Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What Should We Make of Pornography?

It takes courage to endure the sharp pains of self discovery, rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives. (Marianne Williamson)

The 50 Shades of Grey Series should be an eye-opener for anyone who condemns pornography and "perversion". The idea has gone mainstream, so there must be something the sexual theme of BDSM appeals to. If millions connect with it, can it still be a perversion? I remember sitting in a plane once, and a woman in a seat behind me remarked somewhat embarrassed to the woman sitting next to her as she glanced at her 50 Shades of Grey book, "Well, it is really just a love story."

I can't really comment on "The 50 Shades of Grey" as I have never read it, but I can comment on pornography as I have watched it. Like the 50 Shades of Grey it can add a little sparkle to the bedroom by jump-starting our sexual imagination, or it can be a stumbling block along our spiritual path; a "sinful" temptation that allures and we have no idea why.

I had an eye-opener on pornography a few years ago when someone shared a link to some very explicit sexual scenes in a spiritual community. It was titled "Sex is not the Enemy" and showed scenes of some attractive people who appeared to have simply fun having sex with each other and apparently did not mind at all sharing their pleasures with others. It was then that I first understood the core issue with porn, it is a guided trip down the pleasure lane, aiming to steer our lust in a targeted direction. The pornographic agenda rarely has love in mind. Free flowing sex on the other hand has no agenda whatsoever, and mostly, is a physical expression of love.

If you want to read a fair assessment of the pleasures and challenges with pornography, I would recommend "The Porn Report" by Alan McKee, Katherine Albury and Catherine Lumby who provide an overview of the distribution and usage of porn in Australia. The fact of the matter seems to be that porn viewership is widespread, many just want a little extra sparkle in the bedroom while for some, lust is steered into - what our spiritual community would call - a deviant direction.

Robert J. Stoller, M.D. has an astute observation in "Observing the Erotic Imagination" when he writes, "In perversion the desire to sin is essential for being turned on." That is indeed a very interesting problem statement. The purpose of pornography can be to break moral taboos. The sex addict ventures further and further down a road to nowhere just to keep the climax going. Expect pain along this road as the same institution that gets you exited about the pleasure trip - the ego - beats you up over it afterwards. Yet, as Marianne Williamson points out, if that activity is useful in the sense that it brings to the surface certain aspects that you have repressed before, who but you can say whether it is a hindrance or a help along the spiritual path.

A spiritual journey is quite simple really. It is all about falling in love with life and all the people in it. Shadow work is the opposite. It is about discovering why there is a lack of love in some areas of our life. And instead of just brushing it aside in the name of spirituality, we openly and honestly ask, so why exactly is that? Have a look at all the hidden symbols in pornography and try to understand why they appeal to you. Sex is not the enemy but the lack of love is. The problem statement is that this lack of love is hidden inside and it may be a good idea to bring the true cause out in the open until one day you are finally able to choose love every step of the way. 

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