Sunday, October 09, 2005

Sunday Thoughts: the goddess, the Virgin, and Mom

    The pornographic image is not that of a human being reduced to an object. If only it were! For that would be less diabolical. It is instead that of the human being raised to an object: an idol. Watch the eyes of someone in the sin's grip. Note the blank staring stupor. You are in the presence not of brutish violence but of stultifying idolatry; not a reveling in the body but an eerie flight from it.
    It is crucial to understand this. That pimply kid gapes at a picture of a woman who does not exist: an airbrushed fantasy, herself languourously gaping in a transport of sexual hunger, an image outside of time and place. She is a pagan goddess who, without caring to know the least bit about oneself, not even one's name (for that would dispel the illusion of soaring beyond the human), will gratify all of one's nameless desires.
    She will allow for both apotheosis and transformation into the beast, and at one and the same time: For the man who enjoys her is a god, yet for all the viewer sees of him, he may have any face at all, or no face, or the face of a horse or a goat. She is as impenetrable as Diana, and as lascivious as Venus, and thus the diabolical obverse of the Blessed Virgin: for she will couple, in the air of the imagination though never in the body, with all mankind, and love none.

by Anthony Esolen, on why pornography is not the sin we say it is
Professor Esolen occasionally blogs at Mere Comments


    Large corporations, which are usually depicted by our perfectly antique progressives as blundering machines of reaction, on closer examination appear quite supine in the face of political and social innovation. CEOs do not often pour out into the streets to protest homosexual marriage; rare indeed is the plutocrat who finds time in his day to thunder against the mean inhumanity of pornography with the words of St. Paul: "Let it not even be named among you."
    ...At the root of plutocracy is the awful idea of Efficiency. The whole structure of society is made to be smooth and facile; disagreement, especially disagreement concerning "the permanent things," is suppressed. We see the rise of the Efficiency State in Europe, where it is, in effect, illegal to argue publicly about the things that really vex, and a class of elites, repining in places like Davos, Switzerland, make the decisions without much input from the untidy masses...
    But human beings are inefficient. Families are models of human inefficiency; that is why they are, and always will be, even unto the end, the final guarantor of liberty. All the world may be an anarchy of efficient inhumanity, a mechanized madness of perfect efficiency; and yet, if human beings yet flourish, even in such dark days, they will flourish because efficiency is checked at the solid door of the family home.
    For liberty itself is inefficient. What is efficient about free men trading stories over mugs of beer? What is efficient about a woman cultivating her own garden, a small but soaring slice of creation, wherein she becomes and embodies the imago Dei?

by Paul Cella, on the awful idea of efficiency
(Paul's website)

Both excerpts from the October, 2005 Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity

And why the juxtaposition of these two passages? One parallel that occurs to me is that pornography is the "efficient," uncomplicated (because impersonal), sterile, and soulless version of sex. Being such, should a man marry himself to it, he embraces enslavement, not the life-bearing liberty of love, for the vow is tendered by only one party. And it is a marriage that seems to thrive most happily in the efficiency and prosperity of the modern industrial state. The abortion industry, for example, left unhindered, is a mechanism most efficient in its methods and ends. And it is a marriage about which our laws (like those "elites...repining in Davos") give the appearance of no longer having an opinion; but it's only an appearance, for their very impartiality belies the urgency of saving it from dissolution.


Alan said...

The pornographic image is not that of a human being reduced to an object. If only it were! For that would be less diabolical. It is instead that of the human being raised to an object: an idol.

It's both. Pornography involves the exercise of sexuality in the complete absence of an interpersonal relationship - a situation that perfectly describes the state of affairs with mere objects and lofty idols.

William Luse said...

Yes, I get your meaning, with which few would quarrel. But I have a slightly different take on it, or emphasis, if you will. If (for example) the male porn viewer were able to see the girl before him as truly an object, he would see not merely her external appearance but her "objective" reality: in her origin as a creation of God, in the destiny that will return her to Him, in the cultivation of virtue that would make of her a saint in some calling, as a wife and mother of children, perhaps. If he could thus see her, even in her nakedness, he would have to love her. But he doesn't want to love her. His lust demands that she be seen as less than she is. And the more tangled his fantasies of her, she becomes less and less an object, and more and more the subjective creation of his own mind. Lust devours reality, because it's all about "me."