Movies and TV shows with explicit sex scenes have consistently been controversial among Christian circles. A series may have great writing, but also an excessive amount of graphic sex, violence, and often times a mixture of both. The question for me is simple: Do the ends justify the means? In counting the cost, does filling my eyes (and subsequently, my mind) with dangerous pornographic images justify my indulgence in just another story? Personally, I don’t think so.
My memory of graphic sexual images will far exceed my memory of a plot progression, and I would go so far as to say that is the case for everyone, not just me. All I need to do is try to remember any series I have not seen in a decade or two. What do I remember more, the plot of such a series, the precise details of the character progression, or certain visual scenes that happened to make an impression on me? It is always the explicit or shocking visuals that have the longest lasting influence on the mind.
I think it is unarguable that the sex scenes of some of these shows (Game of Thrones, for example) are no different from pornography. I guarantee that those scenes are spliced and put on porn sites. So why would I think surrounding such content with a fantasy story makes it okay for me to watch? It isn’t merely Game of Thrones that is guilty, I just find it to be the easiest example. Pretty much anything on HBO has a massive problem with sex and nudity. Even Netflix is becoming problematic in many ways. I have to go to the IMDB parents guide before every new show because graphic content has become a cancer in film. It seems like every Netflix original is rated TV-MA.
Whenever I read articles about Christians who watch some of these shows, they never actually say anything to justify the graphic sex or nudity. The pornographic content is always the elephant in the room, and it is always ignored. It is actually incredibly bizarre and awkward when people so casually recommend a show like Game of Thrones, as if this is something I could watch with them. As if I wasn’t horrified by what IMDB said was in the first episode alone. I once spoke to an agnostic friend of mine who is not in any way religious, and he said even he was uncomfortable watching Game of Thrones with other people, because of the sex.
If Christ said it is better pluck out your eye than to allow yourself to be corrupted through the eye (Mat 5:29), I find it nonsensical to think saying “it has a great story” is a valid excuse before God for indulging the eyes in pornographic content. When pornography gets a decent plot, it does not cease to be pornography. The devil has icons too. Behind every pretty woman with her breasts exposed, and behind every graphic sex scene, is a dragon waiting to chain you to your own passions.
One might say, “But nobody says anything about violence. Isn’t that bad too?” Yes, violence is never a good thing, however comparing depictions of violence with sex is to compare apples and oranges. For one, the sexual content is not fake, like war scenes. Actors actually strip down to nothing and have sex for a camera. This would be considered prostitution if they didn’t actually enjoy it and make a lot of money. Indeed, a poor and ashamed prostitute, stuck in her situation, is more righteous than such actors who do not even know how to blush (Jer 6:15, 8:12). Secondly, watching a violent scene does not, in of itself, tempt the viewer to become more violent. However, watching a graphic sex scene will tempt the viewer to become more sexual. Because the eyes stimulate the body, watching such things will have an involuntary effect on the body. This is why the scriptures say to flee from fornication (1 Cor 6:18). Other sins do not manipulate the body the way sexual sins do, and sexual sins always occur first with the eyes. It was when David “saw” a naked woman washing herself that his passions were tempted (2 Sa 11:2).
However, it should be noted that not every sex scene is equally explicit, therefore not every sex scene is equally destructive to the mind. I can think of a total of zero people who have complained that a movie or TV show was not as good as it could have been, simply because it lacked graphic sex scenes. In fact, the majority of sex scenes have absolutely nothing to do with the plot. If it does have to do with the plot, then the purpose of the action is generally to tell the viewer that so and so had an affair or something. However, the viewer does not need to see the details of how the affair took place, the viewer only needs to know that the affair took place. In modern film, the ‘how’ is extremely overemphasized and put on the screen for extended periods of time, rather than the previous trope of having two couples wake up next to one another in a bed (implicitly revealing what had occurred).
One might say, “but the Bible is graphic, read Song of Solomon.” Because this response is inevitable, I will even use Song of Solomon to prove my point. Firstly, Song of Solomon is a text, and one that is shrouded in poetry. It does not bombard your eyes with explicit sex scenes, because the metaphor makes the sexual content implicit. And because it is a text, the content is not visually seen, but imagined. Breasts are even compared to fuzzy little animals (Song 4:5, 7:3), so I don’t think any woman today would find that to be particularly romantic.
Christians do not have icons of the Song of Solomon literally depicting graphic sex. It visually depicts Song of Solomon as metaphor, not as literal sex. Depicting such a thing literally would be absolutely scandalous.
Sex and nudity are supposed to be sacred. Sex should not have bystanders, for romantic love is exclusive. When you have tens of thousands of flies on the wall in the form of writers, directors, videographers and HBO subscribers, the act of sexual union is cheapened into a marketing tactic to entice the passions. The phrase “sex sells” exists because people figured out how to exploit human weakness.
We as a culture penalize the one “Peeping Tom” who peers through the neighbor’s window and call him a pervert, and then we sit on our couches, turn on the television, and peer through the bedroom windows of countless couples. Does such actions not also qualify as perverse? It seems like a double-standard to me.
Whenever the scriptures mention nakedness, the expected response is always to cover/clothe (Gen 3:21, 9:23, Eze 18:7, 16, Mat 25:36, Mar 5:15, Jas 2:15-16). This is because, like I said, nudity is sacred and it ought to be respected. It is exclusive, and it ought to be protected.
That’s what I think anyway.