Photo by Mickael Gresset on Unsplash

I grew up with the evangelical Christian worldview that pornography was bad all of the damn time. No exceptions. But as I grew up and craved a more sex-positive outlook, porn became very complicated.

For some people, porn is an introduction, an education, or an outlet. But for others? It’s an addiction, an unhealthy escape, and incredibly anti-women.

Pornography often gets painted with one wide brush by various groups. It isn’t just religious folks who claim that porn is dangerous. A lot of secular people believe that porn only takes advantage of women and ruins lives or destroys families. They call it “the new drug” and blame porn for a host of issues including isolation and an inability to engage in healthy relationships.

// Porn is a lot of different things.

Anybody who claims that porn is all good or all bad has got it all wrong. In that respect, it’s a little bit like money because it’s more about what you do with it and how you use it.

Simply put, porn is erotic imagery. Which means that the best way to use it is as a tool. Much like the way we use money as a tool. And tools like porn or money can’t save your relationship or make any of your dreams come true.

But used well, those tools can still help you immensely.

For people who’ve grown up in sexually repressive environments, pornography can often aid in their healing. It can help a person discover their sexual desires and even develop a healthier outlook about sex in general.

But on the flipside, people can (and do) abuse porn. They can come to rely upon it as a crutch or a stand-in for real connection.

And yet? That still doesn’t make pornography some innately dangerous force.

// People abuse tools every day.

Money, food, sex, work, video games, exercise and virtually any other tool out there can be used to our benefit or harm. Few things are all good, or all bad.

On top of all that, all porn is not created equal.

Few people like to admit that. It’s so much easier to say that porn is perfectly alright or always bad than it is to honestly say that it “depends.”

It’s not helpful to paint it as just one thing. If we say that porn is all bad all the time, we’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater so to speak. Which means we’re denying its use to help heal those who really need it.

Of course, if we say that it’s all good, then we’re also ignoring the damage that has already been done. Let’s face it–there’s an awful lot of porn out there that isn’t helpful because it’s been made by people who have manipulated or used the actors and models.

Women have most often been abused in this way.

Far too much pornography projects an unrealistic view of women to further the pleasure of the male gaze. A lot of porn reinforces misogyny and selfishness in the bedroom.

But it’s still not all bad.

Among the most powerful and beneficial ways to use porn? When women or other marginalized adults take control of the production and consumption, it helps being greater balance to the industry.

And the truth is that the sex industry certainly needs that balance.

I don’t think it’s reasonable or even helpful to squash down the sex industry and make it inaccessible to the folks who want to use it in an effort to prevent damage. It’s more effective for sex-positive adults to offer a healthy alternative to the garbage.

// Porn is not a moral issue.

Sure, it can be. It becomes a moral issue when we use it to take advantage of or harm others. But even then, we’re only talking about certain types of porn.

Too many couples turn pornography into a moral thing or even a deal-breaker. Sometimes, we make fun of men who watch porn the way we make fun of men who masturbate. As if it makes them pathetic. Or, we suggest that a man who watches porn can’t be a good partner.

If your partner would rather watch pornography than spend time with you, that’s an issue to explore together in conversation and possibly, therapy. It doesn’t necessarily mean your partner has a full-blown addiction or that porn is tearing your relationship apart.

Putting your foot down and making porn off-limits isn’t going to make your relationship stronger. There may be legitimate reasons your partner uses porn, and making them feel like shit about it isn’t the answer.

Besides, if women are able to find porn empowering (and we do), there’s got to be a way for men to enjoy porn in a healthy way too.