RSS
Is watching porn cheating?
Watching pornography isn't as bad as "cheating on your spouse with a co-worker," said Ross Douthat in TheAtlantic.com, but it's on the same "moral contiuum." Maybe, said Jonathan Chait in a New Republic blog, but so are stealing a car
W

hat happened
FOX News “sexpert” Yvonne K. Fulbright triggered an online debate after saying in a recent column that “using porn, at least beyond a magazine like Playboy, is the equivalent of having an actual affair.” (FOXNews.com)

What the commentators said
Clearly, watching pornography is not “as grave a betrayal as cheating on your spouse with a co-worker,” said Ross Douthat in The Atlantic.com. But porn is still “nothing more than an indirect way of paying someone to fulfill the same sort of voyeuristic fantasies,” so it’s a form of prostitution, which puts it “on a moral continuum with adultery.” Should your wife be less mad if you say you visit prostitutes, but only watch?

OK, so cheating and watching porn behind your spouse's back are on a “moral continuum,” said Jonathan Chait in The New Republic’s The Plank blog, but so are stealing a car and pocketing a quarter somebody left in a soda machine. “My wife would be way, way more upset if I had an affair than if I used pornography.” But Fulbright said porn and adultery are “equivalent,” and that’s “pretty crazy.”

You would have to be in denial not to see that pornography addiction is dangerous, said the Christianity blog Preaching Today. “There was a day that if a man wanted to purchase pornography he would have to go to an adult bookstore or go into a convenience store and ask for it because it was kept behind the counter,” but now anybody can instantly get “all the porn a person could ever want” with the click of a mouse. Most churches see porn use as sin—the crazy thing is that most men won’t admit porn addiction is even a problem.

Anybody whose mind hasn’t “been addled by religious dogma” knows there’s a difference between adultery, said CATO Institute research fellow Will Wilkinson in his blog, The Fly Bottle, and simply looking at pictures and thinking randy thoughts about someone who isn't your wife. “One’s just wrong, one’s just not.”

What’s really wrong is to condemn porn simply because of the “religious impulse” to deny desire and fantasy, said The Bad Idea Blog. “There are many things to criticize about the porn industry, the culture in which it takes place, its implicit messages about gender or women, and so on.” And, yes, Jesus called lust a sin. But porn can provide an avenue of sexual fulfillment that “can stave off break ups or the temptations to cheat.” And what’s so bad about that?

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week