On the Word “Porn”

Ross Douthat wrote it in his book, Bad Religion. On Sunday, February 15, 2015, a New York Times writer, Bob Morris, wrote it in a column on cute animal videos. The word is “porn,” which was once short for pornography. Another word for it was “smut.”

Douthat wrote of “travel porn.” I nearly fell over when I read that. What could it mean–smut across the world? No. It meant travel literature that gives one pleasure. Brown writes of “cute animal porn,” and he is not referring to bestiality. He means animal videos that one enjoys.

Why this use of porn? Pornography is the written or visual expression of illicit eroticism. It is indecent and can be addictive. It is bad pleasure: hollow, cheap, degrading, and dirty. But now pornography is considered just another form of pleasure. The sting is gone. If this is the new meaning, then “porn” can be attached to anything that is pleasurable. Who wants more “golf porn”?

Language reflects the mindset of a culture. A culture awash in hedonism wants its porn everywhere, since its desires have been uprooted from moral reality. Nothing we enjoy should be porn. Desires were meant to aim at the good, the true, and the beautiful. The desired should be the desirable. When porn is the norm the self is shorn of life.

Author: Douglas Groothuis

Author of Christian Apologetics, Truth Decay, On Jesus, On Pascal, and others. Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary since 1993. Head of The Apologetics and Ethics Masters Degree Program and Co-Director of The Gordon Lewis Center for Christian Thought and Culture. Senior Fellow for Apologetics.com.

6 thoughts

  1. Thank you!

    I’ve noticed this trend over the past few years and considered it extremely troubling. I think it started with “war porn,” which had some legitimacy, since violence can titillate in a sexual kind of way.

    Perhaps another explanation of this phenomenon is that our culture now primarily sees things in terms of sex. An additional common example I’ve noted (and I’ll understand if you find this vulgar for you to allow as a comment) is the phenomenon of saying that if someone likes something a great deal it they’ve got a “boner” (erection) for it.

    This trend of the sexualization of language is at once utterly unhealthy, completely unChristian, and socially worrisome.

  2. A friend once told me that reading decorationg blogs was her “mommy porn.” I, too, was stunned at the use of such a word for something she thought was completely acceptable. Thanks for your thoughts on this.

  3. I was just thinking this week about how sick I am of seeing this word everywhere on Pinterest. “Food photography” is now called “food porn,” for example. So dumb. Thank you for writing this.

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