A Breeding Ground for Lust

Does pornography celebrate marriage? The question might cause you to snicker. And for good reason. The porn industry depicts sexual perversion, not sexual purity. Onscreen acts include fornication, adultery, sadomasochism, ménage à trios, and orgies (to name a few).

In contrast with the cheap thrills of porn, the Bible celebrates the act of sex within the context of the covenant of marriage. Husbands are encouraged to drink deeply from the well of conjugal relations (Pr. 5:15-19), and couples are told to enjoy sex often (1 Cor. 7:3-5). Both the Old and New Testaments prohibit sexual activity outside of marriage (Ex. 20:14; Pr. 6:24-35; Matt. 5:27-30; Eph. 5:3), for such acts are a denial of the God who made us and are damaging to one’s own body (1 Cor. 6:18-20).

As Christians, we believe sex is more than a physical act: it is a mystical union that ties two beings together, even if there is no love or commitment involved (1 Cor. 6:16). The monogamy provided in marriage points us to the faithfulness of Christ toward His beloved bride, the church. Sexual relations in marriage exist, at least in part, so that we may know God in Christ more fully. Sex is no mere triviality.

There’s obviously a great contrast between porn’s vision of sex and Scripture’s vision of sex. So how do we categorize sex acts portrayed in mainstream movies?

Succinctly put, mainstream sex scenes are largely characterized by lust. Does that sound like a controversial statement? It shouldn’t. Consider that the majority of sex scenes in films depict acts between unmarried persons. And it does more than just portray the immorality that exists in real life; it celebrates it:

In the movies, immorality in general, and fornication in particular, is almost unanimously portrayed as acceptable, if not laudable. [In sex scenes,] Hollywood isn’t just portraying reality. It’s putting a stamp of approval on immorality.

As I’ve pointed out before, even if it could be proven that depictions of married sex were legitimate forms of entertainment, we would still have to eliminate 99% of what Hollywood has to offer. Mainstream sex scenes regularly depict the same acts celebrated in porn: fornication, adultery, sadomasochism, ménage à trios, and orgies (to name a few).

A popular argument is that there are a lot of people who aren’t negatively affected by sex scenes in movies. While that may be true, I’d ask you to contemplate the questions listed in Sex Scenes in Movies Don’t Bother Me. There are a handful of factors that are regularly overlooked.

Is one sex scene likely to ruin your marriage or destroy your capabilities to enjoy your conjugal rights? No. (Although even one erotic image can easily be ingrained in one’s consciousness.) But we’re not talking about one or two instances, are we? We’re talking about regular, socially acceptable entertainment. Sexually imagery is powerful, and repeated exposure to sex acts outside of the marriage relationship encourages audiences to cultivate a taste for sex as it shouldn’t be.

What happens when you feed your soul a steady diet of sexualized, tantalizing, obscene, voyeuristic, unrealistic, lustful entertainment? You start to desire the love, excitement, and fulfillment supposedly found in immorality. You find an increasing desire for what God has said is off limits. You develop a stronger and stronger appetite for what God said you should never taste.

If you’re married, you may very well experience a weaker and weaker enjoyment in your spouse. You compare your spouse to the naked bodies you’ve seen on screen. You compare your love life to the thrilling, animalistic, lustfully euphoric sex depicted in movies. The lovemaking you experience with your spouse becomes more and more boring and unsatisfying.

To be clear, this is not because marital sex is inherently mundane. On the contrary! Rather, it is because you can’t fully enjoy what is pure when you have cultivated a taste for what is impure. And no one in the history of mankind has found true love and lasting fulfillment through sex outside of God’s provision. Fleeting pleasure, maybe, but never soul-enriching satisfaction. You can’t quench your thirst with salt water.

Just so there’s no mistake, I’m not saying it is wrong for films to deal with sexual topics—even sordid ones. Scripture deals with sordid sexual topics, and some movies should deal with sordid sexual topics. What I’m focusing on here, and what we’re focusing on in this blog series, is the narrow topic of onscreen sex acts. That’s it. You can disagree with me if you want, but please don’t disagree with something I’m not even saying.

What I am saying is simply this: whether it involves the protagonists or antagonists, central or secondary characters, most cinematic sex acts portray and normalize immorality. They encourage us to find sexual pleasure, not in our spouses, but in the looks and acts of others. They can’t help but promote what they portray. As I’ve argued earlier:

The reason all sex outside marriage—from the socially acceptable to the fairly “kinky” to the outright violent—is tantalizing is because it’s forbidden. Therefore, displaying a sex act on screen (real or simulated) is to display sex as it should not be. In other words, it is tantalizing. In other words, it is pornographic.

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