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Dear catholic.com visitors: This website from Catholic Answers, with all its many resources, is the world's largest source of explanations for Catholic beliefs and practices. A fully independent, lay-run, 501(c)(3) ministry that receives no funding from the institutional Church, we rely entirely on the generosity of everyday people like you to keep this website going with trustworthy , fresh, and relevant content. If everyone visiting this month gave just $1, catholic.com would be fully funded for an entire year. Do you find catholic.com helpful? Please make a gift today. Thank you. Wishing you a blessed Lenten season.

Dennis Prager Is Wrong About Porn

Trent Horn

Recently Dennis Prager caused a stir over comments on pornography he shared on an episode of Jordan Peterson’s roundtable discussion of the book of Exodus.

Prager first claimed that the Old Testament never condemns lusting after another man’s wife and says this is a strictly Christian rule of morality (he says the command to not “covet” your neighbor’s wife only prohibits making active plans to sleep with her). Even more shocking, he said that when women tell him their husbands look at porn, he asks them if the porn is a replacement for intimacy with them (which would be wrong) or merely a way to “assist” the intimacy in their marriage (which would be allowed). He also told a story about a man who couldn’t be intimate with his wife because she had Alzheimer’s, and Prager wondered why it would be so wrong for that man to find sexual gratification through “a picture.”

But what Prager is saying with the Alzheimer’s story is no different than what pro-choicers say about abortion in the case of rape. You pick a very difficult situation and then use that situation as a wedge to justify all kinds of behaviors. Why can’t a guy pleasure himself if his wife simply won’t sleep with him because they had a big fight? Where do you draw the line? The answer is: you can’t.

The problem with Prager’s argument is that it assumes a man’s ejaculation is primarily for his benefit, to relieve sexual tension. But that’s gross and objectifies your spouse who should be the recipient of self-giving love, not self-relieving urges.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with appreciating that marriage does usually entail a decrease in sexual urges, just as marriage reduces loneliness; but the primary end of marriage should not be either of those ends because such a mentality uses one’s spouse. Sometimes in marriage we experience loneliness or sexual frustration, such as after pregnancy when a wife can’t have intercourse for six to eight weeks.

But seeing sex as an expression of marital love helps us better love our spouse during this period instead of fleeing to someone else—in person or virtually—to satisfy our urges. In the past Prager has insisted people need to be virtuous and take the hard path in life. In his book Happiness is a Serious Problem, he writes “Everything worthwhile in life is attained through hard work. Happiness is not an exception.”

But it seems like the hard work to have a faithful marriage is an exception in this case.

Here’s an analogy to show why Prager’s view of porn contradicts his commitment to cultivating virtue. Imagine if someone liked to beat up a dummy dressed as Dennis Prager. I’m sure Prager would say this is bad for that person even if it’s meant to control his violent urges, because this self-centered behavior doesn’t actually help him become a better person. However, the same is true of pornography and how it deforms our moral character.

But not only does porn harm the viewer, it also makes him a contributor to an industry that brutalizes men and women physically, emotionally, and spiritually and is often connected to rape and sex trafficking, including of children. Some of the descriptions of what happens to porn star’s bodies  from Matt Fradd’s book The Porn Myth made me almost throw up, but if you watch porn you are partly responsible for these evils.

Finally, Prager says that adultery only happens with “another organ” than your eyes, namely, your genitals. But what about a man who pays a girl on a pornographic webcam site to strip for him? Is that adultery, or is it merely a substitute for adultery that Prager would endorse because it’s on a screen? Maybe it’s not adultery under Prager’s view, but the Church would say that behavior, or looking at porn, or even just masturbating, are all condemned under the sixth commandment (CCC 2351-2354)

The problem is that people can always say Well, this or that doesn’t fall under the sixth commandment, which is why God’s revelation is perfected in the incarnation and the establishment of Christ’s one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic church to give us the definitive interpretation of the laws God gave in his revelation.

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