What specifically counts as pornography?

This is an important question that I have never seen a clear answer to. The catechism’s definition of pornography talks about “real” or “simulated” sexual acts, but what does this mean in practice?

I think real acts are pretty much exclusively in films intended to be porn, but in terms of simulated acts, this seems uncomfortably vague for those trying to determine what regular films are safe to watch by themselves or with family.

Does simulated in this case mean that there has to be graphic depictions of sexual content even if not actually being performed? Does this portion of the definition exist to prevent a “loophole” scenario where someone insists on watching a film heavy in nudity in sexual content under the pretense that the actors aren’t actually having sex but just simulating it even though the effect might be to produce the same reaction in the viewer as if it were totally real?

It’s just frustrating when you are watching a film where you don’t expect there to be this kind of scene and it just surprises you. I wish the catechism was clearer on this topic because I see how many people seem unclear on the definition.

For example, I was watching Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. I’ve seen many of his films and to my knowledge he has never put sex scenes in his movies. In this film however there is a scene where an African-American soldier tries to humiliate the son of Confederate officer by coercing him into performing a sex act on him. There’s nothing explicitly shown from what I saw except the person’s head in front of the soldier’s groin area for like 3 seconds.

Clearly this wasn’t real, but is this “simulated” according to the catechism’s definition? Clearly this was meant not to arouse the viewer but be a crude sexual joke; it was however intended to give the impression that something was taking place without showing it. But where does one draw the line on what counts as simulated sexual acts for pornography according to the catechism’s definition?

I think this better for “Ask an apologist”

Yes, please ask an apologist! I would also like to have a clear answer on this. :thumbsup:

I think that your real question is not so much about definitions but about what type of entertainment a Christian should view. Graphic violence, vulgarity, obscenity, pornography are not fit subjects. A Christian should not patronize them.

As Justice Frankfurter said, “I know it when I see it.”

There’s no specific definition and there doesn’t need to be. I’d say if you’re looking at it with the intent to receive sexual excitement, it’s pornography.

Much of it, I believe, depends on one’s sexual maturity, purity and intentions. Putting this into perspective, looking at a poster of a girl in a bikini could count as pornography for one person, but not another person. Extremely unlikely not to result in sin, but this would also apply to the viewing sex acts of a married couple. The problem is that a person may not get sexually aroused by the sexuality in films when watching it, but it may have a delayed effect and cause a person to sin much later in time. My advice, stay far away from movies involving sex acts. Seldom do movies need to depict sex acts, and they are made to maximize sexual thoughts and desires.

Just as an aside, there is nothing Quentin Tarantino makes that is helpful to your soul.
(Now you will be returned to your regular programming)

Always avoid movies, or TV shows, with simulated sex acts. Where there is partial nudity. And where it is very clear by body motion or position, that a sex act is going on. I am ashamed of Hollywood. Too many actresses are degrading themselves constantly by allowing themselves to be portrayed to be performing sex acts “under the covers” or behind a frosted, steamy shower door. You know that sex is occurring because it is the planned, purposeful intent of the director to show body parts or people in certain physical positions where there is no doubt a sex act is occurring.

All of these scenes are carefully preplanned. For example, on one comic book show, an actress pulls off her top in front of the man she is interested in, and in another, an actress straddles a reclining man, removes her top and unhooks her bra. No breasts are seen but it is obvious that sex is about to occur.

This is poison.


If you have to ask, it probably is.

I think that was Potter Stewart, but yeah.

Let me ask this, and pardon me if I sound blunt and no disrespect intended: Are you someone who is asking a sincere question to avoid the near occasion of sin, or are you asking so you know what you can get away with without technically committing a sin?

Some people do that here. :shrug:

Had this question come up recently:
A person who struggles with pornography reads texts that describe sex acts in detail and is able to get away from it at that point without going into visual depictions.

He has always understood pornography to be a visual depiction of real persons.
I did not have an answer for him in this regard. Although I suspect reading can fall under the same umbrella.
I don’t know. No read “actors” are involved. But at the same time the text is read out of lust. so…
Possibly it is not a mortal sin because the matter is not grave, but would still be lust?

I would count anything that causes sexual arousal, either at the moment or somewhere down the line, besides your wife if you are married, as being pornographic. I would even go as far as to say that even your own thoughts and fantasies to be pornographic. If you were to walk in on a pornographic set without a trace of sexual arousal, then I would say that it’s morally neutral. The problem is that what causes sexual arousal in some people, but not others, is a moral dilemma.

By this thinking soon saying “Hello” will be considered a heinous act. Let alone a documentary that has nudity or sex in it.

On a side note sounds to me that even written descriptions are “sinful”. Honestly it must be hard to find anything entertaining to watch, other then films by Pure Flix, let alone read or is there cognitive dissonance the way to skirt these “rules”?

It’s also sometimes helpful to differentiate between pornography and pornovision (JP2 does this frequently). The former examines the intent of the producer of the image; the latter examines the intent of the consumer. Sometimes pornography can encompass one or the other only, but usually, of course, it’s both.

I like his movies :confused:

I think this is great! Like reading a certain magazine truly just for the articles. If one has well enough self control then the level of modesty involved would not be relevant to the viewers take away. Like non pornographic nude art, one can view it without lustful intent.

I would not see the actors simulating sex more like implying it. I think simulation is this context means drawn depictions of persons having sex and graphic writings.

I’ve seen some things that are painted in the Sistine Chapel and those images seem to push back the boundary of what is pornographic.

There were modesty fig leaves or such painted over some of the images, but then they were removed in the latest major restoration of the chapel.

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