Sex, Social Media, & the Church

I came across a very interesting (and I have to admit, disturbing for me) article in USA Today yesterday. You can check it out here.

It’s interesting on a couple levels. One, she’s not proposing something that is widely a reality of pornography – exploitation and objectification. The founder, Cindy Gallop, is creating a site that contains voluntary, natural, and healthy sexual expressions between two people in relationship to each other. Gallop states, “There’s “a complete absence in society of an open, healthy, honest, truthful conversation around sex in the real world.” And I think I would agree with her on this one. Most of our talk contains unrealistic notions of sexual intimacy and expression, and the other end ranges on strict taboo. And unfortunately, the Church often falls in the latter category.

But here’s where the disturbing part comes in: Gallop states, “What I decided to do was to take every dynamic out there that exists in social media currently and apply this to the one area that no other social media network or platform has ever gone or will ever get to go which is sex. I want to socialize sex. I want to make ‘real world sex’ socially acceptable and therefore just as socially shareable as anything else we currently share on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram.”

She wants to socialize sex.

Make it just as socially shareable as what we’d put on a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, or an Instagram photo.

I could go into why this is distrubing to me (and why it should be for you perhaps), but that’s not the route I want to go here. I think what should be emphasized is that there are trajectories in our social culture that are out there, realities about the world we live in, that we as the Church and people who lead in it cannot ignore. We need to find a way to open up good dialogue, speak from within the Tradition about what this all means for the life God creates, redeems and sustains, and come up with faithful, thoughtful responses to how to move forward.

Here’s the point: like a lot of things in our lives and world today, other voices are beating us to the punch. And people, especially young people, will likely adopt the message they hear first and more frequently. If we are late to the conversation, because we’re either,

too scared,
too uninformed,
too indifferent,
too lazy,

we’ll come off as reactionary, one-sided, and irrelevant. On the other side, we don’t need to overanalyze every little aspect about a particular social issue, which is what my mainline, Protestant, intellectual tradition usually does. Working through the meaning and implication of people posting pictures of kittens on their Facebook walls isn’t fruitful; neither is another reflection on the effects of a Twitter-driven society.

But when certain boundaries of intimacy, identity, and created-ness are blurred (or even crossed) – then we need to respond. Because like everything, there’s a cost and a benefit to it – and I think, it can be a matter of life and death – which is what the gospel message is totally about.

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2 Comments

Filed under Culture & Social Issues/Ethics

2 responses to “Sex, Social Media, & the Church

  1. cindygallop

    Thank you for this post. I should emphasize that a lot of the media coverage you see about what I and my team are setting out to do with MakeLoveNotPorn is taken out of context. My own perspective can be found in my short TED e-book ‘Make Love Not Porn: Technology’s Hardcore Impact On Human Behavior’:

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/make-love-not-porn/id452296228?mt=11

    This is the blog post I wrote when we launched MakeLoveNotPorn.tv back in August of last year:

    http://talkabout.makelovenotporn.tv/2012/08/14/helloworld/

    and this is a piece I wrote for the Independent newspaper in the UK a few weeks ago that highlights what we are trying to change and improve (and the enormous difficulties we are battling every single day):

    http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/its-not-that-porn-degrades-women-its-that-business-degrades-porn-8475620.html

    I realize we have different perspectives on all of this, and very much appreciate your willingness to highlight them.

    All the best,
    Cindy

    • Cindy,

      Thanks so much for your comments and contributions! Not often I get someone so famous interacting with my blog.

      I’ve done a little more digging into what you’re proposing and your project, and I’ll first start off by saying it is indeed worthy of deep reflection. You are right – our culture is terrible at presenting and talking about sexuality and sex in healthy, open ways. And in my line of work, I think a theological perspective has something to offer here in terms of our createdness, who God has created us to be, and that it was deemed “very good.” (referring to Genesis)

      Your points resonate well with feminist theologians in terms of the view of the body, highlighting sexual degradation and violence. My only thing is, I have to ask: where is the boundary, or is there one? It seems we agree that sex and sexuality is an intimate, powerful, transformational way to relate to another. Is such a thing appropriate in all levels of relationship? What do we use to define and normalize what is “healthy” sexual expression and behavior?

      I appreciate the questions you raise, and they’re worthy of reflection. Thanks again for your engagment!

      Peace,
      Aaron

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