Anachan's Corner

One woman's journey through marriage, motherhood, and the classroom…

“If There Be Any Virtue . . .”

Written By: Anachan - May• 21•16

Some time ago, I noticed a freshman student had a copy of Water for Elephants on her desk.

“Is it a good book?” I asked her pleasantly.

She nodded her head.  Then her face screwed up a bit.  “But there was this one part . . .” Her voice trailed off, and she fidgeted slightly in her seat.

“Ah,” I replied, “I think I know what you mean.”

Relief showed in her face.  “It completely surprised me!”

I looked at the quoted review on the cover.  “There’s your first clue,” I said, pointing to the word “sensual” in the review.  “If you see this in a review, it is likely to contain explicit scenes.”

We chatted on a bit longer.

“Why would this be in our school library?” she asked, cocking her head to one side.

“Well,” I considered, “it’s likely our librarian hasn’t read it and so doesn’t know what’s in it.”


Later that afternoon, I approached the librarian.

“I had an interesting conversation with one of my students today,” I told her and proceeded to give her a brief summary of my student’s concerns.

She nodded slowly.  “Yes, I remember that part.  But it didn’t bother me half as much as the part where he tortured the elephant.”  She gave me a pointed look.

It occurred to me at that moment that there was no point continuing this conversation.  In a flash, I realized that, although she was a very active Christian, our core value set was very different.

Now, I do not condone the mistreatment or neglect of animals.  (Ask any of my daughters who has forgotten to finish her animal chores.)  But to say that sexually explicit scenes in a book may be acceptable because the same book contains something someone considers worse is absurd.

That’s like saying I should ignore a child’s disparaging remarks toward another just because they are also swearing.  I would address both issues.

And who is to say that cheapening intimate relationships is actually less serious?

Most people would agree that torturing animals is a sign of a troubled psyche.  But what happens when our society treats the sacred procreative union between man and woman in a voyeuristic manner?  What happens when sex becomes something only for selfish, personal pleasure, rather than a means whereby to strengthen the relationship between husband and wife and bring God’s children into the world?

Sexually descriptive scenes in books have the same effect as pornography. Pornography feeds on this desire for personal pleasure, rather than an expression of love and commitment.  It is addictive, through the hormones it activates, and it sets an unrealistic expectation of what intimate activities should entail. It has been shown to actually destroy marriages because a partner may perceive the relationship is failing to meet these expectations.

It is better, in my opinion, to keep intimate relations private, behind closed doors, rather than cheaply glorifying them in print or on film.  Make this experience something special between spouses, something sacred and very, very personal to enhance their permanent commitment–in many cases, a covenant with God–and to strengthen their bond.

And that is why I still maintain that, no matter what other horrifying things may also be included in a book, the fact that it contains explicitly depicted sexual scenes is still cause for concern.

Remember the words of Paul in the New Testament:  “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”  (Philip. 4:8, KJV)

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