Every Thursday we’ll post something having to do with relationships and/or emotions. Hope it helps.
The Stepford Syndrome
The power of porn may not just be its explicit content. It may also be its capacity to take the viewer into another world, a place where bodies and people are perfect, where imaginary lovers comply with every wish, and where the scene created perfectly matches the deepest desires of the viewer. It’s a perfect and perfectly destructive world, and it’s the stuff both horror and heartbreak are made of.
Novelist Ira Levin tapped into the horror of it in his fantasy drama The Stepford Wives, a chilling essay on chauvinism in which a New England town is inhabited by men who’ve perfected the art of re-creating their wives into compliant, flawless and utterly lifeless beings who live only to please their husbands. The procedure involves creating a replicant of the wife looking and behaving exactly as she does minus anything the husband dislikes. Then the wife is killed, of course, to make room for her new and improved model. When the main character in the story discovers Stepford’s secret, she asks the leader of the town the obvious questions: Why?
His answer is chilling in its simplicity.
“Because we can. If we can have you any way we want, why should we settle for you as you are?”
There’s the horror of it all – that a man would betray the real woman who loves him so that he can indulge in a phantom figure that doesn’t even know him.
The heartache of it lies in the number of men who’ve gotten hooked on the Stepford Syndrome, taking time, focus and sexual energy away from their wives and investing it in images that are perfect, exciting, and utterly unreal. CS Lewis framed the issue movingly decades ago when he wrote:
For me the real evil of masturbation would be that it takes an appetite which, in lawful use, leads the individual out of himself to complete his own personality in that of another and turns it back; sends the man back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides. And this harem, once admitted, works against his ever getting out and really uniting with a real woman. For the harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no woman can rival. Among those shadowy brides he is always adored, always the perfect lover; no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity. In the end, they become merely the medium through which he increasingly adores himself. (From a letter to a Mr. Masson dated March 6, 1956 in the Wade Collection at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL)
Ironically, however convenient it may be to skip the efforts involved in normal intimacy and instead settle for the cheap substitute of these ‘shadowy brides,’ the fact remains that the genuine needs of the soul cannot be met by Stepford Women. They offer no emotional support, provide no reliable nurturing, and have no partnering capacities whatsoever. Like the junk food some people eat in hopes of meeting their hunger needs, they supply a quick rush with no follow through, leaving the consumer hungry for more of what didn’t satisfy to begin with. Sometimes, in fact, I have to wonder who the porn user is being crueler to – his spouse or himself.
Regardless, I hope and trust that today, when images beckon from all sides, and when memory of a quick pleasure derived from porn conveniently omits the aftermath of shame and hurt, we’ll remember the real love and support that outweighs and outdoes the unreal hands down, slam dunk. And with that memory, we can consistently and resoundingly say No to the unreal and Hallelujah for the real.