September 11, 2008

"Is Pornography Adultery?"

Ross Douthat asks a question that seems to assume everyone is married. I think the answer to the question -- even if everyone is married -- is so obviously no that I'm not going to say anything else about it, but maybe you'd like to talk about it.


Sy said...


Maybe you want to see us talking about it?

vbspurs said...

No. Men are visually stimulated. It's only a problem if all your husband does, is wank all day -- like David Duchovny.

Sy said...

Oh, the only way pornography could be considered as adultery is for that person to be in the porn film itself.


vbspurs said...

What about blow jobs? Bill Clinton and other men think it's a grey zone.

Me, I think it's a blue zone.

Seven Machos said...

1. Adultery
2. Prostitutes and call girls
3. Frottering
4. Pornography
5. Flirting
6. Flipping through Cosmo

David Walser said...

Is pornography adultery? No, but that doesn't mean my wife wouldn't be very upset if I were a consumer of pornography. She might feel threatened by the fact I felt a need to be stimulated by other women that, somehow, she was not able to fulfill me sexually. She might worry that viewing pornography might awaken in me appetites she might not feel comfortable satiating. Or she might feel that, in my eyes, she compares unfavorably with the porn queens I've been lusting over. Etc. Etc. Etc.

knox said...

Cosmo?? I thought that had long been replaced by the Victoria's Secret catalog.

(hee, no pun intended vbspurs!)

vbspurs said...

No worries, Knox. My dad was ahead of his time: I could've been called "Sears".

Michael said...

Only if it's really good porn and you have a really good wide screen monitor.

Otherwise it doesn't count.

Michael said...

vbspurs: That's because you can't even buy a blow job.

Maybe you could ask a friend...?

Henry said...

b) Is geography travel?

c) Is scatalogy plumbing?

d) Is property theft?

Angst said...


With this post,
Ann's "View my COMPLETE profile"
Takes on a whole new meaning ;>

chickenlittle said...

vbspurs said: Me, I think it's a blue zone.

I tend think to think of it more as the end zone. Like scoring some fish taco.

Ron said...

Tea Leoni clearly learned Fox Mulder's "Trust No One" motto!

vbspurs said...

Like scoring some fish taco.

Icky. This would be the textbook definition of taking one for the team.

chickenlittle said...

vbspurs didn't say ichthy

As I've said before, it's chicken to me.

Trooper York said...

If Mort were awake he would tell you he likes to look at pictures of big titties.

Revenant said...

4. Pornography
5. Flirting

How is porn closer to adultery than flirting is? Even if you limit "porn" to "porn involving actual living humans" (and ignore text, virtual, cartoon, et al) you're still comparing quasi-sexual interaction with an actual living woman (flirting) to looking at a picture of a woman you'll never meet (porn).

I would also say that flirting indicates a much clearer desire to have sex with another woman than looking at porn does.

glenntkenny said...

Alternate title for Douthat's article: "Ben Shapiro Learns To Write."


TMink said...

Sure it is. Jesus said that just looking at a woman with lust in my heart makes me guilty of adultery. Part of the point is that I am broken and not what God made me to be. Part of the point is so's all y'all! I mean, that is a high bar up there, and I firmly believe that men don't make the cut as a whole as far as the whole lusting in our heart sin.

So I take my sin seriously, but not too seriously. It is what I choose, but it is also who I am because of the fall. And so fer all y'all 'gin!

Another interesting discussion would be the neurological impact of using pornography. Orgasm is a complicated neurological event, and as it is repeated with visual stimuli, a whole lot of deep learning must be going on. But what is being learned and what are the consequences?


Joe said...

One problem with the article is that he plays the linguistic trick of using a word with a fairly distinct meaning, "adultery," and then switches to use the word "cheating."

Most people would consider cheating to be a much bigger category than adultery and would likely include any romantic relationship with a non-significant other (this is important--by definition you can't commit adultery if you aren't married.)

Seven Machos said...

Jesus said that just looking at a woman with lust in my heart makes me guilty of adultery.

No. I believe that was Jimmy Carter.

Pogo said...

If pornography is adultery, then cookbooks are meals, the sports page is playing football, Cat Fancy is having a cat, Field & Stream is hunting, Vogue is a dress, and Jane’s Defence Weekly is fighting in the trenches.

It depends on what the meaning of is, is.

Ha ha.
But in truth Trey is correct. The difference is the lie inherent in the first item, lacking in the others; a foresaking of what is human.

mcg said...

It's not adultery, which when it is legally defined always seems to involve another person in the flesh. But it most certainly can be infidelity. It depends on the ground rules of the relationship, explicit and implicit.

Jesus said that just looking at a woman with lust in my heart makes me guilty of adultery.

He also said that swearing at your brother is murder. He wasn't equating those things by definition, but rather by category. I think it should be thought of as something like this: "OK, fine, you haven't committed adultery. But you were totally checking out that babe at Starbucks last week. So don't think you're innocent."

Mitch H. said...

Could I make the point that Douhat conflates using porn, and making it? Most of those examples cited included people who apparently made a habit of videotaping or otherwise recording themselves naked and jerking off.

Masturbating = not adultery. It's just you and nonsentient props.

Masturbating for an audience necessarily involves other parties, presumably not including your acknowledged partner, if the examples are taken from divorce proceedings. That definitely strays over the line into, well, straying.

It's the difference between self-amusement and intercourse.

mcg said...

Here's the relevant passage: (Matthew 5:27-30)

You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY'; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

froggyprager said...

the question is wrong, it should not be "Is Porn Adultery" but "Is Porn Wrong" or "Should I feel betrayed if my spouse/partner is into porn?" Part of the point here is that what “porn” is has changed. On-line porn can be very interactive now, it is not simply looking at photos for some folks and that does blur the line. This ethical questions is one that everyone has to answer for themselves.

Roger J. said...

dont know about porn being adultery or not, but I do know that you can find pornographic images in the ruins a pompey. Been around a long time, and as a good conservative have to go with the historical precedent :)

Pastor_Jeff said...

Good discussion.

It's not adultery ... But it most certainly can be infidelity.

That, I think, is Jesus' concern in the first place. The biblical ideal for marriage is that husband and wife become "one flesh" -- a vivid picture of the deepest intimacy of body and soul.

Inviting another person into that intimate relationship is a breaking of confidence. Porn is less serious and damaging than physical adultery, but Seven's comment at 2:38 is close to the mark, I think.

I'm assuming that since we're talking about porn the intent is erotic stimulation. Artistic representations and advertising are less troublesome, but not unproblematic. The question is: Am I learning to associate sexual desire with someone other than my spouse? And why would that not be problematic for developing intimacy and trust?

To put it another way, would your spouse be comfortable with you inviting someone else into your bedroom for you to fantasize about while you make love? So why invite that person into your mind and heart?

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

What about blow jobs? Bill Clinton and other men think it's a grey zone.

Back in the Clinton days I had a female coworker argue with me that a bj wasn't sex. To bad I didn't meet her until after I was married...

Drew W said...

Is Pornography Adultery?

No, but it'll do in a pinch.

Pastor_Jeff said...

And just because I don't get to use Greek much in everyday conversations, I'll point out that the basis Jesus recognizes for divorce (in Matthew 5:32) -- marital infidelity -- is porneia, which gives us our word the day.

cardeblu said...

Is pornography adultry?

If both husband and wife watch and enjoy it together (by themselves), does that make them swingers?

Ruth Anne Adams said...

I believe pornography, which may lead merely to an infidelity [and not adultery], is certainly what would fall into the category of a 'near occasion of sin' worthy of avoidance.

rhhardin said...

visually stimulated

The guy is already stimulated. He's trying to get rid of it.

Meade said...

"...does that make them swingers?"

Maybe, but it doesn't make them unfaithful because they are both acting within the bounds of their mutual understanding of the agreed upon relationship. Step outside those bounds, and I think a domestic court might find grounds for divorce.

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

Why limit the question to pornography. Is it adultery if you are stimulated by an image that is not pornographic?

blake said...

I started this (even though it's at the anti-semitic, gay gossip rag "The Atlantic") but then stopped. This is some seriously sloppy stuff.

It conflates porn with--as someone else noted--active contribution. Nude pictures, online relationships, etc.

It even refers to Seth Rogen as running a "porn website" in Knocked Up, when that was kind of the running gag of the movie (that it wasn't).

It also trots out the saw about how terribly HUGE adult entertainment is, when those numbers are always provided by a self-serving industry, and compared to niches of other industries.

All to say what? "Porn is"

William said...

And maybe Emiril would like to talk about food....I grew up in a world without pornography. It was a harsh, Dickensian childhood deprived of all erotic stimuli. I would go to the library for photography books. Please, m'am, may I have some more I would ask. "More," she screamed. "This dirty little brute wants some more," she replied with harshness and ridicule. And so I went to bed tearful and horny. It was a terrible childhood.....There was a long slow awakening from the coma of Victorianism. My introduction to good literature came from looking for the good parts in Studs Lonigan, The Naked and the Dead, and (jackpot) Lady Chatterly's Lover. I even read Molly Bloom's soliloquy in my quest for sexual enlightenment. I was told that the Song of Solomon was good stuff, but I passed. Catholic......When I was a young adult there was Playboy, then, blessedly, Penthouse. Bob Guccione has the distinction of introducing pubic hair to the American public.....The liberals, at first, were all in favor of this. They thought that sexual liberation would enable people to connect, to love each other with more fluidity. Then along came Hustler and Larry Flynt. Hustler made no pretense of making sex an elegant experience. Page after page of gyn exams with girls that were no prettier than they had to be. The liberals went into culture shock. They thought that middle class mores were suppressing something fine and noble and that sexual freedom would allow humans to express their love for each other. No such luck. Just another grubby appetite to be sated for a profit.....And the conservatives were at all times disapproving. It was genuinely thought that pornography would cause widespread decadence. Again, no such luck. Porn does not cause rape, perversion, or divorce. The only thing it causes is masturbation--or rather more facile masturbation.....Well, the conservatives were right about drugs. They really did have a negative impact on society....If you live long enough, you outlive all your vices. When I see porno nowadays, some of the action is so extreme you can't help but wonder what went wrong in the childhoods of the performers. It's no longer an obsession and barely a pasttime. I think the lack of pornography parodoxically eroticizes society more than the present saturation level of porn. When you're on a diet it is difficult to think of anything but food.

Buford Gooch said...

Christ said that looking at a *woman* with lust was committing adultery in your heart. He did not say that looking at a picture of a woman was the same. (Yes, they had pictures then, just not photos or video).

Revenant said...

I believe pornography, which may lead merely to an infidelity

Pornography leads to masturbation, not to infidelity. The last thing a guy wants to do after an orgasm is go out and find a woman to cheat on his wife with.

Joe M. said...

So would a husband looking lustfully at another man not be committing adultery in his heart?

David Walser said...

Pornography leads to masturbation, not to infidelity. The last thing a guy wants to do after an orgasm is go out and find a woman to cheat on his wife with.

Pornography doesn't always lead to infidelity; that's different from saying pornography never leads to infidelity.

True story: A man I knew was married with three children. His work required him to spend a lot of time on the internet and he started cruising porn sites on his lunch hour. Soon, he was spending more time viewing porn than he was working. After a while, porn did not satisfy and he started going to strip clubs in the seedier part of town. At first, he sat in the back and watched. Then he started paying for lap dances. He also started asking his wife for things she was uncomfortable doing. Later, he found that some of the strippers did "private performances" after hours, and he started paying for oral sex. Finally, a little over a year after he started watching porn on the internet, he had an affair with a co-worker. After a few months, the co-worker tired of his promises to leave his wife, so she called his wife to introduce herself.

You might say that the man's consumption of pornography did not lead to his infidelity, but you'd never convince him or his ex-wife of that fact.

To many pornography is a joke. It's a non-issue. At worst, it's a victimless crime. People would be better off if they would just relax and quit being so uptight.... Fine, for most of us that may be true. For a select few, at least, pornography can be addictive. I've seen it be a primary contributing factor in the ruin of marriages and a problem in the relationship of many husbands and wives. It's not a topic I find at all funny. YMMV.

Joe said...

True story: A man I knew with a wife and four children. He and his wife found porn added a real zip to a dying sex life. She also found it took the pressure off her to let him view some porn an masturbate once or twice a week.

SteveR said...

It can be bad, and can be defined as "adultry" but not in a legal sense. I belive it can help invigorate a sexual relatioship as Joe describes although many (most)men go beyond that. As far as God goes its on the list of many things we need to ask forgiveness for. A very big list

Hey said...

I think this is a generational issue, as is fellatio. I'm definitely not representing a religious demographic, but no one I know considers porn a problem. It is an accepted part of a relationship, as are (infrequent, no extra services) strip club visits.

People do flip if you're in a chat room - because of the connection and intimacy. The strip club ensures that the customer is fully clothed and the license is for a boys' night out, especially if it's a bachelor party. But for video, images, and static text it's simply part of masturbation.

You're not always going to have your partner with you as much as you'd like. Whether it's distance, work, illness, family or social commitments it's very easy for partners to not connect when they need or want to. Far better to deal with urges than to let something build and build.

Many religions take a very different look at this - some require all sex to be procreative within the bounds of marriage. That's the view and practice of an especially small minority.

7's list needs a distinction between two kinds of flirting. There is flirting with and without intent.

Flirting without intent is both light and in social situations where the boundaries are such that nothing will come of it and everyone involved and observing knows that. Men should generally only flirt with women who no more than 5 years younger than them, and it's always safest if they are more than 20 years older. Definitely less serious than porn.

Flirting with intent - anything you don't want anyone else to hear or see. Slippery slope to adultery or a restraining order. Leave it to the single folk or you will soon be single. You're also liable to get a severe remonstration from the other person's partner.

Hey said...

My major question though, is how can you spend $3k on porn sites? There's rather a lot of free material, and most sites are $30/month. So you're talking about 100 subscriptions, or else going to camsites where you pay a girl to strip for you and chat (they are much closer to stripper rates). What an idiot.

Kirk Parker said...


Compulsions don't make sense.

I consulted once as a computer expert with our Public Defender's office on a case that involved child porn (peripherally--they also had more serious charges.) The accused turned out to have piles and piles of zip drive cartridges just full of illegal-to-possess images.

I found myself wondering, how could he have possibly found the time to look at all that? But again, it was that compulsion; gotta download all these neat images; oh, wait, here's some more; oh, dang, my last zip disk is full, I need to buy some more; on and on and ...

Meade said...

True confession: Besides being a descendent of Increase Mather and, therefore a cousin to Ann Althouse, I happen to come from a long line of pornographers.

Sue me.