Aphorisms on Pornography

I’ve written this as a list of aphorisms, without the traditional scholia. I figure that’s what the comment section is for.

1. Institutionally, we care about pornography mostly because it corrupts priesthood holders (i.e., men).

1.1. The Aaronic Priesthood curriculum for September has a lesson on avoiding pornography; the corresponding lesson for Young Women is on guarding one’s virtue; it mentions pornography only secondarily.

2. We’re only incidentally concerned about how pornography affects women—and even then, we often frame those effects in male-centric terms.

2.1. We’re willing to say that objectifying women is a problem, but only as a sin that men might commit, not as a cultural problem.

2.1.1. “What if it was your wife/daughter/sister on the screen?” contributes to objectification rather than solving it.

2.1.1.1. Identifying women only through their relationship to a man denies them full personhood.

2.1.1.2. Of course those relationships still matter, but they cannot be all that matters.

2.1.2. We seem too little concerned about the trafficking and abuse of women that the pornography industry entails.

2.2. D&C 121 suggests that dehumanizing women corrupts priesthood holders, whether it involves pornography or not.

3. We treat pornography as a problem primarily involving men, but we make women (Potiphar’s wife, Bathsheba, the harlot Isabel) the root cause of the problem.

3.1. See also: “modest is hottest,” which encourages women to make themselves more attractive to men by attempting to control the effects that their bodies have on men, which doesn’t have a darn thing to do with how women actually feel or think about their own bodies.

3.2. Modesty culture thus puts forward the objectification of women as a possible solution for a problem rooted in… the objectification of women.

4. A better correction to the problem of objectification would be learning to see women as fully human, with divine potential.

4.1. Both men and women need to learn to see women this way.

4.2. Mormonism has the theological resources to envision fully divine femininity.

4.2.1. We grossly underutilize these resources.

4.2.2. We have a (highly undeveloped) doctrine of Heavenly Mother, for instance, but talking about her still seems rather taboo.

4.2.2.1. Putting the doctrine of Heavenly Mother to effective use against pornography would require extricating her from the theological legacy of polygamy.

4.2.3. The Young Women recite every week a claim to their Divine Nature, and yet in the Church at large we seem to talk not at all about what this might mean, for women in particular.

4.3. Unlike statues of Greek goddesses, divinity cannot be found on pedestals.

4.4. Envisioning a fully divine femininity means being willing to accept revelation from female sources.

4.4.1. Just as we do not expect revelations that come to men to accord with our current understanding of things (indeed, we expect them not to: that’s what makes them revelations), we should expect to be surprised at what women teach us.

4.4.2. The feminine divine cannot be truly divine if it conforms to current human expectations, including cultural expectations about gender roles.

4.5. Love is not love if it loves only what is like itself; love, rather, involves figuring out how to live in relation with substantive differences in perspective and experience.

4.5.1. Gender contributes to such substantive difference in complex but irreducible ways. Women are people, mysterious only in the way that people ordinarily are, and yet their perspectives and experience are not fungible with men’s.

4.5.2. There is a divinity in those irreducible differences without which the Body of Christ is incomplete: shall the eye say to the hand, “I have no need of you?”

5. Learning to see women as fully human, with divine potential, will also mean coming to terms with female sexual desire.

5.1. Pornography invites men to see female sexual desire only as a means to the fulfillment of their own: “It’s okay that I want to do that to her, because she really wants it.”

5.1.1. Talk of Potiphar’s wife, Bathsheba, and the harlot Isabel encourages rather than discourages this tendency.

5.1.1.1. David raped Bathsheba and had her husband killed to cover it up. Blaming the episode on her is fundamentally unjust. Isabel may also be less blameworthy than Alma makes her out to be.

5.2. An independently existing female sexual desire does not map neatly onto male fantasy.

5.2.1. Failure to acknowledge female sexual desire that operates outside male fantasy also distorts male sexual desire, reframing it as an insatiable monstrosity that women carry the ultimate responsibility for controlling.

5.2.2. As a corollary to the last, placing the responsibility for both fulfilling and controlling male sexual desire on women not only denies women the responsibility for their own independent desire (which in this framework may be assumed not to exist), but it also denies men the responsibility for their desire.

5.2.3. Consequently, independent sexual desire for both men and women is best understood relationally.

5.2.4. Sexual sin is therefore best understood in terms of misrelation, not in terms of individual purity.

5.2.4.1. In the case of David and Bathsheba, the misrelation consists in David’s using an unequal power relationship to get what he wanted. The inequality compromised her capacity to give a free and full consent, in the same way that employees can’t really consent to sex with their bosses.

5.3. Denying sexual agency to both men and women produces a culture of shame and powerlessness.

5.3.1. Sexual shame works differently for LGBTQ Mormons than for cis/straight Mormons, because of the mandate for LGBTQ celibacy. It’s a conversation for another time, but worth noting here.

5.4. The notion of pornography addiction is (in most cases, but not all) a product of this shame and the sense of powerlessness it fosters.

6. The Mormon pornography problem is better addressed relationally than by recourse to purity or shame.

6.1. A relational solution requires changes to Mormon understandings of both masculinity and femininity.

6.1.1. Mormon men need to learn to hear women speak perspectives that are not culturally framed by men.

6.1.2. Where necessary, Mormon women need to learn to speak such perspectives.

6.1.3. The burden of opening space for such perspectives falls almost exclusively on men, because they have a near-monopoly on institutional power.

6.1.4. Opening that space is going to be scary for everyone, so be kind. Act out of love, not a desire to provoke.

6.2. Purity discourse assumes something that can be controlled; relationality assumes the existence of another person who does not (and should not) conform to our wishes. Control is antithetical to this approach.

6.2.1. Right relation means mutual vulnerability, which means the near certainty of error, but also the hope that error can be redeemed through ongoing relation.

6.2.2. Consider the way that God is vulnerable to humanity because of our agency; letting us have that could be the worst mistake that God ever made, and yet there is hope that our freedom might be redeemed in the end, through Christ.

6.2.3. Similarly, right human relation depends on the possibility that redemptive revelation could come through any party to the relationship.

6.3. Porn does not kill love; in the words of Paul, love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7, NRSV). If even prophecy will fail before love does, porn will fail, too. Caritas vincit omnia.

6.4. Creating shame around porn use only leads to more porn use and relational dysfunction; shame causes people to “hate their own blood,” which makes God weep (Moses 7:33).

6.5 The various forms of misrelation that contribute to porn use often create deep agony, both in people who use porn and in people close to them; the only Christian response is to heed our baptismal covenant to mourn with those who mourn. We refute the idea that porn kills love by loving.

6.5.1. People in abusive relationships are not obligated by love to remain in those relationships. Love calls for self-sacrifice, yes, but love also puts limits on it.

6.6. Misrelation includes misrelation with oneself.

6.6.1. The shame associated with pornography diminishes the self-love that we need in order to love our neighbor as ourselves.

6.6.2. Repenting for pornography use includes re-establishing a proper self-love, grounded in God’s unconditional love. Love yourself as God loves you; then you’ll be in a better position to love others as God loves them.

6.6.3. Learning to love yourself by loving others works too. The order doesn’t matter: just love.

6.7. Meeting the agony of misrelation with true compassion may not end porn use, but it will at least contribute to healing the wound.

7. If we seek liberation for the whole human family in love through Christ, all else will follow.

Comments

  1. Yes. Just so much this.

  2. Not a Cougar says:

    Jason, thank you for the feast for thought. Among the myriad of thoughts and questions that arose in my mind upon reading this, one statement stood out: “Denying sexual agency to both men and women produces a culture of shame and powerlessness.”

    What exactly do you mean by “sexual agency?”

  3. Jason K. says:

    I suppose I mean the ability to own the choice to participate in sexual activity as a product of one’s own will and desire, instead of placing the primary responsibility for policing such activity on women, which denies male agency and pretends that a woman’s agency with regard to herself doesn’t even exist.

  4. Dr. GSA says:

    This is excellent. I was happy to see 5.3.1 included (rather as a footnote) as an active, participating gay member of the church. It happens that the last time I had an open conversation with a church leader (a recently returned Mission President who had also served as an Area President and Seventy) he did ask “How does the viewing of pornography differ for gay men than for straight men.” That was the first time I was ever aware of the question being asked and it caught me a bit off guard. Fortunately I did not have much experience of my own, but I am certainly aware of its different function within the gay community. It really is a topic that should be examined sooner rather than later.

  5. Elle D says:

    “David raped Bathsheba and had her husband killed to cover it up. Blaming the episode on her is fundamentally unjust.” I’ve never experienced anything in LDS culture that has placed the blame of this episode on Bathsheba. What am I missing?

  6. Jason K. says:

    Agreed, Dr. GSA. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  7. Jason K. says:

    Some people read the story as her using her sexuality to angle for power. That, or fault her for being so sexy there bathing on the roof that poor David just couldn’t help himself. That said, I’m happy that you’ve never heard this stuff at church.

  8. This is brilliant. Thank you! Also 4.4 and 6.1.1 – 6.1.4 — which, when I write it here, feels like I’m referencing scriptural verse. Which I am.

  9. Darryl Lee says:

    Jason, I have seen recently what seems to be a backlash against a concept of modesty. First of all, modesty in dress, speech and action, applicable equally to both genders, seems to me to be worthy of placing at the altar of our creator. In my experience it has been decades since I have heard any sensible gospel leader or teacher blame a female’s lack of what might be considered modest dress or behavior as the “cause” of a male’s inappropriate or improper thoughts, words or actions. Every person has the agency to act for himself or herself, thus all have the capability and responsibility to choose to reject temptation, like Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, no matter what is offered.

  10. Marvelous. Fuel for thought and discussion in every line. Discussion meaning expansion and explication, since I agree to a surprisingly high degree (surprising to me, because I am seldom agreeable).
    It seems to me that 6 is not strong enough (but see 6.4 as a partial correction). In short, purity concepts–perversely (? too strong ? double meaning intended ?) — turn out to be a negative, a problem rather than an aid. Also purity is such a strong thread in Mormon (and apparently evangelical) discourse, that it has to be addressed directly and a safe place found. Because rejecting it outright just isn’t going to work.
    [All “in my opinion” obviously.]

  11. Ignoring the female sex drive creates an impossible paradox for women – we are supposed to remain sexless and virginal while getting married and bearing children. However, I suppose we’d better get used to the paradox. We are, after all, supposed to be like Heavenly Mother someday and She is (apparently) omniscient and omnipotent while remaining silent and invisible.

  12. Darryl, I can easily find remarks from general leaders (Elder Callister, President Dalton come to mind) who have said so in the past couple of years. Are they insensible then?

  13. Olde Skool says:

    Darryl Lee: have you considered that you “have not experienced” such rhetoric because you’re a man?

    JK: May your Summa Pornographia provide the scaffolding for continuing conversation. I can imagine that this document (esp thickened with scholia) would make a crucial (in the etymological/healing sense of that word) and transformative contribution to relationships in our community.

  14. Darryl Lee, in April 2005 Elder Oaks actually said in a General Conference talk:

    And young women, please understand that if you dress immodestly, you are magnifying this problem by becoming pornography to some of the men who see you.

    Those words, from an Apostle in General Conference, firmly push the responsibility for a man’s thoughts onto a woman’s shoulders. That is wrong. We are responsible for our own thoughts and actions, and blaming others is part of how men can see women as objects, a “thing” to tempt them, rather than a fellow human being.

    It would help everyone if we changed the tenor of our modesty discussions, which focus myopically on what women are wearing and how they might effect men, to actual behavior, independent of clothing. Modesty actually has a meaning, and it has very little to do with clothing, but you would never know to look at the last 15 years of our discourse.

  15. Wow! So many great thoughts, Jason. I particularly think 3.2 is an excellent one: the religious objectification of women is really not so different from the objectification of women in porn, and the former is clearly not a good answer to the latter.

    Also, your point in 4.4.1 about expecting to be surprised by the content of revelations coming through women is such a good one. I’ve seen people ask in discussions of women’s ordination, for example, what advocates of it expect to change if it were to happen. I really like your point, which seems to be that we just don’t know, but it should be some great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God.

  16. Jason K. says:

    Right, Ziff: we don’t know. Even putting aside the question of women’s ordination, I think that we should welcome such surprises in our ward council meetings, Gospel Doctrine lessons, and everywhere else in the quotidian workings of our church.

  17. Thanks so much for this, Jason! I appreciate the care with which you have woven together these myriad threads of thought on pornography, consent, relationality, shame, women’s voices, etc… I’m going to return to this (and the eventual book) frequently as I think through how to more healthily and helpfully discuss these issues at home and at church.

  18. Good stuff here. There is no slowing down on how much we talk about modesty (in terms of covering oneself) at church. If you are a young woman, or even an activity day girl, you are going to hear about it all the time. There was a sharing time lesson in primary (published in the manual that goes out for church wide use) about it last year that three year old sunbeams got to enjoy.

  19. I’d like to expand upon several points and highlight the need to alter our interpretation of the idea of “harlots,” “prostitutes,” scriptural “seductresses,” and current female “porn stars”: We should replace these words with “victim of human trafficking” when we hear or read them. These words are used to sexually vilify women, now and throughout history, and to displace accountability for historically male domination of vulnerable populations and individuals.

    In the present day, the vast majority of those we call prostitutes are victims of a male-dominated sexual slave trade. I cannot imagine there was much difference — or rather there may have been even greater oppression of women “whores, harlots, prostitutes” at a time when women were thought to be 2/3 of a soul — not even fully human — in this time period. (And we are still fighting to be considered fully human, equal to male humans, 2,000+ years later.)

    In this context, Corianton, David (and every other human who has participated in or benefitted from the sexual oppression or abuse of another) turned away from God in his sexual sin. Compulsive pornography use or abuse (addiction) is a sin because it supports the victimization of women. It alters brain chemistry of the addict, as do other addictions.

    I reject the notion that Bathsheba or Potipher’s wife or any other scripturally-noted/sexually-seductive woman was in any way responsible for the loss of souls other than her own. And even that gives me pause: women who are forced into prostitution or who choose it often are wounded long before . . .

    And, Darryl, Joseph wasn’t noble for rejecting temptation. He was just being a decent human being.

  20. Thank you, Jason. A terrific read, line by line, that has me reassessing so many aspects of human relationships. 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

  21. wreddyornot says:

    Thanks. A great resource to test both myself and to share and discuss with others.

  22. Brother Sky says:

    Thoughtful and thought-provoking, as always. I grew up in a sex-positive culture and am therefore not anti-porn in the same way that many folks in the church are, but I do like your points about how associating shame with porn (and, by extension, IMHO, sex and desire) is essentially unhealthy. I’d go further and say we need to stop, completely and absolutely, associating shame with sex and sexuality at all. There are times, I think, when both the law of chastity (esp. with regards to abstinence) and the fear concerning pre-marital sex do much more harm than good. Nice post.

  23. Tiberius says:

    1. Institutionally, we care about pornography mostly because it corrupts priesthood holders (i.e., men).

    Men get the porn talk more because men consume porn more, not sure where you’re getting your information on intent here.

    1.1. The Aaronic Priesthood curriculum for September has a lesson on avoiding pornography; the corresponding lesson for Young Women is on guarding one’s virtue; it mentions pornography only secondarily.

    Again, see #1, although I agree that porn should be discussed more with women, especially with the rise of erotic literature on e-readers ad such.

    2. We’re only incidentally concerned about how pornography affects women—and even then, we often frame those effects in male-centric terms.
    Ibid.
    2.1. We’re willing to say that objectifying women is a problem, but only as a sin that men might commit, not as a cultural problem.

    I’m not sure what this means, generally it’s the assumption that men are doing the objectifying in both church and non-church discourse.

    2.1.1. “What if it was your wife/daughter/sister on the screen?” contributes to objectification rather than solving it.

    That approach may be a good supplement, but not replacement, for the more foundational reason to not watch porn.

    2.1.1.1. Identifying women only through their relationship to a man denies them full personhood.

    Agreed, fail to see how this relates to anything Church-wise.

    2.1.1.2. Of course those relationships still matter, but they cannot be all that matters.
    Agreed.

    2.1.2. We seem too little concerned about the trafficking and abuse of women that the pornography industry entails.
    There probably is a connection, but it hasn’t been demonstrated empirically, so it shouldn’t be invoked until it has been.

    2.2. D&C 121 suggests that dehumanizing women corrupts priesthood holders, whether it involves pornography or not.
    Agreed.

    3. We treat pornography as a problem primarily involving men, but we make women (Potiphar’s wife, Bathsheba, the harlot Isabel) the root cause of the problem.
    ? in all my priesthood days I never heard that our sexual sins were caused by women.

    3.1. See also: “modest is hottest,” which encourages women to make themselves more attractive to men by attempting to control the effects that their bodies have on men, which doesn’t have a darn thing to do with how women actually feel or think about their own bodies.
    I agree that the “hottest” is problematic, but there’s nothing wrong with supporting the cultural notion that more wholesome dress is more attractive–or at least should be. If this is invoked, it should be very ancillary.

    3.2. Modesty culture thus puts forward the objectification of women as a possible solution for a problem rooted in… the objectification of women.

    In principle agree, but we may disagree with what “modesty culture” entails.

    4. A better correction to the problem of objectification would be learning to see women as fully human, with divine potential.
    Agreed.
    4.1. Both men and women need to learn to see women this way.
    Agreed.
    4.2. Mormonism has the theological resources to envision fully divine femininity.
    Agreed.
    4.2.1. We grossly underutilize these resources.

    Agreed, but arguing for same-sex sealings doesn’t exactly help the liberal case on this.

    4.2.2. We have a (highly undeveloped) doctrine of Heavenly Mother, for instance, but talking about her still seems rather taboo.
    Ibid.
    4.2.2.1. Putting the doctrine of Heavenly Mother to effective use against pornography would require extricating her from the theological legacy of polygamy.

    This implies that polygamy is based in the erotic. None of the BoM or D&C scriptures argue this, instead clearly making the case that it’s a reproductive imperative. D&C 121 ain’t going anywhere.

    4.2.3. The Young Women recite every week a claim to their Divine Nature, and yet in the Church at large we seem to talk not at all about what this might mean, for women in particular.
    Agreed.
    4.3. Unlike statues of Greek goddesses, divinity cannot be found on pedestals.
    Agreed.
    4.4. Envisioning a fully divine femininity means being willing to accept revelation from female sources.
    Agreed.
    4.4.1. Just as we do not expect revelations that come to men to accord with our current understanding of things (indeed, we expect them not to: that’s what makes them revelations), we should expect to be surprised at what women teach us.

    Occasionally God is a disruptive innovator, but usually it’s line upon line, so no, I’m not going to legitimize women chaining themselves to temple gates.

    4.4.2. The feminine divine cannot be truly divine if it conforms to current human expectations, including cultural expectations about gender roles.

    Until liberals get away from the gender nihilism engendered by the trans movement, you’re not in a position to tell us what exactly Heavenly Mother would contribute that Heavenly Father doesn’t already.

    4.5. Love is not love if it loves only what is like itself; love, rather, involves figuring out how to live in relation with substantive differences in perspective and experience.
    Agreed.
    4.5.1. Gender contributes to such substantive difference in complex but irreducible ways. Women are people, mysterious only in the way that people ordinarily are, and yet their perspectives and experience are not fungible with men’s.
    Agreed. But again see 4.3.
    4.5.2. There is a divinity in those irreducible differences without which the Body of Christ is incomplete: shall the eye say to the hand, “I have no need of you?”
    Ibid.
    5. Learning to see women as fully human, with divine potential, will also mean coming to terms with female sexual desire.
    Agreed.
    5.1. Pornography invites men to see female sexual desire only as a means to the fulfillment of their own: “It’s okay that I want to do that to her, because she really wants it.”
    Agreed.
    5.1.1. Talk of Potiphar’s wife, Bathsheba, and the harlot Isabel encourages rather than discourages this tendency.

    In my experience, they’re usually mentioned as a necessary prop to the storyline–the emphasis isn’t on their sinfulness. It’s always on the male’s sinfulness.

    5.1.1.1. David raped Bathsheba and had her husband killed to cover it up. Blaming the episode on her is fundamentally unjust. Isabel may also be less blameworthy than Alma makes her out to be.
    We don’t know if there was consent with Bathsheba. By assuming that there wasn’t you’re negating her own sexual agency.

    5.2. An independently existing female sexual desire does not map neatly onto male fantasy.
    Completely agree.
    5.2.1. Failure to acknowledge female sexual desire that operates outside male fantasy also distorts male sexual desire, reframing it as an insatiable monstrosity that women carry the ultimate responsibility for controlling.

    Agreed. Guy problem more than Church problem I’d argue.

    5.2.2. As a corollary to the last, placing the responsibility for both fulfilling and controlling male sexual desire on women not only denies women the responsibility for their own independent desire (which in this framework may be assumed not to exist), but it also denies men the responsibility for their desire.

    I always hear this gripe, but we men get plenty of lectures about controlling our sexuality. Maybe more than the women.

    5.2.3. Consequently, independent sexual desire for both men and women is best understood relationally.
    Not sure what this means.
    5.2.4. Sexual sin is therefore best understood in terms of misrelation, not in terms of individual purity.

    Not sure I agree. What about consensual porn use among couples? I’d argue that’s an objective purity issue.

    5.2.4.1. In the case of David and Bathsheba, the misrelation consists in David’s using an unequal power relationship to get what he wanted. The inequality compromised her capacity to give a free and full consent, in the same way that employees can’t really consent to sex with their bosses.

    So heads of state can never have sexual relationships? I get it if she was her employee, but we just don’t have a lot of info about the context.

    5.3. Denying sexual agency to both men and women produces a culture of shame and powerlessness.
    Yes.
    5.3.1. Sexual shame works differently for LGBTQ Mormons than for cis/straight Mormons, because of the mandate for LGBTQ celibacy. It’s a conversation for another time, but worth noting here.

    Yes, I suspect we’d disagree with some of the implications, but again, another time.

    5.4. The notion of pornography addiction is (in most cases, but not all) a product of this shame and the sense of powerlessness it fosters.

    Kind of agree. It hinges on what qualifies as an “addiction.” In terms of the looser definitions that we apply as non-clinicians, then yes porn addiction is a thing. In terms of the higher bar that’s reserved for hard drugs, then no.

    6. The Mormon pornography problem is better addressed relationally than by recourse to purity or shame.
    Agreed.
    6.1. A relational solution requires changes to Mormon understandings of both masculinity and femininity.

    See above comment about gender nihilism. Unless you’re willing to go out on the limb on particulars about masculinity and feminity, you can’t invoke it.

    6.1.1. Mormon men need to learn to hear women speak perspectives that are not culturally framed by men.
    Yes.
    6.1.2. Where necessary, Mormon women need to learn to speak such perspectives.
    Yes
    6.1.3. The burden of opening space for such perspectives falls almost exclusively on men, because they have a near-monopoly on institutional power.
    Agreed.
    6.1.4. Opening that space is going to be scary for everyone, so be kind. Act out of love, not a desire to provoke.
    Agreed.
    6.2. Purity discourse assumes something that can be controlled; relationality assumes the existence of another person who does not (and should not) conform to our wishes. Control is antithetical to this approach.
    Agreed.
    6.2.1. Right relation means mutual vulnerability, which means the near certainty of error, but also the hope that error can be redeemed through ongoing relation.
    Ibid
    6.2.2. Consider the way that God is vulnerable to humanity because of our agency; letting us have that could be the worst mistake that God ever made, and yet there is hope that our freedom might be redeemed in the end, through Christ.
    Ibid
    6.2.3. Similarly, right human relation depends on the possibility that redemptive revelation could come through any party to the relationship.
    Ibid
    6.3. Porn does not kill love; in the words of Paul, love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7, NRSV). If even prophecy will fail before love does, porn will fail, too. Caritas vincit omnia.

    Porn use can negatively influence marital closeness, whether that means it “kills love” I’ll let others decide.

    6.4. Creating shame around porn use only leads to more porn use and relational dysfunction; shame causes people to “hate their own blood,” which makes God weep (Moses 7:33).
    Yes.
    6.5 The various forms of misrelation that contribute to porn use often create deep agony, both in people who use porn and in people close to them; the only Christian response is to heed our baptismal covenant to mourn with those who mourn. We refute the idea that porn kills love by loving.
    See 6.3
    6.5.1. People in abusive relationships are not obligated by love to remain in those relationships. Love calls for self-sacrifice, yes, but love also puts limits on it.
    Agreed.
    6.6. Misrelation includes misrelation with oneself.
    Agreed.
    6.6.1. The shame associated with pornography diminishes the self-love that we need in order to love our neighbor as ourselves.
    Agree with all the rest.

  24. Jason K. says:

    I suppose that it was only a matter of time before my choice of genre prompted some proper animadversions.

  25. 3.2 FTW

  26. Tiberius says:

    By their nature listed aphorisms are difficult to dispute :)

  27. Jason K. says:

    Don’t get me wrong: the nerd in me is very happy about this development. Obviously I disagree with you about quite a bit, but that’s fine.

  28. Franklin says:

    What “doctrine of Heavenly Mother”? There is no such thing in Mormonism. LDS scripture is totally silent on her existence, her character, her place in the eternal scheme of things. All we have is a bunch of speculative statements by Church leaders who have never had a shred of revelation on the subject. Show me a revelation on Heavenly Mother. God is peculiarly silent about her (or is it them?). Why? It’s certainly not so that we won’t speak disrespectfully of her (them). Or does the fact that only men are allowed to have binding revelations for the whole Church play the major role here? Just wondering.

  29. Sean Aaron says:

    I love this. I am a doctoral student in clinical Psychology, and this understanding of pornography is critical for many of my clients with pronography concerns.

    I would like to push back on 6.6 a little. This could probably warrant an article unto itself.

    When Jesus said love others as you love yourselves, he was speaking to the prideful, self-serving Pharisees. I reject the idea that we must first love ourselves before we can love others. When Christ spoke to His disciples the instruction was, “As I have loved you, love one another.” There was no injunction to amp up your “self love” first. I side with Gordon B Hinckley’s father and think we should “forget ourselves and go to work [loving and serving others].”

    I could say more, but that’s the gist of it.

  30. Jason K. says:

    Yeah, that’s a controversial point. I recently had a long and pleasurable argument with a friend about it. The philosophical ramifications on both sides are pretty extensive.

  31. Amanda says:

    From Tiberius…

    2.1.1.1. Identifying women only through their relationship to a man denies them full personhood.

    Agreed, fail to see how this relates to anything Church-wise.

    Oh man. Literally. This is what scares me the most. That many men, including our leaders, don’t even see it. How do I keep holding on for change (in the temple especially) if you can’t even see that it is there.

  32. Jason K. says:

    See also his response to the point about HM and polygamy.

  33. @Jason K. i couldn’t get myself to read his whole comment.

  34. Reacting to Tiberius, I’d suggest an opposite criticism. I believe that the extreme binary nature of Mormon discourse about sex, sexuality and gender is not a feature but a fault. Played out in exaggerated and twisted form in pornography. To the extent your aphorisms rely on and perpetuate gender essentialism, I take it as a reflection of our society, both Western and Mormon, but I think it is not the way forward.
    To put it another way, YES to:
    4. A better correction to the problem of objectification would be learning to see women as fully human, with divine potential.
    And to underscore, “fully human with divine potential” is not in some peculiar female-essential way (un)defined by an unknown Mother in Heaven, but fully human with divine potential exactly transparently exultantly like every person on the planet, gay, straight, male, female, trans, young, old, black, white.

  35. I realized recently that I think for a lot of Mormons, the real problem with porn is the sexual stimulation of the person not involving a spouse. They might not like what is involved in the production of porn, but the focus is always on the user, which is why I think porn tends to be conflated with erotica and masturbation.

    I wonder if we should try to distinguish between the sex industry (including porn) and other kinds of erotic material. Does the other stuff also objectify women in the same way? For the Strength of Youth teaches that intentionally causing sexual stimulation in yourself before marriage in any way is wrong. Is this healthy, or should we be open to some kind of sexual expression for single people?

  36. AnnieKC says:

    Jason, I appreciate the multiple insights in your post. You are correct–the tendency to blame women for men’s sexual behaviors is ubiquitous in our culture, including college campuses (see Title IX issues including at BYU).
    Tiberius, re: 2.1.1.1–Jason is absolutely on point here. The identity of women in the church (and often in society) is tied to their husbands. Women take on their husband’s name, abandoning the name given at birth and the identity developed before she married. In the Church women are tethered even more to men in an identity fashion; to the extent she is known, she is known as the wife of the Stake President, the wife of the Bishop, the Prophet, etc. Its in Church records. If she moves and her husband stays behind to complete his job, her records stay with him and she is invisible in the new ward. My Stake President once commented to me that I as Stake Relief Society President) was the most admired woman in the stake. I corrected him by pointing out that if there was a most admired women, it was his wife. She had managed to accomplish what many women of the stake had aspired to and only a few women in the stake had done–married an admired priesthood leader who was an example to other men, and who presumably did everything right. It was his wife who was seen as most likely to have her “calling and election made sure.”

  37. Eric Russell says:

    Jason, I think your 5.4 comment misinterprets the result of that study, though I’m not entirely clear as to what you are saying so it’s hard to say.

    But it’s important to note that porn addiction is in fact real and that shame around its use is not its principle cause. It’s true that porn addiction does occur in religious cultures at a slightly higher rate than others because religious shame acts a fueling agent for the addiction. But porn/sex addictions occur fairly consistently in all cultures, independent of prevailing attitudes towards sex and porn. In other words, it’s not really a sex discourse problem.

  38. Jason K. says:

    I understood the study to be saying that porn/sex addiction does exist, but that shame culture creates a lot of “false positives.” Is that fair? I’ll allow that the framework I’ve laid out here does not address actual addiction adequately.

  39. Tiberius says:

    @ Amanda:
    Yes, I didn’t consider the temple ceremony, which still has a residue of the male-centric deification emphasis of the early Church. I guess my mind was on the “what are we hearing over the pulpit” track, for which case I do stand by my claim. That was a slip on my part and I don’t mean to diminish the effect current temple cosmology may have on women’s sense of their divine potential.

    @ Christian:
    Probably a bigger discussion for another day (and I don’t mean to rehash the Petrey/Hudson discussions about this), but IMHO it does seem this is a case of trying to have a cake and eat it too. Women’s rights are important for the left side of the spectrum, as are gay rights, so it seems natural that they’d try to dismiss the opposite-sex standard while still retaining Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father as the archetype. The only way you can get to that is by de-sexing Heavenly Mother or making her neuter gender, and therefore removing what it is that made them distinctive. Why the insist on HM if She is for all intents and purposes identical to HF? What would we get by having Her?

  40. Tiberius, for goodness sakes, pick something and comment on it. Make more than one comment. Don’t copy the entire post and add your annotations; no one wants to read it, especially when your only response is “agreed”. It’s like continually posting “me too!!!!”

    I’ll take issue with this – “gender nihilism engendered by the trans movement”
    There is no “movement”. There is no list of doctrines transgender people sign before they can “decide” to become transgender. There is a great range of beliefs, some of which even include having only two genders. There are even some beliefs that fit quite well into LDS eternal gender theology. Don’t dismiss an entire group of people based on what you believe “they must all be like and believe”.

  41. laurieds says:

    Tiberius, the most obvious point to some of us is 2.1.1.1. Women in society are best known by their husband. Women relinquish their birth name –the name of their youth and identity formation–to take on his name. when they marry. In the Church this is magnified. We know that historically male leaders had multiple wives. What are their names? They are referred to with a number: Wife #1, Wife #2, etc.–even at current family reunions. In church records, when the couple moves, the wife first and the husband staying back to complete a job–her records stay with him. She is invisible in her new ward, until her husband arrives. The women most talked about and who are mentioned most in lesson manuals are the mothers and wives of the Presidents of the Church. Most members remain clueless regarding the strength of the Relief Society, the prior presidents, and their stunning work. UNLESS one was married to a Prophet. The most admired woman in any stake would be the stake president’s wife. Not the Stake Relief Society president or any woman leader. But the wife of the top priesthood holder in the stake. I apologize that this is a somewhat sketchy response–examples of the obvious are a challenge to condense in a comment.

  42. Not a Cougar says:

    christainkimball, I understand and fully support your recommendation, but I don’t think that the vast majority of men, even LDS men look at other men as gods in utero who one day will be worthy of worship (by whom, I have no idea). I certainly didn’t see my least favorite mission companion as such. It would take (and I hate to use this hackneyed term) a paradigm shift in how we consistently teach our relationship to God. Not just that someday, somehow we can be like Him, but that, right now, there truly is something divine about all 7.5 billion of us. As a Church, we’d have to embrace all the “weirdness” of theosis that we’ve quietly spent the last 60 years hiding behind curtains.

    If we properly taught about and emphasized our true nature (even just as currently revealed) in an unflinching way, then, I think, the idea of pleasuring yourself while watching a god degrade him or herself becomes thoroughly abhorrent.

  43. How do meekness, hope, and charity support and overlap with faith? (or a connection with the divine), or are those ideals even needed to support faith in God?

    How you view and understand the physical manifestations of meekness, hope and charity directly informs your faith. If you view/understand those physical manifestations i.e. nakedness (meekness), arousal (hope), and giving and receiving love (charity) in the incorrect manner you are debilitating your ability to “see” them in the ideal and how they support faith.

    Pornography is a counterfeit physical manifestation of how those ideals create and strengthen faith. Participation with pornography visually teaches that charity can circumvent agency and faith can be established by force and on demand, sounds like that other guy’s plan.

    Might be taboo to equate the Christian triad of faith hope and charity; with arousal, sexual intercourse, and orgasam, but there seems to be a lot of overlap with those as physical manifestations of said ideals.

  44. Melissa says:

    Amanda on May 3, 2017 at 9:57 am:

    I see it, too. It still shocks me how many people who attend the temple regularly don’t see it. It punched me in the gut my first time through. I’ve lost hope, but am glad not everyone is as demoralized as I am.

  45. Tiberius – “Why the insist on HM if She is for all intents and purposes identical to HF? What would we get by having Her?”

    Why insist on HF when he is for all intents and purposes identical to Jesus? When we stop seeing them as individuals we take one more step away from their being a more advanced version of us. What we gain from knowing there is a HM is the ability for all of us, male and female, to see a future for ourselves as an individual part of a heavenly couple. Collapsing them into one being, just like collapsing the Godhead into one being, collapses them into an amorphous being that is completely alien to us and what we can become.

  46. Jason K. says:

    My point about substantial but irreducible difference owes more to Trinitarian theology than any “gender nihilism” (although I suppose that “substantial” is the wrong word once you get into the later iterations of said theology).

  47. Not a Cougar says:

    Frank, I think Tiberius would agree with you. I think his problem is in what he perceives as a movement to de-gender of God in order to give Heavenly Mother an effective role in the eternities (pardon the clumsiness of my speech, I’m typing fast). I don’t think he has a problem with Heavenly Mother, just with the idea that gender is meaningless in heaven.

  48. Tiberius says:

    Not a Cougar is correct. I agree with everything Frank said there, but I just hold that it’s a deeply heteronormative and cisnormative position to take; it still assumes that there are two main, fundamental categories that both have to be represented in a heavenly couple.

    Also, in regards to the main point of the OP, and on the note of purity culture, when I tried to pull this post up on my phone the filter my wife installed blocked this website; you dirty, filthy people.

  49. Two quibbles:

    4.4. Envisioning a fully divine femininity means being willing to accept revelation from female sources.

    Please clarify. Are we talking about receiving revelation from Heavenly Mother, or mortal women here on earth being revelators or both? This seems a bit overreaching, as we don’t fully understand the mechanism for revelation in the first place except that it comes through the power of the Holy Ghost, which seems traditionally male.

    4.4.2. The feminine divine cannot be truly divine if it conforms to current human expectations, including cultural expectations about gender roles.

    This seems a case of “who are we to say?” It seems presumptuous on our part to dictate how God(s) may present themselves and what life is like in a world we don’t remember.

  50. Taking us far afield, but the way I (a cis-male white Mormon) think about Mother in Heaven is that I am created in the image of God in every aspect–father and mother, maker and nurturer, full of power and full of wisdom, and to the extent I can comprehend the charge to “be like them” I want to be like Mother every bit as much as Father. Although I admit to a slight preference for Son.

    The idea that women should be like Mother and men should be like Father (which I have heard) strikes me as dangerous heresy.

  51. I don’t understand why defining HF and HM as male/female presupposes all other options for all the other Gods and their relationships. Who is to say that HF’s brother isn’t in a vastly different situation. How would we even know? Unless we’ve given up on the endless posterity idea, I suppose. Do we now believe the spiritual genealogical tree starts with HF/HM? Frankly, that’s not what I was taught growing up in the church.

  52. This discussion seems incomplete without acknowledging the somewhat significant amount of people who enjoy anonymously posting explicit images of themselves.

  53. Kevin Barney says:

    This blog post is about Tamar rather than Bathsheba, but it illustrates a simiar point:

    https://bycommonconsent.com/2014/07/12/throwing-tamar-under-the-linguistic-bus/

  54. Kevin Barney says:

    Scripture is not completely silent on Mother in Heaven:

    https://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V41N04_133.pdf

  55. I’m flabbergasted by people who say they’ve never heard women and their modesty being blamed for men’s thoughts or actions. I’ve heard it implied or plainly stated in General Conference, EQ, Sunday School, and various Sacrament talks. Am i just the lucky one?

  56. Not even remotely, jeremyjohnsen. I’m sure there are people who have never heard it, and I am sure there are many men who didn’t even pick up on it, or claim they have never heard it, or simply don’t notice it. Just like Tiberius can say:

    2.1.1.1. Identifying women only through their relationship to a man denies them full personhood.
    Agreed, fail to see how this relates to anything Church-wise.

    That kind of statement is A) so common, and B) leaves many women feeling gobsmacked and further erased. That invisibility is a huge part of the problem. You cannot fix what you cannot see, or even worse, what you cannot acknowledge.

  57. JediToby, do you study the words of women speaker(s) at Conference, including the talks at the women’s session, as closely and with as much respect as you do the talks of male Conference speakers? Or do you assume they only give girly advice so you don’t need to listen or read at all? Have you bought a copy of At the Pulpit, and are you reading it thoughtfully? Are you man enough to sing “As Sisters in Zion” if your ward chooses it for congregational singing?

    “Receiving revelation” is broader than “disclosing something never before known” — even the prophets do that to a vanishingly rare degree. “Receiving revelation” also means listening to and accepting exhortation based on earlier revelation. Women who are called to speak and teach have as much authority and wisdom to expound revelation as any man called to the same assignment. Do you receive it, or do you decide it’s a good time to hit the kitchen for a snack?

  58. Rob Osborn says:

    Dont agree at all with the too long list of assumptions.
    The problem we have in society is that we have sexualized women. Be ause of that, a large part of industry standards are to use this sex symbol to sell things. Correcting this is addressing it and re-establishing a correct sense of morals in how we dress and view each other. Dressing modestly is generally not a problem with men in our society. Its not really men so much that have been used to sexualize industry market sales and appeal. The church is spot on in its approach.

  59. Very interesting. A couple of reactions:
    2. Different reactions to men and women’s porn use. One observation, I cannot say if my observation is accurate or not, but one thing I saw in the Fifty Shades of Gray thing is that there seems to be a double standard in the way we treat men and women in this area. We seem much more tolerant of women’s consumption of romance novels (including those novels that include erotic scenes and descriptions) than we are of men’s consumption of visual porn. I recall one discussion where it was claimed that women are better than men at separating fantasy from reality. I have seen claims that the romance novel industry is bigger than the porn industry, and we seem more tolerant of it.

    5. After years in a sexless marriage (as the higher desire spouse), I have tried to understand sexual desire and female sexual desire. I am pretty much certain that Elder Packer’s statement that desire is strong and constant in humans is not universally true. I see a lot of dialog that implies that women are either inherently asexual or demisexual, which I don’t believe is true. I think a big part of Sister Brotherson’s “Good-Girl Syndrome” is all about women accepting (or accepting as good) their own sexual desires. Sister Finlaysen-Fife also frequently talks about the difficulties of women owning their own sexuality. I see a lot that I believe is misunderstood and mischaracterized regarding female sexuality — even by the women themselves.

    5.2.1 — The demonization of male sexuality. Ever since those earliest bouts with chastity lessons and such as a deacon, I have “hated” my sexual desires/sexuality. When I was young and single, it seemed that the Church wanted me to be asexual, and I just could not turn it off. When I got married, I was afraid I enjoyed sex too much. Now that sex is infrequent, I, again, wish there was a way to just turn it off. If there is more to Elder Bednar’s “[sex] is the ultimate expression of our divine nature” comment than bringing children into the world, I have not experienced it.

    5.2.3 — sex is best understood relationally. Yes, I agree, though I think it is going to challenge some of our rhetoric. I recall in my youth those lessons saying, “‘if you love me, you will have sex with me.’ is a complete lie and completely false.” I recently came across an article on Mormonhub that said “Discover the joys of a non-sexual relationship and find sincere ways to show affection without sex. It’s not only possible, it’s much more fun. Sexuality is the enemy of romance, and romance is amazing.” (https://mormonhub.com/blog/life/relationships/youre-love-mormon-girl-5-things-watch/ ). Certainly sex and love are not synonyms, but they are much more intertwined than some of our dialog even begins to suggest.

  60. Can I just take a second here to go off on a small tangent. Some sisters above have commented on the male dominant role in the temple. It’s something I struggled with for a long time. I would say, “Heavenly Father, you made me and I am a strong woman. I don’t understand how I fit in here. What does this mean for me? What is my role? I know I can do amazing things!” That was the gist anyway. And I kept attending and asking. For years. I just faithfully waited for an answer, trusting I was doing the right thing in the meantime. And you know what? He answered me. I see the temple through a whole new lens now. Where many see it as male-dominant (and I understand how they can) I see the opposite. Ask Him. He will answer you in time.

  61. Anonymormon says:

    Porn itself can have some inherent bad side effects, of course. My ex-husband was rough, inattentive, and demanding in bed, and I think much of this came from his experiences with porn where women were satisfied with very little effort. He earnestly believed I was “broken” for not reacting as he expected, and he was not open to suggestions because he insisted he was “doing it the right way.”

    On the other hand, I was never especially bothered by his porn use itself. I think I was less bothered than he was, anyway. What DID bother me (and this was part of what led to our eventual divorce) was that it made him so deeply ashamed that he’d have major depressive episodes and huge rage-y outbursts. It also opened the door for him to lie about incrementally larger things. Incidentally, the porn use was actually a symptom of a different problem: around the time we married he’d started taking medication that made him gain weight and gave him performance problems. (According to him) porn reassured him that he was still a virile, sexual being, without him having to deal with any of his insecurities or the pressure to meet the needs of another person. I sometimes think that if he hadn’t believed that porn was so embarrassing and a serious transgression that couldn’t be discussed without major consequences, it would almost have been a non-issue. I can’t generalize about other marriages, but I do wonder how often detrimental porn use is a symptom of other problems that then fail to get directly addressed because the porn itself becomes such a big deal (and deal breaker). I don’t know if Mormonism can change the narrative in a healthier way, but this post offers good suggestions.

  62. Wow, this may be one of my favorite posts/comment threads of all time. A few thoughts:

    1 – porn is absolutely an issue for women. I don’t know whether it is naivety or a dismissal of women’s sexual desire to assume otherwise, but it should be a topic of discussion for women too. Or maybe men are just too squeamish to include this as a lesson for young women.

    2 – as some comments have pointed out, the “shame” aspect is also taught or is implicit in the way we talk about masturbation, which can translate into shame about all sexual feelings/desire. It is especially problematic to teach that masturbation is absolutely wrong in light of the general lack of understanding of female pleasure.

  63. If only David would have known about polyandry he wouldn’t be spending his eternities in the terrestrial kingdom.

    My wife and I have had long conversations about what mormonism teaches about her divine role and eternal destiny. She cannot find comfort in any possible scenario. Eternal Motherhood, polygamy, eternal submission. It is not just in our church history either where we can hope for a better outcome. Ever heard of a female angel administering to anyone? It does seem that whoever gives God his power, these things that act and are not acted upon, must do a testicle check before they start acting.

    Regarding sexuality and porn, who knows what to do? Am I the only one that has problems taking sexual advice from church leaders after studying polygamy? And then there was that whole oral sex being a sin thing. I want to go to heaven, but I sure enjoy raunchy sex with my wife. I guess the safe route is celibacy after the kids are born. I love Mormonism, but definitely envy those who don’t have to torment themselves like we do.

  64. cynthiaclarke2 says:

    How about rewriting this with a list of your POSITIVE aphorisms about what the church teaches about these subjects?

  65. Lindsey Smith says:

    Amberwild, could you please just tell us. Seriously, please.

  66. Jason, this is a thought-provoking post and one which will occupy my mind for a quite a while. I have read and reread it and still working to wrap my head around all of your points, which seem to me to be provocative and even compelling. One thought (and a question for you) comes to mind, related to these assertions:

    5.2.3. Consequently, independent sexual desire for both men and women is best understood relationally.
    5.2.4. Sexual sin is therefore best understood in terms of misrelation, not in terms of individual purity.
    5.3. Denying sexual agency to both men and women produces a culture of shame and powerlessness.

    I tried to map your thoughts to behavior I see in my ward and stake. I’m wondering if our culture contributes to the problem by not allowing our youth to experience steady dating relationships. In Utah, at least, I’m surrounded by a “one date” mindset that exists across all families I know. The “no second date” policy everyone seems to abide by is fundamentally designed to prevent youth from developing a serious relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend. The thinking is serious relationships (which evidently are created by the second date) will inevitably lead to physical intimacy and a loss of purity, not to mention bringing shame to the youth and their families. It seems to me we hinder our youth’s ability to practice relationships, and come to terms with their sexual desires within the context of a relationship involving another human being. Hence, we rob them of the ability to develop respect for their own and their love interest’s sexual desires, and the responsibility that comes with understanding how their own selfish or even coercive actions in this regard may negatively affect others. So the youth all remain at arm’s length, emotionally and physically, alone with only their own desire to understand and work out.

    I wonder if our commitment to absolute purity of women and focus on pornography as a male problem as it is currently expressed contributes to even greater levels relational isolation, thus further objectifying women and increasing porn use among males. Could the church be compounding the very problem it is seeking to solve?

  67. Not a Cougar says:

    BigSky, thank you for expressing your thoughts, but taking your second full paragraph to its logical conclusion, does this mean you believe teenagers should in fact be having sex with each other? If so, I couldn’t disagree more. You stated, “It seems to me we hinder our youth’s ability to practice relationships, and come to terms with their sexual desires within the context of a relationship involving another human being.” I take that to mean that part of practicing relationships (like adults) includes some level of consensual sexual activity. Otherwise, “…the youth all remain at arm’s length, emotionally and physically alone with only their own desire to understand and work out.” Exactly how does introducing sex into a relationship between two adolescents help them grow as individuals? If I’m misunderstanding you, please let me know. I think your analysis also ignores the fact that LDS young adults are explicitly encouraged to date seriously with the goal of finding an eternal companion. For men, assuming they’ve served a mission at the first possible moment, that’s now age 20. For women, it can be (egads!) as soon as they graduate high school. If, in fact, you do not believe in encouraging teenage sexual relationships, then I really think normalizing long-term relationships between teens doesn’t help.

    As for whether LDS youth experience more “relational isolation” because of the lack of long-term dating, I certainly have no data to back it up, but I’m not aware that LDS teenagers as a whole experience “relational isolation” any more than any other subset of religious teenagers or even the general population. I’m also willing to bet porn use among LDS boys and girls is no higher, and likely lower, than that among the rest of the general population. My anecdotal experience in college (I was pretty sheltered in high school) was that just about all of my non-LDS friends were sexually active (some in serious long-term relationships while others were serious partakers of the hook-up culture) and also voracious consumers of pornography. So I personally see no connection between “relational isolation” and porn use, nor do I think the Church’s stance about no sex before marriage is driving higher than average porn use.

  68. Jason K., this is awesome. So much to think about. Thanks.

    Sean Aaron, if you’re planning to be a practicing psychologist, I really really hope you don’t find yourself treating women who suffer from excessive self-negation and tell them that they just need to serve more, to forget themselves and go to work. The message to women especially that they should be angels of service who don’t pay attention to their own needs, who maybe even shouldn’t even have a self to begin with, has messed a lot of people up. Please tell me that you’re being exposed to at least some feminist theory in your clinical psychology training.

  69. Thank you Jason- there is so much here to consider. A practical question- how do I teach my teenage boys and girls about the sin of pornography in relational terms. I love that- just looking for some suggestions. Thank you!

  70. Jason K. says:

    To the recent exchange between BigSky and Not a Cougar, I think that being an adult means learning to live in and with tension, which includes tension surrounding sexuality. So I don’t think that we do teenagers any favors either by trying too hard to protect them from their own sexual feelings or by taking an attitude of total permissiveness toward sexual matters. Fundamentally, being an adult means that you don’t always (or maybe even often) get what you want, perhaps especially in sexual matters, and I think that healthy sexuality means learning to inhabit that tension rather than trying to resolve it, whether by repression or libertinism.

    And that brings me to Sara’s practical question: I think that one issue with solitary porn use (others have broached the topic of consensual use of porn by couples: I haven’t made up my mind about that) is that it’s insufficiently relational: the person on the screen, unlike fully realized people in real life, never pushes back against your desires. Now, I’ve read enough to know that some people consider the freedom afforded by this virtuality to be a good thing, but I disagree. For me, the richness of life consists in living with other people whose thoughts and desires are not my own–a fact that makes life very complicated and often difficult, but also beautiful and surprising.

    To Lynnette’s excellent point: I’ve just finished reading Deidre Green’s book, Works of Love in a World of Violence, and it’s very sharp on the question of women, Christianity, and self-sacrifice.

  71. Not a Cougar says:

    Jason, I don’t completely disagree with you, but you beg the question of what that tension should look like for two 16 year-olds. I’m not asking you to draft a laundry list of appropriate and inappropriate sexual contact for teens, but, recalling how difficult it was for me and my wife to deal with sexual tension when we were dating in our 20s and very active in church (and I’m sure we weren’t the exception either), I’m extremely reticent to greenlight intense relationships between adolescents knowing the potential consequences (physical, spiritual, and emotional) that sex brings. I just don’t think the juice is worth the squeeze.

  72. BigSky says:

    @Not a Cougar. No, that is not what I mean, not at all. @Jason K does a much better job of clarifying my thinking. By placing a moratorium on teen dating we rob them of the needed experience to manage sexual tension in an emotionally (and physically) healthy and responsible way.

  73. BanjoForce says:

    “For me, the richness of life consists in living with other people whose thoughts and desires are not my own–a fact that makes life very complicated and often difficult, but also beautiful and surprising.”

    That’s great for you and quite poetic but I don’t think that your experience should be blanketed to everyone as the road to richness in life. Plenty of people find richness through pursuits that aren’t fully based on living with other people who are different.

  74. Jason K. says:

    Not a Cougar: I see your point, but I think that the tension is going to look different for different people. The process of learning where the lines need to be is more important than the precise location of the lines themselves. And I fully get that this process is messy, but see 6.2.2.

    BanjoForce: If they key to your objection is “fully,” then I agree. But I don’t think that it’s possible to avoid living with other people who are different and go on living with people. Depending on how you understand what it means to have a self, it might not even be possible if you live entirely alone. So I choose to find richness in what I consider an inescapable aspect of reality.

  75. Jared vdH says:

    Dave, the Romance Novel industry is larger than the Porn Industry, but the two are not equivalent. The amount of Romance Novels that could be considered “erotic romance” is at most 42% of the readership. https://www.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=582

    In fact Historical Romance is about as large, though slightly smaller. Are you prepared to compare Jane Austen to Porn? Because her novels are typically referred to as period romances.

  76. Not a Cougar says:

    BigSky, thanks for the clarification, and my apologies for the misunderstanding and mis-attribution. However, I still think we come down on opposite sides of the issue. I simply don’t think pairing off as a teenager is necessary or even ideal for developing adults who can handle sex in a healthy way. I look at family members and friends who dated exclusively in high school and I see no later benefit from it. If anything, many were worse off from the experience. Dating socially in high school and learning to interact with people to whom you are attracted can be a very good thing, but I learned to ride a bike using training wheels, and I’m grateful I had “training wheels” as I learned how to date too.

  77. Jared vdH says:

    Not a Cougar, do you also believe in the “no second dates” rule, which is what BigSky originally mentioned? I can understand counselling against “going steady” (to use an archaic term) or as you say it “pairing off” in the terms of an exclusive long term relationship, but not even a second date? A second date is not “dating exclusively”. It’s going on a second date.

  78. MDearest says:

    This is a benchmark post in the rather spare discussions of sexuality in the church. It addresses a lot of the thorny sexual difficulties, problems, questions, and sins, many of us currently grapple with. It is succinct. It is so well organized. It is very well done.

    As someone who has sustained a lot of early damage in this area, and wishing I hadn’t been so abandoned by the adults in my life regarding this, and having muddled through teaching my own children, I take an interest in how we teach young people in their adolescence to manage their sexuality. I don’t wish to hijack the thread, but for those who are looking for help, I highly recommend the Our Whole Lives curriculum of sex education. I have a young relative enrolled in the class, and I’m so pleased to see them given a thorough overview of human sexuality for now and their future. I won’t describe it further here, but if I am ever again charged with shepherding an adolescent through this minefield, that’s where I would go for help.

  79. lauraisangry says:

    Great post, thanks for this.

    Melodynew’s comment re: the porn industry and human trafficking is fantastic. I’ve long been bothered by the fact that our focus is on how it hurts poor men spiritually to look at porn and becoming a slave to sexual feelings – you know what’s worse? Being hurt physically. Being an actual slave. Having no choices. Even for women who do choose to enter the industry (and really, it’s a lot rarer than is portrayed on tv), why are we not concerned about how men consuming porn impacts those in the industry? To be honest, I don’t freaking care about some poor BYU student’s “porn addiction” keeping him from a temple marriage or whatever when the porn he watches is probably full of victims of trafficking. I would rather the church spend money on stopping trafficking rather than 10 step porn addiction recovery programs.

  80. Chadwick says:

    My region of the world holds something annually called Mormal, which I’m told is a cute combination nameplay for a Mormon formal.

    This year, only the young men could purchase tickets, because it was their responsibility to ask girls on dates. Some girls decided to go as a group of friends and were turned away from buying tickets, which of course led to quite the brouhaha. This in 2017. And in CA, not KY.

    So yes, we still do not treat woman as human beings. If young men are taught that women are there for their choosing, it’s no wonder later on in life we struggle with all the things listed in this amazing post. I believe it all starts in the way we demonstrate gender roles with our children.

    Though I’m far from perfect, I’m going to raise my daughters to believe that they can do anything a boy can do, including asking somebody they like to a Mormal.

  81. @Jared: I am not prepared to delve deep into a debate on “compare and contrast the romance and porn industries.” However, I think there could be some interesting discussions to be had. The main way this stood out to me was in the seeming double standard around
    Fifty Shades of Gray. There did not seem to be the same condemnation of women who chose to read it as the condemnation of men who choose to consume porn.
    Another example — how do romance novels impact women’s desires and expectations of relationships (I see this one a lot in relation to Hollywood romcoms)? Perhaps it is playing on my own insecurities (how many “what is the effect of porn use on wives discussions” are about women’s insecurities), but I have often been intrigued by the two turning points in Elizabeth Bennet’s relationship to Mr. Darcy. One was when she visited Pemberly and realized just how wealthy Mr. Darcy was (I believe she thought at one point, “I could have been mistress of all this.” or something to that effect). The other was when she learned of Mr. Darcy’s role in smoothing over Lydia’s elopement and getting Mr. Wickham his commision and station in the military, which he could do because of his wealth and influence in the community. It’s a fun story, but I sure hope my wife accepts and is content that I will never be anywhere near as wealthy or as influential as Mr. Darcy, because it will never happen.

    I would not expect to hold my own in such a debate, nor do I even think I have any of the answers to defend, but it seems to me that there is a potential discussion to be had, and maybe there are things to be learned by understanding why porn is so attractive to men and why romance is so attractive to women.

  82. Not a Cougar says:

    Jason, your reference to 6.2.2 puts me in mind of God’s instruction on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God didn’t say, “Sure do what you want, no problem.” He gave them power to choose but He still forbade it. A significant number of teenagers (LDS or not) are always going to pair up and a significant number of teenagers are always going to have sex (not sure what that Venn diagram looks like). That does not mean that we should be encouraging teenagers to have long-term relationships that increase the likelihood of consensual (and too often non-consensual) sex with all of the resulting consequences. They’ll (hopefully) be active YSAs soon enough and the official pressure to date and pair off will be immense. All of the complexity of steady dating will be waiting for them except maybe they’ll have had a little life experience and some perspective upon which to call when handling that complexity.

    Jared, no, I have absolutely no problems with a second date, and maybe I should have clarified that. But I also don’t think a “second date” is what BigSky was really getting at either. BigSky stated, “It seems to me we hinder our youth’s ability to practice relationships, and come to terms with their sexual desires within the context of a relationship involving another human being. Hence, we rob them of the ability to develop respect for their own and their love interest’s sexual desires, and the responsibility that comes with understanding how their own selfish or even coercive actions in this regard may negatively affect others.” When I read the word “practice,” I’m put in mind of daily, or at least weekly, repetitions continuing on for a significant amount of time (I love to play golf, and two sessions at the range will only serve to show you how bad you are at golf). First, I wouldn’t call two dates a “relationship,” at least in the romantic sense of the word. Second, a second date doesn’t give you that “practice” any more than one date does. Finally, BigSky’s use of the word “love interest” strongly implies an ongoing relationship, not just two dates.

    Again, BigSky, if I’m misreading your post, please let me know.

    As a coda, I personally agree with many of the statements here that we as a Church body do a fairly horrible job of teaching and talking openly and honestly about sex. There’s a lot to fix, and I pledge to do my part to help change the culture. I just don’t think that the Church’s stance on steady dating for teenagers is one of the things that needs to be fixed.

  83. Jason K. says:

    Not a Cougar: I think that we agree more than we disagree.

  84. Not a Cougar says:

    Jason, I wish there was a thumbs up emoji available.

  85. @Not a Cougar, I think you understand the point I’m trying to get across. If we were enjoying a lunch together and talking, I think we would have more points of agreement than our exchange may suggest, as Jason K. suggests. I think I’m operating from a different premise, but I think it is an important one.

    Put another way, I see negative unintended consequences occurring later because we don’t allow our youth to pursue a relationship with someone with whom they find to be interesting, have a crush on, or where a deeper love interest exists. Preventing a relationship where there is interest in one robs our youth of opportunities to understand their own sexuality within a relationship as they are developing into adulthood, and how to act responsibility within it, to act morally within it. This creates a risk for sin, but it also compels me as a parent, for example, and church leaders–and this is critical to my point–to talk frankly and openly with our youth about love, human sexuality and morality, and not in binary terms, which is so often where discussions around the law of chastity and purity land. It’s more complicated than that. As a parent, I have to be deeply involved with my youth talking about these things, providing guidance and setting expectations, but also allowing them to experience the wonderment and joy of connecting with another human being.

    And by unintended negative consequences, I am thinking about what happens at 18? What changes? Our youth go from no second date to an unrestricted dating environment. I’m wondering how our youth are supposed to have learned about relationships, their own sexual desires and respect for their interest within the context of a relationship when they have never practiced it before in a more guided and controlled environment. When I wonder if the church isn’t compounding the problem it is seeking to prevent, this is what I am getting at. Preventing relationships takes the risk of affecting purity out of play, but does it lead youth to other patterns of behavioral expressions sexually and relationally which is worse and with potentially more lasting negative effects.

    I would also submit this is a thought exercise for me and not ideas I am totally anchored to. I am learning from the exchange and appreciate the time each of you take to express your thinking. I have learned something.

  86. “the power of the Holy Ghost, which seems traditionally male.”

    This is puzzling. If you mean that the Holy Ghost, the third person of the godhead is male, then sure, I’ve seen statements in late 20th Century Mormonism that refer to the Holy Ghost as male (though unless I’m forgetting something, I don’t think there’s any scripture or revelation that says the Holy Ghost is male). But if you mean that the power of the Holy Ghost seems male, I emphatically disagree. The power of the Holy Ghost is universal and non-gendered. This is true throughout the Book of Mormon and other LDS scriptures. If this notion of the power of the Holy Ghost as a male something exists, it’s probably the result of conflating gendered priesthood ordination with the power of the Holy Ghost, which is harmful and wrong, and unsupported by LDS doctrine.

  87. I love your comment, Ardis.

  88. Not a Cougar says:

    BigSky, I think I do understand what you mean and what your end goal is, and I do truly appreciate your willingness to put your thoughts out there. I also acknowledge that you’re working through the idea and that nothing here is typed in stone.

    I do think we want the same thing; physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy adults who fulfill the measure of their creation (however you want to define that). We simply disagree on whether the method of endorsing romantic relationships between teens is a good way to go about it. You said, “Preventing a relationship where there is interest in one robs our youth of opportunities to understand their own sexuality within a relationship.” The same principal is true of many other experiences reserved for adults, and yet we still don’t let children participate. We’re looking at the same cost-benefit analysis and coming to very different conclusions.

    Also, yes, as you indicate, nothing magical happens at age 18, but there will always be some arbitrariness involved where we place limits on children that we don’t impose on adults. But the limits are there because, on average, a child’s ability to make reasoned decision is not as developed in adults. Were this not the case, there would be no need for the myriad laws in place to protect children (age of consent, contractual authority, marriage, alcohol, etc.). As stated above, I’m all for teaching and talking about sex and casual dating, but romantic relationships between teens, no matter how much you try to chaperone it, are always going to be trouble. I’m sure there will be wonderful exceptions, but I’m more worried about the kids who won’t be the exception to the rule.

  89. Kristen says:

    Amberwild, my experience was much different. After years and years of attending the temple and being troubled by the endowment ceremony, I felt confirmation from God that there are many things in the temple that are, Just. Plain. Wrong.

  90. Rachael says:

    This is so great, Jason. I love the idea of understanding sexual relationships relationally, and sexual sin as misrelation. In my first marriage, my LDS husband was physically, sexually, and emotionally abusive. When I was in the process of divorcing him I visited a victim’s advocate on my campus for a couple of sessions. As we spoke, I mentioned that he had a pornography addiction (we’re talking 8+ hours a day.) I was not a wife that heavilly shamed that behavior. I figured it was between him and God, and I was dealing with more pressing concerns—like trying to get the abuse to stop. But when I mentioned the pornography problem, the victim’s advocate said that that was almost ubiquitous in abusive situations.*

    After years of counseling, her perspective was that pornography use might increase abuse because of 1) shame, anger, and feelings of self-hatred projected outward and 2) long periods of seeing other people as objects for pleasure, instead of individuals in their own right with thoughts and desires of their own and the ability to say no and push back. In other words, the problem with lots of pornography use is that, not only is there a misrelation in the act of watching pornography itself (a misrelation between the viewer and the objectified person in the pornography), but that it can also lead to a larger misrelation in both the sexual and non-sexual aspects of a living romantic relationship. And yet, as harmful as pornography addiction can be, shame is pretty clearly not the way to break the cycle and emerge with healthy relationships. I believe that is the exact point you are making; I just wanted to illustrate it from experience.

    *Please note that I am not saying that all, or even most, porn addicts become abusive, just that, according to this counselor at least, many abusive situations involve pornography.

  91. I keep coming back to the very first line: “Institutionally, we care about pornography mostly because it corrupts priesthood holders (i.e., men).”
    This thread is already long and I don’t expect it to happen here, but I would like a conversation about the objective function, that is, assuming this is so about the institution, where do we institutionally want to get to?
    –A larger number of men who are uncorrupted, who are pure in word and deed?
    –A larger number of men (all men?) who have a healthy relationship with their own sexuality and with other people including as sexual beings?
    It seems to me that the prescription may be quite different depending on the objective.

  92. Jason K. says:

    My read on the institution suggests the former. YMMV.

  93. @christiankimball: I, too, would like a longer conversation about this. The first intriguing thing I see (and would push back against) in your statement is that it seems to suggest that a man cannot be “pure in word and deed” while also having a healthy relationship with his own sexuality. It seems to me that a part of the problem and the difficulty is how to get purity and spirituality to encompass and coexist with sexuality. IMO, LDS (and broader Christian and American) dialog has not been very helpful at integrating these aspects of ourselves.

  94. GnarlesCharmichael says:

    Even among liberal discussions of pornography there is very little reference to any actual science. Most talk is anecdotal (“My ex husband…”), implication by bad correlation (“All rapists/abusers/murderers use porn…”), pseudoscientific (“Porn use lights your brain up like cocain!” <–false).

    Even the idea of dealing with pornography relationally is just what Jason K thinks is a good idea and people are jumping on the bandwagon because it seems right.

  95. Dave, the suggestion that you can’t have both in one good man is in your reading and not my intent. But I do believe that the institution cannot promote both equally and at the same time. Some objective comes first and dictates the program.
    Jason, my read on the institution is like yours, but I don’t think it’s monolithic and I don’t think it’s carefully reasoned. If actually put to the question I pose, I think answers (by current church leaders) would vary.

  96. Jason K. says:

    Oh, I agree.

  97. Anonymous Today says:

    A year and a half ago, I escaped a twenty-year marriage that became very abusive in the end. Alcohol played a role in that abuse, and so did pornography. My ex was not addicted in the sense of eight hours a day of use, but he could not go for more than 48 hours without his porn.

    By the end of our marriage I had ceased to be a person for him. Only his own desires existed and were real. And his pornography use was definitely part of that–over many years he gradually become more and more self-centered, more and more entitled, less and less attuned to anyone’s needs but his own.

    In the aftermath of all this, I admit I find I’ve come to find the frequent liberal-Mormon admonitions not to shame pornography use a bit exhausting, and more than a bit disingenuous. In general I don’t like shaming people, but why so much anxiety about shaming pornography use specifically? To my knowledge no one has told my ex he shouldn’t be ashamed of his adultery or of his abuse. And liberals (among whom I count myself, for the most part) are downright eager to shame racists and sexists and various other bigots. As a culture we seem to have no problem whatsoever shaming these attitudes and behaviors. But everyone’s falling all over themselves to uncouple pornography from shame.

    I’m not going to be entirely persuaded by these arguments until their proponents can think through shame in general a bit more carefully and explain to me under what conditions–if any–shame has a role in the cultural regulation of wrong, evil, and sinful behavior.

    Whatever your theory on these matters, pornography shouldn’t be a carve-out.

  98. Equating porn and romance novels across the board is a deeply flawed comparison on most fronts. I will acknowledge that many forms of mainstream porn glorify an unrealistic female body (while simultaneously glorifying unrealistic male enhancement) and many forms of written erotica glorify an unrealistic male persona (while simultaneously glorifying unrealistic female traits in some cases). If you further posit that using sources produced by other people in order to promote arousal and/or using them in conjunction with masturbation is objectively sinful, then yes, they share this as well.
    However, on most other major subjects, the comparison is imperfect at best. Porn requires actual people having actual sex, whereas erotica comes from the mind of the author. Indirect harm can occur as a result of erotica (see: attempts to recreate Fifty Shades of Grey without boundaries), but right off the bat, we start out without requiring any people having sex in order for it to exist. Plenty have acknowledged the implications of sex trafficking in porn on this thread and elsewhere. I will briefly name-check the rise of homemade porn made between consenting adults and posted by the participants/creators, which I consider at least some evidence that not ALL porn is made under coercion or even with payment involved – while recognizing that this is still what many would consider immoral. Erotica does not directly involve sex trafficking victims under any circumstances, to my knowledge. Erotica does not directly involve child sexual abuse under any conditions, to my knowledge. Erotica of the type mentioned above (i.e. consumed primarily by women) is unlikely to even contain either of the above elements as part of its sexual appeal, making it hard to argue that erotica contributes substantially to these issues on an even indirect level.
    Mainstream (i.e. made with paid individuals and not involving children) pornography may still include lesser evils which are again not present in opposite in erotica. Some, but not all, pornography depicts implicit or explicit subjugation of women, up to and including physical violence, whereas erotica, to my knowledge, is less likely to be guilty of fantasizing a world in which women so directly subjugate men. Some, but not all, pornography depicts individuals having unprotected sex, and while erotica absolutely does so, it requires no actual person to engage in this act in order to be published. Some, but not all, pornography shows no context for the circumstances of the sexual act performed. Erotica, by its very nature, is generally dependent on context for its appeal.
    Certainly, glorifying rich men as the only suitable partners for women is something with which I take issue, as is uplifting unrealistic male figures in any regard – erotica is deeply flawed in its own ways. It, however, is not guilty of a great deal of the ills of filmed pornography addressed in this original post.

  99. Assuming no crime or harm are done (ie. all participants are participating by their own free will and choice, insofar as it can be reasonably and legally ascertained), private p–n use, like private racist thoughts, can only be shamed in a very general sense. It is the open display of disregard for societal norms that tends to engender public shame. I am a librarian and we tend to be quite a permissive bunch but I can assure you that no librarian wants people looking at p–n on the public library computers, even if they check Fifty Shades of Grey out to you to read at home. Hence the public shaming of people who say racist stuff on Twitter, which is a public forum. This is probably hypocritical and probably wrong, but as far as I can tell it is the way things work.

  100. GnarlesCharmichael says:

    “To my knowledge no one has told my ex he shouldn’t be ashamed of his adultery or of his abuse. And liberals (among whom I count myself, for the most part) are downright eager to shame racists and sexists and various other bigots.”

    100% of adulterers are cheaters, 100% of racists are racist, 100% of sexists are sexist. 100% of abusers are abusive. Some subset of men who use pornography exhibit negative behaviors.

    Given the percent of men and women who use porn, (which by most estimates is a very very large percentage of the population) I find it very hard to believe that it is causing everyone to be abusive, unless you think something like 75% of the population is abusive due to porn use.

  101. Anonymous Today: It sounds like a terrible personal experience. “Escape” is a telling word.

    With regard to shaming or not, the “not shame” arguments I hear (OK, the ones that make sense to me) are not in any way saying that pornography isn’t a problem or is OK, but are saying that shame is not an effective way to deal with problematic pornography use. It’s really an empirical statement. I’m inclined to believe it, but I don’t know at what level of proof or confidence.

    As I hear it (same qualifiers) the same argument applies to other kinds of harmful behavior, including racism, sexism, and bigotry. Not that they are OK and let them alone, but that shaming is not an effective counter. Similarly, I’m inclined to believe it–that shaming doesn’t work. In all cases my limited personal experience is aligned but I’m tentative on the confidence level.

  102. Serena says:

    What about VR porn and sex robots?

  103. Rachael says:

    Anonymous Today, while I am not a trained mental health professional myself, here is my take on shame. A moment of guilt may help us to recognize our wrongdoing and change, but shame is deeply personal, it says that not only what I did was bad, but that I am bad. While the goal is to achieve oneness with God and our fellowman, shame causes deep feelings of unworthiness or unlovabaility or even self-hatred, all of which serve to separate, rather to than bind us to others.

    Where racism is often learned socially, social shame in this arena can function more like that moment of guilt I mention, it can wake a person up to some long-held and unexamined beliefs. But sexual shame is different, it hits at a much deeper, more personal level, and in the case of addiction and ongoing shame, can demolish a person’s belief in themself to change. Because sexual desire is always going to be there, excessive sexual shame makes a person feel as if there is something fundamentally wrong with them, which can make them feel unworthy of approaching God, right at the moment when a person needs God’s help the most. If the goal of shame is to try to get another person to change a behavior, then shame is a very poor tool. This is because, as with most addictive behavior, shame actually fuels the cycle. Most addicts turn to their addictions at the time when they are under the most stress as a way of coping. Constant self-loathing puts a person under the kind of stress that makes them want to turn to their adddiction even more.

    There are healthier ways to learn to treat addiction, specifically, working with those trained professionals who specialize in addictive behaviors and who understand the shame/addiction cycle. A person can be helped to change in ways that encorage them learn to love themselves and others better.

  104. christian: My apologies for misreading your statement. In my defense, I find this dichotomy (that sexuality and spirituality are polar opposites) quite prevalent in our culture. Sister Brotherson’s books would not be nearly as successful if there were not so many “Good girls” and boys out there who believe that sex was some kind of necessary evil. I found it interesting when I first encountered the Oakland Stakes “love unparalleled” materials that the section on sexuality starts with this dichotomy and tries to convince that sexuality and spirituality should not be in opposition.
    I will agree with you that the Church probably wants to emphasize “purity”. Looking back on my own life, I have wondered if I would have been better off if the first lessons had been about healthy relationship with my sexuality and later learned purity (probably not, but I feel like I lost something to those years when I could not integrate my sexuality and spirituality).

  105. Anonymous Today says:

    On the contrary, GnarlesCharmichael, our thinking about pornography, as about so many other matters, is excessively, unrestrainedly scientific and insufficiently philosophical and theological. The problematic claim that pornography use lights up the same part of the brain that cocaine use does illustrates this precisely. We need something other than science to untangle the unexamined assumptions and arguments that are being folded into this factoid.

    Just as 100% of racists are racist, 100% of sexists are sexist, 100% of pornography users are pornography users. Unless you think what’s morally problematic about pornography use has to be deferred to some other set of “exhibited negative behaviors.” I myself don’t.

    For the most part I have come to terms with my illiberalism on this point, and on related matters of human sexuality. It’s a point on which I feel a growing distance from my fellow Mormon liberals.

    I like John C. a lot and always respect what he has to say. Ditto for Jason K.

  106. Anonymous Today says:

    Rachael, I’m familiar with the guilt-shame breakdown you outline, and I find it persuasive on some points, but I’m thoroughly unpersuaded that what we do to racists and others deemed to violate social codes is a healthy guilt that prompts self-reflection, while what we do to pornography-users is shame that fuels addiction. Among other things, I’ve never seen the guilt, shame, or whatever you want to call it visited upon racists effect any introspection or transformation, any more than the shame visited upon porn-users does.

  107. Jason K. says:

    I also think that shame is ineffective, which is why the post advocates for love as a better response (while acknowledging that figuring out how exactly to love in a given situation can be intensely complicated).

  108. Anonymous Today says:

    christiankimball–thanks. Glad I’m out. I tend to agree with you about shame, with a similar confidence interval.

  109. Rachael says:

    Also, as a fellow sufferer of abuse, only for a much shorter period of time, my heart goes out to you. I am so, so sorry you had to endure what you did. I know firsthand that it can be extra painful when Church leaders and others minimize the abuse, offer excuses for the abuser, or look the other way. It can be even worse if Church leaders try to blame you, either implicitly or expliclty, for the abuse. I am not sure if that is something that also happened to you. While I only saw that victim’s advocate I mentioned a couple of times, the single best thing she did for me is validate that what happened to me was wrong, absolutely and undeniably wrong. Sometimes that’s what we need to hear.

  110. BlueRidgeMormon says:

    Great post and comments. If nothing else, it’s always informative to get a window into what others’ individual experiences are in their wards and stakes etc. I particularly find the discussion of “I just don’t see it” to be important.

    In my view, it’s also useful to rise above the “here’s what my experience is and how it differs from yours” exchange to actually look at data. For a start, I’d recommend Ben Edelman’s study of online pornography usage. For our purposes here, you might find particularly interesting things like Figure 2 and Table 2, which demonstrate that pornography subscriptions are higher in Utah than in any other state. (!) The data also has something to say regarding male vs. female consumption of porn. See http://people.hbs.edu/bedelman/papers/redlightstates.pdf

    FYI, in our ward we just had a “5th Sunday” adult discussion of pornography, in which our Bishop actually showed the Edelman exhibits to help debunk the myth that porn isn’t a Mormon issue. The bishopric followed up with two gender-segregated “Bishop’s Youth Discussions” on the topic, that I think were quite powerful.

  111. Anonymous Today says:

    Thank you, Rachael. Fortunately most of my marriage wasn’t abusive. It just torpedoed into abuse near the end.

  112. Jason K. says:

    I’m also glad that you were able to escape, Anonymous.

  113. kristennicholes… I’m not sure if I was trying to equate porn and romance novels, though maybe I was. It is probably difficult because film is such a different entertainment medium from film/picture. I am not entirely clear on what I think and believe about these topics let alone trying to express these ideas with clarity. I still think there is value in the discussion.
    Most porn is the “live film/picture” kind, but, as noted by serena, there is also a substantial part that is cartoon/drawn/not live actors/actresses. Are we less opposed to those forms of pornography?
    Along those lines, what are our exact objections to porn? Many have mentioned abuses and sex traficking and the likes. One concern I might mention with these scenarios is, if we are not careful, we will end up with counter-arguments like Dr. David Ley give in his book “Ethical Porn…” (the full title is a bit too crass for my taste). I am in no position to critique all of the arguments on all sides of the porn debate, but if all of our objections to porn use are “ethical” (rather than moral) in nature, then we are open to the counter arguments that it is possible to be an ethical, responsible consumer of porn, just like one (outside of Mormondom) can be an ethical, responsible consumer of alcohol.

  114. @Lindsey-
    I can’t share it all with you. It’s like trying to share your testimony with someone who doesn’t have one. It’s like how you wish you could just put the testimony and the revelations God gave you into someone else’s brain, but you can’t. I can give you glimpses though of what I was given.

    Are you aware of the differences between the initiatory ceremonies for men and women? There are quite a few important difference I can not mention, but you can speak with the temple president about. In fact, our temple president brought it up when I went to him with another question. It’s enlightening.

    Also consider what men and women need to enter the temple. Men need a recommend and the priesthood. Women just a recommend. There’s actually great significance there.

    Lastly let’s talk about veils. The earth is veiled from God because we could not handle being in His presence. He is too powerful. After Moses came down the Mt with the 10 commandments, he had to veil his face because it shone with the glory of God and was too much for the people to handle. Veils are commonly misunderstood. One instance of how the adversary yet again takes something holy and twists it so the world has a negative view while the Lord never intended it that way.

    Again, just some glimpses but the temple is so opposite what many people tend to initially think. I think perhaps because our society is how it is (which makes sense because the adversary knows just what and how to attack for the most chaos possible) we tend to go into the temple with a perspective of male dominance. I really wish I could explain and share what else the Lord has taught me. I know the temple offers great power to all who attend and keep their covenants. And I know Heavenly Father has great confidence in His daughters.

  115. Not a Cougar says:

    Serena, what do you think about them? I think they pose a very real threat in the long term to real relationships, but I’ll probably be dead before that’s the case. In any event, I see use of the two as sinful and unproductive in a pursuit for healthy sexual relationships.

  116. Rachael says:

    GnarlesBarkeley, I thought that by using phrases like “according to this counselor at least” that I was making clear that I was offering only anecdotal observations from a woman who had said she had counseled hundreds of abuse victims. While this in no way allows us to draw sweeping scientific conclusions, and while recognizing that correlation is not causation, I think her observation provides an interesting perspective to consider, one that supports the premise of this post that sexual misrelation can be damaging.

    I can understand the desire to make clear that a person can be a porn user and yet that is not suddenly going to turn him/her into an abuser; this is something I wholeheartedly agree with. But we can consider the possibility, while by no means setting it in scientific stone, that for those who are already inclined to be abusive, porn use may exacerbate the problem by encouraging seeing women as objects.

  117. Dave: “but if all of our objections to porn use are “ethical” (rather than moral) in nature, then we are open to the counter arguments that it is possible to be an ethical, responsible consumer of porn, just like one (outside of Mormondom) can be an ethical, responsible consumer of alcohol.”
    A worthy point. I don’t see objections to porn use being solely ethical in this post or elsewhere in Mormonism, but I will note that “unrealistic expectations” as noted in some critiques of erotica above is to my view much more of an ethical question rather than a moral one.
    Furthermore, I consider it absolutely critical to take note of the specific externalities of the creation of filmed pornography, and I personally don’t think that all erotic stimulants can be considered morally OR ethically equal. Is a moral stance that all porn is sinful opposed to an ethical stance that child pornography is worse than pornography created by consenting adults? Is a moral stance that all porn is sinful opposed to an ethical stance that pornography created by consenting adults contains a great deal more possibility for unexamined coercion than cartoons or erotica? If so, why?
    I personally would consider it a great step forward if all porn were to be made with animation, but the uncanny valley alone would make that an unlikely development (yes, I know this only relates to CGI). I further respect that that view may not be shared by many, if only because it would mean that the erotic stimulus would still exist.
    In aggregate, I see a fear that making a hierarchical distinction between forms of erotic stimulus may lead to moral relativism in users. For those who consider porn in all forms under all circumstances sinful, this isn’t wholly unreasonable.
    I have a few concerns regarding some natural conclusions from the above, however. First of all, I worry about equating watching standard pornography between adults with child pornography and/or pedophilia, and therefore contributing a degree of shame which (aside from being unhelpful for change, as others have noted above) doesn’t fit the offense. Arousal as a result of seeing naked attractive adults is pretty typical, and conflating that with a criminal offense is really less than ideal, even if the relation between the two is only made superficially (i.e. all porn is equally evil, the end).
    The post itself expresses concern about analyzing porn only as regards the user without taking into account the myriad problems raised by visual pornography which aren’t directly related to the person taking it in and their families (which is not to dismiss those). Conflating erotica and visual pornography filmed with actual people runs the risk of doing precisely that. They are only similar in terms of a person seeking them out for erotic fulfillment, including their potential for involving masturbation, exacerbation of unrealistic expectations, and devaluation of real, interpersonal relationships held by the user. We can take umbrage with those things without equating them holistically, we can (and I would obviously argue, we should) take umbrage with the significantly greater global issues in visual, filmed pornography.
    As to whether one can be a responsible consumer of porn, there are certainly those who hold that view, particularly outside of Mormonism, with few, if any, adherents within Mormonism.

  118. Rachael says:

    Oops, my last comment was directed primarily at GnarlesCharmichael, and only secondarily at GnarlesBarkley (I always seem to get people named Gnarles mixed up.) ;)

  119. Anon Today,
    I appreciate your respect; I hope I don’t screw that up. And I’m glad that you got out of a bad relationship.

    All,
    If you want my ridiculously uninformed take and haven’t read all the nonsense I’ve written about it in the past, I think the problem with p–nography is the replacement of the work and connection necessary to create a real life intimate relationship with a cheap, commoditized version. P–n is sort of the fast food of relationships; you know you should eat better, but it’s easy (and you really don’t want to know how it got made). If we focus on the consumer, then its easy to imagine how it affects their spiritual health; if you focus on the “factory conditions,” it is easy to see how this is an exploitative industry, even if there are pockets of fairer and more egalitarian treatment. All of this is, of course, just a labored metaphor to demonstrate that I think Jason’s right about the relational thing.

  120. Not a Cougar says:

    John, as an aside, is there a reason you and some other posters are omitting “-orn” from “porn” and “pornography?” I’ve never seen that before.

  121. I was on a work computer. I didn’t want to trigger a filter. :)

  122. John C, your point about commodification of relationships is incredibly astute.

  123. Jason K. says:

    Yes, it is. Well said, friend.

  124. Brother Sky says:

    Just a note to all: This is one of the most intelligent and civil discussions I’ve seen on the subject. I’d never get anything like this in my ward. Kudos to everyone for your thoughtful engagement.

  125. Serena says:

    I agree, Not a Cougar. But I think the rapidly developing area of VR porn and life-like sex robots, while destructive to real relationships, may partially solve for the sex slave, forced prostitution aspects discussed in this thread. I also think it will exponentially expedite the social isolation in the human population and further erode the percentages of long-term couplings.

  126. amberwild – I’m glad your understanding works for you, but for many the idea of “women are more spiritual”/”men need the priesthood to be at the same level as women” just doesn’t work. Combined with the explicit hierarchical woman -> man -> God, “hearken” covenant, the Temple can be a very difficult experience for many.

    Sharing these kinds of inspirations can be good in a more personal setting, but in a public forum it comes across as “you’d be ok if you were as enlightened as me”

  127. First, great post and great comments. I concur with much that has been shared. I would like to address the one-date/two-date rule, pairing off, etc. I think we are missing the mark on this a bit.

    Teens don’t date anymore in the way we are accustomed to seeing it, at least not the ones in my ward or neighborhood. Social media and texting has supplanted much of the traditional dating process. And for the worse, in my opinion.

    Parents count it as a victory that their children do not have a steady girlfriend or boyfriend at the age of 17, and I completely understand their point, but they are usually ignorant to the extreme flirtation, oversharing, and even sexting that is going on in the social media world with their teens. And that behavior damages and stunts in just as harmful ways, if not more harmful ways.
    And that does not even address the issue of (at least soft) pornography that the vast majority of both girl and boy teens consume, even when not seeking it, in today’s fenceless online world.

    Anecdotally, I am starting to see the church-advice pendulum begin to swing back a bit. That is, I am starting to see the beginnings of advice for older teenagers to pair off, to date steadily, and to become couples (with obvious limits). Given the choice between young adults with arrested social development, delayed and diminished marriages, and permanent basement dwelling on the one hand and intimate, real-life teenage relationships on the other — admittedly a dire and false dichotomy, but perhaps only slightly so — the church may begrudgingly prefer an environment that skews towards the latter because of the greater fecundity and progeny such an environment tends to foster.

  128. Frank, as I stated, I can’t put everything I was given into others brains for them. We all have testimonies of different aspect of the gospel to different degrees. The hierarchical structure you refer to is also something that is misunderstood. This is something I really really needed to know and understand and worked for and wrestled with for a long time. Rather than coming at it with a perspective of “this is wrong” I just encourage people to go and ask Father “Why is this right?” because it is possible to go to the temple and to not see and feel the way some here have expressed they feel. And it takes some work. I just offer my testimony that is IS possible.

  129. amberwild,

    I’m curious what your advice would have been to members who struggled with the temple ban for black members, or to those who felt uncomfortable/disturbed with the penalties portion of the endowment. Would you have counseled them to ask ‘why is this right’? Both of those things have changed. It is my desperate hope that the endowment (and sealing) changes for women, and soon.

  130. Not a Cougar says:

    Paul, you’ve raised some extremely valid points. I agree that teens are vulnerable to the online world in which they too often surround themselves. Back when I was served in the military, one thing I constantly stressed to young military members was that anything they put on the Internet was essentially forever. I was an unfortunate witness to the emotional and spiritual carnage people can cause and suffer online (I haven’t watched “13 Reasons Why” and don’t care to because I’ve seen the real life version). However, I don’t think encouraging teens to have a steady SO will stem any of that carnage. If anything, it makes it messier (“Baby, I love you so much. Please just send me a couple of pics.” Pics received. Couple breaks up. Pics sent to friends and/or posted online – this happens ALL the time.) And you also increase the chances that the couple will in fact start having sex, and then they, their families, and friends are dealing with all of the emotional, physical, and spiritual issues that come with that decision.

    Instead, as part of a healthier dialogue about sex, why not teach about the intersection of sex and technology? “Here’s several reasons why sexting is a really bad idea.” “If you place something on the Internet, be prepared for it to last forever.” “Do Snapchats really disappear?” Etc.

  131. Not a Cougar, I (mostly) agree with you and your approach. But I think you fail to address one of the biggest issues to the church right now, and that is young people not marrying. Marriages cannot happen without courtship of some sort, at least not in the western dominated cultures of most church members. And courtships take some practice. Yes, the needle is exceedingly difficult to thread right now, but given the choice between a teen bumping into some of the dangers of courtship too early and extreme arrested development, I think the church would take the former. The difficult trick is to avoid both extremes, and today’s technology dominated culture makes that nearly impossible.

  132. Not a Cougar says:

    Paul, it’s an interesting thought experiment, but again, do you truly think encouraging courtship between teenagers will make them any less likely to incline towards digitally-induced bachelorhood? I don’t think the one is a prophylactic for the other. For the general population (U.S, at least), it doesn’t appear that there is a connection between early exclusive dating and earlier marriages, and Mormons, the last time I checked the figures, still get married earlier than their non-member peers (though the average age at first marriage is increasing, but it’s still younger than for non-Mormons).

    I know we members of the Church like to think ourselves as being different from the general population, and on some things, that maybe true, but I think the result of your proposal will be increased levels of sexual activity, lower mission-serving rates (due to the “Raising the Bar” requirements – I assume those are still in place?), and no discernible increase in LDS marriages, especially temple sealings.

    But I’m no prophet, and I’m often wrong :)

  133. Amberwild –

    I think it is wonderful that you’ve come to a place of peace after much prayer. I am glad that your personal revelation has led you to happiness. My personal revelation has led me to not attend the temple. My instructions from God were very clear that the temple was such a negative experience for me that I should stop attending before it damaged me and my relationship to Him even more. I also am at a place of great peace and joy in my life and spirituality.

    My experience does not negate yours. Your experience does not negate mine. We are just different people experiencing the same thing in different ways.

    I am willing to accept that your experience is 100% valid for you and an example of how one might be dedicated to Christ and live one’s life seeking to follow HIm. Can you accept that my experience is also 100% valid and an example of how one can dedicated oneself to Christ and seek to live a life following Him?

  134. Not a Cougar, you seem very against the idea of youth dating each other in a situation where emotions could get involved. Shoot, you even call it “courtship.” I’ve read your comments here and keep trying to keep an open mind, but you can’t stop pushing back. You seem terrified and paranoid about youth and sex. Those are the things that this OP point out as problematic.

  135. The Other Clark says:

    So, at the end of a very long thread, it seems to come down to this: How do we integrate/reconcile sexuality and purity?

    The most recent Ensign had an article with love/lust listed as opposites. I, OTOH, strongly believe that sexual desire is a key component to a healthy marriage. But I have never seen this taught.

    Sexual pleasure is a gift from God, and he created the body parts responsible. Yet we(as a church) continue to demonize sexual desire (in men and women), so pr0n/erotica continues to be a problem. Demonizing food doesn’t stop hunger pangs.

  136. Not a Cougar says:

    Brian, a few things (and yes I’m being defensive). First, I think your characterization of my position as “terrified” and “paranoid” is, at best, uncharitable. I do have strong opinions on the issue, but it doesn’t come from a place of fear, far from it (more to follow on this point).

    Second, I’ve used multiple words to describe long-term dating (I borrowed “courtship” from Paul’s post above in case you were wondering). I think you understand the “boyfriend-girlfriend” construct I’m trying to describe. Feel free to dictate the proper term and I’ll use it.

    Third, you sound awfully cavalier about the prospect of teens having sex. You’re certainly entitled to your opinion, but I don’t think anyone else here would think teens having sex is an ideal development, but I also don’t think that “purity” culture is the right answer (I think you might have missed my statements about rethinking how we teach and talk about sex).

    Fourth, I have a healthy respect for the importance of sex in our lives. Healthy sex is one of the great blessings and pleasures of life. It’s also one of the pillars of human experience. When we’re not having sex, we’re thinking, writing, and talking about or around it. We build our cultures on and around it. Ask someone who doesn’t regularly get to have sex just how important it is. It’s also the primary way we bring children to this world. I’m willing to bet you’ve had sex and know how amazing is and how it enhances life.

    Unhealthy sex on the other hand is one of great plagues on mankind. Please read some of the posts here from women who ecaped bad marriages. Listen to a survivor of sexual assault when he or she shares their story. Read about the horrors of sex trafficking. Watch a documentary about the porn industry and the (mainly) women on whom it preys. Listen to a woman who got pregnant as a teenager and had to go through the nightmare of what to do with the pregnancy.

    Now, with all of the good and ill that sex brings, think about how those consequences are magnified for teens. Their brains are literally not fully developed and yet they are running around with a raging desire to have sex (Billy Crystal has a hilarious bit about being a teenager picking up his date – not Church appropriate). As hard as it is for adults to control their sexual impulses (and they too often don’t), teens are that much less well equipped to practice that self-control.

    Now, keeping in mind the splendor and horror that sex can bring, why do you want significantly increase the chances that teens will have sex by encouraging them to date exclusively? Yes, as BigSky stated, it’s possible to create an extremely controlled environment that prevents sex (why is my first thought to wonder how far behind the couple the chaperone will walk and does the boy have to wear a straw hat when he comes to call?), but I seriously doubt most parents have the time, resources, and desire to supervise their dating children to the extent that would be necessary (and maybe I’m exaggerating the difficulty but not by much). That means you’re going to have more teens spending more time alone with each other. Call me crazy, but I think the end result is more teens having sex.

    I don’t dispute that teen couples can gain valuable life experience about self control and that falling in love can be joyous. However, I don’t think the possibility of gaining those experiences outweighs the downside that too many of those couples will start having sex and experience too many of the ills. Thatcs why I support the Church’s stance against pairing off as a teenager.

  137. Not a Cougar, the thing is, you keep characterizing a point other than yours as being cavalier about sex. You don’t know anything about my views, because I haven’t written them–other than to suggest that youth should date.

    Dude, let me very clear. I just found out that my 9-yr. old son was involved in an elementary school oral sex encounter. I am in no way naive. I think that shutting down relationships for him later would be the worst thing possible. He needs healthy relationships.

    I get that you have issues with some of the current trends in the ways that we Mormons talk about sex–and yet, at every post, you push against those who seem more ‘cavalier’ than you would prefer. The many times already that you keep pointing out the dangers worries me. Yes, there are dangers of teens going on dates. Many people here, however, think the benefits outweigh those risks. You don’t seem to think so. You call others cavalier. Fine. I’ll call you overly prudish. And the result is, as I see it, long-term unhealthy views of relationships and sex. You see that I err by being cavalier. Fine. You see the ends result as more sex by our youth. We both fault the other and both believe our side right.

    Again, I’m not naive. I have just as much at stake in this as you. It’s really your continued insistence that everyone else is ‘cavalier’ (based on so little knowledge about their views) and your insistence that own over-restrained method is the best (and your assumption that no one else knows what is going on) that is the problem I have. What are your thoughts on the new BYU study on pornography, for instance? It’s something to wrestle with if you haven’t already. And very ‘a propos.’

    To end, you spend a lot of time talking about how youth will have sex and there’s no way we can stop it except by limiting relationships. I call that hopeless and paranoia. You call it practical. Potatoes, potatoes. I think we as a people and as a society need to be more upfront about how to manage relationships and sexual urges in a healthy way. If our children don’t feel trusted to make correct decisions, or they can’t have positive experiences before it gets really difficult at, say, college, they are more likely to have long-term problems. Lots of studies back this up.

  138. Jason K. says:

    May I weigh in to suggest that this debate, which to my mind usefully illuminates some salient tensions with regard to teenage sexuality, may have reached the point where it ceases to be helpful?

  139. A Fellow Traveler Along the Path says:

    @Jason K

    I’d like to throw one more comment in about dating before the thread shuts down.

    Dating while in high school allows kids a chance to “try out” serious dating while still at home with their parents able to monitor what’s going on and provide some limits to their activities before they are expected to “seriously date in order to get married.” Some pairing off allows both parties to start developing lists of what they want in a spouse and things that are deal-breakers, things not always readily apparent without experiencing them. (For me, being with someone without a sense of humor didn’t seem like such a “must have” until I dated someone without one.)

    Ideally, their parents will listen to what’s going on with their kid and SO and be able to talk with them (as opposed to “to them”) about what they are doing and where they see the relationship going, as well as reiterating what their values and limits are and should be. In these situations, parents can act as an “excuse” for either party to stop physical improprieties: “We can’t do that! My Mom would know and kill me!”

    Most importantly, it provides a place where kids can learn whether or not the person they are dating will support them in their goals and aspirations. If the person you are dating doesn’t completely support your goal to remain Temple/Mission worthy, when they are aware your Eternal salvation is among the stakes, why and how could/would they ever be supportive of lesser goals? If they don’t respect you and your goals enough to not ask you to be physically intimate and tell you no if you ask, how can you expect them to be supportive in finishing your education? Or caring for the kids so you can give your Church calling the attention it needs, later on in life.

    It seems like this would be much easier to learn while you are still living within your parents rules and have their help than to have to start doing it when you’re older, living on your own, and the stakes are much higher.

  140. The other Clark: I think that was a big part of my own difficulty and development — reconciling sexuality and spirituality. I know many have disagreed with me, but I don’t believe the Church as a whole was helpful in that. There were some individual members/authors that were helpful (Laura Brotherson, Doug Brinley, Jennifer Finlaysen-Fife, and others), but I think most of my learning how to reconcile those came from extra LDS and even secular sources (Willard Harley, David Schnarch, Michelle Weiner-Davis, and others). The Church has often cautioned about the sources we choose for our sexual education, but it seems to me that the Church does not provide those sources. In the end, I think that is good, because it forces us to flex those discernment muscles a little.

  141. Thomas Parkin says:

    Just a late aside.

    The reason we can’t talk about Heavenly Mother, other than the occasional assurance that such a being exists, is that all salient facts about her, except the fact that she is a female being, are identical to facts about Heavenly Father. They are the same in that neither possesses any virtue, knowledge, or ability lacking in the other. Because they are both perfect there is no meaningful distinction between them, other than the fact that one is male and the other female. If there is nothing in full femaleness that is lacking in full maleness, and vis-a-versa, there is nothing we can attribute to either but the names, male and female. This doesn’t mean that these things are not real or meaningful. It does mean that the reality of this distinction can’t be defined by other distinctions (emotionality, tendency to nurture, etc.) only named. (In the same way, our own being can bear names that identify us, perhaps in a profound way, but we can’t otherwise define ourselves. We cannot define ourselves by attributing to ourselves distinguishing characteristics because we believe in perfectibility. This means that the personality is alterable without limitation. We might ultimately possess every attribute enjoyed by Father and Mother, but if we will still be ourselves and utterly individual and enjoying our own and other’s individuality, that individuality will only be identifiable by the deepest names, not by character traits.) Our entire discourse around men and women is to do with distinctions. If, ultimately, there are no distinctions to be made, we would have to admit that our current program around gender is, at most, quite temporary and something that will need to be overcome.

    Another aside.

    The main reason we know that both Heavenly Beings hold all divine attributes is that there is not one exemplar for women and another for men. Is there a divine attribute held by either Father or Mother that is not also held by Jesus? If so, how is it that He is our perfect example? Was a second perfect exemplar sent specifically to show women their distinct way? No, Jesus is the perfect exemplar for both men and women. Meaning that gender is irrelevant in terms of being divine.

  142. Thomas Parkin says:

    I don’t have anything to say about pornography.

  143. “We don’t need to talk about Her because She isn’t any different from Her husband” is a lousy reason not to talk about Heavenly Mother. And it flies in the face of the gender complimentarity that the church is always pushing as an argument about SSM.

    We don’t even know how many of Her there are. Could be one. could be eight billion.

    I need to think there is more to my afterlife than simply becoming a female version of my exalted husband.

  144. Thomas Parkin says:

    Joni, you haven’t understood my argument. I didn’t say we don’t need to talk about Her. I said we can’t talk about Her without totally undoing our discourse around gender, and therefore we don’t. It’s not a justification, it’s a criticism.

  145. Thomas Parkin says:

    “And it flies in the face of the gender complimentarity that the church is always pushing as an argument about SSM.” Exactly.

  146. adamloumeau says:

    This is my first time posting a comment on this site. I had a very long post that got erased, unfortunately, so instead of trying to recreate my previous attempt at thought provoking eloquence, I’ll simply ask a question.

    I’ve been following the back and forth between Not a Cougar and those who oppose his viewpoint. My question for Not a Cougar is, what is your guiding philosophy on parenting teenagers in general? The same question could be asked of those with opposing viewpoints. I’ve found the back-and-forth to be incredibly illuminating, with so many great points made by various participants. But beyond the perceived practical pros and cons of each parenting practice, what is the guiding philosophy/objective you hold for parenting teenagers?