May 22, 2012 Sex vs. Violence
WARNING: This blog contains adult content.
Been seeing this quote going around, attributed to author George RR Martin (writer, Game of Thrones):
“It’s a uniquely American prudishness. You can write the most detailed, vivid description of an ax entering a skull, and nobody will say a word in protest. But if you write a similarly detailed description of a penis entering a vagina, you get letters from people saying they’ll never read you again. What the hell? Penises entering vaginas bring a lot more joy into the world than axes entering skulls.”
Martin isn’t alone in his befuddlement. I’ve read or heard similar thoughts from friends, professors, other creators of modern media, critics and entertainers.
My take? Sex is something sacred and very, very special that can and has been perverted. Violence is bad. Sometimes necessary (in defense of freedom), but always bad. Perverting that which is sacred is worse than bad. It’s evil.*
*Which isn’t to say violence can’t be evil. It absolutely can be. But at its base its a thing we understand to be not positive. Children are taught “don’t hit” and there’s no group of people out there arguing that hitting is, actually, pretty great. That would be ridiculous.
Sex is such a tricky topic. Sex, at its core, is a good thing. Sex is great. But I and a lot of other people (all Americans, I guess) think sex is something that’s best discussed and practiced by a man and his wife. That’s not prudishness, that’s putting a thing–a very important thing–in its proper place. Very important things should always go in their proper places.
But much of the world doesn’t really agree with that. Sex is everywhere and attached to everything. In that way and many others it’s been perverted into this other thing–into something it’s best that it not be. CS Lewis (writer, Mere Christianity) said it best:
“Sex is not messed up because it was put in the closet; it was put in the closet because it was messed up.”
In other words, what some call prudishness I would call trying to fix what’s been broken.
Admittedly, when we’re talking about sex, we’re in that sticky zone of intersecting ideas where religion and morality start pulling at each other. I have some atheist/agnostic friends who couldn’t give two figs about my religion, but we find a lot of common ground on moral issues.* We both believe in helping out our fellow man, we both want to do right by our kids and treat our spouses well, etc. But, almost invariably, we have disagreement when it comes to the place sex should have in our lives and culture.
*I don’t think my morality deriving from my religious beliefs invalidates my sense of right and wrong. I would argue that all morality comes from either religion itself or from something only religion can explain. Of course, that’s a whole ‘nother discussion.
I think the essential problem is that, for those that believe sex fits into far more places than someone like myself thinks it should, it’s hard to understand how something that ostensibly should be about joy and happiness is somehow a bad thing. I mean, how can that be?
This is where taking religion out of morality becomes problematic. The idea of the sacred disappears when religion is removed. Suddenly, things skew towards the secular and are judged less by their longer lasting, deeper consequences, and more by the surface results that can be viewed immediately. Defining something as sacred is, itself, a leap of faith. I’m saying God has more claim to a thing than I do. A God I have never met.*
*Faith in God has always been about taking the longview. God is great about telling us points A and Z and not really giving us much to go on for B-Y. So the faithful can look like fools until they’re proven right. Hopefully, it happens during their lifetime, but such is not always (often) the case.
So, to those like George RR Martin who believe we’re better off witnessing a penis going into a vagina rather than an axe cleaving a head in two (and I’m in no way saying either one is something I think I should or want to see), I say I’d rather see something I can clearly define as evil and understand as such than see that which I consider precious rendered as puerile entertainment for the masses. I truly believe the latter is the greater of the two evils.
Or, to put it another way: I don’t want to have to explain it over and over again to my kid (or myself!) the confusing vagaries of sexual practices and combat the mixed up messages of the world by constantly redefining for her what about sex is good and what is bad. Far, far easier to say “See that guy hitting that guy? Yeah, that’s bad. Don’t do that. Unless we’re at war. I’ll tell you when we’re at war.”*
*Yes, that’s a bit reductive. So what? If your argument is that it’s easier to define what is evil about sex than it is about violence, then we may need to agree to disagree.
I can’t possibly imagine what the response to this blog will be. Many I consider friends will likely find much to disagree with here. That’s okay. I invite discussion, but I do ask that we keep it civil. Thanks.