One October at Oklahoma State University, proud I made it to class early, I walked up to the professor smiling and some students and asked what they were discussing.
Immediately, I knew I had walked into the wrong conversation. I awkwardly excused myself.
At the end of October the situation happened again. I overheard some of my fellow students discussing the Saw movie series as a new genera—torture porn. At this point, I no longer knew the proper use of the term porn.
I thought porn described “adult” content and movies only. I was wrong. A commercial for an enticing pizza, leisurely spinning around until its full reveal, with a hand grasping for a slice and disembodied baritone exclaiming, “oh, yeah!” That’s food porn (think every Reese’s commercial during Halloween).
The term porn no longer denotates or connotes anything sexuality explicit; porn now describes the superlative of enjoyment.This new definition of porn changes the connotation of porn from a deviant behavior to a norm. Originally, the term porn was transliterated from the Greek, pornéros. Pornéros means evil. The Greek term carries with it a connotation of malicious behavior.
Until recently, the connotation of porn has followed its literal meaning—deviant behavior. This is no longer the case. Even Christians are using the term with a positive meaning. The shift in definition rides upon the wings of the relatively new access to pornography. The old anecdote of sneaking into a (sinful) father’s sock drawer for a secretive glance at his Playboy magazine is now antiquated. What had once been spoken of in hushed tones is now played for laughs in family television programs.
The United States is currently debating the positives and negatives of porn and pornography. Some states (Utah, Virginia, South Dakota, Tennessee, Arkansas) have begun to treat the excessive viewing of pornography as an addiction. While modern psychology does not yet agree on whether porn is addictive, Zitzman and Butler (2009) concluded, “the detached, objectifying, exploitive sexuality of pornography directly impacts attachment trust, eroding any safe expectation of one’s partner being faithfully for the other.”
Zitzman and Butler help illuminate my point. Porn indulges in an imaginary world and brings harm to the real one. As we increasingly use porn to describe our food, movies, sports, and general pleasures, we are ultimately approving of overindulging in the realm of imagination—enjoying a detached, objectifying, self-indulgent, and exploitive fiction.
Porn as a superlative of pleasure replaces societies attention to true virtue with an addiction to the fictional. We no longer recognize the boundaries between the real and unreal. Once our minds have had their fill of sensuality, we are left with what we have in reality—nothing.
What porn promises is a superlative. It delivers nothing. At best, the only thing a porn-saturated culture can do is continue to push the boundaries of its own fiction, an attempt to find greater gratification. Food porn presses food beyond the necessity into gluttony. The boundaries press forward, but the fiction remains hollow. Christians, better than anyone, umderstand the fleeting nature of pleasure.
Consider Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. The Passion of the Christ was incredibly graphic, but few would describe it as torture porn. The allure of porn’s fiction and pleasure died at the cross. Jesus’s death was not imaginary. We receive no sensual gratification from it. The cross exposes the emptiness of earthly pleasure; it reveals man’s pleasures as grotesque. A porn-saturated culture counsels us to feed the hunger of our hearts with imaginary sustenance. Just as PlayMobile food feeds no one, so a porn saturated culture cannot satisfy. “For apart from [God] who can eat and who can find enjoyment?” (Ecc 2:25).
We need to mature beyond our porn culture—a moratorium on our fascination with imaginary and vain pleasures, realizing “mature content” is not mature. Our society must stop using the word porn with positive connotations (food porn, music porn, etc.). For the well-being of our relationships, we need to regard porn as one of the greatest evils to be shunned, not a superlative to be enjoyed. Instead of taking pleasure from the fictional dismemberment of people into the individual parts desired, we ought to enjoy dwelling together, loving holistically. If we would finally uncover our fascination with food porn, then only the hideous nature of gluttony would stand naked before us.
Pastor Summerville First Baptist Married to Danielle, father of three, PhD student at SWBTS, MDiv 2012 SWBTS, BA Theatre OSU.