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IslamQA: The difference between sexual fantasies and reading erotic novels

Assalamualaikum, I read your answers for not reading any erotica in novels but how is this different from it being okay for young persons to have sexual fantasies as another question determined? Jzk

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

The difference is that sexual fantasies are a consequence of a natural hormonal state. Since God does not burden us with what we cannot bear, if a person’s physiological state makes them think sexual thoughts then we do not find anything morally wrong with that.

But when it comes to erotic novels the line of causation is in the opposite direction. The person uses it as a tool to stimulate themselves sexually (similar to using pornography), so it has to be dealt with separately from sexual fantasies.

As for why reading erotica is “wrong”, the reasoning is complicated and philosophical. Reading erotica is a form of voyeurism where a third-person perspective is introduced into a sexual act. For human sexuality to be non-obscene, it must always involve the union of two first-person perspectives. The third-person perspective is always obscene (as argued by Roger Scruton in his 1986 book Sexual Desire: A Philosophical Investigation).

But even if someone does not understand these arguments, we still have a natural instinct that allows us to tell the obscene from the non-obscene, which is why things like pornography and erotica are always associated with guilt and shame even among people who have had a completely non-religious upbringing.

A sexual fantasy can also be obscene if the person imagines themselves watching others having sex. It is just that due to the difficulty of controlling one’s mind when a person is naturally sexually aroused, we can excuse it. But a person who wishes to always live up to highest ideals will do their best to avoid obscene fantasies.

And God knows best.

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