An antidote to pornography

Madonna and Child, by Andrea Solario, 16th century

Madonna and Child, by Andrea Solario, 16th century

It may seem counter-intuitive to suggest that the right response to a pornographic culture is more public nudity, but that is precisely the assertion Father Thomas Loya makes in his presentation “Beauty as an Antidote for a Pornified World.” Prior to becoming a priest, Loya was an art student and, as such, developed a non-pornographic vision of the human body.

Although most of his presentation focuses on the role of the arts in reclaiming a right vision of the human person and the naked human body (to be “naked without shame”), Fr. Loya also claims that one public action can have tremendous impact in helping society to reorder its perception and understanding of the female body. That action is to encourage mothers to breastfeed in public.

It’s a radical notion that has already found disfavor on some social networks and has led to some changes in the law. But why is this such an issue and how exactly does it relate to pornography?

In his book about human identity and God’s purpose for sexuality and relationships, Pope John Paul II taught that the human body has sexual values. This we all seem to understand. The danger, he wrote, comes when we overemphasize a person’s sexual values to the exclusion of the rest of her humanity. This is the precise (and diabolical) distortion of pornography. The user of pornography is trained to dehumanize women and men and to turn their true godly sexual values into mere sexual commodities. If others are only objects for our personal use, they can be  bought, sold, rented, and discarded, if needed. A godly understanding of sexual values, however, highlights the sacred purpose of sexual union that bonds a man and a woman in a loving, lifetime relationship that produces a family.

The implications of this objectifying worldview with regard to prostitution and human trafficking are obvious, but the heartache also extends to many intimate relationships, including Christian marriages, where one partner uses the other for personal gratification.

To test Fr. Loya’s theory, I’ve included a link below to a Pinterest bulletin board filled with classic art representations of Mary nursing the baby Jesus. The depictions are beautiful and, if I may say so, transformative. If it is safe for you to do so without it being a trigger, I encourage you to visit this Pinterest page and to pay close attention to your reactions. Again, there is no “live” human nudity, but merely artistic renderings of a baby nursing at a bare female breast.

Ask yourself these questions as you review the images:

Does this make me uncomfortable? Why?
Does this seem pornographic to me? Is it really?
Does my response indicate that I have been influenced by a pornographic culture that fails to see the human person and the human body rightly?
If so, does seeing the beauty of a mother with her child help or hinder my recovery from this distorted vision?

What do you think? Would seeing more nursing mothers help to heal our culture’s sex-crazed madness and restore a right understanding of feminine dignity, mystery and beauty?