Can Christian Couples Watch Porn Together? A Minister Explains

In his essay "The Third Thing," poet Donald Hall describes the importance of sharing interests and activities in marriage: "Third things are essential to marriages, objects or practices or habits or arts or institutions or games or human beings that provide a site of joint rapture or contentment." Among the things he shared with with his wife of 23 years, poet Jane Kenyon, was Christianity. Sharing religion with your spouse enriches both your marriage and your faith, but it's hard to navigate the temptations of the modern world, like porn. So can Christian couples watch porn together? I talked to Reverend Lori Wagner, a United Methodist pastor, author, and speaker, to learn more about the ethical implications of pornography and God's intentions for sex and pleasure in marriage.

Overall, says Wagner over the phone, many Christians object to pornography on an ethical basis. She points out that "porn" is an umbrella term that encompasses a spectrum of material, from films with actors who participate willingly, to child pornography and victims of sex trafficking. Even if you watch a legally filmed porn movie, Wagner thinks the Christian church would object to the disrespect and subjugation of the body on display. Wagner also mentions the issue of sex addiction — if husband or wife becomes addicted to watching porn, they will need treatment just like any other kind of addiction.

But while Christian couples shouldn't watch porn together, that doesn't mean God frowns on the enjoyment of sex altogether. Wagner explains that the American Christian church often shies away from discussing intimacy, an aversion that may be rooted in the Puritan perspective. However, says Wagner, Christians inherit the Jewish tradition, which emphasizes the sacredness of sexual intimacy and the children that result from it. She points to the Song of Solomon as an example: "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine..."

According to Wagner, the Sabbath is traditionally a day for married couples to have sex. They should delight in lovemaking, pleasure, and the "worship" of each other's bodies. God is often represented in scripture as a bridegroom and the bible teaches those who practice to be intimate with God, faith, and spirit. So there is nothing wrong with enjoying sex and exploring new forms of pleasure with your partner. As Dr. Juli Slattery writes in "Guidelines for Christian Sex," "many Christian couples have no idea what freedom they have in the bedroom. They settle for 'vanilla' sex (aka, the missionary position), placing self-imposed restrictions on themselves that have nothing to do with God's perspective. God made the marriage relationship a safe place for a husband and wife to explore, experiment, laugh, and get lost in sensational sex."

Besides objecting to porn as subjugating or disrespecting the body, Wagner points out another important reason porn is incompatible with Christian teachings: it doesn't portray relationships. Even in television shows and movies that depict sex (and may show nearly as much nudity as porn), there is some focus on relationships and love. In porn films, sex is reduced to a "clinical" act, says Wagner, instead of an expression of love between two people.

How important are relationships to sex? Wagner points out that in Genesis, the word for sex is translated as "to know." And in many languages other than modern English, there is more than one verb for knowing facts and people, including to know a person intimately/sexually.

The takeaway from my conversation with Wagner is that sex in marriage is a beautiful, holy act, something to celebrate and enjoy. There is no reason to feel shame or aversion to sex. Watching porn together isn't a great way for Christian couples to spice up their sex life, but there are other things you can try with your spouse. Talk to your pastor or a marriage counselor if sexual connection is an issue in your marriage.

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