Like millions of other Americans, I watched Super Bowl 54 last night. The game itself was good, with two teams going at it for all they were worth. Since I didn't have a favorite to support, I was able to enjoy the game overall, and support the sport rather than a tribal favorite participant. The Kansas City Chiefs won, but that was only clinched in the last quarter of the game. Up until then, their opponents, the San Francisco 49ers, could have won as well - both teams were very evenly matched. Congratulations to both sides.
What really saddened me - and I do mean saddened, depressed, sorrowful - was the half-time show. Shakira and Jennifer Lopez put on a display that is, I suppose, par for the course these days, supported by dozens of backup dancers . . . but it was nothing more or less than sex-in-your-face. There was precious little artistry or elegance about it. All it was was bodies so scantily clad that they might as well have been nude, "dance" moves that were more reminiscent of bump-and-grind sexual acts than actual dancing, and a flaunting of the lack of moral standards by everyone concerned.
I'm not approaching this specifically from a Christian perspective, even though I happen to be a believer. To me, it's a matter of basic human self-respect. If you put yourself out there, like a side of beef in a butcher's shop, for the whole world to ogle and lust after; if you know, beyond doubt, that perverted individuals will masturbate to those images of you, imagining themselves to be your sexual partners while they watch you cavort and contort around the stage; if you don't care about those things . . . what does it say about you? It says you're content to be nothing more than a sexual and physical object, a sex toy, a living Fleshlight for others to use (even if mentally, rather than physically) and then discard.
I long for a return to the days when men tried (at least in theory) to be more gentlemanly, no matter how many of them failed in the attempt. I long for the days when women strove to be ladies, at least outwardly. I absolutely hate the fact that people so casually talk today about "f***ing" rather than "making love", or find their meaningful (?) relationships by swiping one way or another on dating apps, rather than actually getting to know someone and figuring out whether they were an intellectual, social and emotional match, as well as a potential mate. I think we've lost a great deal, and I don't know how we regain it from here.
Christopher DeGroot had some cogent comments in a recent article titled "The Strange 21st-Century Sexual Marketplace".
More and more, men and women are just not learning how to meet each other without the aid of technology—a cultural change whose significance it would be difficult to overestimate. Technology produces the illusion of rational control, making sex and love seem much simpler than they are. Technology allows us to deal with people at our convenience, to keep them at a certain comfortable distance. But notice the cost: Technology also exacerbates the natural selfishness and fickleness of human nature, and so internet dating is characterized by exceedingly unreliable characters, by things like ghosting and flaking, hell to men and women alike.
. . .
Well, those Tinder hookups are a lot of fun, you might say, but their immense societal cost is seen in the inverse relationship between the number of such women in a culture and the number of women who are worth marrying. Such cost is also apparent in the quality of male long-term partners. The rich irony, waiting patiently for many a haughty internet beauty who passes over all those oh-so-nice and oh-so-boring average Joes, is that many in the tiny minority of men who can dominate the sexual marketplace prefer having a variety of sexual partners to monogamous marriage. Monogamous marriage gets damn boring, lots of people feel, but in any case, there’s abundant data indicating that this institution is what is best for children and families.
. . .
The sexual revolution was supposed to “liberate” the sexes from “oppressive” norms and roles. In retrospect, it now seems clearer than ever that it was those very norms and roles that kept the sexual marketplace (and families) stable ... Without certain transmitted customs to which they feel answerable, the sexes are left to their own autonomy. At the individual level, this is typically something less than wise, and as the strange state of the 21st-century sexual marketplace attests, collectively a disaster. As past courtship rituals are supplanted by the shallow and transient interactions and encounters afforded by technology, the result is a lot of very horny and very lonely people who don’t know how to improve their situation.
There's more at the link.
I suppose many of those who attended last night's game will enjoy a "guilt-free" sexual encounter while on their pilgrimage to one of the sporting world's annual highlights, then go home to the mundane routine of their lives - but what will they take with them from those encounters (apart from the odd STD here and there?) . Will it be anything lasting, meaningful and worthwhile? I venture to doubt it. In fact, such encounters will make it far more difficult for them to form a permanent, stable relationship. When "giving oneself" to another has come to be nothing more than a temporary exchange of sexual favors, with no deeper meaning attached or involved, there's no foundation on which to build anything more lasting. One might as well call it mutual masturbation. That's all it amounts to, in the end - and it's of no lasting value at all.
I mourn for the fact that we have come to refer to the human mating instinct as a "sexual marketplace". It can be - and should be - so much more; but we've essentially dishonored it, by removing any vestige of "honor" from the relationship equation. How strange it is to say, as I can and do, that one of the things I love about my wife is that she's an honorable woman, and a lady (in the classical sense of that word). I have no fear of her straying (or vice versa), because we've grown to know and trust each other through some pretty difficult challenges, and we've chosen each other over all the rest of the world. How many people, in today's mating marketplace, can say that with any confidence? When you've had so many sexual partners that the memory of them blurs into each other . . . when sex is just a mechanical act you can do (and may well have done) with just about anyone, because it's meaningless as an expression of intimacy . . . where's the value in reserving it (and yourself) for that special person, your "other half"? When you no longer have anything special to offer each other, to express the unique bond in your relationship, what future is there for it?
I'm afraid that's one area, at least for me, where the Super Bowl . . . wasn't.