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Is Porn a Sin? Sexuality Educator & Researcher, Gabrielle S. Evans Answers

2022-06-07
min read
Is Porn a Sin? Sexuality Educator & Researcher, Gabrielle S. Evans Answers

Is porn a sin? Gabrielle S. Evans, sexuality educator, researcher, and doctoral candidate, sat down with Kimberly, afterglow’s Content and Marketing Manager, to answer all your questions on porn and religion. 

A little about Gabrielle: Her research focuses on the impacts of colonization, ethical sterilization, and violence on the sexual lives of young Native American women.  She is a citizen of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe and the co-founder of The Minority Sex Report,LLC an award-winning sexual health and sex education platform.

She is passionate about reproductive justice, sex positivity, and creating safe spaces for Native women and girls.

She grew up in a Southern Baptist church, and has taught sex education in her home church.

 

More of a listener? Follow along with the audio version

 

Kimberly: How did you discover your passion for speaking about sex and teaching sex ed?

Gabrielle: My freshman year of college, I took a human sexuality class. Now, I’m from a very small town. No stoplights. Less than 1000 people. As far as like sex ed goes, I barely got it. So my knowledge of sex was born in this human sexuality class where we talked about everything from like sex ed 101 to necrophilia to having someone who was in the kink community be a guest lecturer in our class. 

We had an assignment to go to Adam & Eve and complete this worksheet. So that really got me intrigued about sexual health. 

Then, I took a personal health class and we had to learn how to put on condoms. I was a sophomore at this time and  had been having sex for three years but did not know how to put a condom on. So I learned how to put a condom on in class. That’s what really sparked my interest. 

Kimberly: So, diving a bit more into the realm of porn. What was your first experience like with porn?

Gabrielle: I’m from the generation where we would have something we were supposed to be watching on one channel, and then we would go to BET Uncut late at night and then make sure we had the last button on standby in case a parent walked in. So I think that was my first introduction to soft porn, what you see on TV. I knew it made me excited. 

I remember buying my first vibrator and using mainstream porn. I was intrigued at all of the genres, and I also felt that guilt of, “I probably shouldn’t be watching this”. Watching porn wasn’t something that people talked about back then. 

Kimberly: Yeah, and even with BET Uncut, did you feel, you know, shame around that? Having to switch back and forth between channels?

Gabrielle: Yeah, definitely. Even now, I don’t think I’ve had conversations with my parents about porn. We talked about other stuff related to sex, but not porn.

 

“I have a religious background, and I still believe in God and talk about all the things that God has done for me. But I’m also going to talk about sex.”

 

Kimberly: Can you tell us a bit about your religious background? 

Gabrielle:  I grew up Southern Baptist. In church all the time, I remember hearing, “sex is bad”. It was the typical, “don’t have sex until you’re married”. You know, all of those things that to me now, are like “blah, blah, blah.” 

Going to college, sex became less taboo. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve switched from religion to spirituality in general. So I don’t necessarily feel like I have to be in church every Sunday. 

What I do now is watch one of my favorite pastors on YouTube on Sundays, or just listen to gospel music. I don’t feel like I have to be in those four walls like I was told. And I think, you know, just as an adult, I have my own free thoughts and I don’t have to do what my parents tell me to do. 

People are always shocked when they realize that yes, I have a religious background, and I still believe in God and talk about all the things that God has done for me. But I’m also going to talk about sex. I remember one time, there was an Instagram post where I said, “Jesus saves lives and so does sex ed,” and that was a big hit.

 

“Jesus saves lives and so does sex ed”

 

Kimberly: I love that. So now, can you tell us about how religion has impacted your view on porn? Maybe when you were a bit younger, like kind of when you discovered more mainstream porn for the first time.

Gabrielle: Growing up in a religious background, people hear “porn” and go immediately to exploitation and people being addicted. Back then, I felt like “this is bad, but it makes me feel good”. Now, I can watch porn and still partake in religious things. I don’t feel the guilt anymore.

Kimberly: Yeah. Like you can still watch porn and still go to church on Sunday and both parts of your lives can equally exist. Yes. I love that. Okay, so then coming to the big question here: Is watching porn a sin?

 

Is watching porn a sin?

Gabrielle: My immediate thought to this is that there are so many things that the Bible says, like overindulging in food is a sin, you know what I mean? Like gluttony is a sin. Lust is a sin. And, you know, I was always taught that all sins are equal. So, I don’t see watching porn as a sin. But I’m pretty sure I also engage in other things that are considered a sin.

Kimberly: I think this leads really well into our next question. Because you were talking about lust and other sins. And, you know, for many religions, sexual desire is not so much an issue as lust is. Can you talk about if that pertains to your personal religious background and how this belief can coincide if watching porn isn’t a sin? I mean, if you feel that yes, it’s a sin, then it’s kind of you know, how can you still be respecting your religious background and your values, but then still engaging in something that is technically considered a sin. How can these mutually exist?

Gabrielle: I think I’ve always, at least growing up, associated sexual desire with lust. Because they were both quote, unquote, wrong. So that’s how I feel like it pertained to me with my background growing up. But I think they can coincide. I guess we’ll go back to the other question. I never really thought about it as a sin because like we do all these other things that are also considered a sin, but I feel like I’m on the fence. Like my religious background tells me “yes, it’s a sin”, but also like knowing as an adult now in the world of sex ed, I can say, “yeah okay, but so are all of these other things”. So I guess I’m on the fence about that. But then coinciding, I think I think what people can do is watch ethical porn. Paying for someone’s porn. Like watching ethical porn where there’s people who basically sign up to produce porn for these companies and they get paid for it. They empower people who also do porn.

Kimberly: So, as an individual, how can I make sure that what I’m watching is aligning with my values? 

Gabrielle: I think what people can do is watch ethical porn. Pay for your porn. 

I’m not yucking anyone’s yum or shaming anyone, but for me, there are also definitely genres that I wouldn’t ever watch because I don’t feel like they align with my beliefs and values. To give an example, I’m not going to watch something that has younger looking stars or is labeled as “teen” because, to me, it feels pedophilic because they’re under age. I wouldn’t watch that.

Kimberly: So, what did religion teach you about porn? Was it ever talked about?

Gabrielle: I don’t remember conversations about porn directly in church. I just remember hearing, “sex is bad,” and, “you should wait till you’re married”. But I think outside of those four walls, with family, or in the religious community, I learned to have negative views of porn. I was taught it was bad and that we shouldn’t be watching it. I don’t think it came directly from the pulpit, but from religious beliefs from within that community.

Kimberly: Yeah, that makes sense. How did you then reconcile your sexuality with your religion?

Gabrielle: I think the biggest thing was when I went to college. It was a complete culture shock. They are very accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, so I think that was where I had to work through some things just because I hadn’t been exposed as much. But I think the biggest thing was being in that environment. 

And then taking that human sexuality class, being introduced to new things, and doing my own research. It was like, “okay, this isn’t the bad thing that people make it seem to be”. I definitely had to do some growth and self-reflection. And then, the further I got into being in sex ed and doing sex research, and learning about new things or being involved with different communities, meeting people at conferences and online — just learning. I think it’s just about knowledge and just being willing to learn more. 

I learned to be open and talk about sex. There are people who won’t necessarily agree with it, but I also know that there are people who have messaged me privately, saying, “I enjoy your posts,” and “this is something that I’ve been trying to come to terms with or just learn more about and your post helped me”. Especially when we come from the same community. So I understand the shift that they’re trying to make. 

Even a few years ago, my grandparents are very religious, and I was teaching sex ed in my home church and my Papa sat in on a session with the guys and was like, “I want to know what she was going to college for all these years”. And then a few years later, I had a conversation with another grandparent, my grandma and her neighbor, and she was like, “So, do you want to be the next Doctor Ruth?” and I was like, “Yeah, but on a different level.” And I was having conversations with my grandma and her neighbor about sex and condoms, who were also almost 70 years old at the time. I would have never imagined that years ago, but you know, here I am.

Kimberly: Did it feel good to have those conversations with these women that you thought maybe you’d never be able to? 

Gabrielle: Yup.

 

Is masturbation without porn a sin?

Kimberly: Okay, we’ve got one last question for you: What do you recommend for someone who is religious with a high libido?

Gabrielle: Masturbation. I mean, if they don’t want to have partnered sex, masturbation. I would recommend finding some toys and learning about toys. I actually have a post on my Instagram about toys for those who are just starting out or toys for those who are a little bit more experienced — like a guide to shopping for toys. Sometimes toys are seen as taboo for religious communities. So even just baby steps. Use your hands to touch and explore your body. And you don’t have to start off with your genitals. You can touch other parts of your body that you know will still create arousal. Also, I would say, going back to ethical porn — if you want somewhere to start with porn — start there. Or even just search through those genres and see what you feel aligns with your values. If you are partnered, have that conversation with your partner. Even if you are partnered, you can still masturbate. So I think that masturbation would be the first step that I would advise.

 

 

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About the author

Gabrielle S. Evans, PhD(c), MPH, CHES (she/her) is a sexuality educator and researcher from North Carolina and a proud citizen of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe. Gabrielle has taught comprehensive sexuality education since 2016, facilitating programs for faith-based organizations, providers, and Native American adolescents. Gabrielle is a doctoral candidate at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston pursuing her Ph.D. in Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences. Her research focuses on reducing sexual health disparities among Native American populations and analyzing the impact of historical and present traumas on Native sexual health. As a sexuality educator and researcher, Gabrielle hopes to expand research on Native sexual well-being.

www.gabriellesemora.com

Instagram: @gabriellesemora 

Twitter: @gabriellesemora