Much can be said about the incident last month in which explicit pictures of multiple celebrities were hacked and leaked online.
I don’t want to spend time talking about what a stupid idea it is to take and upload explicit photos of yourself (a.k.a. porn), nor do I want to talk about what an even stupider thing it is to hack into people’s private accounts, steal their photos, and spread them online. Those who committed this crime are guilty of both theft and sexual exploitation, and I’ve been glad to see those crimes condemned. Actor Lucas Neff, for example, tweeted “Stealing someone’s naked photos is the same as tearing someone’s clothes off in public. It’s sexual assault.” Quite right!
This week, Jennifer Lawrence—one of the victims of this crime—made her first official response to the incident in an interview for Vanity Fair. An article on MTV News, relates Jennifer as saying:
“I started to write an apology, but I don’t have anything to say I’m sorry for,” she said. “I was in a loving, healthy, great relationship for four years. It was long distance, and either your boyfriend is going to look at porn or he’s going to look at you.”
It’s that last line that I want to talk about. I find it, with all due respect to Lawrence, sexist, false, and sad.
It is sexist because it portrays men as only being interested in one thing and incapable of self control. These may be the sorts of “men” Lawrence runs circles with, but it doesn’t describe many of the men I know—men who are virtuous despite the temptations the world throws at them, who fight valiantly against selfishness, and desire to love the women they’re with as Christ loved the Church. That is, they’re willing to sacrifice things (including their immature desires) for the good of their beloved.
Secondly, it’s false. She says men have two options: 1) look at porn, or 2) look at you.
And by “look at you,” I assume she doesn’t mean, “look at you while you’re praying the rosary on your evening walk together.”
No, she means either a guy will lust over you or someone else. It’s like saying, “either your boyfriend will be obese or he’ll be anorexic.” Isn’t there a third option? Like, maybe he’ll be healthy? And there is such a thing as sexual health, we call it chastity. Though chastity may conjure up images of either uncomfortable belts or the notion of repressing sexuality in the name of “abstinence”… chastity is neither of these things but so much more.
Chastity is a virtue, like courage. Just as courage enables a man to be brave in the face of fear, so chastity enables a men and women to love in accord with their inestimable dignity and worth. A person who cultivates the virtue of chastity is one who is in control of their sexual desire, rather than their sexual desire being in control of him or her. To be chaste is to be free.
Finally, this statement from Lawrence is just sad. It’s as if she’s resigned herself to the belief that men are weak and lustful and so the best you hope for is that they’ll lust over you instead of the women in porn.
However, I can still see a flicker of hope. She at least doesn’t want a man she dates to lust over other women. That is, she wants a love that is faithful and exclusive. It’s funny isn’t it? That despite our culture’s mockery of marriage, there still resides deep within the human heart a desire for a love that is exclusive, faithful, and permanent.
We call that kind of true love marriage. The Church, in calling us to the virtue of chastity, and in extolling the Sacrament of Marriage, isn’t asking us to suppress our deepest desires, she’s telling us they’re attainable.
True love is attainable, but not without the cross.
It’s a cross to sacrifice the temptation of lust for the dignity and freedom of virtue. Love is not always easy, but it is worth it.
I can only pray that the men Jennifer Lawrence dates, as well of the rest of us take to heart the words of St. Josemaria Escriva:
“There is need for a crusade of manliness and purity to counteract and nullify the savage work of those who think man is a beast. And that crusade is your work.”
It is our work to be examples today. You can show the world that there is a better, healthier way to love. True love is not resigned to the inevitability of lust. True love does not mean you need to take off your clothes so that your boyfriend or girlfriend will remain faithful to you. True love is found in the freedom of chastity.
This article was originally published on Lifeteen.com
Matt Fradd is the author of the new book Delivered: True Stories of Men and Women who Turned from Porn to Purity.