Pornography as grounds for divorce

2 posts in this topic

This morning I saw on Facebook how the governor of Utah is declaring pornography to be a public health hazard, then I was led to the following article, which has been a blessing, which I tend to agree with, about pornography being biblical grounds for divorce:


I especially think the following illustration and question are insightful:


At what point in the following series of scenarios does someone cease to be guilty ofporneia?

Scenario #1: A man openly, habitually, and unrepentantly frequents prostitutes to have sex with them (clearly porneia).

Scenario #2: A man openly, habitually, and unrepentantly visits homes where prostitution is taking place, but instead of having sex with them, he immerses himself in the sex-saturated environment, watching the orgies, so he can masturbate in front of them.

Scenario #3: A man openly, habitually, and unrepentantly connects to prostitutes online to watch live-streamvideos of them having sex with others while he masturbates.

Scenario #4: A man openly, habitually, and unrepentantly watches recorded videos of prostitutes having sex with others while he masturbates.

Scenario #5: A man openly, habitually, and unrepentantly watches the same videos as scenario #4, but the women don’t call themselves prostitutes. They call themselves “porn stars.â€


I think all scenarios are porneia.

The article concludes by suggesting the justification of divorce be determined by evaluating the husband's degree of repentance and the wife's willingness to forgive. A wife who is very forgiving, and a husband who is very unrepentant, would be considered justification for divorce.

This wasn't in the article, but I've been thinking about the implications of this on dating. Wouldn't breaking up a dating relationship be more easily justified than getting a divorce? This makes me think single people ought to be completely free of porneia before they try to enter a dating relationship.

The longer I've lived the more I've been convinced how spiritually tough men ought to be. The world tells a general and subtle lie that it's unreasonable to expect us to grow firm boundaries and exert them with fervor.

The Lord says,

"As iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another."

Proverbs 27:17

We have a high calling. The substance is iron. Malleable to be sharpened, and firm and precise to hold an edge.

Ephesians says we wrestle against spiritual forces. To don God as armor and take up the sword of the Spirit.

Pornography is evil. Rid ourselves of it.


Fear you not; for I am with you: be not dismayed; for I am your God: I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.

Isaiah 41:10


(The article was written by someone with Covenant Eyes, which is a faith-based pornography accountability software development company.)


3 people like this

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
Very interesting topic! Let’s give it a shot! A long post, I apologise in advance for the lack of structure to make reading easier...


I believe the only ground for a valid divorce (which entitles the innocent party to remarry but the guilty not) is consensual extramarital sex or the formed intention to have extramarital sex. I would not classify looking at a woman lustfully as committing adultery. This is due to how I read Matthew 5:28 “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.†Many interpret this as lust=adultery; hence masturbating to pornography could equal adultery. Why adultery? Wouldn’t lasciviousness be a closer match for ‘merely’ lusting? Consider James 1:14-15 “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.†This text puts a bit of distance between lust and sin – lust being more a precursor which, if followed, results in sin. Then there is the grammar behind the verse which some interpretations don’t do justice from the original. Here are some cut&paste from http://www.jasonstaples.com/bible/most-misinterpreted-bible-passages-1-matthew-527-28/: 


The Greek does not say, “look at a woman with lust†or “look at a woman lustfully,†as though it were describing the manner of looking. On the contrary, Matthew uses a grammatical construction here that combines the preposition Ï€Ïὸς (pros, pronounced “prossâ€) with an articular infinitive in the accusative… it denotes the purpose of the action.


…the grammar is reflecting purpose: “anyone who looks at a woman in order to covet her.†(“Covet†is preferable here in part because “covet†better reflects the intentionality reflected in the passage.) This is a critically important point; Jesus is not suggesting that any sexual thought or inclination towards a woman is sinful. Nor is he suggesting that such thoughts or attractions being triggered by a look are sinful. … Jesus addresses the matter of intent, of volition, the purpose of the look. The issue is not the appetite itself but how a man directs this natural appetite and inclination. 

This fits well within the immediate context; throughout this section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is pointing out the root causes of the sins enumerated in the Law. Yes, adultery is a sin, but the sin has entered the heart the moment one determines to seek it out. 


Finally, Jesus does not say that the thought and the action are equivalent, as is often taught. The passage does not say, “Once you’ve thought it, it’s the same as actually having done it.†That very notion is absurd! Rather, Jesus says that adultery has been committed in the heart, that the will has already bent itself towards adultery. Again, the emphasis is on intent—that is, without the decision to move towards adultery, the act would never be committed. 




While I didn’t read the OP's article word for word I did give it a good skim and agree with some aspects but not with others. 


Some quotes:

“God permitted divorce under Moses, and still permits divorce, as a concession for the victims of partners with hard and stubborn hearts.

In other words, if divorces must happen at all, they should happen according to pattern given to us by God Himself. God divorced Israel because of her porneia and hardness of heart, which amounted to more than just adultery—it was unrepentant rebellion. 

On this basis, some Christian denominations have recognized Jesus did not mean that single acts of sexual thoughtlessness are grounds for divorce—not even in case of a physical affair—but rather Jesus was talking about persistent, unrepentant sexual sin.

The same is true of pornography use. Alone, instances of using pornography or even a habit of looking at porn are not the only factors to consider. Rather, it is critical to assess hardness of heart.

Thus, we should not think of grounds for divorce as a solid line one crosses but rather a continuum of heart-hardening sexual rebellion. God did not divorce Israel after a single instance of spiritual adultery—had He done that, He could have divorced her at Mt. Sinai, or in the wilderness, or during the reign of the judges, or during Solomon’s reign. God was patient, but eventually He wrote Israel a bill of divorce and sent her away into exile because of her callousness.

In my opinion, pornography use, when it is hardhearted and unrepentant, can certainly qualify as porneia and therefore grounds for divorce.â€


I wouldn’t say God permitted divorce under Moses; I would say He turned a blind eye to their ignorance and did not try to actively correct all their moral ills overnight. Consider similar issues such as polygamy and slavery. Matthew 19:8 also says Moses (not God) permitted divorce. If you wanted to get wordy you could say that God permits us to sin – we have free choice after all – we are however not free from the natural consequences that sin brings with it.  


I significantly disagree with bringing in hardheartedness and repentance as necessary variables for grounds of divorce. Repentance or not has absolutely nothing to do with whether an action is considered sin or not so I do not see at all how this can have a bearing on whether the innocent party can divorce or not. I also significantly disagree with the notion that a single act is insufficient. Are we suggesting that the spouse who had only one session with a prostitute cannot be validly divorced? To an extent I desire a clear demarcation in regard to issues of morality, after all how can we aim to be moral if we can insufficiently define it with certainty or be expected to act moral? Particularly when it comes to an issue relating to unfaithfulness and divorce. Such contexts can be very messy, very manipulative. It can be hard to impossible to determine with certainty (apart from divine revelation) the genuine repentance of someone who doesn’t have an issue with manipulating somebody. The author seems to suggest that as long as it is repentant, persistent porneia would not generate grounds for divorce. Imagine the horrifying situation this could put an innocent spouse who has an unfaithful spouse who can merely give the impression, now and then, that he is repentant. It sets such spouses up for terrible manipulation and uncertainty about their moral rights to a valid divorce. It also adds a highly subjective element to the divorce situation. I can see the innocent spouse justifiably and validly divorcing a porneia spouse. But with the need to position somebody else on a continuum of hardheartedness and repentance, a porneia spouse who either didn’t want to get divorced or wants to get sanctioned for remarriage can argue that the innocent spouse judged incorrectly, that they were insufficiently empathetic or forgiving etc.! 


Yes God did not divorce Israel after the first adultery. He certainly could have, but not doing so does not mean spouses are not allowed to divorce one-time offenders. Certainly there is merit in forgiving and reconciling and thus giving them another chance at marriage but reconciliation is not a moral requirement. You can, but don’t have to, divorce a one-time offender.


I would see pornography use, as bad and undesirable as it is (married or not), as not constituting a grounds for (valid) divorce. Certainly, while using pornography someone can form the intention to have sex with someone other than their spouse but this can also occur without the use of pornography. Admittedly with my position there can be a certain ambiguous area – in relation to ascertaining non-confessed intention and to a lesser extent the definition of “sex†– but otherwise it provides a pretty clear line to cross. Not that this implies a permission to “flirt with the lineâ€. So in regard to the scenarios I would suggest:


#1 – clearly grounds for divorce. Someone who has sexual intercourse with another person can hardly claim that they did not intend to do so unless they were raped. Rape, of course, not generating grounds for divorce for the partner of the victim.


#2 – Here the definition of “sex†comes into play. Does only PIV sex constitute sex even if just for present purposes? I would answer that with a resounding NO! I would see this scenario as giving grounds for divorce. A devil’s advocate could argue that an offender could be under a genuine belief that only PIV sex is relevant regarding adultery and would thus lack the requisite intention to commit adultery and should thus be free from “sentencingâ€. However, I would consider such a genuine belief hard to exist in ignorance and darn impossible to support in argument. I’d think if the offender got that close to the line it wouldn’t take him/her long at all to cross it. Considering our rational capacity is impaired on sexual arousal if someone is already masturbating in front of an orgy, I think it could easily lead to further steps e.g. mutual masturbation. 


#3 – Since these are prostitutes having sex with others I’m assuming the live feed is not two-way i.e. there is no two-way interaction between the people having sex and the watcher. I am also assuming there is also no actual intention to have sex with them given the opportunity. Because of that I would not say that it constitutes adultery though that does not bar it being classified as another sin. If the feed was interactive e.g. a webcam session I would consider it adultery because that would create a form of mutual sexual contact outside of marriage. [of course, devil’s advocate of #2 can equally be raised here] Now what if the offender was masturbating and watching someone having sex from behind a one-way mirror? Certainly it’s a step worse but technically it shouldn’t make a difference from seeing it through a screen. But what makes it significantly less bad than #2? I think it is the lack of mutual sexual interaction – physical or mental. 


#4 Same as #3; I do not consider there to be an important difference merely between live feed and recorded feed. 


#5 Same as #3; I don’t consider there to be an important difference between watching a prostitute or a porn star having sex.


I’ll be the first to admit that actions that are not classified as giving valid grounds for divorce certainly still feel and are unfaithful. The presence of these behaviours in a marriage are absolutely a problem but so are many other things (which could be classified just as unfaithful if not more so but lack the ‘sexual’ element) that do not generate divorce grounds. There are other remedial solutions, the strongest (short of divorce – which isn’t really ‘remedial’) being separation. 


I admit that my arguments have a certain weakness to the “keeping the spirit not just the letter of the law†but even then we need to bear in mind the purpose of the exception verse in the context of porneia’s use as a grounds for divorce and not simply the condemnation of immoral sinful acts. Unless you believe any sexual immorality or unfaithfulness gives grounds for divorce; in which case why only sexual ones? How far do we have to go to blow the exception so wide it no longer works effectively as an exception to divorce both in spirit and legalistically?


If we expand the notion of porneia as it stands in relation to divorce to masturbating to pornography and not purely restricted to extramarital sex [or intention to have it], what about the following scenarios?


#1 – X watches but does not masturbate to pornography. Where would reading literary erotica stand?


#2 – X does not rely on watching pornography but masturbates to his/her own imagination involving people other than their spouse.


#3 – X fantasises about, and masturbates to, a sexual act with his/her spouse which X’s spouse refuses to participate in in real life. These fantasies may or may not be considered deviant or immoral such as BDSM, oral sex, [name a fetish]…


#4 – X masturbates to ‘realistic’ imaginations of spouse.


#5 – X masturbates alone (outside of sexual contact with spouse) without pornography, fantasies, or mental images.


1 person likes this

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now