Dennis Prager, a conservative author and talk radio host, is trending on social media for sharing what many see as an overly simplistic and undeniably problematic view of pornography.
“Men want variety,” Prager said during a recent round-table discussion hosted by The Daily Wire’s Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist and author. Pornography, he went on to say, is “not awful,” so long as it’s used as a “substitute for adultery.”
The problems in that statement alone are plentiful — but he continued.
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Prager, a practicing Jew, told Peterson and his fellow panelists that looking at a woman lustfully is “not a sin in Judaism” — a diversion from the Christian belief taught by Jesus, who said, “Anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28, NLT).
“There’s only one way to commit adultery in Judaism, and it’s with a different organ,” he explained, going on to say that, when women call into his radio program to ask about their husbands’ pornography use, he asks if their consumption of the explicit content is impacting their sexual relationships.
“If adultery is a substitute for one’s wife, it’s awful,” he said. “If it’s a substitute for adultery, it’s not awful.”
It’s that last statement that’s woefully glib.
A semantical word salad, there’s hardly a way to parse the difference between Prager’s two explanations for pornography consumption. Presumably, if a man is watching pornography because, without it, he would be committing adultery, then he is, by default, using it as “a substitute” for his wife.
Prager’s shallow defense of pornography also says nothing of the damage its consumption causes — both to the one watching it and to his or her partner. It breeds self-esteem issues, jealousy, distrust, and unrealistic expectations in both partners. It often leads consumers to fantasize about and even act out in ways that objectify and harm their partners.
Much like an addictive drug, pornography requires consistent escalation to reach the same degree of satisfaction. The epidemic of pornography consumption has revealed sexual preferences can be acquired and often become increasingly extreme, more taboo, and more violent over time.
Prager’s reasoning is deadly, as it fundamentally misunderstands sin and morality. It will lead men to believe that, if they are still having sex with their wives, their use of pornography must be permissible. It’s akin to the pro-abortion argument that, so long as the unborn baby can’t feel pain, terminating his or her life is acceptable.
While we are, of course, called to honor our spouses and always consider the value of others, Prager’s argument for pornography wrongly suggests our ultimate allegiance is to one another, based on some artificial moral code, rather than to a holy God whose standard is established in Scripture.
He oddly set degree of intimacy with one’s spouse as the baseline for morality. Falling in line with the old mantra “boys will be boys,” Prager claimed feelings are to be trusted and obeyed because, after all, “men,” he said, “want variety.”
That, however, flies in the face of Old Testament teaching. Human beings, as taught in both the Old and New Testaments, are sinful from birth — a grave problem revealed by The Law and remedied only by Jesus, who took on all sins so human beings could be made righteous in God’s eyes (Romans 3:10-22).
As the Prophet Jeremiah wrote in the Hebrew Bible, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is” (Jeremiah 17:9, NLT).
If Jeremiah — and, to an even great extent, Jesus — is to be trusted, then a man’s desire for “variety” has no bearing on determining what’s right or wrong. Human beings want all kinds of things — we often want to lash out in anger, to take the lazy way out, to eat and drink what will harm our bodies. All those things and more are antithetical to what is moral, righteous, and holy.
Prager’s weak rationalization for pornography is deeply concerning. But my hope is, for the Christian, it will serve as a profound reminder: The source of our morality — the Word of God — is of the utmost importance. In a relativistic world run amok, it’s the shield protecting our holiness from our feelings.
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