Pornography is the ‘explicit representation of sexual activity in print or on film to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.’ The following advice and help refers only to heterosexual pornography – that is men looking at women and, more rarely, women looking at men.
It is helpful to remember that pornography:
• shows women as mere physical objects and focuses on their breasts and sex organs
• does not even try to show other ways in which a woman can be attractive, e.g. character, intelligence, humour
• shows sex as the only important thing in a relationship between a man and a woman;
• cannot substitute for long-term love and commitment. It produces short-lived thrills and does nothing to develop a loving sexual relationship.
It is possible for sexually explicit material not to be pornographic. For instance, medical textbooks and sex manuals are designed for education. Pornography differs because its only purpose is titillation and fantasy.
‘Isn’t ‘soft core’ pornography okay?’ some say. The implication is that top shelf magazines are harmless, but that we should be concerned about more explicit or violent material. ‘Soft core’ and ‘hard core’ pornography have no legal or dictionary definitions. They are two ends of a continuing line, which starts at bare breasts and genitals and ranges towards violence, bestiality and child pornography. In recent times what used to be thought of as ‘hard core’ is appearing in ‘soft core’ top shelf magazines and is readily available on the Internet. The boundaries are blurred.
The evidence certainly points to pornography being addictive for some people. Research in 1999 on 9,265 of internet users found that 8.5% were sexually compulsive or addictive . Pornography can lead to pain, shame and loss because of addictive sexual behaviour. Pornography stimulates the pleasure centre in the brain. But after a while more pornography is needed to produce the same effect. The addictive cycle is started. There is an increase in intensity in the addiction so that the individual needs more or harder material to get the same affect, moving on to the accepting of degrading behaviour (desensitisation) and the ultimate acting out of images seen in pornography.
Freedom from recognised addictions like alcohol and drugs can take time and pornography use is no different.
God created men and women to be together – exclusively and happily. God created sex as a good gift in the security of a loving, committed marriage relationship. He ‘saw all that he had made, and it was very good.’ Sadly in the fallen world, pornography sends clear messages, generally to men, that faithful sexual attention to one woman is not necessary. There are many other women to look at: why only be satisfied with one?
We can go to an art gallery and see a beautiful woman in a picture and admire her beauty. But that is not the message of pornography. Pornography seeks to stimulate sexual attraction to the image of a woman – any woman, saying, ‘This beautiful woman, whom you know nothing about, is there for you to satisfy your sexual desires – whatever they might be – at any time.’ Pornography uses the strong visual senses of men to promote lust, but promises the unreal, promoting false expectations of relationships and ignoring the realities of daily living for most men and women – the shopping, washing, ironing, and crying children.
By ignoring the woman’s character and instead focusing on her body, pornography ‘exploits and dehumanises sex so that human beings are treated as things, and women, in particular as sex objects’ . Of course, pornography is packaged cleverly as glamorous, but in the cold light of day the Bible warns strongly about looking at other women (Proverbs 6:25, Matthew 5:28, Colossians 3:5) and being faithful in marriage (Hebrews 13:4).
There are those who would see the Bible’s strong warnings on sexual purity as God being a killjoy. We need to remember that it was God who created the universe: He knows how it works and that what we see and think about is important. The warnings are given for a reason: the destructiveness of pornography on children and on human relationships. CARE regularly receives telephone calls and emails from people who themselves have a problem with pornography or are seeing it in their family.
Some would say ‘pornography is harmless fun’. How would they respond to a woman crying on the phone convinced that her husband’s use of pornography had led to the breakdown of their marriage? Or to another woman who said that she felt mentally abused by her husband who used pornography and wanted her to act in the same way as the women in the magazines, DVDs and videos?
Pornography can seem far from harmless fun for the men (Christian and non-Christian) who feel trapped in a cycle of addiction. If anyone is a killjoy it is not the God of the Bible, but the publishers of pornography.