Penthouse Retrospective

by Robert Warren Cromey Originally Published: August, 2000

Christian Porno | 20 Years Ago This Month

Even the Bible has erotic poetry. The Song of Solomon is the Bible’s love song:

How fair and pleasant you are,
O, loved one, delectable maiden!
You are stately as a palm tree
and your breasts are like its clusters.
I say I will climb the palm tree
and lay hold of its branches.
Oh, may your breasts be like clusters on the vine, and the scent of your breath like apples,
and your kisses like the best wine
that goes down smoothly,
gliding over lips and teeth.

Pornography and erotic art have been around for a long time. A lot of noisy sex-negative Christians have it all wrong. They are devils who quote Scripture, finding passages that appear to condemn sex. Leviticus and Romans are quoted as proclaiming universal antihomosexual laws. In fact such passages refer to local agricultural and cultic problems of bygone eras.

Let’s look at the Bible from another point of view. It has a lot to say about nudity and sex. Genesis indicates God created us naked. Our original state was to walk in a paradise with no clothes on. We come from out of our mother’s womb naked. So what could be wrong with nudity in itself?

The Genesis story goes on to say that naked man and woman disobeyed God and became ashamed and put on fig leaves to cover themselves. Wearing clothes is a punishment. It is not the way we are created to be. We also clothe ourselves to keep warm, or to keep off the sun’s rays. Then we hide our bodies, particularly our genitals, because we are ashamed of our sex parts and what they do. It is because of sin that we hide our nakedness.

I spent five months at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. Leading features there are the hot mineral baths. Most people bathe in the nude, with others present whom they may or may not know. After the initial titillating shock, nudity in that setting becomes natural and normal. I loved looking at the naked bodies around me. I never saw a naked body I didn’t like. Fat ones, tall ones, short ones, disfigured ones. Somehow the magic of nudity makes us all look beautiful. Women with mastectomies soon felt comfortable. They felt full acceptance after initial pained and shocked reactions. Men and women of great weight just had lots more body to enjoy and present to the world. I found nudity in this setting to be quite normal and not particularly sexually arousing. I wouldn’t say I never was turned on by a beautiful, sexy body, but it didn’t happen often. I was not aroused enough to harass anyone.

Christians teach love. Brotherly and sisterly love, physical love, and sacrificial love. Sexually explicit pictures, films, videos, and art teach people how to make love and enjoy it. We do precious little to help people learn about sex and love. Some churches and religious groups even work to stop any teaching about sex in schools. Then they fail to teach about sex and love at home or church.

Learning to care for others is a Christian concern. Sexually explicit films can teach about physical touch, kissing, massaging, and being sensuous.

I think Christian church people need to get off their high horses; they must stop condemning pornography while knowing little about it. The usual attacks go against anything that depicts nudity and explicit sexual activity. The criticisms fail to make distinctions between pornography and erotic art. For instance, showing a sex act in a film-just for the sake of titillation-can be criticized as exploitation of people and sexuality. Depictions of sex acts in ancient caves or Indian temples are part of the religion and cultural heritage of some people. Yet both are usually lumped together as pornography, and thus viewed as bad, wrong, and sinful.

I can’t imagine Jesus being concerned about depictions of sex. He was busy enough condemning hypocrisy and legalism and urging folks to love and forgive.

Viewing sexually explicit art, films, and videos is fun. We learn about love and pleasure. When we love our bodies and our sexuality, viewing porno will be seen as just another way to enjoy God’s creation.

The author is the rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in San Francisco.

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