If you’re a woman, are there only six deadly sins?

So in October we had a fifth-Sunday combined RS/PH lesson, and the bishop talked to us about pornography. Or rather, about the problem of pornography. (I don’t want to make our fifth-Sunday lessons sound more exciting than they are.) It was depressing to me. Depressing mostly because my son just turned ten, and it really hit home to me that what’s left of his innocence is destined to be taken from him very quickly, and there’s nothing I can do to stop that. We live in a pornified culture. You know, sex is everywhere, everything’s about sex, blah blah, sex sex sex, blah blah. A local frozen yogurt shop used to have this billboard featuring a very attractive set of female breasts clad in a tight sweater, and the slogan was “We’ll fill any cup size.” And, you know, that’s not hardcore or anything, but it’s just…come on. Et tu, yogurt? This is the world we live in. So, yeah, I came home and told my husband (who works in Primary and doesn’t get to attend the combined fifth-Sunday lessons) that he had to have another birds-and-bees-ish talk with the ten-year-old. Then I shook the oogies off, and my work was done.

Last week in Relief Society, the teacher was chagrined to say that the lesson she had to give was on Elder Holland’s conference address from April, “Place No More for the Enemy of My Soul,” which was about, essentially, pornography. This second lesson did not depress me. Rather, I was just somewhat bored—because, no offense to the teacher, who did a fine job, but we had just been over this material a scant four weeks earlier.

Right now, I know, 100 percent of the men reading this are overcome with laughter so bitter they are probably choking on it: “This broad is complaining about two porn lessons in four weeks? We have to listen to this crap ALL THE FREAKING TIME.” Yes, it’s very sad and I feel for you men who are tired of being told not to look at That Vile Filth (TVF) week after week, year after year, but since this is my post, can we get back to me and my feelings? Thanks.

I don’t have a problem with having lessons about the dangers of That Vile Filth. I don’t have a problem having two lessons in four weeks. But because I had already gotten the message before and because there wasn’t any of the sadly-common male-bashing that often crops up in all-female discussions of pornography, I found that my mind did tend to wander. At least one side of my brain wandered, and this is where it went:

It is understandable that these lessons tend to focus on male use of pornography because it is a fact that pornography use is much more common among men than women. (More women use porn these days than used to in days of old, but everybody’s using more porn these days because it’s so readily available.) However, what is/should be the purpose of a lesson given to females that focuses on male use of pornography? Is it to teach us compassion for men who have this problem? Because I am totally in favor of that. Is it to teach women whose husbands may have this problem that they are not to blame for their husbands’ use of porn, and to let them know that there is help available for both the afflicted husband and the affected wife? I’m on board with that, too. So that’s all good. But I also wonder this: Is it a problem that we almost always frame our lessons on pornography and lust as temptations that men and youth suffer, and almost never as real temptations faced by adult women?

No doubt, I have led a sheltered life. But I can’t recall ever observing a lesson or a talk in church that took women’s sexual desire seriously. There are lots of lessons about the cruelty of tempting men with our bare shoulders and decolletage (as well there should be, you hussies) and lots of lessons about the need to instill the value of chastity in our youth, and then there are lessons about how destructive it is when men use porn. Is lust ever a problem for grown women? Grown married women? Is there ever a reason to talk to a room of grown, married women about the sin of lust and how Satan tempts us in that direction? Or is it all about helping the men and the kids? (As usual—hmph!)

Now I’m going to take a moment to be serious. (You can tell that I’m being serious by the way I just said I was going to be serious. Here it comes.) I know what a pernicious evil pornography is. It exploits women, degrades human sexuality and destroys lives. I, like most of you, know families who have been adversely affected by it personally; in some cases marriages are destroyed and both spouses and children suffer. I know how incredibly easy it is to be exposed to it and how incredibly difficult it is to stop using it. This is why I freak out when I think about my sons ever having to deal with this problem. I worry much less about my daughters becoming habitual porn users. At the same time, however, I worry a lot more about my daughters developing a healthy attitude toward sexuality and the ability to express their sexuality in marriage. Probably because I’m a girl, I’m more conscious of girl issues. And as important as it is to understand both the dangers of porn and the need to protect our families from it, I think that we are neglecting to address important issues regarding female sexuality.

I’ll be honest with you all. It’s been hard for me to write this post because most of what I have to say is based on anecdotal evidence, and I know there are people out there who have studied studies and science and crap and who can tell me, “Well, actually, blah blah blah,” and so I think, “Who am I to talk about this subject?” But then I take a page out of Marianne Williamson’s book and think, “Who am I not to?” (You can tell I’m losing my serious edge by the way I just referenced Marianne Williamson. But bear with me.) The thing is, I know scads of women who were raised in the church, raised to believe in being chaste–which is good!–but also inadvertently taught that any sexual expression before marriage would make them damaged goods: they would be like chewed gum, a rose whose petals have been bruised and browned by too much fondling, a second-hand thing that no quality man would want. The only time we acknowledge female sexuality is when women are young and unmarried and in danger of being deflowered. We tell them unmarried sex will make them dirty (obligatory footnote about forgiveness and the Atonement notwithstanding). We also teach them (implicitly or inadvertently) that all sex-related problems will cease to exist once they are married because married sex is beautiful and godly and yippee for (temple) marriage. The reality is that sex-related problems start when you start having sex. Certainly there are many women who enter marriage and immediately (or very soon) start enjoying this Most Sacred Expression Of Love. But there are other women who have difficulty switching from sex-will-make-me-dirty mode to sex-is-beautiful-and-godly mode.

We tell both men and women that they have to repress their sexual thoughts and feelings prior to marriage (because indulging them can lead to premarital sex, which is bad). And I’m sure there must be men out there who develop complexes as a result; I just haven’t heard of any. (Please refer to my note above about living a sheltered life.) Everything that I’ve heard from men themselves and from women who are married to men indicates (to me) that a majority of men get married and think, “Woo-hoo! Free at last!” whereas a lot of (not all, but a lot of) women think, “Wait…really?” Maybe it’s because men are better at compartmentalizing than women are. (And before you start with the angry letters, let me say that this doesn’t mean they’re better at math than we are, so just lighten up.) But this is the kind of stuff women think about. Our sexual thoughts and feelings that were wicked before are now suddenly beautiful? So this is the godly sex we’ve heard so much about? Funny, we don’t feel very spiritual…or necessarily sexy, for that matter. It’s a problem, as many unfortunate couples know.

My co-blogger Natalie wrote a great post a couple years ago about the Twilight series and talked about the books as a form of pornography for women. The first comment (by the illustrious Julie M. Smith) referred to repressed Mormon housewives saying that their husbands liked that they were reading these books because, apparently, the books awakened them sexually in a way that benefited their husbands (since, you know, they’re there and vampires aren’t real, anyway). In my Relief Society’s lesson last Sunday, the teacher did mention that whereas men tend to respond to visual stimulation, women respond more to the written word, a la romance novels. (This was, however, no more than a footnote. The focus of the lesson was visual pornography–you know, the kind men like.) Certainly romance novels can get sexually explicit–and certainly there are even more explicit forms of literary pornography (using “literary” in its most liberal sense)–but Twilight, which is all about the thrill of the chaste, hardly qualifies to be in the same category. As spot-on as Natalie’s observations were (and I did think her post was brilliant), there are limits to the use of the word “pornography.” If anything that sparks a woman’s erotic imagination and gives her unrealistic expectations about sex and relationships is pornographic, that would render just about every romantic comedy suspect. Let’s not even start with those filthy Jane Austen novels. (But if Pride and Prejudice is pornography, who is more pornographic, Colin Firth or that dude in the Keira Knightley version? I’m just curious.) And the fact is, most men like it when their wives are revved-up sexually—so long as they’re the beneficiaries of that arousal–so maybe they’re not that interested in how their women got that way except insofar as they can replicate the cause so that the effect happens more often. Wives, generally, are not so indifferent about their husbands getting turned on by outside sources.

You may be wondering where I’m going with this. Well, join the club. I don’t know if I’m going anywhere. I just wonder about stuff, because I’m a wonderer. And so the post just rambles on and on, but I’ll try to wrap it up with a few questions, since that’s all I’ve got.

Is women’s lust simply not a big enough problem to warrant a lesson (or even part of a lesson) in Relief Society? Is it that we’re all too sexually repressed to admit that women (including maybe us) sometimes have lust? Or is women’s lust tacitly excused insofar as it benefits men sexually? And I’m not talking “benefits men sexually” in some sinister way, but only in the good “hey, honey, now that we’ve watched this Ben Affleck movie, would you care to strengthen the marital bond?” kind of way. (Um…just so we’re clear, “Ben Affleck” appears as a totally random example of someone who might do it for some women. I mean, he’s an actor, right? I think he was People’s Sexiest Man Alive once, so, you know, it’s not outside the realm of possibility.) As long as the woman’s not pretending her husband is Ben Affleck (or, you know, whoever), that’s not, like, wrong or anything. Right?

We hear all the time that men’s infidelity often/usually/almost always starts with pornography. What does women’s infidelity start with, and why don’t we hear more about it? Is it that women aren’t unfaithful as often as men are, or that (again) we’re too repressed to talk about it? Pornography can cause men to withdraw from their families (for a number of reasons). When women withdraw emotionally from their husbands, they tend to withdraw physically as well. (Or, if they don’t withdraw physically, they can become resentful of their husband’s sexual demands, which is also a problem.) How does that start, how common a problem is it, and what can be done about it? Is there any point in a Relief Society lesson on that?

Or is it that I’m just so bored at church that I would welcome a lesson chastising me for something other than poor self-esteem?

Comments

  1. “Is women’s lust simply not a big enough problem to warrant a lesson (or even part of a lesson) in Relief Society?”

    I think it’s a combination of things. 1) I think we still live under a certain amount of Victorian ideals when it comes to female sexuality. We still believe women are the fairer sex. We may even blush at the idea that women are sexual beings. And, 2) female sexuality is different than male sexuality. Male sexuality is visual and seeks multiple partners. It’s often about the act itself. Women, on the other hand, are rarely turned on by visuals alone and their sexual fantasies are based on relationships. This is why narrative is more appealing to women sexually (bodice-rippers) than pictures alone. Basically, their lustful thoughts are more likely to be to be directed at their husbands whom they love and are married to rather than nubile strangers in print and video. I think that’s why you hear a lot more caution / paranoia about who women associate with…. why it’s considered improper for men and women to associate. According to a conservative or Victorian’s take on women, the more time she spends with a man, the more likely she is to be wooed into an emotional relationship which will lead her to engage sexually.

  2. I think we need to be really careful in the Church not to *exclude* women from the pornography lessons, and that’s part of the problem. Outside the Church, several studies have shown that a whopping *30%* of women have looked at pornography in the last year. If pornography is anything like the divorce rate I would assume that number is very likely similar among Church members as well. Amongst those 30%, 3% of those had consumed pornography at least once weekly. So if you think it’s a problem with just the men, think again – it’s a huge problem across the board, especially as pornography becomes more widely accepted for both men *and* women at younger and younger ages.

    I think part of the problem is we aren’t teaching this to women that it could be a problem for them. Because of that, I strongly expect that 30% number to continue to go up in the future, especially in the Church. Bishops aren’t asking women about pornography like they are the men. Women are surprised to know they could have a problem just like the men. Our lessons are built around the men using pornography. I fear if we *don’t* focus on the women, the problem will exist just as badly for women as it does men in the future.

    There are certainly 7 deadly sins for women, just as there are men, and I think the problem is that we are ignoring that 7th amongst women in the Church.

  3. @2: “I fear if we *don’t* focus on the women, the problem will exist just as badly for women as it does men in the future.”

    I don’t really buy this. I think it’s overlooking the inherent differences between male and female sexuality. The proof is in the statistic itself. What percentage of non-religiously encumbered men do you think look at porn? Darn near all. Yet, the rate for women is only 30% where only 3% look at it on a WEEKLY basis. Sorry, I just don’t see female sexuality ever being satiated by what we think of as “pornography” (meaning explicit sexual content rather than romance novel type media).

  4. Heather, that’s part of the problem – women don’t see it as an issue when Bishops offices are seeing more and more women weekly with porn addictions. The number’s going up, not stagnating, and it isn’t anywhere near peaking – that’s for women in the Church, not just outside the Church. This is a major problem, as much so for women as it is for men. As it becomes more and more acceptable by society it will become more and more a problem. Ask any Counselor in the Church who sees these people on a daily basis – the problem is widespread across both genders.

  5. Here is just one article supporting my statistics: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/695235610/Gen-XXX-findings-surprising.html

  6. See this post by an LDS Licensed Family Therapist on Mormon Matters as well: http://mormonmatters.org/2010/10/09/why-is-noone-addressing-women-watching-porn/

  7. Also, see this page – all kinds of stuff here, especially targeting Christians:

    http://www.safefamilies.org/sfStats.php

    Note:

    “28% those admitting to sexual addiction are women (internet-filter-review.com).

    34% of female readers of Today’s Christian Woman’s online newsletter admitted to intentionally accessing Internet porn in a recent poll and 1 out of every 6 women, including Christians, struggles with an addiction to pornography (Today’s Christian Woman, Fall 2003).”

    (this was in 2003!)

  8. Also note that the above stat was quoted by President Hinckley here: http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,49-1-479-20,00.html – I’m guessing he’s seeing similar among Church members? Note that this is *internet porn* – not Romance novels.

  9. Last one, I promise – in this one, a study reports Utah as the number 1 state in online porn subscriptions, so I don’t buy that Mormons are a smaller stat than the rest of the world:

    http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705288350/Utah-No-1-in-online-porn-subscriptions-report-says.html

    Maybe part of the problem is that we’re denying that this is a much bigger problem amongst our population? (as members – I think our leaders are screaming it from the housetops)

  10. William Gibson says:

    Does LDS culture contribute to the problem by commodifying and fetishising virginity?

  11. I’m not bragging when I say that I’m a very good-looking man and know first hand that women have lust, and I’m also an unmarried virgin and I can tell you straight up that it has been almost like torture to remain in this virgin state with the displays of female lust that I have been forced to endure, women are just more picky than men are, it takes a much better looking man to make a woman hot n bothered than it does a woman for a man. I’m just tired of peoples ignorance when it comes to female sexuality, they can be just as lusty as men, and I don’t think the church addresses that enough.

  12. Here is one o fmy problems with how the Church handles the issue of Porn. I really don’t understand what the physiological difference between watching porn is and engaging in sex is, at least for a man. They are going to have arousal… that produces… so why is one bad and the other not, if, as we hear constantly, porn naturally addicting is sex naturally addicting? If a wife turns down a her husband for sex is he not upset because the “fruit cocktail” of brain whatevers has no place to go now ( I love hearing about Brain stuff from a Stake President who is a fired CEO of a trucking company…!) Why is porn bad and sex not if they have the same physiological reactions in men? One of the inactive brethren I used to visit told me he went to LDS counselling through the services thing and the therapist told stuff he never heard from any untrained Church leader and that is how he stopped doing it!

  13. When my bishop gave that fifth Sunday lesson, he actually told us what percentage of men in our ward and YM who are our sons/pass us the Sacrament/we taught in Primary, etc currently have a porn problem. Those were very large percentages. It made many people uncomfortable; the bishop is a numbers guy and that is the way his mind works. It made me wonder if anyone in my ward was actually worthy to perform Priesthood ordinances, but the new Church handbook cleared that up–they are. Sure, me and my temple recommend can’t do anything other than pray, but men who can’t control themselves can use the power of God to bless their babies. OK.

    Anyway, here is what I am wondering: I have heard women make this point a few times here in the bloggernaccle that women are susceptible, too, and why don’t we talk about it. So I wonder what exactly you want to be said about it? As humans, we are susceptible to plenty of “bad” thoughts, including lust. I am not sure I want my RS teacher sharing her own struggles with lusting after her work colleague or wondering how different/better her life would be if she had married her husbands’ brother, rather than him.

    Also, when people use these large large numbers to emphasize that this is a wide-spread problem, I wonder what message that sends to people, including youth. I wonder if it makes them think: “heck, 82% of the adult men in my ward do this, it can’t be that bad. Or Fetch, my totally awesome YM leaders must be included in that huge percentage of adult men who have done this and he scored a hot wife and blesses his babies and otherwise rocks–the Church must not really think this is that serious. It’s probably like lying–yeah, you shouldn’t do it, but, like, everyone does. So just try not to.”

    That just doesn’t seem like the best way to stop a tidal wave of porn problems.

  14. Nice post, and good questions. I wonder:

    1. If GAs struggle to address this topic because it’s weird coming from old men to the women of the church.

    2. If the Gen’l RS / YW leadership struggles to address this topic because the GAs are unresponsive (see #1).

  15. The name you’re searching for from Pride and Prejudice is Matthew McFayden. And yes, he’s dreamy. Really dreamy.

  16. JD, I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking. And I plan on finding out what that is.

  17. I think your concept of sex is more influenced by your family than by any institution…what is not said being as important as what is said.

    I’ve grown up with a car analogy for sex–you wouldn’t let an 8yo drive a car…not because driving a car is bad, but because it’s SO powerful. A child can’t think clearly to navigate all possible circumstances, nor can a child physically handle a car. One you get to be 15 you can’t legally drive, but you really could …you are physically and can be mentally ready to drive…but it’s not legal.

    With sex, once you are mature (and I’m not giving an age because there are some really immature people at any age), the damage can be minimal…for yourself. There is still Huge potential for damage of others and especially that pesky but all present possibility of an innocent baby entering the equation even in mutally agreeing and totally responsible adults.

    I dont’ really think we can have the pornography discussion unless we do start to agree that women and men really are different. It’s not that women don’t like looking at nice male bodies…it just isn’t the same. Generally men are more visually stimulated…it’s a bit more physical. Affairs for men and women tend to be for different reasons…men tend to be for physical reasons and women tend to be for emotional. YMMV.

    We can say all we want that women can be as lusty..and it is absolutely true. We can say all we want about how it should be the same…but I don’t know what women you know… the women I know kinda have this idea that the whole sexual experience for men and women is different. maybe it’s the equipment involved, maybe it’s that only one of the two has the potential to get pregnant (and all the life changing, body changing, hormone changing that involves), maybe it’s that during a mans’ life his body doesn’t change radically over the course of a month…it’s just a different experience.
    I’m not saying it isn’t great for both.

  18. Expressly not intending to hijack this topic, I think we should stop calling it a problem with pornography among us, and start calling it a problem with intimacy among us, one manifestation of which is that our men try to find comfort in porn.

    And when I say intimacy, I’m not talking merely about sexual intimacy. I’m talking about full spectrum intimacy.

    My observation is that, as a whole, in our average congregations, we Mormons kind of stink at it.

    I live in the south, and I can anecdotally tell you that if you eye-to-eye engage and greet a southern black person, you’ll often in three minutes standing in a line get more heart coming back from them than you sometimes get in a full 3 hours at church. Same goes for the Latins who work the McDonalds. An eye-to-eye smile and greeting at the drive up window will get you a huge return of love from their eyes and face.

    But my observations are that at church, a substantial of the hallway conversation is surfacy, and a far to large portion of our lessons and gospel discussion is arm’s length or platitudes.

    I have wondered the cause of what I observe to be so. Is it that we have such strong British Isle’s roots? Is it a left over from our jaw-to-the-wind pioneer ancestors that scrapped out an existence in the mountain west? Or is it that we’re basically insecure? Or that, because we have such high standards of behavior, we are more prone to sending signals of (and actual performing) judgment of others, so they don’t feel safe?

    Perhaps when the ice flows during the gathering, some of that ice will be our our social interactions at church.

  19. Sorry about the mistakes, I typed that fast before heading out for the day.

  20. I will, once again, note my puzzlement at the certainty with which people assert that men are more susceptible to visual arousal. The studies purporting to show this are mostly crap (showing, for instance, different brain activity as measured by PET, but reporting in the fine print that self-reporting by the subjects indicated similar degrees of arousal in male & female subjects), and as far as I know, no one’s claiming to have experienced both male arousal and female arousal to compare. It fits nicely with our presumptions about women’s “spiritual” nature that they would be driven by more abstract stimuli (words, emotional cues) and not by the base visual desires that animate men, but what evidence do we have that this is so?

    (Here, for instance, is just one of several recent studies that complicate the notion that men are more visually aroused than women: http://www.science20.com/news_articles/gender_and_porn_where_men_and_women_look_first).

  21. Latter-day Guy says:

    the displays of female lust that I have been forced to endure … it takes a much better looking man to make a woman hot n bothered…

    #11 may be one of my all time favorite comments. What a terrible, terrible challenge. If mythology has any application to real life, you should steer clear of reflecting pools.

  22. Shut up, L-d G. I was about to ask him for his number.

  23. Latter-day Guy says:

    …women are just more picky than men are…

    Incidentally, I’m not sure I agree with that. Having played “Who Settled?” on many occasions with my friends, most of the time it was the female partner that married/dated beneath herself (at least in the looks department).

  24. Latter-day Guy says:

    22 :-)

  25. 21-22 are very funny but 23–what a TERRIBLE game! Cease, please.

  26. Latter-day Guy says:

    It’s not like we informed the couple of our judgment, esodhiambo. Besides, in my BYU family life class, we were taught that the #1 thing you can do to ensure a happy marriage was (no joke) “Lower your expectations.” We were just applying the curriculum to real life.

    Anyhow, /threadjack.

  27. Just so we’re clear, it really makes no nevermind to me if women are just as into the visual stimulation as men are or are more into the abstract stuff. Women are individuals, and everyone is different anyway, so however an individual woman gets her kicks is sort of irrelevant to the question of whether or not there is something to be gained by addressing the problem of lust/pornography as a female problem. There is a written equivalent of hardcore pornography–not just soft-core romance novels–that is readily available on the internet (and much less likely to require a credit card, as in never), and if a woman is just as turned on by that as another might be by pictures of whatever, what difference does it make? I’m asking that seriously. Because maybe it does make a difference.

    The other question I have, which I admit may have been hard to discern from my verbose post, which went way over my self-inflicted word limit, is whether or not we view women’s sexuality as benign (regardless of its strength or motivation) whereas men’s is (nearly) always viewed as this raging monster that needs to be caged.

    (I will also go on record as NOT being in favor of Relief Society sisters sharing their lustful feelings for their coworkers and regrets about not marrying their husband’s brother or whatever. I don’t think men getting up in their priesthood quorums and confessing that they look at porn or go to strip clubs is a common occurrence, so maybe we could follow the priesthood model in that regard.)

  28. As far as why the topic is addressed as it is, across gender lines, I find myself wondering if it just has to do with the cost of pornography use to the church, and how that varies by gender.
    Now, I’m going to go with a couple of stereotypes here, so forgive me….
    But, on average, when men become addicted to porn, the ramifications are costly to the church as a whole. Not enough worthy priesthood holders to perform ordinances and hold high-up callings. Women tend to have a problem with their husbands using porn, and divorce is more likely to follow. With divorce comes less stable families, which tend to be a drain on church resources, rather than a strong, stable family being an asset to the church. Even less tithing money coming in could be traced to male porn use, via a couple of different paths.
    Female porn viewing, otoh, I think is viewed as not having a particularly high cost, institutionally. Sure, God doesn’t like it, and it could hamper the individual woman’s spirituality. But, since women don’t hold the priesthood, the worthiness problems just don’t affect the whole congregation like they do with men. And, as described in the Twilight phenomenon, (“Who cares what got her turned on? She’s here in my bed, ready to go!”), the prevailing attitude (whether it is true or not is up for debate) is that men don’t really care if their wives get a thrill from porn…as long as they – the husbands – get the benefit. Heck….one could even speculate that, if porn use in women = more married couple sex, then porn use in women could theoretically lead to more pregnancies, and thus, more child of record baptisms, higher church membership, etc. Yes, it’s a stretch. But you get the idea….with men, porn use can and does cost the church quite a lot. With women, not so much. And if the church’s choice of which sins to condemn in 5th Sunday lessons is based one which sins are hurting the church as a whole, rather than sins that have a high personal cost, but a low corporate cost, then it makes sense that it is being handled the way it is.
    All that being said, it’s probably more likely to just be Victorian sensibilities, and a feeling that we must maintain the “women are angels” stance.

  29. LDG and others. #11 should be taken seriously when he describes the sexual harrassment he has endured. If a man makes strong unwanted advances on a woman would you react differently? But if a woman makes strong unwanted advances the guy is considered “lucky”?
    This is why sexual molestation of teen or preteen boys by older women goes unreported. Boys/young men who are “forced” or manipulated into sexual situations are told that they are lucky and given a high five.
    The double standard seems to be alive and kicking here at BCC this morning.

  30. men who can’t control themselves can use the power of God to bless their babies

    Is someone with a pornography problem really considered temple worthy? Is not that the new standard for performing (or at least being the voice in) priesthood ordinances?

    most of the time it was the female partner that married/dated beneath herself (at least in the looks department)

    I could be completely clueless about this, but it seems to me that the variance of male “looks” is perhaps much less than that of females (the latter at least from a male perspective). Is this actually the case from a female perspective? Or do women place the physical appearance of men on the enormously “broad” scale that men do women? Women certainly seem to evaluate their own physical appearance on a similarly disparate scale. Men, as far as I can tell, not so much.

  31. Kevin Barney says:

    I was fairly shocked by no. 13′s report that a bishop disclosed percentages of porn use in the congregation. Yes, it’s not disclosing names, but if the percentages are high, as was reported, it’s putting the entire ward under a shadow of suspicion. Just more evidence that we Mormons don’t really understand what confidentiality in pastoral settings is all about.

  32. jks,

    The double standard seems to be alive and kicking here at BCC this morning.

    Yellow Card

  33. Latter-day Guy says:

    Not to put too fine a point on it, jks, but: balls.

    I can tell you straight up that it has been almost like torture to remain in this virgin state with the displays of female lust that I have been forced to endure…

    Why would unwanted “sexual harassment” make it difficult to remain a virgin? Are you implying the “displays of female lust” were acts of attempted rape? If not, the difficulty in preserving his chastity was at least partially a matter of his own (quite understandable) arousal. Don’t muddy the waters by tying this to child molestation. Molestation is, of course, awful. In this case, it’s also a red herring.

  34. Let’s leave #11 alone. His point has been made, and we can all move on, I think.

  35. i have to disagree with the comment that men cheat for physical reasons. a lot of studies have proved that the #1 reason men cheat is because of self esteem. they enjoy the ego boost that they get from their new partner. if men have physical needs, they often take matters… into their own hands.

  36. It is part of the double standard that men always want to have sex and will never turn in down.
    Here is a guy who is turning down sex despite being interested. The double standard is saying that there is no such thing. All a guy needs is a willing woman and he will always have sex.
    I think these commenters would agree that if a woman is making out (and even after she was turned on) and the guy keeps going after she says stop he is crossing a line. Just because she is aroused doesn’t mean she wants to have sexual intercourse or other sexual activity) ‘Why is it that this guy is one on one with a woman and if she keeps pushing after he turns her down he can’t say it is unwanted? Just because a guy gets an erection doesn’t mean he has committed to having sex. He has the right to say no, stop please.

  37. Mark D–this is text from the new handbook

    “A bishop may allow a father who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood to name and bless his children even if the father is not fully temple worthy. Likewise, a bishop may allow a father who is a priest or Melchizedek Priesthood holder to baptize his children or to ordain his sons to offices in the Aaronic Priesthood. A Melchizedek Priesthood holder in similar circumstances may be allowed to stand in the circle for the confirmation of his children, for the conferral of the Melchizedek Priesthood on his sons, or for the setting apart of his wife or children. However, he may not act as voice.”

    Nope–you don’t have to be temple worthy to bless, baptize, or ordain to the Aaronic priesthood.

  38. Wait–what was the question again? I lost track after you mentioned Colin Firth. Mmmm, Colin Firth.

  39. Latter-day Guy says:

    “He has the right to say no, stop please.”

    Of course. And there’s nothing in #11 to indicate that the women in question didn’t respect the fact that “no means no” (barring further information from the author, of course).

    In any case, as per #34, /threadjack.

  40. I’m a 28 unmarried male virgin and I will be the first to say that I have a couple of major fetishes that many people would consider included in porn and I’m exposed to such things on a daily basis. However, I’ve come to see it as any other habit I’ve ever had: am I in control of it or is it in control of me? Pretty much 99% of everything I see is while I’m looking at/for something else and, if what I see has crossed my personal line, I simply walk away and look elsewhere.

    As such, be warned though because there is a LOT of really sick stuff out there that ranges from cringe-worthy to vomit-inducing.

  41. Kevin–

    Yes, it was shocking. I believe it was not pre-meditated and that the bishop (a total numbers guy) wanted to impress upon us that this was a real issue for us. I understand that many many of us in attendance might shrug and think “porn has no affect on my life” and that hearing that number got our attention. I do not think it was a wise thing to have said, though.

    I think the above analysis of men’s porn problems “costing” the Church and women’s porn problems costing only the individual is pretty interesting.

    I also wonder of the difference is on the result. When we talk about porn use by LDS men, we talk about it as a problem, whether it leads to dishonesty, unrealistic expectations of partners, a turning away from one’s partner rather than towards, etc etc. So far most of the examples of women getting turned on, whether by erotica or porn, have been women being sexual with their husbands. If that isn’t a problem for either of them, then is it a problem? It seems then it is simply erotica/porn use.

  42. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 23
    My friends and I play a variation on that when we’re at nicer restaurants here in L.A. We call it “Who’s picking up the tab?” You can predict it every time. A well-dressed, withered old man is eating with an (obviously enhanced) voluptuous young bleached blond. Guess who picks up the tab?

    Wasn’t there a post on FMH a while back that debated whether or not the Twilight series was emotional porn for women?

    Re #11: If JD is so hot, assuming he’s past his mid-20s why is he still single anyway? Of course, as gst and I know oh-so-well, it’s lifelong burden regardless of one’s marital status.

  43. Great post! The most recent podcast at Mormon Stories is a really good discussion of female sexuality in the church. I agree with them that in LDS rhetoric women are largely figured as the gatekeepers of masculine sexuality rather than sexual agents in their own right. This has certainly been my experience. Things like masturbation and pornography are presented as male issues (“For Young Men Only”) and young women are expected to control/ward off scary male sexuality by dressing modestly, setting restrictions during dating, etc. It is rarely acknowledged that the young woman might be the one who wants sex, or who is tempted by explicit internet material. This can cause all kinds of problems in marriage, where most husbands would prefer their wives to be at least a little bit sexual, and to desire him. That switch can be hard to turn on when it’s been firmly OFF for so long.

  44. Oh yeah, and the correct answer is Colin Firth. Always Colin Firth!

  45. As far as men not being more visual…really? Is society that powerful that the porn industry isn’t going crazy in the female sector solely because women have been socialized to not realize they are visually aroused similarly to men? And this would also be true with all the romance novels out there? emotional porn for men just has happened because…? why?

    Are these generalizations…yup. I just have a hard time thinking that the path of arousal isn’t different for men and women.

  46. Just to pick on one little piece that jumped out at me…

    As you say, women are expected to make a sudden transition on her wedding day from “sex is dirty and a worse sin than anything but murder” to “sex is sacred and holy.”

    What I want to know is, how on earth does any woman manage to have a successful, enjoyable sex life coming from *either* of those mindsets????

  47. If you want evidence for women being able to be aroused through a visual medium, go see a Twilight movie in a crowded theater and listen for the womens’ reaction when the first shirt comes off. A friend of mine said it well in his review of the second movie:

    “Bella’s bleeding and Jacob takes his shirt off to act as a bandage. At this point all of the women in the theater where like, ‘Owaaahhh~.’ So let’s not even pretend what they’re really here for anymore!”

  48. Back Row (43) – Thank you for mentioning the Mormon Stories podcast. Coincidentally, I started listening to the first part last night, when I was still in the process of trying to finish (or at least put an end to) my own post. But I had to stop listening before I decided that my own take was just redundant and/or pointless and then I would have had nothing to post for Advent. But I do think the podcast is worth listening to for people who are interested in this issue.

    LDS Female Sexuality with Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife

  49. philomytha (46) – I have asked myself that question oft.

  50. I’m not one to reference anything John Dehlin-related very often, largely because he annoys me. But on his project Mormon Stories recently Natasha Helfer Parker interviewed Dr. Jennifer Finlayson- Fife and they talked about her dissertation on “LDS Female Sexuality”. It really was a great series.

    Many of the points that you bring up, along with more evidence and some hypotheses, were discussed during the interview. I really recommend that you listen to it Rebecca, along with anyone else who reflects on why Female sexuality seems much more repressed in the LDS church, and why women have a harder time transitioning from virginity to marital sexuality.

  51. Your question–Why women don’t have more lessons on the sexual issues of greatest salience to them–is really interesting. The two most devastating divorces I’ve watched in recent months both related to female desire.

    One reason I think it is tricky to talk about is that it is easier to portray porn as an individual sin. There is a lot of “it’s never the wife’s fault” talk, and the solutions are largely individual.

    But once we start talking about women shutting down sexually in their marriages or looking for companionship outside marriage–it is harder for us to talk about it as an individual problem. We tend to think there is more to the story–which makes for more land mines. I would be nervous if I were giving a 5th Sunday lesson on the need for women to relate to their husband’s sexually, knowing that there are probably couples who might interpret that in some scary ways. Easier to tell men to turn off the internet, even if both are as likely to strain a marriage.

    I don’t think the divide between an individual sexual issues and a marital sexual issues is very neat. But I think our lessons are as related to that divide as to the male/female sexual divide.

  52. Anectotally regarding pornography use with women: My co-worker – one of the counselors in his Elder’s Quorum – was recently asked to speak in Sacrament Meeting (which I feel is not the appropriate setting to discuss pr0n – ever) on pr0n. He was told that the reason why is that many women in the RS were struggling with addiction – many. The RS President had been asked to teach on the subject twice, and both times couldn’t bring herself to do it, and ended up having lessons about virtue – or other nebulous ideas.

    I imagine it is much less common, but when it happens, I really feel bad for women in the church that do struggle with the temptation to look at prawn. Its isolating enough as a man, but as a women I can’t imagine how different/isolated/damaged you would feel in a culture that i _insists_ that it is a male problem (even though we give a small wink and nod that, yes some women deal with it too)

  53. ESO, #13:

    Also, when people use these large large numbers to emphasize that this is a wide-spread problem, I wonder what message that sends to people, including youth. I wonder if it makes them think: “heck, 82% of the adult men in my ward do this, it can’t be that bad. Or Fetch, my totally awesome YM leaders must be included in that huge percentage of adult men who have done this and he scored a hot wife and blesses his babies and otherwise rocks–the Church must not really think this is that serious. It’s probably like lying–yeah, you shouldn’t do it, but, like, everyone does. So just try not to.”

    That just doesn’t seem like the best way to stop a tidal wave of porn problems.

    I think this point is spot on. I’ve read that one of the most effective ways to get teens to use fewer drugs is to report to them the actual percentages of their peers that are using. They tend to dramatically overestimate how many are, and when they hear the true values, they figure (I guess) that it’s not such a hot thing to be doing after all.

    Your analysis suggests that perhaps it works the same way for surprisingly high percentages, and I suspect you’re right. If everyone hears that everyone else is doing it, then it becomes normal, and it’s seen as being fine.

  54. Looks like it took me too long to post #50, and in the interim it was mentioned twice . . . Yay for me.

  55. Carrie (#28), that’s an interesting analysis. There might be something to your point that General Authorities are more concerned about men using porn because they don’t want to lose priesthood holders, and less concerned about women using porn because they think it will only do good for marital sex.

    But I think there’s a simpler explanation: GAs are men. They tend to focus on problems where men are the subjects. Porn use by men is such a problem. Porn use by women is not. Compare, for example, the (lack of discussion) of porn use by women to the (endless) discussion of women wearing modest clothes, which is also a men-as-subject/women-as-object issue.

  56. My wife must have obviously been responding on an emotional level when we were watching Invictus yesterday and all those rugby players pulled off their jerseys after their match…it was definitely about how nice they seemed or maybe how hard they’d played. Yeah…

  57. A few things:

    1 Pornography is explicit sexual content that is produced by sleazy people who contribute to the traumatization of women and men (the performers) in order to make money off of the inherent sexual curiosity that humans (the viewers) have. It is a bad business.

    2 Men and Women are curious about how the proper function of sexuality, and what is normal among other men and women. This is a pretty normal impulse.

    3 The description of Pornography as an unstoppable “Destructive Force” that targets men kind of mystifies it and makes it into voodoo magic. This gets into the way of dealing with it for what it is, which is very simple. Someone trying to make money off of something that people are perpetually curious about.

    4 An obsessive curiosity about how other people react sexually can become destructive because it essentially has no resolution.

    5 This obsessive curiosity could result from a nagging disconnect between the way sexuality is presented within the church (what someone described as a male centric “caged beast” and how it is actually experienced in a healthy married relationship – a definite two way street. Who cares whether someone is “turned on visually” or “by stories” or whatever. Its a false distinction. People are sexual. Mormons rightly view the best place for exploring that to be a committed relationship. Its mentally healthy and emotionally rewarding to open yourself up completely to someone that returns the favor.

    6 Women in the Church who are unable to communicate or acknowledge their own sexuality, or who have actively been made paranoid about their husband’s susceptibility to Voodoo Porn are put into the terrible and delusional role of gatekeeper and purity policewoman for life. The power of sexuality native to all human beings is a really bad thing to have responsibility over. Kind of a monumental task if you ask me. It also has the effect, in marriage, of the wife essentially becoming a spy in her own house. It destroys the potential for intimacy because it begins with a false premise.

    6 Positive sex ed isn’t the Church’s job, but the Church could help by backing away from overly specific negative sex ed (the same way it has become increasingly silent on birth control) to allow parents greater freedom to control that conversation and raise their children. The Church’s goal is obviously to establish Marriage as the best possible arena for sexuality. Thats good. Its just not something they are good at talking about.

  58. B. Russ (52) – I had that same thought. How many women who struggle with a porn addiction would be inclined to report it to their (male) bishops (or even to another woman)?

  59. Rebecca, I can’t believe you think men are better at math than women!!!!!! :O

    More seriously…..

    The only context I’ve heard a female-targeted porn lesson is to remind us that our bodies are actually also pornographic (that’s why it’s everywhere and so many men have seen it!), so we need to support our poor noble men and cover up the goods.

    What I would love to see, in P-hood and RS, is a discussion of society’s exploitation of women’s bodies. When I think of that yogurt ad you mentioned, I worry about the effect it has on women as well as on lust-filled men. I would love to hear a lesson on prostitution coming from a perspective of compassion for the prostitute and condemnation of the circumstances that led her to her choice. I would love a really open discussion of how widespread sexual assault is, and clear communication about how marital rape is possible. I want us to focus on developing YW’s self-esteem for something other than being beautiful and virtuous and chaste.

    Then again, I am rarely in my current RS, so maybe they are already having really stellar discussions about all these topics.

  60. micah (57) – Good points, especially #6. Oh, and the other #6, too.

  61. Natalie B. says:

    55: Carrie and Ziff -

    I really like both of those points. When women look at porn, it seems often viewed as something that makes them more attractive–like it cures them from a sexual deficiency and should thus be encouraged.

    Ziff- I agree that this might be an area that exposes of the limits of a male leadership being able to communicate with women. I would feel incredibly uncomfortable if GAs began to discuss female sexuality. The problem is not so much that I’d feel uncomfortable acknowledging female desire–I’m actually more bothered with them discussing modesty, because it reinforces the objectification you discuss–but that women have to have a man interview them about chastity for things like temple recommends.

    There are just too many creepy problems with men yielding power talking with women about sex, especially if those conversations translate into one-on-one interviews.

  62. Observer (f.k.a. Eric. S.) says:

    I’m so FREAKIN’ tired of hearing about pron–and not because of “the-sinful-take-the-truth-to-be-hard” perspective or whatever. It consumes so much of what I expect to be an uplifting time of worship during my week. The most annoying part is that I’m not entirely convinced that condemning pron every other week in a general or local meetings is going to help those who struggle with it either: that’s just trimming dead limbs instead of striking at the stump and roots. Probably also makes those who struggle feel like crap too to boot.

    I have a close close friend that attends a region LDS “addictions” class for reasons other than pron. Two weeks ago he said a woman walked in and–at the introductory part of the weekly meeting–she said she was there because she was addicted to porn. It’s not just a guy issue (she’s like 1 in 10,000 probably).

    B.Russ – 50 – I listened to the dissertation too, and sent it to my better half, who also listened and really liked it. We had a great time talking about it. And I think her dissertation and related subjects only begins to touch on the real issues that lead a lot of dudes to check out the pr0n.

  63. About this idea that the Church doesn’t want to lose any more men, I am wondering if there isn’t a catch-22 going on with it. if I am struggling with the addiction and the Bishop knows that he is less inclined to give me a calling and so what does the guy do when he has an addiction? turns to it for solace, let’s say he felt passed over for a calling, where do you turn when you are feeling bad about yourself? which fuels the addiction even more.

  64. Ziff #53 and ESO #13, I think there’s a lot to saying that if 86% of all Priesthood holders in a ward are addicted to porn, than it may have a normalizing effect. If it were discussed more openly among women, I believe more women would start doing it. Part of the reason I believe masturbation is not a terrible sin is that I had guy friends in high school who told me that all guys do it. It normalized the behavior (for men) in my mind.

    In my YW years, porn and masturbation were never addressed at length in a lesson to girls. Never knowing any YW in my peer group who openly talked about being into either was probably one of the things that kept me away from both. It was out of conversation, out of mind, for me.

    So, a question could be, do Church leaders realize that by saying how common it is (among men) they may be normalizing it and increasing the problem?

  65. 60 – Ha ha… Oops. Thank you for being merciful and only pointing out one of the mountain of typos in that post!!

    64 – An interest in pornography stems from a curiosity about sex. You can’t increase that problem. Its already turned up to eleven automatically.

  66. Forgot to mention in my previous comment that I also had a bishop announce during a 5th Sunday meeting how many men were currently seeing him because of pornography, it was in a married student ward at BYU and it was over 30%. He said the stake president had asked him to tell us this with wives present so that we would be aware of what our husbands were up to.

  67. I think lack of intimacy, emotional if you are single or dating or physical if you are married could be another reason why it is a problem. Remember too the addiction isn’t really the problem as others have said it was causes it is the problem

  68. The Church obviously values the presence of worthy MP holders more than the presence of active women when it comes to assessing growth, stability, whether or not a unit is worthy of being made into a stake or having a temple built nearby, etc. It stands to reason that even if leaders believed men and women were looking at porn at equal rates and with equally detrimental consequences for personal spiritual health, they would still be more concerned with the impact that male porn use had and the costs it entailed on the Church as an institution than they would be over female porn use.

  69. I think a “benign neglect” approach might work in church if we lived in a society that supported our values as normative. But we don’t. I think we could stand to back off on some of the rhetoric, but how much is too much and how little is too little?

    He said the stake president had asked him to tell us this with wives present so that we would be aware of what our husbands were up to.

    Am I the only person who finds this odd, almost like they’re encouraging women to be suspicious of their husbands? I mean, I’m all for everyone not being naive, but on the other hand, shouldn’t they just be encouraging the individual men to be honest with their wives? And maybe have general lessons about being aware of pornography problems? No ward/stake-specific statistics necessary?

  70. Am I the only person who finds this odd, almost like they’re encouraging women to be suspicious of their husbands?

    No, I also find it odd. Odd, destructive, and wrong.

  71. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 70
    It also strikes me as counter-productive. Ramping up the shame factor only exacerbates compulsive behaviors.

  72. “Or is it that I’m just so bored at church that I would welcome a lesson chastising me for something other than poor self-esteem?”

    Seriously.

  73. a naughty mouse says:

    this one hits home for me because i, a woman, had an affair this year. that started with pornography. that started with talking about sex with a group of friends. that started with breaking down the sacredness of sexuality in a public forum. that started with the idea that mormon women are especially repressed and the belief that maybe if we talked about it more openly, we’d be able to better understand ourselves and the relationships we have with our husbands.
    the fact is, i knew pornography was a big bad thing. and i did avoid it for many years. but i talked about what i wanted all the time. and my desires were deviant, i wanted to be with a woman. and i was tired of feeling shamed for it.
    and now the shame i feel after what i’ve done encompasses the whole of the shame i felt through all the years. and as a woman in the church, i feel like there is no community. i have to confess my sins to men, be counseled by men, and pretend in RS like nothing is wrong.

  74. it reminds me of a friend’s stake in which the stake president asked wives to never go to bed before their husbands as a method to discourage private computer use and thus pornography. that’s the kinda trust and babysitting a good marriage is based on. are they allowed to let their husband go to work? It’s kinda TSAish in it’s approach. heavyhanded and guilty until proven innocent.

  75. John Fueston says:

    First, thank you for presenting such a well-written article. Good writing is in short supply these days, and is always welcome.

    I’m working on my doctorate in psychotherapy. In the past two (or so) years I have seen a significant increase in the number of women seeking help for their porn addictions. I have noticed an even sadder (and more pronounced) increase in the number of teenage girls involved in porn. I agree that at least part of the reason for the increase is that porn is so readily available.

    However, we can’t lock people away from bad influences. Your billboard example hit the nail on the head. The stuff is all around, so what do we do? Even if we could do away with all porn, anyone can be a holy man on top of a mountain, so what would be the point?

    I wish I had a neat-o, three-point plan for getting over porn addiction, but there just isn’t one. Maybe we give the stuff too much power. I believe that maybe, just maybe, part of the problem is that we talk about porn so much in church that it makes us just a little too curious.

    As a whole, we are a terribly repressed people, sexually speaking. You rightly point out that we send mixed messages regarding sexuality. I remember on my wedding day pondering the fact that what was a sin that could get me excommunicated in the morning was a commandment in the evening. We live with this sort of cognitive dissonance regarding our sexuality, and it’s just not healthy.

    I wish there were easy answers. I think that in the church we like easy answers. It is somehow comforting to be told what to do. It absolves us of the responsibility of thinking and taking responsibility for ourselves. Perhaps we could begin by acknowledging that we are sexual beings, and that this is a good thing. Some will say that we already do that, but we don’t. The overall message I’ve gotten my whole life is that sex is bad, but tolerated in marriage (I’m paraphrasing here, but that’s the gist of the message).

    Regarding your examples of how women are “damaged goods” if they are tainted by premarital sexual experience– I remember a fireside I attended as an undergrad. The speaker was apostle LeGrand Richards (that really dates me, doesn’t it?). He said a “girl” who had any kind of sexual experience before marriage was “like a sandwich that had all the butter licked off it. Who would want her?” Cringe. How sad.

  76. britt, I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all. Not like babysitting, but in a “we’re together in this” approach. I think if all married couples always were so united that they never went to bed at different times, but always together, there would be less problems with porn.

    We need to look out for each other, because we love each other, not because we’re trying to catch each other doing something bad.

    If the consequences for bad behavior (like porn use) in the Church and in marriage were more like: “I love you and want to help you fix this” rather than “You’re a bad person and I need to decide how to punish you” we would have a lot more success in stopping such behaviors.

    We need to get rid of the shame and recrimination and just treat it as any other undesirable attribute that needs to be eliminated and replaced with desirable attributes.

    We all have issues we need help with but for some reason, any issue related to sexuality is fraught with shame and disgust and emotion. Most of that is just really counterproductive in dealing with the problem.

    And yes, women have issues with sexuality too, which should be dealt with much more forthrightly in the Church. We aren’t doing anyone any favors by sweeping it under the rug, and leaders who are squeamish about talking about these issues are failing their flock.

    Women are always saying that that they are uncomfortable with bishops discussing sexual issues with (especially young) women, but until women get involved in the stewardship and start talking about this stuff, there’s really no alternative. RS and YW leaders need to step up, as do mothers and visiting teachers. Otherwise, we’re all failing each other.

  77. As a whole, we are a terribly repressed people, sexually speaking.

    Are we though? Really? I mean, as Mormons we are a little sexually repressed, but on the scale of history and societies, I’d place us really toward the middle. Especially considering that Islam makes up 1/4 of the world’s population, and I believe they are more repressed than us.
    But then as Americans (or anyone in the “Western World”), sex permeates all. TV, radio, billboards, movies, discourse. We love to talk about it. I think its hard to say that we are “repressed” anymore. There might be a huge disonnance between our church and our society, and I’m sure that causes a lot of confusion and frustration. I just don’t know if repression is still the right idea. If anything, I think we place far too much emphasis on sex. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is a very important facet of human life, happiness, and intimacy, but I don’t think it is the #1 most important of any of those three. And yet it gets more attention – good and bad – from scientific studies, dissertations, sunday school lessons, water-cooler talk, etc. than just about any other subject.

  78. One of my friends organized a film festival this past weekend in Boston that featured films and documentaries about the human slave trade and sex trafficking. These films were so hard to watch, as you can imagine. One of the films was an animated film about two girls – one young girl in the Phillippines sold into slavery and another young girl living in the U.S. whose father secretly watched the pornography the Filipino girl was forced to perform. It was a devastating film about the horrors of sex trafficking – that otherwise “good” men contribute to with their demand for pornography.

    I know this comment is a bit of a thread jack with respect to the general principle of female sexuality and the negative effects of shaming in general, but I wanted to quickly chime in here.

  79. For example, this is troubling:

    “I came home and told my husband (who works in Primary and doesn’t get to attend the combined fifth-Sunday lessons) that he had to have another birds-and-bees-ish talk with the ten-year-old. Then I shook the oogies off, and my work was done.”

    Talking to boys about sex is not just a dad’s job and talking to girls about sex is not just a mom’s job. We need to get rid of the oogies. You are communicating the oogies to your kids and the oogies are the cause of much of the problems surrounding sex that people have later in life. Stop the oogies. Repeat after me: “sex is a normal and wonderful part of life. There are no ooogies.”

  80. If the consequences for bad behavior (like porn use) in the Church and in marriage were more like: “I love you and want to help you fix this” rather than “You’re a bad person and I need to decide how to punish you” we would have a lot more success in stopping such behaviors.

    I agree with this 100%.

    It’s also asking the partner to not feel betrayed for something they’ve been told over and over again is a betrayal. I think that’s a pretty central part of the problem.

  81. Agreed, B.Rruss. But I don’t think the Church is telling anyone that it’s a betrayal. That’s popular culture and our own ego saying that.

  82. MikeInWeHo says:

    As an outsider who likes you guys a whole lot, I’d like to politely observe that at the very least Mormons are obsessed with talking about porn. It’s really striking. Reading these bloggnernacle conversations gives me the oogies a heckuva lot more than cleavage-in-a-yogurt-shop ever could. And yet I find myself compulsively sneaking to the computer and clicking on BCC again and again and again…..

  83. MCQ, I think that gets said all the time in church. And to the extent that Elder Holland represents “the Church,” the Church is indeed telling people that looking a porn is a betrayal:

    “It destroys that which is second only to our faith in God—namely, faith in those we love. It shakes the pillars of trust upon which present—or future—love is built, and it takes a long time to rebuild that trust when it is lost.” (from Place No More for the Enemy of My Soul,” April 2010)

  84. There’s more than one kind of addiction, Mike. They say that the easiest way to get rid of an addiction is to replace it with another, hopefully more acceptable, one. If we could get all porn addicts to make BCC their drug of choice we would be doing mankind a great service. It’s only marginally more acceptable though.

  85. I agree with Quayle’s comment #18.

    Also, in regards to what Kristine said in #20, I believe it was in Sexual Fluidity by Lisa Diamond that I read a study showing that women, even lesbians, will be aroused by all kinds of porn, including male gay porn, whereas straight men are less likely to be this way. (It’s been well over a year since I’ve read this book and I’d have to get out of bed and walk all the way over THERE to look this up for you but just trust me on this, I’m probably right.) So, to say that men are more visually oriented is probably being too glib. (Casual? Careless? Whatever. Insert smart word here.) What does this mean? They respond more quickly? More blood flow? Er… doesn’t that happen even without visual cues? Maybe women are just as visually oriented, but it takes us longer to respond, as it nearly always does. And so it’s easier for us to avert our gaze than it is for men, because we have some mercy time. Put a woman in a room with porn of apparently any sort for long enough, and she will eventually be aroused.

    Latter-day Guy: Maybe that supports the idea that women are less visually oriented. Personally, in my own informal observing, I think this is because LDS women feel more pressure to marry and because there are more great LDS women than LDS men. And if we’re told to not marry a man with a porn problem and it turns out that 80% of LDS men have indulged in porn, um, dilemma. I would say that I know many Mormon men who “settle” for women who are not even close to being their intellectual equals. That’s harder to know at first glance, but could be a new and improved version of your little game!

  86. I’m also not sure we can blame pop culture – on this one pop culture seems to say that its normal, acceptable, and healthy. (Which I also don’t agree with)

  87. Kristine, you’re right then, the Church is saying that.

    I’m just not sure what purpose pronouncements like that serve. Again, it’s just not a productive way to deal with an existing problem, though I suppose it may help some people to stay away from the problem in the first place.

    I had a bishop who would give talks he would quote the scripture which talks about a dog returning to it’s vomit and would say that anyone who repeats a sin is that proverbial dog licking up its own vomit. Graphic, certainly. Helpful? Not so much. I doubt that the percentage of people who were willing to go confess repeat sins to him was very high.

  88. I feel like there are some important aspects of this issue which seldom, if ever, get discussed.

    1.) It’s not a pronography issue, it’s a chastity issue.

    Are men and women different? Absolutely! However I have known more women who have told me that they struggle with sexually pleasuring themselves than men. In many of these cases this addiction drove them into relationships with men built on a false premise, which complicated things as their marriages progressed. Essentially, they had used the men as a sort of Magic Eraser for their sexual guilt, because “if you’re doing it with your husband, then it’s not a sin”. While this evidence is anecdotal, try telling that to all the lives that have been crushed because of this addiction and see how comforted they feel. To them it was VERY real.

    2.) The root of the issue is a matter of misplaced priorities.

    The emphasis on teaching sex as evil before marriage but totally radtacular after has ruined Mormon culture to a significant degree. That is because the sexual act is (and I realize how ironic and redundant this sounds) fetishized among church members. This creates an unrealistic expectation which causes issues. Getting married for the action is like becoming a bull-rider for the rodeo clowns.

    We end up seeking marital partners based on their attractiveness alone, which is a great error. We rush into this because, dangit, we’re tired of procrastinating the day of our procreation! But the thing is that we’re setting ourselves up for failure. I can’t tell you how regretful I am about each relationship I’ve gotten into with somebody whose morals or faithfulness were questionable, but was nevertheless cute and would let me put my tongue in their mouth. No amount of making out ever compensated for the betrayal and hurt.

    3.) Where there is no vision the people perish.

    The issue is a lack of vision on what marriage is and it’s purpose. The overemphasis on sex de-emphasizes children, service, and building the kingdom of God. A temple sealer once told me, sadly, that much of the time he looks into the eyes of those he’s sealing with a realization that their mind is in another place and not really focused on the covenant they are making. It’s a misunderstanding of that covenant and it’s implications that cause all this strife. We should be teaching youth to honor covenants, not sex.

  89. Mike, admitting you have a problem is the first step.

    MCQ – I really appreciate what you had to say, especially this:

    If the consequences for bad behavior (like porn use) in the Church and in marriage were more like: “I love you and want to help you fix this” rather than “You’re a bad person and I need to decide how to punish you” we would have a lot more success in stopping such behaviors.

    I know there are men who struggle with a porn habit, and their wives use their habit/addiction as a weapon against them. Now, they may do that because they (the wives) are hurting, but their husbands are hurting, too.

    Re the “oogies”– Each child is different, but in my son’s case, I think he would rather talk about this stuff (to the extent that he wants to talk about it at all) with his dad, *at this age.* In the past he may have been more comfortable with me. In fact, he asked me occasional questions about sex in the past, and I did not feel the least bit oogified about it. I’m totally comfortable with my son growing up and being interested in sex. He’s just at a stage where he needs man-to-man talks, and with me he wants to be my little boy. Initially I was doing the heavy lifting with the birds&bees talks with my daughter, but as she’s gotten older, she’s had more talks with her father, which have been helpful and good, but there are still some things she doesn’t want to talk with him about, and I think it’s probably okay with both of them if she never does. :) That’s just where we’re all at right now.

  90. While this evidence is anecdotal, try telling that to all the lives that have been crushed because of this addiction and see how comforted they feel. To them it was VERY real.

    Hmmmm, anectotal evidence without an anecdote. . . . I’m not sure who’s lives were crushed, how they felt . . . not sure what to draw from this comment.

    The issue is a lack of vision on what marriage is and it’s purpose. The overemphasis on sex de-emphasizes children, service, and building the kingdom of God.

    I think the church emphasizes those thing as being “what marriage is and it’s purpose” to a large degree. Ironically, I think you left out the #1 thing that I think marriage is about: companionship (friendship). I think that is strangely telling.

    I can’t tell you how regretful I am about each relationship I’ve gotten into with somebody whose morals or faithfulness were questionable, but was nevertheless cute and would let me put my tongue in their mouth.

    No, please don’t tell us how regretful you are . . . but more details on where and how far you put your tongue . . . . thanks.

  91. 73. I’m not sure how to quote… so if I blow it, sorry:

    as a woman in the church, i feel like there is no community. i have to confess my sins to men, be counseled by men, and pretend in RS like nothing is wrong.

    First of all, I’m very sorry to hear about your troubles. I actually think that community & identity are two productive ways to approach this issue.

    First of all, I think that the identity of LDS women is up for grabs from the time they enter physical womanhood because our culture routinely refuses to allow sexual associations to be a part of an individual’s divine identity. If we can’t properly address it, then it will persist as a counterproductive abstraction that will continue to cost us temple sealings.

    To treat women as anything other than wonderfully sexual beings is to dehumanize them. Any dehumanization leads to alienation, and the resulting loss of identity casts pornography use as not only a sexual transgression but a tactic for vengeance against not only one’s supposed moral community, but God himself.

    And on that topic, I think your point that there is “no community at church” is often a valid one. Community is an impossibility without individual privacy. Even a marriage cannot continue unless faith & trust are enacted upon the unknowns that always accompany each spouse. More so must the boundaries of the friendships, ecclesiastical stewardships and acquaintances at church be respected for the resultant community to be a successful one. Which is why I was disappointed to read the choice that the bishop made in post 13. Moving forward is almost always the best course once the confessions have been made.

  92. B. Russ,

    the anecdote is the story of women with chastity issues getting married to fix it. I didn’t say it was a great one, but there you have it.

    In regards to kissing, data was always hard to come by as most of them got pretty upset when I pulled out a tape measure.

  93. Brittk, I agree that the idea of babysitting my husband, an adult with his own agency and intelligence and spirituality, is an insulting an idea for the both of us. (Or, I would, if I had a husband.) I feel the same way about children, to tell you the truth. Maybe it depends on the children. Mine are quite mature and intelligent and I feel that it suffices to encourage them to good things, talk with them about sex and be open for any questions, not shame them, keep them busy and happy, and teach them about good choices and why we make them and how bad choices can affect how we view ourselves. And if they do end up getting into trouble, they will just have to suffer the consequences and learn hard lessons and the idea that it’s not the end of the world and that the Lord can help them, would do a lot to help. I am not going to turn their lives into a giant playpen. I want them to develop an internal locus of control. I am certainly too busy with my own life to be a husband’s external locus of control. Unless, like MCQ said, it was asked of me, as a “we’re in this together” kind of strategy. Entirely different dynamic.

    #73 a naughty mouse, I hope you do see that this chain of events is not a universal formula for cheating. I had plenty of opportunity to make love to a woman who I loved very much and I did not come close to taking it. And I read stuff online about sex, in Mormon forums. Feelings and thoughts are hard to control but behaviour… I don’t know. It should be doable. Not that I’m judging you or anything. You’re totally welcome to come to dinner. Er, with a chaperon.

  94. I’m not sure that #73 is real. If it is, I applaud the honesty, but not the blame-shifting.

  95. 92 – sorry I’m giving you a hard time, it was just funny to me that you introduced a story as evidence, and drew conclusions, but never actually told the story. The story might be great, it might be useful to someone, but we’re left imagining what the story might have been, and left to assume that your conclusions are correct conclusions.

    Anecdotal evidence is evidence, and it is useful. Its not as descriptive as statistical evidence, but it gives a jumping off point from which statistical evidence can be gathered.

    So in short, please share the story, feel free to make it PG-rated if you wish, and feel free to change the names to protect the innocent/guilty, or whatever you please. You don’t have to of course, but then don’t introduce it as evidence or draw conclusions from it, because we can’t compare notes.

  96. hello,

    here is my viewpoint if anyone is interested. i’m addicted to porn, and have been since i was 12 years old (i’m 32). at this point, there is no way i would talk to a bishop. they’ve made it pretty clear that it would be 1 year w/o sacrament, 1+ years for TR, etc. My church life is far too public and tied up with other parts of my life to deal with that.

    Also, i don’t think its fair that some sins (porn, drinking, etc.) are punished by the “you must confess – skip sacrament method” while other sins that I feel are worse (lying, not helping the poor, gossiping, being mean to people, etc.) are not punished in that manner.

    you can all think i’m a bad person, and i expect you do. but some things are not exactly as they are portrayed.
    1. i dont spend any money on it, never have.
    2. i dont have an escalating need for crazier stuff (i like the same stuff i’ve liked since i was 12. looking at beautiful naked women)
    3. i was a virgin until i got married, and have never had an affair (so porn didn’t cause me to lose all self control)

    it could be like masturbation, where the church eventually stops emphasizing it, or it could be like alcohol where they just get more militant over time. i guess we’ll see. i’m happy to answer any questions you might have. It can be ask an addict night on BCC!

  97. #95, that’s a fair request. The reason this is so difficult to put down is that it’s several stories of different people. For the sake of my sanity I’ll include the one that’s the most instructive.

    I was a friend of this particular girl’s family. Their dad was a member of their stake presidency, their mom a stalwart member. Not a sheltered family, but not worldly either. Anyhow, I was assigned to home teach this girl and her sisters; us all being in the singles ward. One night I began to feel some mental agitation; I was unsettled spiritually. That feeling was confirmed to be something I should pay attention to when, at Family Home Evening, I noticed this girl was obviously not having a good time. She even left early.

    I sent her a quick text and asked if she wanted to grab a slurpee and talk. She said that would be good, so I picked her up, we grabbed some slurpees, and sat in my car talking. After some small talk she just broke down sobbing, and when she could speak, explained to me that she’d made a serious mistake with another guy in the ward. Not wanting to be “replacement bishop” I just tried to express some empathy without getting more details, but the conversation turned into her unloading a LOT.

    She described how she’d been participating in personal acts of unchastity for a long time and how she’d never thought it was bad. She concluded that, since it didn’t involve pornography and didn’t appear to hurt anyone, it wasn’t a big deal. However, with this new foray into other things, she’d realized how detrimental it was and acknowledged it ruined her self esteem and had always made her feel dirty because she considered sexuality as deeply wrong, assuming it was unnatural to feel those desires. That deep devaluing of herself is what made the offer to commit sexual transgression with this guy too tempting to turn away.

    Sadly, this philosophy about sexuality had spread through her family to other sisters who also followed in her footsteps and, in one case, it lead to huge marital problems. Not because of the husband’s sexual urges, but because of the wife’s.

  98. Thomas Parkin says:

    Gdub,

    That is creepy on so many levels I don’t think I can separate them.

  99. Thomas Parkin says:

    I mean, mostly, your involvement.

  100. Latter-day Guy says:

    @96, Your comment kind of fits in a strange niche halfway between open and defensive. I am curious, though, as to what makes you characterize your porn habit as an addiction. With substance abuse, physical dependence on the chemical is a strong indicator of addiction. However, with something like porn or masturbation, (as far as I’m aware) addiction is indicated by things like spending too much time/money on it, sacrificing relationships to the indulgence, the need for more or more hard-core materials, etc.

    Does it have a significant negative affect for you? Why call it “addiction”? (I’m not suggesting it doesn’t/isn’t.)

  101. In case you’re implying that I wanted to have anything to do with this, let me just state that it was deeply troubling for me and I didn’t want to be involved. I was merely trying to be there for a friend.

  102. oakay–Why do you call your porn viewing an addiction? Is it constant? Do you have to look all the time? Does it interfere with other aspects of your life? From your description I would call your porn use far from an addiction, particularly if it isn’t having a negative effect on your marriage relationship.

    I’m pretty lenient when it comes to porn, though–I agree with others who claim we talk way too much about porn in the church. I don’t find it a healthy conversation, since most of what we do is talk about how bad it is without talking about the things we can personally do (other than repentance, which is hopelessly vague in this context) to have a more healthy relationship with the opposite sex. I think there’s a big difference between enjoying looking at naked women/soft porn with the expectation that those images are idealized and not a true representation of love or sex, and being truly addicted to porn.

    I get the impression porn is treated like a “slippery slope”-type sin, just like alcohol and sex supposedly are, where any porn viewing makes one an addict, just like drinking a single beer leads to getting drunk/alcoholism, or french kissing leads almost automatically to a loss of virginity. I don’t think it’s a helpful model.

  103. 98 – I don’t know that I agree. Sometimes people just need to unload. I don’t think Gdub implied that he was fishing for details. I think the girl felt like she needed someone to talk to and started unloading. I’m imagining this all happened under the umbrella of “friend”. If this happened under the umbrella of “home teacher”, then yes, that would be really creepy.

    I’m not totally sure, however, that I agree with Gdub’s conclusions. I think the problem was, as he pointed out, a self esteem problem. This could be due to masturbation being de facto evil. But it could also be due to indocrination that female sexuality is evil before marriage, and a load of possibly undue guilt associated with her actions leading her to do worse things because she is after all “licked bread” already . . . Just some thoughts.

  104. Gdub, I think he might be commenting on your choice to text a (teen?) girl to meet up with her and then have a conversation alone with her in your car, and about her sex life. You could have stopped her and told her to talk to your wife, or a female friend. By staying involved and letting her dish on you like that, you fed into her need for intimacy with men. You had an opportunity to set an example for what sex and sex intimacy should not be: an interaction between her and a man to whom she’s not married. I know that she knew that intellectually. But emotionally, you sent her a different message. I’m sure you meant well, but as a mom, I wouldn’t care what your intentions were; I’d be pissed if she was my daughter.

  105. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 96
    Can you define what you mean by the term “addicted” ??

  106. I didn’t finish reading the comments, but I wanted to reply to some of the early ones about not wanting people to mention struggles with lust/porn in a lesson/church setting.

    I think this is very telling about the shame we put on pornography in the Church. A person can go up and tell a heart-felt testimony on how the atonement helped him/her overcome alcoholism and be congratulated by members of the ward afterwards. But the reaction if someone were to bear that same testimony about overcoming pornography? Lots of shifting in the pews and awkwardness.

    I hope we can get to the point where we can welcome everyone who seeks repentance and acceptance from the Lord. It might take a few decades (would admitting a drug/alcohol problem have been taboo during the major push for WoW decades?- 70s? 80s?, I don’t know, I was born in the 80s), but I hope we can get there. It would do great good for people looking for help.

  107. I’d be pissed if she was my daughter.

    For talking to a friend about sex. You must be pissed off at your daughters a lot.

    Also, I don’t think he ever indicated that he was married at the time.

  108. TopHat, I kind of agree. I’ve complained similarly, that others feel like they can bring up their alcohol or smoking problem or food addiction but same-sex attraction? Ha. And you’re not even supposed to call it same-sex attraction anymore because it brings people’s attention to the idea of sex!

  109. BRuss, that’s why I said “or a female friend”: allowing for the possibility he was not married.

    Also, I don’t think I ever indicated that I’d be pissed off at my daughters.

  110. B. Russ,

    as you can see from responses, my fear of sharing was warranted.

    I guess I’ll re-re-clarify some things.

    1) I wasn’t having this conversation as her home teacher. I mentioned that because that’s how I got to know the family. This was definitely not discussed in a home-teaching visit. That would be way out of line.

    Natasha,

    I’m not married. We were both members of the singles ward. Still, I see your point about stopping her from saying more and I tried to do that in the most delicate way possible. However, she was not in a state to listen and I feel it would’ve been far worse to kick her to the curb at that time than to bear with her sharing far too much. I don’t feel like I have to justify that decision.

  111. 109 – soooooooooooooo, your daughters actions are not a) their responsibility b) your responsibility
    but instead c) the responsibility of others

    Yeah, that makes sense.

  112. 110 – I wouldn’t worry too much about it. People will go on and on about how we need to talk about sex more, and then will go off the rails when someone mentions that they talked about sex.

  113. Gdub, Well, now that we’ve established for certain that you’re not married… whatcha doing on Friday night?

    BRuss, What are you even talking about? Who was talking about my daughters’ decisions to have sex? I’m saying that if a man, not a teenage boy, texted my teen daughter to go out with him to talk and then invited her into his car and let her talk about her sex life, yes, I’d be pissed. If it turned out he was not a total creepazoid, I’d forgive him and maybe ask him out on Friday night (kidding, of course), but yes, I’d be pissed. And I would tell her that was not the smartest situation in which to put herself. I got the impression from his story that this was a teenage girl (and he hadn’t refuted that) and that he was quite a bit older. Now, he just said that they were both members of the singles ward. That was not clear until now.

  114. Actually, I see now where he did say they were all in the singles ward. My apologies. I was focused on the repetition of calling her a “girl” and that he home taught her family.

  115. He mentioned it in the second paragraph of 97 that it was a singles ward.

    I agree that it is probably not the “smartest situation” to put oneself in. I just thought it was strange that someone would think that single men and women as friends wouldn’t talk about sex. YMMV, but when I was in college, it was a pretty common subject to talk about. And I talked about it with both guys and girls.

  116. Come on people, use your reading comprehension skills. Generally people in singles wards aren’t married…

    97–Sounds like you were a true friend to her. She had things she needed to tell someone, and although you didn’t necessarily want to hear it, you were the one paying attention and the one there to listen when others weren’t. The world would be a better place if more of us were like that. Of course, that would mean we would have to get past the superficiality that pervades our culture.

  117. Posted four minutes too slow…

  118. Alright, now that we’re on the same page, I’ll admit had your assumptions been correct that this was a 30 yr old man talking to a 16 yr old girl. Yeah, I’d be pissed too if it were my daughter, and would probably knock his teeth out. . . but that wasn’t the situation.

    Glad we’re all together now.

  119. Yes, well, MEN and WOMEN talking about sex, I’m fine with, too. Girls and men, no. (Even in a confessional setting.)

  120. I have to say, at the time I was reading that account, I was thinking of a situation I found myself in as a teen. I babysat for a family and the father drove me home (and it was quite a distance) and we ended up talking a long time and talked about sex. I was a new member and had questions. But now I look back and think, What the hell was he thinking? (Probably has something to do with why I read it that way.)

    BTW, Rebecca, I meant to say that I agree that we do seem to treat female sexuality as benign and however women get off, we’re just glad they did.

  121. (LOL. Tim, would you believe that in high school, I ranked in the top 1% of Ontario students for reading comprehension?)

  122. In my east coast singles ward, our relief society lesson on pornography was taught by the bishop and focused on two themes. One being the use of porn by women, it’s rising frequency, and the various forms it takes (books, movies, etc.). That one form is not less pernicious than the other and if you use porn you need to repent, maybe with his help. The second theme was about porn as an issue for men and how to broach that in a relationship.

    So there’s one example of a lesson done right.

  123. So there’s one example of a lesson done right.

    So, I’m still not comfortable with saying that’s the right way to talk about porn. We talk about porn as if it’s anything sexual outside of marriage and as if any viewing/thinking about/exposure to is tantamount to addition. Doesn’t that sound a little unhealthy to anyone else?

    Did your bishop state what the issue with porn is–as in, what problems specifically does it cause? Are those always issues? I’m going to guess not if more than 80% of LDS men have “issues” with porn. I’ll agree, women can become addicted to porn just like men–addiction isn’t gender-specific behavior–but I think we need to address better exactly what addiction is, and when things go from normal to addiction. There is more or less normal, non-hurtful porn viewing (e.g.–Playboy) that shouldn’t be confused with addiction, and yet seems to be culturally (to me anyway–correct me if I’m wrong, guys).

  124. #123,

    I can definitely see playboy as hurtful and developing an addiction. That’s why in my initial post (#88) I tried to point out that the issue is a disregard for chastity or covenants because of a misunderstanding about sexuality.

    See, if that’s understood then nobody’s going to feel guilty for becoming aroused by something they happen to see, but would understand how wrong it is to purposely seek those things out in order to stimulate those feelings. Does that make any sense?

  125. Natasha–that’s about where I was too–99th percentile. But I miss stuff too, all the time (usually because I’m reading too fast).

  126. yeahmetoo says:

    Oaky,
    It probably shouldn’t play a huge role in the decision to confess or not, but my bishop has indicated it’s 3 months of abstinence for a TR, and less for sacrament/callings. That’s great if the issue is as low-key as you describe, also kind of amazing. Do you masturbate? Does you wife know about the things you look at? Have you really never spent money on it? I can believe that you don’t have recurring credit card charges, but you’ve really never bought a magazine, video, etc…

    I agree with your statement taht some sins are punished more harshly than others. It also bothers me that if you went to your bishop tomorrow, the “punishment” would be more severe than if you went to him in a year, or more, and said you were “addiction-free” for a year, or more. In that case there would probably be no “punishment” at all. I think that is counterproductive, but what can you do?

    Anyway, in my experience, the consequences of a pornography confession are pretty light, as long as a major transgression wasn’t involved. Sometimes, they seem too light to me. You expect some big hellfire and damnation, and then you’re not even released from your calling.

  127. Am I alone in perhaps thinking that church isn’t the best location for this topic (and others) to be discussed? Or, at the very least, our efforts to bring this discussion into church is misguided?

    Paul Toscano, in part of his interview over at Mormon Stories, gives a particularly compelling argument for leaving morality (and the teachings of the same) outside of church (or, at the very least, outside of the “pulpit”). His discussion largely had to do with church leadership, but I think it’s equally applicable to local levels and what goes on around the church. In his discussion, he argues that the minute you start preaching anything other than Christ and the Atonement and, instead, expanding the meaning of the “gospel” you create an atmosphere that is more problematic than helpful.

    Instead of focusing on pornography, or giving sermons on pornography, stick “religiously” to Christ, his Atonement and the gospel (as defined in D&C 39:6, for example). More and more preaching on the topic, however well intentioned, isn’t going to “change” people until they become committed to Christ and His gospel. One of our issues, generally speaking, is that we expand that definition of the gospel to mean anything and everything under the sun, which then gives us license to preach and teach about anything and everything under the sun which, not so coincidentally, takes our focus off of Christ and instead on many, many other topics.

    Anyway, I’d recommend listening to Paul’s discussion (listen from the start of this section until about the 20 minute mark for this particular discussion) and see if you agree. There are some incredible moments of lucidity in Paul’s discussion that I found to be are quite important. He even makes a comment about sex, and sexual repression, within the first 10 minutes.

    Go back to comment #73. In reading her account I was struck by her comment about how there is no community in church – and I wholeheartedly agree. As a body, we seem to have outsourced community in our efforts to protect the sanctity of the gospel. Perhaps it’s a result of correlation, perhaps something else. My own experience suggests to me that any effort to create community within the church is quickly stifled by the local (and general) gospel gestapo. And, for comment #73, I feel for her because I see her actions in many of the things I do. I seek out different communities and forums because they’re hard to find locally. Few localites (that I’ve found) are even open to discussion and instead focused on “official” statements.

    As to the shame she felt/feels, I’d recommend reading the book linked in this comment. The book is a fantastic discussion on love and what it really means and our “the tyranny of the favor line.”

    Just my thoughts.

  128. Sorry. Forgot to turn off the italics. ;)

  129. Latter-day Guy says:

    “…but my bishop has indicated it’s 3 months of abstinence for a TR, and less for sacrament/callings…”

    Just so you know, yeahmetoo, every bishop is going to deal with Church discipline differently (particularly if it’s informal––i.e.: doesn’t require a disciplinary council). There isn’t a Church-wide standard of what punishment goes with what sin. (The CHI does list some situations in which excommunication is almost always required, but that level of explicitness is the exception, not the rule.)

  130. I was going to say that too, LDG. There’s no way that there’s a set disciplinary action for porn viewing. It’s totally case by case.

  131. Thomas Parkin says:

    “I think he might be commenting on your choice to text a (teen?) girl to meet up with her and then have a conversation alone with her in your car, and about her sex life. ”

    This.

    “as you can see from responses, my fear of sharing was warranted.”

    You’re anonymous gdub.

  132. Natasha, #121, Total threadjack, I am in Manitoba! and active LDS, man, divorced…, 32.

  133. Wes Brown says:

    Looking at the number of responses, it looks like we like to talk about porn just as much as we look at it! Here is some more noise to add to the discussion.

    I would suggest that the church misunderstands the nature and function of pornography? Monitoring and controlling the sexual function of the faithful is not a worthwhile cause. It promotes guilt and paranoia among wives and husbands. It shames young men. It ignores the reality of how humans sexually interact with each other. It places sexual anticipation atop the marriage motivators, which can be blinding to the limited reason of young adults.

    The divorce rate in America is at a 30-year low. Down 34 percent since its peak in 1979. Roughly 20,000 fewer American couples are divorcing every year as compared with a decade ago. Couples talk about divorce more, but divorce less. Everyone looks at more porn, yet infidelity statistics are not on the rise.

    The church should spend less time being addicted to the subject of porn and find a different boogie man to attack. Misunderstanding sex and sexually does not give the church license to distort reality for members. Guilt, shame, and paranoia are not inevitable outcomes of pornography. They are largely manufactured and pounded into members’ head on an almost weekly basis.

  134. #91: “To treat women as anything other than wonderfully sexual beings is to dehumanize them.”

    Yes, for that reason, I make it a point to treat every woman I work with as a wonderfully sexual being. “Go copy this for me, double-sided, you wonderfully sexual being.”

  135. Natalie B. says:

    Guilt, shame, and paranoia are not inevitable outcomes of pornography. They are largely manufactured and pounded into members’ head on an almost weekly basis.

    That’s a smart comment, Wes.

  136. StillConfused says:

    Maybe it is because I didn’t grow up in an LDS community but I really don’t see what the big deal about porn is. Seriously. As a woman, it doesn’t really do much for me. The big wieners scare me sometimes. But if my man wants to watch a movie to get in the mood… great, I am in. Pretty much whatever it takes to get things going is great with me. Then again, I have always been the higher libido person so I haven’t found a man that can give me all I want and then have some more left over for a magazine/video.

    I often wonder if LDS folks quit making such a big deal about porn and just started having more sex with their spouses, if the problem would go away.

  137. 133 – Hear hear!!

    134 – FTW

  138. a naughty mouse says:

    #127&8 ananas:
    thank you for the kindness and links.

    i wonder though if church is not the exact place to discuss these things, but with more candidness then finger pointing. i attended RS this past week and when the time was opened for testimonies i felt this overwhelming feeling that i should share at least part of my story. but i let the moment pass, paralyzed with fear. even typing what little i did in my comment above immediately made someone believe that i wasn’t for real, putting aside that this is humiliating for me to talk about… let alone find a nourishing community.

    so maybe that’s the better question: do you think the women of the church are compassionate enough to love and accept those that have fallen from grace? do you have it in your heart to look past the sin and see the sinner?

    i remember one lesson we had in RS on pornography and the entire thing was of course focused on men, and the vileness of it all. i remember looking at the lovely women surrounding me and thinking, “am i really the only woman in this entire room that has been attracted to another woman? am i the only woman that enjoyed pornography for all it’s titillating grandeur?” it makes me feel dirty and shameful to be at church, feeling like every woman i know would be disgusted at the reality of my life.

    so instead i meet with a man every week to discuss my sexual sins.

  139. Wes Brown says:

    #138
    I think the better question is whether you are compassionate enough to love and accept those who believe you have fallen from grace. Perhaps that group includes yourself sometimes. I do not envy your position and hope you are able to share more of your feelings with us- not in a creepy confessional way, but in an enlightening way that can garner empathy and understanding.

  140. i consider myself addicted, because ive tried to stop, and i cannot. i really have not spent money on it, i cant imagine why anyone would, theres plenty of free stuff available. for me its like reading the news, or checking the sports scores. just something i do every day as part of a routine. i can do 5-7 days off, but by day 8 i start to have withdrawal symptoms (obsessive thoughts, irritability, etc.)

    if i wasnt mormon, everyone i know would say that it is perfectly healthy and normal, because in my case, it doesnt lead to anything worse. i really doubt it causes anyone to do anything. ted bundy said he killed because of pr0n which is BS. people who claim affairs because of it are lying. they just had an affair and want an escape goat.

    if i wasnt a mormon, it would just be a small part of my life, like it is for very many guys. because i am a mormon there are layers of guilt and obsessiveness with it. im sure the process with the bishop usually isnt bad. but im not going to take the chance. you really are at the mercy and whim of whoever is in charge of your ward at that time. ive had bad experiences with confessing before, so ill go my own way for now.

    to the commenter who said i am defensive, i am a little. i think it sucks that the sin that i happen to do poorly with is one that is spoken of with lots of shame in our culture. i feel a lot of empathy for anyone caught up in this, and i feel like at this point if i admit to anyone what my particular sin is, they will think i suck. whereas, someone who struggles with a more “acceptable” sin can freely talk about it.

    to the person who asked if i masturbate with porn, i do not. i know they usually go… hand in hand, but thats not how i roll. that to me is a different level, and i dont go there. i know its arbitrary, but random rationalizations are nothing new to any mormon sinner : )

  141. Eric Russell says:

    When did we get to DAMU/FMH land? Did I take a wrong turn somewhere?

  142. Natalie B. says:

    Here is a thought: What we hear in church is now so dominated by discussions of gender, sex, addiction, that I can’t really envision what we’d talk about if those topics were to stop. Does our church have an institutional need for these topics because we aren’t sure what else religion has to say about our lives? It’s funny, but we rarely seem to talk about Christ and things other than moral culture. Do we just not have a religious vision that we find rich enough to sustain our lessons and conversations?

  143. Tim, Aw, thanks for trying to make me feel better. Very sweet of you. Sorry to hear that you make mistakes all the time when reading. This was a total first for me. ;-)

    #132, Wow, that IS a threadjack. Your name starts with C, you’re 32, a man, in Manitoba (not even a cool province like Newfoundland?), and you’re divorced? Well, sir. *bats eyes* How do you feel about a Spring wedding?

    Naughty Mouse, I wrote about my same-sex attraction on my blog, linked to it from Facebook, where many members of my ward read it. I also wrote about the frustration and bewilderment and heartbreak of falling in love with a woman. I did it in an effort to try to force community and to break down barriers. Parts of it were terrifying. But I get really rebellious about fear that I feel is imposed. I get angry and then speak out in socially unacceptable ways. It can be pretty satisfying. Anyway, what happened was that a number of women I knew told me about their own experiences or attraction. I had quite a few friends who experienced the same thing and a very close friend who’d had a few relationships with women. Surprise! Not really. Most people probably have lurid thoughts or skeletons or fantasies. Women wanting to be with other women is probably more common than women who have never given that a lusty thought. I’m sorry you feel so afraid in your community and so alone.

    I also agreed with Wes’ comment. I think it’s possible to train people into feeling guilty and ashamed about anything. Tell them God wants them to shave their hair before they get married (some Jewish sects do this, I believe, although the women are allowed to wear wigs after)(I think).

    Ours is a religion where we just outlaw entirely things to which some people are prone to becoming addicted. Lots of people in the world drink alcohol without being hosers.

    I’ve often marvelled at how differently friends of mine view their children. If their children have sex in their teens and drink a little, if they swear, but they grow up and go to college and have a strong work ethic and are kind to people, they view their children as great successes. Many Mormons, on the other hand, would be ashamed.

  144. Wow, that was a totally unfinished thought about the hair shaving. But you see where I was going with it.

  145. Steve Evans says:

    What Eric Russell said.

  146. Am I disaffected if I think porn is icky?

  147. #143-Spring Wedding? Count me in! I am a Canadian Mormon who isn’t from Alberta if that is entirely possible!

  148. Me too! I see no reason why this will not endure forever!

  149. It won’t I’m sure haha!

  150. “A person can go up and tell a heart-felt testimony on how the atonement helped him/her overcome alcoholism and be congratulated by members of the ward afterwards.”

    Actually, I would prefer not to be subjected to such details. Share testimony of the atonement. Spare me the group therapy.

  151. Chris H, that’s a perfectly fine opinion but can you please explain in detail why you feel that way? Various people have said that they feel isolated and ashamed even within what should be the second-most important community in their lives, and plenty of people stop attending church because they don’t feel they fit in because their temptations are unique (like a woman I visit teach). Why? Because no one talks about it. Saying that you’ve overcome something and attributing it to the atonement is not therapy. The atonement was the therapy.

    So, please explain.

  152. Natasha,

    I do not want to hear it. That is all. It is church, not AA.

  153. I think the stigma around pornography is largely cultural. Heck, whole tribes in Africa are off limits by our definition. Not really, but we typically view any nudity as sexual nudity and therefore way out of bounds – not to mention “sinful. For instance, go to any European country and nudity to them is viewed entirely different (and it’s not a ‘bad’ thing). Just go to any beach, generally, and take a look around.

    #143: I’ve thought the same thing about my kids. Isn’t it so bizarre that we easily alienate our kids when they do something cultural Mormonism regards as a ‘sin.’ Take alcohol, for instance. I view it as prescribed by D&C 89, while the vast majority of members view it as the cardinal sin and proscribed. The average Mormon teenager who drinks, then, is confronted with shame, guilt and ostracism that is largely cultural (imo). We don’t know how, it seems, to take the macro perspective and see all the good when we focus on the bad.

    #142 (Natalie B.): Great question… and the answer might not be a comfortable one. I once went through the news articles put out by Mormon Times, the Church News and Deseret News (most of the articles were reports on speeches given by various church leaders) over a month time frame and then threw it all into one giant document, which produced this word cloud.

    re: 138 + 140 – I might be a bit out there in my view, but I don’t think there’s much we need to confess to bishops of our own accord. Nothing is to come between our relationship with Christ and us, and yet the institution unwittingly ends up there more often than not. I like this write-up on the topic, especially as it regards “confessing” things to ecclesiastical authorities.

    As to sitting there feeling disgusted and shameful, don’t discount appearances:

    “Satan, being neither stupid nor inexperienced, knows the value of a pleasing appearance – there are times when it pays to appear even as an angel of light. He goes farther than that, however, to assure that success of his masquerade (given out since the days of Adam) as a picturesquely repulsive figure – a four-star horror with claws, horns, or other obvious trimmings. With that idea firmly established, he can operate with devastating effectiveness as a very proper gentleman, a handsome and persuasive salesman. He “decoys” our minds … with false words and appearances. A favorite trick is to put the whole blame on sex. Sex can be a pernicious appetite, but it runs a poor second to the other. For example: we are wont to think of Sodom as the original sexpot, but according to all accounts “this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom”: that great wealth made her people cruel and self-righteous.[10]

    The worst sinners, according to Jesus, are not the harlots and publicans, but the religious leaders with their insistence on proper dress and grooming, their careful observance of all the rules, their precious concern for status symbols, their strict legality, their pious patriotism.” – Nibley

  154. Weeell, that sounds pretty intolerant, illogical, and snobby, to me. (When I said it was a fine opinion, I lied.) Which experiences are acceptable to bring up? Or would you prefer everyone’s testimonies and comments to be homogeneous, only focusing on Christ and how much they love their families? It’s okay when General Authorities cite personal stories of individuals and how the gospel helped them overcome their trials, it’s okay when the Ensign publishes those stories, but it’s not okay for a person to mention such a story in church, even in passing?

    Your preference noted.

  155. Natasha, I remember you now. I now also regret getting on the thread.

    I defer to Eric R and Steve’s sentiment.

  156. Excellent point. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that. I take it all back.

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