Is There Room for Erotica in Christianity?

Erotica is experiencing a very big comeback. What does this mean for Christians?

I knew there wouldn’t be a second date the moment the guy asked this question:

“How do you feel about strip clubs?”

Not for ‘em, I said.

“What about porn?”

Are you kidding?

In the conversation that followed, I rebutted his defenses of both. He, a Christian (nominally, at least), was a consumer of erotic media, convinced that using it can be good. He is the only Christian I've met who has defended pornography. But he is not the only Christian who defends other kinds of erotic media.

When a bestselling erotic novel and a movie about male strippers simultaneously swept the female half of the U.S. in recent weeks, Christian women spoke up. Some criticized the book because it promotes lust. Some criticized the movie because it promotes the objectification of men. Others criticized the critics.

Popular erotic media is good, proponents said, if it can sexually excite a couple whose sexual relationship otherwise would be lacking.

It is good, one woman wrote in a blog comment, because “giggling over guys in thongs gets women to talk about what they like and don't” in sex.

What erotic media does for sexless marriages and sexually frustrated women is important, some said. One said if erotic media objectifies people, it’s only a problem when women and men are unequally objectified. That erotic media designed for women validates female sexuality in a world that rarely does. That it acknowledges the existence of desire where the church often has denied it. That as such, erotic media can be a powerful weapon in the war against sexual oppression.

This week, the fanfare that sparked the fight for erotic media has faded. In its wake, I am left with a realization: That there are followers of Christ among the women who latch on to erotic media is, indeed, indicative of the existence of a need.

In the realms of love, marriage and sex, the church has dropped the ball.


So I understand why, when erotic media inspires sex in a marriage, Christians use it. I understand why, when erotic media is a catalyst for important sex conversations, Christians defend it. But since when does what a person uses to meet a need necessarily equate to what a person actually needs?

The reason a marriage is sexless or women are sexually frustrated is complex, but a marriage has never been sexless because it hasn’t had enough exposure to erotic media. A woman has never been sexually frustrated because what she really needs is to be part of a culture in which women and men are objectified the same amount. And when the body of Christ consumes erotic media and praises it for what it does for sex and sexuality in Christian marriages, it really isn’t alleviating the problem. It is perpetuating a problem that underlies it:

In the realms of love, marriage and sex, the church has dropped the ball.

I know this because of how rare it is for people in the church to talk about love like it’s any deeper than sentiment, attraction or infatuation. Because few and far between are the folks who, like Pope John Paul II, remind the world that love is “the authentic commitment of the free will of one person, resulting from the truth about another person.” We are hard pressed to hear sermons or read books that say marriage is designed to result, in part, in the destruction of self absorption. And the church neither commonly nor clearly communicates what should be a cornerstone of any Christian sex talk:

There are two kinds of sex.

One kind of sex is the world's version. Its primary purpose is pleasure, and it is often utilitarian in practice (“I’ll use you, you’ll use me, and it is good as long as both of us enjoy it.”). The other kind of sex is sex as it was designed to be, which has a twofold purpose: procreation and unity. It involves the creation of a unique, pleasurable sexual relationship between a wife and a husband.

"Saving sex for marriage" becomes "waiting until marriage to objectify my partner."


But the church says sign this pledge, wear this ring and save sex for marriage. Then the church mostly stops talking about sex. And when the church doesn’t talk about sex and a kid’s parents don’t talk about it, either, the only concept of sex he or she grows up with comes from what he or she has seen on TV and in movies. But TV and movie sex is, at least in all my encounters with it, the world’s version of sex. And when the church doesn't differentiate between that kind of sex and sex as it was designed, the results can be catastrophic.

"Saving sex for marriage" becomes "waiting until marriage to objectify my partner."

Wedding nights are confusing or traumatic when what happens in bed neither looks nor feels as good as TV and movies imply it should.

The church divides again when one set of Christians rejects the only kind of sex the other set of Christians knows exists. And because the use of erotic media aligns nicely with the one kind of sex they know, to reject erotic media, to them, is both to reject sex and to be complicit in the oppression of sexuality.

But is it really? I don’t think so.

Because erotic media perpetuates the objectification of humans, the rejection of love as selfless and the promotion of sex as recreation. Objectification, selfish “love” and recreational sex are misuses of human sexuality. And when we are able to think a misuse of sexuality is ok, we might just be oppressing ourselves.

Top Comments

Jim Gearing

1

Jim Gearing replied to Tanisha S. Dixon's comment

Noah you were looking for some Bible verses. Here are a few for thought:
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. -Matt. 5:28
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. -1 Corinth 6:18
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God. 1 Thes 4:3-5
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. -Eph 5:3

I encourage everyone who looks at these verses to look at the context of the chapter and the intended audience. In my opinion, the theme in the Bible is to avoid sexual immorality and desires of the flesh (lust?).
Sex is very much taboo in many churches and I can understand why there would be so many questions on the topic.

116 Comments

Noah Farver

117

Noah Farver commented…

Can I get a bible verse please? How about an article that doesn't mention the Pope? I'm sure the Pope knows a lot about sex doesn't he? I'm not trying to be mean but I must be direct as catholics always make us christians come across like Angela on The Office. I agree with Ray. I admire the authors attempt to combat a tough subject but she is very harsh. She embarrasses me as a Christian, even if she's right, she has to take more time to consider others. We need to handle these matters with love and care and in more detail. Consider a man who ways 500 pounds. Are you going to tell him he can't at least look at a girl in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue? I'm not taking a sides but I'm making a point. Some obese people struggle, everyday, every minute, with sexuality in every way possible. There's no easy fix for them and they have natural sexual desires to take care of. So please next time write with the pen of your heart.

Jim Gearing

1

Jim Gearing replied to Tanisha S. Dixon's comment

Noah you were looking for some Bible verses. Here are a few for thought:
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. -Matt. 5:28
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. -1 Corinth 6:18
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God. 1 Thes 4:3-5
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. -Eph 5:3

I encourage everyone who looks at these verses to look at the context of the chapter and the intended audience. In my opinion, the theme in the Bible is to avoid sexual immorality and desires of the flesh (lust?).
Sex is very much taboo in many churches and I can understand why there would be so many questions on the topic.

Noah Farver

117

Rocky

13

Rocky replied to Noah Farver's comment

I'm half through the video Trés Excellente !!

DiscerningXianBlog

4

DiscerningXianBlog commented…

I'd say there are three kinds of sex I could readily distinguish:

1. Casual sex w/ mutual consent
2. Relational sex w/ mutual consent
3. Abusive sex

Maybe I just know the wrong people, but really #1 doesn't seem that common. Committed boyfriends/girlfriends don't just use each other, and to continue to conflate #2 in an established relationship with #1 will cause Christians to continue dropping the ball, despite the best intentions otherwise.

We've got to come to terms with the fact that, given the constraints we put on kids these days, the marriage tradition is changing dramatically, but the existential aspects of our relationships are not. Is marriage the ideal? I'd say so; but I'd also say that the barrier to entry is way too high unless you want to jump into a life fraught with uncertainty and lack of family support (i.e. eloping).

Ian McKerracher

25

Ian McKerracher commented…

In terms of this topic I am in a position which, by no means is unique, but is becoming rarer in this world. That position is that I was married when I was young (and stupid and without Christ in the world) and now, I have enjoyed a long happy relationship with a wife in a marriage that is absolutely wonderful after the first one predictably crashed and burned. I wholeheartedly like the second one much better than the first. I did come with some baggage related to peeking at porn and struggled with it into my marraige but putting it aside for the higher purposes that God has for this most amazing relationship that God designed. I think that ultimately that is the fundamental isse. In the design of God for relationships, does porn find an honnorable and holy place? Not from my bed!

vicki

4

vicki commented…

Thank you for this excellent article. It's hard to discern your own assumptions of what real love is sometimes.

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