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What's Wrong with Pornography?

What's Wrong with Pornography?

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Question:

Is pornography bad? If so could you please explain why it's bad and how it affects a person's life?

Answer:

Good question. Too often we just assume something is bad because everyone says it's bad, without thinking into the reasons.

Everyone knows that child pornography is bad because it's been demonstrated over and over that people who look at that stuff end up acting it out—and really destroy people's lives. That's beyond the unconscionably cruel exploitation of the children involved.

Other forms of pornography are harmful for a similarly oft-repeated reason: Pornography makes women into objects of desire rather than real people. We want to have relationships between person and person, not person-to-object.

But there's something much deeper than that in pornography, something that gets at the very core of being a man. A real man is someone who maintains control over himself. Animals can't do that—they just respond to their instincts. People are free in the sense that they can decide what is the right and proper thing to do.

But when someone is looking at pornography, he is actively undermining that inner strength of his, allowing himself to slip into being an animal. The eyes see, the hormones are triggered and the mind is washed away in a sea of biological tyranny. A grown human being becomes a slave of one tiny organ of his body. In his relationship with women, as well, he becomes enslaved in his passion for them—and a cinch for them to manipulate.

If you want to rise in life and become a whole and healthy human being, you need to maintain control of your mind. It's your mind, after all. And the first step in controlling your mind is to control your eyes. Keep them from staring at that which doesn't belong to you.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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David Graham Seaside, ca April 25, 2017

Ultimately sexual expression should be about giving, not taking. Reply

basha r. usa July 21, 2016

why? 1. Why do we assume the most important reason for a man to abstain from watching pornography is so that a woman does not manipulate him? To say that he should learn to treat other humans (men and women) with dignity and respect, by containing his yetzer ha ra would have been enough. Implying that women desire to manipulate, and that is what a man must, most chiefly, guard against, is misogyny, and does this otherwise useful post a disservice.

2. It's a Christian idea, stemming from the Victorian Age, that women do not struggle with lust, or that she is an angel in the house; Jews had never really believed such a thing. We miss the opportunity to address all humans who may struggle with these issues when we address men alone. Women are not sexless. Temptation arises in them as well. It's important to address these issues head-on in order to promote a vibrant Jewish community, enriched by its access to truth, rather than stymied by its consistent fear. Reply

Hypatia UK May 10, 2016

animals don't make choices

some animals making intellectual /moral choices
google for -
Frans de Waal: Moral behavior in animals Reply

Anonymous New York May 8, 2016

I agree. I believe that adults can be harmed just as much when people view their pornographic images. I'm not saying all porn should be illegal to view, but it should be illegal to knowingly view non-consensual pornography, even if it's that of an adult. Reply

J. Toronto April 9, 2016

What is the real crime IMO the real crime is a slippery slope of relating to people from the martian point of view of extreme otherness.

From there objectification is a two step at best. The fact that this 'two step' is the only dance too many youth experience as their first expectation of sexuality is a travesty.

Where is the partnership? No waltz, no 'mashed potato' just the tango, every time. How many times will we step on toes, then? Reply

Anonymous Vancouver, WA January 2, 2016

Succinct Bravo! Male vs Man... May G-d bless you and keep you Tzvi. Reply

Eleazar Goldman San Francisco December 16, 2015

Intellectual rigour? Really? Come on, get real. Animals have sex by instinct and cannot use their minds to chose to not have sex. Animals kill other animals as part of instinctual design, and cannot chose to do otherwise. Animals are very instinctually territorial and cannot chose to behave differently. Just a couple examples.

Animals cannot pick up or even read any books and gain an accumulated knowledge or awareness of anything such as man does. It's an obviously very different category of existence. You're assertion has no relevance, no criteria, is specious and erroneous. So, rigour? Or no brainer.

Sorry, try again. Reply

Robert H. Biggadike West Covina December 14, 2015

I think the statement, "Pornography makes women into objects of desire rather than real people." indicates the lack of ability to think clearly and logically. This is pretty much a meaningless statement. The writer doesn't clearly and precisely say what he is talking about. He apparently think it sounds bad but lacks the intelligence to say what he is talking about. A sexual interest in a female very much enhances the recognition that she is a real person. Reply

Seth Hargis Indiana June 23, 2017
in response to Robert H. Biggadike:

I would have agreed with you if you would have actually had a valid point. Too bad you didn't though. What you're talking about is not relevant to the criteria that is being discussed. Pornography takes the bond out of having sex with your husband/wife, and kind of makes it meaningless to have a sexual bond other than to reproduce, which makes us animals basically. But we have the mind power to make the right choices. Did you read this at all? Reply

Hypatia Lincoln December 2, 2015

I take issue with two itmes in this
a}he becomes enslaved in his passion for [women]—and a cinch for them to manipulate.
the idea that 'women are manipulative' displays a degree of negative atitude towards women, possibly even an underlying mysogyny

b}Are we the same a s other animals? No, we have the ability to choose what we think, feel, and do in the outer world

Do you think then that other animals are incabable of making choices in what they think, feeling and do?
if so then you are a lacking in intellectual rigour Reply

PDL AK December 2, 2015

Animal-like Wow. What a great thought, connection. There are a couple of places in Tanakh that can translates to English, 'animal-like': Ps 92:6 "An animal-like man does not know; a fool does not understand this. 92:7 When the wicked flourish like grass, and all the evildoers blossom, it is for them to be destroyed forever." Basically, the Torah-less. Reply

Eleazar Shlomo ben Yakov Goldman San Francisco November 1, 2015

Is MAN an animal? Are we the same a s other animals? No, we have the ability to choose what we think, feel, and do in the outer world. We can become more and more animal-like, rather than uniting more and more to our higher natures of Mercy, Intelligence, compassion, Wisdom. The man who thinks that seeing a young and beautiful female can ever satisfy his need or desire for love and a soul connection, is in a state of self-delusion, as the outer raiment of a soul is not necessarily the beauty of her inner-self, or, even fidelity in a relationship. Reply

Anonymous VA, USA November 1, 2015

But why is being an "animal" bad? Reply

abdi America April 5, 2015

Good answer Mr. Rabbi Reply

Joe St. Paul MN March 4, 2015

Chuckle. Great answer. I chuckled at the mention of "tiny organ." I don't know if that was your intention Rabbi, but boy did it work. Reply

Anonymous September 30, 2014

All ADHD Animals Yeah, easy to write this, but ADHD exactly lack the inhibition you're talking about, which is a neuro-biological deficit. Does that make all ADHD animals? Reply

Eleazar Shlomo ben Yakov Goldman Guanajuato, MEXICO July 10, 2014

Is "porn" out there or inside of us An image, a painting of a nude person, male or female, isn't necessarily porn. Much great art concerns nude representations of both males and females. BUT, we are manipulated by the entertainment community, the advertising community and the religious community to perceive naked images in various ways. The human body, the human being is supposed to be G-ds greatest creation. Our consciousness regarding the beauty and sanctity of the human form has fallen very far from what it should be. PORN to one person isn't PORN to another. Many indigenous cultures wore little to no clothes, which other cultures found "degraded", and butchered them to convert them to another religion and way of life. It is a very complex issue and relates directly to the Serpent in Gan Edan and what occurred afterwards. Reply

John Colorado July 7, 2014

I view porn (not literally) this way. At the very least, the individuals in pornography are in a very sad and dysfunctional space in their lives spiritually. Viewing porn, you are using their spiritual dysfunction to find physical pleasure for yourself. At its worst, people (especially young women) are involved in porn as a result of mental and physical abuse. In many cases, even human trafficking is involved. In this scenario, you are deriving physical pleasure from the torment of others.

Another point: Do you think that it is spiritually and psychologically healthy to repeatedly imagine killing another human being? With porn you are selfishly focused on images that will bring you pleasure. Oftentimes the porn scenarios that will bring the most pleasure are morally and socially taboo. Why worry? You are not doing such things in reality? But to repeatedly find pleasure imaging what you find reprehensible in real life is spiritually, emotionally and psychologically destructive. Reply

Alessio Ventura Italy May 3, 2017
in response to John:

Much of porn is degrading to womem, and to find pleasure at their expense is indeed morally wrong.

However, a small sector of the "erotic film" space is produced by women for women, and the works are very glossy and sophisticated, and the women are participating willingly, often being paid huge sums to willingly participate. These films are not produced by the mafia amd the actions depicted demonstrate that women are just as much imto sex as men are, but are often less inclined to admit it because of social "taboos". Reply

John Williams Denver May 18, 2017
in response to Alessio Ventura:

I understand your perspective, but I wouldn't accept that someone willingly engaged in pornography for financial gain or similar incentive would be considered spiritually healthy. Jenna Jameson has made a fortune by willingly engaging in the porn. I will not watch and find pleasure in her films at all and especially do so feeling comforted that she is financially gaining from it.
It seems as if you took all of the scenarios that I laid out and combined them into a single scenario and then suggested that if one element is missing (i.e. organized crime) my point is invalid. Yes, you made an exception initially, but I offered room for many scenarios.
"At the very least, the individuals in pornography are in a very sad and dysfunctional space in their lives spiritually."
"At its worst, people...are involved in porn as a result of mental and physical abuse."
You may not agree that people willingly engaged in porn are lacking spiritually, but I guess that we will disagree on that. Reply

Emmanuel February 19, 2014

Not a harmless vice... Just like alcohol, gambling, cocaine, heroin, crack and many other vices porn is addictive.

I heard once..." it is a harmless vice, compared to drug addiction". False. If you think harmless is spending hours a day viewing porn is harmless, think of all the productive activities you could have engaged in during those hours of porn surfing. I am sure everyone has heard the phrase 'time is money", think of all the "money' you have thrown away that could have been invested in a much more productive activity.

Before the internet existed, It began with nudy pictures acquired through a friend, acquaintance or family member. Your brain likes it, it is visually stimulating, your hormones react, you derive pleasure, especially if you proceed to manually stimulate yourself. In no time you will be buying magazines, now you are spending some money.

Your next trip will be to the strip club with the 'boys (co-workers, friends, etc) Now you are spending real money (cover charge, etc). Continues... Reply

Ben India December 28, 2013

on the way out... I have been watching porn for a long time now... I didn't realize this has been the major cause for low self-esteem. I remember myself before being addicted to porn - was lot confident and achieved quite a many things in life. My life has gone to stand-still and backwards with porn. I have made up my mind to finally quit this for better life.


Thank you for the article and the many who have written your experiences. I hope to come back here and write how my life has been away from porn in the coming days. Reply

Anonymous Australia June 29, 2013

I quit porn cold-turkey 6 months ago. It was surprisingly easy. I think this has been a real positive; I didn't appreciate the negative impacts it was having on my life. Contributed to self-loathing, anxiety and depression and physical symptoms such as ED and being bored by real sex. I'd encourage people to quit. Reply

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