the fact that our society can’t deal honestly and comprehensively with any of these questions. It has entered into a confusion from which you simply have to wonder there can be any escape.
Karen Turner, writing at the Washington Post in recent days, tells us that the Motion Picture Association of America, that is the leading Hollywood trade organization, has now come out in opposition to a revenge porn bill that is proposed in the state of Minnesota. Now, you notice the left has been all for these revenge porn bills. They’re not so much against porn, but they say they’re against revenge porn. Now the most important organization in Hollywood binding together the motion picture industry has come out against this bill, saying that it violates freedom of speech.
Why, you wonder, would the Motion Picture Association of America come out against a law against revenge porn? The reason is this: that would actually put many of Hollywood’s own products into jeopardy, and that’s because when it comes to nudity and nudity that might be regretted or not permitted by those who are involved, it turns out that that might put Hollywood in a very difficult position.
Once again, as we discussed earlier in the program, here you’ve got feminists on the one hand, and Christian conservatives on the other hand, who are in agreement that these pornographic images should not be permitted, but now you have the Motion Picture Association of America coming out saying that this would be an unconstitutional infringement upon free expression and speech.
Carrie Goldberg, a lawyer who specializes in revenge porn cases, she also contributed to the Minnesota legislation, she says that the Motion Picture Association of America’s actions are evidence of hypocrisy. When it comes to taking many moral stances on the left, Hollywood is all for it, until all the sudden, someone in Hollywood figures out this just might impact our business.
This lawyer says that the MPAA is guilty of hypocrisy, and that is certainly true, but this is where the Christian world view comes in to remind us that we should not be surprised by sin in any form. We certainly shouldn’t be surprised by hypocrisy. This just comes as yet another warning, but we have to be very watchful of it among ourselves.
Prom dress controversy reveals society today is embarrassed more by modesty than immodesty
Next, the scene shifts to northwest Florida, specifically to Fort Walton Beach, with the question: how might all these issues impact the average family in everyday life? Well how about at the prom. Leah Johnson, writing for the Northwest Florida Daily News tells us,
“Next to a wedding day, prom is one of the biggest moments in a girl’s life. It’s all about the hair, the makeup and, most importantly, the dress.”
She then goes on to write,
“At Choctawhatchee High School, administrators said they have implemented a screening process for dresses to ensure that girls and their parents have, what is described as a seamless experience.”
It turns out that the school has established certain rules for the dresses that girls might wear.
Henry Kelly, spokesperson for the Okaloosa County School District, said Choctaw was getting a lot of calls this year from parents to ask if their daughter’s two piece dresses were allowed. According to the article, since the 16th of March, the school has sent notices to girls and their parents to say,
“If they want approval for their two piece dress, they must submit a photo of the girl in her dress, along with an approval form to one of three female administrators.”
A spokesperson for the school district said,
“Dresses are pricey. What happened is actually a good thing. Parents called the school to request permission before spending hundreds, or even a thousand dollars, for a dress.”
Now, before we go any further, there is at least some moral insanity reflected in the fact that a prom dress for a high school girl can here be described as if this is common sense at costing hundreds of dollars, perhaps even a thousand. It turns out that the background to the policy is the fact that school had faced a lot of problems when it came to girls wearing specific dresses at prom, and it turned out that the problem is that at proms, girls were following a dress code very differing than that which applied at school, which gave very clear instructions as to how much might be exposed.
What’s really important and makes this article interesting is where people in the article are cited as opposing the policy because it is one sided. According to the article, Sarah Morgan, a Fort Walton Beach resident, said,
“I’m concerned about how this makes girls feel. It’s all targeted at girls.”
In other words, this is a one sided policy because it is girls that have to send pictures of their two piece dresses for approval, and boys had to follow no such instructions or approval for their tuxedos or other formal wear.
Stating what might be considered the obvious, the spokesperson for the school district said that there are no pre-approval procedures for boys, “because their fashions typically don’t reveal as much.”
However, the school requires that boys cover as much at the prom as they are required to do in class. Residents upset about the policy have said once again that it’s one sided, as applied to girls.
Morgan said that the new policy could leave a negative impression on girls and how they feel about their bodies. She said,
“It’s amazing to me they put so much emphasis on dress code. Put the emphasis on education and empowering women. That’s what I’d like to see.”
Once again we see the moral insanity of the age, but if you look closely at our cultural conversation this time of year, you’ll discover that this kind of story appears not only in the panhandle of Florida, but in just about every state, if not in every school district. There are those who are accusing school districts of being arbitrary moralists for putting together even minimal guidelines of what must be worn and what cannot be worn at high school proms.
This moral confusion once again reveals what we saw yesterday when it comes to parenting. It is a basic denial of biological fact. The fact is, also not just biological but sociological, the reality is that there isn’t a huge problem in America of teenage male nudity. As a matter of fact, there is sometimes a problem with young males and their dress code, but that has more to do with being rude than being sexually suggestive.
When it comes to the female side of the equation, there is an issue of modesty that clearly does apply and always will apply, regardless of how confused a society might be, and how much that society might deny reality. It was said by historians that at least part of the decadence of ancient Rome was most evident in its parties and in its festivals. Maybe we’re seeing that in modern America. Maybe it’s showing up in some unexpected places. Maybe that is why the high school prom has become ground zero for some of the most interesting and ridiculous moral arguments of our times.
Finally, that gets to another issue, and that’s the biblical imperative of modesty. It’s held up not only as a value, but it’s held up as something that should mark and distinguish the people of God. A basic modesty that understands that the goodness of God’s gift, biologically and otherwise, when it comes to sexuality, is something that should bring out the effort to honor what God has honored, and to do so in such a way that there is no misuse of this gift.
The interesting thing is that we’ve become a society that isn’t embarrassed any longer by immodesty, but seems to be increasingly embarrassed by modesty. We have to respect and support Christian parents, Christian churches and others, who are pressing back against this tide of immodesty.
This is where we must also speak not only to parents, and not only to women, but also to males, particularly to men and boys. Our biblical calling is to honor modesty and to protect it. A man who does not honor a woman’s modesty cannot be trusted to protect her heart.