Porn, Curiosity, Killing and Cat Videos image

Porn, Curiosity, Killing and Cat Videos

There is a common thread that unites pornography, murder, Netflix, skim-reading, Facebook and cat videos, argues Matt Anderson in a superb piece at TGC. The link is curiositas: "a restlessness of the spirit and mind, an unsettled anxiety that pursues new spectacles to consume. Such pleasurable novelties provide cheap mental stimulation with little to no work ... Curiosity fixes our attention on the 'things below,' the things that are seen, the things that we can dispense with the moment we are done. But because such visions lack depth they will never satisfy. And because they are ubiquitous they must become more outlandish."

If a society is drowning in curiositas, three things will happen.

First, it will attempt to peel back the curtain and lay bare sordid and dirty secrets. Curiosity aims to expose what ought not be known. Our society’s rampant fascination with the inner workings of the lives of celebrities—lives we will never have—may seem benign. But the voyeurism that moves someone to gaze lustfully through a window operates according to the same logic, only in a sexual key. We will have our spectacles wherever we can find them—and the more secret, the better.

Second, curiosity undercuts our stomach for more serious ventures. “Cat videos don’t really matter,” we say—and that is why our interest in them is damning. Curiosity is attentive only to the surface. It cannot abide the matter, the substance, or the depths before us. Curiosity is content with the image; but loving attention needs bodies ...

It is easy to see the spirit of curiositas at work in pornography. Porn offers the most alluring sort of spectacle. Depictions of individuals engaged in secret acts of grave importance can be viewed, enjoyed, and discarded with no investment or pain on the viewer’s part ... the body in its sexual presentation is now merely one more trivial amusement meant for the satisfaction of momentary and passing interests, leaving no permanent mark on the soul or the society. Sex no longer matters—which is why it will no longer be fun. For the comedy, the ordinariness, and the mundane weirdness of sex draw energy and life from the enchanted awe that tempts us to kneel in chaste humility before the glory of another human being. No longer sacred, sex has become nothing at all.

And third, people like me will condense two thousand words of careful argument into a few sentences. Which is why you should head over to TGC and read the whole thing.


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