Is looking at pornography a sin? If so, why does God prohibit pornography? What does God say about sexual lust, intimacy and marital faithfulness?
Pornography is defined by Merriam-Webster.com as “the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement.” Whether explicit or “soft porn,” these depictions are a misuse of the sexual relationship God created to be used between a husband and wife. Rather than an act of married love, sex is reduced to an act of lust.
The Seventh of God’s 10 Commandments deals with sexual behavior: “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). The underlying principle of the Seventh Commandment is the protection of the marriage unit and, thereby, the family. The only acceptable setting for the expression of sexual love is in the context of marriage between a husband and wife. Sexual intimacy before marriage or with anyone other than your marriage partner is a sin, according to the Creator of sexuality.
Jesus Christ expanded on this, showing God’s perspective on sexual lust, in Matthew 5:27-28: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
So the simple answer is yes, pornography is a sin. But it can be helpful to understand why God calls it a sin.So the simple answer is yes, pornography is a sin. But it can be helpful to understand why God calls it a sin.
Why is pornography sin?
God does not forbid things that are good for us, but He does forbid things that are harmful. Having designed the human mind, God is aware of the fact that the marriage union involves mental faithfulness, as well as physical faithfulness. That is because faithfulness or unfaithfulness begins in the mind. Every action, righteous or sinful, begins in the thought process. It is impossible for a person who allows himself or herself to be unfaithful in the mind to remain fully committed to his or her marriage relationship and family.
Said another way, pornography is guaranteed to damage the marriage relationship and the family—and for those not currently married, to damage their potential to enjoy a lasting and healthy marriage relationship and family life.
Research confirms the negative effects of pornography
A great deal of research has been done on the effects of pornography. Consider the findings of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute: “Pornography is a visual representation of sexuality which distorts an individual’s concept of the nature of conjugal relations. This, in turn, alters both sexual attitudes and behavior. It is a major threat to marriage, to family, to children and to individual happiness. In undermining marriage it is one of the factors in undermining social stability.”
Specific points their research unearthed are:
- Married men who are involved in pornography feel less satisfied with their conjugal relations and less emotionally attached to their wives. Wives notice and are upset by the difference.
- Pornography use is a pathway to infidelity and divorce, and is frequently a major factor in these family disasters.
- Among couples affected by one spouse’s addiction, two-thirds experience a loss of interest in sexual intercourse.
- Both spouses perceive pornography viewing as tantamount to infidelity.
- Pornography viewing leads to a loss of interest in good family relations.
Again, sin always hurts and pornography hurts marriages, families and children by damaging the mind and affecting the relationships of the one who views it. The scriptural response to all sin is to repent and seek God’s forgiveness, determining not to repeat the mistake again (Acts 2:38-39; 2 Corinthians 7:10-11). Therefore, anyone desiring to live the Christian life should put forth every effort to remove pornography from his or her life and seek repentance and forgiveness from God.
For more help in dealing with these issues, see “Seventh Commandment: You Shall Not Commit Adultery,” “Lust: Satan’s Daily Attack on Men, Part 1,” “Lust: Christian Men Fight Back, Part 2,” “For Mature Audiences Only,” “Questions About Sex Answered by the Bible” “‘If Your Right Eye Causes You to Sin, Pluck It Out’: What Did Jesus Mean?” and “Seven Steps for Overcoming Sin.”