The Gemara references a pasuk in Devarim
7:26, which states:
You must not bring an abhorrent thing into your house, or you will be proscribed like it; you must reject it as abominable and abhorrent, for it is proscribed.
וְלֹא־תָבִ֤יא תֽוֹעֵבָה֙ אֶל־בֵּיתֶ֔ךָ וְהָיִ֥יתָ חֵ֖רֶם כָּמֹ֑הוּ שַׁקֵּ֧ץ ׀ תְּשַׁקְּצֶ֛נּוּ וְתַעֵ֥ב ׀ תְּֽתַעֲבֶ֖נּוּ כִּי־חֵ֥רֶם הֽוּא׃
Let’s discuss something uncomfortable. Pornography is ubiquitous. There are few people that have not been exposed to pornography and many who are looking at it regularly.
My unscientific experience with the people whom I meet in my office shows a significant increase in premarital sexual activity and extra marital sexual activity in those who have come of age post the 2010’s. The same in terms of female porn addiction. I am not the kind of person who sits around with sackcloth and ashes bewailing the state of our society, so I am not going to even bother to list the harmful influences. The most important part of any psychological problem is to recognize that it is there. One cannot change what one is not willing to admit exists.
What I think is even worse than the pornography is the tortured guilt that many people can feel. It is hard on the psyche to be devout in every other way and feel compelled by an irresistible urge to look at porn and masturbate. However, the urge for some can indeed be overwhelming, especially when conditioned to it from youth.
Many believe that they will stop when they are married. Often that does not work. Once boredom and frustration set in, which is at times part of any relationship, the same old urges come back.
There is also unfortunately the matter of escalation. Regular sex pornography can become stale, leading people to take more risks such as on line encounters with underage persons or those providing videos from unknown and dangerous sources. It is a federal crime to possess pedophilic material. There are also those who escalate to live cameras and live encounters.
Ok, so what do we do? First of all, it’s important to stop judging those who fall into the trap. Spouses and parents should view this the same as opiate addiction. It is much less about right and wrong and much more about how destructive and compulsive it can be. Even when parents know by various signs that their adolescents have been looking at porn, there is no way to know the extent of it, and whether it has done much damage or not. Like alcohol and other drugs, it’s definitely unhealthy but completely variable to the extent that the person is caught up in it. Experimenting? Early stages of addiction? Completely overcome and overwhelmed?
For spouses, it’s easier and harder. It’s harder because spouses have to overcome a feeling of betrayal, being cheated on, and possibly inadequacy as compared to the portrayal of superhuman bodies and sexual feats on these videos and may feel in competition with what is depicted. It’s also easier because there are accessible avenues of sexuality that can be explored. This is not to say that someone looks at porn because their spouse does not give them enough Sex. That is ridiculous. Every person is responsible for managing their sexual needs and impulses. However the solution to a problem is not the same as the cause. Couples can work to normalize sexual urges, by being open and honest about wishes and needs. They can help each other with vulnerabilities. It is hard but important work to become sexual adults.
Translations Courtesy of Sefaria