What Does the Bible Say About Pornography (Porn)?

[This article was taken from our book Sex and Scripture: A Biblical Study of Proper Sexual Behavior.]

 

The Greek word pornographos (pornography) literally means “writing about harlots” or “the writing of harlots” (porne, “harlot, prostitute,” and graphe, “writing, a thing written”). Today, many bookstores have scores of books and magazines that contain both the “writing of harlots” and “writing about harlots.” Although there were no photographs in the Roman world, there was a lot of pornography. There was lewd writing and poetry, pornographic sculpture (both freestanding and carved into vases, oil lamps, etc.), and graphic sexual scenes painted on walls of houses and other buildings. [1] In many ways, the pornography of the Roman world was much more open to the public eye than our books and magazines, and especially the private use of the Internet and lockable computer files. It was harder to conceal and, because of the sexual orientation of the culture, usually openly displayed anyway. That fact is possibly why pornographos is not specifically mentioned in the New Testament. There were no full color magazines a Christian could get addicted to in the privacy of his own home, and no Internet porn he could privately view at night. For the most part, the pornography was painted or scribbled on walls, and books were very expensive.

Although the New Testament does not specifically mention pornographos, the Lord is very concerned about things like pornography because of how it corrupts the mind. The New Testament often warns against impurity, immorality, and ungodliness. James 1:21 says, “Get rid of all ‘moral filth’ (ruparia).” Pornography would certainly fit in the category of “moral filth.” 2 Peter 2:10 refers to the “corrupt (miasmos) desire of the sinful flesh,” and pornography would certainly be an object of corrupt desire. A word that includes pornography is akatharsia, which is translated as “impurity,” “sexual impurity,” “unclean,” etc. Ephesians 4:19 speaks of people who, “having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality (aselgeia) so as to indulge in every kind of impurity (akatharsia), with a continual lust for more.” In this context, “every kind of impurity” could obviously include pornography.

There are many reasons for not getting involved in pornography. For one thing, buying pornographic material supports an industry that promotes sin of all kinds. It exploits both men and women and promotes the lie that value is in the outward appearance. This creates a false sense of beauty that, unfortunately, our society has almost wholeheartedly endorsed. God looks on the heart (1 Sam. 16:7), not on the bust size or body shape, and Christians are to imitate God (Eph. 5:1). The pornographic industry teaches women to live without discretion, and Scripture is clear about that: “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion” (Prov. 11:22). Women who need or want money are often drawn into indiscretion and sin by the money that exposing their bodies brings. Even women who feel uncomfortable exposing themselves often compromise their standards because of the money they can make.

The pornographic industry also traps people in sin. More than one woman has allowed herself to be photographed in compromising positions when she was young and unwise, and has later regretted ever allowing that to happen. Often, having signed away all rights for the photos she posed for, she cannot stop the owner from showing them when she is older and has a lot to lose if they are made known.

People who view pornographic material need to be aware of the wedge it drives between men and women. If you are a married man and you look at other women’s naked bodies, you force your wife to compare herself to the other women, which produces uncomfortable feelings and insecurity. Women feel the lack of emotional support when men they care about dwell on the bodies of other women, and they also think of men as being selfish and caring only about sex and what gives them pleasure. Just as women become conditioned to think of men as being selfish and “sex crazy,” the women who allow themselves to be photographed and videoed, and who participate in graphic and aggressive sex talk and “phone sex,” portray all women in a tainted light. Women are portrayed as having no real values, but as being motivated by what they “feel like doing,” money or desire for success and power. Pornography also leads some men to believe that women like sex just for the sake of sex, something rarely true. Pornography conditions men to view women as things to be used for pleasure, not as they really are—creations of God, each unique and having a ministry the Lord gave them to fulfill. This distorted view of women is hurtful to relationships, and, as it filters into society, shows up in the workplace as well as marriages.

The husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church. Looking at the naked bodies of other women is not part of that love. In giving herself to her husband, the wife makes herself vulnerable in a special way, a way that monogamous marriage is designed to protect. If the husband is constantly looking at the naked bodies of other women, his own wife’s loving act is cheapened and can even become hurtful to her. The lack of love and support that women feel when men view pornographic material is not just a figment of their imagination. Research is revealing that men who regularly looked at Playboy Magazine later described themselves as less in love with their wives. [2]

Pornography also applies to women, but the form is usually different. Women are not generally attracted to the naked body of a man they do not know. Their needs are more usually emotional and relational. Romance novels and soap operas often take advantage of the emotional drive in women’s lives. They “paint a picture” of men who are totally caring and loving, and who often know the woman’s needs before she says a word. Such men do not really exist, and the “picture” of them painted in romance novels or soap operas is no more real than the retouched pictures of naked women in the magazines that men read. In the same way that the girly magazines can cause men to unfavorably compare their wives to other women, these “torrid tablets of romance” can cause women to become unappreciative of their husbands. Just as wives become emotionally unsupported when husbands look at other women, the husband can become unsupported when his wife develops the attitude that other men really care for their women (after all, it’s in all the novels), but he does not meet her needs. Furthermore, when romance novels involve adultery and premarital sex, then they are the “writing about harlots,” and classify as pornography in the true sense of the word. The Devil is not trying to get only men to sin, he wants the minds of women too. The godly woman watches what goes into her mind, just as the godly man does.

An important observation must be made about pornography: it is about someone other than your spouse. Remember that pornography is “the writing of or about harlots.” If a husband writes a spicy and graphic poem to his wife to enhance their relationship, it is not pornography. If a wife takes a picture of herself in sexy lingerie (or less) and gives it to her husband for his eyes only, it is not pornography. Sex within a marriage should be wonderful and exciting, and anything a couple does to augment their relationship that does not overstep the moral boundary of one or the other, and causes no undue pain, scarring, etc., should be acceptable. [3]

As with other types of sexual temptation, the best way to fight pornography is to know exactly what you believe and decide what you will and will not do before you begin to get involved and “hooked.” This is the case with all pornography, and it is especially true today with the pornography on the Internet, which is especially heinous and troubling. Although it would be wonderful to think that most men avoid pornography because they recognize it as a sin against God and hurtful to them and their families, the fact is that many men avoid pornography simply because of the huge consequences that they know they would face if they were ever caught with it.

The Internet and cyber-sex of various types is a greater temptation than books and magazines because it is so much less likely to be discovered. You do not have to go into a public place to purchase it, and you can simply “sign off” and all the evidence is gone. Or you can keep pictures in encrypted files that others cannot open. Furthermore, Internet pornography often comes right into your home uninvited and is available via a “link” simply by double-clicking with the mouse. It is especially important for men who use the Internet and wish to stay sexually pure to become clear about the fact that their battlefield is their mind and strength of will. Godly men should be aware that Christ spoke the truth when he said, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” If there are any doubts about one’s personal resolve, or if a man finds himself getting caught up in the pornography on the Internet, it is advisable to use one of the services that screens out all pornography so that it cannot be accessed from your computer.

Men who have a problem with pornography would be wise to get into an accountable relationship with other Christian men who could help him be honest (CovenantEyes.com can really help). Knowing that he must account to someone when he violates his commitment can prevent this “secret behavior.”

Endnotes

[1] The extent of the pornography in the Roman world is not widely known for a couple of reasons. The early Christians destroyed much of it, and material that has been uncovered in archaeological work is often too lewd for general audiences. The film industry would have to rate it “XXX.” Nevertheless, it is important to realize that many Romans were exposed to this material on a regular basis. One sourcebook for study is Michael Grant’s Eros in Pompeii (Bonanza Books, New York, 1982).
[2]The study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (57:2, 1989, pp. 261-70) was reported in A Return to Modesty, p. 53.
[3] There are boundaries to what even consenting married adults should do. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach does a good job with some of these in his chapter on “Sadomasochism” in Kosher Sex.

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4 comments

  1. Be free and stay free , beautiful words worth living for.

  2. Be free and stay free , beautiful words to live by.

  3. Thank you so much for this

  4. learn a lot, to stay away from sexully comtent from interment.

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