When objects collide


Flickr photo by bella731
Flickr photo by bella731

If you want a lot of hits, write about pornography. Albert Mohler, the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has been posting on the subject.  As one would expect from Mohler, his critique of pornography emerges from a moral stand. Porn undermines traditional marriage, which causes the decline in traditional marriage. While much in his critique makes for admirable copy, it fails to go to the deeper problem. Porn not only destroys marriages, it destroys much more.

Pornography, he rightly points out in his first post, marries the erotic with a capitalistic impulse. 

In addition to this, we must recognize that a capitalist, free-market economy rewards those who produce a product that is both attractive and appetitive. The purveyors of pornography know they succeed by directing their product to the lowest common denominator of humanity — a depraved sexual mind.

The deeper problem comes when pornography demands the viewer objectify. Once the person is reduced to an object, one can manipulate the other. Both become objects. A man must reduce himself to the same dehumanizing form and only see himself the same object in the world of objects. He forfeits his humanity in the moment. Think of the mystery of a torturer. A torturer also reduces himself to an object, to manipulate another object, because a human can’t torture another human being. The pain he inflicts has to be on an object not a human.

The torturer can recover being human for awhile. This is answer to the mystery of how a man can torture another like many of the Nazi prison guards and then come home to his wife and children, being a good father and loving his pets. Essentially, the two men, the torturer and the father are different. What the Jewish theologian called the I-It (a man as object among objects) and I-Thou (a man who recognizes the divine in relationship) are two different I's.

The one who objectifies the other, must objectify himself. The answer to how a man can love and be addicted to porn is that he still can find a way back to I-Thou. But for how long? A human that dehumanizes himself and others will start losing himself. Soon, the damage to his soul will build. The more he lives as an object among objects, the more he separates from life. He finds it harder and harder to make it back to love and soon all that is left for him are objects. He becomes dead to himself and to others. His deadness reveals itself in every moment as he can only see objects. He is broken.

Like a kid looking though the glass, he becomes more desperate and more dehumanizing. He becomes a stranger to himself and to others. The only thing that remains is disgust with life. Many of those who see the world only as objects fall victim to despair and this disgust with life pervades their existence. When we start to lose what it means to be human whether through control, through pleasure or through torturing another, the more we become monsters to ourselves and others.

One of the most fascinating stories in South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission was how many of the nastier players in the drama, the terrorist and torturers in the tale, found their way back to their humanity in the process of being truthful with themselves and others. They stop seeing themselves as objects. We can be redeemed and as a Christian, I know that redemption comes from accepting Jesus’ love. What Jesus does by being with us is to bring us out of the world of seeing other as objects, which will then extend to ourselves, and back to see each other as expressions of love. Jesus came to be with us so that we can be with others. When Jesus asked us to love God and love one another, he gave us tickets out of objectifying others and ourselves. He gave us tickets out of Hell.

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Laura Kipp

Thank you for this! Mormon prophets are constantly warning of the dangers of pornography. I keep hearing new studies that they studied the brain and porn effects it the same as crack, or that it’s one of the top listed things as the reason for a divorce. I like how you explained objectifying. I agree that seeing each other through God’s eyes takes away the humanizing that comes from a lot of places.

Tiffany  McCallen

Fascinating, Ernesto! Curious, what’s your take on the enormously popular book series, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” that isn’t video pornography, of course, but has been dubbed in some circles as “mommy porn.” Does that fall within the same rules as objectifying people if it was written for women’s enjoyment?

Ernesto Tinajero

Dear Tiffany,

I really cannot comment on Fifty shades of Grey per say, as I have not read it. I can give you some of what I have read about it from woman reviewers. The plot of a young woman becoming a submissive for an older billionaire has left more than one female reviewer feeling “dirty.” and there is something not quit right about.it. They also comment about how contracts are part of the relationship. It seems that the plot has more to do with trying to transcend the object-object manipulation of current commerce. The young woman is trying to go beyond it to a authentic human-human relationship. More reviewers I read seem to have liked it, but hated liking it. So, I think that sense of reducing the human and ending in despair is still there. .Much like the fiction of Michel Houellebecq descends into a depressing death of the spirit, Shades seems to do something similar to the spirit, only judging by the reviewers experience.


Appreciate your follow-up on this, Ernesto. I love to hear viewpoints when pop culture and ethics collide.

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