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Why We Condemn ‘Game Of Thrones’ Porn and Think You Should Too

All men must die to self and reject even “soft” porn and “artful” rape culture wherever it hides. #GameofPorns
| Jun 20, 2014 | 59 comments |

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Somehow it surprised me when the SpecFaith article But ‘Game of Thrones’ Still Has Porn In It went as viral as a SpecFaith article can go. ‘Tis a strange thing — that if you simply write about sex and naked people, great is your reward in internet heaven.

Now a bigger spiritual “gun” calls out the TV series for being a “Game of Porns” (my term, not his). Desiring God author and former pastor John Piper challenges the series in today’s DesiringGod.org post 12 Questions to Ask Before You Watch ‘Game of Thrones.’

And I say: better late than never, even after the blockbuster HBO adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels has finished four seasons.

Why does Piper care? Because he and similar Christian teachers frequently promotes the Biblical ideal of joy — that Christians should neither assume “duty” is the chief end of man, or that happiness on its own is our chief end, but that man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, even to glorify Him by enjoying Him forever. However, Piper frequently stops short of applying what he terms “Christian Hedonism” to popular culture, beyond the occasional foray into (rightly) condemning idolatrous use of media.1

But here Piper addresses the issue and he is (mostly) dead on.2 Unlike other Christian critics who lump all “objectionable content” together, Piper especially shows discernment about nudity versus other sins in visual stories that are merely acted-out:

Nudity is not like murder and violence on the screen. Violence on a screen is make-believe; nobody really gets killed. But nudity is not make-believe. These actresses are really naked in front of the camera, doing exactly what the director says to do with their legs and their hands and their breasts. And they are naked in front of millions of people to see.

And Piper also anticipates the response from the “but it’s Art” folks. Notice he does not say “Art doesn’t matter,” or “there are more spiritual things to think about” — instead he rightly puts the assumption itself on ice.

There is no great film or television series that needs nudity to add to its greatness. No. There isn’t. There are creative ways to be true to reality without turning sex into a spectator’s sport and without putting actors and actresses in morally compromised situations on the set.

It is not artistic integrity that is driving nudity on the screen. Underneath all of this is male sexual appetite driving this business, and following from that is peer pressure in the industry and the desire for ratings that sell. It is not art that puts nudity in film, it’s the appeal of prurience. It sells.

Cap Stewart was already onto this — the real reason powerful men often exploit women for the screen, often while merely winking at the “but it’s Art” justification that higher-minded defenders employ:

The movers and shakers in Hollywood have acquired what seems to be an almost limitless amount of power to enforce the sexualization of actors. To cite another example: director Neil Marshall once commented on how he was pressured by an HBO executive to put more sex and nudity in an episode of Game of Thrones:

It was pretty surreal. I’d not done anything like that in my films before. But the weirdest part was when you have one of the exec producers leaning over your shoulder, going, “You can go full frontal, you know. This is television, you can do whatever you want! And do it! I urge you to do it.” So I was like, “Okay, well, if you—you’re the boss.”

A little later, he added:

This particular exec took me to one side and said, “Look, I represent the pervert side of the audience, okay? Everybody else is the serious drama side—I represent the perv side of the audience, and I’m saying I want full frontal nudity in this scene. So you go ahead and do it.”

Notice the implicit acknowledgement that the nudity had nothing to do with art—that it was designed solely for the satisfaction of a perverted audience base. The producer pushed his weight around, and the director (and everyone else) acquiesced. All of this to appeal to the lowest common denominator.3

Why should we care about #GameofPorns?

With all the legalism out there, with all the fundamentalist or evangelical fears of “big evil Hollywood” by Christians — fears that have hurt many of our readers personally — why am I again addressing Game of Thrones and its naked people?

This could take a whole other article. But in case that is your reasonable response, I will offer these challenges.

  1. Do you care about misogyny or the sex trade? Do you condemn the flagrant sexual abuse of women by men — enough perhaps to fault Piper himself for some of his statements about sex roles and differences? Then you will at least be willing to consider that perverted and powerful men in the film and television industry are also victimizing women.Quite frankly, if you claim you hate misogyny and the sex trade and rape culture, and then reflexively decry such efforts to apply this consistently to the “legitimate sex trade” of visual media like Game of Thrones, that puts such claims in doubt.
  2. Do you abhor the justification by abusive and careless men that “the woman was asking for it”? Then you will at least be open to seeing through the lie that the women (and men!) who strip naked and act out sex scenes for money only want to do it. You will be open to consider that, as noted above, some TV and film producers are perverted people (often men) who set up bounded choices in which even strong women are deceived to believe they must show themselves naked for the sake of Art.
  3. Are you a Christian who hates the culture of abuse and shame in the Church? Then you will be open to the possibility that many men (and women) are justifying their sin-temptations by saying it’s only Art. Even well-meaning people who react to opposite and legalistic views of storytelling can wrongly conclude that it is more Christian to applaud the objectification of human beings, and assuming that if we don’t then we are somehow commiting a Gnostic “fear of the body” sin.
  4. Are you a Christian who loves great fantasy storytelling and can’t stand it when other Christians don’t get it? Then you will be the first to take the side of critics who say that some of this popular-culture stuff is made simply to endorse sinful lusts. In fact you will be getting out in front of such claims by being the first to decry pervy fantasy as pervy.Trust me, it makes at least the fair-minded Christian critics of popular-culture engagement sit up in surprise. They may say, “Wait a minute, that person has just violated my stereotype of them as a compromiser who’s in love with the world. Maybe this person is actually serious about discerning and enjoying fantasy and popular culture — gritty bits and all — for the glory of God.”Even better, if you fight such sins privately and publicly, you will be pleasing not man, but the Creator of all fantastic worlds.

Conclusion: Yes, this is a discussion that Christian fantasy fans must have — not first by asking “is it Art?” or “do the actors (mostly women) actually get hurt?” or “do most Christians sin with this,” but first by asking these two questions

1. Could I personally watch this visual fantasy series that has porn in it?4

2. And if I do, can I genuinely, truthfully say that I in Christ take measures to ensure I’m not sinning but only doing this from faith (Rom. 14:23)?

  1. Piper has also made some unwise statements in his attempt to defend Biblical sex differences. If you’ve arrived here at this post solely determined to pick on him for those, you’re gonna have a bad time.
  2. One could argue that Piper doesn’t deal with exceptions when he says that seeing nudity in videos and photos is always a sin. Some Christians indeed do not struggle with this, and that is actually a higher threshhold of holiness. Yet as I point out in But ‘Game of Thrones’ Still Has Porn In It, from what I can tell these are unfortunately rarer circumstances — like the Biblical “gift of celibacy,” or even Ripley’s Believe It or Not-style human beings who can rotate their necks 180 degrees.
  3. Hollywood’s Secret Rape Culture, CapStewart.com, May 20, 2014.
  4. This is a point beyond contention: naked people who act out sexual scenarios in public media in order to get money is porn. So the argument is not truly about whether it is porn; the only real argument is how we respond to it.

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59 Comments on "Why We Condemn ‘Game Of Thrones’ Porn and Think You Should Too"

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Steve Rzasa
Member

“It is not artistic integrity that is driving nudity on the screen. Underneath all of this is male sexual appetite driving this business, and following from that is peer pressure in the industry and the desire for ratings that sell. It is not art that puts nudity in film, it’s the appeal of prurience. It sells.”

Best quote right there. I’m not a “Game of Thrones” watcher — for that reason among others — but I’ve often wondered if the show would enjoy the same wild popularity if everyone remained fully clothed. Would the drama and violence be enough to satisfy audiences?

Before this gets put into even more of a “Christians vs. the World” frame, keep in mind that even the so-called secular watchers make fun of the excessive nudity. The Honest Trailers YouTube channel calls it “the most perfect mix of history, D&D, and porn ever made!!”

(This video is probably offensive to some people, but I found the whole part about how everyone who dies is connected with actor Sean Bean to be hysterical. Be forewarned–there’s partially obscured nudity in the video… wait, does that make me a hypocrite?)

Hannah Williams
Member

Um…yeah…having the video with the nude (albeit obscured) young lady on the front is probably not the best idea, Mr. Razsa. There are some younger readers of this site that would rather not see that, and also I think that picture could surprise and bother some young men…

Perhaps you should just post a link, instead of the video there for all to see? Though I’m not sure making fun of the sin is really the best idea….

D. M. Dutcher
Member

The problem I think is that youtube links get transformed into imbeds in this comment system, similar to facebook and wordpress. It’s kind of good, kind of sucks.

LD Taylor
Guest

Try using a Bit.ly or other shortened link. Should confuse it. I agree: my husband and sons would be pretty unhappy to stumble on an image like that on a Christian site.

Bethany A. Jennings
Member

Spot on.   And I appreciate footnote #2, as well – that was my only quibble with what Piper said.  Here’s what I said to a friend who posted his article:

I am not sure I wholeheartedly agree with him on everything, though… I’d like him to clarify where he believes the difference is between simply seeing nudity and “watching nudity”. If simply seeing nudity was wrong, every doctor would be in sin, every parent of a baby/toddler would be in sin, and so would everyone in an art museum or anyone who noticed the ministry of Isaiah, who God actually commanded to walk around naked for three whole years! I believe that looking at nudity becomes sin as soon as you begin to lust, or when the nudity is designed to provoke lust. “Where is the line, so I can stand on the edge,” is foolish thinking! But I would like to see what Piper believes is the difference. Because honestly I have seen TV with non-sexual (and non-frontal) nudity, and though I have looked away from the screen uncomfortably or found other things to look at in the frame, I do not in any way feel that I sinned by simply seeing it. It might be *very* different for a visual male, and that’s part of it too – we have to take into account our own specific temptations and temperaments. Personally I can’t watch a TV couple do a long kiss! It’s too much for me. I know many or most people can handle that just fine, but I know my own boundaries.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

I’d like him to clarify where he believes the difference is between simply seeing nudity and “watching nudity”.

From what I’ve seen, Pastor Jared Moore is the first doctrine-book author — and one of the first ones since — to draw a distinction. And it must be drawn lest we are indeed let into either Gnostic-type “fear of the body,” as if seeing someone naked is the sin, and an opposite error of excusing all nudity because “nudity would be okay in an Ideal World, so it must be okay most or all times now.”

In the currently out of print Harry Potter Bible Study (which cursorily surveys the final four films, not the whole book or film series), Moore wrote:

Nudity is unavoidable if you’re a parent or you’re involved in certain professions. I see nude humans, other than my wife, on a daily basis because I change the diapers of my children. Furthermore, I have two sisters who are nurses, and they must see nude people constantly in their profession. Once again though, my sisters and I only see our own spouses in a sexual situation. How do we determine when it is Biblically permitted to uncover the nudity of another human being?

Remember our test for basic Christian ethics: 1) Am I loving the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, and mind? 2) Am I loving my neighbor as myself? With these two realities in mind, I must uncover the nakedness of my children for they are my neighbors, so they don’t get diaper rashes, diseases, etc. My sisters must uncover the nakedness of various patients for the sake of their health. So, as a test case, what if you were the first person on the scene of a major car wreck where clothes were torn and an individual’s nakedness was exposed? According to Scripture, how should you respond? The Biblical answer is you’d better love God and your neighbor through Christ by helping this person!

Moore, Jared (2011-11-03). The Harry Potter Bible Study: Enjoying God Through the Final Four Harry Potter Movies (Kindle Locations 1198-1207).  . Kindle Edition.

Rebekah Loper
Member

Thank you. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU.

One of the major reasons I could never get past the first few episodes of Game of Thrones was the gratuitous nudity and sex.

I’ve had numerous friends tell me both “They’re just doing it the same way it is in the books.” and “They added soooo much in that wasn’t in the books.” So obviously someone is lying.

But you hooked the major thing that bothers me about it, I think.

The violence/death may not be real, but the nudity IS. Many of the sexual acts ARE, because some of that can’t be added in with special effects, and why on earth would they do it that way, when it’s cheaper (and faster) to just have the actors actually doing it?

I haven’t read the books, so I can’t say what the comparison between the two is like. I do know friends who have stopped reading the books because they just couldn’t read any more descriptions of naked people.

But nudity and sex in written fiction – the actions of fictional characters that don’t actually exist – are a completely different matter than sexual activites performed by real people for an audience, whether it be on camera or stage. While the same temptations may be there for people who struggle with sexual addiction, at least it’s not exploiting numerous other people to gratify a perverted audience.

I’m also going to give this article to my husband to read, because he does watch Game of Thrones, and I don’t know that he understands the implications of what is going on behind the scenes for much of it.

Paul Lee
Member

Christian Hedonism has been accepted without enough scrutiny. Piper’s statement that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him rings true to the human need for God. However, I don’t agree that seeking happiness is always the right thing to do, or that it is always improper to do something unpleasant out of a sense of duty.

Hypothetically, I could watch Game of Thrones out of a sense of cold duty — still without doing it for “wrongfully pragmatic purposes.” This is hypothetical. I don’t want to watch Game of Thrones, and I’m pretty sure it would screw me up if I did. However, if I were a serious film/television critic and I always reviewed HBO-style dramas, I would at least try to watch the series in order to fulfil my duty. If I found that it was spiritually damaging, it would then be my duty to stop watching it and to report the reason why I jumped ship.

Discernment means that we should correctly identify the way that grace and redemption relate to everything that we do or encounter. Therefore, a discerning reason to watch Game of Thrones is simply that the series exists, and you happen to encounter it. Hence, my film critic example. It would be sinful for me to go out of my way to watch Game of Thrones in order to see all the naked people.

I was in a position to read A Song of Ice and Fire series with legitimate discerning cause. The guy I was reading The Wheel of Time with back in highschool had read A Game of Thrones. We just thought of A Song of Ice and Fire as the default “other” epic fantasy series, and I always assumed I’d get around to reading it some day.

If I had read it as a teen, I’m sure that I would not have been offended by the explicit parts. I would have just thought that they were stupid, and continued on. However, now that I’ve heard all the warnings — now that the explicit scenes in the book have been raised to a status of a Thing — it may be impossible for me not to stumble over them if I do ever choose to read the book.

Anything worth doing involves risk — even spiritual risk — so I don’t think we should build fences. Even reading the Bible can be spiritual dangerous; it almost shipwrecked me!

However, I can’t deny the need to call things out for what they are. We can’t “side” with the world; we should only side with truth. Sin is sin, and while “porn” may be difficult to define, objectification and abuse are not. I agree that the effect HBO series is culturally and spiritually harmful.

What should we do about it, other than get upset? Why is it right to get upset about Game of Thrones but not about Disney movies or misguided fundamentalist stories? Isn’t getting upset a non-Hedonistic attitude?

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

However, I don’t agree that seeking happiness is always the right thing to do, or that it is always improper to do something unpleasant out of a sense of duty.

Neither does Piper (though I certainly don’t and can’t defend all his views on things, as stated above). Some things you certainly do out of “duty,” even if you do not feel happy. The point is that you are at least chasing the “theoretical” concept that doing this thing powered by Christ’s righteousness will get you closer to God and to pure joy. And the point is that it is still wrong to suspect, “righteousness is its own reward.”

Paul Lee
Member

Another point.

Before the HBO series existed, I read a Christian critique of Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series that lamented the gratuitous sex in that series and tentatively offered A Song of Ice and Fire as a safer alternative.

See, the current criticism of A Song of Ice and Fire is partly a fad. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s untrue, but it is true that before the HBO series created awareness of the racy content in the book series, the book series was not widely condemned even by Christian readers.

D. M. Dutcher
Member

The Sword of Truth was painful in the first book. That prolonged scene with Denna using the agiel on Richard is literally repulsive, and I never bothered with other books in the series after that. I think people don’t really get how transgressive a lot of SF and Fantasy really is. Seems like every bizarre sexual kink finds its home in one of those genres.

Bethany
Guest

Hence the term “adult fantasy.”

D. M. Dutcher
Member

Adult doesn’t mean that. Goodkind has a bad habit of using his fiction to promote his own likes, and the whole Denna scene was little more than S&M author appeal. He does this with objectivism, too.  He’s not really alone; way too many authors do this. Heinlein with polyamory and spanking/corporal punishment, for example. Plenty of authors are capable of writing adult spec fic without wallowing in kink or violence. Gordon Dickson comes to mind.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

See also: Christians who freely gave mysticism and New-Ageyness a pass in Star Wars but jumped all over Harry Potter. Both fantasies should bring our concerns, but can ultimately be great good-versus-evil stories for the discerning Christian to enjoy.

Paul Lee
Member

Both fantasies should bring our concerns, but can ultimately be great good-versus-evil stories for the discerning Christian to enjoy.

But you obviously think differently about Game of Thrones. (Even the books?)

I’m all for condemning bad stuff. I’m just not for banning. I think a hypothetical Christian critic could watch every episode of the HBO series, and then write very meticulous, negative reviews decrying the specific abuses and obscenities in each episode and calling for reform in the entertainment industry. That would be a very good thing, but those reviews would probably be R-rated, if not X-rated. Also, this would probably be something that the reviewer would have to do out of duty and love for God, not out of personal joy.

Cap Stewart
Guest

Excellent questions at the end of the article. Would that more evangelicals answered them thoughtfully and honestly.

Leah Burchfiel
Member

Props for bringing up rape culture, but it’s a little more nuanced than nudity, sex = rape culture. I mean, yes, Game of Thrones is a lot rapey, but it isn’t because there are naked people and sex in it, it’s because there is non-consensual sex (rape) in it. It is also rape culturey because of other things like the waaaay uneven female-to-male nudity ratio (see also: male gaze) and the vast majority of Sansa’s story arc and and that uncomfortably skeevy romance between Danaerys and Drogo because he raped her daily until she Stockholmed. NOPE.

 

This is what I mean when I say (or have said at some point) that Christian culture drops the ball when discussing sex because there is more to the discussion than general sex negativity.

Bethany
Guest

I disagree with you that Game of Thrones *promotes* rape culture (depicts, certainly, but my perception of it is more of a “look how awful things can get during war / in extremely patriarchal societies”–but that’s my perception, lots of people agree with your perception as well).  But I just wanted to give you kudos for actually talking sense in this comment thread.  The post is dark and full of dogma.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

The “rape culture” phrase and application must be credited to Cap Stewart.

He’s the one in this article who researched the actual, real-life  exploitation of women not only in this particular TV series but in other movies — starting with the account of actress Kate Beckinsale.

I think even grown adults who know better forget that creative stuff and Art doesn’t grow on trees. Before you can even start to talk about how a visual story in a movie or television show presents nasty stuff and its consequences, why not speak of how the story got there in the first place? and how female actors are often sexually exploited? That’s the “artful” “rape culture” to which I alluded, following Cap’s example. (And Marvel fans, you know you can’t go wrong following a warrior named Cap.)

Leah Burchfiel
Member

Whoops, my goof about Cap…..but then does that mean that you’re dropping the ball even harder than Cap?

I’m teasing (mostly), but my point is there is a difference between ethical porn and ethical broaching-on-porn and rape-culturey porn, and that’s pretty much summed up on whether the actors are coerced in any way. Consent = yay, and there actually are women who don’t mind showing off their bodies (or doing sex work when they are not coerced, you can google something like “sex workers’ rights” for data). And now I’m going to throw in my favorite hobby horse, because the sexualization of nudity is dependent on context. Like cultures where everybody and their grandma goes nude to the beach.

D. M. Dutcher
Member

The problem though is that you’re using a secular definition, and Christians here don’t accept it.

The secular definition of ethical has been shaped by the idea that consensual, physically harmless crimes shouldn’t be prosecuted or sanctioned. The book “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do” was one of the first I think to formalize this argument, and you’re using this mindset to determine ethical or unethical behavior.

but Christians don’t believe that a consensual act is blameless. This is why we so fiercely resist premarital sex, even when protection is used and its engaged in reponsibly. Or porn, even if it’s done in a non-coercive, non-harmful way. God doesn’t sanction behavior solely based on consent and lack of harm; while He does so for many things, not all sins transgress His law due to trampling on consent or providing bad ideas on things.

I’m probably simplifying this too much, but this explains why Christians react against things that you would think they shouldn’t mind because there’s no real harm to the person. We value consent and don’t like to see it attacked, but you can consent to sin and do things which spiritually estrange you from God.

LD Taylor
Guest

I would add that even the secular world is increasingly standing up to the “pornification” of society. Dr William Struthers (Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain) was in Britain in April helping Tony Blair (Prime Minister) work out new legislation on pornography use: so that it is no longer anonymous. The editors of Big Porn Inc just did a presentation (last week) to the Australian parliament and the feedback they got could be summarised as “legislation around pornography use has got to become a top priority.”

There are oodles of secular professionals who are looking at the research (because there is a heap of it… and none of the quality research comes out in favour of porn) who have gone on record expressing extreme concern about pornography’s effects on: children, teens, marriages, the rate of sex offending, sexual health of men and the effects on users brain wiring. There is also a large body of research on sex in regular media and its detrimental effects.

Can you tell I’m researching a book on a related subject at the moment 🙂

Leah Burchfiel
Member

Except GoT is a secular thing, so I think we ought to keep our expectations secular in regards to it.

 

LD Taylor
Guest

Happy sex workers? Google “Pink Cross Foundation” — sure some women don’t mind showing off their bodies (for money), but generally because they come from a background of sexual abuse (may as well get paid for it then). Just because they don’t understand they are being abused and exploited, doesn’t mean they aren’t.

Even if this were true: that women weren’t coerced or exploited (particularly in the making of  our new softporn regular media), what about the effects this has on society? How can any porn be called “ethical” — are Christians dropping the ball when talking about porn as unethical? I think the same people standing up to Big Porn Inc. are often huge proponents of  marital intimacy.

And speaking of “Big Porn Inc.” i like this quote about the effects of porn from the introduction of that book:
‘We… wanted to correct the pornography industry’s distorted version of reality by clearly saying: Here is why you shouldn’t believe the myths about pornography being simply ‘naughty pictures’ and ‘sex between consenting adults’. Here is how pornography creates and shapes appetites and demands. Here is how it operates to acclimatise and condition boys and men to demand the ‘Porn Star Experience’ from women and girls… Here is how boys develop a sexual taste for coercion. Here is how they learn predatory sexual attitudes. Here are some possible factors contributing to sex crimes committed by younger men….  In today’s mainstream pornography, aggression against women is the rule rather than the exception: [Big Porn Inc. pp xv-xvi.]

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

Fact: They’re not all coerced. Some of them love the sin.

It’s still sin nonetheless in God’s book. If you disagree with that, don’t shoot the messenger (especially because, don’t forget this, the message also usually messes with the messenger’s own evil desires). Take it up with Him. And remember that He created sex which means 1) He sets the rules about it, not us. 2) He knows how sex is best and most joyfully enjoyed because He is a good God Who wants to please His people best

And even if you could prove that 90 percent of “sex workers” enjoy what they do, is that an excuse to ignore the plight of the 10 precent minority? The point ultimately becomes a mere exercise in rhetoric: the usual “well, you didn’t say enough about this fact.” The application is still the same: the overall plight of women in these situations is tragic and nasty.

And as LD pointed out, all this ignores porn’s overall effect on society.

Conclusion: What I said before.

Quite frankly, if you claim you hate misogyny and the sex trade and rape culture, and then reflexively decry such efforts to apply this consistently to the “legitimate sex trade” of visual media like Game of Thrones, that puts such claims in doubt.

Leah Burchfiel
Member

Actually, I’d like to see some stats before I accept the assumption that all sex workers were abused and are therefore screwed up about sex. I read this Cracked article about a woman who worked as a phone sex operator and a dominatrix, and she comes off as an intelligent, sympathetic, not-screwed-up-about-sex person: http://www.cracked.com/article_20963_5-truths-about-sexual-fetishes-a-dominatrixs-perspective.html

LD Taylor
Guest

I didn’t say “all” sex workers were abused. It is estimated that over 90% come from a background of childhood sexual abuse. As I said… if you want stats, Google Pink Cross…. they are doing the research. So is Pure Hope and Morality in Media might have some. If you are TRULY interested, go looking.

Also, Remember that different definitions of abuse will produce different numbers. I suspect 100% would be the figure if we included some of the legal definitions (in some countries) of sexual abuse  (such as exposing children to pornography). Very often I’ve found (because I was doing research for a university in NZ on this last year) that men have no idea if they have been sexually abused. Sure they were 14 and the woman (or man) was in their 20’s… but they were consenting (sort of… after awhile.. with the help of porn.)

So your choice: do some real research (read… research papers, join a research team, etc) maybe even  ask the Holy Spirit if the dominatrix was “not screwed up”,  or you can  just keep finding the answers you want to find on the internet.

Every man who views  porn and masturbates to it know in their hearts that what they are doing is wrong. All addicts use “minimise, rationalise, justify and blame” to try and deal with that shame. What you are doing falls under “justify”.

D. M. Dutcher
Member

Not keen on trying to tie this into rape culture, but overall its a good point to be careful what you watch and champion.

Leah Burchfiel
Member

Wow, I am sooo tempted to argue you into admitting that GoT does actually tie into rape culture in a positive feedback loop of patriarchal creep-creepity. But I shall resist.

But that’s something to think about, liking problematic things. That’s my problem with George MacDonald. He’s kinda Mr. Fred Rogers-ish in tone, but he’s also a sexist, classist Victorian.

D. M. Dutcher
Member

I’m not a fan of the idea of rape culture. I don’t think it fits into what Stephen is trying to say, and could have been left out of the post. He’s removing the agency of women who willingly consent to being nude on camera, and ascribing it to big evil men deceiving strong women. This isn’t the case, and is one of the ways men pedestalize women. They can’t really want to be nude for the money or be in porn; they are too pure for that. The evil mens must be pressuring and manipulating them.

We could talk more about how rape is a trope for lazy writers to add cheap heat to a villain or cheap pathos to a female character’s backstory. We could talk about how depicting rape in visual media backfires in the same way violence can; the visual presentation can have a stronger impact than the actual intellectual one. We probably should talk too about the sheer pathology of a lot of creative types; sometimes I think some of the reason why fantasy doesn’t get adapted on the screen is that there is so much rape, sex, and violence that actually showing it would disgust people.

I don’t really think the idea of rape culture helps, though. I don’t think Stephen gets how contentious the idea is, and how it gets expanded beyond any reasonable definition. I don’t want to argue why in depth here, but I say this so you can be a little clear on why I don’t really like it.

Leah Burchfiel
Member

But that doesn’t really prove to me how rape culture is irrelevant to this discussion, just how much Burnett is bungling it. But let’s focus on our commonalities, like how much Burnett disappoints us. 😛

D. M. Dutcher
Member

heh, it’s not so much he disappoints as it was rather shocking to see a conservative Christian use the idea of rape culture to make a point. It worries me a little that the language of progressive politics seems so common that even believers increasingly are using it. Stephen’s a pretty sharp guy with a strong grip on Biblical behavior.

Made me feel even more like a dinosaur than I do now.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

I’m not a fan of the idea of rape culture.

DM, here’s where we might disagree or we might not.

I agree that one might mean something different or incorrect with the definition of “rape culture.” As someone who keeps up with plenty of sex-abuse scandals in the evangelical and secular worlds — including the ongoing reputable accusations of (at most) sexual abuse by Bill Gothard and Douglas Phillips — I’m familiar with the concept. I’m also sadly familiar with how it gets ignored in society — both by evangelical Christians and by non-Christians who “allow” sexual abuse to go unchallenged when it’s done by acceptable political/religious leaders (see, Christians and secularists have this in common!).

The Wikipedia entry for “rape culture” has a rarely good definition:

Rape culture is a concept that links rape and sexual violence to the culture of a society,[1] and in which prevalent attitudes and practices normalize, excuse, tolerate, and even condone rape.[2]

Examples of behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, sexual objectification, trivializing rape, denial of widespread rape, or refusing to acknowledge the harm of certain forms of sexual violence that do not conform to certain stereotypes of stranger or violent rape.

This “culture” does exist. It doesn’t matter who points it out.

Which leads to this point: I also categorically reject attempts to bar any particular person or “group” from a conversation about sexual abuse. That’s just oddball — but I can understand how it happens:

“You can’t talk about a particular topic. When you do, you sound like someone who has done it all wrong [e.g., religious fundamentalists who objectify women with ‘modesty’ rhetoric, or secularists who try to demonize all men]. Based on that surface similarity — which bothers me because I’ve been hurt by those folks — do shut up.”

But condemning someone for being cosmetically similar to someone else who sinned is just plain ol’ legalism (even by accident). And in that case, no one would be allowed to “convert” and point out how his own side has historically been wrong on a particular topic. Ultimately this is an insistence that goes beyond “shut up”; it also says, “You’re not allowed to speak about this issue because it messes with my head.”

Another possible response: “But you haven’t said enough about X.”

He’s removing the agency of women who willingly consent to being nude on camera, and ascribing it to big evil men deceiving strong women.

Not at all. I’m saying this could be happening in some cases, in which case it become an issue of Social Justice — not just a personal “should I or shouldn’t I personally watch and either way, why should I care” debate. So far no one — no one — has yet responded to the quote from Cap Stewart‘s blog that includes the references to Kate Beckinsale’s story. How is this not admissable testimony to the fact that this “acceptable” culture of male-on-female sexual abuse is still going on?

If Christian men care to be chivalrous in the right way — not the female-objectifying way — well then, here is a perfect chance. In fact it’s rather surprising that with this renewed emphasis on “rape culture,” activists for “feminism” are specifically encouraging an attitude of men taking better care of women. It’s common grace.

I’ve got more below, but a final thought about this last bit from DM:

This isn’t the case, and is one of the ways men pedestalize women. They can’t really want to be nude for the money or be in porn; they are too pure for that. The evil mens must be pressuring and manipulating them.

I don’t believe that. But try to say so — try to say anything like, Yes, in some cases the women want you to see them naked and are asking for your lust — and you get called a “slut shamer.” More on this later.

D. M. Dutcher
Member

The problem man is that there’s a lot in that concept to unpack. I think my dilemma can be summed up in one of your quotes.

If Christian men care to be chivalrous in the right way — not the female-objectifying way — well then, here is a perfect chance. In fact it’s rather surprising that with this renewed emphasis on “rape culture,” activists for “feminism” are specifically encouraging an attitude of men taking better care of women. It’s common grace.

In the specific context of the post (GoT being simulated sex/softcore porn on several occasions) this is a really dangerous attitude to have. It turns the thorny question of how men and women deal with softcore stuff into a simple thing of how men must take better care of women. It can lead to a false, even harmful narrative that strips women of any agency. That’s why I was at odds with your post.

That you feel you have to do this because the narrative can only be one way due to cries of slut shaming is also not good. Rape culture is dangerous because it seems to be able to lead to false narratives very quickly, and if you accept the construct you are bounded by very tight limits on how to discuss it. Better not to bother; your points can easily be made without it.

Bethany
Guest

I like your emphasis on the fact that women are free moral agents capable of both good and bad.  But you seem to be confusing two issues–perhaps because the writer of the post is also confusing them somewhat.

The issue of whether Game of Thrones does or does not promote rape culture is a different topic than the issue of how moral or not it is for men to watch nude women on TV.  The typical use of the term “rape culture” is to describe certain things within our culture, such as blaming victims of sexual assault for what happened to them or keeping quiet about molestation and assault because the aggressor is perceived as an otherwise good/upstanding person.  An extreme example of what I and many others are talking about when we say “rape culture” is the girls in Ohio who went on social media to attack their classmate for speaking out against her attacker.  Instead of being angry at the rapist, they were angry at the victim for getting their friend in trouble.  The reason many people accuse GoT of promoting rape culture mainly has to do with a scene this past season which featured a sex scene where consent was very ambiguous.  Many people saw it as rape, yet there were no consequences for the aggressor.  I would argue that it was very complicated but ultimately not rape, but that’s a scene you *really* have to watch to form an opinion on.  There have also been a lot of discussions about how much consent a slave or desperate peasant-turned-prostitute can really have and criticism towards the show for it’s blase treatment of sex workers.  I think the show does make a point of how hazardous and often sad these women’s lives are, so I’m generally ok with it.  (I’m ok with pretty much anything being shown as long as realistic consequences are also shown.  That’s just my position, lots of people disagree.)

This is a totally different issue than whether actresses should do nude scenes or even porn and whether men should watch them.  If a woman does something with full consent, especially if there is a legal contract attesting to her consent (as is the case with any legitimate film production), then the idea of rape culture is not in play.  Explicit consent = no rape.  How moral or immoral the consented-to act was is a different issue that people with different sexual mores may reasonably disagree on. (E.g., I think it’s fine, you guys don’t, and I’m happy to agree to disagree on that point.)

Leah Burchfiel
Member

Oh, Burnett. In retrospect I am sorry for the passive-aggressive teasing I did (my brother does that crap, so I should know not to do it), but I can’t get away from being frustrated with you because I don’t think you actually know what you’re talking about when it comes to feminism. Or progressive Christianity. Or sometimes the general secular viewpoint. Certainly I can’t stop you from writing things that annoy me, but I doubt I will ever stop being annoyed. I’m not sure what to do about it.

Paul Lee
Member

Ideas are not copyrighted by ideologies. All ideas should be fair game to make legitimate points.

And even if you do have to view everything as a bi-partisan war, the best champion for one ideology would be the one who can incorporate the enemy’s talking points and spin them into a better framework that beats the enemy at its own game.

Burnett’s one of my favorite people on the Internet precisely because he seems to try hard to resist the bi-partisan thinking that we’re all ingrained with. He won’t reject the fundamentalists; he at least tries to be fair to progressives.

Leah Burchfiel
Member

Speaking as the resident progressive, YMMV.

LD Taylor
Guest

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Beautifully argued. Incredibly well put. I loved it.

I take on the ‘art vs porn’ debate in a scene of the YA novel I have coming out in November… but admit I was heavily inspired (as far as that passage goes) by Surfing for God, by Michael John Cusick.

Cusick brings it down to three questions (we should be asking ourselves) if we are having difficulty determining if it’s art or porn:

1. Are people portrayed as humans or objects?

2. Is intimacy in human relationships esteemed or disregarded.

3 What is the motive of the producer of this ‘art’?

Thank you for answering the third question… which normally is something we can only guess at.

Thank you for the post… now can you get the breasts off of the comments please… because… it ain’t art.

Bethany
Guest

Emilia Clark’s breasts are 100% art.

Leah Burchfiel
Member

Hey, you’re back! I don’t know if I could congratulate you or offer a flack jacket.

But yeah, even though I don’t lean that way, I have to say that Emilia Clark is fiiiine. And I’m sure she has a lovely personality, but I don’t know much about her beyond that she is in GoT.

Bethany
Guest

Thanks.  I always tell myself I should stay out of it, but I get so irked.

I think I feel especially defensive about Emilia Clark because she seems like a natural beauty proponent   The first few seasons at least she had the curvy/fit look going on rather than the super-skinny look, she’s said she doesn’t pluck her eyebrows, and she did that no-makeup Facebook pic awhile back.  I love that.

Shannon McNear
Member

Finally–FINALLY!–someone else makes the point about the nudity and sexual content in films being “real,” while the violence is pretend. I’ve been saying this for years–I’m not even 100% comfortable with kissing scenes because, hey, if my husband were an actor, I sure wouldn’t be fine with him smooching other women. But anyway–for years I keep hearing Christians applauding movies like Braveheart, where Mel Gibson–professed believer, husband and father of 7–did a nude scene with a young woman who was not his wife. (In the commentary, he admits he was “half in love” with her. How is that right?)

The problems with GoT, IMO, probably go beyond promotion of a rape culture … how healthy it can be to follow a story where everyone abuses each other, where every sympathetic character dies (or most–I haven’t read/watched it but I keep hearing about it, LOL)?

Anyway … thank you. I think it’s about time a line was drawn. 🙂

C. J. Darlington
Member

Thank you for sharing this poignant post. I truly appreciate Christians speaking out against perversity. All I had to do was read the Parent’s Guide of GOT season 1, and I was horrified. I have no idea how any Christian  would watch a show like this for entertainment. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0944947/parentalguide?ref_=tt_stry_pg

Bethany
Guest

Wow, you are so off base it makes my stomach hurt just thinking about the mental gymnastics it takes to be you.

But it’s good to know that being a Game of Thrones fan means that I support rape.  Here I was thinking that I was a “yes means yes” feminist enjoying a show with more badass female characters than any other I can think of, so it’s a good thing you pointed out that a show where women have sex without any clothes on is inherently keeping women down.  Because I was all confused and thought that a religion that teaches that women were made from and for men was keeping women down.

It’s also nice that you made up your own definition of porn.  Naked = porn.  That’s a nice, simple, easy to comprehend definition.  So just to be clear, is this also porn?
comment image

Thanks for the clarification.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

Bethany, thanks for your comment.

I think you’ve misread the article in many key ways that would naturally lead you to conclude it’s all a pile of hooey.

My comment below may help clarify things. But let me also reply briefly to these, in an attempt to defend my own stuff and not that of an alt-universe article. 🙂

But it’s good to know that being a Game of Thrones fan means that I support rape.

I’m not sure I said this. Can you show me which part gave that impression?

Here I was thinking that I was a “yes means yes” feminist enjoying a show with more badass female characters than any other I can think of, so it’s a good thing you pointed out that a show where women have sex without any clothes on is inherently keeping women down.

I think I instead asked if it was the case that even some female performers (on GoT or elsewhere) had been manipulated into exposing themselves as sex objects — that if even one actor said that she has been, how does that affect the discussion?

But in fairness to you, when this article touches on the personal-reaction aspect of it — e.g., a viewer’s response to the show — it has nothing to do with the makers’ or performers’ motives. Instead my perspective attempts to be a uniquely evangelical Christian one that asks, based on the Bible: Can you do this activity and glorify God? Can you do this activity and respect women (regardless of why the actors or characters are getting naked and feigning sex for you)? If you can do both, then congratulations. If you’re not a Christian — or more specifically are not a Christian man, well, in the words of Captain Jack Sparrow: “This shot is not meant for you.”

Because I was all confused and thought that a religion that teaches that women were made from and for men was keeping women down.

Biblical Christianity does not teach this. Yes, some Christians do believe this nastiness about men and women. (Other views are more nuanced but get lumped in with the misogynistic stuff.) If you’re curious why I say they are actually making up stuff and not finding it in Scripture, I can show you from the Bible. But it may help more to know that  other Christians — such as RecoveringGrace.org and the staff of the organization G.R.A.C.E. — are at the forefront of combating specific situations of sexual abuse; they firmly reject anti-Biblical objectifications of women. I myself see examples of attitudes that lead to objectification and “rape culture” in both evangelical circles, such as patriarchy, and in secular culture.

It’s also nice that you made up your own definition of porn.  Naked = porn.  That’s a nice, simple, easy to comprehend definition.  So just to be clear, is this also porn?

You seem to have read this into my article. I haven’t once said that.

In this article, when I arguably alluded to a definition of porn, I wrote:

naked people who act out sexual scenarios in public media in order to get money is porn.

If you can give the column a fairer re-read, I’d then be glad to engage with you.

Bethany
Guest

If you can give Game of Thrones a fairer re-watch, I will be happy to engage with you.

And if this shot is not for me, stop hitting me with it.

Talking to you is exhausting, but I do want to address a few of your most egregious errors:

1) Nude paintings and sculptures still fit your definition of porn.  I don’t know if you’ve seen much museum-grade nude art, but it frequently features women and young men in very sexual poses.  Some of them even feature people actually having sex.  And nude models in the 16th century didn’t have access to unions or any of the protective legislation adult film actors have today, so I’m very unclear on why you think they were never bribed, coerced, or exploited.  Many of them were the mistress of the artist, so they were almost certainly being emotionally exploited if nothing else.

1b) This whole Kate Beckinsdale thing is nonsense.  Actors in my high school drama productions cried and threw up in the bathroom, and certainly none of them were being told to get naked or get out.  The drama in show biz is not just on camera.  If she was truly unwilling to do a nude scene she wouldn’t have done it, period.  An actress being pressured into a roll that includes full frontal for a lot of money is NOT in the same category as rape and I find the suggestion that it is incredibly offensive.

2) The very beginning of the Bible features Eve being made, very literally, from and for Adam.  Adam needed a companion, so God took a piece of him and created woman.  Not sure what about this is debatable.  Please don’t say “oh that’s the Old Testament we follow the New Testament.”  The New Testatment says women should be silent in the church and submit to their husbands.  Don’t tell me that’s out of context because I’m quite familiar with the Bible and it is not out of context at all.

I won’t be responding to any more comments, but if I see this blog come up in my Game of Thrones alert feed again I will be back with fire and blood and incredibly inappropriate memes.

http://www.memeslanding.com/Game+Of+Thrones+Memes/Badass-Daenerys-Targaryen/193

Leah Burchfiel
Member

I hope it’s not too petty that I kinda love how you make me look like so much less of a shit-stirrer.

Leah Burchfiel
Member

You have to admit, this article comes off as pretty black-and-white. Looking at naked women = porn, no nuance to be seen. Plus, I can’t even articulate my problems with this idea running in the comments that a naked body (specifically, boobs–male gaze is all up in this shizzle) is inherently contaminating.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

A followup. With the Game of Thrones TV series, my central argument is threefold:

  1. Personal. Most Christian men just don’t have good reasons for watching the show as entertainment (this is a vital clarification). This calls for at least some re-evaluation no matter what you decide to do in the end. For the Christian who cares about holiness and glorifying his Savior, how can all challenges to this effect not be at least helpful in theory? Rejecting them offhand as just more of that same legalism is simply naive. It treats the critic with the same suspicious attitude that conservatives treat pop culture.
  2. Social justice. Most fans seem not to care that TV actors are being shown naked and portrayed as sexual objects, for the sake of audience lusts, e.g., imaginary rape. This is what porn is. As I’ve asked above — and which has so far gone unanswered — if this is even a possibility in some cases, shouldn’t society do something about it? Why should Art be off-limits in the currently prevailing — and beneficial — cultural emphasis on rejecting “rape culture”?
  3. Cultural. Most viewers seem not to care that regardless of the personal effect on them, at least some makers of the show are fully intending it to be porn. Here on SpecFaith and elsewhere, commentators have pointed out how even secular critics mock Game of Thrones for its “sexposition” crap. That’s not Art. It’s not even trying to be. It’s porn made by pervs. Again, I’m not even saying that means you shouldn’t watch it (surely at least someone can without sinning — it’s a crazy world and we already know some Christians are able to reach a defeat status with certain sins — I would almost envy a Christian with same-sex attraction who would be easily immune to other certain sins!). But why are the most intense defenders sentimentalizing this porn-making motive? And here I thought you folks were all about being “realistic.” So does this “realism” apply only to fiction and not to real life? 😛

This controversy makes me even more ready to pose this question:

Have some folks gone from switching off their brains, and cooing and sentimentalizing the content of right-wing, “family friendly” pop culture — to doing the exact same thing with “gritty” secular stuff?

Right-wing conservative Christians hold up acceptable, family-friendly media as if it’s a sacrament. Criticize Courageous? You must be a pop-culture compromiser.

Other Christians are doing the exact same thing with secular media — treating it like a sacrament. And if someone criticizes it, they must be a fundie compromiser.

It’s all the same shape, the same response. Only the tint of the color has changed.

Folks, none of this stuff is sacramental. It’s utterly strange to see any of this pop-culture stuff as beyond criticism — or worthy of lashing out in personal, ad-hominem-level anger against any challenges. As I mentioned on Facebook, if someone I knew and trusted even someone posted an internet screed against a story I really liked, such as Doctor Who, I would want to approach him like this:

  1. I don’t think you understand what’s in the show. Here, let me explain. (Not: You haven’t even seen the show so you are not allowed to talk about it.)
  2. I’m not sure if you know my views on popular culture. Could I share more? (Not: You’re just one of those #@$@# legalists like those who’ve hurt me.)
  3. You misunderstand why I want to watch this show. Let me tell you why. (Not: You’re trying to take away my freedom and I despise you for that.)

I’ve also noted this reaction: You haven’t said enough about how some (most?) women are perfectly fine with being naked and having sex for money; in their case it’s not the case that nasty men are making them do it.

Very true. But try saying that in the majority of circumstances and you get called (perhaps rightfully) a “slut shamer.” And saying this is one step away from repeating the dismissive and sick attitude of, “Well, she asked for it.” Frankly it’s better to err on the side of emphasizing powerful men’s roles in such scenarios — especially if you happen to be a man.

So ultimately the criticism turns into this:

  1. You have the appearance of legalistic evil. Most Christians in trying to speak about human objectification and sexual abuse have only messed things up, so you need to avoid speaking about human objectification and sexual abuse. (And/or: If you can’t say everything that can possibly be said about human objectification and sexual abuse, don’t say anything at all about human objectification and sexual abuse.)
  2. Why aren’t more evangelical Christians speaking out about human objectification and sexual abuse?!

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Here’s a suggestion. How about presuming some trust here? No one’s going to come steal your TV or cut off your HBO subscription. I’m not your legalistic pastor. I’m not even your mom. If you had to deal with those issues, I am truly sorry. But their sins, hurtful and twisted as they are, do not automatically impute ill motives to anyone else who merely seems to be offering the same types of criticisms for the same reasons. Biblical Christians should not buy into the “avoid the appearance of evil” misinterpretation of 1 Thess. 5:22. For His sake and ours, God commands us to avoid actual evil, not what subjectively appears to be evil — whether that “appearance of evil” is a TV show or someone who only appears to be legalistic.

Bethany
Guest

 A followup. With the Game of Thrones TV series, my central argument is threefold:

Personal. Most Christian men just don’t have good reasons for watching the showas entertainment (this is a vital clarification). This calls for at least some re-evaluation no matter what you decide to do in the end. For the Christian who cares about holiness and glorifying his Savior, how can all challenges to this effect not be at least helpful in theory? Rejecting them offhand as just more of that same legalism is simply naive. It treats the critic with the same suspicious attitude that conservatives treat pop culture.

This is one point where I actually agree with you.  Devout Evangelical Christians should not be watching Game of Thrones.  It systematically makes a point of showing all the things you guys are not supposed to be looking at.  I don’t want you to watch it, I want you not watch it a little more quietly.

Social justice. Most fans seem not to care that TV actors are being shown naked and portrayed as sexual objects, for the sake of audience lusts, e.g., imaginary rape. This is what porn is. As I’ve asked above — and which has so far gone unanswered — if this is even a possibility in some cases, shouldn’t society do something about it? Why should Art be off-limits in the currently prevailing — and beneficial — cultural emphasis on rejecting “rape culture”?

This is nonsense.  There is no social justice issue in terms of the actors themselves.  Everyone on Game of Thrones, from Peter Dinklage to the adult film actresses hired to play prostitutes to the dogs who play the dire wolves are treated very well.  (Even the doodlebug escaped his S4E8 scene unscathed.) No one’s being exploited.  There were at least two excited Tweets by adult film actresses from season 3 when they were re-hired for season 4.  So they seem pretty happy.  Are there productions with a WAY worse track record?  Of course.  Please attack them, though, and leave GoT out of this.
Whether the story of Game of Thones promotes rape culture has been discussed into the ground.  Considering that all of the rape and exploitation depicted on the show is done by unsympathetic characters, and that rape is just one of the many war crimes that is held up as evidence of the terrible things that happen when law and order breaks down, I do not think that the show promotes rape culture.  If you want to actually have a conversation about that, with evidence from the show/text, I will be happy to do so.  But please note that sexual immorality as per conservative Christian moors should not be confused with rape culture; those are separate issues.

Cultural. Most viewers seem not to care that regardless of the personal effect on them, at least some makers of the show are fully intending it to be porn. Here on SpecFaith and elsewhere, commentators have pointed out how even secular critics mock Game of Thrones for its “sexposition” crap. That’s not Art. It’s not even trying to be. It’s porn made by pervs. Again, I’m not even saying that means you shouldn’t watch it (surely at least someone can without sinning — it’s a crazy world and we already know some Christians are able to reach a defeat status with certain sins — I would almost envy a Christian with same-sex attraction who would be easily immune to other certain sins!). But why are the most intense defenders sentimentalizing this porn-making motive? And here I thought you folks were all about being “realistic.” So does this “realism” apply only to fiction and not to real life?

The amount of talent and artistry that goes into making Game of Thrones is exponentially higher than what went into any individual piece of nude art that you say isn’t porn.  Please back off with your “Game of Thrones is just smutty and not art at all” stuff because its excruciatingly untrue.  That’s not even just my opinion–“just porn” doesn’t win Emmys.
That said, there are certainly many scenes that are meant to titillate.  I don’t have a problem with that.  If you do, all you have to do is not watch.  You don’t have to attack the skill and hard work that goes into making the show. And maybe I would feel more polite if you didn’t keep calling my favorite show runners “pervs.”
(By the way, a gay male Christian watching this show would also have a lot of impure thoughts, if slightly less frequently.  The Renly/Loras scenes were pretty hot, and there is a definite erotic vibe in the Ramsay/Theon storyline.)

As I mentioned on Facebook, if someone I knew and trusted even someone posted an internet screed against a story I really liked, such as Doctor Who, I would want to approach him like this:

I don’t think you understand what’s in the show. Here, let me explain. (Not: You haven’t even seen the show so you are not allowed to talk about it.)
I’m not sure if you know my views on popular culture. Could I share more? (Not:You’re just one of those #@$@# legalists like those who’ve hurt me.)
You misunderstand why I want to watch this show. Let me tell you why. (Not:You’re trying to take away my freedom and I despise you for that.)

You have to be a friend to make friends.  If I said that Dr. Who had no artistic merit and you were mindlessly supporting paternalistic colonialism by watching it, you would probably have a heated reaction.  Especially if I went on about its immorality and lack of merit at great length.  Most especially if I based all this on part of one episode and hearsay.

I’ve also noted this reaction: You haven’t said enough about how some (most?) women are perfectly fine with being naked and having sex for money; in their case it’s not the case that nasty men are making them do it.
Very true. But try saying that in the majority of circumstances and you get called (perhaps rightfully) a “slut shamer.” And saying this is one step away from repeating the dismissive and sick attitude of, “Well, she asked for it.” Frankly it’s better to err on the side of emphasizing powerful men’s roles in such scenarios — especially if you happen to be a man.

Wow, just call a spade a spade.  The female actors on Game of Thrones do what they do willingly.  If you think that makes them sluts, then that’s what you think.  I think it makes them female actors who are justifiably proud of their bodies.  Saying that actresses take of their clothes without being coerced is not even close to saying that a rape victim “asked for it.”  Rape is a crime, being naked on TV is a calculated risk actresses take for their careers.

So ultimately the criticism turns into this:

You have the appearance of legalistic evil. Most Christians in trying to speak about human objectification and sexual abuse have only messed things up, so you need to avoid speaking about human objectification and sexual abuse. (And/or: If you can’t say everything that can possibly be said about human objectification and sexual abuse, don’t say anything at all about human objectification and sexual abuse.)
Why aren’t more evangelical Christians speaking out about human objectification and sexual abuse?!

Nope.  Not what I said.  I said that you keep saying things that are either offensive to me and also not true.  That’s my basic critique of your GoT critiques.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Here’s a suggestion. How about presuming some trust here? No one’s going to come steal your TV or cut off your HBO subscription. I’m not your legalistic pastor. I’m not even your mom. If you had to deal with those issues, I am truly sorry. But their sins, hurtful and twisted as they are, do not automatically impute ill motives to anyone else who merely seems to be offering the same types of criticisms for the same reasons. Biblical Christians should not buy into the “avoid the appearance of evil” misinterpretation of 1 Thess. 5:22. For His sake and ours, God commands us to avoid actual evil, not what subjectively appears to be evil — whether that “appearance of evil” is a TV show or someone who only appears to be legalistic.

I don’t think you have ill motives, other than the motive of needing to be right so much that you won’t admit that anything you say might not be quite right.  I think your blog is aptly named; it has a lot of faith and a lot of speculation.  Not a lot of facts or reason to be found around here.  For what it’s worth, I don’t find you legalistic, reminiscent of my pastor, or anything like my mom.  My mom knows there are some shows that have things in them that are unChristian and offensive to her, so she doesn’t watch them.  She certainly doesn’t blog about them.  My old pastor would have had a real discussion about the moral ambiguity of the show and what its popularity says about postmodern attitudes towards Good and Evil.
I did presume trust the first time I came here, but then you just talked at me and said I didn’t understand your post instead of considering my points.  So I was in a less friendly mood this time around.

Paul Lee
Member

No one’s going to come steal your TV or cut off your HBO subscription. I’m not your legalistic pastor. I’m not even your mom.

Right. Sorry.

Tiribulus
Guest

Stephen I may have been too quick and severe with you. I do however think you are missing one point here. The sinfulness of the production of a show like GoT. Or any media where sin was required in it’s production.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

Greg, let us be friends. After all, neither one of us is the other guy’s pastor. (And even if one of us were, that would be no reason not to listen to one another.)

Of course sin was involved in the production of “Game of Thrones.” Sin was also involved in the production of your above comment, and in the production of this very response to you. The only difference is whether any sinful impulses in either of us have been covered by the blood of Jesus Christ and in-advance “forgotten” by the merciful Father as the Spirit changes us to more like Him (all one God).

As for people not so covered by His sacrifice, I can affirm people’s sinful natures yet also affirm (as Jesus did) the fact that God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45) and the fact that even evil people know how to give good gifts to their children (Matt. 7:11).

Scripture affirms both total depravity and common grace, including the truth that even fallen man, despite his worst attempts, still bears the image of God in many ways — including in his desires to be moral and learn and explore and create.

Common grace (and the fact that sinful man still reflects the imago Dei) is one of the crucial doctrine-applied-to-life fixes for two very wrong responses to culture:

  • It’s all eternally worthless and/or a distraction and/or only sinfully corrupt.
  • It’s all amazing and such creativity shows artists are like high priests to us!

Neither one of those is true. Anything truly good in culture reflects God, not man.

I don’t know if this is the case with you. It may be that some Christians are relatively new (or merely very passionate) about Biblical truth regarding the corruption of this present evil age. Perhaps they have themselves believed — or known people including professing Christians who still believe — that the world with its cultures is basically a jolly decent place and Christians need to stop being so up-tight about things so that people will like them. And perhaps in response to such notions they are more sensitive to any professing-Christian rhetoric (including mine!) that seems to say “popular culture is not as bad as we think.” But remember that there are other backgrounds and religious cultures into which I and others are speaking: particularly the people who have been raised in religious subcultures based on twisted Bible verses, man-centered theology, and also fear of popular cultures — which usually leads folks to reject rules and gorge themselves with pop culture rather than receive this good gift of God with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:4).

At Speculative Faith and anywhere else, Christians’ response to popular culture (including even “Game of Thrones”) should not be based on an anti anything, but on a pro — the proactive worship of Jesus Christ. His Spirit is conforming us to His image and helping us become sanctified. As we grow in faith and holiness it may be that even when we do see examples and images of sin (as the omnipresent yet perfect God sees all the time!), we will not be tempted nearly as often and thus can better shine His light in a dark age.

Tiribulus
Guest

<strong>Stephen says: “Greg, let us be friends.”</strong>
Ok. 🙂 (handshake offered)

You are still missing my point though and the one piper is making (which, same article I linked on my FB page btw, ). That is, the violence in moving picture media is entirely fake. Whether even that is sin can be discussed. I believe it is in far more cases than you probably do.

If however, somebody were actually shot to death for instance in the production of a film or television show, even if voluntarily in the name of “artistic realism”, it would be sin in every instance and sin to support it with God’s treasure and time. Any individual viewer’s particular tolerance for blood is entirely irrelevant. The act itself is sin, even if nobody ever saw it.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

Cool.

I see your point and have agreed with it (and haven’t said anything against that).

In my previous Game of Thrones article, for instance:

Yes, the Game of Thrones game by all accounts includes real actual porn. Naked people (most often women, of course) are being objectified and doing nakedy things. And that is wrong. Filmmakers and actors can simulate violence, simulate language, simulate other sinful behaviors. But to show nakedness and sex you can only actually 1) be naked and 2) feign to have sex. And let’s spare only a few details here: Unless the actor is himself/herself a goodness-of-the-body-denying, emotionless Gnostic Platonic ideal-person rather than a live human being, he/she will have physical and emotional responses to that “acting.” To do it “right,” you can’t simply do acting proper. There’s an F-word for that: fornication.

We may disagree, however, that it is inevitably a sin for a Christian to witness even an actual act of violence in real life. Entertainment/pop culture issues aside, if Christians cannot see violent acts without sinning, then only pagans or unrepentant Christians can love their neighbors by serving in law enforcement or disaster relief. However, apart from the question of whether movie violence is real or simulated, my point is not, “Someone else committed a sin, so if you watch it you are yourself sinning.” If that’s true, then a Christian could never ever even engage in internet discussions with non-Christians because the others’ sins would be “contagious.” Instead my point is, “Will you personally sin by seeing this image/representation of sin?” (Cf. Romans 14, 1 Cor. 8–10.) For nudity/sexual content, most Christians are indeed so tempted. I have not seen this as common with Christians who are tempted to anger or violent acts by violent stories, but in those cases I would urge the same thing: you, personally, should avoid such images and temptations because you want to love Jesus more than you love sinning.

Tiribulus
Guest

We are still talking past each other to a large degree Stepehn, but that’s ok. We’ll get there. Can’t do it now though.

Tiribulus
Guest

It’s 3 in the morning and we have no power in our neighborhood (huge storm) I’m at my church.

Real quick. My point was that if REAL murder were included in a film, it would be sin to produce it 100% of the time. While there may not be actual intercourse happening, there is plenty of actual nudity and actual sexual contact in today’s visual media entertainment that is sinful in it’s own right having nothing to do with the audience’s reaction. It is that that has been my focus for the year now that I’ve been regularly dealing with this. I don’t even address whether it induces lust in the consumer or not. Because people lie and most effectively to themselves.

No. If there is content in a production that I could not watch my wife, daughter or sons “perform” or that I could not myself perform before them or God then it is the rankest hypocrisy to pay unbelievers to do it for me. I am financing their damnation which is the diametric opposite of loving them as myself. That goes for ANY content. Blasphemous language too. The Lord did not say He would not hold them guiltless who take his name in vain UNLESS it was for a movie or TV show (or book for that matter) where it would be considered “art”.

Yes, there are far more ways to take God’s name in vain than simply speaking it in a vulgar fashion. That however IS included. As Pastor Wilson says (Cap Stewart’s guy) whom I also know a bit, this discussion couldn’t even have happened before a couple decades ago. The church always got this until recently. Motion picture media is beyond dispute the most powerful tool of manipulation and indoctrination in the history of the world. Hitler had his masters of movie propaganda. We should be VERY wary of it in the hands of exceptionally capable and endlessly financed people who are the eternally mortal enemies of our God and His Christ.

Tiribulus
Guest

Oops. No, it is not sin to inadvertently witness real life violence. I would never say such thing. I live in Detroit, but the real standard is that the bible does not say that seeing violence by accident is a sin.  Or nudity for that matter. If forced into an emergency situation by God’s providence, He would also give grace for delivering a baby or protecting a naked woman running from a house to escape an assailant for instance. (these really happen. At least here) Life saving medicine is also unrelated to entirely unnecessary art and entertainment. I’ve heard that one 100 times too.