A Little Late to Be Squeamish

If you ever doubt that our culture is pre-occupied with sexual gratification, watch some prime-time television -- not the programs necessarily, just the commercials. Every hour, you'll see at least three or four ads for drugs that promise to let you have sex whenever you want it. As one ad says, it's unfettered sexual gratification that makes "our days our own" -- the revenge of Freud and Kinsey. In this cultural setting, you would expect a book by a woman who embodies unfettered sexual gratification to be celebrated. But oddly you would be wrong. The book is How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale by Jenna Jameson (which, I should add, neither I nor my staff have read). According to those who keep track of such things, Jameson is the biggest name in the $10 billion-a-year pornography industry. Despite subtitling her book A Cautionary Tale, Jameson is not cautious, much less apologetic, when it comes to her sexual escapades. As she writes, "My first love is sex, not acting. I'm not Meryl Streep." She denies that her career choice had anything to do with her, by all accounts, brutal childhood. She grew up without a mother in -- where else? -- Las Vegas and was raped several times. Instead, she depicts herself as the embodiment of feminist ideals: a strong, successful woman in charge of her sexuality. Critics, however, are not buying it. The New York Times called it "amazing" that "a memoir that once would have won itself a plain brown wrapper can now be found beside books about Henry James." Another critic summed up Jameson as "a woman who has become rich and famous by doing on screen what most people reserve for the privacy of their bedrooms." These are obviously valid critiques. The problem is that the people making them have no basis for their judgment of Jameson, at least not if logical and philosophical consistency makes any difference. They, like most of our cultural gatekeepers and elites, regard the sexual revolution as a good thing. They see this "revolution" as setting people free from unnecessary moral and biological restraints and allowing them to explore their sexuality more fully. Well, it's hard to imagine a more perfect representative of these ideals than Jameson and the porn industry. Pornography represents the triumph of these ideals, a world in which sex is beyond moral judgment as long as both parties consent to the activity. And the young women who undergo plastic surgery in an attempt to more closely resemble women like Jameson are simply exercising that greatest of all values, choice. If the Times and other critics are squeamish about all this, it's because they have been trying to have it both ways. They want the freedom promised by the sexual revolution, but then they don't want to deal with the consequences that inevitably flow from it. They resent Jameson for reminding them that their worldview doesn't work. Only a worldview, you see, that regards sex as something more than a recreational, biological function can enable people to regard themselves and others as something more than means to animal gratification. This is yet another example that any other worldview than the biblical one in the end proves irrational and unlivable. And in this case, even the New York Times knows that. For further reading and information: Janet Maslin, "Yesterday's Shocker Is Today's Must Read," New York Times, 10 September 2004. (Archived article; costs $2.95 to retrieve.) Shawn Moynihan, "Strauss Quits 'NY Times', Denies Flap Over Jameson Book," Editor and Publisher, 12 March 2004. Linda Valdez, "Once upon a time sex was sexy, before it got plain nasty," Arizona Republic, 3 October 2004. "Jenna Jameson: 'I chose the right profession,'" CNN, 28 August 2004. Adam Dunn, "Review: Jenna Jameson's crazy porn life," CNN, 8 September 2004. See also Sacha Zimmerman's book review at New Republic. Jeffrey Rosen, "The End of Obscenity," The New Atlantis, no. 6 (Summer 2004). David B. Hart, "The Pornography Culture," The New Atlantis, no. 6 (Summer 2004). Roberto Rivera, "Porn Enters the Mainstream," BreakPoint Online, 16 November 2000. Roberto Rivera, "Virtual Virtue," BreakPoint Online, 1 May 2002. BreakPoint Commentary No. 031105, "The Mainstreaming of Porn: It's Everywhere You Don't Want It to Be." Mark Gauvreau Judge, "Playboy at 50," BreakPoint Online, 15 December 2003. Ted Roberts, Pure Desire (Regal Books, 1999).


Chuck Colson


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