This week I was shocked to hear of a new form of criminal sexual exploitation – “sextortion”.
Sextortion is a form of blackmail where criminals use fake identities to befriend victims online and then persuade them to perform sexual acts in front of their webcam.These webcam images are recorded by the criminals who then threaten to share them with the victims’ friends and family unless they are paid.
On first hearing about this my first reaction was – how can people be so gullible ? and why on earth would anyone in any way feel remotely interested in exposing themselves to complete strangers.
But then on reflection I thought that this is yet another major symptom of the chronic obsession with the commodification of sex which leads to what Pope Benedict calls “the banalisation of sex” – rendering something beautiful and tender to the vulgar and ugly.
I suppose deep down in the heart of these unfortunate victims to such appalling exploitation is the natural desire to be admired, loved, cherished and wanted, In short, they are looking for the right thing but in the wrong place, in the wrong way and most definitely with the wrong kind of persons.
St John Paul II once said that the “opposite of love is not hate but to use” and so with sextortion and so many other emotionally devastating assaults on human dignity we see the opposite of authentic love all too often and everywhere.
The “interior gaze” is what really counts. The disposition of the heart and soul to see first – not the sexual value of the person we encounter and see – but their true selves, their embodied self – the beauty of their soul made in the image and likeness of God. Another word for intimacy is “in to me see” – see in to me. This is what everyone truly yearns from others, from their gaze, not the lurid, self-gratifying look of lust that can often bedevil relationships.
And to be continually inspired to practice the interior gaze, we must allow ourselves to be in the gaze of Christ and his light of beauty and truth and in turn gaze on His Holy Face so that we see Him in others as we gaze upon them in person, not via a screen.