Downton Abbey, the BBC series showcasing the way of life of the English aristocracy and their servants proved to be a smash hit on both sides of the Atlantic. For each of its six seasons, audiences would anxiously tune in to watch the Crawley family's exploits as they struggled to adjust from Victorian era mores to that of the modern age.
Part of the attraction of the show was just how foreign the manners and customs of the English aristocracy strike modern viewers. Imagine dressing differently for each meal in tuxedos! The show's expert historian, Alistair Bruce, strove to make the fictional series as historically accurate as he could, although the show is clearly written to reflect 21st century values. For example, the house royalty wouldn't give the servants much of a second thought; they were considered less like employees and more like tools to an end.1 Thus, there's a bit of a wink the writers share with the audience on how quaint and antiquated the customs of the old days were.
Victorian Prudes and Victimless CrimesIt can become easy to assume that old ways of doing things are backwards or naïve. Certainly, this seems to be the case with moral prohibitions concerning sexuality today. Over and over again I hear the claim that because our society is less repressive and sexually freer than in the past, making it somehow better. Casual sex, known as hook-ups, is exploding across college campuses, especially those where the number of female students outweighs the males.2 Sex outside of marriage is considered so normal that virginity is an oddity. Pornography has become rampant, and women are consuming more porn than ever before.3
But is all this really a good thing? Those who would question the sexual liberation and its aftermath are considered out of touch prudes. Sex is what always happens, they say. Porn is just being honest about one's sexual desires; it's one of those victimless pleasures that good people can do in the privacy of their own homes. If the person enjoys it, what's wrong with allowing them to consume it?
In reality, porn is harming a generation of people. The group Plan International, Australia recently completed a survey of teenage girls in that country and revealed some shocking findings:4
- Seven out of ten Australian
girls aged 15-19 believe online harassment and bullying is endemic
Australian females aged 15-19 do not want to share sexual photos of themselves
- 81% of girls believe it's unacceptable for boyfriends to ask for explicit content although they believe pressure to do so is now commonplace
Adolescent consumption of Internet pornography was linked to attitudinal changes, including acceptance of male dominance and female submission as the primary sexual paradigm, with women viewed as "sexual playthings eager to fulfil male sexual desires." The authors found that "adolescents who are intentionally exposed to violent sexually explicit material were six times more likely to be sexually aggressive than those who were not exposed."5I recommend you read the whole article. But is seems pretty evident that our sexually charged culture is not helping people become better human beings. In fact, the results of porn are actually harming women and young girls. They are becoming more victimized and more objectified. Today's open sex culture is not advancing women, it's degrading them.
The old-fashioned folks of early 20th century England would never hear of such open displays of lasciviousness. They recognized the difference between a man's higher nature and his base nature. The higher nature consists of rationality, self-control, moral uprightness. Man's base nature is one that could be found in animals, consisting of satisfying appetites and desires, reacting based on emotion, and so on. Constraining those base natures requires diligence and practice. It doesn't come automatically. But not constraining them leads to the dehumanization of people. Just look at what those 15-19 year old girls in Australia are experiencing.
2. Birger, Jon. "Unequal Gender Ratios at Colleges Are Driving Hookup Culture." Time. Time, 15 Oct. 2015. Web. 30 Mar. 2016. http://time.com/money/4072951/college-gender-ratios-dating-hook-up-culture/.
3. Carey, Tanith. "Why More and More Women Are Using Pornography." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 07 Apr. 2011. Web. 30 Mar. 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2011/apr/07/women-addicted-internet-pornography.
4. "Don't Send Me That Pic." Plan International. Plan International Australia, Mar. 2016. Web. 30 Mar. 2016. https://www.plan.org.au/learn/who-we-are/blog/2016/03/02/dont-send-me-that-pic.0020
5. Liszewski, Melinda. "Growing Up in Pornland: Girls Have Had It with Porn Conditioned Boys." Collective Shout. ABC Religion and Ethics, 8 Mar. 2016. Web. 30 Mar. 2016. http://www.collectiveshout.org/growing_up_in_pornland_girls_have_had_it_with_porn_conditioned_boys.