The New Safe Sex

Madonna's new book is just what we'd expect of her: sleazy, staged, exploitive. Calculated to make money off people's weaknesses. Madonna knows all too well that, as literature professor Ed Veith once said, "Original sin has great marketing potential." But wait a minute. Here comes Newsweek magazine telling us that isn't what Madonna's about at all. Between the book's metal covers, says Newsweek, is the newest strategy for preventing AIDS. Pornography, we learn, is just the latest in safe-sex strategies. In the magazine's own words, "Voyeurism is becoming the safest sex around." This is not a joke. Newsweek is completely serious. With a straight face, the magazine says that in an age when casual sex has become dangerous, people need to learn how to enjoy substitutes. Pictures and photos will have to take the place of the real thing. Come on, Newsweek. AIDS has been used to justify a whole range of radical agendas, but this is going too far. The threat of AIDS is already put forth as the reason schools need to offer more and more explicit sex education to younger and younger children. The threat of AIDS is the ever-useful rationale for handing out condoms to teens and adolescents. The threat of AIDS is behind the push for videos and books on safe sex that are so explicit they qualify as soft porn. But now "safe sex" is being used as justification for a host of deviant practices. Time magazine recently ran an article about phone sex—erotic telephone conversations between people who never see one another. The magazine labels it "the ultimate in '90s safe sex." And I just read a newspaper article by a psychologist in praise of sexual fantasies. After all, says the psychologist, fear of AIDS is inspiring more couples to stay together—and how are you ever going to stand monogamy if you don't at least fantasize about a wild sex life? Again, I assure you these articles are completely serious. Remember when AIDS was first diagnosed? Many predicted that it would turn the sexual revolution around. Monogamy would flourish again, out of sheer pragmatism: because people don't want to die. But these expectations were bitterly disappointed. And instead AIDS has become one more lever to pry loose the remnants of biblical sexual morality. Newsweek even quotes a writer saying that the leather and chains of sado-masochism are becoming more popular today because "they are safe." Apparently anything that doesn't exchange bodily fluids counts as "safe sex." But people are only fooling themselves if they really think it's "safe" to take the lid off pornography, sexual fantasies, phone sex, and other random kinkiness. The Bible calls this temptation. If we surround ourselves with provocative words and images, inevitably we will succumb—first in imagination and eventually in body as well. The very things that are being touted as "safe"—because they're substitutes for real sex—won't remain substitutes for long. So don't be taken in by Madonna and her brash eroticism just because someone labels it "safe." Sin remains sin, whether in the mind or in the body. And these days the consequences can be deadly.


Chuck Colson


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