Pornography is media meant to arouse sexual feeling. Unlike erotica, pornography is devoid of subtlety and artistic content and is usually perceived as obscene. Whether reading or looking at pornography would amount to breaking the third Precept would require us to first consider what effect it has on ourselves.
While the Buddha accepted that it is ligitimate for lay people to ‘indulge in and enjoy the pleasures of the senses’ (A.IV,280), he also reminded us that sense pleasures are ‘impermanent, hollow, false, deceptive, illusory, the prattle of fools’ (M.II,261). He further pointed out that sensual desire (kama raga) is a hindrance to mental calm and clarity which ‘overspreads the mind and weakens wisdom’ (A.III,63). Next, we need to think of the effect of pornography on others, as most pornography today consists of images of people. As in the case of prostitution, some of these people may work as ‘models’ because it is an easy source of income, whereas others are compelled to do it because of poverty or social deprivation. Thus, looking at such material may associate one with the exploitation of others and therefore be against the first and third Precepts. Perhaps another factor should be taken into account as well - the so-called Golden Rule. One should ask oneself; ‘How would I feel if I were to see one of my children, one of my siblings or one of my friends in a pornographic magazine of film?’