I was out this eve, took the little one for a walk to get him to sleep. Grabbed a coffee for the walk back, and the lovely young thing who served it to me took it upon herself to do some impromptu standup.

“My two cents worth,” she says, dropping two pennies into the change/tip thingy.

And then she apologizes for going with the painfully obvious line—as is only just—with the standard “I’m here all week.”

I smile. Say: “Don’t threaten me.”

No, it wasn’t intended unpleasantly. I’m a regular. She knew. Really.

Anyway. I was reading this news story this morning, and it’s one of those things that’s just straight line after straight line. They’re all just sitting there begging for the punchline—so much so that you have to suspect the parties responsible must be doing it on purpose. I passed on it at the time exactly for that reason. Too easy. Way too easy.

But now that I think about it, the lovely young thing has a point. Sometimes, ya just gotta do the really obvious joke.

Or jokes, as the case may be. So indulge me a few, if you would.

The story was this: a Christian evangelical type is hanging out at porn conventions…

Erm… Okay. I guess that’s not so much news. So let me clarify: a Christian evangelical type is hanging out at porn conventions… and he’s not travelling under an assumed name, stocking up on sex toys, piling up DVDs ‘for research purposes’ or any such thing.

No. Apparently his intention is to advertise his alleged deity’s alleged benefits to the sort of folk who attend porn conventions for more typical reasons… and to the talent, to the folk hawking the sex toys, and to any other miscellaneous sex industry types who might be in attendance. And the attention-grabbing title on the reconstituted babble of ancient writings and modern misinterpretations he’s handing out is ‘Jesus loves porn stars’…

To which all I can say is: okaaaay, but who doesn’t?

Like I said, I’m here all week.

Now, in fairness, the guy doing this—one J.R. Mahon—sounds to my ear somewhat less obnoxious than certain other contemporary members of his religion. “Give to the poor, evangelize on a city street, bring the hooker to church, just get off your butt and do something,” he says.

Not bad. Or better, at least, than certain apocalyptic/Christianist types whose talking points are more of the ‘Gays are evil’ (thank you, Fred Phelps) and ‘God created the middle East for us to bomb’ (yes I’m paraphrasing… but not that loosely) variety.

But I’m sorry. As (relatively) nice as Mahon’s sentiment sounds, I still just can’t help myself. Bring the hooker to church, huh?

Okaaay… I like the way you think. Kinky. And hey, I’m sure the pews shouldn’t be much worse than the beds in your average pay-by-the-hour hotel room, anyway…

Rimshot, please.

Somewhat more seriously, from where I’m standing, less obnoxious or not, Mahon’s line is still only so much of an improvement.

I mean, yeah, sure, there may or may not be issues you could take with porn. Dehumanizing? Maybe. Certainly, here and there. I mean, I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically or necessarily dehumanizing about showing people having sex and enjoying it. Nor does it necessarily follow that portraying an attractive naked female body purely to arouse those of us who tend to enjoy looking at attractive naked female bodies must make us think less of the depicted woman or of women in general.

That said, showing said attractive naked female having sex with Ron Jeremy, well, gee, yeah, probably that is a bit dehumanizing.

Not to mention seriously unattractive. But making the same point a bit more seriously: such critiques of porn depend on context and circumstance, and I think it’s fair to say there’s good and bad out there. And I get mixed reports in terms of what are the actual experiences of people working in the sex industry, from such works as Carly Milne’s (no relation) Naked Ambition, to stories of such unpleasant trends as strip clubs charging dancers ‘stage fees’ and generally making their lives less profitable and more miserable, and edging their performers ever closer to prostitution by making the lap dance the only way to make a decent buck.

So porn’s a mixed bag, methinks. Good and bad. And it’s probably quite possible to enjoy a good sex scene without seriously messing up your psyche. Keep in mind that fantasy is fantasy, and no, real people don’t always quite look like that, and you’re probably going to live. So most of the people Mahon’s group seem so worried about for viewing such material aren’t probably suffering much for doing so.

I mean, apart from the guilt. And oh, yeah, there’s gotta be lots of that. Mahon’s religion, remember, is one of those which at its worst seems happy to visit upon its adherents a deep sense of shame for virtually any expression of sexuality.

I mean, what, brother? You feel lust? You looked at an attractive woman and thought ‘Mmmmm… Looks… Nice…’?

Dreadful. Has thine eye offended thee? Pluck it out, brother…

Yeeeah. Right. There’s a healthy attitude.

Now you might find yourself wondering, given such an essentially hysterical response to a basic biological drive, whether the folks with such attitudes are simply insane. Or, as previously suggested ‘round here, that maybe there’s a certain mangled, frightened juvenile quality about the thinking involved… or just that the perhaps understandable and sane wish to have a little rational control over basic drives has morphed in this case somehow into a worldview so oddly self-hating—hateful of something so essentially human, and, on occasion, so beautiful.

All of that might be true. But y’know, I also suspect there’s a particularly cynical, mercenary reason religions dump on sexuality. It’s such a fundamental drive, such a universal thing. So if you convince people desire is sinful, you’ve pretty much guaranteed yourself a steady supply of guilty, conflicted ‘sinners’ in need of the ‘salvation’ you sell, haven’t you?

But hell, it would make about as much sense to declare breathing a sin. And they probably would have (‘Do thy lungs offend thee, brother?’) if it weren’t for that little logistical problem. Which is: if your followers were to take your admonition seriously and tear their lungs out to shake off the sinful urges of their chest cavities, they wouldn’t be likely to live long enough to tithe.

Anyway. Back to the business at hand. Which is, as you remember, easy one-liners. The snappy concluding quote of the article above is:
“If Jesus was here today, he’d go to the porn shows,” says Mahon.
To which all I can say is: I dunno. I’m not sure I can picture Jesus at a scene like that.

No. He always seemed like more the discreet downloader/soft-core cable porn type to me.

And I guess, with that, I’m done.