Category Archives: Pornography

Our Primary Source for Sex Ed…? Entertainment Media

Relevant Magazine just published an article I wrote on our culture’s sexual pedagogy through screens. The piece draws on a brief “TheoMedia Note” on sex and violence in my new book TheoMedia.

Since a number of folks are arriving at Hopeful Realism from Relevant’s site, I thought it might be helpful to compile some other writings on sex and culture from the blog. Here is a list:

Preaching on Pornography

Sexology: Porn, Justice, & Redemption

How Pornography Decontextualizes Sex

A Sermon on a Biblical Theology of Sex, and the Distortions of Pornography

This issue of learning about real sex from fictionalized sex is critically important. Let’s be good interpreters of our culture, and rely on solid resources!

Some wise words re: “pornography culture”

My good friend Brian Maiers sent me the link to “The Pornography Culture” over at a blog dedicated to the theology of David B. Hart.  The essay is almost four years old, written on the occasion of another legal blow against the Child Online Protection Act (COPA).  It appeared at The New Atlantis in 2004 and it is written by Hart.  The wisdom, however, is as fresh and urgent for today as yesterday.   The author (listed as “Pliny”) is clearly brilliant, with astute observations about civil liberties and the erosion of Western society.  Since I write occasionally on pornography, I am listing some quotes directing pertaining to that issue below…

…it is difficult for me to grasp why the Court works upon the premise that whatever means are employed to protect children from Internet pornography should involve the barest minimum imposition possible upon the free expression of pornographers.

The damage that pornography can do—to minds or cultures—is not by any means negligible. Especially in our modern age of passive entertainment, saturated as we are by an unending storm of noises and images and barren prattle, portrayals of violence or of sexual degradation possess a remarkable power to permeate, shape, and deprave the imagination; and the imagination is, after all, the wellspring of desire, of personality, of character. Anyone who would claim that constant or even regular exposure to pornography does not affect a person at the profoundest level of consciousness is either singularly stupid or singularly degenerate. Nor has the availability and profusion of pornography in modern Western culture any historical precedent. And the Internet has provided a means of distribution whose potentials we have scarcely begun to grasp.

The spectrum of wit explored by television comedy runs largely between the pre- and the post-coital.

[What the Internet offers]:

…an “interactive” medium for pornography, a parallel world at once fluid and labyrinthine, where the most extreme forms of depravity can be cheaply produced and then propagated on a global scale, where consumers (of almost any age) can be cultivated and groomed, and where a restless mind sheltered by an idle body can explore whole empires of vice in untroubled quiet for hours on end.

…as imaginations continue to be shaped by our pornographic society, what sorts of husbands or fathers are being bred? And how will women continue to conform themselves—as surely they must—to our cultural expectations of them? To judge from popular entertainment, our favored images of women fall into two complementary, if rather antithetical, classes: on the one hand, sullen, coarse, quasi-masculine belligerence, on the other, pliant and wanton availability to the most primordial of male appetites—in short, viragoes or odalisks. I am fairly sure that, if I had a daughter, I should want her society to provide her with a sentimental education of richer possibilities than that.

I do have daughters.  I say Amen.

A Sermon on a Biblical Theology of Sex, and the Distortions of Pornography

I have not yet posted links to any of my sermons on this blog.  I have decided to post this one because it is a bit unique—I am specifically addressing pornography.  The sermon was delivered on Valentine’s Day (appropriate, huh?) at Southeastern Bible College earlier in the year.  I am grateful to my friend Micah Simpson, the school’s Campus Pastor, for the invitation… and I am proud of the bravery he demonstrated in asking someone to speak on such a controversial topic at a Christian school!

The sermon provides a concise biblical theology of sex and then covers a variety of ways that pornography twists and damages that beautiful vision, thereby sabotaging our capacity for enjoying sex as a healthy, vibrant part of marriage.  If you want to give it a listen, you can click the link below.

Biblical Sex, Porn Sex

How Pornography Decontextualizes Sex

After seven years of college ministry and with two small sons under my care, I have been burdened over the last six months to preach, teach, and write on the unpleasant topic of pornography.  Here are the previous posts so far: “‘Sexology’“…; “Preaching on Pornography.”

For this post, I am arguing that porn decontextualizes sex….

Sex always has context.  Sex never occurs in a vacuum.  There is baggage.  There are conjoined histories.  There are dual sets of longings and disappointments.  There are complex motivations.  There is some ongoing dialogue.  Sex always has context, the context of two complex and complicated individuals with pasts, with pains, with joys, with questions, with hopes, with failures.  Sex never occurs in a vaccuum.

Except porn-sex.

This is a bit explicit, so be warned (explicit material requires explicit address)—I sometimes pose to young guys questions like these about their sexual fantasies or about the sexual footage they are watching on their screens: “Is the female in the images bored?  Does she have a headache?  Are there dishes in the kitchen sink that she might be worrying about?  Does she pause to ask if the baby monitor is on?  Did she have a good day at work?  Was her boss a jerk that morning?  Are the clothes still in the dryer?  Is she pleased with how kind you have been to her over the past couple of hours?”

These are shocking questions for a college guy.  What in the world do any of those factors have to do with sex?  And the fact that such a question might arise exposes just how little is really known about sex, including the reality that all sex has context.

Expect porn-sex.

In porn-sex, and in porn-generated fantasies about sex, there are no headaches, no dirty dishes in the sink, no projects due the next day, no children sleeping in the adjoining bedroom, no need for kindness, no history of gentle listening or patient care-giving, and no thrilling or threatening acknowledgement of the fact that two minutes in bed can irreversibly alter the entire course of one’s life should two particular cells collide.

But in real sex, there is context.  There are two people with emotions, fears, joys and lingering doubts and uplifting joys.  There is the conversation that just took place over supper, the overdue bill on the dining room table, the telltale odor in the hallway indicating that the diaper pail is full again, the scent of coffee ground and prepared for the morning cup to be enjoyed with the cereal bought with those precious coupons dutifully clipped out of the weekend paper.  Even when real sex is outside of marriage, there is still the context of anxious fears about how the interaction is going to go the next day, with the anxious or excited prospects of what friends will say, with the foreboding sense that some will find out, with the exciting sense that others will.  All sex has context.

Except porn-sex.

Most young people presumably use pornography because they do not have such ready access to the real thing.  But if our expectations and understanding of sex come from secular media, then there will be a great deal of shock to overcome when the messy (but beautiful) factors of context become so obviously important.

The context of healthy, beautiful sexual intimacy includes the hard, back-breaking work of exalting someone else over oneself minute by minute, year after year, decade after decade.  Kindness showed in the dining room affects what happens in the bedroom.  Odd, I know, but the scent of a $4 bottle of anti-bacterial kitchen cleaner might have more rewarding impact in someone’s sex life that the scent of a $50 vial of cologne.

The decontextualizing of sex by pornography requires years of painful unlearning when it comes to real, live contextualized sex.  And decontextualized sex trains porn viewers that it does not matter how you treat the kids before bedtime or how you treat your spouse day after day, decade after decade.

“Sexology: Porn, Justice, & Redemption” (my talk at Samford Thursday night)

Tomorrow night at Samford (6-7p, Reid Chapel) I am addressing again some hefty subjects: 1) pornography’s distortion of the theological vision of sex and sexuality presented in Scripture and 2) the connections between pornography and social justice.

If you are reading this, I obligate you to lift up a prayer.

We tend to view pornography as a private sin.  But there is no such thing as a private sin.  You can sin in private, but the nature of sin is that it always has public consequences.  So I am quite determined to communicate Scripture’s clear teaching that sin places us on a trajectory that can quickly spin out of control and destroy others, not just ourselves.

By the way, I do not think I am being legalistic and sponsoring some moralistic, even fundamentalist, version of sanitized sexual mores.

For a brief introduction into the effects of pornography on society, see this article by one of my new heroes, Gail Dines—”The Truth About the Porn Industry.”

(And don’t forget—you are supposed to lift up a prayer.)

Preaching on Pornography

This is a risky (and maybe risqué) post.  Clicking “Publish” on this one is about to feel really awkard.  But the church is plagued not only with pornography but also with a reluctance to discuss it.  After almost 7 years in college ministry, I have found that struggling with porn is standard fare for most young Christian men.  I have failed to tackle the issue with the urgency it deserves until this past year.  Twice now I have spoken on pornography, and will be doing so again next month at Samford University.

My most recent sermon on the issue was at Southeastern Bible College‘s Monday morning chapel service.  I am very grateful for their hospitality.  A number of gracious folks wanted access to the points in the talk, so I am listing some of them here.  Pornography will be a topic of occasional discussion here on this blog, so be warned.

1] Porn Sabotages Real Sex by Emasculating Males.  The word “emasculating” may seem harsh—it makes men cringe to read it.  But so many men experience a sexual desensitization from their porn use.  Many men married to beautiful women stop having sex with their wives as their porn addiction deepens.  Wilder, more violent footage and imagery is required to maintain arousal.  Real sex begins to pail in comparison to the manufactured scenes on offer from the porn industry.  Sin will always betray us, offering us some falsified beauty that actually detracts from and destroys the real thing.  My contention here about pornography’s theft of the joyful experience of real live sex is not just a claim from a Christian minister who wants to rant, rave and moralize on his blog—check out this post at CNN’s online Health section for a secular take on how porn sabotages real sex.

2] Porn Sabotages Real Sex by Emotionally Incapacitating Women.  I have been reminded to be careful not to cast porn addiction as only a male struggle.  A growing number of women are viewing porn.  But my point here is that as married men view graphic images of perfectly sculpted bodies of women who never have a headache and who always have an unlimited supply of energy, then wives may begin to feel as though the competition is too fierce to stay in the game.

Naomi Wolf famously wrote in The New York Magazine that in a pornified culture, “real naked women are just bad porn.”  Here is more from her article “The Porn Myth“:

For most of human history, erotic images have been reflections of, or celebrations of, or substitutes for, real naked women. For the first time in human history, the images’ power and allure have supplanted that of real naked women.

And more:

Here is what young women tell me on college campuses when the subject comes up: They can’t compete, and they know it. For how can a real woman—with pores and her own breasts and even sexual needs of her own (let alone with speech that goes beyond “More, more, you big stud!”)—possibly compete with a cybervision of perfection, downloadable and extinguishable at will, who comes, so to speak, utterly submissive and tailored to the consumer’s least specification?

If our wives know we are staring at pictures of 25-yr olds with implants and laser-enhancements, then they will be less inclined to display their own bodies in the marriage bed.  If they cannot replicate the wild, erotic passion of an actress who is making cash to act out a scripted fantasy, then they might just stop being as responsive during real live sex.  Again, the point is that pornography sabotages the real thing.

3] Viewing Porn makes us a partner with Satan.  To click on a pornography site is to help fund Satan’s vilest projects in the world.  The complex web behind the footage and the videos has tendrils that are connected to red light districts across the world where little children are imprisoned as sex slaves.  It is a system that promises cash and stardom to young girls then nurtures drug use that numbs the reality of the brutalizing demands.  Many porn addicts find themselves in need of ever-increasing deviance in the sites and images they visit.  Child pornography is on this path.  As a preacher, I do not normally talk about hell, fire, brimstone and the Devil.  But I do when I talk about porn. To view it is to partner with evil.


So many young people I work with are passionate about social justice.  Yet in my view, pornography is one of the greatest social justice issue of our times—embedded in its production are racism, mysogyny, and even slavery.  If we want to be passionate about social justice, let’s start with how we use our laptop’s mouse.

If you are reading this and you are struggling with pornography, I am pleased to report that Jesus and His Gospel are strong.  Strong enough, in fact, to destroy the destroyer and to redeem the destruction.  I am also pleased to report that there is help.  For starters, here are a couple of links…




Also, here is a great book to start with—

By Craig Gross & Steven Luff