What does the Bible say about hentai? Is looking at hentai / cartoon porn a sin?

Hentai is the Japanese term for "perversion/pervert." In Western culture it is used to describe anime or manga that is sexually graphic to the point of basically being animated pornography. While some people might expose themselves to hentai under the label of "watching it for the story," story or no story, the underlying goal of the visual is still to instigate lust in the viewer.

But is lust still a sin if the objects of focus are just cartoon characters? They're not real people, and technically they're just pen strokes and digitized colors and lines, so what's the big deal? Nothing is actually happening...right? And really, aren't there famous art pieces that are sexually graphic? What if I am not actually having lustful thoughts to begin with?

Lust is Lust

Just to be clear the Bible does not condemn sex except outside of marriage. When it comes to nudity, the Bible usually associates public nakedness with shame and degradation (Genesis 9:21; Isaiah 47:3; Ezekiel 16:35-36; Luke 8:27; Revelation 3:17; 16:15; 17:16). As with most things in life, improper treatment of things God created, such as sex or the human body, will result in sin. In this case, the sin is lust.

1 John 2:16 speaks on the three major divisions of sin, "the lust of the flesh," "the lust of the eyes," and the "boastful pride of life." These are things that are not from God, but are instead from Satan trying to trip us up and distract us from why we're actually on this planet—to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Pornography, whether animated, drawn, or filmed, is meant to trigger the lust of the flesh, as well as the lust of the eyes. Trying to narrow the definition of pornography to just one medium is placing ourselves on the slippery slope of trying to justify sin. Sin is deceitful, and will try to disguise itself at worst as pure, or at least not as bad as it really is (Hebrews 3:13; 2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

The question about hentai should be less focused on "is hentai allowed?" and more on "how will hentai benefit me?" (1 Corinthians 10:23). We should be remembering to "take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5) so that we'll know what we're allowing to influence our thinking.

But what if I honestly do not have a problem with lust?

Even immune systems break down if they're not properly cared for. Though lust may not be a problem now, something as spiritually corrosive as lust will eventually seep into a person's thinking if regularly exposed to pornography. If you are watching hentai, you might not even realize a change in your thought process is even happening. If left unchecked, lustful thinking can turn into action in the real world.

James 1:14-15 says, "But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death."

Lust is not exclusively sexual, but sexual lust has a habit of being much harder to get rid of than most. Why? Because it's addictive (1 Corinthians 6:12; 2 Peter 2:19) and sets the captive on a path of self-destruction (Proverbs 6:25-28; Ephesians 4:19) that will just grow in wickedness (Romans 6:19). And the deeper you get, the harder it is to get out.

Remember What We're to Think On

Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."

Sexual lust is something that God hates so much that Jesus puts it on the same level with adultery (Matthew 5:28). While different things might trigger sexual lust for different people—and some people might need to be more careful as to what they expose themselves to—hentai/cartoon pornography is the polar-opposite of all the ideals Philippians 4:8 states, creating a landmine of only filth.

Proverbs 4:23 says, "Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life." We need to be very careful about what we allow to seep into our minds and dwell in our hearts. Hentai—like pornography—is a spiritual poison, and to allow it into either heart or mind is to tempt decay of everything we have gained in our spiritual walk.

Already Addicted?

Don't give up hope. :-) Addiction to pornography, whether in hentai form or any other form, is not an "unforgivable sin." God is able and willing to forgive you! Overcoming addiction (in any form!) is not an impossible battle to win, even though it feels like it. With God, all things are possible, and He will give you the power to fight this thing! Do not despair, for you are not alone!

If you're searching for a way to overcome this addiction, please read our "How do I escape pornography addiction?" article. We want to be there for you and help you! Remember that God has your best interests in mind, and there is nothing so horrible you can do to make Him stop loving you. He will give you the power to beat this!

"And looking at them Jesus said to them, 'With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." —Matthew 19:26



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September is an aspiring novelist, book hoarder, er, collector, and movie watcher. When not obsessively organizing her book shelves, she can be found in a coffee shop writing, editing, or webmastering; assisting in taxidermy; or at home annoying her cat, Jpeg. That, or staring blankly into space, contemplating some deep question she'll forget shortly.