Sex Actually, a new series on Channel 4, claims to explore what sex really means to people these days by following couples who film themselves in the act – together or alone, they're not picky – livestream it, and then charge people to view.
It's a big and highly lucrative business apparently, as borne out by a remark from one of the show's participants, "You've got to remember it's work and it's a service people are paying for."
How could we forget?!
The documentary is produced by Louis Theroux and fronted by Alice Levine, who, according to a report in The Guardian, is perfect for the job, being "witty, non-judgmental, and refreshingly unable to keep a straight face when in the room with a couple putting on a livestreamed show".
And the series is billed by Channel 4 as a "sex odyssey that goes under the nation's bedsheets to discover what really turns people on".
Has it really come to this? The Guardian, in its review, carries the headline "turning love into porn", but this is something of a misdescription because, from the beginning, there appears to be no love involved in this smutty and sordid paean to sex. Rather, it's an exercise in titillation and voyeurism from start to finish, and the very idea leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth.
Not so long ago, society had a word to describe this sort of behaviour ⎼ prostitution, defined as 'the practice or occupation of engaging in sexual activity with someone for payment'. Which seems to be exactly what the people involved in this series, by their own boast, do. True, they may not physically engage in intercourse with strangers, but they are performing sex, which voyeurs then pay to view. And, from the report, some also energetically participate, while watching.
To return to The Guardians' review, however, from its tone, it would seem we're supposed to find the series funny. Or at least, if we can't summon a belly laugh to accompany Ms Levine's bubbly sense of non-judgmental fun, mildly amusing. And perhaps, the series seems to suggest, it's something the financially challenged might consider for themselves, because, as already said, it's not only fun but lucrative! Male couple Callum and Cole, for example, reportedly make a cool £200,000 a year, with customers choosing from a menu the activities they'd like the couple to perform, ranging from feet licking to goodness knows what!
I wonder if Callum and Cole are licensed and pay tax on all of this, and how the tax man classifies their work? Such considerations apart, however, this societal hunger to watch others indulging in risqué and imaginative sex can only be seen as a sign of the spreading moral rot at the heart of society – of contagion. By no stretch of the imagination is it really funny.
Warning the disciples in Corinth to avoid sexual immorality, St Paul famously stated, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit ... and that you are not your own" (1 Corinthians 6;19). The overall meaning to Christians seems pretty self-evident: men and women are made in the image of God, redeemed by Christ, and we should not, therefore, dishonour our bodies by sexual promiscuity and immorality, which behaviours belong to 'the old order'. But, if you look up the word 'temple' in a dictionary, the statement begins to take on far deeper meaning. Collins, for example, defines a temple as "a building used for the worship of God or gods".
Now at first glance this may seem trivial but, by calling our bodies temples to the Holy Spirit, Paul is saying that our physical bodies are an expression of a spiritual reality and allegiance that goes far beyond carnal satisfaction, and that our behaviour and attitudes are expressive of who we worship. We're either on one team or the other.
Seen in this light, a programme entirely devoted to footage of couples either having sex or masturbating online is not just demeaning to those involved, but is an overt spiritual challenge. It is, in fact, an attempt by paganism – which exalts sex into an act of worship - to re-assert supremacy over Christ – who tells us to crucify self, that we might enter into the deeper and infinitely richer reality that is God's gift, and leads to life.
We need to be aware that, in society today, we are witnessing spiritual war. Over the last century, evil, sated by this ever-growing worship of 'self', sex and death, has grown strong – so much so that Satan is now overtly challenging God and trying to claw back control. He cannot ultimately win, of course – the final outcome was decided at the Cross. But while we await Christ's return in glory and the devil remains free, he can cause a lot of damage, and the souls of those who fall under his beguilement will be lost.
It is tempting to regard the Sex Actually series as unimportant and just ignore it. But the truth is, the more, as a society, we allow this poison to take root, the more we allow evil to grow. Not only does God's judgement then become assured, but many of those amongst whom we live will be eternally damned.
Rev Lynda Rose is founder of Voice for Justice UK, a group which works to uphold the moral values of the Bible in society.