Question:Is looking at photographs of partially clad women sinful? Why or why not?
I saw that question on the site, but couldn't really find an answer to it.
The question is one I propose when I'm teaching the Growing Up in the Lord: A Study for Teenage Boys series. But since you asked, let's discuss it for a moment.
Young men have a difficult time with controlling their sexual desire. It often appears to have a mind of its own. Early on in adolescence, sexual arousal imposes itself at the least provocation. The problem isn't that these things happen. This is the way God designed the teenage body to develop. No, the problem is the most boys find the experience so thrilling that they pursue it.
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world -- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life -- is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever" (I John 2:15-17).
Lust technically means a strong desire, but we usually reserve the word for a strong desire for something that would be sinful if we actually did it.
The concept behind pornography is to tempt the person viewing the photograph into thinking sexual thoughts. People do create pornography in order to empty your wallet. They know that if they can get you hooked on a few samples, then after a while you will get bored with them and soon be willing to pay for more shocking pictures. A lot of design goes into pornography to capture your eyes, shock you with its content, and produce a sexual arousal in your body.
Most Christians probably understand that looking at nude pictures is wrong. The sexual temptation is quite obvious. But where should the line be drawn? Some Christians fool themselves into thinking that if the images are of partially clad individuals, then it is not so bad. Pornographers understand what these people don't -- the imagination is more powerful than reality. Thus provocative views where almost everything is shown, but not quite is actually more sexually stimulating than showing everything. The reason is that the person's imagination is then engaged to supply what is missing. What is supplied is more powerfully arousing to the individual that an actual picture because it is what the individual favors and because it the mind is actively involved and thus more likely to produce the hormones for sexual arousal.
So where is the limit? "But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28). To look at a woman, either in person or in an image, such that your mind begins wandering down the pathways of wanting to have sex with that woman is a sin. You are not married to that woman so any sexual contact with her is fornication. To strongly desire to commit fornication with a woman is a sin.
In addition, such images train young men to think of women as mere objects. They get turned on by their looks, but they don't know anything about the person. They don't know what her personality is like, what her favor hobbies are, or political views. All the young man is consumed with thinking is how "hot" she looks and that then spills over into other aspects of their life. They begin looking for girlfriends on the sole criteria of their looks. Many give into sexual temptation simply because it was available and thus they learn to have sex without love.
Rather than going down this slippery path, a young man needs to follow the example of Job. "I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman?" (Job 31:1).