Long ago, the wise man Solomon stated that there was nothing new under the sun (cf. Ecclesiastes 1:9). Instead, he reminded us that what takes place now is only that which we have forgotten, that which has already come before (cf. Ecclesiastes 1:11). The same is true when it comes to our perception of our sexually-saturated society.
Pornography is not a new invention. The word itself comes from the Greek compounding of “porneia” and “graphe.” Translated into English, this word literally means, “the writing of a prostitute.” The word came into existence as it was coined to describe the writing found on the walls of ancient brothels. This writing (or eventually pictures) depicted what services were available in that particular brothel or, alternatively, were provided to stimulate its visitors. In the ruined city of Pompeii, 25 brothels have been discovered. Beyond the brothels, Pompeii, like many Roman towns, was thoroughly bedecked with phallic imagery and sculpture. It is safe to say that the average city in the United States is not as saturated with such sexual imagery and/or venues.
Further evidence that our society’s fascination with the lascivious is not new is seen in the history of photography. Some of the originators of photography were purveyors of what today would be termed “soft-core pornography.” Photographers such as Felix-Jacques Moulin was known for his daguerreotypes of young girls between the ages of 14 and 16! Thus, his was not only “soft-core pornography” but was likewise exploitative of children. Meanwhile, as Eadweard Muybridge was doing pioneering work in motion studies, his human subjects were typically depicted doing mundane or athletic tasks in the nude. Both of these men were lauded for their work even though that work was not deemed suitable for general audiences. Considering that these two men worked during the strict Victorian era, it is remarkable that they were not censored or imprisoned!
Early motion pictures likewise featured the amorous. Prior to the Hays Code of 1930, famous directors such as Cecil B. DeMille, often pushed the limits of accepted morality by portraying scantily-clad or even carefully-covered nude women bathing or dancing. DeMille is said to have been allowed to do so because he typically cast such actions within a morality play. The lascivious behavior, then, was to draw stark contrast between the wicked and the good. And,in the end, the wicked in said movies were usually punished for the sins. Thus, the average man or woman “on the street” was willing to turn a blind eye to it.
If our culture is truly any worse today, it would have to be because of the availability of such material to the average person. With the advent of the Internet and with broadcast stations trying to compete with cable stations for TV viewership, depictions of sex and sexuality have certainly increased. The Kaiser Family Foundation discovered that the amount of sexual content within television programming has increased from 56% in 1997-98 to 70% in 2004-05 (http://www.kff.org/entmedia/upload/Sex-on-TV-4-Report-Findings.pdf). In 1995, Marty Rimm reported that 83.5 % of the content on the Internet is pornographic. Vanderbilt University professors, Donna L. Hoffman and Thomas P. Novak, on the other hand, argued in the same year that the percentage of pornographic sites on the Internet is much lower (http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue11_9/depken/index.html). Whoever is correct, one cannot ignore the fact that the Internet has certainly given free access to material that once could only be obtained in seedy shops or, at the very least, a public venue which shame would not have permitted as many to have frequented for the purpose of obtaining pornographic materials.
The impact of this increased proliferation is, without a doubt, having a dramatic impact on society. Young people, particularly, are becoming increasingly confused in regards to healthy, God-ordained sexuality. Not only are they being taught by such material that sexual activity outside of marriage is okay but that adultery and homosexuality can be acceptable as well. Perhaps you have heard of the furor that was created when “private” pictures of Disney darlings Vanessa Hudgens and Miley Cyrus were somehow made public. It has been suggested , though, that Ms. Hudgens and Ms. Cyrus are not in the minority. Detective Brian Marvin, a member of the FBI Cyber Crime Task Force of Central Ohio says that young people, even many minors, are now sending their friends or crushes nude pictures of themselves or pictures of themselves engaged in sexual activity over their cell phones (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,351171,00.html).
Whether or not things have, in actuality, gotten worse since the days when Solomon wrote his inspired treatise is debatable. Yet, one thing is certain. God’s Word rings as true today as it did when it was first penned. People of the Twenty-First Century just as those of the First Century need to listen to Paul’s inspired instructions to the young preacher Timothy:
“Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22 NASB).
Those receiving Paul’s letters in the First Century were coming out of such pagan backgrounds like those that would have inhabited brothel-laden Pompeii. Today, those that would read Paul’s letters are coming out of backgrounds in which they have been inundated with sex via television and the Internet. Both environments are equally condemnable and both are products of their age. It is for this reason that when we obey the gospel and are added to the church that we are, in actuality, brought into fellowship with those who are the “called-out” (cf. Acts 2:47). We are, therefore, the true members of the “counter-culture.” As such, let us ever be mindful of Paul’s inspired words to a church that was burdened with pagan baggage:
“Therefore, ‘COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,’ says the Lord. ‘AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN’; And I will welcome you” (2 Corinthians 6:17 NASB).