Mutter in my eyes
I will give you a challenge. I look at porn sometimes but I am B'H not addicted. I have abstained for months at a time but I keep coming back to it. The reason I can't stop altogether is because I believe it is halachically permitted to look at porn if your going to have relations that night anyway. Now I Know that is not good for me, but since it is "mutter" in my eyes, I find it hard to hold myself back. I would like do discus this issue with a talmid chacham who will prove to me that it is "osser". If I know beyond reasonable doubt that there is no "heter", I will bezras Hashem be able to get myself out of it. Thank You.
A non-religious man once told the Brisker Rav that he doesn't believe in G-d because he has many questions. The Brisker Rav told him, "you don't have questions, you have answers". So my friend, if this question you ask is really an "answer" to why you aren't working on yourself, then I don't know if I can help you. However, I believe that the fact you are asking us this question, especially now in Elul, is because you genuinely want to stop these behaviors. You just feel you need to understand more how dangerous and sinful it is, so that you can convince the Yetzer Hara to leave you alone.
Last night, right after I received your e-mail, I happened to be speaking about our website with Rabbi Avraham J. Twersky, a world renowned leader in addictions and a true pioneer and Gadol in Klal Yisrael. He was very happy to hear about the things we are doing and offered to spread the word around, and even possibly to contribute some material to our website. I figured that while I had Rabbi Twerski on the line, I would ask him your question to hear his point of view. I read your question to him and his reply was unequivocal, that there's no question that any Posek you will ask will tell you that it is prohibited. He explained that your question was really the "addiction" speaking, and that this is one of the tricks of the addiction. Rabbi Twerski, being the founder of an Alcoholic Rehabilitation Center, compared your claim to an addict who says "I was just trying beer, I wasn't drinking whiskey"... I tried to explain to Rabbi Twerski that you claim you are not addicted and can abstain from these behaviors for months at a time. "So why did he have to go back to it?" he asked me. "I have a lot of people who will refuse to go to AA, and they'll find a hundred reasons not to go to AA. The underlying thing is, they don't want to hear what AA has to say, which is "you can never take a drink again".
That is Rabbi Twerski's take on the matter. Now I will also try to address your question as well, to the best of my abilities. As far as the prohibitions are concerned, anyone who is frum and has learned any Torah, should be aware of the severity of these sins. The Torah says "Thou shall not go astray after your hearts and after your eyes which lead you astray,". This applies to any image that arouses one's sexual inclination, and erotic images of any type are definitely forbidden. The Rabbis state that anyone who purposefully arouses his sexual organ is to be banished (Niddah 13A). The Gemara there even goes as far to say "Better one's stomach should burst than he should touch the area of his bris (and possibly bring himself to an erection)". And another Gemara says "better to walk behind a lion than to walk behind a woman". And another Gemara: "whoever brings himself to an erection is destroying the world". This is not Mussar or Chassidus, this is regular Gemara. Chaza"l were fire about this! The Medrash says that anyone who is not careful with gazing at women will come to sin with them in the end. Viewing porn is also included in the prohibition of "Lo Sikrevu Legalos Erva, Ani Hashem Elokeichem" - "Do not come close to revealing nakedness, for I am Hashem your G-d". There is no other Mitzva in the Torah where such terminology is used. Even with idol worship, the Torah doesn't say not to come close! Only with sexual matters, the Torah exhorts us to stay far away from it. It is also interesting to note that the Torah uses the words "do not come close to reveal nakedness" and not "to sexual relations". This implies that "revealing nakedness" (i.e. even looking) is, on some level, as if one had already done the act.
This little test can be your meter - if an image triggers a sexual twitch, a stronger heartbeat, sweaty palms, or even a silent, "Wow!" then you are polluting your soul, damaging your "Da'at," the ability to know G-d, and cutting yourself off from the Divine Presence, the Shechinah. The eyes are the windows to the soul and they are the vessels to receive the light of the Shechina. One who has damaged these vessels will not be able to bask in the glory of the Shechinah in this world, nor in the next.
So with all these sources, why would someone find himself even asking such a question? The answer is in the Torah."Ki Hashochad... etc..." .. "For bribes make wise men blind, and twist the words of Tzadikim". The Yetzer Hara, who offers us bribes of false and fleeting pleasures, blinds us to the obvious truths and makes us think we have real "questions". But he is just disguising them as questions. Don't be fooled, and realize that these are not questions but really his "answers"! (R' Elchanan Wasserman used this very Pasuk in an essay he wrote, to explain how the multitudes of non-Jewish wise men and scientists from around the world, fail to see the obvious and glaring hand of Hashem in all of creation).