Should Porn be banned?

Posted on October 3, 2011 at 11:26 am,

This is the next in our series critiquing Wayne Grudem’s book Politics According to the Bible. Today we’re looking at the section on pornography that’s at the end of Chapter 7 (which is on marriage).

Is pornography sinful?

Grudem starts off by pointing out that the Bible portrays sex outside of marriage as sin. He cites over a dozen passages which talk about adultery and fornication as sinful. Grudem then goes on to point out that God is concerned with our attitudes as well as our actions, citing Exodus 20:17 (don’t covet) – which explicitly forbids a man from wanting somebody else’s wife sexually. He then points out that in Matthew 5:27-28, Jesus said that lusting after somebody is to commit adultery with them in your heart. He then goes on to cite Ezekiel 23:14-17 as an example of how sexual sin progresses. Because pornography is material designed to make us lust after somebody, Grudem rightly concludes that Christians should consider using porn to be morally wrong.

What is the practical effect of pornography?

Grudem says that a married man who uses pornography robs his wife of emotional affection, and turns his heart away from her. He says that it hinders that marriage’s sexual relationship, and will have long-lasting effects on the marriage. He also says that the man’s wife will often have a sense of this, even if she never discovers that he is using porn.

Grudem also says that there a number of sociological studies that detail the harmful effects of pornography on people who use it, and points to a report produced by the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, which summarises the impact. He cites passages from the report that say that porn causes deception within marriages, that it can lead to divorce, that it promotes adultery, prostitution, and unreal expectations. It also expresses concern at the general sexualisation of the media – saying that children now receive the majority of their sex education from the media.

He says that the report identifies several false messages about sex sent by our culture, namely.

  • Sex with anyone, under any circumstances, any way it is desired, is beneficial and does not have negative consequences
  • Women have one value – to meet the sexual demands of men
  • Marriage and children are obstacles to sexual fulfillment
  • Everyone is involved in promiscuous sexual activity, infidelity,and premarital sex

It also deals with pornography as an addiction, and estimates that around 6-8% of Americans are sex addicts. Grudem then points out that sex clubs and strip parlours tend to attract criminal activity – the most notable statistic cited is that the number of sex offences in areas of Phoenix with adult businesses is 506% higher than in other areas.

How should this affect politics?

Grudem believes that looking at pornography should not be a criminal offence, reasoning that there are no laws against the worse sin of fornication, and that where there have been they have not been enforced. He does, however, think that creating and distributing pornographic material should be illegal, as it hurts society as a whole. He then goes into a US-specific issue of how this squares with the first amendment to the US constitution (which guarantees freedom of speech), pointing out that obscene material has always been an exception alongside things like incitement to riot. Finally, he claims that past successes in restricting pornographic materia mean that such laws can be easily enforced.

The elephant in the room

Many discussions about regulating pornographic material fail to mention the 21st Century elephant in the room – the internet. Grudem makes passing reference to it in the final paragraph of this section. He cites an ABA Journal article which says “… the real reason Internet obscenity has not been tackled stems from the fact that law enforcement seems not to have the time, resources, or inclination to pursue it”.

This sentiment seems to me to be somewhat naive. The internet is a vast international network. If one nation passes laws against pornography, then porn websites will simply move to a country that allows their material. If one site gets shut down and its owners are prosecuted, then several more will quickly take its place. That’s exactly what has happened with attempts to bring down filesharing websites, and there’s no reason to believe that porn websites would follow a different path.

The only way to effectively regulate anything but the most extreme (and universally objectionable) internet content is to enact filtering software to block the material at some point between the website and the end user, rather than to hunt down those running the site. And even that is anything but foolproof – such software will always let some objectionable content through, censor some non-objectionable content, or most likely both.

In conclusion, Grudem is right that pornography is something that Christians should find morally objectionable, and that it does have many negative consequences. But I think he’s wrong to say that it’s something that can be effectively regulated by national governments in the internet age.

2 Comments

  1. Gypsum Fantastic
    Posted October 3, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Can I start off by pointing out that The Bible is the religious book of one of around 3000 religions. Now I know YOUR religion is the one that’s right, even so I don’t think people who can’t grasp the basics of evolution, relativity and geology etc, and who don’t realise religion is just a social construct, should really be the right people to be spouting off about pornography being immoral. Especially considering the amount of suffering caused by religions. You’re being left behind as people becomne more and more educated and a great thing it is to see.

    Come to think of it, there’re many more reasons to ban religions.

  2. Stephen Gray
    Posted October 13, 2011 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    Hi Gypsum,

    I think you’ve missed the point of this entry. I’m a Christian, so is the guy who’s book I’m critiquing, and so are millions of people in the UK and a couple of billion people around the world (and the number is growing all the time). This blog post is about how we should look at the issue. So unless you think that people like me shouldn’t be allowed to have or express opinions on these kind of issues, then I’m not sure I see your point.

    And, incidentally, on a global scale Christianity is growing faster than non-religious beliefs (which peaked as a proportion of world population around 1989), relativity is irrelevant to any religious beliefs I’m familiar with, and evolution and geology are only relevant to the issue of creationism (many Christians believe God used evolution, and others don’t believe evolution is how we got here but do believe in an old Earth). So your criticisms of religion seem to me to be as ignorant as you’re accusing Christians in general of being.

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