Sean McDowell | August 18, 2015

How Pornography Dehumanizes People

How Pornography Dehumanizes People

Sex is one of the most beautiful gifts God has given mankind. God intended sex to be enjoyed between one man and one woman in a committed loving relationship for life. The Bible provides three primary purposes for sex: procreation (Genesis 1:28), unity (Genesis 2:24), and pleasure (Proverbs 5:15-19). Despite the claims of the sexual revolution that sex is merely an indifferent physical act, sex is the ultimate act of intimacy with another person that communicates trust, intimacy, love, and brings human life into existence.

And yet one of the most common ways God’s amazing gift is marred is through pornography. While pornography is destructive to sex in many ways, perhaps one of the most misunderstood areas is in terms of how it turns people into dehumanized subjects. I have lectured on this regularly. And yet Roger Scruton said it best in his article “Sacrilege and Sacrament” in The Meaning of Marriage. It is worth reading the quote in full:

Pornography is the opposite of that [romantic love]: the face is more or less ignored, and in any case is endowed with no personality and made party to no human dialogue. Only the sexual organs, construed not as agents but as patients, or rather impatients, carry the burden of contact. Sexual organs, unlike faces, can be treated as instruments; they are rival means to the common end of friction, and therefore essentially substitutable. Pornography refocuses desire, not on the other who is desired, but on the sexual act itself, viewed as a meeting of bodies. The intentionality of the sexual act, conceived in this disenchanted way, is radically changed. It ceases to be an expression of interpersonal longing, still less of the desire to hold, to possess, to be filled with love. It becomes a kind of sacrilege—a wiping away of freedom, personality and transcendence, to reveal the passionless contortions of what is merely flesh. Pornography is therefore functional in relation to a society of uncommitted partnerships. It serves to desecrate and thereby neutralize our sense that the object of desire is made sacred and irreplaceable by our longing. By shifting focus downwards, from the end to the means, from the subject to the object, pornography diverts sexual feelings away from its normal course which is commitment, and empties it of its existential seriousness. Pornography is sex education for life, as it were (p. 18-19).

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author, popular speaker, and part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell, TikTok, Instagram, and his blog: