5 Reasons Our Culture Is Obsessed with Sex

By Sean McDowell Aug. 2, 2017 1:07 p.m. Culture

Western culture is obsessed with sex. Sex dominates our movies, music, television, advertising, conversations, social media and more. But the question many people fail to ask is: why?

There are myriads of reasons for this. Some reasons are certainly more germane than others. And they undoubtedly overlap. Nevertheless, here are 5 reasons for western culture’s obsession with sex:

Reason 1: Our culture has lost belief in God. Over a century ago Nietzsche proclaimed that God was dead and that we had killed him. He didn’t mean that humans actually killed God, of course, but that western civilization had abandoned the idea of God. Even though many people claim to believe in God today, our culture has become functionally secular, as Nietzsche predicted. And without God, life has no objective meaning. It has no purpose. As Bertrand Russell observed, we must build our lives upon "the firm foundation of unyielding despair.”[1] Since transcendence can no longer be found in God or religion, many people turn to sex for momentary pleasure and meaning.

Reason #2: Our culture has lost belief in immortality. If there is no life after death, then the present becomes all-important. If death is imminent, and there’s no continuing life, then why not seize pleasure while you can? The Apostle Paul said that if there is no resurrection, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor. 15:32). In the 1980s, the music band Depeche Mode released a song called, Fly on the Windscreen. The verses of the song are about how human beings are waiting to die, like flies on a windscreen of a car, or lambs being lead to the slaughter. Death is imminent, the song proclaims. So what should we do? The chorus begins with (and repeats): “Come hear, touch me, kiss me, touch me now.”

Reason #3: Our culture has lost belief in the sacredness of sex. Despite the common mantra, Christianity is pro-sex. The Bible is not against the proper use of sex, but is against its abuse. God designed sex, after all, and made it pleasurable for a reason (e.g., see Proverbs 5). Scripture holds up sex as a beautiful gift from God that involves a sacred union between two people of the opposite sex (Gen. 2:24), and as a way people can bring glory to God (1 Cor. 10:31). In contrast, the mantra of the sexual revolution is that sex is not a big deal. In fact, according to this narrative, sex is merely a physical activity (void of any spiritual dimension) that many people engage in purely for fun. If this is the case, then why limit a fun activity? Ironically, it is the biblical worldview that counteracts the extremes of sex-obsession or sex-denigration. Christianity offers sex as a beautiful gift from God that is meant to be experienced within certain boundaries.

Reason #4: Our culture has lost belief that humans are made in the image of God. Naturalistic evolution is the idea that humans have come about through a purely blind, material, and purposeless process. The same unguided process that resulted in animals resulted in us. Thus, human beings are only different from animals merely in terms of degree, not of kind. If this is so, then why shouldn’t humans act like the rest of the animal kingdom? Why should we act differently from animals if we are essentially the same? According to Nancy Pearcey, in her book Saving LeonardoScarlett Johansson was asked about rumors that she is sexually promiscuous. She replied, “I do think on same basic level we are animals and by instinct we kind of breed accordingly.” She’s right. If we are merely evolved complex animals, then why not act like them?

Reason #5: Our culture is boredGeneration Z has been raised in a culture where they can have whatever they want, wherever they want it, whenever they want it, and however they want it. There are endless television channels, streaming music services, video games, and social media platforms that offer constant connection and entertainment. And yet the reality is that people are lonelier than ever. Rather than living meaningful lives, we live vicariously through stars. For a culture full of people who lack meaningful relationships, and a deeper purpose of life, sex naturally becomes an obsession.

Ironically, it’s not Christians who are obsessed about sex. Rather, it is a culture that has lost its Christian roots.


Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org. You can find the original version of this artical here.

[1] Bertrand Russell, "A Free Man's Worship," in Why I Am Not a Christian, ed. P. Edwards (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1957), 107.


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  • Mark Aug. 2, 2017 at 6:46 PM

    The idea that “conversations” display obsession with sex in ways they didn’t in the past would seem a nostalgic and naive view of past times. Sex couldn't be otherwise than a major topic of conversation. People don’t change. But the sexual images on movies, music, television, and advertising is no evidence of sexual obsession by the populace. It’s evidence that a commissar of public morality is considered even more problematic, as it is. Even with the best of intentions, the unintended consequences are known to be severe.

    The West’s understanding of personal virtue is the most reasonable. That the individual must be self-regulating. Personal self control. It is not now and has never been a good idea to judge a culture by what its entertainment elites manage to get shown. It’s not fair, not charitable, nor will it lead to anything near realism in one’s life.

    It’s not clear that Eastern cultures are less “obsessed” on any score. On participation, the Arab Middle East was a font of open sexual freedom until pretty recently. You also might want to read up on present day Pattaya Thailand or see how prostitution is legal in places such as Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Bangladesh, and arguably India and Thailand depending on the definition. Nor is it clear the seeming extreme regulation and control in places like today’s ME show less or more “obsession” with sex than the West. BTW, where on the “obsessed” scale does one place a nation disallowing sensual billboards/images/media when it's become the plastic surgery and sexual-change capital of the world, as in a major Eastern country?

    As a tenured Pakistani-American professor of English at Cal-State ten years ago told our class: “There is a perception in the East that the West is morally corrupt, but it isn’t true. Everything that happens here happens in Pakistan. The only difference is that it happens in secret.” Yes. Does it make a better society to disallow these images on media? Does it make a society less sex obsessed or more? Political questions.

    Unless we’re advocating for commissars of public morals, maybe we should dial back a notch on making sweeping and narrow moralistic judgments based on billboards, certainly of our own culture for which we should be thankful. Such judgments often serve as a stalking horse for Postmodernism’s sweeping rejection of the West and all things Western. If one thinks “Western culture has rejected God”, reflect that the “secularization thesis” is now largely discredited by its originators. thecresset.org/2014/Lent/Thuswaldner_L14.html Western self-reflection & criticism in action.

    Those flogging the “secularization thesis” might reflect that God is found in the mundane, rather than popular media. 1 Kings 19:11-13

    “… [I] think of the rabbi who was asked how it could be that God was manifest to people in the olden days whereas nowadays nobody ever sees God. The rabbi replied, “Nowadays there is no longer anybody who can bow low enough.”– Carl Jung

  • Mark Aug. 2, 2017 at 7:04 PM

    Lest self-criticism swell into self-loathing, we should be mindful to be circumspect about such things.


    You say you got a real solution
    Well, you know
    We'd all love to see the plan –Revolution, The Beatles

  • wj Oct. 7, 2017 at 12:57 AM

    With a vast development in our living, we live in a society where everything is expected to align with our happiness. However, the last point about our generation being bored was absolutely odd yet entirely true. Hypothetically, we should be the happiest generation of all times. This makes me question whether if we are spiritually deprived or what it is specifically that makes us less content today. We have all the freedom to do what we want to do, but are human beings meant to be restricted so that we live in peace or are we simply stubborn to own too much? I also wondered why, of all things, we turn to sex. Sex is powerful, not simply because God gave it to us as a gift but because it symbolized power throughout history (rape, prostitution, etc). The fact that people were abusing this idea means that it is also vulnerable to become a light subject. It is a sad reality today.

  • Elijah Hermosura Oct. 8, 2017 at 6:23 PM

    This article has solidified my stance of waiting till marriage to have sex because I believe that it should be an act of love that should only be done in marriage and nothing else. Throughout the article it brought up very good points about how sex is perceived in our generation and how it is losing its sacredness. The point that really stood out to me was “Our culture has lost belief in the sacredness of sex” In my personal experience, sex is something that people my age may joke about and if you take part in this act, it makes you cooler to others. Peers think of one having sex as someone that must be very attractive to girls or guys. Having sex and having your peers find out about it boosts the person’s popularity within the community. I think this is one of the reasons why my generation wants to have sex is because of the acclaim that they would receive from their peers. Overall, this article is very on point with the reasons listed and how our generation is becoming obsessed with sex.

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