Is a sexual activity wrong if it was learned from a sinful source?

Is a sexual activity wrong if it was learned from a sinful source?

Does the source of an idea determine whether or not it’s good?  Let’s say you had a prior porn addiction and you saw something you want to try with your spouse, does that make it now sinful?  Here’s a question I received a while ago that I’m going to address today.

My wife and I have a very active sex life. We enjoy a nice variety of activities and positions. Our frequency is definitely on the higher side, so I really have no complaints. 

We have used porn, either separately or together, for much of our relationship and are working on that issue. I understand the problems with that and the implications. That is not what this is about. 

Many of the things we do sexually have been learned and implemented from watching or reading porn. We have discovered many very enjoyable activities from that area of our lives together. 

So, here is the question. Does a sexual activity become wrong or sinful if it was introduced from a sinful source? I feel that as long as the activity involves a man and woman married to each other, that activity becomes blessed in the marriage bed. I know others who don’t feel the same way. My wife is not completely sure. I’m just wondering what your thoughts are. 

What do we do with the knowledge that comes from sinful sources?  Here’s my take:

The source doesn’t make the knowledge sinful to have or use

If you incorrectly use a tool, like using a wrench as a hammer, that just means you used it incorrectly, not that the tool itself is now tainted.  You wouldn’t say “well, this wrench is now no good to be used as a wrench”, that is unless you have destroyed the wrench in some way as a result of hammering with it.

We have many stories of people using talents they gained in unchristian ways, turning their life around, and using those same skills and knowledge to serve God.  Others will use the knowledge they gained from previous life experiences to warn people of what happens when you turn away from God.

Does that make their time away from God beneficial or something to be sought after?  Of course not.  But God will use any opportunity He can and use it for a good purpose if possible.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

And I think we should have the same attitude.  Not that porn is good, beneficial, or a good educational tool in any way but let’s also not throw the baby out with the bathwater. 

A good example, I think, is if you’ve been previously married (whether your spouse passed away or you divorced), more than likely you’ve gained some marriage skills from your prior marriage, not just sexual skills, but likely some of those too.  I don’t think anyone would suggest you set them aside in a new marriage and start from scratch.  Yet no one would consider that death or divorce a good means to the end of learning marriage skills.  If anything, people would consider it an evil that you somehow managed to glean some small positive gain from, which, again, seems to be something God is not against doing.

But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.

Genesis 50:20

However, the source does make the knowledge suspect

That just means however that the source of that knowledge doesn’t automatically mean you can’t use that information, those skills or those ideas.  However, the source does make it suspect, so I think it’s wise to examine it more carefully as an idea to see if it’s good.

For example, if you learned some communication skills in your prior marriage, but it ended in divorce, well, maybe your communication skills aren’t what you thought they were and need to be re-examined.

Likewise, maybe you see a sexual activity or behaviour in porn that all the actors seem to find arousing, and it turned you on as well.  Maybe it’s humiliating or degrading in some way.  Those things should probably be left aside, and hopefully, one day will be forgotten.  Now, there are some caveats here, I’ve seen many wives express the thought “I’d never thought I’d like x, but it turns out I do.”, and sometimes their initial reaction or belief is that some activity is degrading, then later they re-evaluate and decide it’s not.  Oral sex seems to fall into this category fairly often.  In some cases, it goes the other way as well (they first were okay with it, and later they weren’t).  

So, sometimes what’s degrading can be subjective and can change.  But, regardless of the permanence of that belief, if your spouse feels degraded by a certain activity or behaviour, you shouldn’t engage in it.  That doesn’t seem to be healthy, or Christian, to me.  And some will argue that they get aroused by degradation, but I’m not going to agree with that one.  I think there’s an issue there that needs to be addressed.  I don’t agree with society’s belief that consent is all that is needed to make something good.

In other words, while I think it’s not a good idea to throw the baby out with the bathwater, let’s also not assume that there’s a baby in the bathwater without checking first.  Some ideas are without merit.

The activity can be an uncomfortable reminder of the source

Lastly, I think what happens a lot is that when a particular activity or behaviour comes from a damaging source, it can often become a difficult reminder of that source.

For example, if your spouse has an affair, ends it, the marriage is rebuilt and things are good, and one day says “Hey, would you be willing to try x?” and through the course of the discussion, it’s unearthed that it’s something they’ve done with their affair partner and never with their spouse, and it turns them on.  

Now, maybe the idea of the activity itself isn’t unappealing for you, but the memory of the pain from the affair is linked to it, and so you struggle to engage in it without bringing up old wounds.  

Likewise, one might worry that a particular sexual act might cause a relapse in porn use because of the triggered memory or experience.  These are valid concerns that I think should probably be addressed and discussed.

However, some decide to look at it from a different perspective.

Using what was intended for evil, for good

Is a sexual activity wrong if it was learned from a sinful source?

Others look at it as an opportunity to reprogram – to reset what is mentally linked to that behaviour.  They look at it as a challenge, to say “I want this to be associated with our marriage, not that other thing” and most seem quite successful at it.  I’m not sure I have ever actually heard of a couple who tried this and failed.  I wonder if this falls under Jesus’ advice for dealing with unclean spirits:

When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.”

Mathew 12:43-45

Rather than just cutting off the behaviour entirely, they re-associate it with their marriage, using it to build intimacy rather than destroy it, as it originally had done.

Does a sexual activity become wrong or sinful if it was introduced from a sinful source?

There are some pitfalls and some caveats to be aware of.  It takes a bit more scrutiny and discernment, and more communication (never a bad thing), but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should throw out anything that comes from a sinful source.  So, don’t judge it all as one big mass.  Look at each activity or behaviour separately and judge them on their own merits.

After all, if we ran away from anything one can see in porn, experience in affairs, or have during pre-marital sex, well, then you’d have nothing left for your spouse.

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