Culture 3 minutes to read

Last week, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) reported that mega-giant retailer Walmart would be making a change to their check-out aisles. This minor change went virtually unnoticed by nearly every news outlet in the world; yet culturally, this move was deeply significant.

What was this change?

Walmart agreed to remove Cosmopolitan from the check-out aisle.

No longer will the cleavage-boasting front page of this sex-saturated publication assault every patron on their way to purchasing gum, swim-fins, or yard fertilizer from a blue-aproned sales associate.

Why should I care? Why should any of us care if a billion dollar company has one less magazine at check-out? After all, the same literature is still available in the magazine aisle.

I care, and I believe you should care, because this represents a shift in our thinking as a society.

A small shift, yes, but momentum has to start somewhere.

Cosmo is notorious for sex-driven headlines and female models showing as much skin as possible. When faced with public pressure to remove such overt sexual content from their check-out aisles, Walmart didn’t stand behind sales numbers, the right to free speech, or a “just look away if you don’t like it” excuse. Instead, Walmart decided to stand behind their values as a family-friendly corporation and make a change. Cosmo got sent to the back row.

As someone who used to struggle routinely with pornography and lust, I celebrate this change. As the father of two sons, I also welcome this adjustment in sales approach.

Just the other day, my family and I were checking out of a Barnes & Noble bookstore. Right by the check-out stand, about four-feet high, was the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. I watched as my four-foot tall sons stood eye level with that revealing cover and took notice. As I found ways to distract my sons attention to other more worthy things, I thought to myself, “Thanks a lot Barnes and Noble.”

Could this change at Walmart be like the small ripples in a pond that begin to spread? Maybe stores like Barnes & Noble will take a lesson from Walmart.  

I am encouraged that we are waking up to the connection between the content we view and the way that we live. We are recognizing that if you put garbage in, you get garbage out. Plaster sexually explicit material on the front of every magazine, across billboards, and on prime-time TV, and you end up with an addicted culture making an idol of sexual expression no matter the cost to others. As a society, we are learning to be honest and acknowledge the age-old law of cause and effect.

Now don’t get me wrong––I’m not blaming every act of sexual violence, exploitation, or addiction on erotic media and risque magazine covers. The problem of sexual exploitation and violence is far bigger, and far more complex than this. But what I am suggesting is that if we want to see the stats change, we must be willing to look at the contributing factors. A sex-saturated culture is shaping our brain––young and old––in ways we are only now beginning to see. We can no longer sell sex as a fun, harmless preoccupation while simultaneously denouncing the very behaviors and outcomes this attitude creates.

Do you know about NCOSE? You should. This organization is devoted to eradicating sexual exploitation from our culture. While Pure Desire aims at helping people understand and deal with the roots of their negative sexual behaviors, groups like NCOSE are challenging the fruits that come from such behaviors.

Each year, NCOSE puts out a list of the “Dirty Dozen”––a very blunt, honest ranking of large companies that regularly use sexually-driven content to make a buck. Last year, after showing up on the Dirty Dozen, Carl’s Jr. Restaurants finally ended their ad campaign of using bikini-clad women to sell hamburgers. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation is bringing change, and we at Pure Desire celebrate their efforts. (See 2018’s Dirty Dozen list here.)

So what’s my point? Way to go Walmart! Way to go NCOSE! May others follow suit. And, may we all recognize that this is only one small step in a much larger revolution that is needed in our society.

Together, we can change the tide of sexual devastation. So, let your voice be heard. Taking a stand for family values and good morality is once again becoming popular, even at Walmart.

Nick Stumbo

Nick is the Executive Director for Pure Desire. He has been in ministry leadership for 18 years. He was in pastoral ministry at East Hills Alliance Church in Kelso, Washington, for 14 years. Nick has a Bachelor in Pastoral Studies from Crown College, an MDiv from Bethel Seminary, and is a certified Pastoral Sex Addiction Professional (PSAP) through the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP). He has authored two books, Setting Us Free and Safe: Creating a Culture of Grace in a Climate of Shame.

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