I Took A Vacation From My Hyper-Sexualized Culture

street art at a tourist center..
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live in a culture that isn’t sex-crazed?

The internet, to my mind, has catalyzed the hyper-sexualization of cultures worldwide. Unrestricted porn access promises all the pleasure of sexual activity without any of the responsibility, confidential and on-demand. There is another factor, also, that I think can’t be reduced to the world wide web: culture. Culture consists of the prevalent ideas and values, and the social environment they give rise to, in currency among a given population.

American culture, and I know the majority of its counterparts today, is hyper-sexualized. I don’t doubt that porn helped foster this culture. Culture is ultimately shaped by people, and people who were raised on porn are more sexually perverse and hyper-sexual than not. The culture, however, is a force in its own right, and has only served to reinforce the problem of hyper-sexualization in a positive feedback loop (↑ Porn Consumption –> ↑ Hyper-Sexual People –> ↑ Hyper-Sexualized Culture). This is a kind of “race to the bottom,” where the problem just gets worse and worse until someone or something disrupts the process.

Life In A Hyper-Sexualized Culture

You log into Snap Chat and see featured stories and ads with women in skimpy clothing. You load up Instagram and YouTube and are prompted by similarly lewd content on a daily basis (let alone what you can discover if you use the search function!) Movies, books, TV shows, and advertisements disproportionately center on sex and its appeal (sex sells..) The availability and embellishment of pornography is temptation in its own right. On top of that, the culture tells people that it is natural, normal, and healthy to watch porn, even when experience and observation suggest otherwise.

What, the culture implies, could possibly be more important than sexual gratification, right here and right now?

In a hyper-sexualized culture, people try to get you to think about sex all day long, often for financial gain and at the expense of other important areas of life, like family, friends, work, education, and purpose.

We take it for granted, but cultures around the world haven’t always enlarged the sexual area to grandiose, larger-than-life, almost cartoonish proportions.

A few years ago, I spent the summer in the Arab Gulf country of Oman. The difference in the sexual area is one of the first things you will notice when you travel to a conservative country. Men and women wear modest clothing. There is public distance and respect between the sexes. And you aren’t bombarded with sexually explicit advertisements. The messaging surrounding sex there is entirely different.

If people want to be perverts behind closed doors, most of them at least have the decency to act respectable in public. I imagine this is what many cultures were like throughout history. I observed, and other people I’ve talked to who travel to these areas have also observed, that their minds think fewer sexual thoughts when in this kind of environment.

A culture that has a balanced view of sexuality leads to less perversion and addiction. Is it a coincidence that families in these countries, for all the attendant problems of every society, tend to be stronger? Today, porn use is a big problem in the entire world—and places like the Middle East is no exception—but the mainstream in many traditional cultures has yet to experience hyper-sexualization.

I’ve identified the problem, but most of you reading this live in hyper-sexualized cultures and don’t have plans to move to the desert anytime soon, so what can be done?

Changing My Environment

You don’t have to be the victim of your environment. You can also be the architect of it.

James Clear In Atomic Habits

Remember this: The man (or woman) makes the environment, and the environment makes the man (or woman).

If we’re trying to defeat lust today, we should focus as much effort on creating an environment conducive to sexual integrity as we do resisting temptation in the moment.

This may mean adding restrictions to our devices; making new friends, establishing accountability, charging our phones in another room; it may even mean going off the grid and cutting off internet access for large stretches of time.

Let’s not use the culture as an excuse. We are part of the culture, and we don’t have to let others dictate the quality of lives we live.

It will take being intentional and going against the grain, but the right path is rarely the one of least resistance.

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Matthew 7:13-14

For more, see the complete archive of articles on integrity.

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