Talk show host Dennis Prager surprised many friends and listeners recently when he seemed to condone the use of pornography.
“Men want variety,” he told Jordan Peterson during an episode of “Exodus” for the Daily Wire. “If pornography is a substitute for one’s wife, it’s awful. If it’s a substitute for adultery, it’s not awful.”
In other words, a sexually frustrated man could be excused for viewing pornography if by viewing it he avoids being sexually unfaithful to his wife.
Prager went on to say that Judaism, to which he subscribes, doesn’t consider lust to be a sin. In order for it to be a sin, you need to physically act on the lust.
Dennis Prager has been right on many things over the years, and we’re grateful for his advocacy and voice in the great moral debates of our day. But he is wrong on this matter, and destructively and dangerously so.
Pornography is and has long been a societal evil. The term itself stems from the Greek word “porni” – meaning prostitute – and “graphein” – meaning “to write.” The Supreme Court famously defined it as something you know when you see it – a rather vague description that nevertheless makes sense to most of us.
Excusing or condoning pornography’s use as a way to prevent adultery is downright illogical. If anything, the evidence would indicate pornography use ultimately and inevitably would increase promiscuity and the risk of extramarital affairs. Anytime you normalize deviancy you exponentially increase the odds of immoral behavior.
It’s also impossible to square the logic of not using pornography as a “substitute” for a spouse and yet using it as a “substitute” for adultery. If a married person is channeling their sexuality to anyone other than their spouse, that’s a violation of marital trust – and an erosion of trust leads to dangerous places.
Dennis Prager’s suggestion that Judaism is unconcerned with lust is also a curious and peculiar interpretation of Old Testament teaching. He’s basically contending God is unconcerned with matters of the heart, so long as they don’t harm someone else. If that’s the case, why would the Ten Commandments prohibit us from having other gods (Exodus 20:3) or coveting someone else’s wife (Exodus 20:17)?
The reality is everything effects everything else. Thoughts become actions – and our actions always impact other people.
Pornography also requires the exploitation of other people. Some may argue that its participants consent and even profit from its creation, but the industry is so corrupt and downright wicked that such a claim is always incomplete and inaccurate. Those lured into pornography, however willingly, are nonetheless always victims.
At its core, pornography separates and severs the intended use and beauty of God’s intent for human sexuality and turns it into an immoral and deviant commodity.
Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson served on the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography back in the 1980s. It was a growing concern back then and has only gotten exponentially worse with the explosion of the internet and social media.
I remember discussing its proliferation with Dr. Dobson and how so few high-profile individuals seemed willing to speak out against it.
“You know why that is?” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s because so many of them are ensnared by it and don’t want to be hypocrites by speaking out against it.”
In a letter of warning to a young man, C.S. Lewis called pornography “A harem of imaginary brides. … The harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no real woman can rival.”
“Among those shadowy brides he is always adored, always the perfect lover: no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity. In the end, they become merely the medium through which he increasingly adores himself.”
Pornography is an anathema to God’s intent and beautiful plan for sexuality. It’s toxic. It’s evil. And yes, Mr. Prager, it’s awful, no matter its form or audience.