Thursday, February 3, 2011

Free Will

Addictions are serious stuff. I'm completely on board with all efforts to take control of one's life and not allow addictive substances to steal one's dignity or well-being. But frankly, I'm a little sketchy on "behavioral" addictions, like gambling or sex, if they don't involve foreign substances that change brain chemistry. I'm certain that I will offend when I say it (and I accept complete responsibility for my decision to say something that may bring unpleasant consequences), but I think this "addictions ideology" we've built for ourselves for the past fifty years has grown into, at best, too often an excuse to refuse to accept responsibility for our own actions, and at worse, a particularly vile expression of self-righteous judgmentalism that both enforces narrow and rigid lines of social conformity and offers the tempting allure of transforming fully-functioning people into victims of a faceless fiction.

All this rant, really, is just my set up to point out the absurdity of "Porn Sunday." Sounds like a good thing, doesn't it? Well, it's not. Because, like the name of the promoters of this bait-n-switch, Porn Sunday is an intentional deception. It's the creation of a "church" devoted to combatting online porn. Through the discourse of "addictions," these folks are offering the metaphorical apple of temptation. Take a bite. Accept the illusion that you're a victim of evil forces outside your control. You couldn't help yourself but watch porn, could you? You, poor soul, have been stripped of your free will, and turned into a tool of immoral vice.

Never has the the term Satan-in-a-Sunday-hat applied more literally, if you ask me. The marriage of Christian theology (which, let's face it, is unapologetically pre-modern) and a modernist perception of enslaving addictions through genetics and/or brain chemistry has always been a troubled, mismatched relationship. Now, there's plenty about the porn industry that I don't care for. It took them way too long to care enough about their performers and their customers to address the risks of AIDS, for example. I'm a perennial critic of porn that promotes homophobia and self-hatred, for another example. But come on... there is no invisible hand clicking the computer mouse. There's no external force unzipping your pants or pulling out... your wallet. We who consume porn do so for multiple reasons: it brings pleasure; it's a diversion; it brings pleasure; it's a sexual release; it brings pleasure, etc... That we are controlled by some external force that compels us to gaze at porn despite our better judgment has zero face validity.

"Porn Sunday," for those who haven't been tracking it, is this coming Sunday, to coincide with the Superbowl. Some NFL figures are signed up for the effort. Because if anyone has the moral high ground to critique the objectification of bodies that leads to compulsive behaviors that can harm, it's professional athletes who are payed obscene amounts of money to engage in an activity upon which millions of dollars worth of (mostly illegal) gambling rides week in and week out, isn't it? 

It's not as if these very same athletes signing up for Porn Sunday have ever sold skin shots to convince consumers to shell out cash on unnecessary merchandise, is it? It's not as if precisely these athletes have ever gone shirtless for softcore capitalist commodification of the hot, bare human body, in order to call up sexual lust in the interest of corporate profit, right?

And it's not as if the NFL promotes unhealthy lifestyles, objectifying and valorizing artificially enhanced physiologies, unhealthy behaviors and self-destructive, self-defeating, unrealistic body images. It's not as if the hypermasculinization of the NFL has ever contributed to violence or degradation of vulnerable people, right?

I, for one, will be celebrating Porn Sunday this Sunday by making a purchase from a site that features "adult-oriented subject matter," and requires that I am of legal age and willingly requesting to receive electronic transmission of "adult-oriented material." And I'll do it because I don't think it's the internet, or porn, or pornboys, or the joy of gazing at beautiful bodies engaged in sex or (wrestling) foreplay that makes me, against my will, enjoy the celebration of sexuality, sex, and bodies. Instead, I've got a sex-positive spirituality and sexuality that lead me to believe that this creeping (and creepy) "addictions ideology" smacks an awful lot of the same puritanical, anti-body, anti-sex, anti-gay, anti-women, anti-embodiment politics that has plagued this country since its inception.

God, save me from the self-righteous hypocrites who would try to convince me to be ashamed of my sexuality, my lust, my love, or my body (or yours).


  1. I know somebody who claims to be "addicted to sex," and he gave me this book about it. I read as much of it as I could, but remain unconvinced.

  2. Me, too, S.P. When I heard someone explain how they are addicted to food, it finally put me over the edge. Having a problem with self-control and moderation is not "an addiction." It's a problem with self-control and moderation. The darker side of the addiction ideology is the "it's a disease" discourse and the frequent commitment to abstinence treatment of "the disease", which is the real function of all this addictions talk, I think: to promote conformity. It serves to externalize our problems, to hand ourselves over to "experts" who usually tell us that we should behave more like 1950's television versions of white, heterosexual, middle class, sexless, two-generational American households. At least for me, that's never been in the cards and never will be, thank God.



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