The sexually ambiguous goat and pornography

November 10, 2011

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My family have got the farming bug. Ever since we brought some chickens last year, we have slowly acquired more animals. The most recent addition to our menagerie of animals was a little billy goat called Hayden. Hayden from the start was a handful: his first night he orchestrated a great escape of all the animals, in which he and the pigs escaped. Hayden, we have concluded now, is sexually ambigious.

We discovered this a few weeks ago when the missionaries came over for dinner and we were all outside having a BBQ. Just as the burgers were being served we hear the pigs squealing. We all looked over to see the goat trying to have sex with the two male pigs. In this one act our goat was blurring all forms of sexuality. Since that day the goat has been very sexually active and is often seen attempting to mate with the pigs. This scene happens regularly but we feel no need to censor or make them look away from it. This made me wonder: why was it acceptable for us to see homosexual trans-species sex but unacceptable for us to look at a naked human or human sex? Why was there such a stigma attached to the human body and its expression of sexuality that animals are immune to?

This raised the question in my mind of the discourse of sexuality and pornography within the church. I have yet to watch a General Conference in which pornography has not been mentioned in some way. We are repeatedly told that it is a moral ill that will destroy society. That the rampant sexuality that pervades the modern media will destroy society. This is the story that is told through the church media and pulpit. For most of my life this is the way in which I have conceptualised pornography. However, recently my supervisor had me read a book called the Invention of Pornography in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Reading this made me reevaluate completely how I understood pornography and see aspects of it I had not seen before.

Pornography started as vehicle for freethinkers and radicals.

Modern pornography is usually the graphic representation of male sexual fantasies watched (we are told) by adolescent boys and lust-filled men. The assumption we make is that this is the way pornography always has been. Whilst, certainly, this is a demographic of pornography viewers, the truth is far more nuanced when a historical perspective is considered. Pornography has never simply been a tale about lust and sexual fantasy, and by looking at pornography historically we can see the other dimensions of it that are still found within modern pornography, even if these elements are diluted and overlooked.

When pornography (I use this term even if it is anachronistic) first started to appear, it was classed the same as radical religious texts. Pornography as a form of literature was not distinct from heretical texts, politically subversive texts or philosophical radicalism. In fact often they were merged all together. Pornography was a vehicle in which people could conceal their radical philosophical and theological ideas within the text. Seventeenth century pornography was embedded in social and political meanings.

Pornography is always subversive to some extent.

Initially its aim was to criticise religious and political authorities through the shock of sex. It was a means to disrupt society and the conventions of decency whilst also undermining the forces that sought to regulate and control it. Even today the shock of sex and the acts of sex are used to subvert social conventions. The fantasy scenarios that are depicted subvert the authority of the figures depicted. This is why women are always authority figures (policewomen, nurses, teachers, etc) within it, as they provide a means of subverting the figure of authority through depicting authority as naked and exposed as part of an sexual act.

Pornography is a form of escapism

The history of pornography tells us a tale by which the pornographic literature was a means through which free thinkers could escape from the censorship and control of society. It was a space in which they could explore and push the boundaries of social norms. Controversial ideas could be voiced in the dialogue between the conversations between the sexual partners. New medical developments and new conceptualisations of the body would feature within the books as the writers of pornography used new medical theories to explain sexual pleasure and reproduction. These were ideas that traditional printers under control of censorship and social conventions rejected as too radical, but through the underground pornographic literature could be shared. Pornography was a medium through which frustrated freethinkers were able to vent their outrage about the ills of society and publicise new ideas.

Modern Pornography and the Church

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How does this relate the church discourse of pornography? Something that is always missed out in the accounts we hear is why people turn to it. The general answer is that it’s overly lustful men, dirty perverts, or people who have stumbled upon a sexual act in a film that pollutes their mind and that they have become addicted to. The narratives that guide both the counsel given by leaders and the stories of the descent into pornography all follow the same template: the forbidden fruit template. A fruit that once taken consumes them as they become addicted to it. This is a template that is used in all sorts of church contexts from the word of wisdom to adultery, it can also take the form of the slippery slope metaphor. A person looks accidently and then they are caught in the vicious grip of pornography. The problem I have with the stories we get told is that I don’t believe them. From my own experience it does not appear that this is the case and life is never that simple. The stories that are told in the Ensign are based on personal experience that is interpreted through a framework in which a slippery slope or a forbidden fruit helps to make sense of their usage of pornography.

Something that has always stuck out to me is the discrepency between the church rhetoric and my experience. Talks in General Conference give the impression that we are plagued by pornography and that it is threatening to overtake us. The prevelence of the talks would also suggest it is a massive problem, along with the often cited evidence of Utah porn subscribers. Yet, in the UK, it just doesn’t seem to be a problem of the same magnitude as it is made to appear in General Conference. Yes, there are cases of people who have had problems. In my friendship circles there is an generally open discourse about pornography and whilst most admit to having seen it at some point in their lives (some more then others), it does not appear to be an epidemic problem within the membership in the UK. Yes, this based on anecdotal evidence and it could be that in public (as to what extent can you trust what others tell you?) all is well while really underneath the surface there is a massive pornographic underground, but I genuinely don’t think that it is the case.

But this does raise a question. Why is pornography such a big problem in Utah? Now, without extensive quantitative research it is impossible to answer this fully. Yet, I think a consideration of some aspects from the history of pornography may provide some light as to what possible answers to it may be.

Frustration with the current system

People used pornography as a way of expressing frustration with religious authorities. It was an underground form of sticking their fingers up at the priests, leaders and politicians who governed their lives. So whilst the church in the seventeenth century regulated every aspect of people’s lives, the realm of pornography provided a space in which they could escape from priestly dictatorships and criticise those very figures. It presented priests and political figures in lewd acts. It inverted the powers structures of society as the priests and politicians were humiliated through their exposure in perverted sexual acts.

It can not be denied that the church today can give the impression of trying to regulate our lives to a high degree. It has prescriptions for how we should act, think, be, do. How we should organise our lives, our relationships, our friends, and even how we should socialise. This is not always a bad thing. But it was this feeling of being controlled in every facet of their lives and a frustration with the existing system that caused the seventeenth century pornographers to start to write pornography. I can’t help but think that there is a correlation between the two. Today in a culture where the church regulates and can be seen to (even if this is more perceived then a reality) control lives (particularly in a state where the church seems to pervade all of society, such as in Utah) pornography once again becomes a means to kick against the perceived control by the church over our lives. For a person frustrated with life and the lack of personal control they seem to have over it because they act out of obligation to the church, rather then for themselves, pornography can once again become a means of secret subversion. The watching of pornography provides an avenue in which they can escape the feeling of being controlled and see the world turned upside down.

Pornography was always good for subversion as it was always secret. It was  safe way to rebel against the system as it was done behind closed doors – no one would know of your rebellion. For modern members it can have this same effect; it’s a way of secret rebellion instead of public disobedience. For failure to follow every aspect that the church teaches (at least the ones that people can see) is often taken as a sign of unfaithfulness, so public disobedience carries a social stigma that is avoided when the rebellion occurs in a hidden corner of our lives. It is thus still maintaining its subversive elements as people can kick against the system secretly.

Escapism

The fact that it is done in secret also helps it to be a space of escape. Priesthood holders are forever being given endless lists of things that need to be improved, but having so much to do can lead to feelings of never being good enough. In a perverse way pornography becomes an antidote to such feelings because it can foster a feeling of moral superiority (along with the feelings of lust) that can eclipse and mask the feelings of guilt. It provides a fantasy world in which the world is inverted and social rules and conduct are violated and in a highly controlled world the lawless world of pornography becomes a means of escape.

Friedrich Nietzsche spoke about the different ways morality can be constructed. One way in which we establish moral superiority is through a perception of distance between ourselves and others. When we see something that we label evil and wrong and are able to see that we do not have this behaviour, we perceive ourselves as good. This absence of wrong behaviour gives us a feeling of moral superiority. So whilst watching pornography can induce guilt it also helps create a feeling of moral superiority (even if it is artificial) by constructing a distance between participants and observer. The irony is that the church in inducing extra guilt by stigmatising and focusing on pornography, causes them to return to it to try and escape it.

Because pornography is not a physical act in which one participates but a gaze in which one observes a sexual act it contributes to the dynamics of creating a moral superiority. The person who watches it becomes superior to the people they watch because they (the viewer) are not actually fornicating physically. And in the heirarchy of sin participating physically in a violation of the law of chastity is far far worse then watching someone else violate it. Whilst watching a sexual act, and even masturbating whilst watching it, is seen as bad, it is not bad to the same degree as if they actually had sex. When you are surrounded by members of the church it is difficult to perceive a moral distance whereas pornography gives an insight into a world that can help to give this perverse feeling of moral superiority.

These are some dimensions that I think are missed from the discourse on pornography that I think a historical perspective on pornography would suggest contribute to why pornography is used. Obviously there are more, and the church covers some of these, and it would be overly simplistic to say that these are found in all cases. I am simply suggesting that these factors may contribute to it. By no means are they the only, or even are they aspects that might be found in all cases, it may be that they have no impact for most people on why they turn to pornography, but I think they are important parts that should be considered as part of the framework we use to understand pornography within the church today.

What do you think?

Why does the church have such a stigma about sexuality and the depiction’s of it?

What do you think are the underlying reasons that drive people to watch/view/read pornography?

Does the churches focus on pornography contribute to adding more stigma to sexuality?

Why do leaders constantly talk about pornography in General Conference?

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70 Responses to The sexually ambiguous goat and pornography

  1. Henry on November 10, 2011 at 3:40 PM

    Why do leaders constantly talk about pornography in General Conference?

    Because it’s of the adversary’s greatest tools to keep you from the prize: EXALTATION.

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  2. Jake on November 10, 2011 at 4:01 PM

    Greatest tool really?

    Considering that pornography is a very modern phenomena (at least outside of the socially elite) and is only really seen in affluent westernised cultures (I have yet to see a tribe in South America have tribal pornography or porn addictions) and is portrayed as a male problem (there are no porn talks aimed at women who watch it). Its not going to be very effective at keeping most of humanity from getting into heaven.

    Perhaps, Satan isn’t interested in women, poor people, third world people, or anyone born before 1960 (when porn was starting to become more easily accessible in western society)?

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  3. me on November 10, 2011 at 4:02 PM

    i dont generally hear reasons WHY p0rn is bad, just that it is. The reasons that are given are not sufficient: 1) it is addicting, 2) it degrades women, 3) it will ruin you financially, lead to other affairs, etc.

    These reasons are not sufficient, because there are porn users that are not addicted, there is porn that is not degrading to women (or doesnt even contain women) and most porn users dont suffer financially or lead to affairs etc.

    Ultimately its considered bad because church leaders say it is bad. same as coffee, same as face cards. etc.

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  4. Will on November 10, 2011 at 4:42 PM

    Boy, am I ever going to create a firestorm with my next comment. I say this as an observation and challenge those that read this to have an open mind and take a deep breath before exploding.

    The reason I think people in Utah have such a problem is due to sexual repression, which stems from the attitudes in the Mormon culture. I think a lot of men in the church turn to pornography as they aren’t getting any at home. Either their wife is no longer attractive to them or they live in a sexless marriage (defined as sex less than 10 times a year). After about the 8,000th lecture in the church about pornography, I finally raised my hand and expressed what I said above. Holy cow did I get a negative reaction. I also acknowledge that some men still turn to porn if their wife has kept herself up and they are having sex on a regular basis, but I think this is the exception and not the rule.

    The reason it is mentioned in every conference is due to the fact it is such a huge problem in the Church. The church is not going to solve the problem if they aren’t willing to address the issues I have mentioned above. Bottom line is that men are attracted to the female body. It is part of our culture and putting them in a situation where they have these feelings and desires and no way (or no attraction) to satisfy them is a recipe for disaster – a recipe for millions of men in the church viewing pornography.

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  5. Jake on November 10, 2011 at 4:51 PM

    Me, I agree with you I am not convinced by those reasons as to why porn is bad, I do think that it is bad for reasons separate from those given and not just because the church says that it is bad. What interests me is what is it that makes people watch porn? The church likes to deal with the symptoms, but never addresses the problem which is what is it that causes people to watch/view/read porn?

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  6. Jake on November 10, 2011 at 5:02 PM

    Will,

    Your suggestion as to why men watch porn is interesting. I tend to think that sexual repression is part of the factor as well, and the weird attitude to sex that can develop through the lack of discussion about sex at church. If you are right then I would love it if the next general conference if they got up and said ‘Porn is an issue because you are not having sex enough, you couples need to be having sex more and then the porn problem will go away.’

    I don’t think that pornography is actually a church-wide problem at least not to the extent that the church discourse would give the impression. I suspect that it is a problem in Utah (as statistics would suggest) and other states in America, but I think that it is made to seem like a world-wide problem because its spoken about in general conference so much. I guess its like the talk President Hinckley gave about gambling in GC and how it was a major issue in the church. I knew no one who gambles at all when he said it, so it can’t have been that bigger problem.

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  7. Paul on November 10, 2011 at 5:05 PM

    Oi! Tempest in a teapot.

    Elder Holland said in his talk in April, “In wanting to measure up to the stern as well as embrace the soothing in our general conference messages, please be reassured that when we speak on difficult subjects, we understand not everyone is viewing pornography or shirking marriage or having illicit sexual relationships. We know not everyone is violating the Sabbath or bearing false witness or abusing a spouse. We know that most in our audience are not guilty of such things, but we are under a solemn charge to issue warning calls to those who are—wherever they may be in the world.”

    So although it is discussed with regularity, there is not the assumption that everyone is mired in addiction to pornography.

    That does not mean that pornography is not addictive. There are some who are addicted to alcohol, but not all drinkers are. That some may become addicted does not mean all will become addicted.

    The biggest reason we avoid it is because of what we teach about the sacred nature of the sexual relationship between a wife and husband. Pornography tends to distort that relationship, sometimes in very damaging ways.

    By the way, to suggest porn is a new phenomenon is interesting. Excavations of ancient trash in Egypt revealed ancient porn. (See the radiolab link: http://www.radiolab.org/2007/sep/10/)

    And that there is porn that does not include women (and therefore is not degrading to them) does not mean that there is not porn that is degrading to women.

    I think your discussion of escapism is probably pretty close to the mark for many. I’m not sure I agree that the Lord’s providing us his requirements for our salvation is reason enough to escape, however.

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  8. Cowboy on November 10, 2011 at 5:12 PM

    Pornography is bad in my house because 1) it would SERIOUSLY piss my wife off; 2) because I don’t want it to inform my kids (both sexes) sexual development/identities.

    Still, I find myself agreeing with Me (#03) in some ways. Not that I don’t think reasonable arguments couldn’t be made for the negative influence of pornography, without resorting to religious rhetoric. It’s just that I don’t hear the Church offering anything more than: “pornography makes you unworthy”, “chases away the spirit”, “makes you unclean”, “sex is sacred”, “sex is between a man and a wife”, etc. The latter arguments are a little more compelling, though admittedly I feel this way on account of the social norms I was brought up with, as opposed to anything entirely rational. Still, in sum, these arguments for one of the worst things a person could do are largely unsatisfying.

    As for the questions:

    1) Why does the church have such a stigma about sexuality and the depiction’s of it?

    Anwer: Part of it is an outgrowth of the general religious positioning on the matter. The other part is that pornography actually plays quite well to the Church’s advantage. If your always fighting uphill for your sense of your own worthiness then it is kind of hard to worry about the empty spirituality at Church.

    2)What do you think are the underlying reasons that drive people to watch/view/read pornography?

    Answer: Probably something the behavioral scientists can answer better than I…but at least part of the reason is just plain old sex drive. I would argue that as the obvious impetus, but why pornography takes the popular forms that it does, I think it probably depends person to person. Men tend to like power, and pornography seems to grant a power placebo.

    3) Does the churches focus on pornography contribute to adding more stigma to sexuality?

    Answer: Simply, yes.

    4) Why do leaders constantly talk about pornography in General Conference?

    Answer: As I said, men tend to like power. Church leaders are generally thought to be particularly worthy, if not near Christ-like. They speak on the topic quite immune from most expectations, and yet can easily dominate those who feel inferior. Particularly if those who feel inferior are harboring the weight of religious guilt from a secret indulgence in pornography.

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  9. Paul on November 10, 2011 at 5:12 PM

    Will, your comment is interesting. I doubt that we’ll hear a general conference talk on that subject any time soon, though it’s interesting that there are a number of books available by LDS writers on improving intimacy in marriage.

    Those matters, of course, are about much more than just sex in most marriages.

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  10. Will on November 10, 2011 at 5:24 PM

    Jake,

    The question I raised in a combined meeting was: “Do you think it (viewing pornography) is due to lack of sexual activity in marriage?” I thought it was a fairly harmless question. Some of the women gasped, as did the presenter, which I think illustrates the problem. We are afraid to talk about the root cause. Interestingly, when I was the EQP I said the same thing and the response was quite different. I think my comment makes a lot of sense to men and they are afraid to express that sentiment and when I said that as the President, I received a lot of vertical head nodding.

    We need to be more open about sex in adult meetings AND with our spouse. Men and women need to be more open and they need to discuss this as couples. Men that view pornography clam up and are afraid to talk openly with their spouse about their feelings and desires. They hide their problem which is exactly what the adversary wants them to do. They need to address the issue straight up with their spouse FIRST and not necessarily the Bishop. Most tend to do the opposite. You can’t solve a problem if you are not willing to be honest about your feelings with your spouse.

    Pornography wouldn’t be one of the main downloads from the internet if men didn’t like the naked female body. To me, the solution is so clear. TELL your wife what you are feeling and deal with the issue straight up instead of hiding. The problem with this is that so many men are afraid they will be disciplined or their wife will freak out if they do; and, quite frankly they have good reason to be afraid.

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  11. Jake on November 10, 2011 at 5:27 PM

    Paul,

    I say that Pornography is a modern phenomena because, as whilst as you rightly sexual imagery is hardly a new thing, almost every civilisation has depicted the human body and sex in some way, it is not pornography. Pornography is very recent (the word itself is less then 150 years old) even the stuff from the seventeenth and eighteenth century was never called porn.

    Even if you stretch the definition of pornography to include the egyptian stuff, which would be a massive anachronism and they would not have called it porn it was still only a tiny fraction of people that consumed it. The phenomena of pornography I would say is the mass availability of people to access it, and that is only really happened in the past 150 years.

    But you do raise an interesting issue. Which is the problems in defining what pornography is. Is erotica classed as porn? What about renaissance paintings which are full of sensual naked imagery? Is a photo of sex or a naked person porn? Its all well and good condemning porn, but I think its difficult to define what it is.

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  12. Paul on November 10, 2011 at 5:31 PM

    Will, you raise good points. Frank and open discussions are valuable — between spouses, and with our children as we teach them these things.

    I think men who are afraid to have this conversation with their wives ought to be encouraged to have the conversation in the presence of a qualified marriage counselor.

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  13. Will on November 10, 2011 at 5:35 PM

    Paul,

    I have several friends that are Bishops along the Wasatch front and they say by far the biggest issue is pornography.

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  14. Will on November 10, 2011 at 5:43 PM

    Paul,

    “I think men who are afraid to have this conversation with their wives ought to be encouraged to have the conversation in the presence of a qualified marriage counselor.”

    I would agree. Absolutely 100 percent agree.
    What I am saying is hiding the problem is a greater problem (and sin) than viewing pornography. The only way it is going to get solved is by discussing the issue and the counselor creates a buffer – hopefully a positive buffer. My point with speaking to the Bishop and not the spouse is that in some cases the Bishop will keep it confidential and discourage discourse with the wife for fear it will as Cowboy said “SERIOUSLY PISS OFF THE WIFE”.

    It is one of the sins of shame and the only way to deal with shame is to communicate with someone that can turn shame into hope; and, the best candidate should be the wife.

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  15. Ben S on November 10, 2011 at 6:05 PM

    “Stigma” is your term. I’d suggest there is a qualitative difference in “holiness” and God’s image-ness between humans and other animals, and that accounts for the differing standard.

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  16. anon on November 10, 2011 at 10:17 PM

    I don’t buy the rhetoric in Church when it comes to this issue. I totally disagree with the idea of this altering brain chemistry and you are hooked for life. I would argue that looking at porn and having a regular sex life are virtually identical in terms of brain chemistry-simply because the male body reacts the same physically to a real life woman or a woman on a screen. Both have arousal and disemination of life giving fluid. I think we in the church do a piss poor job of talking about why people do it and how they can overcome loneliness, boredom, curiosity etc. About two years ago now our Stake President told us in stake priesthood mtg. that masturbation leads to murder…I wish I had the whatevers to laugh out loud and walk out of the room!

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  17. hawkgrrrl on November 10, 2011 at 11:59 PM

    What you resist persists.

    “Pornography” in the ancient world fell into a few different camps: 1) nude depictions that were just artistic since the human body and sexuality were revered, 2) phalluses were often symbols of luck – the bigger the phallus, the more luck, and 3) erotic pictures were used as a “menu” in brothels because people couldn’t read, so they could point at what they wanted. I did get a walk through the “secret room” in the Naples Archaeological Museum (where the Pompeii artifacts are housed), and it was fascinating. Of course, as a society, ancient Rome was more hedonistic than ours.

    Americans are typically more prudish than Brits because the prudes (Puritans) left to found this country. So here we are. Jake’s take on the superior attitude of the voyeur is interesting and one I hadn’t considered. I suppose to many, pornography is a victimless crime.

    Within the church, so many men have a porn problem because so many women have been taught that all porn and a lot of sex is evil and demeaning to them. It’s the old Victorian attitude to “lie back and think of England.”

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  18. Henry on November 11, 2011 at 4:38 AM

    Ben S
    humans and other animals
    When animals are paying a mortgage and are able to think and speak as richly and complex as humans, then I may buy this comment on humans as other animals.

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  19. hawkgrrrl on November 11, 2011 at 4:49 AM

    Your opening story about the goat reminded me of one Sunday after church about a year ago when we were waiting in the car for my husband who was running late. A bird alighted on top of the wall in front of our car and then started pacing back and forth and behaving very strangely. We were all watching this bird very closely. Suddenly it upended its tailfeathers in a provocative manner and a second bird came down and . . . we all had quite an eyefull of bird loving in the church parking lot for the next 1.8 seconds (birds aren’t much for foreplay or cuddling apparently).

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  20. SilverRain on November 11, 2011 at 7:15 AM

    I wrote some of my thoughts on it a little while ago.

    http://rainscamedown.blogspot.com/2009/11/why-pornography-is-wrong-its-not-really.html

    And I submit that if not enough sex is truly a problem, it would be changed almost overnight if more men concerned themselves with their WIFE’S sexuality and the RELATIONSHIP it builds more than treating it like a 24-hour drive-through meant to “meet their needs.”

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  21. jmb275 on November 11, 2011 at 8:08 AM

    Re Hawkgrrrl

    Within the church, so many men have a porn problem because so many women have been taught that all porn and a lot of sex is evil and demeaning to them. It’s the old Victorian attitude to “lie back and think of England.”

    I’m not sure what you’re saying here. Are you agreeing with Will, that a big reason is because men aren’t getting enough at home? Can you elaborate?

    Re Will-
    Not sure why you would get flamed for your comment. I absolutely understand why you’d get flamed at church, but I, for one, agree with you at least in part.

    Re Jake-
    Very interesting post. I have a few thoughts. I like what Cowboy, and Me said. I think there is actually two primary factors:
    1. Men (generally at least) like women, especially naked women. So sex drive is one. Men use porn to get off.
    2. Men are very emotional creatures, but have different needs than women, and demonstrate it differently. Anyone who says sex isn’t emotional for men is full of crap! So the second big reason, in my estimation is that men are looking to satisfy an emotional need. The women in porn “accept” the user unconditionally, and fulfill his every fantasy.

    Anyway, my point is that the emotional aspect of men’s pornography use is greatly underestimated. In my opinion, if the church really wants to combat pornography it would
    1. stop creating the scenario Will and Hawk are referring to
    2. help men and women bond emotionally so that the husband’s (and wife’s) emotional needs are being met. Haven’t thought enough about it to provide concrete suggestions though.

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  22. jmb275 on November 11, 2011 at 8:16 AM

    Re SilverRain-

    And I submit that if not enough sex is truly a problem, it would be changed almost overnight if more men concerned themselves with their WIFE’S sexuality and the RELATIONSHIP it builds more than treating it like a 24-hour drive-through meant to “meet their needs.”

    I hope you don’t really believe this. I mean, I certainly agree that both sides should concern themselves more with each other’s sexuality, but to pin it all on men is naive and absurd, to say nothing of the fact that nothing in a relationship happens overnight.

    Men are just as emotional as women, they just show it different and have different emotional needs. Sex is emotional for men even if it doesn’t appear that way to women. You’re fooling yourself if you think otherwise.

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  23. jmb275 on November 11, 2011 at 8:21 AM

    Re SilverRain-
    BTW, you say this, in your post, which is absolutely right

    When a person views a pornographic picture or reads a pornographic story, they are in some ways putting themselves into the scene. They are able to fantasize about doing something that they cannot do in real life. Essentially all forms of pornography involve having someone else do what you want them to do.

    And then you draw the completely wrong conclusion:

    In short, pornography is a way of finding sexual gratification that circumvents the agency of another person. It is about control, not about sex.

    It’s not about control (at least not for psychologically healthy men) it’s about fulfilling emotional needs. Inserting themselves into the fantasy is an attempt to satisfy those needs.

    You are also correct that it’s not all about sex, but it’s also not all about control. It is incumbent on both the husband and wife to meet each other’s emotional and sexual needs. When they’re not, both parties will seek elsewhere. For men, porn at least somewhat, fulfills those needs.

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  24. Ray on November 11, 2011 at 8:29 AM

    My two cents worth:

    Until we can talk openly about sex and sexuality, porn will be a larger problem for more people than otherwise. This, all by itself, is the biggest issue of all, imo.

    Until we can tell sex-focused jokes (and there are some abso-stinking-lutely hilarious ones) without being seen as perverts, porn will be a larger problem for more people than otherwise.

    Until men AND women feel free to “act out their fantasies” within marriage (with obvious limitations involving mutually acceptable boundaries), porn will be a larger problem for more people than otherwise.

    Until we develop a culture in which admission of a problem doesn’t carry such draconian punishment, porn will be a larger problem for more people than otherwise.

    Until we stop equating nudity with pornography, porn will be a larger problem for more people than otherwise. This probably is the second biggest issue, imo – and it is not hard to address, if we tried at all to make the distinction.

    Until we stop equating rare, occasional viewing with addiction, porn will be a larger problem for more people than otherwise.

    Iow, until we reject the Victorian attitudes that have shaped our Western / American religious culture (and, I should add, don’t embrace the opposite extreme that dominates our over-sexualized commercial culture), porn will continue to be a bigger problem than it needs to be.

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  25. Will on November 11, 2011 at 8:58 AM

    Hawk @ 17

    You are amazing. You get it. If all women in the church had your perspective, pornography would not be the problem that it is in the church. And in spite of comments that it is not a wide spread problem, it is – all you need to do is go back and look at conference talks. You can always tell what problems are being presented to the GA’s by local leaders by what they talk about at conference; and, this is confirmed with my conversations with friends or brothers that are currently Bishops.

    Silver Rain

    “And I submit that if not enough sex is truly a problem, it would be changed almost overnight if more men concerned themselves with their WIFE’S sexuality and the RELATIONSHIP it builds more than treating it like a 24-hour drive-through meant to “meet their needs”

    I also 100 percent agree with this comment. It has to be mutually beneficial. It has to be talked about frankly, honestly and openly. This is why it is far more important for those viewing porn or tempted to view porn to address the issue with their wife prior to speaking to or in lieu of speaking to the Bishop.

    It is, however, about male anatomy. The magic sauce is created in the body, just like urine or solid waste; and, just like the latter functions it needs to be disposed of after it has been generated. The healthy solution is disposing of this via a healthy relationship with your wife; and, the unhealthy way is via pornography or by some other deviant means such as the Sandusky way. And sometimes (I can’t believe I am going to quote her) it is as Dr. Laura says just a chore for some women.

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  26. GBSmith on November 11, 2011 at 9:44 AM

    As to the question, Why? Life is or can be mind numbingly boring and sex/pornography produces feelings and sensations unlike any other. If you add masturbation to pornography, it’s further re inforced. If you want people to stop, there has to be a pretty good reason other than it’s naughty. Having to confess to someone about it, besides God, likely makes it harder especially when you’re told, like one of my bishop’s that he could never have respect for anyone who viewed pornography.

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  27. Paul on November 11, 2011 at 11:13 AM

    #21 jmb: “help men and women bond emotionally so that the husband’s (and wife’s) emotional needs are being met. Haven’t thought enough about it to provide concrete suggestions though.”

    This is a key solution. (And it also resolves a major issue that SilverRain mentions, as well.)

    Before my wife and I married, we had an hour (maybe 1-1/2 hour) talk with her bishop about a whole range of things. At the time I was astonished he would take so much time with us. He counsel was practical, gentle and generally right on the mark. He freely admitted he would not give us advice about our sexual relationship — said that was outside his scope, but he did encourage us both to figure out how we could nurture one another emotionally and suggested that would go a long way toward resolving any other issues we confronted.

    This may not be the post for it, but I’d welcome more discussions about how to improve emotional intimacy in marriage, both how one spouse can seek it and how one can offer it.

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  28. Miri on November 11, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    I wasn’t completely thorough in my read of the comments, so I apologize if I’m repeating anyone here. But in my skimming I didn’t see teenagers discussed, and I think that a huge part of the problem starts with them.

    I think the Church’s repressive and paranoid approach to sexuality is a really big part of the problem, if not THE reason that this issue is so prevalent in the U.S. and Utah specifically. Teenagers are taught to fear their sexual urges, to feel dirty about their “inappropriate” thoughts, to think that even having the thoughts in the first place is sinful. Sometimes their self control isn’t strong enough to resist those urges, and sometimes their self-esteem isn’t strong enough to understand that having sexual thoughts does not make them dirty. I know that in at least some situations, that kind of guilt and self-deprecation leads to addictive masturbating–which is a twisted cycle that simultaneously comforts and causes more and stronger guilt. This can go on for years, well into adulthood.

    If we really want to address the problem of pornography addiction, we need to start by teaching healthy attitudes about sex to our kids. This problem, at least to some extent, starts with them, and I know from experience that the way Mormons teach sexuality is incredibly damaging to teenagers. We’re creating our own problem in the way we try to solve it.

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  29. city girls on November 11, 2011 at 1:14 PM

    I don’t know whether it’s nature, nurture, or some occult combination thereof, but my experience in today’s America tells me that men’s pornography is visual and women’s pornography is narrative. Since the monotheistic West (in which I include the Muslim world) is iconoclastic, the visual is stigmatized as itself pornographic no matter its content.

    Hence to represent a women visually is “objectification,” in the lexicon of our ethics. But to represent anything visually is to make of it a contemplated object. All art is–not “objectification,” the word is too tainted–let us say “objectivization.”

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  30. Will on November 11, 2011 at 2:06 PM

    “You are also correct that it’s not all about sex, but it’s also not all about control. It is incumbent on both the husband and wife to meet each other’s emotional and sexual needs. When they’re not, both parties will seek elsewhere. For men, porn at least somewhat, fulfills those needs.”

    Perfectly said!

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  31. Will on November 11, 2011 at 2:07 PM

    City Girl with the link to the porn site, please go away.

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  32. June on November 11, 2011 at 4:36 PM

    I haven’t seen the statistics that were mentioned so I am speaking off the cuff here. Is the problem in Utah really as “big” as they say or is it a matter of over reporting because we are taught that ANY amount of viewing, even once, is a horrible sin?

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  33. GBSmith on November 11, 2011 at 5:06 PM

    I saw a report of access to internet porn sites by area codes or some such thing placed Utah at the top of the list.

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  34. hawkgrrrl on November 11, 2011 at 9:01 PM

    GBSmith – saw the same report, but I think what is most interesting about it is that it related to pay-for-porn. Another conclusion of that report is that Mormons think you have to pay to view porn rather than watching it for free like everyone else.

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  35. hawkgrrrl on November 11, 2011 at 9:14 PM

    jmb275: “I’m not sure what you’re saying here. Are you agreeing with Will, that a big reason is because men aren’t getting enough at home? Can you elaborate?” Not just that, but we don’t have a very healthy dialogue about sex and marriage in the church. Maybe that would be OK if we just didn’t have ANY dialogue about it or if we all assumed that church isn’t the place to get that kind of instruction in our lives, but for many people, that is where they look for guidance in every aspect of their life.

    Sexually, we expect people to go from either total ignorance or at least total abstinence to “anything goes” literally overnight. There is a lot of guilt associated with sex before marriage, and there is no graduated progress to becoming sexual. Many women especially are unaware of how their own bodies even work and they’ve been given a “guardians of virtue” script that puts them in the role of sexual goalie. The script for men isn’t much better, honestly, but they often have a stronger sex drive and more straightforward genitalia making it easier to sort out.

    Emotionally, (and I agree with you that this is the more damaging of the two) we also get some very odd scripts: 1) the closer you get to God, the closer you get to each other, 2) righteousness trumps personally liking someone and knowing them well, 3) eventual polygamy means why invest too much in this relationship that you’ll have to share in the eternities anyway (hopefully most just reject that idea).

    These scripts don’t mean marriages are destined to lack intimacy or sexual chemistry or that spouses will seek sexual fulfillment independently because they are subverting their feelings, but I believe it can contribute given other factors.

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  36. lyrical on November 12, 2011 at 1:14 AM

    “I think a lot of men in the church turn to pornography as they aren’t getting any at home. Either their wife is no longer attractive to them or they live in a sexless marriage (defined as sex less than 10 times a year).”

    Will, I agreed with much of your comment but “disliked” it because you fell back on language that seems to reflect an attitude that women are responsible for men’s sexuality.

    And apparently responsible to look like porn stars and models in addition to giving birth to and nursing multiple children–which can take a toll on a woman’s body and self-esteem–especially if her husband is more interested in a distorted fantasy of a woman than a real-life woman, warts,stretchmarks, and all.

    One major problem I see with pornography is that it feeds into the altered norm about what an attractive woman looks like. Of course most men like to look at a naked woman but now it seems that some men are disappointed if she is not airbrushed and strategically inflated with silicone.

    No mention here of a man’s responsibility to regularly visit the gym to build up the requisite six pack. Is that really the standard we want anyway?

    Whether a man finds his wife attractive or not may have a lot, if not more, to do with whether he’s come to really value her as a whole person and taken the time to nurture her sexuality and feeling of connectedness with him.

    Attraction is a complex process and I hate to see it reduced to stereotypical comments about women “not keeping themselves up.” I also generally find it distasteful when either spouse puts the burden for their sexuality on the other party. To be clear, I disagree with the idea that men are solely responsible for women’s sexuality either.

    Just wanted to air that little grievance. However, Will, I’ve like the new, gentler you. My only real objection to your comments in the past was the sometimes insensitive and flippant way you discussed women and their “roles.”

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  37. Jake on November 12, 2011 at 2:07 AM

    Cowboy,

    You raise an interesting point about power and pornography. I think you are right that power also represents a powerful dynamic, as it gives the illusion of power over another. One can click on a button and as a result make someone undress and perform a sexual act. Obviously, this isn’t really what happens but it gives an illusion of it. Which if one feels powerless and out of control will also give it some form of appeal. This is especially interesting as Hawk pointed out the statistics are for pay-for-subscriptions. The fact that people pay for it just adds to the power dynamics. I read an article about why super-rich attractive business men used prostitutes and they all said it was the intoxicating feel of power from being able to use money to get someone to do whatever they want.

    The problem I have is that we are told again and again about how evil pornography and the solution is always simply just stop watching it. Yet, that is just managing behaviour without looking at why people turn to it.

    Will has raised a really important point about the fact that their is no healthy sexual discussion at church. Sex is ringmarked as outside of discussion. I suspect that the reaction to your comments Will is that the wicked take the truth to be hard, no one likes the obvious to be pointed out to them, especially if it shows they are wrong.

    Hawkgrrl, that is interesting about the church should either have no sexual discussion or a balanced healthy one. As I think it is psychologically damaging the way it goes from anything other then kissing (and even kissing I have read in a church book is sinful, and have heard people talk about how no one should kiss before they are married) is wrong, to magically overnight everything is OK. It is difficult to disengage the guilt around sex overnight.

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  38. Douglas on November 12, 2011 at 6:34 AM

    Likely the best response for why the Church harps so much on porn is the first: it’s an all-too-effective weapon of the adversary to deflect men (and some women, unfortunately) from the Gospel. Simple but profound. What ELSE reason would be needed?
    However, I would agree that in the zeal to combat the spread of the literary and visual filth, some outright ignorance, silliness, and stupidity comes forth which proves counterproductive; to whit:
    (1) It’s not “perverted”…I can’t imagine any reputable sexual therapist or psychiatrist specializing in human sexuality that would describe it so. It’s not only normal, it seems to be as a practical matter part of the psyche of most males to be stimulated by the visual. Of course, as a guy gets older and (hypothetically) less prone to horniness, he tends to discount or ignore visual stimuli. Naturally, indulgence to a compulsive degree (doing it a lot or in risky situations, like in the workplace) is most certainly NOT healthy.
    (2) While not excusable, there should be understanding as to motivation. Some may well be acting out of frustration. Their partners have (much) less interest in sex, or won’t consider anything they’d like to do, or perform in a desultory fashion, etc. etc. Rather than resort to an outright affair, circumstances of time, means, and perceived risk likely also motivate. Of course, there are probably as many reasons as participants.
    (3) Porn is not NEW. Ever been to Pompeii? If you have, then you know WHY the late Pres. Kimball, when he and dear Camillia toured there many moons ago, declared in disgust that missionaries would NEVER go there. Believe me, it’s a part of Roman culture that should have remained buried under volcanic ash. What’s new is the ability of the Internet to disseminate (pun intended) information, and wireless devices to process it. Sheesh. If I can watch ANY movie on XFinity on my tethered iPad or laptop on the cell network, then it’s only limited by what Comcast will “broad”-cast, right? Well, to set the record straight, I don’t get ANY PPV channels (thirty bucks to watch a prize fight is a ripoff, LoL).

    To me, being middle-aged and generally grouchy, I have a hard time figuring out who, if he’s “anxiously engaged”, between employment, business, family, Church and some recreational pursuits (mine are my several rides, Giants, and Star Wars – go 501st!), who the hell has time for other “recreation” ????

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  39. Anonymous on November 12, 2011 at 7:05 AM

    I suspect there would be less of a temptation for men to view pornography if masturbation were considered acceptable. I’ve heard some people state that masturbation leads to pornography, but I think it’s actually the other way around. Masturbation relieves the physical urge, while pornography reinforces it. It would be much simpler to skip the pornography and go straight to masturbation, relieving the urge, and then getting on with life. As an analogy, watching videos of other people eating would not be an effective way to relieve the feeling of being hungry.

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  40. hawkgrrrl on November 12, 2011 at 8:10 AM

    Actually, jmb275, I had one more thing to explain more clearly that I said in #17: “Within the church, so many men have a porn problem because so many women have been taught that all porn and a lot of sex is evil and demeaning to them.” What I mean is that the church believes there is a big porn problem because women in the church complain about their husbands’ sex drives and porn viewing to their bishops rather than talking with their husbands or working on their relationships. This belief is then reinforced because the church believes that this is a huge problem in marriages so they preach it over the pulpit. It’s a self-reinforcing system. Preach against it, women complain, obviously that means it’s a big problem, preach against it, ad infinitum.

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  41. Ben S on November 12, 2011 at 10:04 AM

    Henry- ? I’m not equating human and non-human animals. I’m saying, scripture implies a qualitative difference between them, since humans are created in God’s image and lions, tigers, and bears aren’t.

    Of course, technically speaking, humans ARE an animal.

    Care to clarify?

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  42. Jake on November 12, 2011 at 12:32 PM

    Lyrical,

    You raise a really interesting point about attraction and altered norms. Pornography certainly does result in a distorted view of reality. It makes me think of the episode in friends when Joey and Chandler get free porn, and Joey remarks how he was surprised that when he ordered his pizza that the pizza delivery women didn’t try and have sex with him. Porn makes people have distorted views of social interaction and body image.

    Wills suggestion that it is a frustrated sex life that causes people to turn to porn is problematic. Because if this is the case then why don’t women watch it? Why is it seen as a predominately male problem? I don’t buy a medieval view that women have lower sex drives then men. Not being a women I can’t comment but I am pretty sure women have sexual needs to. So I don’t think this can be the full answer as pornography is implied is a male problem so what about women? unless women have another way to express their sexual frustration. If people aren’t having enough sex then we should see two patterns for men and women as a result.

    To expect women to be responsible for men’s sexual satisfaction, is certainly as you say mistaken and wrong. This does not consider the fact that it could be that women simply don’t want to have sex with their husbands, who have put on weight, are selfish lovers, emotionally distant. Or the fact that people are so tired from work, kids, church, meetings etc etc. That sex simply gets forgotten.

    What I find interesting about attraction is that so often in the church we get told things like ‘the most attractive women is a women who keeps her covenants’ or that the most attractive thing about a man is that they are worthy priesthood holders. Attraction is often spoke about in terms of righteousness and spirituality. The fact is that attraction is more then spirituality and covers emotional connection, personality and physical appearances, which get downplayed in church counsel to young single adults. We’re told to find someone with a testimony, and the rest will follow. But the problem is if the rest doesn’t follow you are not likely to know until later and then I can see how it could lead to pornography as a way to compensate. As whilst spiritual attraction is important for a relationship to work, to have a sexually fullfilling relationship requires more then both the partners having a testimony and these other dynamics of attraction are not given much air in counsel to single adults.

    This leads me to think that a lot of the issues that contribute to the why people look at pornography are sown in the teenage years and young single adult years.

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  43. Jake on November 12, 2011 at 1:26 PM

    Douglas,

    I don’t understand the rational as to why it is seen as an effective tool of the adversary. If it is on the basis that it distracts from the gospel, then I can think of plenty of other things that could equally come under condemnation on that regard. Time spent on the internet on facebook, blogs, time spent watching tv, etc etc. Further, I am pretty sure that someone could still watch porn, and magnifiy their calling and do everything that the gospel requires, attend church, even worship at the temple (strictly speaking there is no question that asks about porn usage for a temple recommend). So if they can be faithful in what they do (admittedly a high porn usage may make it difficult to do) and watch porn then how does it distract from the gospel? How is it a tool to destroy the church when one can, and I am sure many do hold callings and perform them faithfully in the church and also watch porn?

    Just as a point of reference the example you bring up of Pompeii is interesting as they were all depictions of one of their Gods. Is it really pornography if it is religious art? Would you class pictures of Adam and Eve naked as pornography? Further we don’t understand the significance of the statues, figures and images from that period, so it is presumptuous to read them as being pornographic as that’s imposing modern values on ancient people.

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  44. Jake on November 12, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    Re jmb275

    I can see your point about emotional needs being part of the problem that contributes to it. But I can’t really see how watching people have sex meets any kind of emotional need in men. Perhaps maybe emotions connected with sex, but certainly not any deep emotional needs.

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  45. hawkgrrrl on November 13, 2011 at 5:21 AM

    Jake: “I can’t really see how watching people have sex meets any kind of emotional need in men.” Eating an entire pie doesn’t fill an emotional void either, but that doesn’t mean people haven’t tried it.

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  46. jmb275 on November 13, 2011 at 9:02 AM

    Re Jake-
    It’s like I said, it’s not so much about the sex, it’s about acceptance, love, etc. Porn absolutely does not meet the emotional need (as Hawk alluded to), but men try because they hope it will. The point is, the women of porn accept every man unconditionally by baring everything for all to see. Going further, in hard porn, the women will do anything to/for the man. It’s unconditional acceptance, something all of us crave. It it is an attempt by men to have a deep emotional need met.

    Again, I’m not saying it works – it doesn’t. Porn is no substitute for a healthy relationship. Also, I’m not saying it’s this way with all men, each time they look. Sometimes you just gotta release, it’s just hormones. But those who get “addicted” (and I do think for many men it qualifies as an addiction) I think it is more often an attempt at fulfilling a deep emotional need.

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  47. Douglas on November 13, 2011 at 9:29 AM

    Jake – the others since our posts have well covered most pertinent points.
    A mis-translation of the BoM (into Italian) ending up reading Moroni 7:17 as follows: “But almost anything persuades men to not believe in Christ and not serve Him”, instead of “whatsover”. Scripturally incorrect, factually spot on! I’m not singling out porn as THE only thing that is leading (mostly) brethren astray. It’s effective likely because it’s so damned easily accessible. Cripes, when I was a lad I had to hide a stack of Playboy and Penthouse mags in the crawl space! This generation of miscreant lads has it way too easy (and the snow walking the miles to school was deeper, and so on….).
    I do think that the extent and harm of porn are overblown (ala ‘reefer madness’), but that doesn’t mean that it’s harmless. And frankly, what is RIGHT about it? Was man intended to laze in front of a computer, whiling away the hours in the dead of night viewing naughty images and videos? I think not. To me, it’s junk food vis-a-vis sex. I’d rather watch what I eat,and feel what I hump.

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  48. LovelyLauren on November 13, 2011 at 1:25 PM

    I think the fantasy element of porn is part of the appeal and something that women are afraid of. Let’s be honest, regular vanilla, once-a-week sex is nice, but it gets dull and pornography is interesting and different.

    Wives are so afraid of pornography that things like toys or lingerie are tantamount to sin. I encountered a (now defunct) advice blog where a woman was saying that her husband (of several years) complained that she never wore anything sexy to bed. Years of marriage and she thought wearing lingerie was breaking her covenants. I suggested sleeping naked every once in a while and was told that if I did so, I was breaking my covenants.

    Sex is great as a sacrament of marriage or whatever or as a duty, but it’s a whole lot better if it’s actually SEXY. Somehow being sexy is seen as being sinful (all those modesty discussions aren’t helping either) and until we can talk about what all of this means, porn will continue to be a problem.

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  49. Douglas on November 13, 2011 at 7:46 PM

    #48 – Thanks. Now I’ve got Right Said Fred’s “I’m too sexy” on the brain….

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  50. [...] The “Circling the Wagons” conference was a big success. Sexuality has such a range of possible expressions. [...]

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  51. SilverRain on November 14, 2011 at 3:16 PM

    “It’s not about control (at least not for psychologically healthy men) it’s about fulfilling emotional needs.”

    Yes, trying to fulfill emotional needs through exerting control. The emotional needs are met because it is a pseudo-relationship with someone who always does exactly what you want them to. There is nothing psychologically healthy with trying to fill one’s emotional needs with an illusion.

    And you may call it “naive,” but it is based on many conversations with women about sex. Often, women find sex invasive and uncomfortable, and feel guilted into having it in order to “meet the needs” of their husbands. That is certainly not a recipe for success in increasing frequency. And that paradigm comes straight from secular discourse on sex. It’s even going to the extreme where many women feel they have to be sexually exciting in order to be valuable.

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  52. Will on November 14, 2011 at 4:41 PM

    MH,
    You totally missed my point if that is your conclusion of my comment. The free market has nothing to do with the Celestial Kingdom; but, it will include the survival of the spiritually fittest through a free agency probationary period – a probationary period that results in winners and losers.
    Make no mistake; the Celestial law of consecration will be practiced by those that make it to this kingdom. The problem is trying to implement a celestial law into a telestial world. I have cited a few examples where it worked; and, it worked because of the nature of the people living it. It doesn’t work in so much in our society as so many in the world are lazy, corrupt, greedy, dishonest cheaters and have an attitude that someone else should take care of them, like the occupy wall street crowd. I loved an article recently by Thomas Sowell it is awesome and illustrates why socialism will NEVER work in the US—

    The current Occupy Wall Street movement is the best illustration to date of what President Barack Obama’s America looks like. It is an America where the lawless, unaccomplished, ignorant and incompetent rule. It is an America where those who have sacrificed nothing pillage and destroy
    the lives of those who have sacrificed greatly.

    It is an America where history is rewritten to honor dictators, murderers and thieves. It is an America where violence, racism, hatred, class warfare and murder are all promoted as acceptable means of overturning the American civil society.

    It is an America where humans have been degraded to the level of animals:
    defecating in public, having sex in public, devoid of basic hygiene. It is an
    America where the basic tenets of a civil society, including faith, family, a
    free press and individual rights, have been rejected. It is an America where
    our founding documents have been shredded and, with them, every person’s
    guaranteed liberties.

    It is an America where, ultimately, great suffering will come to the American
    people, but the rulers like Obama, Michelle Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi,
    Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, Joe Biden, Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, liberal
    college professors, union bosses and other loyal liberal/Communist Party members
    will live in opulent splendor.

    It is the America that Obama and the Democratic Party have created with the
    willing assistance of the American media, Hollywood , unions, universities, the
    Communist Party of America, the Black Panthers and numerous anti-American
    foreign entities.

    Barack Obama has brought more destruction upon this country in four years than
    any other event in the history of our nation, but it is just the beginning of what he and his comrades are capable of.

    The Occupy Wall Street movement is just another step in their plan for the
    annihilation of America .

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  53. Will on November 14, 2011 at 4:45 PM

    Sorry wrong OP.

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  54. Will on November 14, 2011 at 4:53 PM

    Silver,

    This is what I meant to say in this post:

    I read your article and agree with JMB, you had some excellent points but reached the wrong conclusion. I especially liked your comment that sex is something that needs to be worked through. Also, you are correct it is about control, but it is my observation that in these situations that the one that cares the least has the most control. I think this control women have translates into a lot of beggars and men giving up in frustration and turning to alternatives.

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  55. hawkgrrrl on November 14, 2011 at 7:50 PM

    Will – with all this free market talk I thought you were saying wives were in competition with porn in a free market sense! Like porn is outsourcing. Come to think of it . . .

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  56. Anon on November 14, 2011 at 10:01 PM

    Interesting post. I have many thoughts and feelings about pornography. I do think the “why” behind the harping on the evils of pornography is because of the possibility of leading you away from the straight and narrow path. But, I don’t think it should be viewed as any worse than any other sin that can lead you off the straight and narrow. I think excess in anything is harmful to our spirits. People who eat excessively to the point of addiction have gotten off the path. People addicted to shopping, gambling, stealing, drinking. All addictions pull us away from where our focus and heart should be. Unfortunately, in the LDS church, people consider any viewing of any kind of porn as a horrid sin. Really?? There are so many levels of porn. From erotica, to soft porn, to hard core, to horrible, violent, degrading, illegal, and evil forms. And yes, these days they are all out there and accessible. I think a lot of the attraction to most common forms of porn (not total depravity, consensual sex types) is simply it turns people on. And people like to be turned on. It feels good. I (a woman) have looked at a ton of porn. I started young. It lasted into my marriage. (I am a highly active, return missionary, temple worker, big calling type, btw) my husband also has seen a lot. I’m not saying this is okay. It was a struggle. I felt drawn to it. But I compare it to masturbation. When I was young, I felt intense guilt over it, which led to compulsion. Same with porn. As soon as my husband and I started having very frank conversations,without judgement, about porn viewage it was as if the problem went away overnight. We stopped feeling like we were terrible people. It stopped weighing on us. We became free. I know sooooo many women in the church who are so freaked about porn that I know for a fact if there husband is occasionally viewing it, it is his deep dark secret that may lead him to compulsion, guilt, depression, etc. People need to lose the fear and talk. It’s the only way to free yourself. Now, I honestly have no desire for it, and if I see it, I can see it for what it is – fantasy, and kind of akward and staged, and I can move on.
    Another said thing about the LDS church is the judgment!!! I was talking to a friend who is a non-denom Christian. Her pastor got up in front of her congregation and admitting he was struggling with porn. He expressed his frustration, and his need for help. He asked for their prayers, support, and forgiveness. She said everyone has rallied around him and is so supportive and non judgmental. How awesome is that?! No LDS person would do that, because it would bring everlasting condemnation from fellow members! Heck, even I’m posting anonomously and no one would know me anyway! All of the intense judgment and guilt is what is fueling this problem. We need to let it go, have a healthy understanding about sex, and porn in all it’s varied forms, and get back on the path. Drop the ball and chain.
    One last thought. I think the reasons people are turning to porn are varied. My husband and I have always had a fun, adventurous, sexy sex life, even a little spicy “pre-sex life” before marriage. He never felt deprived. But still looked at porn. So, it’s a multiple faceted issue. But I think all the harping is driving people deeper into it. Sad.

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  57. Douglas on November 14, 2011 at 11:18 PM

    #56 – though many a bishop might blow a gasket and snatch your recommend out of your hand for admitting to viewing porn…if you and your spouse come to an agreement about it and it’s a “normal” (well, normal for you) thing, then AFAIC if I’m your bishop and you asked me about it, I’d say let your conscience and your mutual communication as a married couple be your guide. I wouldn’t presume to proscribe whatever a married couple wants as a part of their sex lives BETWEEN THEMSELVES (this rules out, as the erstwhile Charlie Harper said, “a threesome, two couples swinging, two couples with a looky-Lou, then orgy….”).
    However, I can’t go there, because my wife wouldn’t feel comfortable about it. And it isn’t so important to me that it should be forced on her sensibilities. IMHO, communication and mutual respect is as much a part of a healthy sex life as mere technique.

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  58. Anon on November 15, 2011 at 7:22 AM

    Re: Will #25

    “It is, however, about male anatomy. The magic sauce is created in the body, just like urine or solid waste; and, just like the latter functions it needs to be disposed of after it has been generated.”

    Excuse my ignorance, as I’m a single LDS young woman, but is this really true that men need to ejaculate just as they need to urinate?

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  59. Will on November 15, 2011 at 7:57 AM

    Anon,

    Elder Packer wrote an article “to young men only” which compared the male reproduction to a factory indicating that at times that factory needs to release its steam. In his writings he is encouraging young men not to engage in masturbation as it increases the frequency the factory needs to release the steam. He told the youth the body would release this steam (aka semen) naturally through dreams. From my youth days, it seems like this would happen once or twice a month, but I don’t remember exactly.

    So yes, after semen is generated by the body it does need to release it just like it needs to release urine after it is generated; and, failure to release it results in what Urologists refer to as epididymal hypertension (aka blue balls). Going back to Elder Packers talk, the issue is frequency. As this factory goes into full production, which one would expect from a married man, it increases the frequency that it needs to release steam; and, I maintain the healthy way this is done is through sexual activity with one’s wife.

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  60. jmb275 on November 15, 2011 at 9:02 AM

    Re #58 Anon-
    Additionally, scientists are discovering more and more that frequent “releasing of the steam” helps decrease the risk of prostate cancer – something more and more men are afflicted with.

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  61. Anon on November 16, 2011 at 7:11 AM

    I feel the need to clarify a bit. I’m th eanan who has watch a ton o porn over my life. Just wanted to say it was never anything I felt real great about. My husband and I tried to view it together with pathetic, disastrous, and almost humorous results. After our heart to hearts about porn and viewage. For me it has gone down to zero for many years. For my husband, I believe very occasional. (which is probably likely for many men). Also, I asked my husband if the porn question was in a temple recommend interview, and he said, yes, it’s been asked many times. It has never been asked to me as a woman. Clearly no one sees women as a problem. And I would never in a million years bring it up to a bishop. None of their business IMO. I am not the run and confess to Bisho
    Kind. I know what’s right and wrong, and I stubble with God continually for a change of heart. No bishop needed thank you.

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  62. Neal on November 16, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    Jake,

    The fact of the matter is that pornography can and does lead to addiction, whether you may be particularly aware of it or not. And this is not just an issue for LDS people.

    Clinically speaking, viewing pornography releases endorphins in the brain like many drugs do. Couple this with the additional neuro stimulation of masturbation (which almost always accompanies pornography viewing) and you have a potent recipe for potential addiction.

    As someone who struggles with this problem, I can personally testify of the devastating effects sexual addictions can have on your life, and of the suprisingly large group of men AND women who struggle with them. I have participated in several 12 Step groups for sexual addictions, both those sponsored by the Church and those that are not, and many people with sexual addictions find them harder to overcome than drugs or alcohol. Its serious stuff. Of course, not everyone is immediately susceptible to sexual addictions, just as not everyone who takes a drink is guaranteed to become an alcoholic, but you don’t know until your’re exposed.

    The problem we have today is the ease of accessibility to pornographic material, and the problem this poses to those who are at risk. Its hard to recover from an addiction when your ‘drug of choice’ is just a couple of mouse-clicks away.

    Its easy to dismiss occasional ‘recreational’ porn use as harmless and assignable to LDS cultural phenomenon, but this is truly a problem that knows no social, cultural, racial or religious boundaries. When pornography becomes readily accessible and pervasive to any group, instances of sexual addiction and associated issues will escalate. And if you don’t think they can ruin your life, I invite you to attend a Sexaholics Anonymous meeting in your area and witness first hand the lives that have been ruined by it.

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  63. Nancy on November 17, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    A very important concept has been missed by all the respondents here. By labeling all porn as “filthy”, “disgusting”, “dirty” and so on, women are degraded in a different way. As a feminist, I am less opposed to women presenting themselves in pornographic content (as long as they are free to choose, etc) than to constantly talk about their bodies as disgusting. Doesn’t a young boy begin to think of the female body as sick, perverted, disgusting, and filthy when those are the words he constantly hears? Might not he feel trapped by the contradiction between his youthful desires and the idea that they are sick? Good grief, sexual desire is an INSTINCT, and it is not SICK to feel attraction toward the object of desire. In fact, I might argue that this is the cause of some people becoming perverted in the way they feel toward women or pornographic objects. Nobody seems to have pointed out that virtually everybody has seen pornography at one time or another and it has not done damage to hardly any. Yes, I suppose as some previous writers point out, there are a few people who become overwhelmed and I guess “addicted” to it, but why? Not because porn exists,but perhaps because we all have sexual drives that are manifested differently. For a long time, I have wondered if the leaders in the church recognize the harm they do by disseminating the notion that women’s naked bodies equals filth. And by the way, women can enjoy porn too as part of a normal sexual life; although it is always said to be a male problem.

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  64. Ray on November 17, 2011 at 3:31 PM

    Nancy, just for the sake of being precise, I am not aware of any statmenets by LDS Church leaders claiming that naked bodies are filthy or disgusting. In fact, I would say they believe just the opposite (that bodies are divine and sex is wonderful and God-given) – to such a strong degree that it gets twisted into an unhealthy obsession.

    I agree with the overall issue you are highlighting, but I just don’t think it’s as easy or simple as saying naked bodies are presented as disgusting and filthy. There is a difference between nakedness and pornography – and, while I think the difference gets blurred by too many people, I don’t know of a single apostle, for example, who would equate a naked body with filth. It’s the way that body is used and presented, especially publicly, that is labeled in such a way – and that really is an important distinction to make.

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  65. Will on November 17, 2011 at 3:47 PM

    Ray,

    Great comment.

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  66. hawkgrrrl on November 17, 2011 at 4:01 PM

    Ray – In MoF Kimball refers to “the filthy dreamer of the night.” Since he’s probably referring to wet dreams anyway, the comment is problematic biologically (not controllable), but he is also referring to a natural desire and a natural function of the body as “filthy” in a book reverred by many Mormons.

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  67. Ray on November 17, 2011 at 8:02 PM

    Pres. Kimball was perhaps the most extreme example of all the apostles of my lifetime when it comes to sexual matters – and we’re still paying a heavy price for MoF.

    This is one case where I simply disagree with an apostle. I just don’t think even he would equate nakedness itself with filth. Even in the (mistaken) description of wet dreams as “filthy”, it’s talking about what the body does, not the body itself. He likely believed, incorrectly, that wet dreams are caused by an obsession with sex during the waking hours – that they were a sign of an immoral mind.

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  68. anon on November 18, 2011 at 1:25 AM

    I was ruined and still reeling from MOF

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  69. Jonathan on November 28, 2011 at 12:29 PM

    Pornography is only the latest distraction/target of church leaders. When I was a youngster it was Beatnicks & Rock and Roll music. There is always a boogyman to keep folks distracted from reality and busy work to keep them occupied. Nothing has changed, just a newer ‘sin’ to keep people in line.

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  70. Joe on March 10, 2012 at 5:38 PM

    Goat Porn is my fave

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