Second, in the discussion of pornography Anderson hints at another underlying problem with our understanding of sexuality: the context in which we discuss it. We live in a thoroughly industrialized world in which everything is a tool and every action a technique. He briefly addresses this issue in the opening chapters when he discusses the “technocratic body.” Yet his proposed alternative to the technocratic body seems very idealistic, by which I mean it seems very grounded in abstract principles of individual thought. Here I fear the critique may not go far enough: Material causes establish what is more plausible and less plausible in a community. In our particular context, we treat everything as a tool.
Anderson’s rebuttal is to say “But the body isn’t a tool,” and that’s quite right. But our land, homes, money, and intellects are not tools either. They are gifts for which there is an appropriate stewardship and an inappropriate waste. Again, this discussion may go beyond the bounds of a book whose focus is the body. Yet it seems that Anderson’s critique runs the risk of being too small: Our problem isn’t just that we view the body as a tool; it’s that we view everything as a tool. If we’re to learn to view our body as something other than a tool it’s probable that we’ll also have to learn to view the rest of creation in the same way. It’d be quite helpful to hear Anderson’s thoughts on this point. What would a non-utilitarian ethic of creation look like?
The week has been busier for me than I had hoped, which means I won’t be able to respond to this and the tattoos post until Monday (or possibly even Wednesday), but I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.