Quarterback porn star
Marriage and Family

A quarterback and a porn star walk into a bar…

You might think this would be the set-up line for a bad joke, but, no, it’s for real. Amidst the typical National Football League off-season stories about murder, sexual assault, domestic abuse, and battery of a woman in a wheel chair, there was one over-arching legitimate football story. It involved the New England Patriots and the ongoing saga of Quarterback Jimmy Garappolo.

The received narrative was that the owner of the New England Patriots forced the head coach to trade backup QB Garappolo because 40 year-old star QB Tom Brady felt himself at risk of being replaced. The Patriot’s head coach is famous for replacing aging players before their performance declines. At age 40, Brady is living on borrowed time. Historically, a quarterback’s performance declines markedly once he reaches 40.  So (the story goes) for the sake of Brady’s ego, Garappolo was shipped off to the West coast for the NFL equivalent of five loaves and two fishes. He did well and received a contract north of $100 million. Cue a cacophony of sports talk about Sturm und Drang in the once immaculate Patriots organisation.

And then Jimmy Garappolo walked into a hotel in Los Angeles with a 41 year-old porn star on his arm. Does she play for the Houston Cougars? (Stop that! Bad author! Bad! Bad! Bad!) The spirit is sort of willing but the flesh is weak. Oh, make no mistake, the jokes about this situation write themselves. The reader won’t even have to think hard. I suspect some of the lesser comedic lights among Cranmer’s Community – specifically three, and you know who you are – might succumb to base temptation, and expand the repertoire. They should of course resist. Because the easy recourse to humour will mask a curious absence about this story – the complete lack of any scandal.

There is after all not even a pretence of relationship in this liaison between a 41 year-old woman and a 26 year-old NFL quarterback. This is more along the lines of a man acquiring the services of a specialised technician. I suppose there is natural curiosity involved. “What is it like to bed a porn star? The woman makes her living on her back. She must be good at what she does.” Yet Garapollo is still focused on himself and not her. He objectivises the woman for his own gratification. It doesn’t matter to him who she is, or where she will be tomorrow. What matters is the pleasure he can extract from her at this very moment. She has become an object fit for purpose. There is a thin line here between prostitute and porn star. Both offer the same skill set (as it were), and the same fantasy. But the former has overtly turned sex into a commodity. Ordinary men are ashamed to openly purchase a prostitute because of the implication that they have to ‘buy it’. The prostitute is not interested in him per se, or his prowess, but only in his money. In its absence, he fears she would not give him the time of day. Being unable to command her attention without recourse to payment, he hides what he does to salve his ego. The porn star who offers herself freely will instead becomes a trophy on display as well as a means to sate his curiosity. But not just anyone can acquire a date with a porn star.

The public reaction to this event (which might be accurately described as “Woo Hoo!”) does not give one confidence. It serves only to illustrate how degraded our public view of human sexuality has become. What was once sanctified and set apart has become common and ordinary. We still give lip service to the virtue of fidelity in a relationship, but we haven’t quite examined why sex can be considered cheap and ordinary right up until the moment it is promised exclusively. Why isn’t it similar to playing cards or bowling? If before marriage (or whatever passes for an exclusive relationship these days) sex can be given away freely to someone without even so much as knowledge of a name, then why does it take on significance after marriage? The rise of fornication must inevitably predict the rise of adultery for the attitude which justifies fornication cannot be hermetically isolated from marriage. If I can bowl with my co-worker, why can’t I have sex with my co-worker? It’s just sex after all, right? And if we are honest, we would say that fidelity is more honoured in word than in deed. We try to have it both ways, with a stable relationship and something on the side. “What the wife doesn’t know won’t hurt her.” Who even condemns it in this day and age? It there a social cost for adultery anymore?

The traditional purpose of marriage was to grant public permission for a couple to go forth, have sex and multiply. Sex was the defining criteria of marriage that separated it from all other relationships. In exchange for living a sexual life, a man and woman would commit themselves to each other, and create a home in which children could be conceived, nurtured and raised. It deliberately channelled the sexual energy of a man into the welfare of his wife and children to ensure that he would be there to provide protection and care. At the heart of this scheme was the monopoly that marriage possessed over sex. To get access to a woman, a man first had to commit himself to that woman. Sexual desire was therefore subsumed into a greater purpose. By subordinating sex to the relationship, he gave sex its proper place in life. He gave his wife the help and security she needed to have children. He gave his children a sense of stability and permanence, and an identity that spanned generations both before and after.

That is all gone now. Sexual gratification has been made into its own purpose. Instead of focusing on the other, we focus on the self. Sex has become the Sacrament of the Age whereby we celebrate the existential moment of Orgasm. But since it is so transient, we pursue it relentlessly – repeating the moment in vain hopes of capturing it permanently. Sex has become the perfect venue to glorify the self, and its desires, and its pleasures, and its needs, and its satisfactions. There need be no ties that bind – no husband or wife, no children, no tomorrows, no sense of obligation to someone besides the imperious Me. There is only me in the moment now, and the object before me by which I may fulfill my purpose. The object has a name but I have no need to know it.

From the beginning it was not so. A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. Thus would they model Christ and the Church in their relationship, becoming the analogue of God in the creation of children. It’s all so quaint and obsolete now, replaced by the thoroughly modern justification of consent. We have become our own moral authority, and we do what we want no matter what destruction we leave in our wake – broken lives, broken people, broken families, broken children. Is Jimmy Garappolo’s ‘date’ therefore cause or effect? Does it reveal what we have become or does it legitimise what we would choose to do? Either way, we see no further than the image in the mirror at the moment of ejaculation. And with that image we seem very content.