With estimates showing that roughly half of American adults indulge in pornography (3 of 4 being men) I think it is important to constantly remind myself and others about the dangers and evils of pornography. It has left countless families torn to shreds and weak families make weak societies. Not to mention the fact, that ponography puts the individual soul in serious peril. There are five reasons which immediately come to mind when looking at why pornography is so gravely disordered.
1.) "You have heard it said of old...but I say whoever lusts after a woman in his heart has already committed adultery." (Mt. 5) When Jesus clarifies the teaching of the 10 commandments, he leaves no wiggle room. Lust all by itself is adultery. I don't believe there is anyone who looks at and uses pornography who does not use it to excite lust. Therefore, pornography falls under our Lord's condemnation as a grave moral error tantamount to the physical act of adultery.
But that is only the beginning of the problem-it is actually far worse than being guilty of a singular sin.
2.) Objectification-Whether a man or a woman, by looking at pornography you are making those you view objects. Instead of people with inherent dignity they are treated as means to achieve the end of physical pleasure. The mindset which that develops is completely backward. Instead of being the servants we are called to be, we force the object of our desire to do all for us. The image on screen is not two (in some cases more) people, but objects the viewer essentially manipulates for his or her pleasure. You think it's hard to teach children, particularly young men, about real beauty now, wait for another generation that has been saturated in pornography. It will be well nigh impossible. If woman are seen only as objects what are the chances of ever defeating domestic violence?
3.) This leads into the next reason pornography is evil. When St. Paul writes of marriage in his Episle to Ephesus (a passage few people understand when they hear it at a wedding) he cannot help but lapse into talking about Christ and his Bride, the Church. When he speaks of the husband giving everything for his wife (for what else does it mean when he commands the husband "to love") and the wife in turn serving her husband, he is speaking of participation in the mystery of Christ's love for his Church. Jesus gave everything he possibly could for his bride, to become her lover, to consummate the divine marriage. He held nothing back, not even his life. What does the viewer of pornography give to the so-called actors? Nothing! He/she takes whatever they want and give nothing. Sex is to be communion between two people, an image of Christ's love for the Church. Viewing sex from a distance is inherently disordered because it is meant to be something in which there is active giving of oneself to the other. That is what real love is.
4.) Pornography is ultimately the most effective form of birth control. I've argued in other places that birth control is wrong. But in those cases I was arguing against condoms and the pill. In the case of pornography, the sexual act is often simulated by the viewer. In the male ( I won't speak for women here) this involves, to use the language of Genesis, the "spilling of one's seed." This was the sin for which the man Onan was put to death by God. It is clearly not something which the Lord takes lightly. Returning to Ephesians five, it is notable that marital relations are a picture of Christ's love for his Church. Let's think about this. What is the result of Jesus dying for his Church? Life for all who believe. What is the result of sex? Procreation...life! Not everytime of course. Nor is a revival started every time the gospel is preached. But sexual acts intended for pleasure which actively cut off the possibility of life, are like a church service where there is no gospel. In love, particularly in conjugal love, nothing should be held back. In pornography, not a thing is given.
5.) Lastly, you cannot love your neighbor as yourself and be a person who watches pornography. How can you claim to have the best interests of the "actors" at heart, when you are essentially paying for them to engage in acts which lead to severe emotional distress, possible HIV infections, abortions, and likely a whole host of other things that slip my mind at the moment. People need to understand how much pain many adult film stars report after they retire. In many cases they are devastated. You become an active source of that pain by participation in pornography.
What does it mean to be human? As those who are created in the Image and Likness of God, it must mean that we are creatures meant to live in community and in love with another (just as the Most Holy Trinity does.) To love is to put the interests of the Other before your own. To love is to hold nothing of yourself back from the Other. In the respects outlined above, pornography seeks the pleasures of receiving love without giving it. And because it is in giving that we are able to truly receive, pornography prevents its viewers from experiencing true love-whether they are married or single. The joy of being a part of the Church is the joy of serving the Lover who gave all he had. Joy will be found in our culture's marriages when the same thing can be said. Let us then pray for God to forgive our lust, selfishness, and lack of love, and that he will bend our wills away from anything that would cause us to act against the interests of others.