Three Taverns Church

The ‘Highlight Reel’


“Is using the ‘highlight reel’ during sex considered cheating?”

This question is discussed among the lead male characters from the film Couple’s Retreat, and I suspect that their answer (“No”) is accepted by a majority of American men. For those of you that don’t know, a ‘highlight reel’ is a person’s memory of sexual partners or favorite pornographic scenes which are recalled during sexual intercourse. The purpose of the ‘highlight reel’ is ostensibly to make sex more exciting in order to aid in reaching climax.

Pornography users are infamous users of ‘highlight reels’. The images users view are seared into their brains and are associated with sex (what else?) so that whenever a person engages in sex, that person’s brain is triggered into recalling  pornographic images. Many pornography users find that over time an increasing amount of stimulation is required to reach climax during sex with their partners. Just like drug users who need more and more of their drug of choice to get high, pornography users need more stimulation during sex to reach climax; enter the ‘highlight reel’. If your significant other is using pornography, the two of you are not alone in the bedroom.

From a biblical perspective we know using the ‘highlight reel’ is cheating. Matthew 5:28 says, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” I believe the ‘highlight reel’ is a perfect example of what Jesus is speaking to here. If you profess Jesus as Lord, this should be enough to convince you that using the ‘highlight reel’ is adultery.

But what about non-Christians? Trying to determine whether the ‘highlight reel’ is cheating from a secular perspective can become an exercise in hair-splitting, but let’s try anyway.

If you believe that cheating is strictly limited to physical, sexual contact with a person who is not your partner, then no, the ‘highlight reel’ is not cheating. (Note: This was the interpretation of adultery in 1st century Palestine, which is why Jesus had to set the people straight in the verse quoted above.)

On the other hand, if you believe that cheating is more about the nature and quality of a relationship than a physical act, a series of questions must be answered:

  • Is honesty a critical element of your relationship?
  • What about sex?
  • Is honesty about your sexuality a critical element of your relationship?
  • Does your partner know you use a ‘highlight reel’ during sex?
  • Is it OK if your partner uses the ‘highlight reel’ while she has sex with you?
  • How does it make you feel to think about your partner using the ‘highlight reel’ this way?
  • How do you think your partner would feel about your use of a ‘highlight reel’?

If you agreed that sex, honesty, and honesty about your sexuality are important in your relationship, but your partner doesn’t know you use a ‘highlight reel’ (and you suspect that if she found out she would be upset), it doesn’t seem that using a ‘highlight reel’ improves the quality of your relationship. In fact, it might be violating some of the core characteristics of your relationship. If that is the case I think we’ve discovered that using the ‘highlight reel’ can be considered cheating for non-Christians as well.

What are your thoughts on the ‘highlight reel’?

6 thoughts on “The ‘Highlight Reel’

  1. If I ever accumulate enough energy to have sex again, I’ll let you know. 😉

  2. I don’t think Jesus meant it literally. Fantasy is ok. When we lust after another woman and become fixated with her it becomes destructive to us. It’s not sinful, it’s just damaging, like smoking or drinking too much. When interpreted literally guilt is the only objective. Guilt can be a good pointer to us personally, but often people indulge in guilt to their detriment. As if guilt were the punishment.

    • I respectfully disagree, stuartart. I cannot speak to your experience. But in my experience I believe Jesus did mean it literally. when I was in my addiction I assumed he was speaking figuratively because I saw no way to live without lusting. Now that I’m in recovery I can confidently tell you that it is very possible to live without lusting, though it is very hard work. But like all things in life, hard work has tremendous rewards, and I now feel that I can approach God without lust in my heart.

      Having said all that, I like where your comments went with regard to ‘fixating’ on things…lust is a word in the Old Testament very closely related to idolatry; thus putting lust (or anything else) at the center of our attention and focus rather than God is very destructive.

      As far as guilt being a punishment, I think our sins and idolatry can trap us in a kind of ‘hell on earth’…

  3. WRT the highlight reel, I definitely feel like it “steals” the intimacy from the act of sex. It is so self-centered in its nature that it makes what should be the joining of man and wife physically, spiritually, and emotionally, into a selfish quest for physical pleasure without any thought towards the other person. I loathe that I ever used a highlight reel, and I am daily seeking God’s mercy in taking away those images from my mind.

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