As part of an ongoing discussion at Mike Duran’s I wrote this longer comment in answer to Sally Apokadek’s question about women and erotica. Since it’s in moderation (gee, I wonder why) I’m posting it here, too. Also because I wanted to. My parents should probably skip it, since they’re both in poor health. I should also add that this is for people in a Christian worldview and a committed relationship to Christ. Your attitudes toward sex and pornography may differ if you are in a different (or no) faith. My point in this is to not downgrade another person’s sex life–because sex is highly personal and tastes vary–but to clarify why exactly I think erotica can have a place in a married Christian’s sex life.
I love four things that aren’t God or my husband:
Not together. Separately.
But I look at it this way. Each of those things was something God designed as a little “here’s a nice thing for you to enjoy just because I love you.” In the same way that I bring my dogs endless stuffed hedgehogs as tokens of adoration, God has given me food, sex, books, dogs.
The way I see erotica is the same way I see food and books and dogs. But I’ll go with food as the best analogy in this circumstance.
When you’re dealing with loving food there are different types of food, different attitudes and behaviours. For me it breaks down like this.
McDonalds=This is cheap and tastes good but leaves you with kind of funky greasy feeling after and you kind of hate yourself a little for eating it. But then again it’s cheap and tastes good. We’ll call this casual sex.
Surf and Turf with all the fixin’s=This is good, hearty, sustaining food. Rich and tasty but not really FANCY. Expensive , but again, not fancy. We’ll call this Married Sex. If you’re lucky. A lot of Christians I know are having Kraft Macaroni Married Sex…but we’ll get to that.
Babette’s Feast=This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime gourmet meals with all the fanciest preparation and most exotic foods prepared in the most painstaking ways possible. This is the Unicorn Sex that people fantasize about and lust after. It’s the sex that people who read Romance Novels dream about. That elusive, once in a lifetime knock-your-socks off sex. It’s this desire for Babette’s Feast that has all these women reading the newest kinds of Erotic fiction. They’re stuck with mcDonalds and Kraft Macaroni but boy do they dream of the Lobster Thermidor with asparagus confit. We actually have a restaurant here in Nashville that serves $300-a-person dinners that are supposed to be The Perfect Meal. People are flying in from New York and LA to eat at The Catbird Seat. So I guess I should call this the Catbird Seat category. (Oh! Sexy Pun!)
The way I see it is that if you’ve grown up without many cooking lessons you’ll end up eating Kraft Macaroni. But if you go and get your hands on some recipe books and maybe take a trip through Whole Foods to see what’s actually available to be consumed you can end up with a perfectly great Organic, all-natural, five course delicious meal at home. Likewise finding some books that talk about sex, how to have sex within a loving committed partnership, how to find what YOU personally enjoy about sex, etc. A good, healthy erotic scene in a general novel can serve as a fine recipe book. (For the purposes of this analogy I would liken an attendence at one of the sex toy parties–around here they’re called Surprise Parties–to a trip to WholeFoods. Those are tasteful and not pruriently marketed. They sell everything from lotions to gadgets. None of which I think are prohibited by scripture.)
Where I think Erotica can be harmful is when it becomes like a glutton at a Las Vegas Casino Buffett. “Look at all I can shovel down for $3.99!” You get the adrenaline thrill but don’t get the rest of the story about how adults in adult situations deal with their sexuality in light of other things. Every one of those books that I recommended treats sexuality as a healthy and enjoyable part of a committed relationship that faces many assaults from financial to spiritual. It’s not just “come here and let me spank you, honey!”
As for visual porn, I think that’s a grayer area. I think it’s very dangerous for women because men are so stimulated by it that women can feel replaced. And I don’t know that women get as much from visual porn as they do from language erotica. But I do know that I’d sooner see a woman look at Playboy than read _The Viscount’s Naughty Nurse_ or some of that stuff that treats sexuality cheaply and downgrades any man who isn’t a gajillionaire with his own title and jet plane.