Laughing at Chastity, Regretting the Results

regrets

Photo from Flickr.com by Joe Brown

Private and revealing photos of several attractive actresses were ostensibly stolen by someone who hacked into Apple’s iCloud storage. This, of course, set the internet abuzz.

Most people rightly condemned the hacking and invasion of privacy, and even pointed out instances of blatant hypocrisy.

The Verge, for example, highlighted individuals who lamented the loss of privacy through government spying, but blamed the victims of the hacking for their private photos being put on public display.

The Onion site The Clickhole used the situation to sarcastically illustrate the absurdity of our culture’s obsession with the private lives of celebrities.

Many of the most vocal critics seem unaware, however, that their own glass house is one of the main reasons they seem to have such a clear view of the ethical problems in stealing, posting, sharing and viewing these photos.

Explain how exactly you can run columns condemning those seeking such images, while your sidebar features ads and article teases for material almost as lurid.

Remind me again how promoting the “10 Best Bods in Hollywood” or “Most Memorable Wardrobe Malfunctions” is any less reductionist in the way it views women than posting the hacked photos. Objectification is objectification.

Viral news sites like Huffington Post and numerous others feature such headlines and content on an hourly basis. They are constantly coming up with new exploitive, click-bait headlines where the bait is the body of a female celebrity.

I recognize the distinction being made by the sites (and many of the women themselves) between something that was intended to remain private and something that was designed to be public. There is a difference there for the woman, but what about for the viewer?

What has he learned from our sex-saturated culture? Hamburgers are sexual objects in fast food commercials. Fictional stories about powerful men mistreating and abusing young attractive women are best-selling books and box-office hits – among women.

We are in the midst of a culture where virtually every song on the radio, show on television and movie in theaters is focused on sex, but not simply sex – sex merely for the sake of personal pleasure. Our culture has undergone “pornification.”

Within this environment, how are we shocked to discover young men who are obsessed with sex or sexual images and will do whatever it takes to find what they want? Things do not occur in a vacuum.

Culture wants the same young man who has looked at pornography since before puberty without anyone ever explaining to him why it’s wrong (or even if it’s wrong), we want this young man to recognize an ethical distinction between different type of nude images he regularly views on his computer?

None of this is to say the blame does not lie solely and squarely on the hackers and those who spread the images. Quite the opposite. This is to say, they are entirely morally blameworthy, but those charges can only stick if you are standing on firm ground in terms of your sexual ethic.

At The Federalist, Mollie Hemingway has a nice piece on the hacked photos and which mentions modern feminism’s desire to create some form of chivalry without the consistent moral framework in which to express it.

Driving home from work, I saw a billboard featured Kate Upton sensuously stretched out across the skyline with nothing but high heels, a white bed sheet and an inviting look. Minimal text on the plastered bedroom scene enticed drivers to visit a website “to see more of Kate Upton.”

How disturbing the advertisement seems in light of Upton being one of the hacker’s victims.

But think of the man who has followed the cues of society and laughed at the “puritanical ideas” of chastity and sexual purity. He mocks virgins as cultural oddities. This man sees the billboard of Kate Upton and undoubtedly wants to “see more.”

But not just of Upton and not just on that approved website. He wants to see more, legitimately obtained or not, of her, Jennifer Lawrence, Scarlett Johansson, Rihanna, and all the other attractive women whose photos have been splashed across the web.

For this man, what is left to hold sway over his sexual impulse? To what do we appeal if we want him to resist the urge to view and share the stolen photos?

The whole situation reminds of C.S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man. In the opening chapter, Lewis explains that all our cultural desires are undermined by the very things we promote.

And all the time — such is the tragi-comedy of our situation — we continue to clamor for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more drive, or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or creativity. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.

To rephrase it a bit for our current circumstances, “We laugh at chastity and are shocked to find the sexually exploitive in our midst.” We are constantly feeding the sexual appetite of young men and bidding them “be faithful.”

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Aaron Earls

Christian. Husband. Daddy. Writer. Online editor for Facts & Trends Magazine. Fan of quick wits, magical wardrobes, brave hobbits, time traveling police boxes & Blue Devils.