Below is the text of a talk I gave at a public rally in Pinjarra on 14 February. The rally was called by local churches and concerned families to voice opposition to the establishment of an “adult shop” in Pinjarra.
I want to begin my talk this evening with an explanation. I suppose most of you here tonight are aware that much of the community opposition to the adult shop comes from Christians. Of course, Christians are not the only ones who oppose it, but they are among the key opponents. So for the benefit of those here tonight who are not Christians, I want to explain why Christians feel so strongly on the issue. I hope this explanation will help to clear up some misunderstanding and allow the debate to proceed without prejudice.1
The Christian sexual ethic
Because Christians are often in the forefront of the fight against sexual immorality, some people in the community have come to believe that Christianity is opposed to all sexual pleasures. However, this belief is seriously mistaken.
Christianity recognises and approves the pleasures of sex, albeit within certain moral constraints. These moral constraints do not impinge upon sexual pleasure but rather ensure that sex can be lastingly enjoyed without trauma, degradation or disease.
The Song of Solomon in the Bible is a celebration of male-female sensuality and sexual love. In chapter seven of the Song, for example, the young man declares to his beloved: “Your stature is like that of the palm/ and your breasts like clusters of fruit./ I said, ‘I will climb the palm tree;/ I will take hold of its fruit.’” In response, the young woman declares: “Let us go early to the vineyards …/ there I will give you my love./ The mandrakes send out their fragrance,/ and at our door is every delicacy,/ both new and old,/ that I have stored up for you, my lover.”
In his Proverbs in the Bible, King Solomon encourages men, “may you rejoice in the wife of your youth … may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love” (5:18-19).
In another part of the Bible, the apostle Paul actually forbids husband and wife to abstain from sexual love except for a short time by mutual agreement. He commands the husband to be sexually attentive to his wife, and vice versa (cf 1 Corinthians 7:3-5).
The Bible does not separate sex from pleasure. But nor does it separate sex from love, relationship, fidelity and morality. The Bible teaches that sexual activity is right and good only when it takes place between one man and one woman in a loving, marriage relationship.
The Bible has a great deal to say against sexual immorality and perversion—not because it views sex as sordid but because it views sex as sacred. Likewise, Christians speak out against sexual evils not because they are prudish but because they believe that sex is precious. The sexual union of a man and a woman is more than a biological act. It has a spiritual component. It is a profound expression of intimacy, commitment and love between two people—and as such it should be respected and protected.
So then, Christian opposition to the adult shop in Pinjarra is not driven by opposition to sex. On the contrary, our opposition is driven by opposition to the way that adult shops degrade of sex.
The harm of pornography
One way in which adult shops degrade sex is though the sale of pornography. And I want to make a few comments to you about the harm that pornography causes.2While the analysis is mine, the specific examples I am about to use are taken from the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography in the United States. The Commission was conducted some years ago and remains an important source of information on pornography.
1. Men’s morality
Firstly, I want to point out that pornography harms the moral sensibilities of men. It destroys their ability and their desire to determine right from wrong in sexual matters.
One woman testified to the Commission that, after thirty years of marriage, “my husband’s personality totally changed in just three months” from the time he began to watch pornography on cable television. He began staying up late at night to watch the more raunchy movies. He also began to read pornographic magazines. Then he began “trying to get me to act out what he saw on the porn movies. Each time this would end up in an argument because I found the ideas repulsive and the acts nauseous.”
During this time, she clung to the hope that he “would grow out of his liking for porn.” But he didn’t: “what happened was that he began to look for a woman who would not be ‘too good’ for him. He thought I was too prudish. … We continued to have marital relations during this period of time, but he was never again satisfied with sex once he was exposed to porn. He felt he was cheated because I wouldn’t do what the TV and movie actresses did.”
This account, and others like it, shows that pornography ruins the moral sense of the men who use it.
2. Men’s self-control
Secondly, I want to point out that pornography harms the willpower of men. It pervades their thoughts, perverts their desires and erodes their self-control. It brings them under tremendous bondage.
A man named Dan states how exposure to pornography at age nine brought him into a bondage from which he could not break free for the next forty years of his life. A homosexual man in his early twenties befriended him and ultimately took him to an empty railroad car. The man then “took some little cartoon books out of his pocket and showed them to me. I had never seen anything like them in my life until that day. They showed several cartoon characters in various stages of fornication and oral sex.” Using the pictures to arouse both himself and Dan, the homosexual then engaged in a sex act with Dan. Fortunately, Dan did not become addicted to homosexual sex, but he did become addicted to pornography.
He tried to break the addiction after his marriage at age twenty-two. He disposed of his pornographic collection. And he stopped buying pornographic materials—for a while. “However, the demon which had invaded my mind in that railroad car so many years ago was not to let me alone. Without any consciousness on my part, I had been thoroughly conditioned to relate pornography with my own sexual experiences. …
“There were periods when I was unable to concentrate my thoughts on anything other than mental images of sexually explicit material. I remember going into a newsstand to purchase a paper one day and saw the first issue of Playboy magazine. It was like a magnet compelling me to buy a copy. It was as though I had no choice in the matter.”
The bondage began all over again. “During the sixties and seventies, I purchased thousands of explicit sex materials, including books, magazines, and 8-millimeter movies. I saw hundreds of films at adult movie theatres. I tried many times to stop my habit and would often dispose of everything I had collected. I would burn the material, hundreds, even thousands of dollars going up in smoke, only it never stopped. Eventually the urge would come over me, and it would start all over again, each time my appetite becoming more bizarre.”
After forty years of addiction, Dan sought help. “I have not purchased sexually explicit material for over four years, but the demon is still there, just waiting for the opportunity to regain control, and it requires constant vigilance on my part to keep it under control.”
Pornography is addictive and it harms the willpower of men who use it.
3. Men’s virility
Thirdly, I want to point out that pornography harms the virility of men. Ultimately, it weakens the very potency that it awakens. It inflames appetite but quenches ability. It places sex in the realm of fantasy, where women are perfectly beautiful and unreservedly willing. But in real life, few women match this fantasy. So actual sex with an actual woman becomes a disappointment. By making of sex an unattainable fantasy, pornography creates a dependency upon itself.
One woman states, “My first husband … obtained a substantial collection of pornographic material. … He could not perform sexually with me without first getting aroused by looking at pornography.”
What a cruel but appropriate irony: pornography extinguishes the very desire it ignites!
4. Women’s self-esteem
Fourthly and finally, I want to point out that pornography harms the emotions and self-esteem of women. A wife whose husband uses pornography finds herself burdened by impossible expectations concerning appearance and performance. She is soon wounded by unfavourable comparisons with ever-young “models” and degraded by insistent requests for unusual and perverse sexual favours.
Ironically, while pornography encourages a man to be dissatisfied with his wife’s appearance, it also encourages him to demand more of her sexually. The porn models may be more beautiful than her, but she is more available than them. So her husband comes to expect her to satisfy his inflamed and perverted appetite. He expects her to perform the same acts pictured in the pornography.
Speaking of her ex-husband, one woman states, “He had a lot of pornography around the house, both slicks and the hard core. … He frequently suggested that our sex life would be more fun if I would be willing to try some of the things he saw pictured in the magazines. He often told me that our sex life and I were dull, blah, and awful. … Once we saw an X-rated film that showed [a certain sex act]. After that, he insisted that I try [it]. I agreed to do so, trying to be the available, willing creature that I thought I was supposed to be. I found the experience very painful, and I told him so. But he kept insisting that we try it again and again. He reinforced his insistence with verbal abuse.”
I have noted the harmful effects of pornography here tonight because adult shops are major suppliers of hard-core pornography—which means that they are major suppliers of material that harms men, women and children, and as such they should not be tolerated by any community.
I want to conclude with a comment about the matter of placing restricted premises such as adult shops in industrial areas.
Some people feel that this is the solution to the problem. “Yes,” they say, “adult shops are unsavoury, but if we put them out of the way in an industrial area, no one will be offended or harmed.”
However, this thinking is quite mistaken. The industrial areas are the areas with the highest concentration of men—and it is men who are the highest consumers of pornography! What comfort is it to the community, then, to put a sex shop in a part of town where men are most concentrated—and where men can most easily patronise it without being noticed? How is the community helped if men who use pornography are able to access more of it more easily because they pass a supplier of pornography each day on their way to and from work? And how is the community helped if men who do not use pornography are continually tempted to use it because there is an adult shop near to their workplace?
And what if these men bring the products they purchase from the adult shop into the workplace?
The newspapers have been covering the case of a man who has been sacked from Alcoa for giving a female worker some adult shop merchandise. If the report in The West Australian of 5 February is correct, he gave the female trade’s assistant a vibrator and crotchless underwear.
Now, I know nothing about the case, except what has been reported in the newspapers, so I don’t want to comment on the rights and wrongs of the man’s sacking. But I think one thing is evident. I think we may safely say that this man made an error of judgment. He claimed that his gift of the sex toy and the lingerie were “meant as a giggle” (West, 12/2/05). What an appalling error or judgment!
And yet it seems to me that adult shops encourage men to make such errors—and without doubt more such errors will be made if an adult shop is set up in the light industrial area.
The choice is not between placing the adult shop in the town centre or in the industrial area. The choice is between having or not having an adult shop in the first place. I urge you not to have one. I urge you to tell your local government officials that you do not want such a degrading and destructive establishment anywhere in Pinjarra.
1. The opening comments on the Christian sexual ethic are taken from my essay, “Sexual pleasures and Christian principles”, which has been published in several magazines.
2. The comments on pornography in the body of my talk are taken from my pamphlet, “The Violence of Pornography”, published by Life Ministries.