Christian Living Culture Ethics Sex and sexuality

Russell Brand is (almost) Right about Sex and Society

This is my latest article on Christian Today – I think Brand is spot on in much of what he says on this subject…Be good to hear your views…

Why Russell Brand is right about sex

I was a little surprised to see Russell Brand on Prospect Magazine’s shortlist of 2015’s top 50 intellectuals. But only a little. Brand may be a cultural icon, but he is also an original thinker, if at times frustrating and annoying. Sometimes he is almost prophetic in his understanding and analysis of contemporary culture. None more so that in his analysis of sex and society in this edition of ‘The Trews’. You can view it here (warning, contains some explicit language).

For those who haven’t the time or the inclination to watch the whole thing let me summarise where Brand has got it spot on.

1) The trivialisation of sex – He points out that although our society is obsessed with sex yet somehow we have managed to trivialise it.

2) The commercialisation and commodification of sex – Sex sells. Not just in terms of pornography and prostitution but also in the use of sex for advertising purposes. Last week I listened to a mother on the BBC explaining her job as a ‘sex worker’ and how it affected her relationship with her daughter. Incidentally, surely the use of the term ‘sex worker’ is an oxymoron. It’s not work. It’s selling your body for the sexual gratification of (usually) men outwith the context of any loving relationship. It’s prostitution. The various justifications made, “it’s just a job, no-one has the right to judge me, my job is not immoral, it’s keeping lonely men company,” only serve to show how right Brand is with his analysis. I wonder if the BBC would have been quite so understanding and ‘non-judgemental’ if they had done a programme entitled ‘my mother is a UKIP candidate’!

3) The perversion of sex – largely through the many shades of pornography. Brand’s quotes here would be laughed out of court if made in public by an evangelical Christian. Look at some of the things he says, “Our attitudes towards sex have become perverted and deviated from its true purpose as an expression of love and a means for procreation” – Amen. There are “icebergs of filth floating through every house on wifi” – Amen again. “If you are constantly bombarded with great waves of filth it’s very hard to remain connected to truth” – Amen and thrice Amen!

And there is much more. Soft-core porn is everywhere. The problem with pornography is not that it shows too much, it shows too little. The effects of porn are not to enhance sex but to demean and weaken it. A cheap view of sex leads to a lack of trust and the belief that promiscuity is the natural state. It is corrupting for young people. It leads to voyeurism and the objectification of women (and men) where we end up looking upon people as objects, not people. As a result, pornography leads to a fear of intimacy and creates loneliness.

Brand is spot on. The trouble is that our society has become incredibly confused about sex and its purposes and as a result we have become confused about many other things – gender, identity, sexuality, community, society, family and love.

In essence there are two views of sex that make logical sense. The one regards sex as appetite, the other as sacred. Since the 1960s our culture has largely bought into the lie that sex is just another appetite, to be indulged in the same way as our appetite for food. “I feel like a quickie” can be equally applied to fast sex as it can to fast food. Nowadays the concept of ‘making love’ would be seen as quaint and antiquated. Sexual promiscuity is deemed to be the norm – after all is it not the way that most people are wired? Sexual fidelity is no longer considered a required quality in our political, cultural or even religious leaders.

We have sown the wind, and now we are reaping the whirlwind. In 1975 James Clavell published his epic ‘Shogun’. It is a well-written, fascinating and brilliant book – yet even then reading it as a teenager I realised that the sexual relativism of the 1960s was somehow being normalised. It was assumed that sleeping with boys, girls or animals was just another expression of sexual appetite and should be catered for. In the early 1970s it looked as though British and American society was headed down that route. It was the ‘innocent’ era of Jimmy Savile, Gary Glitter and numerous other ‘stars’ who used their fame, wealth and power to indulge their sexual appetites. We are reaping the fruits of what the sexual libertines sowed in the 60s. Thankfully paedophilia is now considered one of the great sins of our society – although with the disintegration of Christianity, the rise of Internet porn and the general confusion and sex and sexuality, I would not be surprised to see that also change. Meanwhile we are faced with the consequences of our society acting upon the recreational view of sex – sexually transmitted diseases, dysfunctional families, confused young people, ‘all the lonely people’ and we have even seen the return of slavery – through the ‘trafficking ‘ of ‘sex workers’.

Brand asks the key question: “How can we understand our sexuality, how can we express it lovingly, in harmony with the principles that it’s there to demonstrate: procreation and sensual love between consenting adults?”

That is a question which can only be answered by those who regard sex as sacred. In part two of this article we will look at how the church has coped with this change in sexual attitudes. Have we grasped what is going on? How have we reacted to it? But I leave you with one final counter cultural thought from Russell Brand: “I feel that if I had total dominion over myself, I would never look at pornography again”. Self-control. Not a word you often hear in Sex Education classes, nor one you read in all the ‘how to’ manuals or soft porn that masquerades as drama, music and entertainment. It doesn’t really fit with ‘just do it’, but it does fit with the fruits of the Holy Spirit!


  1. Agreed. I think I mentioned something else here about Brand whether it was to do with this video or his response to Fry or both I can’t remember.

    At the risk David of you considering another comment of mine to be “disturbing” I would suggest that this video and conversations spinning off have been a positive side effect to the 50 shades film in addition to Anna saying “no” at the end of the film. Traditionally seen as a male problem, the porn now with the objectification also of men by women is highlighted as an issue by Brand.

    What naturally follows as another concern David is what you have mentioned about if it were an evangelist to say such things there being a different response. So why is that? To what degree has evangelicalism lost touch and failed to be seen as relevant and to what degree has society unfairly rejected evangelicalism as a voice?

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