Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Gender - Genesis 1:27

This week we fight pornography by discussing the influence of pornography on gender, as we continue our Origins Bible study series in the book of Genesis.

So God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

 וַיִּבְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים ׀ אֶת־הָֽאָדָם֙ בְּצַלְמ֔וֹ בְּצֶ֥לֶם אֱלֹהִ֖ים בָּרָ֣א אֹת֑וֹ זָכָ֥ר וּנְקֵבָ֖ה בָּרָ֥א אֹתָֽם׃

Immediately after describing the image of God in humankind, the Biblical text notes that God created people according to two genders: male and female. As such, gender is God's first gift to people, after their creation in His likeness.

Gender is also the first thing that is noticed when a child is born: "It's a girl!" or "It's a boy!" From that moment forward, it would be rude to call the baby "it" instead of "he" or "she."

Gender Value
According to this Scripture, both men and women are created in the image of God. Although Adam was created before Eve (both in this verse and in Genesis 2:18-24), and Eve was created out of Adam's "side", Eve does not represent less of God's image than Adam. While perhaps it could be said that man and woman represent God's image better together than separately, this Scripture gives no basis for devaluing women - because she also is a bearer of God's image.

In many cases, pornography involves the subordination of one gender over the other. The basic act of viewing pornography involves my subordination of those on the screen to my desires, and this is often according to a specific gender. In addition, pornography often mixes aggression and violence with sexual acts. This further degrades and devalues those portrayed, and as an extension devalues and degrades a certain gender's value in the mind of the viewer.

This devaluation can happen in any direction. Women can be degraded in the eyes of men, women can be degraded in the eyes of women, men can be degraded in the eyes of men, and men can be degraded in the eyes of women. For example, if a women views porn that is degrading to women, her own value as a woman can be degraded in her own eyes.

Some may claim that watching porn has no effect on their internal values and their external actions. However, brain scans of porn users show that:
"the brain is "neuroplastic", and not only can it change, but that it works by changing its structure in response to repeated mental experience."
Not only that, studies show that "pornography has an impact on the behavior and social cognition of its consumers" including a decrease in grey matter volume in the brain.

Pornography, even in non-addictive quantities, has the high probability of negatively impacting our minds and attitudes about gender, whether our own or other peoples.

Sexual Attraction
Another way that porn can affect us is by actually changing our sexual desires:
"Porn scenes, filled with novel sexual "partners", fire the reward centre. The images get reinforced, altering the user's sexual tastes."
For example, James Shupe wrote about the effect of pornography on his mind:
"After having watched pornography for years while in the Army and being married to a woman who resisted my demands to become the ideal female, I became that female instead. At least in my head."
After his painful journey through transgenderism and nonbinarism, he came to the conclusion that "All of my sexual confusion was in my head," and "my sex change to nonbinary was a medical and scientific fraud." Early on in his journey, pornography reinforced and encouraged his gender confusion.

Pornography use leads us down a path of addiction in which we need more and more extreme material in order to be satisfied. Although it might begin with viewing one person, pornography inevitably leads to scenes with multiple partners, both men and women. This can lead to gender confusion.

"adolescents and adults with a not exclusively heterosexual orientation watch SEIM [sexually explicit internet material] more frequently than exclusively heterosexual individuals do. ... the more liberal sexual attitudes of lesbian girls, gay boys, and bisexual adolescents increase the likelihood that they experience SEIM as congruent with their identity."
Why is this? Could it be possible that the knife actually cuts the other way? Could it be that pornography use affects and influences peoples' sexual orientation and sexual attitudes? All the evidence suggests that this is the case.

If we return to our earlier example of a woman who views porn that degrades women, this can have several different negative effects, some of which may be:
  • embracing male domination and seeing herself as lesser in value
  • rejecting male domination and embracing female domination in lesbianism
  • embracing male domination and desiring it for herself through transgenderism
All of these result from a deep degradation of the God-given value of both genders.

Indisputably, porn usage results in a desire "to actualize what was seen in real life." In one study of frequent porn users, 69.8% said that porn "Makes me want to try what I saw", and 52% said "I have tried sexual activities I was inspired to try through pornography."

The influence of porn includes scenes of multiple partners of different genders. As such, pornography use inevitably leads to confusion about sexual attraction, and can actually form sexual desires in people that were not previously present.

God's Gift of Gender
At the moment of conception, God endows each of us with our gender, and that gift shapes us for the rest of our lives.

In Genesis 2:18 and 20, God looks for an עזר כנגדו for the man. This Hebrew phrase describes a suitable, equal, matching companion that "helps" the man - to do for him what he cannot do for himself. The man and the woman "match" each other - not only physically, but as a totality of spirit, mind, and body.

This idea of mutual companionship and respect based on the intrinsic value present in both genders is completely lacking in pornography. Pornography distorts and degrades our thoughts about gender, and influences us to act in ways that God did not intend, and were not part of our innate natural sexual desires to begin with.

Will I allow porn to negatively influence and degrade my thoughts about gender? Or will I value both genders as a priceless gift from the Creator?
Pornography distorts and degrades one of our most precious gifts from God, our gender.

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