Objectification

I am a parent of teens and I have worked with teens for the better part of two and a half decades.  It should come as no surprise that porn has come up regularly in conversations.  As a youth pastor, I used to give an annual sex talk. As a pastor I have been part of many conversations where porn has been the primary discussion topic and lately internet porn has been a hot topic among youth workers and pastors.

Every discussion about porn seems the end with some form of condemnation.  I do not have a problem with the conclusion, but very few people dig deeper.  Why is porn bad?  Is it the naked people?  If so what do we do with Michelangelo the Renaissance artist and painter of the Sistine Chapel ceiling?  It seems a little extreme to label him a pornographer.

With 25 years of porn discussions, conversations and presentations under my belt I am coming to the conclusion that the problem with porn is not its “nakedness;” no, the problem with porn it that it objectifies the other.  Objectification is the process of turning a person into something less than human.  And that my friends is sin.

By making the problem with porn objectification, a whole new can of worms opens up.  Yes, porn is wrong and sinful when it objectifies the other (mostly women), but other acts also become wrong when we objectify.

In war the opponent becomes an insurgent, a term intended to de-humanize.  When talking about our southern border we use words like illegal or undocumented, both subtle attempts at de-humanizing.

Historically Africans brought to this country for the purposes of forced labor where saddled with all kinds of labels, all of which were intended to objectify and de-humanize.

I can’t help but wonder if talking exclusively about porn minimizes the real sin – objectification.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Objectification

  1. Richard

    …and migrant labor, and IRS agents and any other “I don’t care who you are. I just want to use or abuse you to feed my appetite. Which brings us to athletic competitors, actors, and cute babies…

  2. Glenn Runnalls

    I think porn is about way more than objectification and that objectificaiton is more than making people less than human. Objectification is a form of confusion. Some of that confusion is making people less than human, some is about making people more than human, some is about making people other than human. In many other relations that involve objectification, there are other mediating factors that keep us from complete objectification of the other. With porn there are none. Porn gives an opportunity to completely objectify the Other as a thing subject to one’s gaze; as some thing that inspires awe both by what is being depicted and by the compulsion around porn; as something that is a merely instrumental means to self-gratification.

    Porn is more than objectification because it is also about compulsion. Some of that compulsion is to objectify the Other (in all the ways mentioned above). But there’s more to the compulsion than that.

    One of the consequences of the complete objectification that takes place around porn is the compartamentalization that it allows. People are able to compartamentalize their compulsion to porn as different from the relationship with their spouse and even the Lord.

    It is not just about learning not to be confused about objectifying others, compulsion towards porn is also about closing one’s mind and hardening one’s heart towards God’s best plans for us.

  3. Tim

    Lots of truth to your comments Glenn. I would add that we are objectifying our lust–as in “Thou shalt not covey your neighbors wife”. The objectification is a way of reduccing the humanity of the person to allow us to do what we want with them, or at least consider it. Jesus (and Paul) teaches us that sinful thoughts are every bit as bad as the action. This is a very tough subject in our society today. Probably most households are affected by porn in one way or another. Thanks for your thoughts!

    Happy Thanksgiving, Brother!

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