Editor’s Notes: Originally posted on Enhancing the Dance.
See followup comments here.
I’m (Dr. Jessica McCleese) excited to take this opportunity to introduce you to a colleague of mine. We met while I was pursuing training as a sexual educator. Corey has worked directly with Dr. Doug Rosenau, author of A Celebration of Sex, and multiple training programs for sexual education.
Today, Corey answers a question that I often receive from Christians.
Is pornography really harmful if you both agree to use it?
Your willingness to openly discuss this issue with each other and come to an agreement is very good. For many couples this does not happen, as sexual interests are kept secret or placed as a demand on each other. Even so, it is good to still ask the next question: Does this cause harm?
Pornography often portrays a distortion of God’s design for sexuality in that it is not a reflection of love. When regularly digested we are more prone to become unloving in our sexual expressions. “We are what we eat,” as the saying goes. As Christians, we are to fill our hearts with pure, virtuous, and beautiful things, things that inspire us to love (Philippians 4:8; Hebrews 10:24). Pornography misses the mark here and, therefore, would cause harm to your marriage. Anything not from love causes harm.
Permit me to take your question a little deeper. In our reaction to pornography Christians tend to overcorrect and miss the deeper desire your question reveals. Our hearts were designed to appreciate and desire regular doses of beauty. When faced with the dry and mundane tasks of life we will seek out beauty to inspire and enliven us. This is what beauty does. We turn to nature, music, paintings, poems, and the like to get out of our dull and tedious everydayness. Beauty invites us to drink deeply of life, to remember the goodness of our creation, and to lovingly express that goodness in many free and creative ways.
When our sexual lives become lackluster we will also look to beauty to bring back the spark of passion. Again, this is what beauty does. So it makes sense that we would consider “spicing things up” with pornography. Pornography stimulates and suggests many novel expressions. However, while it imitates beauty, pornography does not bear the same fruit as true beauty. Instead of bringing more life and revealing creative ways to express our love sexually, pornography tends to limit our focus to our bodies, its positions and responses. This narrow focus misses God’s sexual best for us.
Our challenge as Christians is to honor our desire for beauty, and the role it plays in life, without attaching this desire to shallow and demeaning forms. We are also challenged to find works of art that celebrate the beauty of holy eroticism, similar to Scripture’s Song of Solomon. When this beauty is enjoyed our sexual lives can be transformed into true reflections of Love, instead of being conformed to the distorted images of this world.
This will be no easy task. Despite the desperate need to redeem the biblical vision of sex for our culture, the church hesitates to regularly produce erotic art. On the other hand, author and sex therapist Wendy Maltz does a pretty good job at providing erotic art in poetic form. She compiled two collections of poems to convey and celebrate positive, healthy sexual images for couples: Passionate Hearts and Intimate Kisses. There remains a great need for many more works to redeem our erotic imagination toward the biblical vision.
Meanwhile, do not settle for the easy, cheap imitation of beauty found in pornography. Allow only those things in your marriage that reflect Divine beauty, truth, and goodness, things that arouse deeper and fuller expressions of Love. Your marriage is worth it.
Blessings to you and a huge thank-you to Corey for answering this difficult question with both truth and grace! – Dr. Jessica McCleese