The world failed to be shocked this week when Playboy Magazine announced a return to showcasing nudity as part of its normal operations. This comes after a hiatus of almost two years that began in 2015 when leaders decided to halt publication of nude photos and instead take a different focus. While many moralists applauded this decision, it was not as noble as it appeared. The reality was that few found it necessary to subscribe or purchase the magazine when they could find what they wanted (and more) online for free. In other words, nudity was so readily available that people simply stared going elsewhere and didn’t have a need for the magazine. The same fact was reaffirmed last week in a story that declared teen sex had decreased in the United States, which was not as good of a message as it seems. The reason for the decrease was because more teens were turning towards pornography. So there was no moral change that took place. Those revelations combined with the decision announced this week from Cooper Hefner is telling about our society.
In the course of the announcement Hefner made several statements that warrant our attention. First the fact that the announcement came on the day of Valentine’s Day, a day reserved for honoring love, indicates that people consider the two to be one in the same. It’s fascinating to think though, that it is treated so casually by today’s culture that the two could even be considered in partnership with one another in life. People desire sex without commitment and commitment without sex (within the confines of God’s law), which means we are not surprised to find ourselves amidst people who desire sex without children and children without sex.
Second though was Hefner’s claim that nudity is not a problem. As Al Mohler stated in The Briefing yesterday, it must be a problem, or at least a major issue, because the announcement warranted the attention of The New York Times. If this were a meaningless issue it would not have been reported. Simply by that statement though, we see that it is indeed a problem because we have someone here trying to normalize something that is not normal. Nudity after the fall was considered to be exclusive between husband and wife, however, here we have a declaration following on the heals of a nationwide movement of a similar nature, to declare the opposite of God’s truth.
Finally, comes the claim that Playboy setoff the sexual revolution. While we can certainly say they had an impact in promoting the sexual revolution, it is hard to pinpoint them as the cause. Regardless, more revealing about this statement is the desire to take credit for the current changes in moral standards that are taking place. Not only is this suggesting that public nudity is good, but demonstrates that being part of it is seen as a positive aspect. In essence, society considers it admirable when others engage in the sexual revolution.
While the decision to return to nude portrayals is being billed as a creative decision and not an economic one. I am uncertain about the true economic impact the changes have had at Playboy, because upon ceasing nudity in their magazines, subscriptions went down, but newsstand sales went up. So it appears things may at least be stable and might have potentially increased. Regardless, certainly the decision would not be made to return to nudity if there was not an economic payoff of some sort. It’s often said, “Sex sells” a point already proven to be true. However, the concern here goes deeper than that.
In fact, the decision and the response that it elicits reveals two certain aspects of today’s culture:
- People Willfully Seek Sin: Here we have the case in which the temptation and ability to engage in sin is being made readily available. People are searching for ways to engage in ways that are contrary to God’s teachings and there are others who are willing to create those opportunities for them.
- People Openly Seek Sin: There was a point in which sin was kept hidden. In our observation of the massive pornography industry, stores engaging in it were often kept hidden and private. Now it is more readily available and more publicly available. While some may find shame here and try to keep it hidden, many more are finding it acceptable and thus are open about their desires to engage in it.
It is a scary thought to think that sin is not only being accepted, but it’s being promoted and almost glorified.
In light of such serious circumstances, Christians find themselves concerned about what to do. Aside from standing firm against it and confronting it, I have two considerations that should be part of our response that are often overlooked. First, we should be saddened by the state of pornography and its impact in our society. We should be saddened by the fact that people are so deceived and lost. We should be saddened by the fact that people are losing meaningful relationships with one another as a result of it. We should be saddened by the fact that God is losing relationships with people and people are losing relationships with God because of the draw of pornography. We should saddened by the fact that this tool has the propensity to darken hearts to the point of eternal separation from God even.
Second, while we tend to use the opportunities to focus on others, this is also a time in which we need to focus on ourselves more. Here’s what I mean by that. With the glorification and acceptance of pornography (among many other sins) it will become more prevalent in our society. This results in a greater need for us to be vigilant and on guard. We must be cautious to put up hedges of protection around ourselves, around our spouses, and around our families. To let our guard down creates opportunities for a greater impact.
We are at a point in which pornography is not only a top industry in our culture, but it is a priority within our culture. In a few short decades, our societal acceptance of it has changed immensely. As rapidly as that change was, much more can happen in these next few decades. We must be well-guarded in our stance against it, both for the sake of others and for the sake of ourselves, and ultimately for the sake of God’s glory.