1. Glued to the ‘Tube

What it is: Hour-long video essays that dive deep into all sorts of subjects are still in high demand, even in the TikTok quick-post era.
Why it’s not that surprising: YouTube’s incentive structure for creators rewards longer form content. Going back to 2012, YouTube modified its algorithm so that it recommends videos based on average watch time and not just on the number of hits received. If a video is longer, it has more possible watch time baked into it. Many of these two, three, and even four hour videos have view counts in the millions as their talking heads opine on everything from the history of Marxism to the Twilight movies. A notably popular (and successful) video essay niche known as  BreadTube aims to expose younger viewers to classically liberal viewpoints. A typical watch-session of a video essay could include digesting a twenty-minute section and returning to learn more later on. It could also mean binging an entire narration on a subject in one midnight sitting. These videos break open another common assumption, too: Just because your teen learned about something on social media doesn’t mean they don’t have a wide-ranging and comprehensive perspective on it.

What it is: People are talking about a Washington Post editorial that suggests rethinking what a “good” sexual encounter should be. This opinion piece is packed with observations about how porn and dating apps have warped the ethical sensibilities of a generation.
Why it’s surprisingly old-fashioned: Seventy years after the so-called sexual revolution, people may be more sexually liberated, but they are more confused than ever about what it means to decide to sleep together. It’s become clear that’s acquiring “consent” was never a good enough reason to initiate a sexual relationship with someone. So where does that leave us now? Culture critic and columnist Christine Emba lands on the idea of a sexual ethic based on love—real love, in the sense of acting in the best interest of another person and not yourself. Emba doesn’t connect “love” to the biblical sense of the word, but she comes pretty close. Casual sexual encounters, by definition, lack the depth required to really serve another person’s interest, so young people embracing this “new” attitude would need to establish care, a shared morality, and a defined commitment before pursuing sex with a partner.

3. Mickey Goes Mature

What it is: Disney+ is adding a few shows with more mature content to its streaming platform, which means they are also updating their parental controls.
Why it’s taking some families aback: When Disney+ launched, some subscribers automatically assumed that it would provide a more family-friendly alternative to the other streamers, like Netflix. The original content library was pretty benign, content-wise, with most titles appealing to a general audience with the exception of a few stray curse words in Hamilton and the Marvel films. The “mature” content that Disney is adding includes The Punisher and Jessica Jones, which were Marvel shows originally produced for Netflix, and which are now bringing their “dark and gritty” content aesthetic to the Disney+ platform. Disney has posted resources on how to modify what shows your family can select and also how to understand their rating system.

Slang of the Week

💳💥💳💥: take my money; often used as a comment on a video that features an exciting or niche product. (Ex: “Dress with pockets?! 💳💥💳💥”)

Christine Emba quotes Thomas Aquinas when she defines love as “willing the good of the other.” This definition echoes Paul’s admonition in Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” Emba writes that in sexual ethics, this kind of love would mean “mutual concern—thinking about someone other than yourself and… taking responsibility for navigating interactions that might seem ambiguous, rather than using that ambiguity to excuse self-serving ‘misunderstandings.’”

Part of the issue with making consent the gold standard for sexual morality is that it’s difficult to guarantee 100 percent when someone feels safe enough to say no. And if they don’t feel that safety, their “yes” is compromised. But even if it could be guaranteed, consent alone still wouldn’t be enough to make sexual activity safe and healthy. As Emba herself puts it, “setting consent as the highest bar for any encounter effectively takes a pass on the harder questions: whether that consent was fairly obtained; whether it can ever fully convey what our partners really, ultimately want; whether we should be doing what we’ve gotten consent to do… Making the standard of consent our sole criterion for good sex punts on the question of how to conduct a relationship that affirms our fundamental personhood and human dignity.”

In an era when mainstream pornography has normalized choking and other forms of sexual violence, and when people consent to things that make them uncomfortable because the infinite panoply of options online makes them worry about being replaced, a reaffirmation of human dignity in sexuality is desperately needed. That reaffirmation is to be found in the Bible. We are more than animals having sex at random; we are creatures of nobility and honor, deserving of respect, because we have been made in the image of God. Teaching a sexual ethic to the next generation involves this fundamental recognition—and with it, an insistence on seeking others’ good over our own, commitment (in marriage) over novelty, and the dignity of our design over decadence.

Here are some questions to spark conversation about all this:

  • Why do you think God created sexuality?
  • What do you think it means to seek “others’ good over our own, commitment over novelty, and the dignity of our design over decadence”?
  • What do you think Ephesians 5:21-33 says about marriage and sexuality?