Erotic Art versus Pornography

Often, and with much shame and guilt, men have confessed to me their obsession with erotic images. They seek to both understand their compulsion and find freedom from it. Listening to their stories, my own curiosity is stirred. I realize how many times the rich beauty of eroticism enchants me, while at other times I am repelled by the cheap displays of sexuality. Either way, I am aware of its affect on me and can hear it in the stories of other men as well.

While many guys describe a rather depraved and objectifying approach to erotic images, several others speak as if they are describing a beautiful work of art, captivated by its wonder. There is tension in wanting to fight against and eliminate the former, while somehow honoring and redeeming the latter.

Yet, how do we determine what is “good” and “bad” regarding erotic images? Some would argue that it is inherently sinful and has no place in the life of a Christian. Others would suggest its goodness is in the eye of the beholder, which is basically saying it is whatever you want it to be with no objective standard. While I cannot conclude that all erotic images are sinful (Scripture includes its fair share – Song of Solomon, for example), this does not mean that all such images are fair game.

Author Jeff Goins has helped me to clarify and humbly apply a standard in evaluating images. In exploring the difference between art and entertainment, he quotes a Makoto Fujimura:

“Entertainment gives you a predictable pleasure…art leads to transformation.”

I would consider pornography in its typical form mere entertainment, as it coddles the viewer with predictable pleasures. Even in the fervor of finding new and exciting images, in the end, we have only indulged in a moment of pleasure and have been left unchanged. Saving the many problems with pornography for another discussion, the point here is that as a type of entertainment, porn only dulls our senses; it distracts and pacifies us from the realities of life.

On the other hand, when the erotic is displayed artistically it has the ability to transform. It inspires and invites; it wounds and pierces through emotional barriers; it reveals secret dreams and hidden desires, fears and shortcomings. In the end, art touches our soul and leaves us changed. As such,

Erotic art has the power to redeem our imagination toward the biblical vision.

Unfortunately, while there are many who are willing to entertain us sexually, there are few who are willing or able to provide us with transformative erotic art. And too many of us are also willing to settle for predictable entertainment and not embrace the challenging call of holy eroticism.

Don’t settle. Be transformed.

What do you think? Is there a place for erotic art in the life of a Christian? Are there pieces of art that you have found valuable to this discussion?


Writer and artist J.D. Grubb provides a thoughtful reflection on the following video – Sigur Ros’ Valtari – in his article Sexuality in Art.

Warning: video contains nudity

What is your response to the video?

As a counselor, my passion is to help others reach their full God-given potential relationally, sexually, and spiritually. I do this by creating a personal space for individuals and couples, free from the demands of others, to thoughtfully attend to the important and sensitive areas of their life. I work as an ordained Christian minister, licensed marriage and family therapist, and certified sex therapist in private practice in Suwanee, GA.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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