Now that I have your attention.
Or maybe I don’t.
I think it’s fair to say that, in the last decade or so, the nature of sex in the media has changed dramatically. While we’ve always been conscious of nudity onscreen, the power and ease of the Internet has brought our sexuality to the forefront of our culture in a way that it wasn’t before.
Back in 2004, after Janet Jackson’s infamous ‘nipple-gate’ scandal at the SuperBowl, North America was thrown into a frenzy. People everywhere were crying out about the state of morality in our world. Then, in 2015, Miley Cyrus lets her nipple slip during the MTV movie awards and people barely notice.
In 2007, Kim Kardashian shot to fame with the release of her sex tape. While this was hardly the first example, it was noticeable because of how it brought her into the spotlight from relative obscurity. Everyone was talking. She essentially became famous simply for being famous. In 2014 though, a vast number of celebrities ranging from Jennifer Lawrence to Kate Upton to Scarlett Johannson had their cellphones hacked and personal nude photos released on the internet. While it generated buzz, the ones who were talking about it most were the celebs who (rightfully) felt violated.
Then, of course, there’s the big news: On October 15th, 2015, Playboy announced that they would no longer feature nude pictures in their magazines.
There are a number of people that feel this is a great thing. (After all, now there was (slightly) less sex on the Internet!) Personally, I’m not sure that that’s entirely accurate. Playboy changed because they had to change. For decades, Playboy was the brand that sold you what few others were ‘brave’ enough to give you… but now, its everywhere.
And it’s free.
Moments like these mark a dramatic shift in our cultural climate. As a result of the increasing ease and accessibility of graphic sexual content, we find ourselves in the midst of a generation where we have lost all sense of shock or awe. It’s not that we feel that sex is irrelevant. (Films like Matrix Reloaded or Ex Machina are excellent examples of films that portray sexuality as one of the most central components of human expression.) Even though sex remains an important part of our lives, it doesn’t hold the same weight it once did on a cultural scale.
Sex has lost its value.
In fact, for something sexual to get a reaction, it needs to up the ante; to do something so outrageous that people are forced to speak up.
Just think for a minute about Fifty Shades of Grey.
Maybe this is where you roll your eyes. After all, this is a pretty easy target, right? But hear me out.
What I find most interesting about the most recent Fifty Shades film isn’t that it made $569 million worldwide despite lukewarm reviews, bringing S&M into the forefront of pop culture. Rather, I’d like to point out that one of the key criticisms of the film was that it wasn’t graphic enough. In other words, despite the fact that the film depicts acts of S&M onscreen, one of the most common arguments lobbed at Fifty Shades was that the sex was too tame.
It bored us… and herein lies the problem.
While our culture has shown moments of outrage over sexual (un)coverage in the past, we’ve now entered into a phase where nudity has become so common that we barely notice. In the case of Playboy, let’s not forget that their mandate hasn’t changed. They still want to sell sex as a commodity to the public… but they’ve recognized that, in order to sell it today, they have to give them something different. By covering up the skin a bit, they’re trying to put the unknown back into the mix.
They’re trying to restore the mystery.
Overwhelmed by porn-saturated society, we’ve lost all the mystery to what sex was intended to be. God’s desire for sex was to be a great blessing to His creation. (If it was only about having kids, why bother making it fun?) It’s a moment of intimacy and connection that was meant to make us feel whole, both emotionally and spiritually.
But, when you remove the spiritual from sex, you miss the point.
The true danger of a ‘pornified culture’ isn’t that we might see what we’re not supposed to see but that we lose sight of how important this gift truly is. While some may accuse me of being prudish, I’m simply trying to raise a question. In the name of sexual freedom, we push boundaries and break taboo… but at what cost? The more we numb to nudity, the more we lose sex’s soul. We’ve been given a gift that was meant to bring us together in a spiritual manner but we don’t seem interested in preserving it.
And, ultimately, that price is likely one we can’t afford.