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Sex Is Good, Violence Is Bad?

by Matt Abbott

I remember reading an article about why MTV’s music videos are so raunchy. An official of the contemporary music television station was quoted as saying that “sex is good, violence is bad.” In other words, he didn’t see anything wrong with producing and showing sexually suggestive material, because, in his mind, the portrayal of such material isn’t immoral; only the portrayal of violence is.

But such an argument is seriously flawed. It is obviously true that sex, in its proper context, is a beautiful act. It is a gift from God. A gift which was meant for man and woman, joined in holy matrimony, to create new life and to show their authentic love for each another.

Such a sacred act simply cannot be portrayed on screen, for it is then reduced to pornography. Pornography, in the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials” (no.2354).

So the on-screen portrayal of the marital act is intrinsically immoral. Period. Not necessarily so with violence, however.

True, the case can be made that portraying gratuitous violence is immoral; but here lies an important moral distinction between the portrayal of sex and the portrayal of violence. Morally speaking, it is far less likely that one who sees violence in a movie or in a television program will be “inspired” to commit a violent act (though I’m sure there have been at least a few such cases). The portrayal of sex, on the other hand, can and does lead many people to commit sins against chastity, namely, fornication, masturbation, adultery, and the entertaining of unchaste thoughts and desires. It is, therefore, what is known in Catholic theology as an occasion of sin – a person, place, or thing that is likely to lead one to commit a sin.

Many liberals just don’t get this. Or, because they themselves live immoral lifestyles, they don’t want to get it. But they will rail against the non-gratuitous violence of a masterpiece like “The Passion of the Christ.” Such a movie pricks the collective conscience of the libertine left, and they don’t like that – at all.

“Schindler’s List” contains a gratuitous sex scene, but I don’t recall any of these decadent critics criticizing that aspect of the movie. In fact, it would seem that the more pornographic the movie, the more these critics laud it. Go figure.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m certainly not advocating that children should be allowed to watch movies or television programs containing violence, especially gratuitous violence. But I would submit that MTV does far more harm to the youth – and society in general – by its sexually suggestive programming than any cops-and-robbers, shoot ‘em up feature. Or, of course, a movie about the last 12 hours of the life of the God-man, Jesus Christ.


Catholic Online  IL, US
Matt Abbott - Author, 661 869-1000



movies, morality

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