Is Porn Considered Adultery?

According to "20 Mind-Blowing Stats About the Porn Industry and Its Underage Consumers," the porn industry is a $97 billion-dollar enterprise and has been on the rise for decades.

The demand is high, with no bullish downticks on the horizon. What was once isolated to printed periodicals has turned into one of the most searched items on the Internet. Nearly 30% of the Internet data is related to porn. Pornographic sites get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined (Klienman, Alexis, Huffpost, December 6, 2017).

Society was once ashamed of the consumption of pornographic materials because there was a good chance of getting caught if Playboy or Hustler magazines were sent to a house or office. Additionally, sister Sue from church may spot you while in the back of a store looking at the “Adults Only” magazine rack.

Today, not only is porn readily available because of the advent of the Internet, it's free!

In 2018, one “free porn” website received over 33,500,000,000 hits. Pornographic images can now be readily hidden digitally whether it is on a tablet, phone, or computer.

Adding to the issue, men are not the only purveyors of porn. Believe it or not, females under the age of 25 are more likely to seek porn more than women over 25 (Barna Group, “New Conference on Barna’s New Study: ‘The Porn Phenomenon,’ January 15, 2016).

What is adultery?

The Biblical definition of adultery is more encompassing than solely a married person having sexual intercourse with someone other than his/her spouse. 

First, in Matthew 5:28, we learn that adultery does not require physical contact. He wrote, “but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Thus, the adulterer may not even know the person to whom the lustful intent is directed. A wise preacher once broke down this verse into asking oneself the question, “would you act on your looking if given the opportunity?”

Second, Matthew goes one step further in Matthew 5:32, when he taught, “but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever married a divorced woman commits adultery.” 

Therefore, a married spouse is committing adultery by having sex with his/her spouse if the divorce was for any reason other than sexual immorality.

What is pornography?

“Pornography” is defined as “printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.”

One may think this question has an easy answer, but even the Supreme Court had difficulty defining what is and what is not obscene. In a famous case involving the ban of the allegedly obscene movie “The Lovers,” Justice Potter Stewart in his concurrence famously wrote, “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.” (Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184, 1964) 

Before the Internet, many pubescent-age youth had their first dealings of scantily-clad bodies with a Sports Illustrated “Swimsuit Edition,” a Victoria's Secret catalog or other advertisements with a lingerie section. Did we realize this was pornography? The next step in a young person’s introduction into pornography was usually a “hand-me-down” old edition of Playboy or Hustler. As cable and satellite television became more readily available, sexually explicit movies were a graduation for many. 

Pornography causes a desensitization of the mind of the user.

Paul wrote in Romans 13:14 for us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” He expounded further to the church in Phillipians 4:7, by preaching the importance of guarding both our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Remember that only the soul is saved upon salvation. The mind and flesh are not included in salvation.

Further, Paul warned against allowing sexual lusts and unnatural desires in Romans 1:28.  He used the term “reprobate mind,” which John Gill in his “Exposition of the Bible” defined as being “incapable of approving what is truly good, or of disapproving that which is evil; a mind that has lost all conscience of things, and is disapproved of by God, and all good men.” 

Paul noted that “God gave them up to dishonorable passions” when women and men gave up natural relations for their own passions and shameless acts.

“Natural relations” can be simply defined as “sex between a husband and wife.” 

Dr. Norman Diodge from Columbia University concluded that pornography can alter the pathways of a person’s brain.

Our brains have a neuronal pathway where electrical signals travel back and forth from our brain to other parts of our body. The more we do something, the greater the pathway, and the more inherent the behavior. [Diodge, N. (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself. (xiiv-xiv) New York: Penguin Books; Kolb, B., Gibb, R., & Robinson, T.E. (2003)].

We all have times when we experience a period of intense focus. We feel almost super-human and are able to access intense concentration, recollection, and production.  Scientists refer to this phenomenal period as “flow.” Our society today sometimes calls it as “being in the zone.”

Now consider the person obsessed with pornography.

He or she is so entrenched in the images or video that nothing from the outside can distract or deter him or her from the activity. However, with every image and video, the user is reinforcing their memory to be able to recall such images for an extended period of time.  [Pace, S. (2014). Acquiring Tastes Through Online Activity: Neuroplasticity and the Flow Experiences of Web Users. M/C Journal, 17(1)]. 

Just as with recreational drugs or other addictive behaviors, porn releases chemicals into the body creating a sense of a “buzz.”

These chemicals create mental connections between the graphic images and the “buzz.” The body learns that these images will cause it to “feel good” and desires the stimulation more and more. [Pitchers, K.K., et al. (2013). Natural and Drug Rewards Act on Common Neural Plasticity Mechanisms with DeltaFosB as a Key Mediator. Journal of Neuroscience, 33(8), 3434-3442.]

When the user is placed in a normal sexual setting with a spouse, the mind invariably recalls the pornographic images which were previously viewed. The behavior can become so extreme that the user is dependent upon these mental images for any type of sexual fulfillment.

An obsession with pornography can only cause the male to see their wife as less attractive sexually.

The necessity for greater stimulation leads to boredom in the relationship. [Dolf Zillmann and Jennings Bryant, “Pornography’s Impact on Sexual Satisfaction,” Journal of Applied Social Psychology 18, (1988): 448.]

Thus, the natural relationship with his or her spouse is deeply compromised.

Just like with a drug, the user of porn gradually turns to more explicit images in order to attain the desired “high.”

“Pornhub Analytics” reported that the “teen” porn category is a top site search and has been for nearly a decade. Studies support the notion that frequent viewing of pornography results in relaxed views of the institution of marriage and sex confined to marriage. [Dolf Zillman, “Influence of Unrestrained Access to Erotica on Adolescents’ and Young Adults’ Dispositions toward Sexuality,” Journal of Adolescent Health 27S, (2000): 41.]

So now we are able to return to the question: is porn adultery?

Adultery is any lustful, sexual urge, or sexual intercourse with someone other than a spouse provided neither spouse has been previously divorced for any reason other than sexual immorality. 

Further, science has connected the viewing of porn with the alteration of the user’s brain activity and desires. 

These newfound desires can alter the user’s ability to appreciate pure sexual interaction because of the entrenchment of the viewed pornographic imagery. Therefore, the viewing of porn is adultery when the viewer lusts for the interaction portrayed by the image. This form of lust is graduated when images are used as a basis for sexual gratification during relations with a spouse.

In Romans 13:14, we are instructed to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”


bio pic Chad NapierChad Napier is a believer in Christ, attorney at law, wannabe golfer, runner, dog lover, and writer. He enjoys serving his church as a deacon and Sunday School teacher. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and at his golf devotion par3sixteen.com. He and his wife Brandi reside in Tennessee with their canine son Alistair.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/junce

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