Pornography. It seems like it’s more and more becoming the subject of conversation, particularly on social media. And with stupendous organizations, such as OUR Rescue, freeing sex slaves and an absurd BDSM movie like Fifty Shades of Grey slated for wide release, it’s clear there are still a lot of opposing views about it.

You of course know that pornography and sex-trafficking are totally linked, right? They’re linked partly in that the word pornography is a modern variation, essentially, of prostitute. They’re also linked in that frequent users of pornography tend to drive the market for sex-trafficking. What’s more, a large number of the actors in pornographic content, particularly the girls, are forced into this work as slaves.

Here’s a link for more details on that: Connections Between Pornography and Sex Trafficking.

You also have studies coming out that show that pornography addiction works a lot like drug addiction, activating the same brain centers and hormones as drugs. It’s an illness. More studies are showing that frequent consumption of pornography is damaging to the psyche, to relationships, and to society. Heck, even GQ- an otherwise almost entirely useless magazine- published a short piece: Ten Reasons Why You Should Quit Watching Porn.

Then there are the religious reasons to not consume pornography. Here are some:
1. It is disrespectful and demeaning of God’s daughters in that it objectifies them and defines them simply as sex objects. All members of the family of God deserve respect, love, and support.
2. Viewing pornography violates laws regarding chastity: that men and women should only have sexual relationships with the man or woman to whom they’re legally married.
3. Viewing pornography debases and cheapens the extraordinary gift of a sexual relationship. This relationship provides opportunities for women and men to be sacredly intimate, as well as to make children.
4. Continuing number 3, viewing pornography is a perversion of the commandment to multiply and have families. The sexual relationship makes kids unless action is taken to prevent such a thing. It also brings husband and wife closer, so that builds and strengthens families too.

I’m sure there are other religious arguments against pornography. Please feel free to list them in the comments.

What these religious arguments boil down to is that viewing pornography is a sin. Now, that leads me to ask, what is ‘sin?’

I’m not a religious authority. I am very devoted to my faith and to the church that I belong to. This devotion to the promises I’ve made has been the prime drive behind most of my choices and actions over the last 22 years. I’ve studied doctrine, pondered a lot, and prayed, much like millions of other religious folks.

I proudly claim the doubts that have been a part of my religious journey, and which evolve and are replaced with new questions even today.

So now back to ‘sin.’ What is it? It’s hard to really just define it, so we often try to compare it to something. You’ve got the metaphor of sin being a dirtying element to our souls. When we sin, we become unclean and no unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God. So we have to have our soul washed clean through the blood of the Lamb: Jesus Christ.

But I’ve been unclean and have felt the undeniable presence of God. I’ve been at my very lowest, my very weakest, my most humbled and feeling absolutely filthy– and I have felt God’s Spirit, comfort, and guidance. And frankly, Christ in both his mortal and then resurrected form stood in the presence of unclean people. You know what else? We’re commanded to be perfect, to aspire to perfection in this life, but we and God know that we won’t make it. So we’re going to be in His presence while imperfect and unclean. He’s not going to turn us away, because remember: He loves us. All of us.

Thus, I’m not satisfied with the metaphor of sin being a dirtying element. And I think the use of language like ‘unclean’ is a good try, but ultimately a human, imperfect try at describing how sin affects our relationship and proximity with God.

But it’s still undeniable that pornography is bad, despite what some sex therapists try to tell us. It’s still certain that consuming pornography affects us on every level: spiritual, emotional, and physical. And for religious people who believe in making and keeping promises of ‘worthiness,’ consuming pornography often takes a very profound emotional toll on them.

On us, I should say. Yes, I’m revealing a thing here. I spent many years addicted to pornography. I am no longer. Addiction experts push the idea of ‘Once an addict, always an addict,’ and while I believe that this is partly true, I know with certainty that we can be totally and completely healed of addiction. That doesn’t mean we don’t have to be on our guard, but it does mean that the burden of this addiction and the powerlessness that accompanies it can be removed and we can be made whole. I know this.

And that leads me perfectly to what I believe is so bad, spiritually and emotionally, about pornography. I believe when we consume pornography, we know that we are doing something contrary to what we know is right. And when the addiction casts its spell over us, we feel less. We feel inadequate. We feel consumed by secrets. We feel that this secret, which so many refer to as a filthy habit, defines us.

Which becomes a vicious, disempowering cycle. And I think we can change the way we talk about pornography and addiction to pornography, and thus help thousands of people really understand how to free themselves from it.

I’m going to end this post now, but I’ll be back. Let me leave some thoughts with you before I go: Why do we tell our society to stop objectifying women, and men sometimes, while at the same time making people feel out of place for trying to overcome pornography addiction? Odd dichotomy? What is that mixed signal doing to people?

Why do we make those struggling to overcome pornography consumption feel terrible about the temptation it offers? Temptation is not wrong. How we handle temptation is where we can get in trouble.

Me being attracted to women is not wrong. Me allowing that attraction to determine my behavior is wrong.

Help me get my next post out quicker: What do you think about the sin metaphor of ‘dirty?’ Can you think of a better one? A worse one?