Jump directly to the content

Porn, Raquel Welch, and the Power of Our Sexual Imagination


Apr 17 2012
When we let porn and fashion magazines tell us what's beautiful, we usually reject the flesh-and-blood beauty right in front of us.

In a recent interview with Men's Health, aging actress Raquel Welch criticized Internet porn for ruining men: "Do they know how to negotiate something that isn't pre-fab and injected directly into their brain?" she asked. "Nobody remembers what it's like to be left to form your own ideas about what's erotic and sexual. We're not allowed any individuality."

Welch's interview attracted significant attention, mostly for her accusation that "we have equated happiness in life with as many orgasms as you can possibly pack in." Some media coverage has offhandedly referenced Welch's sex symbol status, while a few bloggers have directly pointed out the irony of her criticism. But the consensus is that she's right: It's hard to find a realistic and honest argument that ubiquitous porn has made for a healthier world.

I too think Welch is on to something. And not just about men and porn.

Among the mysterious gifts God gives his image bearers are the imagination and ability to develop sexual desire for people we love. We can form attraction we can't explain, and to grow in that attraction as we grow in love and commitment. Somehow, though a thousand men may overlook me, my husband finds me beautiful.

Our image-saturated culture, with its rigid standards of beauty and predilection for plastic, does not allow for such variety. We are programmed to view one another through lenses we were never meant to wear, and in the process, we learn to despise ourselves.

From television, movies, magazines, book covers, billboards, buses, computers, and even our phones, these images parade before us—often without our conscious notice. Most of these images are laced with subtle or anything-but-subtle sexuality. And they're almost all fake. Bodies are airbrushed, reworked, even assembled from parts of various people through Photoshop, a twist on Frankenstein's horrifying monster—and we're convinced they're beautiful, even though we know they're outrageous.

Yet such standards of beauty are so ingrained, most of us have to intentionally resist them. And many of us who are able to resist extremes still strive to bring our bodies closer to such standards without questioning why. As we do, we forsake our God-given capacity to form ideas about beauty and attractiveness within the context of loving relationships with our spouses.

What would you and I find sexy if we lived in a small, isolated community with no exposure to media? Our cultural ideals would be formed by the characteristics of the people we knew. And without constant exposure to processed images, we would be largely free to develop our own ideas of beauty within the context of relationships. Attraction would be defined relationally rather than imposed by outside forces. We would all believe we were surrounded by the hottest people on earth. And we would be right.

Related Topics:Body Image; Media; Pornography

To add a comment you need to be a registered user or Christianity Today subscriber.

orSubscribeor
More from Her.menutics
Give Us This Day Our Daily Brew

Give Us This Day Our Daily Brew

The Christian ties to coffee culture.
The Real Benefits of Spanish-Immersion Elementary School

The Real Benefits of Spanish-Immersion Elementary School

It’s not just about speaking another language.
Lessons from Loving and Losing a Pet

Lessons from Loving and Losing a Pet

On loving dogs and being loved by God.
Forgiving My Pastor, Mark Driscoll

Forgiving My Pastor, Mark Driscoll

As God rebuilds, I see Mars Hill shift its focus to love.
Include results from Christianity Today
Browse Archives:

So Hot Right Now

Have Babies, Just Not Yet

Resisting pressure to "make something of yourself" before motherhood.

What We're Reading

CT eBooks and Bible Studies

Christianity Today
Porn, Raquel Welch, and the Power of Our Sexual Imagination