A Meditation on the Reality of Porn Through The Lens of Dante

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Dante with Beatrice

To the degree in which we recognize the reality behind the fantasy of pornography will be the degree to which we wish to renounce it.

This is because pornography isn’t simply poor taste or unsophisticated, but depraved. Wicked.

There is a very interesting moment in Canto XIX of Dante’s Purgatorio which sheds light on this reality. Meditating upon it, I think, will shed light upon the ugliness of porn and inspire us to spurn it!

Dante encounters, in a vision, a mysterious woman. The woman represents the abandonment of reason to physical appetite.

Initially Repulsed

When Dante first lays eyes on her she appears hideous.

He writes:

 

“there came to me in a dream a stuttering crone,

squint-eyed, clubfooted, both her hands deformed,

and her complexion like a whitewashed stone.”

 

In my experience this is usually the reaction people have when they first encounter hard-core pornography. It is jarring, unbeautiful, and unwelcome.

Soon Attracted

What happens next with Dante and the woman is also analogous to what happens with the porn user’s perception of pornography as he begins to view it with regularity.

Now, keep in mind I’m not making a parallel between the woman in Dante’s vision and any one pornography performer. These porn performers, though they are engaged in a bad act, are not themselves intrinsically bad. Instead, I’m making a parallel between the woman in Dante’s vision and pornography per se.

He writes:

 

“I stared at her; and just as the new sun

breathes life to night-chilled limbs, just so my look

began to free her tongue, and one by one

 

drew straight all her deformities, and warmed

her dead face, till it bloomed as love would wish it

for its delight. When she thus transformed,

 

her tongue thus loosened, she began to sing

in such a voice that only with great pain

could I have turned from her soliciting”

 

While hard-core pornography may at first repulse, if we stare upon it long enough, as Dante stared upon the woman, we begin not only to like it, but crave it. We become intoxicated. Soon, that which should be offensive seems wholesome.

Just as it would have caused Dante great pain to look away, so it is with the one being seduced by pornography.

In Comes Mary

As the woman in Dante’s vision is still speaking, a saintly lady appears at Dante’s side. Though it’s unclear from the text, a plausible interpretation is that she is the Blessed Virgin Mary, so that’s what I’m going with.

Dante says that this Heavenly woman was “poised and eager to heap confusion on the [woman’s] pride.”

She then says to Virgil (who, by the way, in the poem represents human reason . . .  a very important point):

 

“O Virgil, Virgil!” Who, “she cried, “is this?”

Roused by her indignation, Virgil came:

His eyes did not once leave that soul of bliss.”

 

Just as Our Lady helped Dante, so she wishes to help us.

Just as Virgil, when roused by the woman to act, keeps his eyes on the woman, so when the pin-pricks of reason begin to wake us from temptation we should remove our eyes from the source of it, and turn them to her; the Blessed Virgin Mary; to she that “cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the Sun, terrible as an army set in battle array?” (Solomon 6:10).

As St. Josemaria Escriva put it, “Before, by yourself, you couldn’t. Now, you’ve turned to our Lady, and with her, how easy!”

The Revealing

Our Lady then summons Virgil (reason) to strip this woman of her façade.

 

“He seized the witch, and with one rip laid bare

all of her front, her loins and her foul belly:

I woke sick with the stench that rose from there.

 

I turned them and my Virgil said to me

“I have called at least three times now. Rise and come.”

 

When a man is tempted to look at porn or is committing the very act of looking at it, his conscience—if he hasn’t almost killed it—is calling out to him, urging him back to sanity. If, by God’s grace, he listens to it, he will in an instant see the vileness of the act he is committing, rise there and then, and flee.”

As St. Philip Neri put it, when it comes to the sins of the flesh, it is the coward who is victorious.

Read it for yourself

There’s much more that could be said. Dante is a gold mine! Read the Canto slowly for yourself. You might also the following reflection on the Canto by a good friend of mine, Sebastian Mahfood, helpful as you read through the text yourself.

 

One thought on “A Meditation on the Reality of Porn Through The Lens of Dante

  1. Good logic, church teaching on love, and a romantic theme. You are trying to engage those young women who are now falling victim to this most vicious industry?

    I pray for you in this new level of sophistication and mannerism. May it appear like a sight to Virgil. May this Virgil express the prosody to strip the narcissism from the proseity within the desire for porn.

    A doll house where the ego driven selfish love awakens the id to manifest the superego in surrender to the love of Jesus. May it inspire reconciliation and return to the tea party innocence inside the true house. The House of God where He offers not tea but True Presence and real joy, not thrills but lasting peace.

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