Feminism and Porn

I just read an extremely disturbing review article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper titled “The truth about the porn industry.” It’s about a sociology professor and feminist named Gail Dines who is crusading against pornography in her new book Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality. [I have to warn readers that this article is disturbing precisely because it describes in no uncertain terms the degradation that has become common fare in today’s smut industry. Please beware.]

“The book documents the recent history of porn, including the technological shifts that have made it accessible on mobile phones, videogames and laptops. According to Dines’s research the prevalence of porn means that men are becoming desensitised to it, and are therefore seeking out ever harsher, more violent and degrading images.”

On every other issue, Gail Dines and I would probably be on opposite sides, but not on this one. She argues that pornography is not an expression of sexual liberation but an instrument of degradation. Pornography corrupts everyone it touches. She writes:

“We are now bringing up a generation of boys on cruel, violent porn, and given what we know about how images affect people, this is going to have a profound influence on their sexuality, behaviour and attitudes towards women.”

She’s right about that. But there is one area in which I would respectfully disagree with Ms. Dines. She says that pornography is “the perfect propaganda piece for patriarchy.” In other words, she links the degradation of women in pornography to patriarchy. I believe Ms. Dines and other feminists err by making patriarchy (=rule of the father or male leadership) a synonym for abuse. In truth, I would argue that it is the failure of men to lead that makes women vulnerable to this kind of abuse.

Biblical patriarchy is not abusive but strives toward the protection of women and children. The biblical word for it is not patriarchy, but headship. The paradigm for this is Christ himself. The apostle Paul writes,

3 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body… 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her… 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body.” –Ephesians 5:23-30

The example for how a husband should treat his wife (and thus for how men should treat women in general) is Christ. Christ is head of his bride, the church. He loves her, suffers for her, and even dies for her. He cares for and protects her as he cares for and protects himself. In other words, biblical headship involves male leadership, but it also involves a self-sacrificial giving of oneself for the good of women. It protects them from exploitation and degradation because it cherishes women as fellow heirs of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7).

Biblically speaking, this kind of selfless leadership is the special responsibility of men, and feminism calls men away from this responsibility. When you couple this abdication with feminism’s emphasis on sexual liberation, you can see how feminism as an ideology can be turned into a basis for the sexual exploitation of women. Ironically, this sad consequence is exactly what Dines chronicles in her book, even though she probably wouldn’t concede that points about feminism that I’ve made here.

In any case, the prevalence of pornography in our culture is yet another sad symptom of the spiritual destitution of men in our culture. In particular, it represents the failure of men to be the men that God has called them to be. So pray for the Lord’s mercy and the progress of the gospel in the hearts of men. And, men, let’s be the blessing that God intends for us to be to our wives, daughters, and sisters.

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Julie Bindel, “The Truth About the Porn Industry,” The Guardian (July 2, 2010)

3 Responses to Feminism and Porn

  1. Jordan July 5, 2010 at 12:32 am #

    Wow, Dr. Burk. Thank you for such a Christ-centered post about this most horrifying subject.

  2. Anna Wood February 24, 2011 at 6:57 am #

    Excellent article. I am posting a link to it on one of my blogs. Thank you.

  3. Anna Wood February 24, 2011 at 7:43 am #

    thecrossisall@gmail.com is actually my e-mail address; sorry for entering it wrong

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