Gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins. The others are lust, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. I would argue lust and greed are kissing cousins of gluttony – as much as wrath, envy and pride are on the other end of that scale, of which ’sloth’ makes a somewhat strange-bedfellow-centre.
Anyway, this column will be mostly about gluttony, which, in the Wiki entrance I linked to, is defined as ‘the over-indulgence and over-consumption of anything to the point of waste.’
Combine gluttony with arrogance and you have the recent world economic crisis explained in two simple words – but I don’t want to talk about that particular crisis today. Not so much because millions of other, more expert commentators have been doing this for quite a few months now but because, if I’m honest, I find the whole subject almost as unpleasant as I find it boring.
Anyway, I was thinking about that list of old deadly sins, when I read an article about pornography. The following is a longish quote from that piece:
“The surfeit of cheap erotica is diluting sexual energy, especially for the young. The relationship between the multibillion-dollar porn industry, compulsiveness and sexual appetite has become like the relationship between agribusiness, processed foods, super-size portions and obesity. If your appetite is stimulated and fed by poor-quality material it takes more junk to fill you up. Research is showing that porn is indeed addictive, especially to men, and that it damages their libido in the longterm. Experts on sexual dysfunction are seeing an epidemic today of healthy young men who cannot perform easily with their partners because they have been overexposed to pornography. With increased exposure to porn many men need higher and higher levels of stimulation, or more and more extreme situations, in order to become aroused. So it seems that people are not closer, erotically, because of porn but less sexually connected.”
The writer then goes on to state that ‘porn deadens desire.’ I am not an expert in this field but I have no quarrel with her observations and conclusions.
I certainly do like the comparison she makes between the consumption of certain types of junk food and porn. I think this analogy is apt. The writer would not be the first one to draw these parallels, of course. Food and sex have been linked in our collective minds from the earliest human civilisations onwards.
On its most elementary level, this resulted in the whole idea of certain food types being linked to sexual desire and performance. On a slightly more abstract level, it led poets to compare certain body parts of the beloved with certain foods. (Read old Solomon’s ‘Song of Songs’ and chances are you get away from it more hungry than horny.)
We also talk about ’spicing up’ our love life, if we’re not saying that this or that person looks good enough to eat. Cartoon characters actually salivate when they see someone attractive – and I’m not even going into the whole and wholly weird international Internet market for photos of Maria Sharapova eating a banana during a break in some old tennis match…
Anyway, back to the central argument that porn deadens desire. As the author states, that’s a world removed from the old feminist argument that watching porn would lead to more real life sexual exploitation and rape. In fact, if there is this ‘epidemic’ of healthy young men who have problems ‘performing’ because of their porn habit, you could almost argue that porn functions as a weirdly viable alternative for actual & chemical castration.
Ah well, back to those original deadly sins. One of the reasons the early Christian philosophers labelled these sins as ‘deadly’ was not so much because they hated the flesh (though some of them did) but because they deemed it an insult to Creation to become a slave to mere impulses. This type of addiction was seen as a form of blasphemy: A negation of the gift of life – a bit like wiping your arse with a Rembrandt painting, if you like.
As an agnost I don’t particularly care about the concept of sin (or offending Gods) but as an incurable romantic I can’t help but rejoice in the idea that watching porn may lead to impotence. In that sense, I’m totally with those old theologians and their idea that certain types of behaviour and certain forms of (over)indulgence lead to slavery.
Now, we only have to wait for some kind of Health & Safety organ to demand that each and every porn site must not only have a NSFW label but also sport a NSFS warning.
‘Not Safe For Sex’, that is, of course.