In a previous article, I spent time looking at how the person being viewed is dehumanized through pornography. Now, I want to turn my attention toward the person viewing pornography.
We understand that pornography is not only destructive for the person being viewed, but it is also destructive to the person viewing pornography. The reason for this is clear, in order to dehumanize—or objectify—another person, we must dehumanize ourselves. The destructiveness comes as we become less and less human, as we fade away from the reality in which God has created us to live.
Many have made this connection throughout the years. In his article, Porn in the USA, John Coleman says, “We human beings simply aren’t meant to detach this physical activity from emotional or spiritual intimacy. We struggle when we objectify and commodify others because we end up degrading and objectifying ourselves.” Since humans are integrated beings—body and soul—we naturally want to engage in relationship with both body and soul. These are integrated realities that interact with one another. In order for a person to enter into a sexual encounter where they completely ignore the soul of another individual, they must attempt to ignore their own soul. People must try to separate themselves, attempting to engage in a “purely physical” act on their own, apart from relationship with the other person. People must become so involved with themselves, that they are willing to degrade another person in order to satisfy their own desires. The more a person becomes self-centered, willing to do anything to satisfy their individual needs, the less human they become. They end up dehumanizing themselves in all of the same ways they dehumanize the person they are viewing.
Theologically, pornography is nothing but sexual covetousness—wanting something we don’t have. The tenth commandment states, “You shall not covet your…neighbor’s wife…or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17). When someone views pornography, they are desiring something they don’t have—their neighbor’s wife. Paul takes this further in the book of Colossians, saying, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). In this passage, Paul associates covetousness with idolatry. They are one and the same thing. So, in the act of viewing another woman as an object through pornography, someone is not only coveting, but they are also committing idolatry because they are placing something else in the position of God—either themselves or their sexual desire.
To take this train of thought further, I want to show you another passage of scripture which speaks about the consequences of idolatry. Psalm 115:4-8 says, “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them” (Psalm 115:4–8). Those who trust in idols—those who commit idolatry—become like the idols they are worshiping and serving. They lose their ability to speak, see, hear, smell, feel, walk, talk. In reality, this passage is telling people that by practicing idolatry they become less human—they dehumanize themselves—and miss out on the way in which God has created them to live.
This is the destructiveness of pornography: Dehumanizing others and using them for our own pleasure and purposes. In order for someone to participate in such an activity, they have to dehumanize themselves. Then, the longer one participates in such an act, the less human they become, slowly losing their ability to see, hear, touch, taste, speak. Ultimately, they become what they worship and increasingly lose their ability to relate with God and to relate with the people around them—essential human characteristics.
In order to live life as fully human, we must embrace ourselves and one another as integrated beings, consisting of body and soul. We must interact with God, and one another, in relational ways. We must not become self-centered but live in ways that are self-giving to God and to others. We must fully embrace God’s design for humanity—including our sexuality.
Ultimately, we can only do these things by looking to Christ. He is the one who lived the fully human life. He is the one who died the perfect death, rose again, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He is the one who can forgive sins and free people from bondage to sin. He is the one who can make all things new. By looking to him for salvation, and putting faith in him, we will be freed to live as fully human beings, created in the image of God.
Rev. Dr. Steven Koster