Question: "Is it a sin to watch pornography with my spouse?"

Answer: With the prevalence of the internet and the lowering of society’s moral standards, pornography is becoming an ever-present reality for many people. Even Christian couples sometimes wonder if pornography can have a redeeming factor if it is viewed with a spouse as part of their private relationship. Some couples feel the need to make their sexual relationship more exciting and believe that watching pornography together increases their enjoyment of their own sexual relationship. Pornography appeals to the lust of the eyes and the lust of the flesh. We know that lust is condemned in Scripture (Job 31:1; Matthew 5:28), but if the sexual relationship is limited to a husband and wife, is watching pornography with a spouse wrong?

Yes, viewing pornography is a sin for many reasons, even when viewed with one’s spouse. First of all, visual pornography takes a sacred, intimate union and makes it a spectator sport. By definition, pornography involves at least two unmarried people engaging in illicit sexual behavior in front of a camera. God designed this intimacy for a husband and wife only (Matthew 19:5; Ephesians 5:31). Sexual acts are, by nature, private. Those who harden their hearts to such a degree that they can commit such private acts in front of spectators are abusing God’s design. And those who enjoy watching pornography are participating in that abuse. Romans 1:32 can apply here, as it describes the downward moral spiral of those who oppose God: “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”

Another negative aspect of watching pornography with a spouse is that to do so invites strangers into your bedroom. It creates a virtual threesome; while you may never think of participating in a ménage à trois in the flesh, you are doing so in your minds. Watching pornography with your spouse is a form of virtual adultery. It’s as if one is saying, “My spouse is not sexy enough, so I have invited a sexier stranger to help things along.” The spouses may be touching each other’s bodies, but they are visually touching the bodies of adulterous strangers. Nothing about that is in any way pleasing to the Lord. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8). There is no way to let your heart feast upon vile, pornographic images and remain pure enough to see God.

The third and most obvious reason that watching pornography is always wrong, whether with a spouse or alone, is that the motivation to do so is lust (Colossians 3:5; Matthew 5:28). Lust is an overwhelming desire for something God has forbidden (Proverbs 6:25). If seeing the nakedness of other people is required to desire sex with one’s spouse, then that is lust. Watching pornography is giving Satan permission to infiltrate our thinking, damage our hearts, and call “dirty” what God calls “very good” (Genesis 1:26–31).

God’s parameters for sex are for our safety and well-being. They are there to guard our families and our own hearts. God expects us to exercise self-control in all areas of life, including sexuality (Proverbs 25:28; 1 Corinthians 7:9). When we allow lust, sexuality, or any desire to control us, we have handed over the lordship of our lives to something other than Jesus.

The desire to watch pornography is a clear sign that priorities have gone awry. Sexual excitement has become more important than spiritual intimacy, emotional connection, or honoring each other. Often, one spouse pushes the idea of viewing porn on the other, who agrees simply to keep the peace. But this is a violation of God’s command to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21). Christ would never ask someone to enjoy and participate in the very sin He died to forgive (Ephesians 5:22). Love “does not rejoice in iniquity” (1 Corinthians 13:6). There are healthier ways in which to reconnect with a spouse than to invite sin into the relationship. Watching pornography alone or with anyone else, including a spouse, is sin.

First Thessalonians 4:3–7 is as relevant today as it was when it was written, and we can apply its truth to the concept of watching pornography with a spouse: “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” God calls us to holiness, and pornography is unholy; therefore, it is never God’s desire for us to be involved with pornography for any reason.