Sexual lust and pornography in Buddhism is considered as being unskillful, but for me it is not clear why.

If all parties involved consented to taking part in sexual acts, I don't see why they are morally wrong.

As a living animal we can give and be kind to others, but we also have our own needs which can be called healthy self-interest that we had better fulfill.

Why is it wrong to be primarily interested in a person on a sexual level? If we openly discuss our needs and theirs and are honest with them, I see no reason why it is bad.

Why is pornography wrong? In many cultures sex and/or pornography is looked down upon (or at least only acceptable once certain conditions are met, i.e. marriage) but the people there were in all probability consenting and they always have the chance to quit their job, too. Drug abuse or depression in pornography cannot necessarily be a direct correlation, but primarily a result of I) lack of coping skills and II) underlying irrational beliefs ABOUT STRESSORS and III) an unhelpful environment.

  • Fwiw, the main problem with pornography has been that the people involved are not always able to "quit their job". Your firmly held beliefs about why the people involved in creating a product you enjoy did not suffer for the reasons they tell you they suffered also seem rather more for your own benefit than theirs, or objective truth's.
    – lly
    Jun 21, 2018 at 17:24
  • 2
    Worse, being interested in others primarily for their benefit to you (let alone their sexual benefit to you) is something like the quintessence of selfishness and the antithesis of any moral code whatever. We have such drives and objectify people in this way as a matter of course; the entire point of ethics is to use reason and compassion to behave with love, kindness, and an understanding of our actions effects upon others.
    – lly
    Jun 21, 2018 at 17:29
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    @lly you should answer with an actual answer instead of a comment
    – user13375
    Jun 21, 2018 at 17:36
  • Dude, you are under some serious illusions about porn being "harmless." Check out fightthenewdrug.org
    – Stewart
    Jun 21, 2018 at 20:25
  • Stewart, based on the site's name it is not even worth to click on it. Completely biased.
    – Val
    Jun 21, 2018 at 22:38

5 Answers 5


On the mundane level, all the other answers are okay. On the supramundane level, it's not as much about partaking of sex as it is about your attitude, the implications of the relationship, the implications of how the experience is framed.

Any time you find gratification (enjoyment) in sensual experiences, you harbor an attitude of desire towards them. You create a subconscious wish for it to happen again.

Whenever such wish is created, there is an automatic creation of imaginary or projected "future" (however vague) in which you imagine partaking of these experiences, again.

As soon as such future is projected, there is an automatic feeding/sustenance of the idea of YOU ("I"), partaking of these experiences.

Whenever there is an idea of "I" - there is an idea of "the world" as it's reverse projection. And the more this "I" holds on to certain expectations, opinions, and attitudes - the more the world it assembles as its reverse projection will look like a negation of those expectations.

Therefore as soon as you harbor an attitude of enjoying the sensual experience as something real, solid, something that can be experienced again - you are adding another piece of wood to the burning fire of Samsara.

The only way to partake of sex without creating the above karmic consequences, is by experiencing it as 100% empty (non-reified) experience with no substance / no solidity, something that can't be characterized as "pleasant" or "awful" - and can never be repeated again - and thus is not craved for in the least. Which sort of strips sex off its flavor doesn't it? It's also extremely hard to do for most of us except those who are nearly enlightened.

So the bottom line, every act of naive unenlightened sex is a giant piece of dung in the fire of Samsara. You've been warned ;)

  • 2
    For people who haven't realised suññata or anatta your answer is useless. One cannot by an act of will see the empty nature of all phenomena. If I'm not mistaken, only an arahant sees all nature as such. Intellectual knowledge and "insight knowledge" (based on experience) are two seperate shoes. Talking much about higher dhammas is completely useless and were in fact not a big theme for discussion by the Buddha since he almost always employed skillful means as a teaching method.
    – Val
    Jun 21, 2018 at 18:18
  • @val do you want to ask how to practice no-self?
    – Andriy Volkov
    Jun 21, 2018 at 20:14
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    @Val are you sure that one cannot? I mean anyone can experience emptiness and no-self from time to time occasionally, in the times of insight and mindfulness. Not just Arahat, Arahat just ultimately and permanently achieves that while going beyond good and bad and so he/she cannot yield any more kammic results. At least from perspective of Mayahana/Yogacara, excerpt: buddhism.stackexchange.com/a/26696/13383
    – user13383
    Jun 21, 2018 at 21:04

Imho, unskillful does not mean the same as morally wrong.

If I say something to someone who wasn't really open to hear what I had to say, doesn't make me saying this or that morally wrong. It is, however, unskillful, since the person didn't really pay any attention.

Why is it unskillful? Because it leads to the habituation of clinging and attachment. If you want to strive for enlightenment, sex and pornography will hinder you on the path. Because of the increase of the addiction, attachment.

If you don't want to develop in a spiritual way, then it's not a question at all.

Skillful, unskillful has more to do with whether it helps you or others, whether it's helpful or a hindrance.

That's what comes to mind. Hope it helps.


It is not morally wrong. The question is if it is helpful or not!

Clearly, lust and pornography are helpful for temporally satisfying the craving of sexual gratification. In that sense, they are skillful. On the other hand craving for sexual gratification can be a hindrance and therefore unskillful if one has other goals... namely the pacification of craving.

I'd advise not to take addiction to sexual gratification too seriously unless it is immediately causing problems for you or for those around you. There are many things to be abandoned and while this is one of them usually we have other more important enemies to combat first. For example: anger or righteous anger. Arrogance and pride also come to mind.

A lot of people get hung up in our western civilization around issues of sexual gratification. We are not only attached to sexual gratification, but to a huge host of views about it. Many on this site have generated strong aversion to sexuality. They have their own hindrances, habits, and aversions to abandon.

Like all bad habits and unvirtuous practices of body, speech, and mind... the first thing one should do is to stop digging the hole! In other words, don't give these habits energy by building them up into the Absolute. Worst. Things. Ever. and agonizing over inability to just shut them down. These habits need to be gradually abandoned slowly over time and so one should starve these habits of the energy they need to perpetuate themselves.

A great mind training that my teacher gave to me when thinking about bad habits of mind: regard them like silly children playing in a sandbox. Our job is to be mindful of these silly children - like a doting grandfather or grandmother watching grandkids play - and make sure they stay in the sandbox and do not harm themselves or others. In thinking of them like silly children that need to be taught to behave we don't give them any undeserved energy. We pacify them by pacifying ourselves.

Sexual lust and pornography in Buddhism is considered as being unskillful

One of the ten Paramitas the Buddha has advised to developed towards the path to Nibbana is Viraya which means energy. It is unskillful for the very reason that it leads to a release of energy or a waste of energy which can otherwise be utilized for moving deep into meditation.

Why is it wrong to be primarily interested in a person on a sexual level? If we openly discuss our needs with theirs and being honest with them I see no reason why it is bad?

The way you have put it, it feels like you are talking about casual consensual sex, at the time of Buddha, this might not be prevalent beyond the institution of marriage and the Buddha did not advise the householders to become celibate, He just said, do not indulge in Sexual Misconduct.

Talking about casual consensual sex, born out of sexual lust, the problem is it does not satisfy your lust in any way, the craving arises again and again. You get stuck in a repeated pattern. This in any other situation is just fine and in-fact should be encouraged but if you are seeking Nibbana it is unskillful, not bad as it will not lead you towards advancement as a seeker, it will trap you in Samsaric cycle. Watch this video at 25:50 and see that the monk succumbs to his desire and see what all misery he goes through for that surrender to that one desire. Its the eternal recurrence as Nietzsche put it, and to make it worse, it's nature is only unsatisfactoriness.

Why is pornography wrong?

Pornography actors are basically glorified prostitutes, and making money through prostitution is not Right Livelihoodd. And why is it not Right, because sex involved in prostitution is basically on the physical level, you are using the body of other as an object of masturbation. And it is even worse in Pornography, you are not only using the other as a masturbatory object through your profession you are promoting voyeurism, sex trafficking, poisoning minds of naive individuals.

Drug abuse or depression in pornography must not necessarily be a direct correlation

The actresses have to take painkillers in order to make appear that they are having pleasure while receiving anal sex. Anal sex for anybody is not the way they show in porn movies, also the actors are on steroids for sustaining the erection in that environment where the camera is on you and you are cut in a scene and told what to do and how to do.

Apart from few porn stars who achieved glam, it's not really an industry which won't depress you. Besides all this, we have not even talked about risks of HIV and other STD's.

  • I find your arguments of painkillers, steroids (you probably meant viagra) and STD's quite reasonable.
    – Val
    Jun 22, 2018 at 4:45

It may not be morally wrong if done without causing suffering to anyone, but completely useless for longterm cessation of suffering and craving.

Its "wrong" because lust empowers bad habits and leads to gradual degeneration due to inability to satisfy growing demands.

It is the same phenomena as with drug dosage or alcohol addiction.

That relates to clinging to pleasurable experiences by exercising ritual habits; the more lust and sophisticated pornography you watch, the less satisfied overtime you become, and therefore, crave more.

In such way, one becomes unhappy as pornography doesn't bring long term satisfaction, but merely temporary sensory pleasure, instead of cessation of desire for fleeting pleasure. Clinging to any dependant form of temporary pleasure is therefore unskillful and non-lasting.

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