(Part 3 of a series)
There are things in this world that call out to us, demanding our attention. Television commercials, until recently, were allowed to use loud volume to catch our attention (though despite legislation that was supposed to eliminate this practice it still seems to be a problem). Huge billboards are placed in conspicuous locations, and ads in magazines use imagery to catch our eyes. Even our phone apps can issue alerts when you aren’t using them as much as they feel you should.
When I watch the trailers that play prior to the start of a movie, it seems that sex appeal is one of the primary ways that producers try to get viewers to pay to see their films. Sex appeal is effective because it relies on the portrayal of something intrinsically beautiful – that is, sex, as an illustration of the love between two people – but in a way that carnally-driven, fallen minds are tempted to pursue. In all of the examples above, sex appeal is used in what might seem “harmless” to the typical person because there is no nudity, but which I still lump into the category of “pornography”. I consider pornography to be anything that attempts to use sex or sex appeal to evoke lustful thoughts in the mind of the viewer. Within this definition, then, the labels on bras (for example) do not count as pornography…but the big 10-foot-long posters of buxom lounging women in the windows of Victoria’s Secret in every major mall do. Some might argue that those posters are intended to help women feel beautiful in VS products by showing them what they “could” look like when wearing the products. While the products themselves can be used to empower or encourage women within their romantic relationships and help them feel beautiful, I would disagree that this is the intended purpose for these posters.
The temptation associated with pornography is strong. I described it earlier as one that plays on many desires and weaknesses within people. It says “I’m worth it” to whatever cost might be associated with succumbing to that temptation. It presents many desirable things to the viewer or listener. It seduces.
Seduction is a deliberate act. This puts it one step above temptation, because temptation in and of itself may not be deliberately established. When I know there are a couple cookies left in the cupboard and it’s almost time to go to bed, I’m tempted to eat them so that I can enjoy their flavor before going to sleep. But the cookies themselves are not designed to tempt me – the baker wasn’t plotting and scheming – nor do the cookies act on their own to tempt me. On the other hand, when pornographic content (including ads or programs using scantily-clad men or women to sell a product or catch a viewer’s eye) is designed it is designed with the purpose of tempting somebody to look and watch. There may be additional goals from there – selling a product, promoting a person, etc. – but the initial intent, the initial goal, is to tempt the viewer to look at it. This is deliberate. This is seduction.
Seduction is about a thrill associated with desire. It’s about enticement. In seduction, something is used to draw you in, to make you want more. It plays on your desires, your cravings, and your pleasures. When done well, it is so perfectly targeted that your ability to resist gives way and you are enveloped by it. Promises are made that if it continues things will get even better. In that moment, every attempt is made to make you forget your concerns, your other desires, and anything else that might make you hold back.
The angler fish is a fish that lives deep in the ocean, where light cannot reach. In this dark environment, angler fish have evolved a luminous extension that rises up over their mouth, which seems to serve as bait for prey. Other fish see this light in the darkness, swim toward it, and are gobbled up by the angler fish.
(Image courtesy of FactZoo: http://www.factzoo.com/fish/anglerfish-worlds-most-hideous-fish.html)
In an environment that is pitch black, the glow of luminous flesh is so appealing that fish are seduced by and drawn to it like moths to a lightbulb. They never know that below this thing of marvelous beauty lies a gaping mouth filled with sharp teeth – until it has devoured them.
Pornography is like this. It presents something that was originally good and beautiful and it says, “Aren’t I wonderful? Don’t you want more?” It twists and distorts it to target the fallen desires of our minds, and promises gratification. It promises satisfaction. It promises pleasure. But underneath this presentation lies a gaping mouth with razor-sharp teeth, prepared to devour all who venture too closely.