A Buddhist, Army Vet & Fire Fighter Talks about Porn. ~ Keith Andresen

Via on Nov 3, 2012

As an American man, I have been hardwired to watch porn. As a Buddhist, I do not watch porn.

A few years ago, I decided to abstain from porn as a test run and at first I had a hard time with it, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt it was good to abstain from pornography. Now it hasn’t been an easy thing for me to do, especially growing up in America. No longer confined to seedy video stores and movie theaters, pornography has been increasingly going mainstream thanks to the internet. Whatever stigma may have been attached to porn in the past is long-gone and now it is just a normal activity for people; it’s now as American as apple pie. If anything, people will think you’re weird if you don’t watch it.

However, I was concerned that my fondness for this type of imagery was unhealthy and could potentially hurt my ability to grow spiritually and to attain mindfulness. As a Buddhist, it is obvious that polluting the mind with violent entertainment can be unhealthy, but can the same be said for sexually explicit material?

The Third Precept in Buddhism is the commitment to abstain from all sexual misconduct.

I wanted to find out for myself if watching porn could be considered a part of that category. I ultimately determined the answer is yes, watching pornography is a form of sexual misconduct.  I came to this conclusion because in Buddhist thought, sexual misconduct refers to any type of sexual act that ultimately hurts one or all parties involved.

Now, I definitely don’t believe that industries like prostitution and pornography (which are one in the same) should be illegal because that would be an infringement on people’s rights to use their bodies as they please.

However, as a Buddhist, it is a problematic issue. The thing about legal pornography is that you are dealing with a legitimate business transaction. Consenting adults make an agreement on the exchange of services for compensation and each walk away with something they want. However, it is definitely not a healthy, compassionate sexual relationship.

This in itself is enough to make it considered misconduct in Buddhist circles; however, I still didn’t think that would be enough for me to want to stop watching it. I had to look deeper into the heart of the matter andI ultimately came to the following conclusion—pornography is completely incompatible with my  beliefs because it is an industry designed to exploit people and one of the largest by-products of it is suffering.

Even though pornography is a mainstream industry that makes many people rich, it is also a giant meat grinder. It has a reputation (and rightly so) for finding young boys and girls who are either naïve, down on their luck, or ignorant and then runs them through the mill and spits them out.

There is an endless supply of stories about lives and reputations being destroyed by one or two sex scenes that can never be erased (thanks to the internet). Yes, these people are adults and they are getting paid for their time, but so what? The reality is that it is an industry that exploits people shamelessly and helps people destroy themselves. This is ultimately because it hurts to be in porn. Is everyone who makes porn abused and miserable? No. However, I feel there is enough of it to cause concern.

Another issue with pornography is that there is a startling trend to produce films that show a great deal of cruelty, where the objective of the film is to glorify the degrading, humiliation or suffering of another human being as a pleasurable experience.

I find this disturbing not only because I believe the young men and women in these films suffer but because I believe it reinforces and teaches others to suffer in the same way. In other words, porn is not only the cause of suffering but it promotes suffering. Is all porn like this? No. Does everyone who watches porn become a deviant or a pervert? No. However, there is enough of that cruelty to cause me concern.

So, one thing to be said against pornography is that when you watch or pay for it you are voting affirmatively for an institution that hurts people.

Right there it conflicts with my desire to walk in Buddha’s footsteps. Another issue is how it affects me on my spiritual journey. The Buddha teaches that one of our causes of suffering is discontent, or being unhappy with what we have or don’t have. The problem with porn is that it has the very real power to destroy a person’s contentment with themselves and their real life lovers.

Even if I didn’t have all the reasons above, ultimately porn is nothing more than an indulgence that distracts me from more important things. It really is nothing more than an intangible, fleeting fantasy that does more harm than good. Do I want to waste my time in a dream world when I could be using that energy to cultivate the mindful awareness and appreciation needed to find real satisfaction and happiness?

Now I am not saying that I think pornography is bad or ‘sinful.’ In fact, I think that it can do a lot of good and even be therapeutic. However, as a budding Buddhist, I cannot abide by it any more. It is an industry that I can no longer condone nor do I see any reason to indulge in. And I’m finding being ‘porn free’ very liberating.

This is because I am doing it for the right reasons. It’s not because I am afraid of ‘bad karma’ or because the Buddha commands me to abstain. That’s not what Buddhism is about. The reason I’m doing it is because I looked at the whole situation with the Buddha’s eyes and what I saw was a sad industry made up of sad people.

Money or not, those people suffer and the people who watch it also suffer in their own way as a result. It isn’t about porn being bad. It is about it being unhealthy and depressing.

And, at the end of the day, I would rather be grounded in reality and be happy than live in an illusion and be miserable.

 

(This is the last in a seven-part series over seven days, in collaboration with the Good Men Project, addressing the question: Is Porn a Good Thing? For GMP’s recent posts in the series, check out The History of Porn  and How Not to Become a Male Porn Star. )

 

Keith Andresen is an Army Veteran, a Fire Fighter/EMT, and a Buddhist. He lives and works in Austin, TX. You can email this budding Buddhist directly at newtobuddhism at gmail.com.
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Editor: Lori Lothian

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