Feminism

"Real Marriage" review: 139-155, "The Porn Path"

Ok, so the last time I talked about porn, a lot of people seemed to think that I don’t have any problems with porn, or that I think that porn is always ok and having negative thoughts/feelings about porn makes you a prude or something. So let me clarify something up front: I have a problem with a lot of porn, but I do my best to limit my discussions about porn to arguments that are reliable in the sense that I have more than anecdotal evidence to back me up.

Many people have reported having “addictive” reactions to viewing pornography; however, hard-science researchers don’t have much (if anything) to substantiate that. Sociological researchers can speculate about such definitions as “it’s an addiction when it starts interfering in relationships,” for example, but for every researcher saying stuff like that I can find one that argues that porn is awesome because it lowers rape rates (not that I personally find that at all compelling).

What Mark Driscoll does in this chapter– and what basically every evangelical I’ve ever heard talk about this does– is create an argument based on scare tactics. I’ve found that those arguments just don’t work because if you go to a ridiculous and unsubstantiated level of rhetoric, eventually someone (like me, ha) is going to investigate your claims and find out that they’re mostly bunk, and there goes your argument.

The biggest thing I have against this chapter is the way that Mark Driscoll (and many other evangelical leaders) define porn:

We do include as pornography such things as porno movies, magazines, Web sites, online sexual chat, romance novels, phone sex with paid operators, explicit movies, lingerie catalogs, and even the swimsuit issues of sports magazines, and the increasingly base men’s and women’s magazines. (142)

He goes on to talk about how they only have one computer in the kitchen and the TV is in the most visible part of the house, and how they have Nanny net and never watch a movie with nudity in it. So, basically anything where people (and probably just women, let’s be honest) are showing an amount of skin that Mark thinks is “nudity” is porn. This is what I see as the primary problem: women’s bodies are sexualized to the point where we’re not seen as fully human beings, but a collection of sexual parts. To Mark, though, a woman’s body is inherently sexualized, and seeing us undressed can always be porn, because that’s “just the way it is.” Instead of attacking the problem of sexualization, Mark thinks that sexualization is natural: we are just limited to sexualizing (his phrase: “lusting after”) our spouses.

Another problem with this definition is that it’s incomprehensibly large: literally anything that could be considered “immodest” (so pretty much every single cover of Shape) all the way up through hardcore porn counts (which he says is called “gonzo porn” but that doesn’t seem to reflect reality). When your definition is that big, it seems almost inevitable that you’re going to have to go to fundamentalist extremes to avoid it.

But then he gets into the arguments. And this is where we take the train to crazy town.

Argument #1: porn creates neural pathways and mirror neurons. (140-144)

His presentation is rooted in a layman’s understanding of nueroplasticity, and he builds upon the argument made by William Struthers in Wired for Intimacy, a book I’m familiar with because it’s mostly horseshit. Struthers doesn’t say anything the entire book that doesn’t conflate correlation with causation (which, seriously?), so I have my doubts about this argument, especially when every variation of “porn neural pathways” I could Google got me exclusively Christian pages as a result. So I’m … skeptical. I suppose it’s possible, but I’m not a neuroscientist, so I don’t have a definitive way of evaluating this claim.

Argument #2: watching/reading/seeing porn will result in All of the Most Awful Bad Things. (144-152)

Examples include:

  • You will always want sex that degrades women. (145)
  • You are guaranteed to “act out in extreme, dangerous, and self-destructive behavior.” (146)
  • You will never care about your wife’s sexual pleasure. (147)
  • You could become a serial killer, like Ted Bundy. (148)
  • You will do nothing but objectify women always. (148)
  • You will become lazy and selfish in your sex life. (149)
  • Porn is prostitution, and prostitution is the always the same thing as sex trafficking. (150)
  • You will form incestuous desires and fantasize about raping your daughters. (151)
  • You will inevitably end up watching children being raped. (151)
  • You will also probably become a child rapist. (151) (Based on an unsubstantiated claim Gail Dines has made, which… bleh)

See what I mean about scare tactics? None of these things are even realistic.

I do agree with Mark about the basic facts: a lot of porn– an overwhelming amount of porn– depicts violence against women, or shows them being humiliated or degraded, or expects the women to have an anything goes attitude. Porn tends not to center the necessity of consent– in fact, a lot of it actively fights that. That is a problem, and I understand the concern that porn is serving as a form of sexual education for people. If a person thinks that most porn is what sex should be like, then yeah… problems. However, in the conversations that I’ve had about this, most people seem to be happily aware that a lot of porn (there are things like MakeLoveNotPorn, as an exception) isn’t what healthy sex looks like, that it’s a performance.

I’ve talked to the girlfriends and wives of men who have struggled with porn, and I’ve heard a variety of things– it hasn’t really affected their sex life, to their sex-life is now non-existent, to they started expecting them to act like porn stars. That last one I’ve personally experienced, and it’s extremely unpleasant. So I get why there are a lot of really heated emotions about porn.

But, at the same time, I don’t think talking about porn this way is really helpful. I’ve watched marriages fall apart because one spouse discovered the other’s porn habit, and part of me has always wondered– was it the porn, or was it the lies? Was it that one felt that they had to hide something so big, that they felt trapped and like they couldn’t communicate honestly? I’ve never been sure, but I lean toward the latter. Making porn into this ominous boogie man to where it is so horrifically awful how could a good person ever struggle with this seems like it’s just going to make the problem worse.

Anyway … I don’t have any really settled opinions about porn at the moment, but I honestly don’t think I have to. I don’t think we sexualize and degrade women because porn exists: I think most porn sexualizes and degrades women because that’s what our culture does. I think I can talk about those broader problems without committing to either “all porn is bad” or “porn is fine.”

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  • I think one’s views on porn are in large part determined by whether or not one believes the act(s) that the people in the porn are doing is morally wrong or no. In other words, if one adheres to the standard “all sex outside of marriage is bad” viewpoint, then one will find any acts in porn to be sinful regardless of what they are because they are taking place between unmarried people, (Usually.) thus not within the sacred bounds of marriage and therefore they are sinful and not to be watched. Alternatively, one could achieve the same views by feeling that sex is sacred and should exclusively be between married couples and therefore should not be watched by others since that would be an intrusion into the sacredness, or whatever evangelical vocabulary you prefer.

    So my conclusion is that if one doesn’t think that sex is a sacred thing to be experienced only within marriage, one cannot generalize and say that all porn in all contexts is wrong without exception. I’m not entirely sure my conclusion totally works, but it’s at least something to discuss.

    Now, as far as opposing porn because it sexualizes/degrades women, I’m not entirely sure that works in all contexts either. One thing the Internet has done is create a way of distributing anything to anyone. This means that we’re no longer limited to just listening to Top 40 hits; we can do research and easily find and listen to whatever type of music we would like, be it J-pop or Swedish death metal. The same is true of porn. No longer are people limited to just what the seedy theater downtown shows or what is in Playboy. If you have a specific interest/taste/fetish, you can find porn of it. Rule 34. So if one wishes to watch porn that degrades women, well, it’s available, but if you want something more egalitarian or even something that outright worships the female form, you can find that too, and it can be full of all the consent you require. So again, saying that porn is in general not a good thing for reasons of the degradation/sexualization of women and questionable consent is not something that one can apply across the board, so if one does find porn morally objectionable in all contexts, one will have to find other reasons beyond just those for it to be objectionable in all contexts.

    Personally, I’m more inclined to say that porn is not a good thing. As I detailed in my iMonk entry a couple of weeks ago, I no longer believe that premarital sex is bad in all contexts, but I still can’t wrap my brain around porn being okay as a result of that. It’s still a really weird thing to me that just doesn’t feel right.

  • Regarding the Ted Bundy mention:
    He gets brought up a lot in Christian Fundamentalist cultures when they discuss porn, because supposedly Ted did an interview with James Dobson where he admitted that porn led to him becoming a serial killer. And since we all know a man killed several people would never lie, even just to punk someone, it must be true. :eyeroll:

    • Yeah, Mark quotes extensively from the interview in the book.

      • Seriously? Well, Driscoll didn’t have any credibility to begin with, but even if he did, it got shot all to hell by that little revelation. What a dope.

  • Crystal

    I find your article amazingly good, Samantha. Such an interesting perspective on the subject. And I do believe PORN IS BAD.

    • Crystal

      What I mean by that is the idea of people being DEMEANED in sex is bad – and that includes pictures. Porn is meant to be demeaning, but erotica and enthusiastic consent are not.

      • There’s plenty of porn that doesn’t demean anyone, though.

        • Crystal

          Really? Could you tell me about it? Because, you see, I thought porn did, because it was meant to be (on either side = even women on men), but erotica was cool because it was equalising. I know about erotica having to have literary merit, but what do you mean, porn not demeaning anyone? I know of sexually explicit things being called porn, but I just thought they were erotica because of their social value to equality. By the way, would you call Fanny Hill by John Cleland pornography? Besides, how do you define pornography anyway?

          • So the lines between erotica and porn aren’t really that sharply defined, and you’re going to get different definitions depending on who you talk to. However, “one demeans women and the other doesn’t” doesn’t seem to be a helpful way of separating the two.

            I’m of half a mind that the differentiation between porn and erotic is probably classist, as one of the common ways of delineating is whether or not someone thinks it counts as “art” or “literature.”

          • Crystal

            Interesting perspective, but please (I mean this with the deepest respect, as you have taught me things no one else could have) point me somewhere to back up your theories. I’ve never heard of this train of thinking before on the subject. Why do you say the distinction between porn and erotica is classist, anyway?

          • Crystal, and I mean this gently and lovingly, but you need to find ways to learn about these things on your own. I learned about classism and racism and sexism and ableism and ageism by reading things on my own, by googling and following blogs dedicated to those topics. I found books organized by topic in Goodreads lists and went to the library and checked them out or asked family to buy them for me for Christmas.

            I could sit here and list resources for you, or write out a book on why the history of deeming something “literature” is a pretty darn classist (and also typically sexist) endeavor … but I don’t have that much time, especially when so many other amazing writers have done that work already.

            Find bell hooks. Start Googling things. It’s going to take a lot more time and effort on your part, but in the end you will have a much better understanding of a topic than I can give to you in a comment.

            It’s AMAZING that you want to learn, and that’s incredible, but I can’t be the only one to teach you.

          • Crystal

            Ok, I’ll see what I can do. A little is better than none. And please don’t worry – I didn’t mean it as trying to lean on you. I mean this kindly, but I was wanting to validate the truth of what you were saying for myself. Please don’t think of me as a leaner or a causer of offence, Samantha. I realise you don’t have time to get me a whole lot of stuff and I’m grateful for the ways in which you do help me. You are right though; I do need to be more independent.

            Mark Driscoll should talk. He watches porn all the time from above. How can he be against nudity and YET get those disgusting “visions” he claims are from God? I don’t understand. It’s not me and such thinking is totally foreign to me.

        • Crystal

          And I don’t think romance novels are porn unless they demean women or men in some way.

  • Theoretically I don’t have a problem with porn, because I don’t really have a problem with the depiction of sex. I do have problems with the degrading and nonconsensual kinds of porn.
    There’s the possibility of it creating unrealistic expectations, but that’s part of the whole Jenga pile of unrealistic romantic expectations that are propagated by some form of media.

  • “So, basically anything where people (and probably just women, let’s be honest) are showing an amount of skin that Mark thinks is “nudity” is porn.”

    In fairness, it’s actually somewhat difficult to find movies where the guy actually shows anything good, whereas movies with female nudity are a dime a dozen.

    Much to the disappointment of my straight female self.

  • One of the things that led me out of fundamentalism was the view of romance novels as porn. I love them and I have loved them since I started sneaking them out of my mom’s to be read pile at the age of 10. My acteens leader read them out loud and made fun of them to illustrate how horrible they are and to shame people who read them. I felt like a giant sinner every time I read them. One day I realized how ridiculous that was. I loved the happy endings.

    • I discovered romance novels after my rapist broke our engagement. I honestly think they might have saved my life– they helped me believe that not all men were monsters and that it would be possible to fall in love again.

  • LL

    I find it interesting that the list of bad things includes objectifying women, not caring about your spouses sexual pleasure, acting out, and becoming lazy and selfish in your sex life.
    Those were all things I’ve picked up from Driscoll’s sermons…
    Also ASAP Science had an interesting video about the science of porn. If I remember correctly they tied it to your brain releasing dopamine and possibly developing addictive behaviors. Been a while since I saw it.

  • Tim

    I think you did a great job with this topic, both talking about what’s wrong the Driscoll’s approach to porn, and also talking about what might or might not be good or bad about viewing porn in general.

    I absolutely agree with you about the pitfalls associated with the argument from fear. You may scare a bunch of people into just blindly following you for bad reasons. But you’re doing a terrible disservice to the people who are somewhat skeptical of your over-the-top claims, check them out, and discover that they really are as unbelievable as they seemed because those people will tend to reject everything you say, even if there might be a grain of truth hidden underneath your poor argument.

    I agree with you too about the problems with Driscoll’s laundry-list definition of porn. The heart of his definition about visual porn is his belief that the female body is inherently sexualized. He sees visible skin as being the problem rather than the objectification going on inside the mind of the person viewing the skin.

    I think my biggest frustration with a treatment like Driscoll’s is not just that it’s poorly argued and unhelpful (which it is) but that it’s not obvious, once having rejected that view of porn, what a rational and helpful view of porn would look like. Commenters have discussed how use of porn can be negative because of some of the following reasons: Some porn is demeaning or degrading to the actors who participate in it. I know a young woman who worked in the industry for a few years and it does tend to just use people up. Most porn is performance rather than depiction of sex as a component of a larger loving relationship and therefore can teach untruths – I think this is a problem more for younger people who don’t have any sexual experience to judge it against. Maybe better sex education is the answer to that. If one partner wants to use porn and hides it from the other partner, the deception in the relationship is generally harmful. Some porn mitigates against the necessity for consent – in Pornutopia all women are perpetually in a state of consent, but if they’re not, that just makes the sex hotter because it’s the violation of a taboo. That’s pretty unhealthy. And there are other good points above about the potential negative impact of at least some classes of some porn. I’d like to say something about porn vs what I think of as the Christian (non-modern-fundamentalist) virtue of modesty, which isn’t about how much skin you show or don’t show, but rather about the power of your inherent ownership of the ability to disclose or not disclose intimate knowledge of yourself, but my thoughts aren’t fully formed, and it would make a long post much too long.

    I get what you’re saying at the end of your post – the larger societal problem is not porn per se but the sexualization and degredation of women, and it’s possible address that larger issue without taking a stance on the goodness or badness of all porn”. I think that point is valid. But as a parent, I feel a need to talk to my kids about this stuff. Both they and their probable future partners will be exposed to porn and it will have some impact on them and their sexual selves. I don’t want to address this topic to them in the way that Driscoll does (not helpful at all) but I feel like I’m ducking a responsibility if I don’t talk to them about it all to say either good or bad things about it.

    Glad to hear you got something good out of some romance novels. Literary snobs are dismissive of the entire genre for reasons that seem entirely arbitrary to me. I like happy endings, and I think the concept of a happy ending is consonant with a Christian perspective of the world. 🙂

    • Crystal

      Tim, please do share your thoughts when you’ve formalised them. I’m looking forward to them.

      • Tim

        Crystal, hi. Thanks for your interest, although cluttering Samantha’s blog in that way is probably inappropriate. I’m going to post something else long and cluttery instead, just because you’ve responded kindly to some of my posts in the past. I don’t know how young or old you are, but it seems like you’re in the midst of some growth and change, and you’re looking to Samantha’s blog (and probably some other places as well, I hope) for some guidance in the process.

        In looking at the comments you’ve made on this post, and Samantha’s replies to you, I want to echo what she said about the benefits of doing some of your own research. I think it’s great that you want to learn, and it seems obvious that you enjoy being involved in the conversation going on here. But, I think it’s possible that you could make your participation here even better for yourself and for the other readers.

        To take an example, in a handful of your comments on this post you’ve proposed an idea about the definition of “porn” depending in some way on the nature of the relationship contextualizing the sexual activity that’s being depicted. You’ve stated that you think “porn is bad,” but you’ve attempted to draw a line that places all the sexual material that you think is unhealthy on the “porn” side and you propose to define all the sexual material that you think isn’t inherently unhealthy as “erotica”. I think I understand why you would want to do that, and I think it has to do with your internal questing to find a moral basis for your personal decisions about what you will or won’t expose yourself to in the way of sexually explicit media, and probably what you would or wouldn’t feel comfortable with a partner consuming along those lines. But a significant problem with redefining words, as Samantha pointed out to you, is that when you use words in unique and novel ways, you become the only one who can understand what you mean by what you’re saying.

        One way to have avoided this issue would have been to look at online dictionary definitions of “porn” and “erotica” and get a feel for the range of definitions of those words in our culture. You could then look at the wikis on each of those terms and see some of the history of their usage. Links from there might bring you to other resources. Google could point you to articles on the topic of defining porn or distinguishing it from erotica. Then you could bring that background knowledge to sharing your thoughts about what you see as good or bad in depictions of explicit sexual activity, regardless of the type of media it’s depicted in or how it’s labeled.

        The internet isn’t gospel. If there’s someone who has written something suggesting that the distinction between “porn” and “erotica” is essentially classist, there’s probably someone else who has written something suggesting classism has nothing to do with it. I can think of three other likely explanations for how the distinction arose; I don’t know if one is most probable or whether it’s a combination of things. But if you care to understand that point of view, do some research, and see what people on various sides have to say. You can then draw your own conclusions, or see if anyone is interested in offering their opinion on a particular article that you’ve linked. Bring that background to your comments.

        This takes more work (and I have to plead guilty to making lazy comments myself) but when you do the work, you bring more to the conversation, and people tend to appreciate that.

        • Crystal

          Ok, Tim. I acknowledge your kindness and thank you for acknowledging mine. You sound as if you don’t believe redefining terms is a starting point for a revolution of ideas. I have thought that in the past, but I understand where you are coming from. However, I don’t want to clutter Samantha’s page up, so I’ll just say thanks and see what I can do.

  • Interesting that the bulleted list of bad things that will happen are things which, according to many of your other posts about this book and other things he has said or written about sex, are at play in his marriage anyway. Any man that can write or endorse the idea that a woman should have sex with her husband even if it causes her physical and/or emotional pain is neglecting her pleasure, objectifying her, being lazy and selfish in their sex life….etc etc.

  • “Was it the porn, or was it the lies?”

    In many cases I’m sure it’s both, especially if the couple has already established that porn has no place in their relationship. Personally, I don’t understand how porn can be healthy when you’re getting turned on by watching other people, rather than with your SO. Porn is like fast-food sex. It’s all about the orgasm, but sex in real life is so much more than that (not to diminish the importance of orgasms or anything…)

    • Tim

      A woman in our circle of close friends is fine with her husband consuming porn. She only wants sex about twice a week; he would be happy with it about twice a day; porn fills gap between those disparate numbers and that works for both of them. I’m skeptical of the long-term stability of this arrangement because I know relationships go through different stages and they’ve only been married three or four years at this point. But everyone’s got to seek their own path.

      But I think in a lot of relationships it is “both,” as you say, and I’m talking about hetero monogamous relationships where the man is consuming porn but the woman is unhappy about that. It’s the lies, but it’s also the fact that a woman often feels like she’s in a competition for her husband’s desire and her own desirability may not appear obviously superior to a skinny, attractive 18-year-old performer. That thought may be rational or not. My feeling, as a man, is that if my partner says, “I feel loved when you don’t gawk at other pretty women,” my job is not to psychoanalze her and figure out what’s wrong with her to make her feel that way. My job is to hear her telling me what makes her feel loved and just do that for her. If I can; if it doesn’t harm me; if it’s something I can consent to, etc.

    • Adele

      What about watching porn you both enjoy with your SO? This is not all that uncommon, usually as a prelude to real life sex. I don’t think this is unhealthy. There is also the situation where your SO is unavailable and IMO there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying porn in that case.

  • Thank you for mentioning the “neural pathways” thing. I’ve heard that argument from evangelicals so many times. Kind of suspicious that there are apparently no sources other than Christian ones making this argument.

  • srs

    How do you decide what is degrading? What some people might find degrading others might find empowering.

    • Crystal

      If Samantha won’t mind my butting in, what people like us are trying to say is that what we mean by the word “degrading” is what is degrading to the subject of the sex. At least that’s how I see it anyway. Do you find a picture of a clothed man and a naked woman degrading or empowering? I find it degrading because the woman is an object but the man has the manly right to cover himself. That’s how I tend to explain “degrading.” Please tell me if this helps or not.

    • Well, I have a few baselines with things such as:

      eating feces and then vomiting and then eating your vomit.
      rape (I can understand personal fantasies about this and experimenting with a trusted partner– but porn isn’t that context and non-con/dub-con are extremely popular tags, and I don’t think most people watching/reading it fit into any sort of healthy perspective on rape)
      women are presented as body parts instead of people
      female orgasm/pleasure is irrelevant
      Non consensual violence or verbal abuse.

      After those sorts of things you start getting really subjective, but when I think “degrading” it usually involves something non consensual.

      • Bri

        Out of curiosity, is there anything in the BDSM genre that you would find acceptable? Do you think it depends on whether a context establishing consent is explicitly included?

        • If it’s not consensual, it’s not BDSM. It’s abuse.

          • Bri

            Of course. My point is, a lot of BDSM porn isn’t particularly portrayed as consensual or nonconsensual – it all depends on what goes on off-camera, what you don’t see. I’m just curious if you think it should explicitly show that there is full consent (for example, show a negotiation scene beforehand or aftercare scene at the end).

            As a feminist who enjoys kinky porn, I have very mixed feelings on that question myself. I’d be interested to know what you think.

          • I think there would be signals that it was consensual if anyone involved in its production is aware of its necessity.

            The fact that so many women are harmed by various parts of the production process makes me incredibly wary of any porn, but especially porn that features pain. There’s innumerable stories of women making certain agreements with the director only to have those violated repeatedly. “Consent” isn’t really a rallying cry for them.

            That’s why if I were to be interested in visual porn (I’ve typically only read it), I’d be looking for things like Make Love Not Porn.

            Personally I tend to care less about the content of the porn than I am with how the actors have been treated. Unfortunately it’s difficult to know when they’ve been exploited or abused or not.

            I don’t really have a problem with the existence of porn, but I’m troubled by the way it’s currently produced.

  • Nine

    I’m usually just kind of… Mildly amused by these kinds of arguments. I understand the very real, very dangerous effects that the “adult entertainment” industry has had on both the women involved in it and on cultural perception of sex. It’s just… Never applied to me, because I don’t like ordinary porn. My erotica of choice is either drawn or written, not photographed or filmed. Nobody’s victimized by its production. Furthermore, the content of the things I like is overtly fantastic, well outside the bounds of reality.

    So, when I hear arguments against porn based on its supposed destructive nature and harmful effects on women aandmd society, they just… Don’t apply to me. And the ‘scientific’ arguments for its destructive effects on “neural pathways” are, as stated above, less than convincing.

    • Same here.

      Obi-Wan/Sabe or OC ships FTW.

    • Crystal

      Excuse me for butting in but you sound like you’re reading healthy stuff. I wouldn’t call what you read “porn”. In fact, we NEED more equalised relationships in our stories and books. They are certainly not something anyone should censor. When I think of porn, I think of the photos and films, and I don’t like those at all. What you’re into sounds like a fair alternative to what porn is to me.

      • Crystal, this is the definition of what most people mean when they say “porn”:

        “movies, pictures, magazines, etc., that show or describe naked people or sex in a very open and direct way in order to cause sexual excitement.”

        You are re-defining a term in a way that no one but you will use, and that’s not helpful. Porn is the explicit presentation (either through books, film, or pictures…) of sex acts, and while some porn could be classified as erotica, if it’s describing sex in a way that isn’t all fade-to-black or so vague you don’t really know what’s happening it’s porn.

        You’re creating an imaginary line that doesn’t make sense.

        • Nine

          I agree. I like the word ‘erotica’ because it’s a pretty word, I’m not at all attempting to draw a distinction. The stuff I like is most definitely pornographic, its purpose is nothing more than to entertain and sexually excite. And I have come to the conclusion that, because nobody is harmed in the making of it and nobody is harmed by my consumption of it, there’s nothing wrong with it!

          (I should add that my wonderful lady is fully aware of and participates in said ‘consumption’, it’s entirely above-board in our relationship.)

        • Crystal

          Oh, dear; I seem to have caused a problem again. I should try looking into what constitutes what, like you’ve said. I’m sorry to be so repetitive. I want to give more but it seems I don’t know what’s what. I read my definition from a 2006 article dealing with the subject of porn, and that certainly wasn’t a Christian source. But now I do see what you mean by imaginary lines. I apologise for my ignorance of the subject matter.

          You define porn as “movies, pictures, magazines, etc., that show or describe naked people or sex in a very open and direct way in order to cause sexual excitement.” Well, with such a definition – I understand. If that is the definition, you don’t seem to think all porn is wrong, depending on the context. No wonder so many people are watching and looking at it, but I don’t believe I’ll be one of those people and I do tend to think it morally wrong and a waste of time especially when there are so many more important things to do like helping your human and animal neighbours. I’ve always seen the nature of porn to be demeaning in and of itself. Who wants to pose in a photograph for a man half naked? I hope I don’t sound harsh or judgmental here, but those are my views. I have learned a lot though about porn and erotica just by talking to you. Thank you for your insights!

          PS: I don’t understand how romance novels can be sinful. They don’t seem to interest me very much (except for things with action in them, or classics) but each to their own.

          • I don’t understand how romance novels can be sinful.

            They have a lot of sex in them. Usually large quantities of it are nonmarital. If someone believes nonmarital sex is sinful, that makes romance novels sinful. Romance novels very often, also, “describe naked people or sex in a very open and direct way in order to cause sexual excitement”–which makes them porn and also, if someone believes anything that is designed to cause sexual excitement is a sin, makes them sinful.

          • Crystal

            I don’t think the mention of sex is sinful necessarily. I thought porn meant degrading the subject. It seems we’re working by different definitions. However, I have found Samantha’s definitions to be very helpful – very helpful indeed.

          • Crystal

            When I say degrading the subject – I meant degrading to the subject of said sex. For instance, a lady being the subject of the sex was degraded because of the way it was portrayed, rather than the fact she was having sex with another enthusiastically consenting party. Samantha’s definition, however, would mean that since porn means anything that arouses for the sake of arousal, if a woman is portrayed having sex but being equal (with a man particularly, as inequalities occur on the male/female level most often) about it, that would be porn but it would be “good porn”. I see. Very difficult to work my mind around, I must admit. It was most definitely not the way I was raised. But I understand now.

          • Tim

            If consuming media that depicts sinful behavior is sinful, murder mysteries would also have to be banned since they depict, well, murder. Which is a sin. Much of the Bible would have to be banned as well. That seems like a bridge too far even for a fundamentalist, although I have heard the argument that all fiction is pretty suspect because it’s kind of a waste of time. If, on the other hand, the standard is that sexual arousal (outside of presumably with your spouse) is sinful, then it could make sense to condemn romance novels on the basis that explicit descriptions of sexual activity can cause sexual arousal. But it seems to me that the primary appeal of romance novels is not the sexual arousal but rather the happy ending.

  • What you deny yourself the mind will obsess over. Think about the list he calls porn, well then only a woman covered from head to foot in a bur-qua would be considered non-porn. This is a list that society and women must follow so men won’t look upon them with lust in their hearts. Just a little over the top, must women go back to wearing corset and hooped skirts with bonnets to be pure? Opps they might expose an ankle! Read Sinclair Lewis: Elmer Gantry and how an exposed ankle caused him to lust while preaching in the pulpit.
    Simulated rape was the theme of Behind the Green Door which helped launch the porn revolution in the 70’s. What makes porn in literature, pictures, films, and videos appealing is that its taboo and the curious seek it out. The more preachers preach against it, the more those who listen or read their words are curious about what the fuss is about and check it out. Then when they find out as Samantha mentions about the scare tactics and being bogus they lose faith in the messenger.

  • MaryGarth

    The problem isn’t the porn, it’s lust. It’s interesting to me that the Bible doesn’t say anything about masturbation, and doesn’t directly address pornography either. We are left with some guiding principles, but no hard and fast rules.
    As a good friend told me, men do look at women, usually with appreciation, sometimes with desire. This friend, who is male and married, admitted that he looks at women, and I don’t believe he should be condemned for it. The human body is beautiful; we are image bearers, after all, and even God expressed delight in the human body as part of His creation. Further, He gave us eyes to look at the beauty of our fellow image bearers, and a sense of appreciation that goes far beyond just appetite.
    The problem is when men look again and again, or dwell on the images – that’s the sin of luck. Lust is a squishy sin because the intent is a huge part of the sin, and so it’s subjective; as one Supreme Court Justice said, you know it when you see it. That means that a man who purposely uses the swimsuit edition for the purpose of masturbation has likely committed the sin of lust, but that same man could go to an art gallery and look at the image of a naked woman painted by Rubens without sinning.
    I guess I have to include my personal anecdote because I didn’t have a problem with pornography until recently. I thought that some use of pornography could be healthy or at least not harmful. I guess that hypothetically, I still believe that.
    But pornography was deeply hurtful to me; my ex was a habitual pornography user (as in, multiple times a day), and his habit included extensive online activity with other women (sexting). I was aware of the porn habit, but I was not aware of the nature and extent of his other habits. I also was not aware that a lot of the porn was child porn.
    I want to clarify here: not all men (or women) who look at porn, do so it habitually. Not a people who look at porn habitually get involved with partners for mutual masturbation, nor do they look at porn that is illegal and otherwise morally reprehensible. I also want to say that I have no authority to condemn non-Christians; I cannot call them to purity, only to the love of Christ.
    Back to my story: My ex deceived me, even as he tried to be honest with me(and I do believe he tried). But what he did was infidelity/adultery/cheating/whatever you want to call it, because he offered himself to others, and withheld himself from me. He desired intimacy, but he withheld it from me, in so many ways, while he gave it to others. So lust was the weapon in our relationship; it was not a victim-less activity; he hurt a lot, A LOT, of people, not just me, with that lust.
    And that is what I come back to with pornography – there’s a huge potential for harm and hurt. Without shaming anyone, isn’t there a way to talk about the serious consequences? Isn’t there a way to talk about sin in terms of a loving God who gives us rules and guidelines for our own protection, not to condemn us? Isn’t there a way to discuss this in the context of God’s beautiful, but fallen creation, where we appreciate each other’s bodies and desire intimacy, but don’t pursue intimacy in Godly ways?