Archive for August 27, 2012

Sex That Shouldn’t Sell…But It Does

It may be a cliché, but it is most certainly true:  sex sells.  Just ask Barnes and Noble.  Jeffrey Trachtenberg of The Wall Street Journal recently reported on the quarterly sales of the last remaining brick and mortar chain bookstore giant and noted that the numbers of its retail stores were up – 2% to $1.1 billion.  Trachtenberg cites two reasons for this impressive growth.  First, Barnes and Noble is reaping the benefits of the recent bankruptcy and closure of Borders.  Apparently, many Borders’ customers have found their way to Barnes and Noble.  But the second cause has nothing to do with corporate competition.  Instead, it has everything to do with sexual infatuation.  E.L. James’ bestselling hotly erotic trilogy with its flagship novel, Fifty Shades of Grey, is cited by the company in a public report as “a key revenue driver at its retail stores.”[1]  A racy trilogy is singlehandedly driving sales at a major book retailer…way up.  And that book retailer explains in an official ccorporate report that a racy trilogy is driving its sales way up…gladly.

This report from Barnes and Noble is sadly indicative of the spirit of our society.  It is not just that we are fascinated by sex, it is that we are fascinated by that which has been traditionally sexually forbidden.  The racier and the raunchier something is, the more piqued our collective cultural curiosity becomes.

What is especially notable about Fifty Shades is that it is erotica aimed at women.   Traditionally, pornography has been marketed to men, with stunningly and sadly successful results.  Indeed, pornography addiction has been generally considered to be a male problem rather than a female one.   With the Fifty Shades trilogy, however, we learn that women seem to be just as vulnerable to the pornography industry, though instead of featuring lewd pictures, this pornography finds its hook in spicy storylines.

Now more than ever, Christian believers must stand up for a biblical sexual ethic – and not because we can self-righteously claim to be free from sexual sin, for Jesus makes it clear in His Sermon on the Mount that none of us are innocent of sexual immorality (cf. Matthew 5:27-28), but because the Christian sexual ethic tells the truth about human sexuality.  Contrary to the vulgar verbal voyeurism encouraged by explicit bestselling novels, sex is more than biological arousal and satisfaction.  Instead, it is meant to be an expression of fidelity and unity, blessing husbands and wives with the gift of not only pleasure, but children.  Sex is meant to be a valuable gift rather than a cheap thrill.  And it is supposed to honor human dignity rather than degrade it (cf. Romans 1:24).

Perhaps the heart and soul of the Bible’s sexual ethic is best summed up in a single verb:  “know.”  Time and time again, the Bible uses this verb as a euphemistic way to refer to sexual intimacy:

  • “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain” (Genesis 4:1).
  • “Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch” (Genesis 4:17).
  • “Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her” (1 Samuel 1:19).

This verb reminds us that sex is meant for husbands and wives to know each other more deeply and connect to each other more intimately.  It is not meant for near strangers to grope each other in quest of some cut-rate erotic fantasy.  Sex is far more valuable than that.  And so are the people who engage in it.  Will you stand up for the value of sex and for the dignity of the people whom God has created as sexual beings?

[1] Jeffrey Trachtenberg, “‘Fifty Shades’ of Books” (The Wall Street Journal, 8.21.12).


August 27, 2012 at 5:15 am 2 comments

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