One of my favorite experiences from college was helping to run a psychology study where we were looking at the effects of being exposed to sexualized images. It turned out that for both men and women, after being exposed to sexualized images, they were likely to objectify women in any scenario. I don’t know if the research ever got published, and I don’t know what my professor did next. But while I was running subjects, I could see with my own eyes the difference in how people behaved when they had just watched the average beer commercial, versus a picture that treated women with their due respect. The differences were immediate and drastic.
Helping to run that study led me down a rabbit hole of research. The next semester, I gave a 15-minute presentation in my public speaking class about the scientific research behind pornography use, and that really ruffled some feathers! I was shocked at how widespread the issue was, how devastating the effects were, and most surprisingly, how open my classmates were to learning the truth. During that project, I came across the organization called Fight the New Drug.
Guys. These people are amazing. They do some incredible work in getting the truth about pornography out there. For the last three years, they’ve run campaigns to contrast the release of the 50 Shades movies.
“50 Shades? I thought you were talking about pornography!”
Well, yes I am. Turns out that while the moral issues of producing smut versus pornography are a little different (smut doesn’t directly fuel human trafficking for instance), the results of consuming it are extremely similar and arguably identical: lower relationship satisfaction, increased tolerance and seeking out of more extreme stimuli, extremely warped ideas about what Love and sex should look like, and an increased desire to act out unhealthy fantasies.
I understand that I’m either preaching to the choir or falling on deaf ears with this, but I feel like it needs to be said anyways. There are so many different forms of “junk food sex and love” out there, and we have to start fighting for the real thing, the surf and turf dinner of love, if you will.
This year, if you’re feeling a little peckish for a good love story, then toss E.L. James in the garbage disposal, but don’t despair! I gotcha covered. I’m 100% anti-porn and anti-smut, but I am 100% pro-Love, and what Chloe would probably call a “hope-filled romantic”. In the interest of promoting all things Love as we lead up to Valentine’s Day (Ash Valentine’s Day, as I feel it should be officially called), here are some of my favorite Love Stories.
Anna Karenina- Tolstoy
I just had to start with this one. The two parallel love stories create an amazing contrast between real love and foolish infatuation. I don’t think I could ever tire of reading this book!
Book of Tobit
Not technically a love story, per se, but the romance between Tobias and Sara has always been an inspiration to me. We used the prayer from Tobit 8:5-9 as one of the readings for our wedding. Tobias and Sara are a reminder to me that marriage takes three– we can’t do this without the help of God.
McClintock/The Quiet Man
I’m definitely not a fan of the public wife abuse (sign of the times, I guess), but something about the way that John Wayne asserts himself as head of the family (and learns to respect his wife when all is said and done) reminds me of how we are supposed to relate to one another. “Wives, be subordinate to your husbands…. Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church”. Maybe a little drastic example of that isn’t all bad, as long as it’s fiction!
Emma- Jane Austen
I know that Pride and Prejudice is generally accepted as the Jane Austen masterpiece, but I disagree. Throughout the story, Emma and Mr. Knightley help each other to become so much better. That right there, is #relationshipgoals
Song of Songs
The language is bizarre, and at times ridiculous to our 21st Century brains, but I still think this is the greatest love poem ever written. Christopher West has a wonderful commentary on it, Heaven’s Song, that I highly recommend. But that line about “deer peering through lattices” is still weird.
Your Love Story!
If you need a pick me up, why not go back to your own love story? Thinking back to how we met in middle school debate, how we apparently were in the same driver’s ed class but I was too self-absorbed to notice, how we met again in college, fell in love, how he proposed under a lamppost, on one knee, in the rain, how he looked the first time holding our sons…. There’s no love story better. This isn’t your love story, but I can guarantee that the highlights of your love story are just as good, if not better, than any romance novel you could pick up.
The Holy Eucharist is the greatest love story that Creation will ever see. Jesus Christ left His perfect fulfillment and happiness in heaven to come suffer and die in the most shameful way possible for you. And beyond that, He stayed! Anytime you walk into a Catholic Church and see the red candle burning, that means He is in the Tabernacle, just waiting for you. He did suffer and die for all mankind, but if you were the only person on earth, He would have come to suffer and die just for you all the same.
It can’t possibly get more romantic than that.