Time to meet the parents!

This morning a fellow BCC perma brought this Meridian article to my attention:  “Discussing Pornography with Your Future Son-in-Law” by Geoff Steurer, a licensed marriage and family therapist and founding director of a treatment program for those impacted by pornography and sexual addiction.  With those credentials, one might imagine that Brother Steurer would know what he was talking about.  However, without even looking at the article, my visceral response was, “Ew!  Ew ew ew ew ew ew EW!”

But I knew I should be fair, so I clicked on link and read the whole thing.  Then my response was…well, do you remember that old Saturday Night Live commercial for Bad Idea JeansIn it a group of men are hanging around a basketball court, shooting the breeze and saying stuff like the following:

“Now that I have kids, I feel a lot better having a gun in the house.”

“I’ve thought about it, and even though it’s over, I’m gonna tell my wife about the affair.”

“I don’t know the guy, but I’ve got two kidneys and he’s got one, so…”

Brethren, you can add to this list “I’ve decided to ask my future son-in-law if he has a porn problem.”

Briefly, Bro. Steurer’s argument is that 1) pornography is such a prevalent problem and has the potential to do so much harm to families, and 2) it’s a father’s sacred responsibility to protect his daughter, so 3) he owes it to her to question her fiance about his pornography use, past and present.

Now, I must admit that I’ve never been a big fan of men asking fathers’ permission to marry their daughters.  I know some people find this tradition sweet, but I’ve always felt that unless there are cows involved in this transaction, there isn’t much point to it.  My father loves me very much, but I’m 100% confident that if my future husband had walked up to him and asked, “May I marry your daughter, sir?” my father would have responded, “What are you asking me for?”  It’s one of the things I appreciate about my dad.  But other people have different preferences, I understand.  So if you’re the type who likes to interview your daughter’s fiances, be my guest, it’s no skin off my nose–but please, I implore you, do NOT ask your future son-in-law if he has a porn problem or has ever had a porn problem because it is none of your business.

I assure you, this isn’t some misguided feminist rant about how females don’t need special protection.  Personally, I enjoy being protected.  But if your daughter is old enough and mature enough to get married in the first place, then she is a grown-ass woman, pardon my French.  If anyone is going to talk to her future husband about pornography, it should be HER.

Bro. Steurer is correct about the prevalence of porn use and how destructive pornography addiction can be to a marriage.  There are many things that a couple should discuss before getting married, and pornography may be one of them.  But getting married means you leave your parents to cleave unto each other.  And while one may argue that in the engagement stage, pre-cleavage, the child still falls under the protection of the parents, there is such a thing as going too far.

Hopefully, you’ve taught your child how to pick a good spouse and to prepare for marriage, so that when marriage time comes, you can trust their judgment.  If you don’t, there’s not much point in discussing anything, much less something as personal and private as sexual proclivities.  But in any case, prying into intimate matters is not the way to endear yourself to either your child or their chosen companion.  It sets a bad precedent.  It suggests that you have difficulty minding your own business.  Also, that you’re kind of a kook.  In other words, there’s a fine line between protective and creepy and you just kuh-rossed it.

In his article, Bro. Steurer warns that if your prospective son-in-law seems defensive or is unwilling to offer details about how he manages to keep himself porn-free, that is a “red flag.”  I prefer to think of it as “normal” and “healthy.”  If I were your future son-in-law, I would run, not walk, away from this alliance.  This is a family that will not respect my boundaries.

If you think I’m full of crap, you may consider adding some of the following questions to your pre-marriage interview:

1.  Are you planning to use contraceptives?  If so, what kind?

2.  How much masturbation do you think is too much?

3.  A good sex life is important for strengthening marriage.  What do you know about pleasuring a woman?

Remember, if he seems defensive or won’t offer specifics, that’s a red flag!

Comments

  1. Mark Brown says:

    Bravo! I wonder if a future father in law would think I was being defensive if I gave him a fat lip?

  2. Steve Evans says:

    I found the advice just shocking, and certainly it would be kryptonite to any relationship with the in-laws (regardless of whether porn is a problem). Really, really a bad idea.

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    I can’t even fathom my then future (stoic Illinois farmer) FIL trying to have this conversation with me. My brain won’t even let me imagine such a horrendous conversation. How anyone could think this would be a good idea is quite beyond me.

  4. What the WHAT!?!?
    I thought I would never be more embarrassed than when my mom sat my then-fiancee and me down and told us that “It’s much better to tell people than you’re having a baby AFTER the wedding than before.”
    But this is much, MUCH worse.
    Other questions you might add to the list:
    1. Wouldn’t you be more attracted to my daughter if her cup size were one or two larger?
    2. You know that french kissing – even within marriage – breaks the law of chastity, right?
    3. Boxers or briefs? Just kidding. I already know. But which fabric do you prefer? ‘Cause the cotton/poly chafes me really bad. Look!

  5. Wow wow wow. These red flags are the most amazing catch-22 I’ve seen in a long time. If you admit to having had a porn problem but don’t specify how you stopped, red flag. If you claim not to have looked at porn, red flag. It might also be a good idea to test if your future daughter-in-law is a witch by throwing her in a lake and seeing if she drowns.

  6. It might also be a good idea to test if your future daughter-in-law is a witch by throwing her in a lake and seeing if she drowns.

    I thought you were supposed to build a bridge out of her?

  7. But on the other hand, this may be a good way to ensure that your daughter NEVER gets married. Or at least that you won’t be invited to the wedding. So… there’s that.

  8. Anonymous today says:

    I usually post with my name so pardon my anonymity today. My rationale should be obvious by my post.

    If I can provide some anecdotal evidence to the danger of this kind of meddling, I have a friend whose marriage fell apart in its infancy when, as part of his repentance process, he informed his wife of his challenges with porn. By his telling, she was in that moment willing to stick it out with him despite her disappointment, worry, and frustration.

    Upon the advice and insistence of her father, she divorced him instead.

  9. jJulie M. Smith says:

    “It might also be a good idea to test if your future daughter-in-law is a witch by throwing her in a lake and seeing if she drowns.”

    I spewed water all over my laptop. Thankyouverymuch.

  10. The suggestion that the father needs to have this conversation shows a lack of respect for his daughter and very little faith in his own parenting. If the father (or mother, in all fairness) thinks (or doesn’t think, which is more often the problem) that their daughter would make such an alliance without already having considered, thought through and/or discussed (or not, whichever SHE feels is right) the man with whom she is planning on spending eternity, then the parent(s) have no trust in her nor faith in their own teachings.
    Also, how would the father feel if the parents of the prospective son-in-law had the same conversation with his daughter? It’s not just males that have problems with pornography.

  11. Well, that sounds more effective than showing your future son-in-law your gun collection if you don’t want to marry off your daughters.

  12. Holy. Crap.

  13. Chris Gordon says:

    About the only thing I liked about this advice was for future fathers-in-law to say this, not as a statement about porn addiction, but generally, as I’ve modified:

    “I’m grateful that you’re worthy to take my daughter to the temple. I do know, however, that we all struggle. If you ever find yourself stuck in any kind of trouble, spiritual or otherwise, will you please come to me as a support and a resource? I will be here for you and your family if something like this ever happens. Please don’t hide out in fear. I’ll be here to help you and your family.”

  14. I guess I’m not horrified by the concept, but as has been stated, the conversation should be between parents are their daughter, and probably well before the engagement stage. This is my daughter’s territory, but I WILL be reminding my 4 daughters to speak and talk openly about this topic and make their own minds up.

  15. I personally kinda like the tradition of having a guy ask for the father’s permission–to me it shows the family’s open support of the couple. But other than that yeah it’s a pretty useless tradition to hold over a guy’s head in today’s society.

    Rather than having the father-in-law interview the dude, it would make more sense if the parents just created a list of questions that daughter and her significant other should go over together before the wedding date. Parents don’t need to know the answers, nor should they ask for them, but rather just provide some insight only those who are married can provide. Interviewing the guy themselves without the daughter seems like a gross misstep of power.

    Or just give them a copy of 300 Questions LDS Couples Should Ask Before Marriage. It’s Deseret approved!

  16. Whoa! Great post, scary that someone would even begin to think this way! As a dad who has “given” two of his daughters away, I think a better question (based on sad experience) would be, “what are your plans to provide a living for my daughter and your children”. :-)

    If the guy’s not already working with his bishop if this is a problem, then he’s lying to him and will lie to you! I don’t disagree that p0rn is a problem, but we (as a church) are beginning to make it part of the law of chastity. In my stake, they ask if you view p0rn as part of the temple recommend questions! (it’s not in the official questions!) In the latest lesson on chastity, the majority of that was on p0rn and how that we violate the LOC by engaging in that. It begins to make the viewing of p0rn equal to the “sin next to murder”. I’m just not convinced of that.

    Back to the original premise, the father in the cases above would do just as well to conduct a complete TR interview, a background check and use a P.I. to verify before he lets his precious out of his power/control freak hands.

    As a personal note, when I finally got real with my wife and father in law about some serious issues in my life and entered a recovery program (AA), my FIL was actually the most supportive and loving to me of anyone.

  17. Steve Evans says:

    Chris Gordon, that is a helluva comment — thank you for that.

  18. I didn’t ask my father-in-law’s permission until after I asked my wife to marry me. He never interviewed me. Fathers should prepare their children for marriage; holding an intrusive interview with the future child-in-law prior to the wedding shows that the father is insecure about how well he prepared his child. It also indicates that he will have trouble letting go of his child, and will probably come between the child and the spouse once they are married.

  19. observer fka eric s says:

    I will say, “So. Tell me about your porn usage?” [long awkward pause] “A ha ha ha! Just kidding kid! I’ve waited 25 years to ask that one. Just wanted to see if I could do it with a straight face. Welcome to the family. Help yourself to some tacos in the kitchen.”

  20. I’d add my voice to the chorus of people who think this is some kind of ridiculous. I think it’s a perfectly appropriate question for the finance to ask (heck, if my girlfriend asked, I wouldn’t be offended, and I’d tell her), but not her parents. That’s between your spouse, your bishop (if there is a problem) and God. Whats next, asking what I’m into?

  21. I can envision myself verifying with my daughter that she had addressed the issue to HER satisfaction so as to avoid walking ignorantly into a reality she was not expecting. I agree that approaching a potential son-in-law like this is way out of bounds.

  22. “So tell me son, what strategies do you use to avoid pornography?”
    “Well sir, thinking of your hot, sexy daughter usually does the trick.”

  23. My husband asked for my father’s blessing…not permission. A slight difference in wording, but it was important to me.

    I really liked Chris’ comment as well. This whole issue is tough. I have 7 daughters. I do prefer a father to be a protector through education, example, a good relationship with his daughter and love.

    Once they are basically engaged, I don’t see how a father could protect, prevent or enforce anything…really delay the marriage a year? I can see why he would want to..desparately…not just for his daughter but their children.

  24. Both porn and this guy’s plan strike me as empty, dehumanized shells of meaningful human relationships.

  25. There’s probably a whole other post here, but it seems like any time someone has a sin that needs to be “resolved” by the bishop, if it happens more than once it’s automatically branded an addiction. So if I were to go home on Friday night and have a couple of beers, when my name came up in ward council (as it surely would once that fact were known), people would be talking about my “alcohol addiction.”

    I’m not a mental heath professional, but it seems that treating these specific sins as addictions really just is a recipe for getting people to think that they’re completely, irredeemably broken. Combine that with the pressure felt within the church to be perfect, the hormones raging in a celibate 22-year-old male, and the threat that a future father-in-law is going to ask these kinds of intrusive questions that have no correct answer. I don’t think it’s any wonder we’re having a tough time retaining young single adults.

  26. This guy’s advice seems to be yet another example of how our religious culture is fetishizing porn (and yes, there should be layers upon layers of irony in that statement). I agree that porn is bad, and that it can sometimes be destructive to relationships. But so are a whole lot of other things. I suppose I’m just becoming increasingly baffled at how obsessed we are becoming with this issue.

  27. Before anyone can accept Brother Steurer as an expert worth listening to on this topic, they would need to know his responses to a few simple but important questions:

    Tell me about your experience with pornography over your lifetime.
    Is there a history of pornography use in your immediate or extended family?
    How do you define pornography?
    How have you healed from the impact of pornography on your life?
    Who helped you overcome your problems with pornography?
    How do you currently protect yourself from pornography?
    Have you ever wanted to stop viewing pornography, but couldn’t?

    Please don’t be defensive in your responses.

  28. Steve Evans says:

    Mat, unfortunately for us Bro. Stuererererer will probably be more than willing to provide candid and detailed responses to those questions.

  29. All I’ve gotta say is that I see red flags everywhere here. You all should be ashamed.

  30. StillConfused says:

    This goes to highlight two very important issues:

    1. Boundaries: when two people get married, that decision and all that go within it are between that man and woman (or applicable genders) (plus God if you are so inclined). People who think they have a right to an opinion or a say in two people’s marriage have a bit of a narcissism complex.

    2. Helicopter Parenting: I have seen so many parents who absolutely live their children’s lives for them and the kids are clueless drones. I remember talking to a young man who flipped out on his mission because he had never once in his life made his own breakfast. Wow. And now here we have a father who feels it is his place to discuss sexual matters with a future son-in-law. Does the daughter have an IQ? Give her a chance to find out.

  31. Mommie Dearest says:

    There are hundreds (thousands?) of ways to start off on the wrong foot with your child’s newly created family. This is most definitely on the first page of that list. Not to mention — ew!

  32. I think I’ll do mine like this:
    (gets out gun and cleaning supplies)

    Tell me about your experience with pornography over your lifetime. (field strip weapon)

    Is there a history of pornography use in your immediate or extended family? (rub down with soft cloth)

    How do you define pornography? (soak a cleaning patch and attach to rod)

    How have you healed from the impact of pornography on your life? (run rod through barrel and change out as needed)

    Who helped you overcome your problems with pornography? (hit dirty spots on frame and barrel with cleaning solution, tooth brush and patches)

    How do you currently protect yourself from pornography? (oil friction points and wipe down weapon)

    Have you ever wanted to stop viewing pornography, but couldn’t? (reassemble weapon and wipe down again)

    (put away supplies, reload weapon and re-holster, shake hand and say “have a nice evening, be home by 11″)

  33. I’m guessing most men would flat-out-lie if they found himself in said situation, though it might be much harder to lie to the girl.
    As a side note, I’m so happy both genders agree on this.

    I’m not sure what I’d do if I found myself facing a dad like this. Probably something stupid (like asking him the same questions).

  34. Anonymous says:

    “Pornography destroyed my marriage.” “Pornography destroyed their marriage.” These are the message we get whenever the topic is mentioned in the church. We are telling our fellow members that viewing porn is the same as having an affair.
    What bothers me is the fact that viewing porn is normal for the rest of the world, but in the church its grounds for divorce. A man who thinks his wife is going to divorce him is not going to turn to her for help, is he?

  35. Everyone of you is wrong. The future father-in-law should have this thorough interview.

    AND the future mother-in-law should also conduct a thorough interview. She must discuss with her future daughter-in-law how she might respond to any serious sins on the part of her future husband as well is if there are any events in her past and “hangups” that may make it difficult or impossible for her to be sexually responsive. The two should also have a “bake-off” in order to determine the woman’s fitness for marriage.

  36. (of course #35 is a joke, and I’m sure I will be told that it is not a funny one)

  37. Steve Evans says:

    Not funny, Shawn.

  38. My favorite moment is parenthetical and wistful De Niro/lie detector/basement reference, which I believe Rebecca rightly understands as the interpretive key to the entire article.

  39. I know of a father, former bishop, who did this exact thing with his future son-in-law a few months ago. He said he had seen too many problems as bishop to not ask. But it would send me running for the exits in search of another girl. The red flag is not a young man’s hesitation, the red flag is a future father-in-law who thinks this is an appropriate conversation.

  40. Chris Gordon says:

    You know, I’m going to have empathy for the father-in-law who feels like he wants to know, particularly if he’s served in a priesthood capacity that’s made him all-too-familiar with the situation.

    I’m going to have respect for the father-in-law who recognizes his place and instead opts to either A) take comfort in the fact that he’s long-since prepared his daughter to make this decision on her own, or B) takes the opportunity to chat with his daughter about it when appropriate.

    There’s no stewardship in play here, a father’s duty to protect his own children notwithstanding.

  41. This whole idea of a prospective father in law asking all these types of questions seems pretty creepy to me. Future father in laws should be saying something like what Chris Gordon said.

    Now if the daughter brought this up to the Dad he could then talk to her about it.

    On a lighter note you could simply toss a 40 caliber pistol round at your daughters date and comment that if he gets stupid the next round is coming much faster!!!!!

  42. Anonymous says:

    I think it is also important to teach daughters how to react if their husband does confess to her that he looks at pornography. It should not destroy her happiness or destroy the marriage.

  43. Wow. I cannot believe he thinks that is an appropriate question. Maybe council the future son-in-law to talk to your daughter about these important topics, but it would be more prudent to talk to the daughter.

    Actually, a few months before I got married, my singles ward had a really great Sunday School lesson for everyone about porn with some really helpful handouts, including how to talk to your significant other about pornography. That was a much better way to approach the topic, I felt.

  44. Nick Literski says:

    Some of these questions remind me of the classic query: “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” This so-called “expert” seems to be defining any experience with pornography as an “addiction” which requires “treatment” before the viewer can be trusted in a marriage. I suppose I should think it’s just a coincidence that this writer makes his living from counselling individuals he’s classified as “addicted to pornography.” On the other hand, however, what a great marketing scheme—recruit an army of men (the vast majority of which will have viewed pornography themselves at some point in their lives!) to interrogate hormone-driven young men, who can then be referred to “treatment” for their “addiction” after they can’t pass the “red flags” mentioned!

  45. I believe I have read all the comments on this thread, and I don’t see the response that leapt immediately to my (probably biased) mind, so I’m offering it here. If a prospective father asked a possible son-in-law about frequency of masturbation or about specific steps taken to avoid involvement with porn, I would almost certainly wonder if the father himself has problems or is turned on by discussion of these topics. Especially when he would see a “red flag” in any hesitant or defensive response. And I am not being satiric on this. I second the Eddddw- eeeew or howveer it is spelled. Great responses, y’all!

  46. Nick Literski says:

    That crossed my mind when I read the article too, Elouise. I couldn’t help but picture some aged potential father-in-law asking for extensive details about a young man’s “experience with pornography.”

  47. Anonymous (42) – That is an excellent point worthy of its own post.

  48. Maybe dad could ask his daughter, who might ask her fiancé. But he should not sidestep the “chain of command.”

  49. And surely the daughter should not report to her father….

  50. fil: “Tell me about your experience with pornography over your lifetime.”

    sil: “My, you seem awfully obsessed with porn. Do you have a porn problem?”

    fil: “No, I’m just trying to protect my daughter.”

    sil: “Well, I’ve got to protect my future children, and if their grandfather is a raging porn addict I need to know it.”

    fil: “Look this is about your potential porn problem. Not mine.”

    sil: “You seem awfully uncomfortable about my questions. Why do you keep turning this away from you and your potential porn problem? Look I want a grandfather I can trust to babysit and you seem awfully obsessed with porn. Why is that? Have you had experiences that make porn an issue in you life? Please answer, I may have children involved someday and I need to know you can be trusted.”

  51. Although the line of questioning is questionable, I have seen marriages, in and out of the church break down..in most cases they have over time survived-although one is still very tenuous and the wife is making plans to be able to provide for herself. In two of those out of the church the women thought they were okay with porn use, it was normal and acceptable…looked at it with their husbands…said husbands went of the deep end and porn use was no longer of any sort of normal kind-where is that post talking about different types of porn? In both situations Husband found wife not as available or as understanding as himself and his porn.

    The newest research says the damage to the man and his ability to sustain meaningful relationships is a huge problem. It turns out relationships require effort, selflessness and time…porn requires less.

    This is all to say nothing of women and body issues and breech of trust when there is lying and sneaking and lack of acutal emotional intimacy.

  52. I guess it’s unanimous. EWWWWWWWWWWW! But I have to say, for all of you who think it’s sweet or cute or OK in any way for a prospective husband to ask his future FIL for his daughter’s hand, I find that pretty icky also.

  53. Silus Grok says:

    I visited the article and left a comment … but I can’t tell if comments are turned off or if they’re just sitting in moderation. I hope others, here, will leave comments as well.

    I didn’t feel like writing anything long, so I kept it really short:

    The first red flag is the father-in-law completely overstepping his bounds. If the future father in law raised his daughter well, then SHE would have had a discussion along these lines with HER fiancé early in the engagement/late in the courtship. If the future father-in-law has concerns stemming from observed behavior, then he should remind his daughter that a discussion might be order.

    This is disgusting — and that you’re shoveling this around like sound advice is mind-boggelling.

  54. observer fka eric s says:

    SteveP = brilliant, thanks

  55. I never got any questions from my father-in-law or asked his permission to marry this daughter. I did look him in the eye and told him I would never do anything to hurt his daughter. I thought he should at least hear that from me.

  56. Am I wrong or the only potential response that he wouldn’t consider a red flag is “yes, I look at it all the time, and your daughter is totally in the know.”?

    Reminds me of my interviews with the Bishop as a teen:
    Bish: “Do you have a problem with masturbation?”
    Me: “Nope, it works fine every time!”

  57. To further SteveP’s line of questioning, I know a few fathers who got a divorce and went off the deep end once their children got married and were out of the house. A future son-in-law, when asked about pornography, should ask the future father-in-law specific details about his marriage, problems in the marriage, issues with porn, affairs, homosexuality, word of wisdom, etc.

    I know I would have. I have a good friend who’s LDS father-in-law got a divorce and went off the deep end (and died a few years later due to the effects of substance abuse) shortly after the friend married the man’s daughter. I wouldn’t want my children and spouse to have to deal with the accompanying heartache and confusion. Any inappropriate questions from my father-in-law, and I would have struck back. Hard.

    My father-in-law never interviewed me about anything. Good thing, too, because my mother-in-law’s glares and muttering (beginning from the instant she met me) were bad enough. I knew their relationship was a bit rocky, but it was none of my business. I was in love with their daughter, and I had as much right to get involved with their marriage as they had to get involved with mine–None.

  58. Anonymous says:

    (Not the same anonymous from above)

    A good friend of mine confessed a pornography habit to his fiancée shortly after they were engaged. He was working with his bishop and making progress towards being worthy of a temple recommend. Her father and bishop both advised her to break up with him. Eleven years later she is 33 and still single. He is 35, still single, and pretty ambivalent about the church (though he is still active). Somehow I doubt this is God’s will for either of them. And I’m really glad that my wife (and her father, although I don’t think he ever knew, he certainly didn’t ask) didn’t demand pornography perfection from me.

  59. Another Anonymmous says:

    My husband confessed his pornography habit shortly before we got engaged. He was currently worthy of a temple recommend, but knew it could be a problem in the future and thought I deserved to know.

    The trust, vulnerability and commitment to our relationship he showed by sharing that cemented my love for him. It showed me he was willing to work to make our marriage happen. He has had some struggles with pornography in our five years of marriage, and it has hurt me, but as long as we are both trying the love and trust he shows me has far outweighed any hurt he has caused me. I do believe his spiritual journey is easier with me beside him. Isn’t that the point of a marriage? I don’t regret my decision to marry him for a minute.

    I do have to say, it’s a darn good thing the subject never came up between my husband and my father. My dad acknowledged it was my right to choose my husband, but it took a couple years before they were entirely comfortable with each other. A conversation about pornography would NOT have helped that situation along.

  60. Anonymous (42) says:

    @58: Your story nicely exemplifies that the article referenced above leaves out the “what next” question. What if there is an admission of (or a red flag of) a current pornography problem? What does Geoff Steurer recommend then? Does the father-in-law then try to prevent the marriage? That has to be the purpose in the question, right? If it is a big enough deal for the father-in-law to bring up, it is because his “permission” is conditioned upon a satisfactory answer. Under this situation, there couldn’t be any confidence in the answer (aside from the ability to be a human lie detector and read the “red flags”).

    My question is should this be a deal-breaker? I go back and forth on this question. I think my answer is that, as horrible as this may sound, it depends on how many other choices the person has. Would I prefer my daughter to marry someone who is all around great–great job, will be a fantastic parent, always treats her kindly and sincerely loves her–but looks at pornography a couple times a month, or someone completely free of pornography who just isn’t as nice of person. I think I would choose option 1.

    I wonder if we as a church treated pornography as a sin more in line with not doing home teaching, skipping meetings on Sunday, being rude to homeless people, or stealing office supplies instead of akin to adultery, we would have better results in fighting it.

  61. I hope Bro Steurer has a different day job. Good luck in developing a client list with that moronic advice. And to think he probably gave this extra thought because it was being published……

  62. Is there a history of pornography use in your immediate or extended family?

    Can we assume that’s a yes for pretty much the whole world?

  63. “I wonder if we as a church treated pornography as a sin more in line with not doing home teaching, skipping meetings on Sunday, being rude to homeless people, or stealing office supplies instead of akin to adultery, we would have better results in fighting it.”

    I have no doubt that we would. People with recurring pornography issues tend to turn to porn for comfort and stress relief, like a smoker turns to cigarettes. Having a belief that it is wrong to do so and fearing the response and stigma that comes from being found out can only add to the cognitive dissonance, adding more stress, and increasing the likelihood of turning to pornography.

    On the flip side, Alcoholics Anonymous is as successful as it is because it has destigmatized alcoholism for people who are trying to beat it. You are celebrated for being a “recovering alcoholic” now. We won’t be able to beat back pornography successfully until we can share that same celebration for freeing oneself from pornography use.

  64. Anonymous (42) says:

    @63: I see one difference between Alcoholics Anonymous and the church’s stance on pornography that is interesting to me. AA recognizes the differences between someone who occasionally drinks alcohol and someone who is addicted to it, whereas the church often seems to treat all levels of pornography use the same. Practically speaking, it seems to me that there is a giant difference between someone who looks at pornography occasionally and someone who is “addicted” to it. I wonder how big the difference is spiritually though. Can we rank sins? How spiritually destructive is the occasional viewing of pornography compared to the “addiction” of pornography or compared to other sins that a father-in-law probably wouldn’t care that much about.

  65. StillConfused says:

    “We won’t be able to beat back pornography”. Umm yeah. Think about that statement. “beat back” and “pornography” probably shouldn’t be in the same sentence.

  66. @64, I agree that the term addiction is over applied with respect to pornography. I think that probably exacerbates the problem. The casual user feels guilty for being ‘addicted,’ and the added stress causes further reliance on pornography. In a way, I guess you could say our overuse of the term ‘addiction’ tends to produce more addicts than we would see if we could openly admit we have a problem with casual use. That’s one theory, anyway.

    In any case, as long as we continue to push the ‘end of the world’ mentality we currently apply to pornography worse, I think the problem will only get worse.

  67. christer1979 says:

    I completely second the notion that the daughter should tackle this issue with the boyfriend/fiance. When I asked my husband if he’d ever had problems with pornography when we were engaged, there was no defensiveness, no so-called red flags. Was it awkward? Uh, duh. But I knew him well and knew I could believe him when he said no. However, I also knew that OF COURSE he had been exposed to pornography somehow, somewhere. I’m a twenty-four year old woman and I know I saw it in high school; I also know how hard I worked to avoid situations where it could happen. There are some things you just can’t avoid in high school, while tracting as a missionary in the ghettos of the world, or growing up with a family computer lacking perfect child protection software.

    However, I feel that women in the church don’t know how to handle this issue, largely due to how we view sexuality and chastity to begin with. We’re raised with an intense standard of sexual purity–that, for the most part, is free of a gendered double-standard. Yet if even today some Young Women are given terrible object lessons of chewed gum or de-petalled, “enjoyed” roses, how are they going to tackle the issue of a boyfriend/fiance/spouse who hasn’t stayed similarly “pure”? If purity is painted as something no repentance can restore, no wonder they might view pornography similarly. I can imagine women feeling that if they have stayed pure for marriage (define that as you will), don’t they deserve a similarly pure spouse (usually defined as porn problem free his whole life)? I know that was my hope / expectation, however unfair that was.

    We tackle and teach this issue so differently, based on gender lines. When I was engaged, my fiance attended my ward with me. During the priesthood / relief society block, the issue of personal purity was discussed per mandate of the bishopric. In RS, a shy, recently returned-missionary president skirted the issue of pornography and focused on avoiding bad movies, roommate prayer, virtue, etc. The priesthood lesson was all about pornography, and many men expressed discouragement at the idea that their dating pool was expecting them to never have had a problem. What about the atonement, they wondered?

    The serious of sexual sin leads to such stigmatization and stress. Leaders with good intentions emphasize it so heavily to help the majority avoid it, while a sensitive side group beats themselves up mentally for any bad image/thought/desire. If we treat sex as a great thing for married couples and not some big, scary secret we never talk about or allow reference to in film or music, it might become a much easier thing to prepare for in healthy ways. And sexual sin might become something serious but not insurmountable, as it now appears to so many who feel permanently scarred if they ever had a problem. I apologize for the sprawling, rambling nature of these thoughts. Apparently I care about this more deeply than I thought.

  68. I’m going to file this under: Horrifying, but not surprising.

    I get the feeling this is the type of horrible parenting advice my Father-in-Law would love. Lucky the book didn’t fall into his hands years ago. Our conversations previous to my wedding were uncomfortable enough.

  69. 50 (SteveP) – Awesome.

  70. 67: “a sensitive side group beats themselves up mentally for any bad image/thought/desire”

    This! My goodness, this; a thousand times, this. I think this isn’t even limited to sexual matters (whether it be pornography or masturbation or any other such), but extends into all kinds of sin. Heck, I (occasionally) beat myself up about my proclivity to slip a “hell” or a “damn” into everyday conversation, or my small grain of resentment about being on the ward council and thus spending 5+ hours in a church building every Sunday.

    I think we as a church need to teach the doctrine of repentance and the Atonement in a slightly different way. Instead of making “the repentance process” sound like this terrible scary thing that that you need to do if you’ve done something terrible and if you don’t you’ll be damned forever, we need to emphasize that it is an important part of enduring to the end. Currently, it sounds like a root canal, when surely the more appropriate metaphor is daily brushing and flossing.

    Several comments here have called for the destigmatization of pornography and sexual sin. Perhaps we should call more broadly for the destigmatization of repentance, and indeed of all sin. Look, sin is bad; that’s part of the definition, and I’m not trying to get away from that. But it is also universal, and that’s kind of the point of the Atonement.

  71. I thought some more about this and all the many ridiculous ways I could handle the setting. Ultimately though, dissolving the situation as a non-issue speaks higher than making a big deal out of it with the future father-in-law. I think civility with her dad will speak higher than a contentious attitude. Letting dad walk all over you==bad, but so is burning the bridge.

    What’s a man to do? Roll over and bark- answer each question? Bite back? Hopefully your social skills will jump in to dissolve such awkwardness. Set some clear boundaries while at the same time reassuring dad. Without torching the relationship. That’s hard to do.

    Or I guess you could always plead the 5th.

  72. #59–it seems that your situation is difficult and painful, but perhaps, even with that pain, the Atonement is more important and powerful. It could be that the Atonement is a very real part of your relationship. You perhaps have an advantage in knowing and seeing the need for the Savior in your marriage, where others are blind or even actively deny such a need. It seems like recognizing our need for Christ and working in families to draw upon the Atonement is what God, our Father, the “Super Father-in-Law-in-the-Sky” wants for us. And you have it, without an earthly father-in-law’s “help” or intervention.

  73. Yuck. That’s all, as I catch up on the comments.

    #22 is Niblet worthy, imo. One of the most hilarious comments I’ve read here.

  74. Anne Onymous says:

    SteveP #50 – bravo sir, bravo. Let he who is without sin…

    I’m with pretty much everybody else. This sounds supremely awful. And as a woman who has an occasional struggle with pornography (typically the written kind, but occasionally the visual), I have dealt with it in a much more healthy manner since convincing myself that it is not a mortal sin. It’s about as awful as when I give in to temptation and have an iced mocha. That pretty much killed the shame cycle.

    I know this isn’t the point of the discussion, but I’ve always felt the greatest sin of pornography was that by purchasing it we are offering an economic incentive for people to degrade themselves in this manner. Porn actors are typically defiant about this idea, but honestly if the money wasn’t in it they wouldn’t do it. Of course my argument is dashed by the existence of free amateur porn. Wait, do we have a built-in market for married people porn?

  75. Thomas Parkin says:

    “the destigmatization of repentance”

    *clap*

  76. Here’s how the conversation with the icky old man would *actually* go:

    “Have you ever looked at porn?”
    “Yes” [ashamedly]
    “Perfect…can you show me how to clear the durned browser history? I can’t figure it out.”

  77. Kinda makes you miss the days when “how do you define pornography?” was just a creepy pick-up line in the lyrics of sleazy exhibitionist Britpoppers.

  78. Steve P’s #50 FTW!

  79. Steve Evans says:

    ay carumba.

  80. Though I laughed quite a bit at some of the comments, in all seriousness, pardon the length, but here I think are the best of the best…

    #35 are any events in her past and hangups that may make it difficult or impossible for her to be sexually responsive.

    #51 This is all to say nothing of women and body issues and breech of trust when there is lying and sneaking and lack of acutal emotional intimacy.

    #58 Her father and bishop both advised her to break up with him. Eleven years later she is 33 and still single.

    #59 He has had some struggles with pornography in our five years of marriage, and it has hurt me, but as long as we are both trying the love and trust he shows me has far outweighed any hurt he has caused me. I do believe his spiritual journey is easier with me beside him. Isn’t that the point of a marriage? I don’t regret my decision to marry him for a minute.

    #60 My question is should this be a deal-breaker? I go back and forth on this question. I think my answer is that, as horrible as this may sound, it depends on how many other choices the person has. [...] I wonder if we as a church treated pornography as a sin more in line with not doing home teaching, skipping meetings on Sunday, being rude to homeless people, or stealing office supplies instead of akin to adultery, we would have better results in fighting it.

    #63 I have no doubt that we would. People with recurring pornography issues tend to turn to porn for comfort and stress relief, like a smoker turns to cigarettes. Having a belief that it is wrong to do so and fearing the response and stigma that comes from being found out can only add to the cognitive dissonance, adding more stress, and increasing the likelihood of turning to pornography. On the flip side, Alcoholics Anonymous is as successful as it is because it has destigmatized alcoholism for people who are trying to beat it. You are celebrated for being a “recovering alcoholic” now. We won’t be able to beat back pornography successfully until we can share that same celebration for freeing oneself from pornography use.

    #64 AA recognizes the differences between someone who occasionally drinks alcohol and someone who is addicted to it, whereas the church often seems to treat all levels of pornography use the same. Practically speaking, it seems to me that there is a giant difference between someone who looks at pornography occasionally and someone who is “addicted” to it. I wonder how big the difference is spiritually though. Can we rank sins? How spiritually destructive is the occasional viewing of pornography compared to the “addiction” of pornography or compared to other sins that a father-in-law probably wouldn’t care that much about.

    #66 In a way, I guess you could say our overuse of the term ‘addiction’ tends to produce more addicts than we would see if we could openly admit we have a problem with casual use. That’s one theory, anyway.

    In any case, as long as we continue to push the ‘end of the world’ mentality we currently apply to pornography worse, I think the problem will only get worse.

    #67 However, I feel that women in the church don’t know how to handle this issue, largely due to how we view sexuality and chastity to begin with. [...] We tackle and teach this issue so differently, based on gender lines. [...] The priesthood lesson was all about pornography, and many men expressed discouragement at the idea that their dating pool was expecting them to never have had a problem. What about the atonement, they wondered?

    #70 “a sensitive side group beats themselves up mentally for any bad image/thought/desire” This! My goodness, this; a thousand times, this. I think this isn’t even limited to sexual matters (whether it be pornography or masturbation or any other such), but extends into all kinds of sin. Heck, I (occasionally) beat myself up about my proclivity to slip a “hell” or a “damn” into everyday conversation, or my small grain of resentment about being on the ward council and thus spending 5+ hours in a church building every Sunday. I think we as a church need to teach the doctrine of repentance and the Atonement in a slightly different way. Instead of making “the repentance process” sound like this terrible scary thing that that you need to do if you’ve done something terrible and if you don’t you’ll be damned forever, we need to emphasize that it is an important part of enduring to the end. Currently, it sounds like a root canal, when surely the more appropriate metaphor is daily brushing and flossing. [...] Perhaps we should call more broadly for the destigmatization of repentance, and indeed of all sin. Look, sin is bad; that’s part of the definition, and I’m not trying to get away from that. But it is also universal, and that’s kind of the point of the Atonement.

    #72 It could be that the Atonement is a very real part of your relationship. You perhaps have an advantage in knowing and seeing the need for the Savior in your marriage, where others are blind or even actively deny such a need. It seems like recognizing our need for Christ and working in families to draw upon the Atonement is what God, our Father, the “Super Father-in-Law-in-the-Sky” wants for us.

  81. So I scroll up to see what Ray (#73) thought was so Niblet-worthy about comment #21, and to my horror realize it was MINE. Am I missing something, Ray? [numbering has been corrected]

  82. 82 No James, he meant #22.

  83. Comments are now up on Meridian–and it appears that the majority of Meridian readers agree that the article is ridiculous. It must be pretty bad when even a majority of Meridian readers have issues with it…

  84. I would answer my father-in-law (or pretty much anyone else): “No . . . but if I did, I don’t think I would tell you.”

  85. I’ll stop joking around and say that I think Chris Gordon’s suggestion of what to say to a future son-in-law is perfect. That’s the kind of father-in-law I hope to be when my two daughters are married.

  86. I think asking your future son in law about his porn viewing is a little intrusive. My husband asked my dad for permission to marry me after he proposed which I thought was a sweet gesture. I was not aware at that time that I was marrying a porn addict and the realization came as a surprise. I find it hard to trust my husband and I feel he should have told men before hand. However, my parents aren’t aware of this problem and I prefer it that way.

    http://www.peoplesinsight.com/articles/2-relationships/291-i-consider-him-addicted

  87. “My father loves me very much, but I’m 100% confident that if my future husband had walked up to him and asked, “May I marry your daughter, sir?” my father would have responded, “What are you asking me for?” It’s one of the things I appreciate about my dad.”

    Yeah, that’s pretty much how your dad responded when I got engaged to your sister….

  88. Anon for this one says:

    I love the idea of destigmatizing repentance. Brilliant.

    Now, my comment. Before my husband and I were married we had a conversation that went something like this:
    Me: Is there any reason we shouldn’t be getting married in the temple?
    Him: No. Are you aware of any?
    Me: No. Is there anything about your past I should know about before we get married?
    Him: [looking confused]
    Me: You know, do you have any kids? STDs? Addictions?
    Him: Oh, no. You?
    Me: No.
    Him: Okay then.
    A year or so after we were married he decided he wanted to tell me about a pornography problem he’d had years before we met, for which he had sought professional help (NOT from Bro. Steeueuerrer) and which he had resolved with his bishop. This initiated a really nice and open conversation about our pre-us lives. He told me had hadn’t wanted to tell me about it before we were married because it had been resolved and he was afraid I’d dump him over it. Knowing each other better and feeling more secure in our relationship, we were able to talk about these things. I remember that we had a tender conversation about the atonement and what it meant for both of us and that if we really believed in repentance and the atonement that we had, in fact, been honest with each other in that pre-marriage conversation. No parents were or should have been involved in either of these conversations.

    I remember from chastity lessons in young women that one of the reasons given for keeping yourself chaste was that you wouldn’t want to have to tell your future husband about all sins you committed before you got married. The guilt was laid on pretty thick. “How terrible is it going to be when you HAVE to tell him that you did *those things*?” This kind of thinking denies the reality of repentance and the atonement.

    I know I’m off topic a bit here, but I wonder how we can do a better job of talking about sexuality (and pornography) with our young people. An argument could be made that going too far toward “you can be forgiven, repentance is real, the atonement will cover your sin” could lead some youth to think that they can sin now and just take care of it later and it’ll be okay. That’s not what I’m advocating. But the “you’re going to have to tell, this will follow you for the rest of your life” teaching I received isn’t enough either. It leaves people like me thinking “Oh, shit. I guess I’m screwed.” (pun intended) I was lucky to have a wonderful therapist (again, NOT Bro. FIL-talk), who happened to be a bishop also, who helped me understand some of what I’ve tried to convey in this comment.

    Summary: In-laws out. Repentance good. How do we do better? (I’m asking in all seriousness. I work with the YW in my ward and would love to hear others’ thoughts.)

  89. RE: #70
    “Instead of making “the repentance process” sound like this terrible scary thing that that you need to do if you’ve done something terrible and if you don’t you’ll be damned forever, we need to emphasize that it is an important part of enduring to the end. Currently, it sounds like a root canal, when surely the more appropriate metaphor is daily brushing and flossing.”

    I’m stealing that for my next talk . . thanks

  90. I agree with the notion of the stigmatization of repentance. There was a recent general conference where one of the FP or 12 said something to the effect of “We can all come back. Sometimes it requires repentance. It will be hard, but you can do it.” Something to that effect. It actually provided very cold comfort to me.

    I think speaking about repentance on an easy/hard spectrum is the totally wrong approach. Maybe I don’t understand repentance appropriately yet, but sometimes it actually *is* easy, and the hardest part is forgiving yourself and trusting that the Lord has absorbed the sin and forgotten it. I think we’re often made to feel that we have to go through our own painful emotional atonement for every sin or screw up. I think sometimes we do, for sure. Other times, it’s simply a realization, a confession, and a change, between you and the Lord, and then moving on from it–not beating yourself up about it.

    My rambling point is, I’d rather see repentance spoken of in terms of peace. I think that’s the common denominator. Whether it’s an easy or hard case, it will ultimately be peaceful.

    Similarly, with pornography, I’ve been comforted by this post and comments. Of course I think porn is bad and indefensible, but I also feel that it is built up by members of the church to be more than it is. At its worst (in both level of explicitness and amount consumed), it’s downright evil stuff, but we’ve tended to lump it ALL into this extreme category. By doing so, I think we have made it so bad that it’s gaining a power of its own. We’re paralyzing sinners instead of empowering them. Can you imagine if your wife felt the need to divorce you because she found out you swear–or even that you used to swear? I feel like that’s the power and weight we’ve given it.

    It’s a growing problem, and I’m convinced Satan is really good at peddling it at all levels, but I’m not sure as a church we’ve gotten past the knee jerk way of dealing with it.

  91. I’m sure that this therapist is really tired of seeing marriages and families broken up from issues stemming from porn. He was probably thinking, “We have to do something to protect our daughters from this!” As therapist he has probably taken it for granted that he can pry personal and sensitive information from people. So he came up with this idea. I was blown away by it too, even though I usually like many of Meridians articles.

    When I read, “Tell me about your experience with pornography over your lifetime,” I about spit at the screen and thought about how I would answer. “I only saw it like, every day on my mission.”

    There are many other approaches he could have taken are not hair-brained like this one. Couples should be encouraged open to talk about this before marriage. I would not encourage women to automatically disqualify a good man who is repenting from porn issues. Rather couples should be taught to discern true repentance as they date. An article about supporting loved ones who are repenting would be much more helpful

  92. Anon for this one says:

    Alan, thanks for your comment. I liked what you had to say about pornography gaining a power of its own and about repentance and peace.

  93. #91: “We’re paralyzing sinners instead of empowering them.”

    … and let’s not forget that we’re all sinners.

  94. Can you imagine if your wife felt the need to divorce you because she found out you swear–or even that you used to swear?

    That would surprise the hell out of me.

  95. Rebecca, awesome post. Amen, and amen.

    As for destigmatizing repentance: this only happens through practice. As I repent and see the blessings of repentance in my life, I’ll also celebrate those blessings in the lives of those I love who also strive to repent. If I’ve never tasted that sweetness, I suppose it would be harder for me to celebrate when others do.

  96. Jonovitch says:

    I like the idea of the questions, not the questioner. I think this is a very good conversation to have — between fiancees. If anything, the father-in-law could include these questions among others that he recommends his daughter ask her prospective husband. (I also think it’s wise counsel to be suspect of vague answers, deflections, or anger/offense — a husband and wife should be able to discuss anything, especially something so important as this.)

    I also like the suggestion made above that the father tell the prospective son-in-law he’s available for support. In fact, I liked it so much, I think it’s worth repeating:

    “I’m grateful that you’re worthy to take my daughter to the temple. I do know, however, that we all struggle. If you ever find yourself stuck in any kind of trouble, spiritual or otherwise, will you please come to me as a support and a resource? I will be here for you and your family if something like this ever happens. Please don’t hide out in fear. I’ll be here to help you and your family.”

    Most importantly, repentance is a process of love. Fear, shame, and guilt do not belong to that process. If any young man has a problem but is sincerely working on it and heading in the right direction, he ought to get the benefit of the doubt (it’s sad to hear of sincere young men losing out to overly wary fathers and bishops). I don’t put myself down for not being perfect; I just recognize I’m better now than I was in the past. I would hope we could all extend the same courtesy to each other.

  97. I hereby propose that Meridian Magazine rename itself Straw Man Magazine.

    Truth in advertising is very important when you’re publishing this kind of garbage.

  98. Left Field says:

    So if you implicate yourself, you’re guilty. If you don’t implicate yourself, you’re guilty. If you’ve received counseling, you’re guilty. If you haven’t received counseling, you’re guilty. If you talk about it, you’re guilty. If you don’t want to talk about it, you’re still guilty.

    Speaking of red flags, I suggest this young man should seriously consider if he wants Joseph McCarthy for a father-in-law.

  99. #94 sbagleysd, yes–noted. I thought about wording it another way to reflect that, but I went the lazy route. But yes–we’re all sinners and fall short. Like, way short.

  100. #82 – I was referring to what now is #22. It was #21 when I typed my comment. It is #22 now.

    Yeah, that’s it.

  101. Latter-day Guy says:

    Gah! Steurer is like the new Lovecraft––constructing new vistas of mind-bending horror. Unless, of course, he’s actually serious about recommending having these conversations. In that case, he’s not Lovecraft, he’s Cthulhu.

  102. Anon Female says:

    I certainly hope my future mother-in-law isn’t going to ask me if I’ve looked at porn. Why are women automatically off the hook?

    I have 4 sisters and 1 brother. We’re one of those super shiny happy perfect families with both parents in a some sort of leadership position at all times. I know for a fact that all of my siblings have looked at porn at least once, on purpose. None of us are addicted, but my brother was the only one that felt guilty enough about it to confess to the bishop. I personally don’t think it’s that big of a deal, but I know that two of my sisters would never ever involve the bishop in their repentance out of sheer mortification. If they were asked about it point blank by a future mother-in-law, they’d probably burst into tears. Good thing women have immunity for this problem!

  103. Chris Gordon says:

    RE: 89, your question is worth a post or 10 of its own (how to do better handling issues of sexuality and repentance with our youth). I don’t have a firm answer, but like you I suspect we can do better. There’s a line somewhere between the Lord not being able to look upon sin with the least degree of allowance and the beauty and majesty and infinite nature of the atonement. Check that: there’s probably lots of lines there in between.

    I guess what I dislike most is the disjunction between a gospel of repentance, even acknowledging sins that are hard to be forgiven of, and teaching chastity as this scarlet letter waiting to be branded upon those who violate it in any degree. I loathe the notion of teaching that it’s a permanent stain because I think it postpones the repentance process more than amplifies the forgiveness process.

    I feel very strongly that as parents, leaders, mentors, in-laws, spouses, friends, children, whatever, that we need to do better across the board at finding ways to express our willingness to forgive, accept, love, and assist in repentance all those who need it. I think you can teach all you want about the gravity of a sin, but if you follow it up with that message you’ll go far. How many 14 year old boys start messing with porn but are too embarrassed to talk it through with a mentor? How many 14 year old girls get fondled or coaxed into doing so and deal with the blow to their self esteem for too long because of said embarrassment?

  104. I wonder if there is some sort of predilection to addictionto porn like acoholism. So that most normal adults wouldn’t be hooked at all but some just chemically can’t handle it at all. We don’t treat all people who drink like they are alcoholics -even in the church. do we? I’ve never noticed that or thought of it that way. Maybe if we could develop the same philosophy for porn addicts…they need treatment and help and in that case IMO it may end the relationship-just be an addictions consuming nature.

    just hinking out loud here

  105. hinking like thinking but quicker

  106. When I read, “Tell me about your experience with pornography over your lifetime,” I about spit at the screen and thought about how I would answer. “I only saw it like, every day on my mission.”

    I don’t care if you did serve in the San Fernando Valley, tracting at porn shoots just doesn’t sound like a good idea. . . Just seems like an awkward place to share the first discussion.

  107. Oh, the innocence of those who never served missions in places like Europe…

    Billboard pornography right outside the apartment? Check. On every bus stop at the train station? Check. At the windows of the shop across the street from the missionary apartment? Check. On the front page of newspapers and magazines left out for unsuspecting missionaries to find? Check. Every day? Maybe not. At least a few times every single week? Check.

  108. Pornography is a perfect Correlation word. It means nothing_it means everything. It’s all subjective in the members heads. In my day, we had “petting”. No one was sure what it was, only you could go to hell for doing iPornography is a perfect Correlation word. It means nothing_it means everything. It’s all subjective in the members heads. In my day, we had “petting”. No one was sure what it was, only you could go to hell for dong it. There should be at least an understanding of the word before we tear up our lives or someonelse’s over it.t. There should be at least an understanding of the word before we tear up our lives or someonelse’s over it.

  109. Fix this comment Box! My #109 left “Jarta” fine, but went to crap when I pasted it into the box.

  110. I don’t know Bob. Those look like the confused thoughts of a porn addict to me. I’m not sure I’m buying the whole copy/paste mis-transcribing excuse.

  111. Billboard pornography right outside the apartment? Check. On every bus stop at the train station? Check. At the windows of the shop across the street from the missionary apartment? Check. On the front page of newspapers and magazines left out for unsuspecting missionaries to find? Check. Every day? Maybe not. At least a few times every single week? Check.

    I’ll never forget the time in Bulgaria when I saw a Playboy on a newsstand and was struck by how “modest” the model on the cover was.

  112. In response to Bob’s comment (109), let me say that when I was about 17, during a family trip, I saw, for the first time in my life, a sign for a “Petting Zoo”…um…yah, that provoked some pretty crazy impure thoughts! Should I have, perhaps, reported those thoughts to my father-in-law during our interview? Should something about that be added to the questions? I hink so!

    I remember that “petting” was usually paired with “necking.” Oh, that just makes me laugh now! At the time, I would always imagine some crazy, giraffe-like, erotic craning. Of course the real danger with necking, besides the spinal pain that so many BCC commentators must inevitable suffer, was the risk of a hickey. (And is a hickey bad if it spells out “CTR?”) Of course “hickey” could still be in current usage; it could be, theoretically, in the text message. I cannot imagine anyone texting either “necking” or “petting;” those words are reserved for those who once owned Van Halen, Depeche Mode, or Flock of Seagulls cassettes.

  113. anon from Phnom says:

    And what if the guy had had a problem? would the dad call it off? what is the guy supposed to do now? if all his engagements keep getting called off because of some past thing, why not look at it? your past conviction from dear old dad to be is still there regardless of the Saviour.

  114. And the author himself has three sons. Wow.

  115. Peter LLC says:

    Oh, the innocence of those who never served missions in places like Europe…

    Oh, the innocence of those who have never seen mammary glands in public before serving a mission in Europe…

    I’m not trying to defend trashy advertising or the use of topless women to drive newspaper sales, but it wouldn’t hurt Americans to accept that “Europe” isn’t the Wasatch Front and that nudity doesn’t automatically = pornography.

  116. I echo everyone whose sentiments went something along the lines of “Ewwww! Inappropriate!” It makes me even more grateful for the “wedding night” talk I got from my mom, which was brief in the extreme. All she said was, “just don’t feel like you have to do anything you both aren’t comfortable with.” I appreciated that she trusted me and her parenting enough to agree that what went on in my bedroom didn’t need to be any of her business. And I completely agree with those who say that this sort of conversation should be left up to the two people who are marrying each other. I’m glad my husband agreed with me about the idea that unless we could work past being awkward just *talking* about sex, how would we ever have a decently functional sex life as married people if it was constantly a topic for awkward pauses, euphemisms, and inability to communicate effectively? The key definitely seems to be in finding the best way to destigmatize both sex and repentance.

  117. One question: Was the Editor on vacation?

  118. 118 VC
    No. The editor was busy comforting his son whose marriage had been cancelled after his interview with his FFIL

  119. >>When I read, “Tell me about your experience with pornography over your lifetime,” I about spit at the screen and thought about how I would answer. “I only saw it like, every day on my mission.”

    >I don’t care if you did serve in the San Fernando Valley, tracting at porn shoots just doesn’t sound like a good idea. . . Just seems like an awkward place to share the first discussion.

    #108 Tim: “Oh, the innocence of those who never served missions in places like Europe…”

    Tim you are right on.

    You don’t go find porn in Europe, it finds you. Let’s see. . . porn was sold at every check out counter. It was sold right by the comic books and candy, so children would have easy access. Adult images on advertising was everywhere. And I almost forgot, I once went to a community center building that they church rented out for services. On the walls in one area of the building were some early twentieth century “art” photography prints hanging on the wall where the women were completely unclothed. But I guess it was art so that was OK, the local members didn’t seem to have a problem with it. If I remember correctly the primary met in that room.

    If you are a missionary in Europe in the summer avoid the beach. You also need to keep you eyes closed in parks because people like to sunbath in the buff there. In an environment like Europe you just have to learn how to tune stuff like this out. Porn is a problem for members there as it is everywhere, but you don’t see people hyperventilating about it like you do here in the states. The issue is an old one that they have been dealing with for a long time.

    One of the biggest cultural shocks I had after returning home was going to the check-out counter at Food-4-Less and being able to actually look at the magazines being sold there. I automatically asked myself “Where’s the porn?” It was nice to be home.

  120. Peter LLC,

    It’s not just the Wasatch Front. I’m willing to accept that the definition of porn is different in Europe than it is in the U.S. For an LDS missionary from the U.S., it’s still porn, even if that’s not what the members in Europe would call it.

    Don’t get me wrong–I love Europe. If I could find a decent job there I’d take my family there, and I’d live there for as long as I could (probably until my wife insisted we move back). But the huge amount of nudity in most European cities, most of it porn by U.S. standards, is one of Europe’s negatives.

  121. Silus Grok says:

    RK, Tim, and who ever else cares: the definition of porn doesn’t change. The definition of porn rests in the intent of its author. If the author / purveyor / whathaveyou intends for it to be erotic, then it’s porn.

    If you get a woody seeing a mother breast feed or checking out Michaelangelo’s DAVID, then that’s YOUR problem, and not the problem of the media in question.

  122. I’m not trying to defend trashy advertising or the use of topless women to drive newspaper sales, but it wouldn’t hurt Americans to accept that “Europe” isn’t the Wasatch Front and that nudity doesn’t automatically = pornography.

    I agree completely. But for the record, what I saw on the streets of BG was definitely pr0n – by any definition.

  123. In my ward the M. Priesthood that struggles with various levels of porn is over 60%. In our singles branch, the Branch President told me porn use is around 95%. 100% of Young Men over the age of 14 have seen hard-core porn – if only by accident.

    Stake wide the numbers are in line with my ward.

    Yes, it’s destructive, but it’s not a guarantee for a failed marriage. Hardly. If it was the Church’s divorce rate would be pushing 60%.

  124. You don’t go find porn in Europe, it finds you. Let’s see. . . porn was sold at every check out counter. It was sold right by the comic books and candy, so children would have easy access. Adult images on advertising was everywhere. And I almost forgot, I once went to a community center building that they church rented out for services. On the walls in one area of the building were some early twentieth century “art” photography prints hanging on the wall where the women were completely unclothed. But I guess it was art so that was OK, the local members didn’t seem to have a problem with it. If I remember correctly the primary met in that room.

    Wow, you must be a truly great man to deal with such complete heathen oversexed barbarians. They were lucky to have one as righteous as you. I’m sure your presence is greatly missed.

    Those poor primary kids so recently weened off the teet being forced to see . . . teets. Must have been so confusing for them. I’m just glad they didn’t turn and start eating each others’ flesh and cursing God.

    I hear in the Pacific Islands the women walk around topless. Poor uncultured heathen. The missionaries that serve there are the ones that we should really feel sorry for. Its a good thing we bring them the Gospel of Blouses and Trousers so they don’t have to dwindle in unbelief.

  125. #124 — interesting statistics. I wonder where those come from and how they’re communicated. Hard to imagine that the things discussed in private priesthood interviews would be revealed publicly.

  126. “I’m going to file this under: Horrifying, but not surprising.”

    “I don’t care if you did serve in the San Fernando Valley, tracting at porn shoots just doesn’t sound like a good idea. . . Just seems like an awkward place to share the first discussion.”

    “Its a good thing we bring them the Gospel of Blouses and Trousers so they don’t have to dwindle in unbelief.”

    It’s official; I’m a B.Russ fan!

  127. Joseph…100% hard core? If I remember right from the definitions of porn post…I really doubt that statistic…then 95% of porn use. What does that mean?

    Those stats are incredible.

  128. @124 – Stats came from interviewing all M. Priesthood a few years ago. Stake-wide the numbers are similar.

    @128 – Yes, 100% for YM over 14. It’s not always something they look for, but it has a way of finding them. Cell-phone porn is a troubling issue with YM. It’s just so easy for them to get a quick look – or quick fix however you look at it. Stake-wide the YM with porn issues is about the same.

    My definition of having a porn issue was someone that actively sought out any material that sexually aroused them – almost always with masturbation – in the last 6 to 9 months. There were a few M.P. that leered at softcore (with mb). Most were hard-core – some were same gender.

    I am not suggesting that all stakes and wards are the same. I will suggest that the problem is larger than most think and MUCH larger than Mormon wives believe.

    I will also suggest that the standard treatment of the Church over the last 10 to 15 years is NOT working. You know the treatment — that if you look at porn you’re a pervert, some kind of creepy deviant that is only moments away from cheating on his spouse or lusting after YW or YM. You just need to try harder.
    I think more brethren open up when you are clearly not trying to pull temple recommends or hold other kinds of witch hunts. Once it gets out that so-and-so lost their recommend (and it DOES get out) because of porn you can forget about anyone else discussing their problems. They will just suffer in silence and try to get out of it on their own…. which almost never works. It’s really sad when you have a 70 year old High Priest with a porn problem.

    Also – every man, to a person, did not want the porn issue. None of the men had ever cheated on their wives.

  129. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 129
    Anyone who “actively” looked at anything sexually arousing in the past 6 to 9 months “has a porn issue” ??? Wow that is seriously messed up. Talk about creating your own problem.

    Normally I steer clear of these creepy Mormon p-rn conversations but Joseph’s comments are just jaw-dropping.

  130. Joseph (no. 129) — I’m glad I don’t live in your stake. I want to live in a place where dignity prevails and witchhunts aren’t held. I most seriously question the propriety of a stake-wide survey and then publicizing the results so as to paint almost every man and every boy as a sinner in front of their wives and mothers. I’m glad I don’t live in your stake.

  131. Just dont go after the SI swim suit issue – k

  132. “My definition of having a porn issue was someone that actively sought out any material that sexually aroused them – almost always with masturbation – in the last 6 to 9 months.”

    SO much to say; so little desire to do so.

  133. Peter LLC says:

    Tim (#121):Don’t get me wrong–I love Europe. If I could find a decent job there I’d take my family there, and I’d live there for as long as I could

    As a former missionary and current expat in Europe, I think you should.

    In my limited experience (I’ve really only lived in one country) I just haven’t witnessed the kind of widespread public pornography at the checkstand and bus stop you and rk report. Sure, you can find something if you look–I can think of three current examples: 1) A tabloid that regularly features a titillating photo on page 3 (except on Sundays!); 2) This weekend’s edition of a respectable newspaper published a front page photo of an art project invovling nude men and women forming a heart on a grass field; 3) A delivery van for beauty care products that is almost always parked on the street on the way to church depicts a nude woman using said products.

    While you would probably not find any of that in public in the US, you also wont find the cultural remnants of the last few thousand years of Western Civilization. It seems too common for missionaries to step off the plane, note the racy advertising and spend the rest of their missions thinking “Whoah, did you see that!?”, while remaining fairly oblivious to what makes Europe a great place to live. Even though the issue of pornography vs. high culture in the public sphere is not really a matter of balance or trade-offs, the latter is what I find to be overwhelming and particularly worthwhile about living here.

  134. Nothing was shared with the public.

    “I want to live in a place where dignity prevails and witchhunts aren’t held.” — that would be our stake. There are no witch hunts… maybe you should actually READ what I posted.

    “SO much to say; so little desire to do so.” — that’s an easy way out. To be more clear, almost all of the porn viewed was nudity or hc. I was just trying to be honest with the definition…. maybe 1 or 2 people had issues that were swimsuit based, but since they were regularly looking at it, combined with mb – it seemed odd not to include it in the stats.

    Oh well – there are too many sensitive people here that have little understanding on how to work with or deal with porn issues. Mention a few numbers and they can’t handle it. It’s too bad because we could eventually discuss what actually seems to WORK when it comes to helping people struggling with porn.

  135. Peter LLC,

    If you know of any employment opportunities in Europe for a recent U.S. law school grad, let me know. I look occasionally, but I can’t find much demand outside finance/business/patent law.

    I noticed on my mission that each city seemed to have a different approach as to pictures of nudity. Some were probably no worse than Salt Lake (although with fewer ads for plastic surgery). Others were quite a bit worse. The areas around train stations were perhaps the worst–and we frequently rode trains. I spent a couple of months backpacking through Europe a few years after the mission, and the amount of nudity had little to no effect on how much I liked a city–Vienna, for example, is still one of my favorite big cities.

  136. “Oh well – there are too many sensitive people here that have little understanding on how to work with or deal with porn issues. Mention a few numbers and they can’t handle it. It’s too bad because we could eventually discuss what actually seems to WORK when it comes to helping people struggling with porn.”

    That’s an easy way out. Right back at you – he says with no rancor whatsoever.

    Still no desire to do so. I just think your definition of a “problem” is WAY off base. Now, if you have substantive suggestions about “what actually seems to WORK . . .” I’d be happy to read them – I think.

  137. Peter LLC says:

    Tim,

    I share your view of Vienna, which is why I live here now :) But you’re right–some areas are worse than others. For example, evidence of Vienna’s (legal and regulated) street prostitution and brothel scenes can be found around the train station and a couple of other seedy public areas/busy thoroughfares, though none of it is close to as in-your-face as in some well-known German and Dutch cities.

  138. @ 51 “The newest research says the damage to the man and his ability to sustain meaningful relationships is a huge problem. It turns out relationships require effort, selflessness and time…porn requires less.”

    In 2009 I attended a fireside in Heidelberg, Germany. An area seventy at the time, Frerich Görts, former CEO of Deutsche Telekom, spoke about pornography. He cited from “Der Tanz um die lust” (http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-42736566.html, also available in English as “From Pornography to Withdrawal”), an article that had appeared in Der Spiegel. One of the last paragraphs from the article really hit me:

    “In his new book, “The Possibility of an Island,” French writer Michel Houellebecq writes that the consistent pursuit of individuality must inevitably lead to the death of love, to a state in which we will be so in love with ourselves that we will no longer be capable of loving anyone else.”

    Add scriptures on faith, hope and love, love being the greatest of them all and how men shall be lovers of their own selve and I wonder what the future will be of relationships. As a missionary in France I would sometimes be asked by fellow missionaries about ‘nudity’ in public places in The Netherlands. I know it’s there and then try not to deal with it.

    @136 Maybe a place to look for a job in Europe: http://www.eurobrussels.com. Or still try a banking dep. of a U.S./U.K. law firm based in Amsterdam, which will have attorneys who only speak English.

  139. Peter LLC, thanks for the kind words. I didn’t spend enough time in Vienna to know if I’d like living inside the city, but I’d certainly enjoy living nearby. Some great architecture, and as a Natural History fan, I really enjoyed the Naturhistorisches Museum.

    And Martin, thanks for that link. Looks like there’s some good stuff there. Much appreciated.

  140. I’m too late to this, but here’s what having a “porn issue” looks like:

    “Over a period of at least six months, recurrent and intense sexual fantasies, sexual urges, and sexual behavior in association with four or more of the following five criteria:

    1. Excessive time is consumed by sexual fantasies and urges, and by planning for and engaging in sexual behavior.
    2. Repetitively engaging in these sexual fantasies, urges, and behavior in response to dysphoric mood states (e.g., anxiety, depression, boredom, irritability).
    3. Repetitively engaging in sexual fantasies, urges, and behavior in response to stressful life events.
    4. Repetitive but unsuccessful efforts to control or significantly reduce these sexual fantasies, urges, and behavior.
    5. Repetitively engaging in sexual behavior while disregarding the risk for physical or emotional harm to self or others.

    There is clinically significant personal distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning associated with the frequency and intensity of these sexual fantasies, urges, and behavior.

    These sexual fantasies, urges, and behavior are not due to direct physiological effects of exogenous substances (e.g., drugs of abuse or medications) or to Manic Episodes.”

    I’m curious how many in that stake fit criteria like this (for the proposed “hypersexual disorder” (http://www.hypersexualbehavior.org/index.html) in the upcoming DSM-V, which a lot of the work on has involved LDS researchers)?

    Looking at porn once (hardcore or not) in the last 6-9 months is not having a “porn issue”… all that means is the person looked once in the last 6-9 months. 80% of people who use pornography do so without having “an issue.” Granted, in our faith, we believe porn use at all is something to be avoided. That does not make 2x/year an “issue” though. This approach I think facilitates secrecy, shame, and addiction.

    On the topic of the post – I have spoken with Geoff Steurer – the author of the article – and had a great conversation. We didn’t agree on everything of course, but it was a really great experience. He’s WELL aware of the criticism, and I think very open to dialogue.

  141. I’m not Mormon but have had Mormon friends all my life so I’ve learned a lot about the Mormon church, and sometimes I like to skim through religious blogs including Mormon ones like this. It’s a good one.

    I have to say that this Steurer guy seems like a total wacko to me. But from what I know of the Mormon teachings it’s actually not totally surprising either. Reading through the comments here I see lots of really insightful people but sometimes I just don’t get this Mormon obsession with sex. It seems to pervade your whole church. You push your young adults to get married early and have lots of kids. You seem to think that looking at porn is almost as bad as killing someone and obviously a lot of people are willing to break up marriages over it (I know it can be a bad thing, but come on, it’s not like murder). You are required to wear special underwear after you attend temple for the first time and my friends tell me its like some badge of orthodoxy or something afterward. Underwear? Really? Apparently you even interview your kids about sexual habits at regular intervals, I would never let my daughter be alone with some guy three times her age who asks if she masturbates. What a creepy thing. Ewwww. Speaking as an outsider it all just looks really strange that a religion would be so focused on sex in so many ways. It all just seems really out of balance and obsessive.

    Another thing I’ve noticed is that Mormons seem to have trouble with personal boundaries. Like this Steurer guy, if my father in law had asked me those questions I would have done what some of you say, either fired them back at him or ran for the exits to find someone else to marry. One of my friends did his mission and then didn’t get married for a long time afterward and he was always picked on because of it, he said other Mormons would ask him the most insulting personal questions because he wasn’t married in like a year after he returned. More of that obsession with sex plus the no boundaries thing.

    I know that Mormons generally are really good and nice people, my Mormon friends have been. But seriously, this part of your church just makes me shake my head and think wow that is really weird. I hope you don’t mind some feedback from someone who is not in your church. thank you for letting me post here.

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