Several years ago, I read “The DaVinci Code” to see what all the fuss was about. It was nothing special—a fast-paced novel with interesting, if inaccurate, historical details woven in—but one line still stands out to me. The leading lady recalls a conversation she had with her grandfather as a child, about the film “The Last Temptation of Christ.” “Would it be so bad if Jesus had a girlfriend?” the old man asks her.
“YES!” I wanted to shout. “Yes, creepy cultic dude, it would be horrible if Jesus had a girlfriend.” I can’t remember the characters names, or most of the details of the story, but that simple question still startles and horrifies me. Here’s why.
Sexuality is a gift from God, but there’s no doubt that sin has screwed it up in the most grotesque ways. That WE have screwed it up in the most grotesque ways. Sex can be beautiful, yes, a wonderful celebration of love, faithfulness, new life, and these brilliantly-designed bodies our Creator so generously gifted us. But in our broken world, sexuality has been twisted to serve other purposes. To control. To harm. To feed addictions. To feed children. Once an expression of a tender, loving relationship, sex has been hardened and depersonalized, turned into a currency that people exploit for money, pleasure, or power.
I thought of this the other night as I drove past the strip clubs on the north end of Tower Avenue, watched middle-aged men weighted down by dust and exhaustion shuffle their feet and smoke cigarettes under a sign promising Girls! Girls! Girls! I wondered about the Girls!, wondered if anyone was loving on them, telling them (and more importantly showing them) that there is Someone who for whom their worth is not tied to their sexuality, in either a negative or positive way.
See, for women, the messages about where our worth comes from start young. As babies, we are beautiful, pretty little preschoolers in adorable dresses, so cute you could just eat us up. By elementary school, we’ve discovered that girls with long blonde hair and trendy, sparkly tops are treated differently than the ones sporting tangled locks and stained sweats. By middle school, we’ve seen enough movies to understand that living happily ever after involves being skinny, beautiful, and having a lot of sex, and by high school fashion magazines have taught us that it’s not so much about being pretty as it is about being sexually attractive to a certain sort of man—by leaning forward and parting your lips slightly when you’re flirting with him at work, by dousing yourself in pheromone-laced perfume available for only $120 at Nordstroms, by learning the Ten Naughty Tricks That Will Drive Him Wild In Bed, dished by a Parisian madame.
The Christian community participates in this as well. On the one hand, you have pastors’ wives taking pole dancing classes, lest they be complicit in their husband’s downfall by “letting themselves go.” Our porn-drenched, sex-obsessed culture has so saturated the church that women are being pressured (from the pulpit!) to perform acts their grandmothers couldn’t even conceive of. On the other, you have the “modest is hottest” crowd, where a woman’s demure virginity is praised as an irresistible turn-on to conquest-oriented males (as if everyone knows that’s the real goal of chaste Christian girlhood—to drive prospective husbands “mad with desire”).
What it comes down to is that in many ways, society ascribes value to women based on how attractive and/or useful they are to men.
(Stay tuned for part 2 of “Patriarchy, Pop Culture, and Pornography.”)