Lust, Pornography, and the LDS approach to Sexuality

Sex is complicated. Why we engage in it is a matter of emotion, psychology, hormones, genetics, pop culture, high culture, low culture, spirituality, love, lust, and destiny (or not). I tend to be skeptical that there is one true approach to it, but I can think of several unhealthy approaches (heck, I embody at least a couple). In our church, where belief in something like celestial sex is common (even though it is of murky doctrinal origin), I tend to think it is even more complicated. The traditional Christian approach of general disapproval of sex is more consistent, as is the modern amoral outlook. It’s appropriate (even necessary) for us to argue for and to seek a position between those two, but church members tend to adopt aspects of those approaches instead of figuring out our own path. Generally speaking, we tend to approach sexuality as if it is the most important thing on earth and, therefore, we should know as little about it as possible.

Over conference, there were two talks that focused on issues of sexual immorality in particular. Elder Holland’s Saturday afternoon address and President Monson’s Saturday evening address both referenced pornography and both offered advice regarding controlling lust (along with subsidiary issues). What I write today is going to draw on both talks, but my purpose is to get one point across that neither addressed directly. As I’ve said before, I think our discourse on sexuality is drowning in useless euphemism and misdirected effort. So, I’m going to be blunt and explain what neither of these great men were explicitly stated (although it is implied in both talks): Orgasm is not the end of your creation.

This isn’t to say that orgasm (male or female) is a bad thing. I don’t believe it is. It isn’t, however, a universal good. Like so many of our bodies’ involuntary responses, it is morally neutral. Its goodness or badness is determined by the use to which it is put. If it helps cement a couple together, great. If it is put to other uses, we may have a problem. More on this in a minute.

President Monson more directly addressed pornography, so I want to tackle his talk first. Its title is “Preparation Brings Blessings” and Pres. Monson is seeking to help the young men of the church prepare themselves for missions, marriages, and life in general. He begins with an admonition to behave appropriately while dating; seek the advice of your parents when dating; present your best self; and find good friends with common values. Then, after admonishing against cheating in school, Pres. Monson turns to our entertainment choices. “Whatever you read, listen to or watch makes an impression on you.” He notes the possibility of becoming addicted to pornography. He suggests that if we have a question about some form of media, we should simply avoid it. Reminding us that we are the temples of God, he asks us to keep the word of wisdom, but also to make good choices in music. Then, returning to themes of sexuality, he commands abstinence before marriage and fidelity afterwards. “Tears inevitably follow transgression.”

Then, he refers to President David O. McKay, who taught “I implore you to think clean thoughts…Every action is preceded by a thought. If we want to control our actions, we must control our thinking.” Pres. Monson adds, “Brethren, fill your minds with good thoughts, and your actions will be proper.” The battle for control of our thoughts is important. Media and advertising understand the primal desire for sexual fulfillment and they use that desire to sell. Confronted with sexual messages daily, it is no wonder that many church members assimilate them. Pres. Monson advises us to turn to the Holy Ghost in moments of temptation. “Remember that prayer is the passport to spiritual power.” That’s likely better advice than any I’d offer, so I’ll let it stand.

Elder Holland begins his talk with a story of three women whom he met in an airport. All three have recently divorced; in all three cases, their husbands were unfaithful; and in all three cases the husbands had earlier used pornography. However, rather than making the talk about pornography, Elder Holland chooses instead to focus on lust as a power in our lives. Noting that women can be just as prone to both pornography and infidelity as men (which, a huge topic of itself, will have to be addressed in some other post), Elder Holland seeks in this talk to dissect the moral problem of lust. Referring to it as a “deadly sin,” he asks why is it deadly? He says it deadens the soul, but more immediately it destroys the union between man and woman. As we know from an earlier address, Elder Holland feels that this union is meant to be “the union of all that they possess–their very hearts and minds, all their days and all their dreams. They work together, they cry together, they enjoy Brahms and Beethoven and breakfast together, they sacrifice and save and live together for all the abundance that such a totally intimate life provides such a couple. And the external symbol of that union, the physical manifestation of what is a far deeper spiritual and metaphysical bonding, is the physical blending that is part of–indeed, a most beautiful and gratifying expression of–that larger, more complete union of eternal purpose and promise.” Lust then is poisonous because it mimics some physical effects of this union, without the relationship itself that renders it healthy. This counterfeit can destroy the trust at the heart of any healthy relationship. Lust can invite suspicion, mistrust, loss of faith, loss of love, and eventually separation and divorce. If left to fester, the damage to a relationship can be fatal and it can alter the affecteds’ ability to love for generations. While I acknowledge the spiritual damage done by sin to the individual, it is the ripple effect of the loss of a healthy relationship that I find particularly harmful (However, I should also note that if you are in an abusive relationship, my advice is to get out as quickly and safely as possible).

Both Pres Monson and Elder Holland offer advice for those caught up in lust or pornography and I recommend that you look at their talks. It is good advice. But in this post I’m going to stick to this argument about why pornography is bad for you, because I think that it isn’t ever really well explained. Elder Holland and Pres. Monson both do admirable jobs, but since I don’t actually represent the church, I can use naughty words (like orgasm). So prepare yourself for Uncle John’s sex talk.

Pornography is bad for exactly the reason that Elder Holland states: it’s a substitute for a healthy relationship. The goal of any porn movie is to get you off. It is isn’t for the porn stars to achieve orgasm, except in the most technical sense. Pornography is about the fulfillment of your sexual fantasies and your desire for orgasm. The end of nearly every scene is an orgasm. The culmination of every movie is an orgasm. People in the movies behave erratically every time there is the possibility of an orgasm. Do you see a trend? Pornography teaches individuals that the purpose of sexual intimacy is sexual climax.

Honestly, I think that, in church culture, we have bought into this. I think that there are two basic reasons for it. I think, first, that pornography (like anti-Mormon literature) is too easily accessed and (unlike anti-Mormon literature) it is prevalent throughout society. I remember a Friends episode entitled “The one with the free porn.” That’s mainstream American entertainment, people. Our church leadership, whom I love, grew up in an era when pornography was treated much like a controlled substance. It ain’t so today. There is too much of it (I doubt anybody goes more than a week without encountering it in some form or another). Treating it the way we treat any other potential addiction is insufficient.

Second, because we still speak of sex primarily in euphemism and symbol, porn has filled the void. For better or for worse, people care about sex. In the absence of clear church information, porn has filled in, making a lot of money in the process. Overall, American society has embraced pornography as instructive. I’m going to argue that church culture has done the same.

When church members have tried to combat or, at least, provide an alternative to the world’s outlook on pornography, two tacks have been taken. First, handbooks. You can several books about sexual intimacy lining the shelves of lds bookstores. Take, for instance, And They were not Ashamed: Strengthening Marriage through Sexual Fulfillment by Laura Brotherson, which features a cover of two people awkwardly holding hands, as if they are ashamed that someone would recognize them by the wedding bands. Advertising itself as a “marriage book, sex book, and parenting book” it attempts to be your one stop shop for questions fixing your marriage. How? Based on the title (I haven’t read the book), it will seemingly fix it by helping you and your spouse achieve orgasm. If one considers the content of the book, I’m told I’m dead wrong, but that implication is definitely there in the title.

The second approach is found at the website of Husband and Wife. Here, a store operating in American Fork, looking to sell franchises, offers a variety of lingerie and marital aids to help husband and wife achieve orgasm. It is like they took a pornography shop, got rid of the videos, and doilied it up. This bizarre cross between sexual advice and scrapbooking is supposed to take the shame out of orgasming by making it as twee an experience as possible, I guess. Nonetheless, the emphasis is still on the big O.

So, here we are. With a minimal amount of alternative information offered by the church, we’ve tried to figure it out on our own, which meant turning (a little bit) toward what pornography and sexology teach us. Which is, probably, fine. But I feel like, to quote Elder Holland, we are chopping at the branches, without striking at the root. If lust is the problem, then how should we proceed? Not by making the gratification of lust our focus, thinks I.

Instead, I’d recommend a return to Elder Holland’s emphasis on the centrality of the marriage relationship and the way in which lust can eat at it. The reason pornography is effective is because it allows one to achieve orgasm without working for it, by which I mean without creating a relationship in which that particular orgasm has meaning. Married, we cannot count on our spouse’s rhythms matching ours at all times. Of course we should do what we can to accommodate one another (even Paul says that), but our emphasis should be on finding a way that is comfortable for both partners, a way that supports and enhances the relationship.

A marriage dominated by lust can easily break up if and when the sex fails to meet expectations. One or both partners start looking elsewhere because their partner no longer satisfies. Bringing third parties in, having elaborate fantasies, all these things are evidence of some personal or relational lack. This lack is the point of attack for those concerned with failing marriages. Lust is almost never the root of the problem; loneliness almost always is.

Pornography encourages loneliness and isolation. It is frequently used solo and, even when in the presence of others, it turns the sex act into an elaborate set up for self-gratification. Sex for its own sake is mutual masturbation, within or without marriage. Our unions won’t be sacramental in Elder Holland’s sense until the satisfaction of our own desires is superseded by a desire to love the one we’re united with. Sex is meant to draw us together not drive us apart.

This long thing shouldn’t be read as a cry for the church to become more sexually permissive (Heaven forbid!). Rather it’s a call for the church to more effectively counter the world’s approach to sex. We need families, knit together by sex, yes, but also by genuine care and love, the sort that comes by the grace of God. This power can enable our sexual relationships to be genuinely better than those the world offers. I believe that this is, to some degree, what Pres. Monson and Elder Holland are going on about. Ya’ll have a nice day.

Comments

  1. Mark Brown says:

    John, this is a serious post and one that is worth thinking about again and again. It deserves more than an LOL for the first comment, so you’ll have to forgive me, but this is definitely worth an LOL:

    we tend to approach sexuality as if it is the most important thing on earth and, therefore, we should know as little about it as possible.

    It’s funny because it’s true.

  2. Matt Thurston says:

    “Then, returning to themes of sexuality, he commands abstinence before marriage and fidelity afterwards. ‘Tears inevitably follow transgression.'”

    If abstinence-before-marriage, masturbation, porn, etc. are hammered over and over again from the pulpit as sinful, and one internalizes this message, isn’t the end result (“tears,” pain, betrayal, divorce, etc.) self-fulfilling?

    Besides candor, what’s missing from the church’s approach to sexuality is nuance.

  3. Very interesting post. I would agree that loneliness is the root of the problem. That also would lead one into understanding that we are truly meant to be joined together, as husband and wife. The companionship of your spouse, along with that of your family is what brings the greatest joy in this life and the next.

    At first thought I am not sure how the church could change their approach to get different results. I suspect that you have some thoughts though.

  4. “Sex in the Bible: a new consideration” by J. Harold Ellens is a great book on spirituality and sexuality. Dr. Ellens provides what is often missing in our discourse – a full, joyful, grateful, and yes (#2) nuanced conversation about our sexual natures.

    While there are things in the book with which I don’t agree, I generally found relief and joy in someone talking about sex in joyful terms, and finding the spiritual in the sexual.

    Many people who have been married a long time (like myself) will frankly admit that the sexual part of their intimate relationship is one of the best parts – but I never learned this in church!

    So many of the talks seem to me shaming and . . . encourages us to feel hopeless to control something that should give us such great joy. We came here for a physical body, we’re taught, and yes, that physical body is to be enjoyed, on many levels. Whether taking a moment to use our eyes to see the beauty around us, or to hear the birds of springtime, or to touch . . . practically anything, or to taste the air of a rainy day . . . or to enjoy the most intimate of physical unions . . . all is for our joy, IMO.

  5. “Lust is almost never the root of the problem; loneliness almost always is. Pornography encourages loneliness and isolation. It is frequently used solo and, even when in the presence of others, it turns the sex act into an elaborate set up for self-gratification.”

    This is a sensitive and, I believe, accurate observations, JC. Chastising people for their lust is attacking the symptom, but not addressing the cause. What can we do as a people to address the loneliness and does getting away from the shaming help?

    Lots to think about here John.

  6. Name withheld says:

    That shop’s billboard has creeped me out for months. The website is even creepier. Thanks, John! Thoroughly creeped out now. This sentence says it all:

    “Sex between husband and wife is what creates an emotional bond of closeness that should exist in your marriage.”

  7. Eric Russell says:

    John, this is all nice and fine and fun to think about on an intellectual level, but I see nothing here that would actually produce real world results.

  8. John: Sex is complicated. Why we engage in it is a matter of emotion, psychology, hormones, genetics, pop culture, high culture, low culture, spirituality, love, lust, and destiny (or not).

    I think the problem with long lists like this is that one might assume that all of those things listed are equally important explanations of why we engage in sex. I think that is false. Rather, I think 99%+ of the explanation is that we are mammals and all mammals engage in sex. (But maybe that falls under the “psychology, hormones, genetics” part of your list…)

    In our church, where belief in something like celestial sex is common

    By this you mean people are getting busy in the celestial kingdom rather than talking about really good sex here right? (jk)

    Lust is almost never the root of the problem; loneliness almost always is.

    I can get on board with the idea that lust (or appetites in general) aren’t the root of the problem with failing marriages. And maybe you are right that loneliness is closer to the root. But I’m not sure loneliness is really the root either. Seems to me that lack of trust and trustworthiness might be closer to the heart of it all… and that the loneliness arises from the lack of trust. (But maybe there is something even more universal and central than that…)

  9. Eric,
    I think that what we need to do is to try and convince our people that a good relationship is worth doing for its own sake. It seems like much of our emphasis in talking to youth and in talking amongst ourselves is on sex. That is a part of it, of course, but I think it is overemphasized.

    That said, if you think that this is all eventually empty, talk to Elder Holland, whose ideas I’m using. I’m basically just a parrot here.

  10. Geoff,
    You’re probably correct to say that all these proposed motivations are chickens and eggs. I tend to place loneliness first, because I think that the more we turn inward the less we do God’s will. But I don’t think that is definitive.

  11. Everybody else, thanks for your thoughts.

  12. Eric S. says:

    excellent post. i’m new here. but i wanted to share some thoughts if that’s ok. members everywhere (mostly men i think) are getting trashed by porn. i don’t think the church has a clue what to do about it, except as you suggest here, to say “stop, stop, stop, it’s going to destroy you, bad, bad, bad.” but i think you hit the solution spot on: focus on loneliness.

    “i have a close friend” (no! seriously, i’m not using a “this-is-really-me” cover up) who is neck deep in porn and wifee just found out (read: “caught him looking”). from other facets of his life, it seems that loneliness and want on many levels are the issues. what, frankly, pisses me off a bit is–based on a few sistas i’ve spoken with (literal and spiritual sistas) and manual ciricula for the guys–is the omission of any message on loneliness or hus/wif unity in practice at either the RS or at priesthood-class level. as taught, and as doctrine, here is lds marraige culture in a few words: husbands, you provide. wives, you nuture children. implicit in this division of labor is that the men pay attention to providing, and women pay attention to the kids. but what about paying attention to EACH OTHER?!! what about paying A LOT of attention to each other in fun and undivided settings. the doctrinal culture of a modern lds marraige continues, i think, to be devoid of an emphasis on the most important relationship in the entire family: husband to wife! yeah, husband to family (as a collective, social, most-often dependent unit) is important. and yeah, wife to kids is very important as well. but all of that falls apart where there is loneliness or void between hus/wife. i wish we would hear a talk for once, for 25 minutes, that went on and on and on about how important it is to ditch the kids OFTEN with a sitter etc. and go have fun together, temple, vacay, sit on a park bench and talk, take up karate, whatever together! soooooo important i think (read: it always leads to a hook up when wifee and i have fun together vs. when we’re both tired from/around the kids, lol!!!).

  13. Matt Thurston says:

    Elaborating on my comment in #2…

    What I’m saying is, curiosity about sex – the desire to have sex before marriage, the desire to masturbate, the desire to look at pictures of unclothed people – is universal and normal. The church approaches these natural desires and labels them “sin.” It’s a blunt label and doesn’t allow our natural sexual curiosity any wiggle room. We’re to simply table our desires by singing a hymn.

    Since most of us fail – we masturbate, we have an experience or ten with pornography, we fool around with our boy/girlfriend – we turn our normal sexual experiences into tears. There’s no grey area between sexual purity and used-up chewing gum.

    Failure all too often leads to shame spirals and addiction. It’s a problem far worse than the original “sin.” Ironically, it’s not the masturbation/porn/pre-marital-sex that leads to addiction, it’s the shame. And the shame is not self-evident or inherent, it’s self-fulfilling because it’s coached into our psyche.

    Those that make it to the temple unscathed by the pernicious tentacles of masturbations/porn/pre-marital-sex are often scarred nonetheless. They’ve so long internalized a “sex = sin” moral standard that many can’t flip the “sex = good” switch after saying “I do.”

    I’m not saying the church should adopt an “anything goes” approach to sex. Such an approach would cause just as many problems.

    But more nuance is required — more discussion and candor as John C. calls for in the original post; more trust in the membership; and most of all, more focus on our hearts/minds/souls as we negotiate the wonderful/dangerous world of sexuality, than our current, legalistic focus on whether we looked or touched.

  14. I’d point out that just because something is the root cause of a problematic symptomatic behavior, that doesn’t mean we should not address the symptom or punish the end behavior. Lots of bad behavior can be traced back to causes that need to be accounted for, corrected, etc., but that doesn’t mean that the bad behavior isn’t sinful, damaging, etc.

    In other words, lust isn’t innocuous just because it’s caused by other forces which may be more important to deal with.

  15. American Fork? Hmmm.

  16. “Nonetheless, the emphasis is still on the big O.”

    I will never view tires the same.

  17. Eric Russell says:

    I will never view Oprah the same.

  18. Great post. I think this ties in with the recent problem of YSAs not getting married, or marrying later, that is prevalent in the church right now. I’m not saying that all the YSAs are using pornography, but that loneliness is definitely a problem to be addressed. Interacting mostly through the Internet and texting and e-mails leaves us lacking valuable social skills. (In the MTC they now have to teach the missionaries to talk to someone face to face.) Not that an Internet life is inherently bad – not at all – but sometimes we let that be our only interactions. As a result, IMO, the men don’t grow up, the women get depressed, and babies remain unmade.

    I don’t have a solution to this, just offering my observation.

  19. Eric,
    I’m all for dating one’s spouse, but I have some reason to believe that prescribing sex to porn addicts misses the point. Usually, they are not motivated solely by not getting any.

    Matt,
    I agree that an awful lot of this comes from how we deal with sexuality prior to (or outside of) marriage. Unfortunately, I don’t think we are actually ready for that debate. For now, the Church has focused on developing healthy sexuality within marriage, so that’s what we have to work with.

    Steve,
    I wouldn’t argue otherwise and I hope that I’m not doing so here.

    Chris & Eric,
    Even I, after a time, tire of writing orgasm.

  20. Sorry, I am not very mature. Great post.

  21. AMae,
    I tend to view the fundamentals here as affecting both sexes. Certainly there are a lot of women who masturbate or look at porn. Sex in the City tells us that they seem to care a lot about what happens in the bedroom. Every American has to get their act together, I think.

  22. Matt Thurston says:

    Since we’re calling out funny or euphemistic sentences, this one triggered my inner Beavis & Butthead…

    “This isn’t to say that orgasm (male or female) is a bad thing…. If it helps cement a couple together, great.”

  23. lousy libido says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with pretty much everything you had to say, but I think it’s important not to write off fantasies completely (I know, I know — but hear me out). Sometimes they can help people with specific struggles to be able to have a good relationship with their partner.

    While I was pregnant with our first child my sex drive disappeared and it never came back. We have sex about four to ten times a year. While I could be happy never having sex again, it’s been really hard on my husband (who has been really, really supportive regardless). The only thing I’ve found that works to get me into the mindset that sex is even something I could possibly want at all is to fantasize some first. I just don’t get turned on by my husband any more. Fantasy barely even works.

    As you can imagine, this has been really hard on our marriage. Other than sex we have a really great marriage, but this problem of mismatched libidos has caused enormous strain at times. I regarded sexual fantasies as sinful until pretty recently, and honestly, I’m glad I’ve changed my mind. It’s still work — I don’t even want to fantasize about it before I start — but at least now I can meet my husband halfway.

    My point is just that doing something that fulfills only personal desire in the moment isn’t always a bad thing. If it helps to build a stronger marriage, then it’s a good thing. I don’t think what I’ve said could ever apply to porn, however.

    Just my two cents.

  24. Matt,
    that reminds me of a limerick I know, involving haste and library paste.

    Sorry. Back to the serious post.

  25. Starfoxy says:

    Pornography is bad for exactly the reason that Elder Holland states: it’s a substitute for a healthy relationship.
    I would add that it also discolors relationships that do or will exist. Through classical conditioning it teaches people to associate sexual arousal and climax with whatever else happens to be included, be it violence, humiliation, anger, disgust, or other conflicts.
    Since happy healthy relationships don’t make for exciting entertainment there is an extremely good chance that most pornography will include elements harmful to healthy relationships.

  26. Matt Thurston says:

    Scott B., just googled it. Good one.

  27. Matt W. says:

    Sounds like you all need to read “his needs, her needs: how to affair proof your marriage”

  28. I wish that when the brethren speak about pornography, they would hold out more hope to those who are addicted. Recovery is possible as we reach out to help–of the Savior, of support groups, of therapists, and of our bishops. I wonder how many women are afraid to marry a recovered or recovering addict because the brethren paint such a horrific picture of addiction. Yes, it is a difficult addiction, but recovery is possible!

  29. Other than sex we have a really great marriage

    Oxymoron of the day.

  30. I assume you all have seen this:

    http://combatingpornography.org

    How big a problem is this in the church? It must be huge. ????? Or somebody thinks it huge???

  31. From what I can tell, pornography is considered a huge problem in basically every church in the US these days.

  32. So do the GC talks help? Ensign articles? Guys, do those instructions help you? Or does thinking about/talking about porn simply make it more enticing in some ways?

    Do we all have the same definition of porn?

    Does everyone think masturbation wrong?

    Is porn defined the same way for women as for men? Does it serve the same function?

    These are serious questions.

  33. Eric Russell says:

    It’s also considered huge outside every church, but just not considered a problem.

  34. Or does thinking about/talking about porn simply make it more enticing in some ways?

    Har! No, I don’t think talks about porn in GC make it more enticing to anyone. They say the stuff is ubiquitous on this new-fangled technology they are calling “the internets” and it is reportedly plenty enticing on its own.

  35. Geoff, #34,
    I make the big joke, no? Unintended, tho . . .

    (;->)

  36. So do the GC talks help? Ensign articles? Guys, do those instructions help you? Or does thinking about/talking about porn simply make it more enticing in some ways?

    lisa (32),
    Mostly, they just annoy me. Driving home from GC Sunday night, my wife and I had a long conversation about this–it irritates me that, if I want to be an active male member of the Church, I have to spend so much time listening to talks about porn. It honestly exhausts me.

    I am truly sorry for being insensitive to anyone who is struggling with this horrible problem, because I don’t want to diminish the pain they are feeling nor the tremendous difficulty in overcoming it. I have had loved ones suffer greatly at the hands of pornography, so I’m not entirely ignorant of how toxic it is for family relationships.

    Still, I just really want to hear about something else.

  37. sympathetic says:

    lousy libido
    I am sorry that you are struggling with low desire in your marriage. You didn’t say how long ago your libido left but it sounds like it has been a few years. Since you mentioned it began with your first pregnancy, have you continued to add more babies to your family? It is quite possible that your are just dealing with overwhelming fatigue and an overload of being touched all day. Been there, felt that way. Also you didn’t say if sex is ultimately a satisfying experience for you but realistically, you should know that lots and lots of women (especially mothers) have little interest in initiating sex but find that if they give it a chance they can get into the spirit of things eventually. I applaud your willingness to find what works for you as long as your fantasies aren’t about another man!

  38. Straight Talker says:

    A few thoughts:

    The church seems out to lunch on this subject and every year it gets harder to take. Without reproduction, our species dies. Male orgasm is essential for reproduction. Female orgasm impacts reproduction. So talking about sex addiction is akin to talking about addiction to clothing, shelter, air or water. It’s ludicrous use of the word addiction, likewise for porn addiction, since porn is a substitute for sex, albeit a very poor one. Secondarily, orgasms are important for mental and physical health. Also frequent ejaculators are more fertile, and have fewer prostate problems later in life. Females who masturbate make better lovers. Masturbation is part of human sexuality, so we need to get away from that phobia.

    Why not say avoid porn because it corrupts what was meant to be beautiful between husband and wife and be done with it?

    Lastly, low libido is a treatable condition; good marriages shouldn’t be put at risk over it.

  39. I don’t think that the church is out to lunch. I think that they are trying to maintain notions of sexual morality in a world where sexual mores are rapidly changing, for good or ill.

    Also, honestly, you don’t have a bloody clue what you are talking about regarding sex addiction.

  40. lousy libido says:

    Sympathetic, thanks for your kind words. You ask a lot of questions that I could answer, but not without getting a little more detailed than is probably appropriate. Suffice it to say that I’ve tried a lot of things, including participating without being in the mood at all, and it hasn’t gone well.

    There have been significant periods of time without a “baby”, but not without little kids, so the tired/touched-too-much thing could be it; I don’t know. I really appreciate hearing your support and encouragement, though — it’s been really hard (and still is, but it’s getting easier).

    As to low libido being treatable, I’ve head that there are drugs for women that are still in testing, but the only things actually on the market that I’ve seen don’t seem to have enough legitimacy behind them. If anyone knows differently, I’d be interested to know.

  41. threeover says:

    28) “I wonder how many women are afraid to marry a recovered or recovering addict because the brethren paint such a horrific picture of addiction. Yes, it is a difficult addiction, but recovery is possible!”

    I don’t think a very a hopeful message has been portrayed about overcoming this addiction when it is said that this addiction could blast a crater in your brain forever. Certainly pornography has devastating consequences but I can see where one might lose hope of all the blessings of the gospel by considering themselves damaged goods because of their involvement with pornography. I’ve heard countless stories from singles who wouldn’t marry another person because of past transgressions. This type of thinking seems to deny the atonement. I had a friend once who was dating a fabulous girl who wasn’t a virgin and he said that that was a deal breaker for him. I certainly understand being judicious in dating but I agree that more and more women will be afraid to marry a man even if he has properly repented because of the current tone and stigma of this sin.

  42. You’ll forgive me if I don’t blindly accept the explanations given by divorced women when they say their marriages came apart because of their husband’s porn use.

    John, if the real goal/purpose of sex is to bring husband and wife together, mismatched libidos often lead to sex as a source of discord and separation in the marriage, and orgasm is morally neutral, then why wouldn’t it be an obvious Good for spouses to allow each other to meet their own needs to offset the difference? Saying the right answer is a control of lust seems to assume that orgasm is not morally neutral, which I suspect is the position of the two talks refrenced, but it is not your position so I am confused. Why not control lust with orgasm? After all, it is the most effective remedy.

  43. I worry about identifying loneliness as a key factor-or prescribing sex. I feel it’s unfair to the spouse-it implies fault where it really may not exist. If she just had sex with him enough or was something enough during sex he wouldn’t seek porn…I cry foul. If she was a good enough friend he wouldn’t feel lonely and seek porn. again NAY!

    On another board that isn’t mormon-but is christian-there are huge issues with pornography. One women left her husband because of his addiction and refusal to change and at least 4 others have husbands who are in some stage of dealing with their addiction. That is a very small board. most christians I have met feel porn is bad and some of the athiests i know notice it can have a negative affect on some marriages.

    I never really got the sex=sinful thing from church. It ha always made complete sense to me that something can be good but the timing can be off-passing the sacrament unordained=bad ; passing ordained=good- no judgement on the actual service. Driving a car before you have a liscence= bad (and possibly dangerous) driving afterwards = good… Shooting a basket in one end of the court during first half =good-shooting into that same basket in the second half=bad…timing does matter…I dont’ know…it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that sex can be great in marriage and a bad thing outside of marriage-outside of marriage it seldom has the same intimacy attached and it would be generally undesireable to produce a baby. I have seen it taught poorly, I have seen people be confused- (in the case of my freshman year roomates it was clear why they were confused about sex being bad-1 had been abused, 1 had wacko parents who thought nursing was also bad and wrong, and 1 had a mother who had left her husband for my roommates boyfriend)

    libido changes SO much for women in the child bearing year. That seems normal and manageable with patience and selflessness on both sides…if that extends longer that requires medical attention.

    I suggest you actually read And They were not ashamed before dismissing it. It has some interesting mormon centered issues-what a honeymoon is really like for couples who have no experience, what to do if one partner does feel sex is bad, how to deal with differing libidos, how to talk about sex and general information about our bodies…

    It would be nice to go through conference without talking about porn.

  44. Back to John C’s post:
    “Then, he refers to President David O. McKay, who taught “I implore you to think clean thoughts…Every action is preceded by a thought. If we want to control our actions, we must control our thinking.” Pres. Monson adds, “Brethren, fill your minds with good thoughts, and your actions will be proper.”

    Is every thought of sex impure or improper?
    If lust is bad, is desire good? When my husband desires me, I FEEL good.
    What is the difference between desire and lust?

  45. “So do the GC talks help? Ensign articles? Guys, do those instructions help you?”
    These have never helped me cope with viewing pornography. They feel like your mother talking to you about not doing drugs — she doesn’t us the current lingo, she doesn’t understand where you’re coming from, etc. I’m usually rolling my eyes half-way through.

    “Do we all have the same definition of porn?”
    I’m aware of a much more general definition of porn that includes lingerie magazines, explicit commercials and movie/TV scenes, reading the Cosmo covers — but when I hear the word in Gen Conf, I think of photos or video of sexual relations, nudity, etc.

    “Does everyone think masturbation wrong?”
    If I’m alone at a laptop watching a pornographic video — yes. As a part of sex with my wife — no.

  46. Britt (#43)
    I agree with you. When a talk like that starts, I think, “here we go again.” Is the problem so severe that we all have to sit through this talk? The brethren must think so. But if it is this severe, can we please just have open conversations about sex generally? The taboo of talking about such stuff seems to be knocked down when every conference, and several times a year in our ward buildings, we get talks on porn.

    The thing that makes me weary is the lack of good conversation – what is good and wonderful about sex. How can we feel good about this part of ourselves, whether single or married?

    Etc.

  47. If no one lusted then no one would exist. I think the problem becomes a problem when we lust after others while married or becoming addicted to sex while marriage to the dentriment of your spouse

  48. I really was agreeing with #36 Scott, but I agree with Britt (#43) also . . .

  49. Straight Talker says:

    John,
    Sex, clothes, shelter, air, water, etc are all essential for life. How can any of them be addictions? It’s a misuse of the word.

    LL,
    Get a sex hormone screen. Don’t be bashful about discussing the low libido with the PA and/or Doc. In addition to the “female” hormones, women need some testosterone for libido. Men need much more to function.

  50. #42
    “You’ll forgive me if I don’t blindly accept the explanations given by divorced women when they say their marriages came apart because of their husband’s porn use.”

    It does make a convenient scapegoat, not that I think it is good, but does seem to absolve the wife of any responsibility.

    #9,10, 43
    I think it would surprise you how many men go to prostitutes and then just talk. Honestly, no sex, just talk. IF that does not scream loneliness, I don’t know what does. I don’t want to downplay addiction but this is more rooted in our social lives than most realize. For the above 30 singles, our partly dysfunctional singles program is not doing anyone any favors.

    Defining porn could be important. Women’s bodice rippers have a market twice what porn does and I would classify that as porn.

    One of the great problems with porn (in the broadest possible definition) and Hollywood in general, is that they portray unrealistic relationships, and we think we don’t absorb those ideas, but we all do subconsciously, even if we try not to. I can dig up the study if anyone is interested.

  51. One last comment from me for tonight. It does seem to me that demystifying the porn industry might be helpful. Instead of talking about the evils of porn, we might discuss the great profits being made from the industry, the harm to some/many of the people working in the industry, what specifically is being taught by the industry that is not in harmony with gospel teaching (last 3 or 4 paragraphs of John’s original post), and why/how simple loving/giving/physical touching of one’s spouse negates much of what the industry offers.

    Teaching what men need/women need – discussing the joy of physical touch without intercourse, with intercourse, understanding the phases (generally speaking) of male/female sexual interest, etc . . . all that. I think it would be helpful. Could be, anyway.

  52. Straight Talker, fine if you want to limit the term addiction to physical chemical dependencies and the like. That doesn’t change the fact that there are many people out there who feel addicted to porn, etc. I guess the fact that it’s merely an uncontrollable compulsive behavior doesn’t merit anything in your book.

    Btw your “air, water, food” comparison is about the stupidest thing I have ever read.

  53. @lousy libido

    Ask your doctor about something called Androgel and/or something akin to it that’s for women. There are testosterone treatments available for women with low libido.

    From what I can tell from your comments, you probably have a medical condition and as @StraightTalker said, treatable.

    In the absence of clear church information, porn has filled in, making a lot of money in the process. Overall, American society has embraced pornography as instructive. I’m going to argue that church culture has done the same.

    I actually think this is much larger issue/cause than allowed for in the original post, but it’s such a layered topic it could go on for tens of thousands of words, so I was happy to see it mentioned at all.

    Information is what’s missing. It’s what’s ALWAYS been missing.

  54. Jacob J: “Why not control lust with orgasm? After all, it is the most effective remedy.”

    Huh?? Add that to the list of stupidest things said. That is simply NOT the case with (most) women.

  55. What do you mean Tracy M? You lost me with your “that is not the case with women”.

    Jacob’s comment on the other hand made perfect sense to me. Basically he is saying “why not deal with sexual desires by having sex within marriage”. What about that do you find stupid?

  56. @52:
    There’s a website, http://www.fightthenewdrug.org/, that focuses on combating pornography in the same way that the “truth” ads have attacked tobacco use.

  57. I think that there is a problem in the culture at large that makes sexual “fulfillment” a need, an entitlement, an individual, personal end in and of itself. To me that is some of what ties into ‘lust.’ Chastity before marriage is seen as a torturous impossibility — that if you aren’t getting ‘what you need’ you are entitled to go wherever you need to to get a release sexually. Sex is often seen as a ‘requirement’ before getting married to make sure that you are ‘sexually compatible.’ And within marriage, other sources of sexual pleasure are often sought when ‘needs’ aren’t met. The underlying message is that sex is a individual pursuit. The truth about sex is that it is a partnership deal, intended for a couple to experience and enjoy together, not for individuals to get their thrills.

    I can still remember the shock on my friend’s face when I told him that Mormons don’t believe in sex before marriage. He couldn’t fathom how you could possibly know whether to be serious w/ someone w/o sex.

    In short, imo, the cart has often been put before the horse — sex is seen as the driver in a good relationship, even the determining factor of a good relationship, not as something instead that can enhance a relationship that is already strong and intimate in other ways (mental, emotional, spiritual, experiential).

    I also think that there is not the realization that a good relationship (the sexual part included) does not just happen like we see in the movies. It takes work and dedication and love and sacrifice and patience and flexibility and true partnership.

    I also wonder about something else. If pornography exposure is happening earlier and earlier (the last news story I read talked about elementary-aged kids being highly affected), and if such material can affect brains in some way like drugs do, that to me suggests that more and more people’s brains process what sex is all about in distorted ways. As Starfoxy said, people associate sex with things that aren’t healthy, and in ways that drastically disassociate it with human relationships, love, caring, and multi-faceted intimacy. If such associations are starting younger and younger, that would suggest that there is more and more pulling toward unhealthy sexuality. It’s to me like an alternative reality about sex, not just driven by technology but by cultural forces.

    Whew. We as parents have a huge responsibility to teach our children well (and imo, at a fairly young age, and then repeatedly) about the truth related to sexuality — both why to stay chaste and how sex factors into a healthy marriage.

  58. He was talking about mismatched spouses meeting their own needs. Suggesting that orgasming would control lust if a spouse was not in the same libido boat.

    I find that stupid. As a woman, and with many women I know, bringing on orgasm does NOT dull lust. I can’t, and wouldn’t try, to speak for men.

    Does masturbating kill your libido?

  59. Straight Talker says:

    Steve E,
    I see your point, but my point is w/o sex humanity ends. So sex is just as essential to survival as clothes, shelter, air, etc. That’s why I don’t buy the concept sex addiction. As far as I can tell it’s supposed to be a compulsive behavior by design.

  60. p.s. Re: women w/ pornography addictions. This brave post is worth a read if you haven’t seen it already.

  61. Tracy M,

    Of course orgasms satiate male sexual appetites for a time. Is that news to you? And are you claiming that is not true for you or other women? I am a little baffled by your comments.

  62. Eric Russell says:

    To add to Straight Talker’s comments: I just spent 14 months in the middle of a desert surrounded by guys who used and talked about porn daily. I don’t think they could have (voluntarily) gone more than a day or so without using it, but I’m sure they would have been offended if anyone had suggested they were “addicted.” If you were to ask them to define pornography addiction, I’m sure they would have responded in a similar way as one defines “eating addiction,” that is to say, doing it extraordinarily excessively. Like using it or attempting to use it five hours a day every day, or something.

    Point is: the word/concept of “addiction” is a pretty fluid one.

  63. Yes, that’s what I’m saying. Just having an orgasm doesn’t kill lust in a woman.

  64. re 56 I would think that maybe Tracy M is referring to the fact that the “Big O” for a woman isn’t necessarily the end of physical intimacy. Sometimes for woman an orgasm just intensifies the lustfulness or feelings of want.. therefore making the “solve” of orgasm, not a solve. but MORE of an issue if it is gotten in an unhealthy way.

    I did have one problem with the Elder Hollands talk… and that is this, for a person that is truly addicted to porn (as in it interferes with their daily life) making them feel guilty is often a catalyst for an “episode”. Saying that they don’t love their spouse enough if they find weakness in this area can sometimes be cruel… especially if the addiction was created, in part, by sexual abuse as a child. I think that in this way GC talks on porn addiction are actually counter productive. A person doesn’t love their spouse less if they struggle with these things… some people just do. We all have our Achilles heals. Instead, if they are going to talk about this they need to reinforce the idea that to show love to your spouse you do your best to stop or look for assistance in the area of needed.

  65. britt,
    barring unusual circumstances, I tend to blame people for leading unfulfilling lives. We can all find friends (if not partners). So, I’m not of a mind to consider loneliness solely your partner’s fault. That said, I agree that adding more sex to sexual dysfunction just tends to result in more sexual dysfunction (Jacob and Geoff J are wrong on that front). Also, I admit that I am being too dismissive of that book (and probably of all of them). If it has helped you , I think that’s great.

    lisa,
    I just don’t have answers for most of your questions. The church is trying desperately to combat porn use. It seems clear that nothing is working. I would say that lust is a kind of catch all that seems to address only inappropriately aimed desires within the church. Lust toward one’s spouse is deemed acceptable (although I’d argue that if you just see your spouse as a sex object, the relationship will be weakened).

    Jacob J,
    Don’t blame me for being gullible. I’m just repeating what Elder Holland said. Regarding spousal allowance, if one is genuinely working something out with the spouse, that’s fine, I think. If one is saying “my spouse owes me this” but not involving them, I think there is a problem. But that’s just me and I’m no expert.

  66. Also, I’m going to sleep now. Ya’ll behave in my absence or there shall be great deletions upon my return.

  67. Ok, one last thing tonight:

    Sex Addiction is a compulsive behavior. So, take one of the alcoholic twenty questions quizzes (the sort that are supposed to help you determine if you are an alcoholic). If you find you are doing the mentioned things regularly (missing work for porn/sex, spending hours looking for porn/sex, continuing to pursue porn/sex even when it is putting valued relationships or employment at risk), then you are possibly a sex addict. Outside of that, I wouldn’t worry about it. An occasional playboy isn’t the behavior of a porn addict. 6 straight hours looking at stuff online every day is.

  68. Tracy M (#63),

    I remain baffled by your assertions. So much so that I just asked my wife and she also has no idea what you are talking about. To me what you are saying is tantamount to saying “eating food doesn’t satisfy me when I am hungry”. If having orgasms doesn’t satisfy a sexual appetite what does? Are you claiming it is insatiable? (If so you may be speaking for yourself only…)

  69. Latter-day Guy says:

    58, 61, 63:

    Two words: refractory period. The phenomenon of orgasm is pretty different in men and women.

  70. Geoff J, be baffled then. That’s okay. April in #64 may have said it in a way that’s clearer to you or others:

    “I would think that maybe Tracy M is referring to the fact that the “Big O” for a woman isn’t necessarily the end of physical intimacy. Sometimes for woman an orgasm just intensifies the lustfulness or feelings of want.. therefore making the “solve” of orgasm, not a solve. but MORE of an issue if it is gotten in an unhealthy way.”

  71. Okay, really, last thing.

    For an addict in addiction, absolutely everything is a catalyst. Good stuff, bad stuff, it is all a catalyst. Walking on eggshells around them won’t help. This is why, ultimately, more sex doesn’t help sex addicts (and, as I understand it, people with sexual dysfunction in general). The need isn’t really about sex; sex is just an easy way to satisfy this other need. In particular, many sex addicts will feel guilty after orgasm, which they’ll try to self-medicate away with more orgasms. That’s why I bring up the loneliness thing.

  72. Lisa, I need to review the text to be sure, but I think that Elder Holland provided a very practical definition for lust that separates it clearly from what we may describe as generally having the hots for our spouse: he referred to it as being clandestine in nature–dark, hidden, etc…

    I would argue that if we have sexual thoughts and feelings toward our spouses that we are uncomfortable sharing with them, that may be an indicator of a lustful thought, not a loving thought.

    It might also be an indicator of being a prude who can’t say the word penis aloud, though, too. So, ymmv.

  73. I find that stupid. As a woman, and with many women I know, bringing on orgasm does NOT dull lust. I can’t, and wouldn’t try, to speak for men.

    So it’s not so much that you find it stupid as that it doesn’t match your experience as a women, right? Unless you’re speaking for men, I’m not sure how you are so confident in putting what I said on a list of stupidest things ever. Perhaps we can disagree without accusing each other of being stupid.

  74. Eric Russell says:

    John, your original post suddenly makes somewhat more sense now. For what it’s worth, I think you’re talking about something different than what Elder Holland and Pres. Monson are talking about. I think they’re talking about people who simply have difficulty stopping. You’re talking about someone who’s seriously psychologically messed up.

  75. Nice to see someone call sex a need, even if it is one Heavenly Father seems to think we can learn to do without at times.

    Food and sex are both normal needs, but that does not keep people from taking their love of food too far. Addiction is most potent when it takes a normally good thing too far, or out of place. Not every infraction is addiction, but frankly some are. Addiction is real, and is most clearly seen when a person can NOT stop unhealthy behaviors.

  76. Yep, I agree with Eric. The whole post makes more sense in light of John’s #71. As Eric said, you’re talking about someone who’s seriously psychologically messed up.

  77. Jacob J, I wasn’t calling you stupid. I thought something you said was stupid. My apologies if it seemed I was calling you a name. It’s not just my experience. See specifically comments #69 and #70.

  78. John C: I think this is a great topic to bring up, and I’ve been rather intrigued by the discussion it has evoked! I definitely agree that being more candid about sexuality would help in many ways.

    Scott (36): I totally agree. I used to joke that the RS general broadcast consisted of the sisters of the Church being told how wonderful they are, and the Priesthood sessions consisted of the brethren being told what pigs we are. It would be really great to hear more talks like Elder Oaks’ talk on the purpose and methodology of Priesthood blessings.

    Jacob J: I kinda have the feeling that connected to Tracy’s statement is the research that has indicated that as many as 40% of all women have never experienced an orgasm. So telling them that they need to just have them more to cure their problems is rather unhelpful. If orgasms aren’t, for many women, associated with the intimacy in the first place, I don’t see how they can be considered the cure-all for lust (and all of its related problems).

  79. Tracy/lisa/Jacob J/Geoff/April/John

    Okay, I checked the text, and Elder Holland describes lust thusly:

    “Lust is characterized by shame and stealth and is almost pathologically clandestine–the later and darker the hour the better, with a double-bolted door just in case…Lust…is anything but godly and celebrates self-indulgence. Love comes with open hands and open heart; lust comes with only an open appetite.”

    In this context, virtually all of the comments above are using a different definition of lust than Elder Holland is. Almost all of the comments in this thread are just talking about “being horny” which, based on Elder Holland’s description above, is absolutely not the same thing as lust.

    Using Elder Holland’s depiction of lust–particularly that of an “open appetite” I am inclined to agree with John C’s 71–feeding lust will not satiate it.

  80. April,

    I would think that maybe Tracy M is referring to the fact that the “Big O” for a woman isn’t necessarily the end of physical intimacy.

    Yes, I totally agree with this and it is true, of course, for men as for women. The needs humans have in relationship are many and varied. We want to feel loved, we want intimacy, we want to give love, we want orgasm, we want affection, etc. My original comment #42 was based on an inconsistency I see in the logic of the post. In #65 and #71 John C refers to sexual dysfunction and says I am wrong, but I never had a situation of sexual dysfunction in mind, so I don’t disagree with his comments there.

  81. I feel like this conversation is not complete without bringing the effect that circumcision has on sexual functioning and how it can impact both male and female. Through learning about the functions of the prepuce (foreskin), it becomes pretty evident that the modern day reasoning for routine infant circumcision is not valid. Since there is the mistaken belief that circumcision is still a “religious” rite for Latter-day Saints, how many LDS marriages are impacted by decreased sexual functioning because of an unnecessary and damaging procedure?

  82. Ah, it seems while I was writing we all had the same realization from reading 71.

  83. Jacob J,
    I think (based on Elder’s Holland’s description of lust and also on the fact that I am always right) that John’s 71 is closer to what Elder Holland and President Monson had in mind than you’re giving credit for. Elder Holland depiction of lust sounds very much like a dysfunctional form of behavior to me.

  84. Saying that they don’t love their spouse enough if they find weakness in this area can sometimes be cruel…

    I heard someone else make a similar complaint, so I listened to his talk again. I don’t think that he equated someone having this challenge with a lack of love per se. But I do think the point was that lust distorts and takes away from true love, which to me seems dead on.

  85. twiceuponatime says:

    #81 –

    Not as many are are harmed by women who have low libidos and just expect their husbands to live with it (and accuse them of being unnatural or sinful when they have higher libidos then their wives). I was circumcised, but it sure didn’t hurt my experiences.

    On the other hand, my (soon to be ex-) wife once said “I enjoy sex. But I also enjoy ice cream. And ice cream isn’t as messy as sex, and I don’t have to work at pleasing the ice cream.”

    At least when she declared she wanted to divorce me, she said “well, you were always kind and considerate during sex.” The divorce is over other things besides sex, but her lack of libido didn’t help (though I admit it may have been a symptom of something else caused by me not being a perfect Prince Charming Sugar Daddy).

  86. That right there (#85) is selfishness equal to any porn addiction.

  87. #86,

    I doubt we will see any talks in general conference condemning frigidity any time soon… or ever. (Perhaps when women get the priesthood and we have female apostles that would happen?)

  88. I’m going to argue that church culture has done the same.

    John, I think I’m starting to understand more what you mean by this, and I agree with much of what you have said. But I do see some of the how-to books not necessarily being toward this end of just focusing on fulfilling sexual desire. I see some of this as a response to some of the ignorance and definite inexperience that exists when two virgins get married, which presumably is the norm in LDS culture. I think some also try to remove some of the stigma that some people have with sex (some come to marriage with a “but I can’t do that” kind of mentality about anything relating to sex).

    Insofar as books like this can increase communication and openness, sensitivity, and unselfishness in understanding one’s spouse and in working with him/her in the sexual part of the relationship, I think such books can be helpful, as long as the focus doesn’t become on just sexual fulfillment alone (and sometimes I think that does happen).

    I tend to agree with your thoughts about the store, though, and with the general notions you talk about with creating healthy marriages in general so that sexual expression has context and meaning.

  89. In thinking about sex, porn, and the problems of it being so ubiquitous–and understanding how the problem is so often that youth (and adults) use it as a drug to fulfill lonliness, how do we teach the youth what they are doing to themselves?
    I just finished reading Loose Girl, a memoir of a woman who was, well_loose_. She really explains well why she was doing what she was doing. In the youth I’ve worked with it seems having a book to read about the reasons (in this case YW) abuse sex could be very insightful, if not helpful, at least for a girl who is struggling with it. However on a practical level, I know that isn’t the best idea.
    I think for the church the way to teach it really has to be what is already being done, setting forth the standards of chastity without equivocation. I’m not sure how better to do it.
    I’m sure I didn’t understand the role of sex until I was married–partly because I had never had it–and partly because I hadn’t experienced the kind of commitment marriage requires. Without marriage, I don’t think we can fully appreciate chastity.

  90. I doubt we will see any talks in general conference condemning frigidity any time soon

    Maybe not directly, but don’t any talks about unselfishness and un-Christlike behavior indirectly address female withholding of sex with the intent to punish or manipulate or withdraw love, just as they indirectly address not demanding sex as proof of love (which we don’t really hear about either)?

    The problem I see is that if you talk too specifically about frigidity, you will have controlling men using that as something to hold over the head of their wives to get more sex. If you talk too directly about men demanding sex inappropriately, you will have women who exercise unrighteous dominion by withholding using that as proof that their husbands don’t deserve sex.

  91. corktree says:

    Jenne – this is an interesting question to me. Having recently discovered that we are having our first son, circumcision is among my consuming thoughts. The argument against it as far as how it affects sexuality is hard to give parameters since so few can account for both experiences accurately. But I have to wonder (and would appreciate a larger male perspective than my husband’s who is on the fence himself about it) whether it’s a good or bad thing if circumcision does in fact contribute to less sensitivity. If men and women are already (in most cases) at different levels of desire and ability to get the same level of (physical) satisfaction out of intimacy, is it a bad thing that the way it’s been done for so long (as requested by God) also appears to possibly even the playing field?

    I just have to wonder if it would be even harder for my husband and I to meet half way if it was even more difficult for him to reign himself in within the time frame that I (and most women) require to make it less of a gift (with no hope of return) and more of a mutually enjoyable experience. Not that offering it as a gift is always bad, but it shouldn’t be that way with every encounter just because it is over too quickly without effort. And would it take more effort if a man was not circumcised?
    (No, this isn’t the only reason I’m questioning the practice of circumcision).

    I understand the argument for seeing sexual relations in marriage as something with a goal aside from orgasm, but in reality, they can’t be separated. It seems virtually impossible for the end result not to occur for most men, and I realize women are generally different. But in my experience, once you know how it feels to reach that same end, sex without it, while it can make you feel close and connected, yes, can in the long run seem very pointless (there is much to be said for the physical benefits of the response for both sides). There are certainly other ways to feel that same closeness without intercourse specifically, so it seems weird to discount orgasm when traditional intimacy is what a couple is going for.

  92. corktree, I don’t understand some of your questions. “Loss of sensitivity” doesn’t mean “it takes longer to orgasm”.

    “is it a bad thing that the way it’s been done for so long (as requested by God)”

    I am a little confused by this too. Circumcision today is nothing like circumcision in the Old Testament times.

  93. Back to the loneliness issue…

    If porn or lust are used to combat loneliness, then wouldn’t striking at the root really require debunking whatever myth teaches that sex=not being lonely? As John pointed out in the post, porn begets loneliness, as would any sexual encounter driven by selfishness. I guess what I’m trying to say is, people aren’t lonely because of lack of sex. Sex doesn’t cure loneliness. So why is loneliness a precursor to porn?

    My thinking is, loneliness has more to do with how I treat others than with how they treat me. If loneliness leads to a selfish act, then loneliness is a symptom of focusing on self (I’m speaking of loneliness in the context of this discussion, not grandma stuck in a nursing home with no visitors). It seems the loneliness that would lead to porn use is really a feeling of self-pity, of not having “needs” met to which one feels entitled. Therefore, justification for using any means necessary to meet said needs becomes readily manufactured.

    It is the quality of our relationships which=not being lonely. And I would say, again, how we treat others has more to do with our feeling connected than how they treat us. It is the same with sex, as has been pointed out. The most joy and gratification come from focusing outward, not on making sure our own needs are met. So, to me, it would seem that misuse of sex has more to do with self-focus, and self-focus in any form begets loneliness because it isolates us from others.

    Or did I read John’s point regarding loneliness (and ensuing comments) wrongly?

  94. Scott B #83, if Elder Holland’s definition of lust is as pathological as you suggest (which it may be, given that you are always right) then I would suggest his identifying this as the root of the porn problem in the church is misguided.

  95. Kajabada says:

    corktree – From what I’ve read, it seems that without a foreskin a male has less sensation, but also less control, while with a foreskin a male has more sensation, but also more control. If you google “CIRP foreskin sexual function”, there is an article with a pretty good explanation. Also, NOCIRC has a lot of informative articles that may be helpful as you make this decision.

  96. Jacob, perhaps a word choice by me is problematic–I chose definition where description would have been better. My point was not directed at causes of the porn problem, but rather at the many comments in the thread asking about how lust within marriage, whether all sexual thoughts are lustful/wrong, etc…it seems clear to me from Elder Holland’s word choice that in most instances those need not be related to lust at all. I just think it’s important that we separate being full of lust from being full of healthy sexual desire if we want to talk about this sermon, because the sermon seems to separate them.

  97. I believe Elder Holland (and the Church doctrinally) defines lust as an unrighteous desire, in degree, kind, or direction. For example:

    “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:14-15)

    Sex doesn’t cure loneliness. So why is loneliness a precursor to porn?

    Money doesn’t buy happiness either, but it doesn’t stop people from trying.

  98. A few thoughts –

    First, in response to Matt Th. (#13) and others who are advancing the argument that ‘lustful’ actions are “universal and normal” – so what? I can think of quite a few things that are natural and normal for humankind that most folks would hate to give wiggle room. Take violence. There is a universal attribute of mankind. For those interested in the subject I recommend Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt’s The Biology of Peace and War or
    Lawrence H. Keeley’s War before Civilization. Both make it incredibly clear that horrifying violence is the default means by humans achieve our ends. It is only with the monopolization of violence by the state and recent generational value shifts that this has changed.

    Shall we condemn the Church for their failure to allow wiggle room with violence? The thought is preposterous really – but then again, the Church does not make such a big fuss about violence either. The reason for this seems clear enough: we have created a society that abhors it. The Church does not need to take valiant stands on matters of violence and cruelty.

    The same cannot be said for sex. Sex is something our society glorifies. This, I think, is why the Church fights so hard on this issue – in the cultural milieu of the 21rst century West, it is swimming against the current. It is the one natural thing our civilization has endorsed full heartily. (As an aside – it is standard procedure here to call something “natural” is less serious a sin?)

    As for the post itself – I liked it. I am wary though, of defining the ills of lust generally and pornography in particular along the lines of relationships. Problem is, when GA get up and gives these talks, their audience often is (as seemed to be the case with Pres. Monson) males aged 14-25. Most of these men are not married. A sermon that uses marriage as its center point will be automatically filed into that group of talks made for somebody else. Marriage cannot be the emphasis if this demographic is the audience in mind.

  99. 22, single, and horny says:

    My sex life is now entirely separate from my “Church” feelings/life. I think the scene in Glee where they’re fooling around and suddenly she says “let’s pray!” is a great illustration of just how ridiculous it would be to truly let religion into the bedroom.

    I work, I study, I serve others, I read the Christian canon, I dress fairly conservatively . . . but I just have no, none, nada desire to be sexually abstinent.

    The whole discussion about “tears following transgression” being a self-fulfilling prophecy is very true, in my experience: eighteen-year-old should not feel soul-altering despair for Frenching.

    NCMO is fun. Cuddling is fun. A man in good physical shape is a thing of beauty, and there’s a reason lust isn’t too deep in the Dantean circles of hell: it’s just NOT THAT BAD. I honestly feel that that it ranks somewhere milder than alcohol consumption (wastes money, makes you a blustering idiot, tastes like mouthwash) and a bit more serious than, say, spending too much time blogging or eating fruits out of season.

    Read the New Testament. See what Jesus actually said about this. ESPECIALLY the contrast between (pre-marital) fornication vs. adultery. The former is almost a non-issue pre-Victorian Era, really. Avarice, a lack of charity, stealing, cheating, coveting, acting without honor, are all sins. Sex in and of itself is not. If you lie about your sex life, steal Playboys, covet another’s body, manipulate others, then yes, feel guilty. But I know that I am okay with my attitude re:sex (hell, I am a virgin still, though just barely!), that God is okay with it, and that my laissez-faire attitude is less psychologically damaging than my former uptight prick one.

    I just don’t see any real ‘brink’ — to use debate lingo — in having a legal document. I have had passionate, ueber-physical encounters where the relationship never went anywhere (and probably didn’t deserve to, but damn, the orgasms were good), and meaningful, deep relationships where I wasn’t always over the moon with attraction.

    Perhaps the older or younger or more prudish than me will find me to be “justifying” or “out of line.” Fine, doesn’t bother me: I care about the Church; I find as much joy as anyone in genealogy and prayer and dorky board-game-and-soda-pop nights. But I like “fooling around,” and am sick of this culture of shame and secrecy and lying. Sexuality is something you can and ought to enjoy before marriage! Even if you were far less permissive than I, you would still enjoy *kissing* at least, I hope! Figuring out sexual (and emotional and intellectual and fiscal) compatiblity is important, dammit, or great works of liteature like Anna Karenina wouldn’t exist.

    I don’t know, I guess to the middle aged commenters, especially, what do you HONESTLY think your 20-something children are doing down here in the “Happy Valley,” for instance? I’m all for shutting down teenage sexuality–I was VL till 18; haha, go study for an AP exam or something. But yes, would you rather your daughters end up in a passionless marriage and go running after Vronskys come 30? It has happened, it does happen, and will continue to happen, and until this church and state and nation realize that, I think we will have individuals renouncing this vow of chastity they never chose and choosing some shade of gray.

    (And let it be known that I find American dogmatic American Pie-level obsession with orgasm to be equally insulting. Sex is no more the end-all and be-all of life, to be conquered like some freaking aboriginal tribe, than it is BAD BAD BAD NO TOUCHY.)

  100. This was just a fantastic post John C. Thank you for taking the time to articulate your thoughts. Certainly sex as an expression, rather than driver, of the emotional intimacy between a husband and wife is the Christian ideal.

    22, single . . .,

    Anna Karenina is one of my favorite books. Every time I read it I feel deep sympathy towards her. More generally it seems to me that marital compatability is something of a crap shoot. Given the stakes it isn’t surprising we want to look at every piece of information, but to me it seems that on a global scale the odds don’t change despite our best efforts to find an edge.

  101. Nancy Friday’s “My Secret Garden” was an eye-opener for me . . . it appears that women of all ages and in all circumstances (note that I am not saying all women however) have rich sexual fantasies of a varied nature. These do not make a woman bad or sinful – they simply reflect her humanness, and also I think centuries of different kinds of sexual behavior aimed at and experienced by women generally.

    Again, one thing we seem to be struggling with here is what is healthy sexuality? Sex is definitely a huge drive – what do we do with this drive? It seems to me that trying to control it utterly is certainly not the answer.

  102. Ya’ll, when they talk about the addictive nature of porn (and lust), they are talking about actual sex addicts. They do this because there are an awful lot of sex addicts in the Church. The covert nature of porn use within the Church, the guilt and tears associated with it, and the general societal notion that porn use equates to you being a horrible person (soon to be a serial killer) is the exact psychological cocktail most likely to drive someone to begin actually addictive behavior. That “seriously psychologically messed up” person represents a growing demographic within the Church.

    Also, let’s not talk about circumcision, okay? It may help the young, but it is primarily crying over spilt milk for most of us.

    m&m,
    As I said before, if those books are helpful, use them. Ditto the store, actually. I think the problem is that our two virgins are desperate to not lose face on the wedding night and so they will go into it assuming that they know enough (or that, at least, their partner does). Communication would help tremendously; if the books accomplish that, more power to them.

    twiceuponatime & 22sh (and low libido, I guess),
    Let’s not turn this thread into true confessions. We’re not marriage counselors and all my advice is probably bad in the long run. The conversation is better without specifics about your sorta-sexual conquests (or lack thereof).

    corktree,
    I do think orgasm is a fine goal for sexual relations. It just shouldn’t be THE goal of your life (and, maybe, not THE goal for sexual relations). Good sex involves more than just good sex.

    Sunny,
    yeah. That’s pretty much exactly what I mean, only a little better said.

  103. Re: Anna Karenina,
    Tolstoy puts the destruction in that book down to a variety of selfish people being selfish. Pretty much the only person who escapes that books unscathed is Kitty and that just barely. There are physical and psychological problems that can interfere with a woman’s (or a man’s) ability to find sexual fulfillment. Those should be discussed with a qualified doctor or mental health professional. But if we are dealing with a refusal to compromise (or a resentment at compromise), then that’s just us. For that, look to your own darn self to figure it out. S’not my job.

  104. John C.,

    It would be easy to read your least comment as an indictment of anyone (other than those suffering from physical and psychological problems) who is not sexually fulfilled. The ideal you and Elder Holland have articulated so well is not the reality for many people (as you acknowledge elsewhere) so it is a fair question for people in marriages that lack emotional intimacy to ask “what about me?”.

    As already pointed out, President Kimball hinted that perhaps no such problem should exist among righteous saints. If Kimball’s dictum is correct, then we have our answer but if not then what is the way forward? My point about marital compatability being a crap shoot is my nod to the role chance plays in all of this. The solution to Anna’s descicated marriage was not to have an affair with Vronsky but Anna is sympathetic because there were no good solution. She chose poorly, worse than she could have, but her options were poor.

    What should the many people who have good marriages in which sex is a physical expression of a shared deep intimacy say to the many people who are not so fortunate?

    I agree with much of what you say–strive to the ideal, avoid things that will cheapen or undermine it. Is that all then? To be honest, I think it might be, but I’m guessing acknowledging you are a victim of chance is cold comfort.

  105. Mathew,
    I don’t honestly believe that anybody lives this ideal in this life (I certainly don’t). There may be some lucky few, but I don’t know them and I think it is fruitless to aspire to be them. Be yourself. The truth is that most happy couple don’t have spectacular sex lives; they have good enough sex lives (okay, I’m just assuming this). We shouldn’t let the perfect become enemy of the good.

  106. Eric Russell says:

    I disagree entirely, John. You’re talking about a worst case scenario. I think Elder Holland is addressing a much broader audience.

  107. We may be defining “ideal” differently. I’m talking about the ordinary experience Elder Holland describes of a couple who works, crys and enjoys life together–a couple that has an intimate life apart from their sexual relations. Of course they are not perfect and surely they have disagreements (and even very strong disagreements) but that does not detract from the ideal–indeed it may complete it. And I’m not talking about “spectacular sex” or frequent sex, I’m talking about the ordinary experience of sex as an expression of deep affection and love which draws a couple into greater intimacy which actually, yeah, all adds up to a spectacular sex. Just not the kind of spectacular sex that jumps to mind when we refer to “spectacular sex”.

  108. Eric,
    If this is what Elder Holland is talking about:

    “Lust is characterized by shame and stealth and is almost pathologically clandestine–the later and darker the hour the better, with a double-bolted door just in case…Lust…is anything but godly and celebrates self-indulgence. Love comes with open hands and open heart; lust comes with only an open appetite.”

    where do you see the difference between what I am talking about and what Elder Holland is talking about?

    Mathew,
    I think I did misunderstand. I agree that that should be the church’s ideal (and I think that porn and modern culture argue for something else). I also think that emotional intimacy is a possibility for most people and most couples. But getting there is a matter for you, your spouse, and whoever you choose to involve in it. So, to couples who don’t feel emotionally compatible, I’d say work to become emotionally compatible. If you can’t (or won’t), get a divorce. There is no point in being miserable forever. But don’t expect me to offer blanket approval.

  109. I think the loneliness issue might be something, but not THE thing. When we are talking about teenagers or younger starting…I would think usually it start as an accident-an accident with accompanying good feelings. It could then become a stress release, a way to celebrate…well like an alcoholic it becomes the response to any emotion-boredom, loneliness, happiness, guilt…anything. So it’s not as if the partner can substitute for that-be something enough and solve it. Part of the fix would be learning to deal with emotions healthily without going for the automatic response. Part of the fix would be taking that physical feeling and placing it where it belongs-solely in a healthy relationship which requires work, communication, patience and love. That would be a hard uphill climb. Changing an automatic response is difficult. Changing one with an easy good feeling makes it harder—then saying this feeling should have all this effort and emotional work first and connected to it…

    Then you have the general population-who think pornography isn’t really a problem-Why would someone be motivated to change something that appears to be such a normal part of themselves? and that’s easy and feels good?

  110. Eric Russell says:

    Elder Holland describes a behavior that could be ascribed to an emotionally and psychologically healthy person. You don’t.

  111. I really loved this post. It clarified a number of things I’ve been trying to think through lately.

    For most of my marriage, despite great pain involved, I
    “fulfilled my husband’s needs” a minimum of once per week. Meeting his “needs” didn’t “affair-proof” my marriage at all.

    After thinking it through, I think the problem was the core of this post. He saw me as an object of lust, not a person to love. The marriage certificate and temple vows made absolutely no difference to whether or not I was an object to him. I bought into his rhetoric that he “needed” sex in order to keep his violent tendencies under control, that all men “needed” sex like people need food, so I let myself be his tool to meet his needs. I don’t think he ever saw me as a real person.

    Just like John C., Elder Holland, and commenters have tried to explain, his lust wasn’t exactly the problem. Underneath the excuses, he was lonely. He was lonely because he never allowed himself to trust, to become vulnerable to someone else, even to God. In order to not be lonely, a person must trust, open themselves up, make themselves vulnerable to deep injury. In essence, one must submit.

    That is why relationships are so important and powerful. That is the essence of the Gospel message: true power is not about seizing and grasping, survival of the fittest. Part of what separates the divine from the mortal is that divine power distills upon those who are worthy. The power of God is given Him willingly because of who He is: a being so incredible that all nature, all matter wants to worship Him. Rather than forcing relationships, making creation our slaves, God’s way is to encourage and invite relationship. Then, when we willingly relate to Him, both He and we become more powerful. Friends in power, rather than servants. (D&C 84:63)

    Christ’s sacrifice shows us that power is in submission. That is the model for marriage, as well. Mutual submission is what forges deep, unbreakable, Powerful bonds. (That’s what the Priesthood is supposed to be about, too.)

    I think, perhaps, when we come to realize this, we find that this is why marriage and families are so important and pornography so damaging. Last November I explored this thought a bit. Pornography, just as John says, is a plastic replica of relationships. It lets us think we can relate without being vulnerable. That is why it doesn’t only destroy the marriage relationship, it crumbles all relationships. It teaches us that, like Lucifer thought, relationships can be forced.

  112. John C.,

    To be clear, I don’t expect you to have ready answers to my questions. I think working on it is always good advice (though I personally disagree that divorce ought to be the default option for those who can’t achieve that). I very much enjoy and agree with most of Elder Holland’s talk as well as your post. In my mind the stubborn fact remains that what we deserve and what we get in marriage and life generally aren’t as correlated as mortal men such as myself would like them to be (of course if they were mortal men such as myself would no doubt be worse off so from a selfish standpoint I should probably try to be less bothered).

  113. britt,
    easy and feels good is almost always a warning sign of something that can destroy us. That said, most addicts describe a powerful sense of being completely alone, self-imposed or no, as being a major feature of their addiction. So we might be arguing semantics.

    Eric,
    If you think that Elder Holland is describing is “an emotionally and psychologically healthy person,” that is our point of disagreement. I don’t think he is. Emotionally and psychologically healthy people don’t hide their sexual activities and fantasies from their spouse (nor do they try to coerce their spouse into participation). Emotionally and psychologically healthy people don’t have all consuming appetites (in general). I do not see where you are coming from at all.

    Mathew,
    I don’t think I deserve a thing in life or marriage. That may be the issue right there. It’s all a gift.

  114. SilverRain,
    Thank you for sharing your insights. I am very sorry that you had to go through that.

  115. “Lust is almost never the root of the problem, loneliness almost always is”

    Exactly!

  116. SilverRain,

    I enjoyed reading what your wrote and your conclusions ring true to me. The difficult part is trusting someone so deeply that you can safely submit without having your trust abused. And of course petty real and imagined abuses are bound to happen in any case–we are talking, after all, about two distinct individuals–and those are painful enough. Those more serious abuses you mention are on a whole different level of horrible.

    John C.,

    In addition to being a Mormon you are a Zen master! I was thinking of someone close to me who has been dealt a tough hand in life. (OK, no more gambling analogies from me for the rest of the post)

  117. Mathew,
    Actually, I think that we all just need to accept that our trust is going to be abused. That isn’t to say that we can’t set boundaries (because we should), but occasional disappointment and misplaced trust in relationships in inevitable. We have to learn to trust our relationship partner in spite of the fact that they often represent the arm of the flesh.

  118. Mathew—Like John has pointed out, I don’t think you can ever “safely submit”. That is the point. If it is safe, if you submit without vulnerability, it is not powerful in the way I mean.

    As an example, in the fallout from my divorce, I’ve come to realize that I can’t let what I’ve gone through keep me from opening myself up to other people. That doesn’t mean that you should open up completely to all and sundry (pearls before swine style), but it does mean that you can’t let fear of pain keep you from loving. I post about my divorce and healing process, knowing that my ex is still reading it. I feel terribly vulnerable doing that, but after discussing it with God, I feel that what I have learned might help someone out there. That is balanced with judicious editing. I don’t post everything, only the things I feel prompted to share. I can’t let fear of him, or fear of looking stupid online, or fear of anything keep me from testifying and sharing what I have learned in the way I feel the Spirit encourages me to do so.

    I certainly can’t let it build layers of defenses around my heart so I won’t be betrayed like that again.

  119. Very likely that we are arguin semantics…I guess the unmet needs or the loneliness just implies if the spouse were something enough there wouldn’t be a problem. If the problem is that the person feels lonely because they have an inability to connect-the inability to connect would be the problem. Perhaps porn makes it more difficult for a person to completely connect with another person?

    Other things make it difficult for people to connect and the feeling of loneliness would be real…semantics…

  120. corktree says:

    Ok, no more circumcision questions (though I did equate loss of sensation with ability to wait for orgasm, my mistake)

    I still think there is an aspect of the goal of sexual relationships that we don’t discuss well or understand fully in this life. The OP says that orgasm is not a universal good, and I don’t think I agree. I agree with the statement that the use to which it is put is the issue, and self satisfaction is not a worthy goal. But I have to wonder at the purpose for the female response ( I know it can aid fertility). While the argument exists that without pleasure in the act, we would not procreate, I think there is a higher purpose to that pleasure that we have not searched for.

    I know that there are other religions that make this a focus, and I’m not saying that is the goal, but what if there is beauty in a couple actually making mutual and simultaneous physical pleasure a goal. In practice it requires them to be unselfish as they consider each other and it forces them to improve communication skills and open themselves in a way they don’t have to for any other activity.

    Sex alone doesn’t do this, even in the right context in marriage. If we talked about it in even more spiritual terms in the church and seek out what “celestial sex” may mean for us, I don’t see why orgasm for both sides (without it being a “you first, then me” situation) isn’t actually a good goal for a healthy marriage. I just don’t think we understand it as well as we could. And I think 40% of women don’t have to just accept that they don’t get that part of it – and making it seem like a lustful thing when that is a goal you might like to work toward doesn’t seem to help those situations. (I know that’s not how lust is being used here, but I just don’t want to feel shallow in my occasional disappointment)

    I think if we don’t also talk about it in this way and change the goal of orgasm from self to together, women will find it harder to feel that they can ask for what they really want, which brings all the other stuff with it (ability to share and cry and laugh and be truly one). It can be even more lonely to feel one-sided in the physical relationship.

    I’m pretty sure Brotherson’s book addresses this better.

  121. corktree says:

    My main point is that orgasm can be such a strong desire for some (many I think), that making people feel guilty for wanting it even in every marriage encounter is not the way to go. Perhaps embracing that desire and turning it to good for the relationship would help in many situations where this is the factor for seeking porn.

  122. Steve Evans says:

    So we’re agreed — porn is ok?

  123. Steve, what a great way to create incentive to read all these comments.

  124. #104 Matthew
    You forget that Anna Karenina recognizes what she was looking for and knows she isn’t getting from her affair.

    “This new feeling has not changed me, has not made me happy and enlightened all of a sudden, as I had dreamed, just like the feeling for my child. There was no surprise in this either.”

    That option didn’t help her much–it made things worse.

  125. #99: Perhaps the older or younger or more prudish than me will find me to be “justifying” or “out of line.”

    We only think you are justifying yourself and out of line because you are. But whatever makes you feel better about yourself…

  126. “Lust is almost never the root of the problem, loneliness almost always is”

    I still think loneliness (in this sense) is a symptom of a deeper problem. It’s more of a fruit or branch than a root. Notice what SilverRain said:

    “He was lonely because he never allowed himself to trust, to become vulnerable to someone else, even to God. In order to not be lonely, a person must trust, open themselves up, make themselves vulnerable to deep injury. In essence, one must submit.”

    This kind of loneliness comes as the result of a choice to focus on self- self-protection, self-fulfillment, etc. In order to focus on self I must be more important than you. My needs, wants, hopes, fears must matter more, even if just a little. I must feel entitled to having those things met.(It is this very way of thinking that would allow us to see others as objects to use for our fulfillment… “He saw me as an object of lust, not as a person to love”) The problem is, when caught in this way of thinking what would only work to my detriment becomes the only, seemingly, viable solution: More self-focus. Essentially, “If you’re not going to take care of me, I will”. Focusing so much inward I lose the connection outward. What would seem like your fault is really a symptom of my refusal to love, to allow you to matter as much as myself.

    The solution to loneliness is not the licking of one’s own wounds, it is to strike at the root, to banish selfishness, to care for another as deeply as we care for ourselves. If I find myself in a loveless marriage the solution is to love more, not withdraw and love less. The solution to feeling alone is to reach out, not wait to be reached out to. If building relationships is the answer to loneliness, then the lack of doing so was most likely the cause.

    So, long point longer, the root of turning to porn is not loneliness, the root is selfishness. Just as with any sin. It is a turning in. It is a valuing of self that supercedes the valuing of others. Viewing self and others in this way I find justification in using them to fulfill my wants and needs and even for the resentment I feel when they won’t let me. What loneliness indeed.

  127. Sunny,
    I don’t disagree with anything that you are saying.

  128. Oh, I didn’t think you did. I was responding more to #115 who had quoted the original post, and the few remaining comments that seemed to be discussing loneliness as a cause of porn use.

    Great post, BTW.

  129. sunny, very nicely put

  130. I think that everyone buys into Hollywood sex too much. The best thing we can do is teach people to realize that positive married sex isn’t like porn.
    You develop your sex life like you do any other skill that you do together. You have to be willing to learn and relearn as life changes.
    My husband and I have a great sex life now not because we were immediately sexually compatible, but because we were and continue to be open, honest, committed, loving. We make it a priority yet we know it isn’t everything.
    I hope that I can teach my children that it is unrealistic and sad to think that two random people can meet at a bar and have the best sex ever and they feel complete and emotionally fulfilled. So I hope they as married people aren’t constantly trying to live up to that worldly ideal of Hollywood sex. Instead, they should create their own relationship with their own spouse based on their own lives over the course of many, many years. That is real intimacy.

  131. I think Silver Rain makes an important point about the loneliness. The loneliness that drives porn abusers/ addicts doesn’t come isn’t because their spouse or partner isn’t giving enough. The loneliness is because the person isn’t willing to open himself/herself to the innocent spouse or partner.

    To use a recent public example, Tiger Woods’ multiple affairs weren’t because of anything Elin did or didn’t do. They were because of something in Tiger that isn’t quite right. I don’t think that the husbands of those three women Elder Holland talked about left them because they weren’t good wives; there was something wrong with those men and porn was at least a contributor if not a cause. I lost what little respect I had left for our ward’s RS President, when in a coversation about Tiger Woods’ infidelities, she blamed his wife. Where did she get that? Do people really believe that any more? Why?

  132. 131-

    totally. If we blame the spouse, who do we blame when single people do it?

  133. Sunny&mdash”If I find myself in a loveless marriage the solution is to love more, not withdraw and love less.”

    That is so true. Unfortunately, I believe that those who seek inwardly for fulfillment don’t even know what love is. They don’t see love as submission, they see it as a feeling that makes them happy. They don’t realize that love is an action verb, not an adjective.

    One thing that was very difficult for me was deciding to divorce. At the time, I was of the mindset that no matter what, I would preserve our marriage. I thought, in my pride, that approach meant I was strong, a good person. I was wrong. It took a great deal of argument with the Lord before He was able to show me that the best way to love, not only myself and my children, but also my -spouse- himself, was to divorce. I was shown that if I let him go, he might have a chance to reconnect with God. If I did not, he definitely would not have that chance. In deciding to divorce him, I had to let go of all my dreams for a successful marriage, and all my expectations of what a successful marriage meant, as well as all my prideful opinions of myself as One Who Would Not Give Up.

    I guess my point is just that sometimes loving more does not take the form we might expect.

  134. I haven’t listened to Dr. Laura in a long time, but from what I remember there is a strand of this in some advice that she gives. I mostly think it is people misinterpreting her advice, but she definitely encourages women to take their role as wife seriously, and that includes taking decent care of yourself and be a willing sexual partner. She resists people automatically dumping all the blame on the husband in a failed marriage. I think some people probably misapply her advice and are too ready to blame the wife. In Tiger’s case it’s obviously ridiculous.

  135. John,

    Thank you for this post. This is a very important subject for a great many of our congregation these days. The more I think about your post, the more things I find that I agree with, and the more I appreciate Elder Holland’s talk (which at first I mostly shrugged off, like Scott).

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with loneliness. While other factors can influence why a person first flirts with lust – curiosity, boredom, thrill. I think the addictive behavior usually leads to a cyclical lonely/shame to action back to lonely/shame.

    Silverrain (111) I think you’ve articulated this very well, and agree with your conclusions.

    A thought re: Sexual Addiction v. Sexual Practice Outside the Church –
    Part of the reason that sexual addiction is such a problem in the church, while the same habit is not seen as addiction (and 14 guys in the desert would take offense to it being called an addiction) has to do with how addiction is usually defined. In its simplest terms its an addiction when you find yourself jeapordizing things that have value to you (job, marriage, respect of kids, money, etc.) and want to stop, but can’t. The reason the same habit is not an addiction to many outside the church is that they aren’t trying to stop and aren’t trying to hide the practice. But the act of trying to hide(especially trying to hide), and trying to stop, and failing leads to depression/loneliness and leads to more of the same problem. Again, cyclical. Thus in a culture where pornography and other sexual practices and habits are so easily accessed, and then in a subculture where they are discouraged, you find a situation that we are in today where many are caught in a very tragic addiction. From a practical standpoint the addiction pervasiveness could be very easily lessened one of two ways: make the practice morally neutral (de-sinnify pornography use, etc.) or make it less accessible. The former won’t likely happen (and probably shouldn’t) and the latter won’t happen very likely either. Thus we Mormons have a very difficult task ahead of us that unfortunately will include numerous uncomfortable GC talks – most of which may very likely miss the point.

  136. It is a very bad life if you have to be afraid that your body and its passions are going to lead you to the telestial kingdom (hell). And you have to walk around all day and every day with that fear. Or that a glance at a woman’s pulchritude is the first step down that path.

    Orgasms are necessary for the continuation of the species, as necessary as eating or sleeping. In that sense it does not matter how they happen, just that two people are involved.

    Pornography tends to objectify people, which is the selfish part. Few healthy people want to be objectified, especially lovers. And then pornography leads to too many orgasms where only one person is involved as well as objectification.

    Finally, too many orgasms in the wrong places, in the wrong attitudes, erodes the trust of partners, thus eroding the success and survivability of offspring.

    My personal experience: love, deeply spiritual love, solves all of the above problems and makes for the most sublime sex.

    A friend whose brother was a severe substance abuser reported that his brother said that sex was the best drug of all but it did not last long enough. I can see the addictive potentials. Loneliness or not, the desire for more can be present.

    I place Hugh Hefner in the great house across the river. He might have a great time but if I were to try to get there and do the same thing I would drown or get lost in the dark byways. Someone has to live in that house to be the tempter.

  137. “My personal experience: love, deeply spiritual love, solves all of the above problems and makes for the most sublime sex.”

    Here is what I object to: How do you know? Even if you’ve tasted both licit and illicit sex, how can you guarantee this for other people? The truth is that sex is just sex for most people. It is an important aspect of their lives, but it shouldn’t be the end all be all. Telling people that their sex will be awesome if they remain virgins to their wedding night is setting people up for a fall. Not that I want people to lose their virginity early; I just don’t think maintaining chastity should be based on a false bill of sale.

  138. SVB–
    That reminds me of what my mother tried to tell me once, that when you feel spiritually connected you just suddenly have great sex. That’s silly. I may feel really spiritually connected in the temple, but spiritually feelings with or without sex don’t create orgasms. Our bodies aren’t made that way. If is was deep spiritual love that created great sex, people would be masturbating with a very different book than a Playboy.

  139. 138 – HA! That made me smile.

  140. 133- “I guess my point is just that sometimes loving more does not take the form we might expect.”

    Thank you so much for pointing this out. I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. You are exactly right that love does not “look” a certain way- staying, leaving, disciplining, overlooking, etc. Love is the right answer in any case, but what form that love takes is entirely dependent upon that moment and the people involved.

    Thank you for sharing your experiencing so willingly and so beautifully.

  141. Great post. Interesting commentary too. I think learning to be the master of our sex lives, rather than being a slave to our passions is an important part of overcoming the natural man.

    Sex in marriage definitely needs to have some kind of equilibrium. And the trouble seems to happen, from what I’ve observed and experienced anyway, is that when there is not enough trust and charity on both sides issues start to arise.

    If you ask yourself, what does sex between a husband and wife mean, you probably get an answer like a joyful, blissful, exciting expression of oneness, etc. etc. (not trying to down play it)

    Then ask what it means to one partner when the other partner seems to withhold that loving act of oneness. It’s easy to see how it could create some bitter feelings that does lead to porn use and could potentially lead to addiction. Is it the other spouse’s fault that one person goes off and does something stupid and immoral? No of course not.

    But it certainly doesn’t end there. On the other side, ask yourself about a spouse who expects the other to just willingly submit to a supposed act of love and oneness, when they don’t want to. What does that have to do with love or unity? It seems to be the exact opposite.

    And this seems to be a crux of what marriage is all about. Taking two positions, which are legitimate and rightfully held and seemingly opposite and making them work. No one can explain it to you. It just seems to come naturally over time as two learn to become one, but certainly not without work. A lot of charity and understanding is necessary. Being a loving influence for good instead of rejecting and/or demanding in the life of your spouse can make a big difference.

    It’s pretty nuanced and not easy to explain and it’s unfortunate too many are quick to place blame on either spouse. In the game of tit for tat it doesn’t matter who started it I suppose, but that both parties agree to end it.

  142. The more I think about your post, the more things I find that I agree with, and the more I appreciate Elder Holland’s talk (which at first I mostly shrugged off, like Scott).

    I didn’t know I shrugged it off. I find the frequency of the talks grating, but I don’t think I dismiss them…

  143. Scott B. He actually apologized profusely to tender hearted people like you in advance so that should make up for it :)

  144. JohnC, mmiles,

    I did say it was my personal experience. I am sure Hugh Hefner has had great sex without any spirituality. I only reported my personal understanding. Spirituality and love are not necessary conditions for great sex.

    But love and spirituality creates a broad and deep connection where the sexual feelings float on this deep ocean. Is there better than that? Maybe we are talking about two different types of sex.

    Do you think that all sex is the same?

  145. 142 my comment wasn’t intended with any malice toward you. I just assumed that we shared a common thought of “here we go again”.

  146. This may have already been addressed, but I kind of know the Brotherson mentioned in the OP–in fact, certain family members of mine are kind of tied into that book, but probably not in the way you’re thinking–and it isn’t about orgasm as such.

    It’s supposed to be an aid for women who grow up in the church thinking that sex is bad and therefore won’t have it very often during marriage. It’s an attempt to help such women understand that there is such a thing as righteous recreational–as opposed to procreational–sex. Apparently there are women out there who believe as much, and while I couldn’t believe that anyone would need such advice when I first heard about this book, it’s been a moderate success for Laura, which suggests that there is such a female population out there.

    Actually, now that I say it, maybe that is about the orgasm stuff you mention above. I can’t say for sure, really, because I’ll admit I had a hard time following the point on orgasm. I think what I read was that I wasn’t supposed to want an orgasm when I had sex. Or something like that. I can’t speak for anyone else, but if there isn’t going to be some target practice, I’d just as soon not take the gun out of the holster in the first place.

  147. Sunny and SilverRain, Just wanted to say that I have appreciated your comments, particularly about what love really is all about.

  148. ByTheRules says:

    Random thoughts:
    Without sexual attraction, few males would take on the commitments of marriage.
    In proper church ceremony, the woman “gives” herself, including her body, to her husband, who accepts her with a covenant and promise.
    Almost universally, men and women have disproportionate libido and sexual response.
    If a woman does not want to be touched, a good offense is the best defense; do the touching. Practice makes perfect and may be a sufficient compromise to be satisfactory to both partners. Pressure for or against sex needs to be respectful. Compromise may either be giving half all the time; or giving all half the time.
    Pornography short circuits the natural learning curve of carnal knowledge. As a couple matures and their bodies change, differences in stimulation may solve predictable, and even historic, difficulties. A couple that learns and discovers new skills as the years go by will smile knowingly at each other in the firelight. A relationship saturated early with knowledge obtained via pornography will miss out on a very significant part of natural relationship growth.
    A meaningful relationship can be maintained without sex. However, that same relationship does not need marriage. Sex is indeed an important component to a fulfilling and healthy marriage.

  149. jimbob,
    I don’t have anything against orgasm and I think it is a fine thing. I do think it isn’t the end all and be all of sex or relationship. That’s the point I was trying to make, if we make our relationships and our sex primarily about our achieving orgasm, then it misses the goal that God has for us in encourage union. It is just another form of selfishness.

    BytheRules,
    “In proper church ceremony, the woman “gives” herself, including her body, to her husband, who accepts her with a covenant and promise.”
    Proper church ceremony or no, if that act isn’t mutual (or understood as mutual, you have a pretty bad relationship. Women don’t exist to serve men with their bodies or anything else.
    Also, I never said anything against sexual attraction.

  150. BytheRules (via John C),
    If it ain’t mutual, it’s rape.

  151. MikeInWeHo says:

    The last paragraph in comment #135 seems dead-on target to me.

    Is it possible that as secular culture becomes more permissive and sexualized, the Mormon subculture recoils in the opposite direction and inadvertently increases the taboo, shame, etc associated with sexuality? The more dissonance, the more negative mental health outcomes we would expect to see.

    My unsolicited advice: Chill just a tad, and for goodness sake stop telling adolescent boys that masturbation is evil. Talk about a setup for problems.

  152. 152 (#145),
    Your comment was full of malice. I could feel your anger.

  153. 151 – I wouldn’t say that Mormons are recoiling in the opposite direction. At least we haven’t had advice like this:
    In very severe cases it may be necessary to tie a hand to the bed frame with a tie in order that the habit of masturbating in a semi-sleep condition can be broken. This can also be accomplished by wearing several layers of clothing which would be difficult to remove while half asleep.

    come out in the last decade. I think its just becoming a much more common talk-topic.

  154. Scott – Indeed, you’ve read through my nuanced abhorrance for you.

    Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of Elderberry, I fart in your general direction.

  155. Nothing nuanced about incorrectly spelling “abhorrence.”

  156. Also, 152, you need a new moniker. Big time. Reading the past 10 comments just gives me a headache. I propose the following, and we shall have a vote:

    1. Biff
    2. Hoagie
    3. Becky IronRod Vicky

  157. B.Russ (formerly 152) says:

    Well, as much as I like Biff . . .

  158. B. R-U-S-S es? I don’t believe they exist.

  159. ByTheRules says:

    149, 150

    The covenent and promise assure that it is mutual. Do I need to emphasize that more to assure greater clarity?

    I may have erroneously concluded that embedding both parts in the same sentance would be sufficient. If not, this follow up post shall serve as appropriate clarification.

  160. ByTheRules,
    Muchos Gracias. That helps, thanks.

  161. “If a woman does not want to be touched, a good offense is the best defense; do the touching. ”

    I’m sorry, but I’m stuck on this- are you really advocating touching a woman sexually against her will?

  162. Starfoxy says:

    I get the impression that he’s saying a woman defends herself against unwanted touching by initiating all the touching herself.

  163. twiceuponatime says:

    102 – John C.

    Sorry. I’m not looking for counseling (I’m already getting that on my own), sorry if it seemed that way.

    As for the whole topic – I seem to have lost the thread of where it’s all going. It seems that consuming porn is not the same as being addicted, but while I can understand the attraction of porn to some people, it’s not really a temptation for me. If I did somehow get hooked, I wouldn’t ever blame my spouse for it, frigidity or no.

    I figure that even though sex is a need, Christ has promised he will take on all our burdens, and that he can help us endure even a lack of sex. He’s helped people through a lot worse.

  164. Starfoxy, I think you must be right.

  165. 152: Last paragraph of #135 seems spot-on to me.

    chris: Brilliant: “And this seems to be a crux of what marriage is all about. Taking two positions, which are legitimate and rightfully held and seemingly opposite and making them work.”

    Steve: #158–I assume you are now nursing a nasty shoulder wound courtesy of the commenter formerly known as 152.

    I don’t have much to add (clearly), but this has been an interesting conversation.

  166. Oh my goodness! I remember going to “Husband and Wife” a month before my wedding…and it completely creeped me out. I remember getting on the phone with my fiance that night and saying,
    “You know, I think I prefer to go to a store that is upfront about the fact that it’s selling chocolate body paint…not a place with a front of “classy” …it makes everything feel even more embarassing.”

    It also might have been the fact that they sold things that were, to the 24ish woman I was, ten-times more provacative and, to be frank, fetish-y than anything I had seen in Victoria’s Secret or elsewhere.

    And…the whole fact that is was all in one, tiny, open storefront room. With only one cashier…who was an older man. Who immediately came up to me as I walked in the door and led me over to the display cases to describe everything to me in detail.

    Creepy. Like I said.

    That’s all. Just wanted to spread the word about it. Since you mentioned it specifically in the post and I had such a bad experience there.

  167. Thomas Parkin says:

    I’ve enjoyed this discussion. I have a great deal of personal experience on many sides of these issues.

    I am coming more and more to see being sinful as a state of being without, of being less than complete, literally ‘unholy.’ Behaviors, sins, are expressions of being in those manifold sinful states, and as such are not cured so much by altering behavior as they are by the alteration of being, the augmenting and completing process that is the true goal of the Gospel. (According to King Benjamin there are so many ways to sin that they can’t be counted. One might see literally everything we do from a state of imperfect, not even to say vicious, understanding and being as containing an element of sin.) And so I have liked the emphasis on loneliness – literally being without that companionship without which we cannot, finally, be complete. I think it is helpful to judge our own behavior in this light, and not to judge anyone else’s behavior at all. ~

  168. Thanks for the link Ann, it was very enlightening. I may understand the argument against orgasm as a goal better now.

  169. billybud says:

    John C. has it right. Pornography addiction is not the “root” problem. Loneliness is closer to it, although there may be other roots that are different for different people.

    On one level, I think porn addiction is merely a technical problem. Before the internet, none of these upstanding LDS men were looking at porn. They didn’t subscribe to any dirty magazines, and would never have been caught dead going into porno theater. What’s changed? Are we all so much more wicked now? I don’t think so. Only one thing has changed, and that is the fantastic addition of the internet, which brings everything in the world to our home, good and bad. It’s merely a technical problem. If you are a porn addict, get some accountability software or filters on all your computers, iphones, etc, so that your mom or your bishop or your spouse can see everything you do on your computers. Block bad channels on your TV, and throw away the passwords. If technology got us into this problem, then technology can get us out. It’s not that complicated. It’s not some uncontrollable Satanic plague that is going to completely destroy our society. It’s just new technology, and we are going to be living with it for hundreds of years. So let’s get a handle on it. If you can’t fight the temptation, create for your self the technical framework to eliminate the temptation.

    On another level, be thankful for porn. Before you were addicted, you were the same person, with the same weaknesses. You struggled in your marriage, you were a mediocre home-teacher, you were self-centered, self-absorbed, and you rarely fasted, went sporadically to the temple, and read the scriptures half-heartedly. Before you were addicted to porn, you were addicted to sports, to newspapers, to your work, to fast-food, to TV. But the consequences for those addictions were not so severe, so you became complacent, and drifted along for years in your spiritual mediocrity.

    Then porn came along, and you suddenly had to get serious. You new the consequences of your new addiction: you could loose your family, you could loose your worthiness, you feel horribly guilty. So you start fasting, you start praying seriously, you start looking to Jesus to rescue you, for the first time in your life, you are really humble.

    All this may never have happened without porn. So be grateful for it.

  170. #122 Steve Evans: “So we’re agreed — porn is ok?”

    Please see #170. Then delete it.

  171. Sunny,
    Why? Because he (170) has poor spelling?

  172. Scott,

    Your loosing me here.

  173. Billybud,
    Thank you for the solution to porn. Please give solutions to poverty and war, also. Thanks!

  174. Poverty: If hunger got us into this problem, then hunger can get us out.

    Ah dang. I guess the logic might be flawed. Back to flannel.. I mean drawing.. board.

  175. RecoveryWife says:

    I’ve been married for 11 years, and dealing with my husband’s addiction in various stages since two weeks after the wedding day, from angry unrepentant addict to humbled, recovering struggler. I try not to let it define my life, but it sure as shootin’ is a big part of it.

    My husband has been addicted to porn for decades, and he’s not many decades old. There’s truth to the idea that the tension from failing to meet higher-thank-average moral ideals can help create a self-reinforcing shame spiral. It is a difficult thing, but relaxing standards doesn’t help. The spirit knows a counterfeit solution when it sees it.

    I can’t tell you what a relief and comfort it is to hear about it from the Brethren, no matter how awkwardly. It’s better than the infrequent veiled references of years ago (“don’t touch the snake”?).

    (can I say I’m confused that y’all are saying that the Church both isn’t addressing the problem enough, and addressing it “too much”?)

    And it’s especially welcome in a church culture where my husband’s huge daily struggle for virtue cannot ever be spoken of in my ward or our family. Back when I was dumber, I envied those sisters whose husbands were out of work or who had cancer, because there’s support and prayers and casseroles for that.

    General Conference is the *only* time I feel like I get to let the elephant out of the room.

    I promise not to begrudge you the talks meant for you on financial preparedness or selfishness or hope in hard times,

    if you can let me have that twice-a-year arm around my shoulder from some men I admire very much. My husband and I thank you.

  176. Latter-day Guy says:

    “On another level, be thankful for porn.”

    Wow. That was just… wow. (Incidentally––and apropos of nothing––the opera that bears your moniker was referred to (I believe in the Times) as both The Bugger’s Opera, and Twilight of the Sods. Normally, I’m a big fan of Britten, but that one does nothing for me.)

    176, Thank you for sharing that. Moving and humbling, and good to be reminded of when I get annoyed at all the talks on porn; they are given for a reason. God bless you and your husband.

  177. So, John, before this thread dies, I’d be interested in knowing if that link Ann provided is getting close to what you have wanted to get at. (I’ve felt a little like we have been playing ‘guess what the teacher is thinking, and losing!)

    After reading that article and a couple more by that woman, I’m intrigued. And now I look back at this conversation and think that part of what has happened here in this discussion has in a real sense sort of illustrated your point — that we even in LDS culture don’t really know how else to talk or think about (or approach) sex than to think in terms of achieving orgasm. The “ideal” is set in our typical approach as reaching climax together as a married couple, and reaching that, of course, in the context of a loving relationship — but we don’t really talk about any other approach w/ sex. And maybe there is a better way. I think I hear you saying there is.

    If I hear you correctly, you are positing is, in its own way, following “the world’s” model (you even draw a parallel in some way w/ porn’s model, if I’m reading you right). And that can be a real problem if that is true.

    Reading this woman’s stuff, if her theory is correct (and if I am understanding it by what little I read, and if that even comes close to representing what you are trying to get it–which, of course, is a lot of ifs), with the orgasm-as-the-end-goal model, we can be creating our own sort of addictions even w/in a “healthy” marriage. Maybe?

    Is that close?

  178. nd maybe there is a better way. I think I hear you saying there is.

    Or at least saying that there is more than one way to think about sex.

  179. Naismith says:

    Really appreciated 176. That was so important, and he is fortunate to have you as a partner in his struggles.

  180. billybud,
    I get what you’re saying. If you don’t have something huge like this hanging over you like a sword of Damocles, maybe you’d never get serious about the gospel. It is just my hope that we are capable of getting serious about the gospel without the serious sin.

    m&m,
    I tend to think orgasm is an important goal in sex, but that it shouldn’t be the goal. And I believe that orgasm should never be the goal of the relationship. And I think that strengthening the relationship should be the goal of sex. The last is the primary goal, so feel free to ignore everything else for that.

    RecoveryWife,
    Thank you for sharing. I think it is useful to be reminded that not only the addict feels marginalized and alone.

  181. Carlos U. says:

    Corktree, let me answer your question as one of the few people who’ve been circumcised as an adult. There isn’t a whole lot of difference in feeling in my experience. Orgasms still feel just as good. I’ve read some of the arguments against circumcision, and they don’t hold a lot of water from my point of view.

    Arguments for (proved):

    • Look normal in the locker room compared to others (it matters, kids can be cruel).
    • Protects you against AIDS and other STD’s. Circumcision is now being encouraged in Africa for this purpose.
    • Protects your partners also (see above).
    • Protects your partners from cervical cancer, specially your spouse.
    • If ever in an environment without regular hygiene, protect you against inflammations and infections. (This is, incidentally, why we stated circumcising in the US. In WWI, many uncircumcised men in the trenches had serious problems. It then became standard practice in the US.

    A non-proven reason based merely on observation derived by showering with a hundred of your closest friends at a time for months (US Army vet) is that un-aroused uncircumcised penises are smaller than their un-aroused circumcised peers.

    My son Joshua was born 2 months ago. We had him circumcised. I made sure the doctor used a nerve block anesthetic shot (like a dentist uses) to keep him from hurting. He did great and healed in about a week.

    My opinion, do your child a favor and circumcise him.

  182. A non-proven reason based merely on observation derived by showering with a hundred of your closest friends at a time for months (US Army vet) is that un-aroused uncircumcised penises are smaller than their un-aroused circumcised peers.

    Alright, someone call gst–it’s time to shut this puppy down.

  183. Oh, Carlos. Myths, myths, myths. I won’t say any more than to tell people who are on the fence — do your son a favor and actually research these things before you make your decision.

  184. MikeInWeHo says:

    “A non-proven reason based merely on observation derived by showering with a hundred of your closest friends at a time for months (US Army vet) is that un-aroused uncircumcised penises are smaller than their un-aroused circumcised peers.”

    Don’t look, don’t tell, Carlos.

  185. It kind of goes without saying, but…

    MikeInWeHo FTW.

  186. Carlos, your first point is pretty much a moot point now that the circumcision rate in the US is around 50% – much lower in some areas.

  187. a fascinating quote from President Kimball in 1974

    “We hope that our parents and leaders will not tolerate pornography. It is really garbage, but today is peddled as normal and satisfactory food. Many writers seem to take delight in polluting the atmosphere with it. Seemingly, it cannot be stopped by legislation. There is a link between pornography and the low, sexual drives and perversions. We live in a culture which venerates the orgasm, streaking, trading wives, and similar crazes. How low can humans plunge! We pray with our Lord that we may be kept from being in the world. It is sad that decent people are thrown into a filthy area of mental and spiritual pollution. We call upon all of our people to do all in their power to offset this ugly revolution. ”

    “God Will Not Be Mocked,” Ensign, Nov 1974

  188. The more I’ve thought about this post, the more I appreciate it. Also was completely fascinated by the article linked to in #167. So thank you.

  189. 22, single, and too damned overworked to be horny these days says:

    @125 – I guess I could have expected as much snark!

    I really think that MikeInWeHo is spot-on: CHILL. I just don’t see how this nebbishness about sex benefits the institution, the members, or the marriages. Even at BYU, the Lord’s University, there’s a whole hell of a lot more heavy petting going on than, say, crazy drinking parties.

    I see this as a good thing . . . if you’re going to slip up, might as well be something with a positive feeling at its root, right?

    Yes, if you’re being sent to rehab because you can’t stop streaming XXX videos at your workplace, duh, you are addicted. But we certainly don’t hear talk after talk about the dangers of, say, high fructose corn syrup, and how you shouldn’t even TOUCH the stuff, because then you’ll get addicted to sugar, sweet, sweet, sugar, and have to be rolled out of your house. Basically, I think that single Mormons can (and do!) have and express sexual feelings before marriage. In fact, once I got over the massive stick up my arse, I felt a lot more okay with concepts like The Atonement and Repentance, and hell, Marriage itself.

    The 17-year-old me with a paralyzing fear of breaking the Chastity Laws would have made one hell of a wife. In Sha Allah that I have had some experience and gotten over myself!

    And it’s just so silly for these discussions to be so binary, especially as a woman . . . I don’t even watch porn! Yeah, two teenage girls being forced to fondle each other to a soundtrack of crappy ’70s electronica . . . ohhh yes, so enticing for me. And despite my best efforts, I’m still a virgin!

    But we frame sexual sin so DIFFERENTLY than other sin. The chain smoker and the arrogant beyotch and the compulsive liar and the woman who refuses to have sex for 7 years straight have hope, but not the NCMOer? You don’t have to endorse something to think it’s “not going to send you to hell.” I think that fast food is a societal ill, too, but something we can approach with moderation.

    As I said before, fine, be a hard-liner with teenagers, they need it anyway. But . . . it’s just stupid, silly, and outrageous to think that Mormons in their mid-twenties, who aren’t married, are toeing some un-scriptural line. The whole gay marriage brouhaha comes down to sex, no? That many of them see it as untenable to be celibate their whole lives? Well, I just don’t see what is so offensive or unreasonable and just . . . getting the hetero- sexual frustration out there. Two words: Harvey Unga. It’s happening, Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers, whether you like it or not, and just because we Millenials might be good at being “sneaky,” on the whole, doesn’t mean that millennia-old urges went away just because you “raised the bar.”

    I think these ideas/talks/”standards” hit especially close to home because of my background. I was born out of wedlock, to a 21-year-old mother, who chose to keep me (not the popular choice in or out of her church!) And you know what . . . I am SO DAMNED SICK of having her particular transgression so ‘marked.’ To hear these droning RS and Conference talks about how premarital just ruins your life and dooms you for good. I don’t know if those of you who HAVEN’T seen something of life, who were glowing naive idiot virgins on your wedding day and are happy with biannual conjugal relations, can really understand how much it affects young people who aren’t from “perfect” situations or don’t lead “perfect” lives. I had to cry through the treatment of the “bastards” (what an ugly, unfair word!) in The Scarlet Letter and A Tree Grows In Brooklyn . . .the last place I want to have to combat it is in a Christian church.

    I get it now. I’m no longer 14 and super-sensitive and STRIVING to prove that I was so different from that, that I wouldn’t make the same mistakes, that I could be above all sexual desire! Well, you know what . . . if my mother doesn’t make it to heaven, I don’t want to go. The woman is a rock in the Church, got married to a good man, is funny, intelligent, and gave up EVERYTHING to be a mother to me. :( So why from the bloggernacle, from literature, from talks, do I hear fornicators put in with child molesters and Judas Iscariot and hypocrites?!

    That verse in the Book of Mormon about banging being next to murder? Bullshit. Alma Jr was pretty clearly making a rhetorical point because he was pissed at his son for going to a prostitute . . . on a mission . . . this is just so, so far out of a league with teenage boys jerking off that it’s almsot comical. Sex without feeling/supporting evil institutions/shirking your duty . . . THESE were Corianton’s major sins, pretty clear from the text.

    As usual, when feeling frustrated with this, I look to Jesus. He ministered to plenty of horny women (7 live-in boyfriends? Wow).”Go your way and sin no more.” Not any drawn-out analogies. No (anachronisitc, heh heh) Victorian prudery about women’s pure and unsullied souls. No shaming, no squeamish talk of little factories . . . just calling a spade a spade, and then embracing those women as absolutely vital messengers of his Gospel. In this pre-Pentecost season, you know what, I WOULD like to . . . not squelch my passions, but at least figure out what I want in a marriage and in my life besides and beyond that. But I think Christ could build me up to do so a lot easier if I was humble and grateful and had a sense of humor, instead of having the shame and suicidal guilt and silly burqa-esque approaches I see to sex around me.

  190. 22sh,
    I don’t think that we can condone extra-marital sexual relations, but I do think that we can put the whole “sin next to murder” thing to bed. Or, failing that, we can admit that sexual sin is a lot more prevalent than we like to pretend (and, therefore, there are a lot of people next-to-murdering). Of course, just because a given sin is popular doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t speak out against it.

    I’m sorry that your mother was “marked.” It is too bad that people often don’t let things go long after the church and the Lord has.

  191. As usual, when feeling frustrated with this, I look to Jesus. He ministered to plenty of horny women (7 live-in boyfriends? Wow).”Go your way and sin no more.”

    This seems to be out of place in your rant, as Jesus said to the women who committed sexual sin to sin no more. He didn’t say, “Hey, you know what, I get it. You’re an adult. You have sexual desires. You aren’t married. So, all right, go ahead and go crazy.” When it comes to drawing the line, Jesus was much more clear about it than anyone else!

  192. I keep listening to the news speak about getting free online grant software so I’ve been looking around with the very best internet site to obtain 1.

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