Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lies Channing Tatum told me

When I first heard about Magic Mike and 50 Shades of Grey I rolled my eyes and didn't pay much attention and I certainly didn't think women would care. The next thing I know, 50 Shades of Grey has become a phenomenon and that Magic Mike is the girls night out movie of the year - at least until that last Twilight is released.

After all, men are more visual than women. Naked bodies, revealing clothes, suggestive dance moves, provocative literature (you know, for the brainy guys) are much more likely to get a guy excited. It takes more than just a few pictures and sexy words to get a woman revved up. A little movie about male strippers or a steamy novel isn't going to do it, we need romance and roses, mood lighting and music with the man we love. Lust really isn't our issue, right?

But it is. A 2006 survey on internet use revealed that 30% of the 72 million porn users in the world are women. 17% of those women identified themselves as addicts. A 2003 survey reported that 1 in 6 women admitted to pornography addiction.  Addiction. As in a behaviour that cannot be stopped even if you wanted to. There are a number of websites devoted to helping women kick a porn addiction*.

Women not men. 

Men have always taken the brunt of the shame associated with pornography, seeing as women just didn't do that. I think we have been hiding behind their shame knowing that we didn't have to take responsibility for what we do behind closed doors, because they are always going to be worse than us. I have always looked at these statistics and acknowledged them, but disassociated myself from them. I don't doubt that they are real, but they don't describe me. I don't have an addiction to porn and I never have.

But I could. This possibility never occurred to me until I sat down recently with my husband to watch an episode of Saturday Night Live featuring none other than that Channing Tatum guy. Halfway through the suggestive first sketch I had to tell Aaron we needed to turn off the tv or watch something else. We did and I found myself surprised and not sure how to react. I've never been remotely turned on by another guy, especially one that is pretending to be a cheezy male stripper. When did Channing Tatum go from cute mediocre actor in dorky movies to potential threat?

I suddenly felt a huge sense of what it must be like for a man (or woman) who struggles with lust. It made me aware of how innocently it can creep in.

You may wonder what this has to do with Magic Mike or the 50 Shades books. It's simple, really. I believe the movies, books, suggestive commercials, a permissive culture, that snowballs on top of each other to create a perfect storm, ripe and ready to wreak havoc on our minds. The more we see, the more we are desensitized.  Remember when Beverly Hills 90210 debuted? Or Melrose Place? Remember how steamy and sexy and "on the edge" they were? Sadly, now they just seem quaint and silly. Sitcoms today are edgier and more suggestive than those two shows ever were. Guess who got a little desensitized?

Even if porn isn't something you struggle with, as a woman I am bothered by movies and books mainstream story lines and topics that are sexually explicit. It normalizes behaviour that even psychologists believe is damaging. Women are fighting daily against sexual violence in the US and the world.

At some point we need to admit to ourselves that not all images and words are safe, even some that seem to be not such a big deal. Even Channing Tatum. Add in a little discontent in our marriages or a desire to "spice things up" and you could go down a road you don't want to travel. 

What are your thoughts? Am I being a Pollyanna Prude or have I struck a chord somewhere? I especially would love to hear from those who don't agree with my point of view.

*Websites that offer help for porn addictions:
The Pink Cross
XXX Church
Dirty Girl Ministries


  1. Great article, very well thought out. I enjoyed it and agree with you. We often protect the hearts of our children for the same effects of desensitization. Why wouldn't we do it for ourselves and our marriage. If it isn't God-honoring or God-pleasing then there shouldn't be such a struggle if we've in fact become born-again. 1 Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.

  2. Well said. Thanks Claire for being a "young" voice who speaks "old" truth!

  3. I disagree. I don't think we should shield ourselves from having "lustful" feelings. Channing Tatum naked makes my heart pitter patter & my hands sweat. 50 Shades did the same. I understand some people don't react to those feelings in a responsible manner but some of us can, and do. I may be young and naive but it actually makes my marriage a little more exciting! Just because there is a possibility of unhealthy behaviors (porn addiction) doesn't mean us healthy people should stay away. There is a chance of being an alcoholic so should no one drink ever because the possibility still exists?

  4. I have been thinking about a post called "why I won't watch Magic Mike". It would go something like this:
    1. How would I feel if my hubby went and saw a movie that was about female strippers? Honestly, I would feel crappy. My body has gone thru 3 pregnancies and nursings, and is not nearly what it once was. I would feel like he was comparing me to the bodies he saw on that movie
    2. Do I care enough about my marriage to protect it any way I can? Absolutely. So many seemingly strong marriages have fallen apart around me. A stupid movie or book is not worth letting dissatisfaction creep in.
    3. Would this movie be guarding my heart? No. I really try to stay away from R rated movies. Why? Because I don't want to see nudity, find myself cussing in my head, and don't want to fill my mind with garbage. (true, lovely, good report, virtuous)
    So those are my thoughts on Magic Mike.

  5. I agree with you, Claire, and say a hearty "amen!" to Beth's comment!!

  6. As a girl who has not grown up in the church, who has not always had the best role models, has not always had someone to hold her accountable, and definitely not had a HUGE Christ influencer in her life, I would like to give my opinion. I agree about 50 shades and any other romance novel out there. Those books have never been for me. I feel guilty and cheap just thinking about picking one up. So I was never tempted to read 50 shades from the beginning.

    I have heard the arguments come from both sides on Magic Mike. I agree with Beth. How would I feel if my husband went out to watch a movie about strippers, er, exotic dancers. Then again, every movie out there now a days has tons of sex scenes and boobies galore, so there isn't much of a difference. I think some people have taken this movie much too seriously. Let's name a few stripper movies: "Burlesque" "Closer" "Sin City" "From Dusk till Dawn" "Striptease" "Barb Wire" "Flashdance" and let's not get started on "Showgirls".
    I think there is just way to much commotion being stirred over this movie.
    Yes I went to watch. Yes I felt horrible afterwards, but I knew I wouldn't be going home to compare Toby to Channing Tatum. I love my husband and lust after him only. After all, God made him just for me.

    So, that's what I think.

  7. Great thoughts, Claire! Some friends went to see Magic Mike and I couldn't bring myself to go for many of the same reasons. The biggest one though? I can't expect/ask my husband not to oogle other women if I am oogling other men.

  8. I'm in the middle of book two in the gray series...now I'm trying to figure it out. I started reading it because it was everywhere. It is poorly writen, but now I'm courius. Should I ruin the plot here? I'm not sure...it sends an interesting message to woman. I did not read Twlight (only saw the 1st movie didn't get it why it was so popular! Now it makes me ill that the two of them are just going to get pregnant before they get married...I digress....) I have read my share of Harliquin "Novels" and I assure you they are nothing like Gray. They are quite misterious, usually good honest men and the steamy part is about 3 pages not 300! I have lost my point...I guess I'm still trying to figure it out...I do have several "boyfriends" (husbands term, not mine) I.e actors I think are yummy. It is a joke between us...at least I think he thinks it funny...

  9. At times I really feel like I live under a rock being a missionary in a foreign country...but I think this is one time I'm thankful for it. I've seen no previews for Magic Mike and was totally clueless as to what or who this character was until my husband had to fill me in on it. HA. He obviously stays more connected than I do. (Though I did see it listed in the theaters here as well.) And neither one of us had heard of the book until I just googled it.

    I understand what you mean about things creeping in. I'll try not to make this too long....

    I was the least interested person in the Twilight movies, but then against my will I watched the first two. They were really dumb and I didn't see what everyone was obsessed about, but there was this part of me where something began to happen. There was a part that made me miss all the "newness" of getting to know someone and having all of those firsts in a relationship, and then I began to realize the hype. I think it would be easy for someone to justify being wrapped up in these books but arguing they're doing nothing wrong. To escape somewhat in the pages and scenes of somewhere else...with someone else. But the heart is a very tricky thing.

    Keep your heart with all vigilance for from it flows the springs of life. Proverbs 4:23

    I agree with you. We should guard ourselves. Guard our husbands. Our children. And I'm glad you said something to your husband. There's something to be said for saying what you did out loud.

    I think this can be a tough thing to argue. Where's that line? I'm not sure...but somehow, these things clearly seem to be crossing it.

  10. Claire, can I just say that I really love all your posts and all your thoughts on society, parenting, and Christianity! I am a little behind on reading your entries... but I am getting there! :)

    This summer, I have been pondering a big shift that I have noticed this year among my students. I teach women's history and spend a lot of time thinking about feminism and cultural change. For several years, I have used Gloria Steinem's 1963 undercover expose' on Plaboy Bunnies as a springboard to discuss second-wave feminists objections to the objectification and commodification of women, etc. But just this year, my students in both classes took no issue with the Playboy culture but merely thought that the problem was that the women were not paid enough as Bunnies in 1963. I have been so taken aback by this. As a whole, they didn't find Playboy culture to be offensive at all.

    This summer I read "Ariel Levy's Female Chauvanist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture" to try to get some comptemporary insight on the subject. And let me say that it is pretty horrifying territory that our daughters (and sons) will be navigating. Levy chronicles events leading our current generation of 18-24 year old women growing up on a culture where stripper culture has become accepted as the norm. Where thongs and pole dancing and sex tapes are considered ways to exress your individuality and rise your way to the top. Things that strippers and prostitutes historically did are now the "norm." (of course, a debatable term). It you've got it, flaunt it.

    Many female college students are mystified that this brand of sexuality would be considered objectification. They feel that "they" are still in control of their sexuality. I think that this is an important shift -- and the likes of a male stripper movie surely fits with an ethos where women embrace raunchy sexuality just like men. At what cost?


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