Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Pornography, is it a sin and why?

For a lot of members of the Church I'm sure the first question would be an unmitigated yes, but I'm equally sure that most would have no idea as to why.  An even better question might be exactly what do we mean when we say that pornography is a sin?  Isn't pornography a thing?  And if pornography is a thing then how can it sin?  Isn't sin something that an individual does that God has commanded us not to do?  So how can pornography be a sin?

This line of questioning, points out an inherent problem with the issue of pornography in the Church.  The problem is that in our discourse we don't have or use an easy to understand definition for the word pornography.  In fact it took me some time to find this definition on the Church web site.

"Pornography is any material depicting or describing the human body or sexual conduct in a way that arouses sexual feelings."

If this is what we in the Church are using to define pornography then there are four issues I have with this definition.  One issue is that it is so broad as to be almost meaningless.  One could argue that garbage bags are pornographic if they are shaped like the human body and if they arouse sexual feelings.  I can't imagine a world without garbage bags.

But whimsy aside, an even more troubling aspect of this definition is with the last phrase, "…arouse sexual feelings."  Who is to say if something arouses sexual feelings or not?  The conditional aspect of this definition is so subjective that it makes it impossible, for someone other than the individual themselves, to determining what is and isn't pornographic.  The question is, how does an individual know if they are aroused or not? As far as I can tell no one is born with an arousal meter that tells them when their arousal rating creeps into the red zone.  And without some way of measuring arousal we are left with everything is arousing, or nothing is arousing, or we are somewhere in the middle and we don't have a clue where we are.

The third issue I have with this definition of pornography is that two individuals can be looking at the same thing and one will be aroused and the other won't.  A subjective definition of pornography is the very antithesis of the belief that God is no respecter of persons.

My fourth issue with this definition is that it conflicts with the Church's stance on same sex attraction (SSA).  For example compare the definition of pornography just discussed with this quote from a letter published by the Church and read in Church on July 5th or 12th of this year.

"While opposing homosexual behavior, the Church reaches out with understanding and respect to individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender. If members feel same gender attraction but do not engage in any homosexual behavior… …These members may receive Church callings. …they may also hold temple recommends and receive temple ordinances” (Handbook 2, 21.4.6)."

In this case there is a very discrete line between desire and behaviour.  And when it comes to sexual desire in the context of SSA, having this desire doesn't disqualify one from a Temple recommend and participating in temple ordinances according to this letter.

Now compare this with those who have a sexual desire towards a member of the opposite sex.  If you find yourself sexually aroused by abstract objects like garbage bags you might be denied a Temple recommend.  Yet on the other hand if you find yourself sexually arouse by a member of your own sex obtaining a Temple recommend isn't a problem.  When you compare the consequences of these two desires you end up with only one conclusion.  There is an unfair difference in the consequence between those who have same sex desire and those who have opposite sex desire.  These two positions are therefore mutually exclusive.

Another troubling aspect, that this comparison demonstrates, is in the nature of the two acts being discussed.  On the one hand, homosexual behaviour is a sin.  While on the other hand, heterosexual behaviour isn't a sin as long as it is in a marital relationship.  Yet in the former any desire for a same sex relationship is okay but any desire for an opposite sex relationship is a sin if you are doing so while looking at someone of the opposite sex.  This doesn't make sense.  Why do those who have same sex attraction get a free pass to the Temple when it comes to desire?  And isn't the sole purpose of this life is to have a sexual relationship with a member of the opposite sex? 

Logical inconsistencies and subjective definitions like this need to be resolved or the consequences of these issues will play out in ways that are not always positive for the individual, or the Church.

Comments and questions are welcome

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