Episode 154: “Discussing Pornography with Your Future Son-in-Law”

Heather, Glenn, Jake, Erica, Randy, and Matt discuss Meridian Magazine’s “Discussing Pornography with Your Future Son-in-Law” by Geoff Steurer, a licensed marriage and family therapist.

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Episode 154

75 comments on “Episode 154: “Discussing Pornography with Your Future Son-in-Law””

  1. Anonymous Reply

    As someone raised in the church whose marriage is about to end over this issue (and related issues concerning the LDS Church), I believe it is of paramount importance that we realize the truth of what Heather says in the podcast, that in Mormonism, women are given unrealistic expectations about male sexuality.  Amen and Amen!  This was an excellent podcast, but I was a little disappointed that it ended so abruptly.  A great deal more time could be devoted to this subject.  One of the “undercurrents” within Mormonism which was not expressly mentioned is prevailing puritannical notions of chastity.  Pornography and masturbation receive condemnation in the Church not just because of Christ’s statement that “He who looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery in his heart,” and the idea that it fits the narrative of God’s people fighting against Satan and the world; I think that the greatest condemnation really stems from the notion that sexual pleasure, being something “of the flesh,” is by default evil and suspect.  We in the Church get over that guilt in the context of sexual intercourse within marriage by reminding ourselves that God commands it (and we therefore need not feel guilty).  (Anyone who is skeptical of what I have just said should read Jeffrey R. Holland’s “Of Souls, Symbols, And Sacraments”).  We can see that same psychological pattern in the historical LDS practice of polygyny (i.e., that it cannot be categorized as lascivious behavior because God actually commanded it). 

    I was overjoyed to hear one of the members of the panel describe how his wife asked him something to the effect of, “So is it true that nearly all men look at pornography?”, to which he responds, “Yeah,” and she responds, “I guess I am OK with that.”  Such enlightened, realistic, and compassionate attitudes by women are harshly suppressed by the LDS Church.  They do not fit the Church’s narrative that women need to feel hurt, offended, and betrayed by ANY use of pornography by their husbands.  The podcast was insightful to point out that the demonization of pornography leads to blind acceptance in the rhetoric that every negative outcome you can think of will result from pornography.  Some of these are even contradictory, in my opinion (i.e., the idea that it will overstimulate a man’s desire to have sex with his wife, while somehow also killing off his desire for her).

    With my life experience, I now understand how naive I was before I got married.  Had I known then what I know now, I would have realized that pornography (with certain caveats) use is perfectly compatible with a healthy and fulfilling sexual relationship.  But it takes a certain amount of education and understanding about sexuality that is not acknowledged in the Church.  The Church’s unrealistic and overbroad condemnation of pornography gives most men about three choices: (1) leave the Church; (2) never marry (because women should not marry a man whose pornography use (=”addiction”) renders him unworthy to go to the temple); or (3) lie.  Needless to say, the second case seems virtually unheard of, which means most LDS men are flocking to (1) or (3).  It is an odd irony that the very organization which purports to value honesty and integrity is in fact fostering the double lives so many men are leading, by declaring doctrines which are simply incompatible with human physiology as God made us.

    I would like to see more podcasts on this subject.  Perhaps there is hope that future generations will not have their families destroyed by such dogmatic stances.

    Now, here’s my caveat: I do believe it is possible for pornography to be objectively problematic if, for example, any of the following are the case: (1) it prevents someone from being able to function normally in life, by taking up too much time or money, or by taking away the desire for a real-life intimate relationship; (2) it involves or glorifies any kind of non-consensual sexual behavior, such as rape, abuse, child pornography, pornography produced through forced sex acts, etc.; or (3) it is so overly explicit that it becomes truly distasteful by any reasonable standard (I suppose it is difficult to define this).

    • Anonymous Reply

      The episode did, indeed, end abruptly.  Glenn suggested we wrap it up more professionally but I declined.  I worried that might have been a mistake.  But perhaps we can use that abrupt ending as an opportunity to discuss the issue further based upon the comments we get.  Kinda like what John did with the Masonry episodes.

      • Anonymous Reply

        Also, for anyone looking for further discussion into the LDS porn issue as well as LDS approaches on sexuality in general, I would recommend the following podcasts from Mormon Stories (I thought they both had excellent information):
        http://mormonstories.org/?p=1384
        http://mormonstories.org/?p=1506

        The first podcast is a discussion with Dr. Janet Finlayson-Fife (an LDS therapist). The second podcast is a discussion with Dr. Stephanie Bueler (a non-LDS sex therapist). In fact, I think it would be awesome to have a ME podcast to discuss a comparison between the Dr. Finlayson Fife podcast vs. the Dr. Bueler podcast.

    • iamse7en Reply

      Yeah, it’s the Church’s fault that they taught your wife that pornography is wrong, and she didn’t like that you liked it so much. If only she could get with the program and allow you to view your pornography, then you would have had a successful, happy, and long-lasting marriage. Oh my.

       I love how this podcast is mostly geared at blaming the Church for the problems of its current and ex-members.

      • Fred W. Anson Reply

        Apparently you’re unfamiliar with the fact ad-hominem arguments like the one that you’ve just presented are by their nature fallacious.

        Specifically, it’s fallacious because you did NOT present any counter evidence, reasoning, logic, or other legitimate arguments – you simply launched into an “ad-hominem abusive” attack on the poster and the podcast panelists.
        (and, BTW, I would interested to know if you listened to the podcast before you posted – I suspect that you didn’t)

        From the Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary:      
        ad hominem
        1: appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect 
        2: marked by or being an attack on an opponent’s character rather than by an answer to the contentions made
         

        To quote from the Wikipedia article on Ad-hominem tactics:
        “An ad hominem, also known as argumentum ad hominem (Latin: “to the man”), is an attempt to persuade which links the validity of a premise to a characteristic or belief of the person advocating the premise.[1] The ad hominem is a classic logical fallacy.[2] …

        Ad hominem abusive
        Ad hominem abusive usually involves insulting or belittling one’s opponent in order to invalidate their argument, but can also involve pointing out factual but ostensible character flaws or actions which are irrelevant to the opponent’s argument. This tactic is logically fallacious because insults and even true negative facts about the opponent’s personal character have nothing to do with the logical merits of the opponent’s arguments or assertions.”

        ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem

        Again, for emphasis: 

        “The ad hominem is a classic logical fallacy.”

        “This [Ad-hominem Abusive] tactic is logically fallacious because insults and even true negative facts about the opponent’s personal character have nothing to do with the logical merits of the opponent’s arguments or assertions.”

        So would you like to try again – this time addressing your arguments to the EVIDENCE rather than the personalities presenting that evidence? 

        Thanks.

      • Anonymous Reply

        I think the bigger issue being discussed is that there is no nuanced discussion of healthy open sexuality let alone sexuality at all in the LDS Church. You can add to that pornography, masturbation and the like. According to the powers that be it is wrong— end of story. Any lustful act is wrong.

        So how is someone born into the faith supposed even dialog with a potential spouse about these issues when the topic by itself is a non starter. First off many LDS when they marry are so young and inexperienced that they do not have the tools or knowledge to discuss what a  marriage will include or not. Second the Church so thoroughly restricts sexuality as to make it nearly impossible for anyone male or female to feel comfortable outlining what

        The Church is like the therapists that were discussed in the podcast
        they define/create the problem— sex outside of the bounds it sets and
        then it just so happens that the Church is the solution for the problem.

        Can porn become a problem for some people? Sure. Just like alcohol, chocolate cake, diet coke and romantic vampire fiction. Within a marriage couples need to discuss and adjust accordingly. And hopefully with time the all or nothing view of sexuality that the Church fully sells will become more nuanced and realistic.

          • Fred W. Anson

            No worries mate – we’ll just have to whip you later . . . after the podcast inspired by the “Discussing S&M With Your Future Son-In-Law” Meridian article of course! 

      • Anonymous Reply

        iamse7en, I agree with you (partially) and with Anonymous (partially). I don’t think the point of this podcast was that “every man does this, so deal with it ladies.” Pornography, whether you label it as a compulsion or an addiction, is a serious problem–especially for marriages (and relationships is general). Regardless of the degree of its consumption, it most likely will have some effect on the intimacy level of a marriage (especially if it’s secretive consumption). Also, although I know nothing about Anonymous, I’m guessing that the reasons for the break-up of his marriage are far more multi-faceted that just a porn problem (I think he even alluded to that in his post).

        That said, I do agree that the Church’s approach to the pornography problem, and sexuality in general, can be unhealthy at times; however, I think the Church is making progress in changing and diversifying its approach (at least where pornography is concerned). My bishop recently gave a “5th Sunday lesson” on pornography and I was impressed with how informed he was on the subject–not just from an LDS perspective, but from a modern-day psychological standpoint. I really think many Church leaders (at least at the local level) are getting away from the shaming and taboo lessons of the past. My Bishop’s lesson was geared more towards understanding, healing, hope, and forgiveness (for both partners). 

        I wanted to propose another suggestion for a parent discussing issues like this with a son or daughter. The real question isn’t about past behavior or sins of the potential spouse, but a partner’s willingness to help and forgive their marriage partner IF issues like pornography were to come up in the marriage. Instead of asking my son-in-law to tell me about his past pornography use, I would be more inclined to ask my daughter about her willingness to forgive and help her potential spouse through a pornography problem if she were to learn of the issue in their marriage. Does she love him enough to forgive? Does he love her enough to forgive her for a similar issue? Would she be willing to help her spouse to repent and heal from other potential issues (e.g., drug addiction)? Hopefully, the message of this podcast wasn’t about the acceptance of the behavior, but more about opening up communication about the subject between two mature individuals contemplating marriage (not coummunication with their potential in-laws).

        • Anonymous Reply

          Hi, Thisiscrazy28:  Thank you for the thoughts on the matter.  Yes, my marital breakup is more complex than the mere porn issue, but the porn issue is one of the primary things which forced me to evaluate Church doctrine/history generally.  When I realized that my guilt and shame were unnecessary, and that the Church’s overly-restrictive position was heavily based upon a combination of ignorance, cover-ups of history (i.e., Joseph Smith’s raging sex drive and more), ancient unfounded puritannical notions, pressure to appeal to what was once a sexually conservative society, and the Church’s fear of admitting past error by modernizing its position, I realized that I had to devise a methodology for ascertaining truth other than merely “following the Brethren” and seeking to strengthen my correlated testimony. 

          Unlike the overwhelming majority of LDS men who keep their porn use a secret until they are found out, I voluntarily approached my wife to tell her about it. 

          As I see it, use of porn is not necessary to function sexually- that I will freely admit.  (In fact, as I see it, my ability to function sexually without it seems to be strong evidence that my level of use cannot reasonably be viewed as an “addiction”.)  That being said, however, the issue is not simply whether it is necessary.  Think of all the foods that you like to eat.  Then ask yourself, could I survive without eating these foods?  Yes, you could.  Think of all the activities in life that you enjoy doing for fun.  Could you live without doing them?  Yes, you could.  And if someone you really loved asked you to abstain from every fun activity and every tasty food, would you comply just because you wanted to please them, and for no other reason?  I don’t know a person in the world who would, regardless of how altruistic they may appear.

          From all that I have studied, and from my own life experience, male sexual satisfaction is most easily achieved when there is a variety of sexual stimulis, and the mind is free to wander and then temporarily affix itself on the erotic thoughts which in the heat of the moment feel most seductive.  I believe this is also largely true for the female brain, though it is less often acknowledged or admitted.  Some would attack these statements as justifying affairs, fantasies about non-consensual sex, or sexual oppression.  Not at all.  While we are generally free to have our own private sexual fantasies, we have a duty (and reasonable ability) to distinguish between fantasy and reality.  In all my years of marriage, I never had an affair, although my sexual fantasies have easily numbered in the thousands.  I never stopped loving my wife or being devoted to her.  I could count the number of times when I rejected a sexual advance from her on one hand, and there was always a good reason.  I have always been affectionate and loving, and have been a good provider.  I have never hit or abused her, or sworn at her (the reverse of which I wish I could say were true).

          I do understand and appreciate that my wife would legitimately feel hurt that for several years, I did conceal my porn use, allowing her to believe there was none.  This was misleading, and for that, I am genuinely sorry.  On the other hand, it is extremely disheartening that LDS women so often refuse to see reality about how male sexuality works.  If there would be recognition that God simply made us this way, the necessary conclusion would be that compassion, understanding, and tolerance are in order.  Let’s face it- where low to moderate porn use is present, the real objection by women to their husbands using is that the wives feel threatened in some way- threatened about body image; wondering whether he really loves her; confused how his love for her could be compatible with getting turned on by other naked women; worrying that he is making himself unworthy by violating church standards; etc.  We cannot blame women for having fears and worries; but it would not hurt for them to go through a little cognitive therapy and education on the subject so that they can develop empathy and allay their fears.  The Church’s silencing of dissenting voices on the topic of sexuality prevents that cognitive process from taking place in many instances.  Marriages which could otherwise have become closer and more intimate than ever are instead broken apart when men who are honest with themselves cannot get through to their wives to create reconciliation.

          Could I give up all porn use and stay married?  Yes.  Could I under such circumstances feel happy in my marriage?  No.  And here are some of the reasons: (1) if my wife does not love me enough to educate herself about male sexuality to develop reasonable empathy and compassion for the way God made me, then that is lack of respect and lack of love; (2) so long as I feel a conviction that moderate porn use is neither immoral nor objectively harmful, I will forever resent feeling like I am unnecessarily abstaining from something which brings so much enjoyment and satisfaction.  I have been down that road.  I have tried it.  My marriage was still unhappy, and I was miserable and resentful.  Nothing short of unconditional surrender would satisfy my wife (i.e., abstaining, begging for forgiveness, recanting my criticisms of the Church on sexuality, confessing to priesthood leaders, acknowledging I have an “addiction” and getting professional help, regaining my “testimony,” and then considering myself forever in my wife’s debt while I struggle for the next few decades to re-earn her trust in our marriage).  That is no life at all.

          Just as I would not tell my wife that she should give up all her favorite foods if she really loves me, she cannot reasonably demand that I unnecessarily subject my sexual brain to a miserable and degrading constant battle against the 100x+/day sexual fantasies which enter my mind, either on their own or through happening to see something enticing (whether it be a beautiful woman in sacrament meeting, a Victoria’s Secret catalogue, a sister in the temple baptismal font, a hot bilboard, a television commercial, or just downright good old images of naked women in a magazine or online).  People have a God-given right to seek their own happiness (with some caveats which I will not take to time to explain here).  We buy ginger to put in spicy food to make it taste better.  We wash our cars, not because it makes them run better, but because they look nicer.  Women put on makeup, not because it is necessary, but because it makes life more enjoyable.  We take vacations to exotic places, not because survival requires it, but because relaxation is pleasurable and good for the soul.  All of the above examples are products of human innovation, designed to make life more enjoyable, just like pornography is.  Until credible scientific evidence demonstrates that light or moderate porn use is objectively harmful, I see no justification for the Church giving it blanket condemnation as being sinful.  Furthermore, though the Church has never acknowledged it, porn in fact has many benefits, which I am not taking the time right now to list.

          • cam

            I appreciate and generally agree with your comment.  I think that in the culture of the church there is a highly romantic vision of life.  Marriage, sexuality, families are all supposed to be happy, warm and shiny.  When people experience the “nitty -gritty” of real life, they can become really unhappy.  I was raised in a generation in the church when young women’s sex ed was pretty much ignored.  Maybe a few “purity” lessons, and of course the cupcake lesson, but that was pretty much it.  I knew I shouldn’t have premarital sex and all of the mechanics, but not much more.  I went to a large college in CA and had lots of roommates, only 1 of whom was mormon.  Frankly, my virginity was an oddity.  My (non mormon) friends and I talked about sex a lot.  All of this was the best thing that could have happened to me because I didn’t enter into relationships with preconceived false expectations.  I actually could contrast what I thought relationships would be like with what I experienced in the world and chose to leave shame behind.  I’ve been happily married for 26 yrs. and there have been plenty of discussions about sex.

            I have 2 young adult sons and 1 teen aged daughter.  I’ve done the laundry.  I’ve had to tell them to keep their business in the bathroom or bedroom.  How women with sons can maintain Victorian notions of purity, I’ll never know.  It breaks my heart to hear stories  of shame and agony that people experience that are the result of normal maturation.    Men and women look at porn.  Men and women masturbate.  All normal people have hormones and sexual urges.  I say “get over it and get on with your day.”

        • cam Reply

          I would disagree that  “regardless of the degree of its consumption, it most likely will have some effect on the intimacy level of a marriage.”  I think that this is an outdated notion.  I think that in general, secular society, some identify porn as a marital issue, but most do not.  I think that it is generational.  I also think that it is when porn becomes a compulsion or addiction that it becomes an issue.

      • Anonymous Reply

        I give credit where credit is due.  If the church is in the wrong, I’m more than happy to point it out.  Thanks for listening!  🙂

      • Newcomer Reply

        I don’t think the message of the podcast is really pro-porn, as you imply. It doesn’t make an evaluative statement about porn in general; it just criticizes the false dichotomy that the Church propagates about pornography–that you either use pornography and destroy your life, or you don’t and you’re safe. That kind of escalated rhetoric creates an environment that fosters secrecy and deception among those who really do struggle with addiction, and imposes misplaced guilt on those who live in functional marriages and whose use of pornography falls well shy of the clinical definition of “addiction.” 

      • Hermes Reply

        What about all those people out there (yes, they exist) whose marriages are not ending because of pornography?  Why should the fact that I like boobs (and happen to see them now and again) mean that I cannot have (1) a healthy relationship with my wife, (2) a healthy relationship with my children, or (3) a healthy life?  How does feeling overcome with guilt every time a new clothing catalog arrives in the mail change anything for the better?  Why should anyone assume that my life must fall apart if I happen to see someone naked and think, “That’s hot!”  Why am I presumed to have no kind of integrity to speak of merely because I happen to be a normal human being?

        Of course there are deviant sexual behaviors that cause harm to oneself and others.  We aren’t talking about those.  We are talking basic biology here.  I know the difference between thinking “That’s hot!” and committing adultery (or rape, or whatever).  I see the line, and I am nowhere near it.  As long as I am respecting that line, society doesn’t (and shouldn’t) have a problem with me.

        The tragedy here is that people are expecting impossible things of themselves, rushing into relationships without talking (because both parties assume ridiculous gender stereotypes to be valid paraphrases of real human beings), and going down in flames (when their fairy-tale romance crashes into biology: “My husband saw boobs!” “My wife doesn’t want to forego birth control and have sex every night so that we can start work on our eternal kingdom!”).  Instead of having that heart-to-heart that the panel recommended, in which prospective mates discuss things like boobs and birth control, faithful LDS youngsters read the Family Proclamation, watch the Princess Bride, make out, and feel guilty (leading to more Princess Bride, ice cream, hasty marriage, porn, Prozac, and sometimes divorce, usually after a few kids appear on the scene).  The LDS habit of dragging the church into every marriage is really, really bad for people who do not know that they cannot rely on it to tell them what they want and need to know about their prospective mate.  President Kimball’s crack about any righteous young man and woman being able to make a go of it is a crock.  Talk to one another, about everything, many times, before you come close to saying, “I do.”  And when you talk, be honest: don’t project an image of whitewashed LDS Mormon “perfection” that you cannot maintain 24-7.  The best thing I ever did was tell my fiancee everything I could about myself before we tied the knot, and her kindest deed was returning the favor.   

        Honestly, I think porn is just a red herring the church picks on rather than address the real, tough problems that couples face as they try to create a shared life together.  I suspect that a lot of the romantic relationships in LDS Mormondom that end “because of porn” were really starving of neglect long before boobs became an issue.  (If boobs really had that much power, why would a loving God have created them?  Sorry, I could not resist.)  Porn takes the hit so that we don’t actually have to address the fact that our whole LDS outlook on marriage is fundamentally screwed (pun intended).

      • Randy Snyder Reply

        An exquisite straw man argument iamse7en.  Such black and white thinking is also the hallmark of true believers so we know that at least 3 follow this podcast.  Good to see you guys!

  2. brandt Reply

    Very interesting podcast – I think it addresses two issues that kind of melded together a ton during the show.

    Issue #1 – Pornography

    I think it’s something that is talked about ad nauseum.  Is it a problem?  I’m not sure.  I don’t have access to statistics from the church.  However, it’s beaten to death, and it’s treated as so serious that you can’t even joke about it.  I actually really upset a couple of friends because on Facebook, I was posting the over/under on the amount of times that Pornography was mentioned in conference.  Through various comments, she ended up dropping these bombs:

    “While I’m on my soapbox, do you realize that pornography is a problem in the church in all quoroum’s up through the Seventy? Don’t act like you’re hot to trot when men in high positions even struggle with it!”

    When someone challenged her on her accusation that Seventy’s might have a problem with it, and a call for statistics/references, she said:

    “What other statistics would you like? That 1 in 4 men in the church will struggle with a porn addiction at some point? Is that too “arguementative” for you? Obviously it’s a problem… for gross men and for good men, alike. You do what you want with that info.”

    Which leads to many spinoff items – the word “addiction” is thrown around too much.  There’s a difference between viewing pornography/masturbation and an addiction to pornography and masturbation.  However, “addiction” has become a code word for “the act” of viewing pornography, and “the act” of masturbation.  My personal feelings on the topics aside, there needs to be more instruction given about a man (or woman) viewing pornography in secret, and someone who is addicted, or, to quote Wikipedia, “addiction has been defined as physical and psychological dependence…”, not someone who was caught flipping through the latest SI Swimsuit edition (which, I have heard that charge that it is pornography levied against that issue).

    Issue #2

    I think back on when I asked my wife to marry me almost 5 yrs ago – if her father would have wanted to sit down with me and have a discussion about pornography, and basically quiz me to see if I’d ever viewed it and if I had any “tell tale” signs that I might be prone to pornography viewing, I wouldn’t be as dramatic as to say I wouldn’t marry her, but I’d have some second thoughts as to what kind of family I was going to be marrying into.  The biggest problem I had with the article referenced was the authoritative tone – as if all young men viewed pornography, and the “red flags” were just as insulting.  It’s almost as if fathers-in-laws should be skeptical of any suitor that comes to ask for their daughters hand in marriage, no matter if he’s a good person, or has a sustainable income, or has his head on straight.  What about compassion?  What about love?  What about the fact that the church teaches that the only person who is to judge, and to whom we are accountable to, is ourselves and Christ?  I know I’m viewing this from a believing perspective, but I can just see gaggles of parents of college-aged girls forwarding this with such determination and vigor that THEY ARE FIGHTING FOR THEIR DAUGHTERS VIRTUE instead of taking a good hard look at the man himself, while also realizing that the man is not asking permission, it’s a sign of respect.

    Great episode.  Good job, everyone.

  3. Anonymous Reply

    Great podcast!

    After seeing the devastation between my parents that this issue caused (They’re still together, but their relationship is like a broken friendship, at best), I knew that I could never do to my wife what my dad did to my mom, NOR could I let my wife do to me what my mom did to my dad.

    I knew I had to find a girl who not only was cool with porn, but enjoyed it herself.  And I did.  And it’s awesome.  It’s not like a very huge part of our relationship.  It’s not a foundation or pillar of our marriage.  But it’s something we’re both open to, and neither of us get our panties in a bunch about the other  watching porn and masturbating.  I do it, sometimes with her, sometimes without. She knows, and she’s cool with it.  And she does it without me, sometimes, too, and I’m not only OK with that, I downright like it!

    This notion that pornography has to be a “pornography problem” is one of the many things that make me happy to stay away from the church.  there is no pornography problem in my marriage.  Indeed, it’s one of those great little good things we share.

    We’re at 10 years and going strong.  I won’t promise we’ll never break up, because I will *not* be locked into the jail that my parents call their marriage.  Nor would I want to lock my wife in such a jail.  If it’s that bad, it’s time to move on. But as of right now, as flawed as we both are, neither I nor my wife consider THIS a problem.  And because we don’t, guess what.  It’s not a problem.

        • Fred W. Anson Reply

          If there were I’m sure that attendance in the singles wards would uptick dramatically! 
          (sorry, I just couldn’t resist delivering the obvious punchline – it was just too rich)

          • Fred W. Anson

            It would be an “interesting” new form of Missionary Dating – a kind of new “Missionary Position” no doubt! 

            (I’ve got a million of ’em) 

          • Randy Snyder

            You see Fred, this is why this podcast was so fun to do.  In this podcast when I said “I’ve white knuckled it many times…it’s tough…”  I missed a golden double double entendre by not saying “I’ve white knuckled it many times and I have to say, it gets really hard…”  Bada bump!

  4. cam Reply

    Thank you, thank you for this open and honest discussion.  I appreciate that you were able to talk about sexuality without all of the cautious “word choosing” that happens on typical mormon sites.  I have a lot of thoughts about this subject, so this post may not be as cohesive as I would like.

    It is absolutely inappropriate for a man to engage his future son-in-law in this type of discussion.  I have 2 young adult sons and I would be enraged if someone initiated this discussion with them.  If you flipped the gender and had a future FIL asking your daughter these questions, there would be little doubt that he was crossing sexual boundaries.  Part of sexuality teaching of your children  is maintaining healthy boundaries.  And if you did your job right, you trust them to discuss this on their own with their potential partner.  It’s not easy to let your kids go, but you have to trust them to rely on their own judgment at some point.  The idea that a woman’s sexual responsibility  is passed from father to husband is a way of infantalizing, controlling, and ultimately insulting  women.  And as a woman, I can say that had my father had this discussion with my future husband, there would have been hell to pay. 

    I think that to TBMs, the whole addiction issue is an uneasy muddle.  I think the WOW creates a weird paradigm that influences their perspective.  For example, mormons don’t generally have to deal with alcoholism because they don’t drink.  They don’t have to preach about the excesses of alcohol because they focus on not drinking at all.  It’s not a stretch to get to the idea that there will be not sexual issues if you don’t expose yourself to porn and masturbation.  Gateway sex if you will.  It isn’t really comparable, but I think perspective gets muddled.  Also, If you have an addiction, you can avoid blame.  You didn’t really do anything so terrible.  You might have just inadvertently seen a billboard and then like a disease, you are obsessed and can’t help yourself.  Kind of like the devil made you do it. 

    I read a comment somewhere that illustrates the damage this anti-porn policy has on families. Two women were discussing their pending divorces.  One woman reported that her husband had an affair  with another woman.  The second thought the first woman was lucky because her own husband had been caught reading porn and had betrayed her with hundreds and hundreds of women.  She couldn’t discriminate between an actual affair and yoinking to porn.

    Finally, I want to say that there is such a thing as a true sexual addiction.  It is serious and destructive and painful.  For mormons to compare looking at porn and masturbating to this appalling.  It trivializes and belittles a very serious condition. 

  5. Helaman's Wife Reply

    Once when I had just had a baby, my parents came to visit.  We were gathered all together, my parents, myself, my baby, and my other two children (age 11 and 8) when my mother asked where the baby slept. I mentioned a bassinet next to our bed and she became very concerned. She asked loudly, “But doesn’t that get in the way of your lovemaking???”  

    It took me a minute to get over the shock of her willingness to insert herself into the privacy of my own love life (especially in front of my dad and my kids), told her there was nothing to be worried about, and changed the subject.

    I know she knew it was an inappropriate question, because she waited for my husband to leave the room for a few minutes and asked the question as soon as he was out of earshot.  She would never have done so with him in the room, because he would have immediately called her on it, pointing out that she had crossed a boundary and wasn’t  respecting our privacy.

    My main concern with this article is that it advocates and normalizes a complete lack of boundaries as well as a complete lack of respect for the private and privileged nature of any marriage relationship.   I would expect any sane future son in law to be shocked by such questioning… because of the disrespect for boundaries it shows.  I would expect a grown man to refuse to discuss private matters like that with ANYONE but his own future wife.  I hope people can see this article and its author for what they are… self serving, not to mention completely inappropriate.  

    Unfortunately, I could see this article being referenced to in a R.S. lesson, or even becoming an entire lesson in R.S.  I can just see my mother, and all other TBM women becoming all the more concerned and distrustful of men… and all the more disrespectful to everyone.

    No one, in my opinion not even a bishop, has the right to carry on questioning of this sort.  If someone thought they seriously had an issue with an addiction and was in therapy of their own volition, perhaps such a private level of discussion could or should be approached.  But not in the context this article suggests.  There is no way the advice in this article is remotely aligned with the gospel, any doctrine, or even common sense.  The author is trying to drum up business or at least validate his business and skewed viewpoint.  He should be ashamed of himself for potentially causing untold harm to not only marriages but now also relationships with in-laws.

    If I were a “future son in law” and had an encounter like that with a future father or mother-in-law, I would find every way to avoid interactions with my in-laws on a permanent basis.  Warning to all future fathers and mothers-in-law… if you want to see your grandchildren someday… don’t you dare ask about pornography.  It’s none of your business.

  6. Gail F. Bartholomew Reply

    What lies behind this is looking at arousal as a problem unless it happens in an excruciatingly narrow limit. It makes arousal only ok for a few people, and even for those few it is only ok in a narrow space.  In addition it patholagizes any feeling that has any sexual or hormonal element.  Because it is a sin if you have them.  A man can not admire thew beauty of shape and form a naked woman is always perverted.  Any none married person being sexually attracted to someone is always objectifying.  Any climax not given by a spouse is always selfish and sinful.  Arousal is not something that can be healthily eradicated, yet that is what the church asks many adults to do.

  7. Major Bidamon Reply

    Like Glenn Beck telling people that God is sending you a hurricaine to remind you to get food storage (from which he benefits financially) — the author has a vested interested in pushing for therapy.  This is a form of priestcraft.

  8. Kevin Reply

    It seems like all the discussion centers on the effects of pornography on the user. Another factor to consider is that pornographers often exploit the people — frequently very young people — who make their product.

    Whether you think it’s good, bad, or neutral in its effects on the user, pornography should be recognized as a form of indirect but nevertheless literal prostitution: The purchaser is paying someone to perform sex acts. Like other forms of prostitution, it is inevitably linked to crime and especially to human trafficking.

    This issue goes well beyond whether the church is prudish, or whether some of its members are disrespectful of personal boundaries. There are ample reasons for anyone who is concerned about human rights to be seriously offended by pornography.

    • Anonymous Reply

      I think you make a valid point, Kevin.  Whether or not consumption of pornography harms those who make it is a worthy discussion.  Definitely.  Perhaps someone will record an episode discussing the ethics of porn consumption.  However, I think it’s an over-generalization to say that everyone who creates pornography is being exploited akin to those trapped in prostitution.  Thus, I don’t buy your last sentence.  One can be concerned with human rights and the treatment of vulnerable populations (ie women trapped in prostitution) and still have a healthy, reasonable attitude about pornography and those who create it.  Many people are very particular about where their meat comes from (free range, no factory farming, etc).  I think a similar principle might apply to porn consumption.  Maybe those who view it should be morally responsible enough to make sure the porn they are viewing doesn’t come at the expense of exploitation.  Like I said, this is definitely a worthy discussion to have.

      The issue of pornography consumption is a large issue — something that can’t be covered in one, 60-minute podcast.  The point of this episode was specifically to discuss the recommendations of the article and its implications for relationships with inlaws.  I don’t think one should just brush aside this topic because there are other issues worth discussing that weren’t included in the episode.

      • Anonymous Reply

        Right on, Heather!  I believe it is possible (and not hard) to consume porn responsibly.  One can usually sense true exploitation when we see it.  The majority of mainstream porn involves well-paid actors who are under no duress to do it.  I do not at all buy the argument that consumption of consensual adult porn has anything to do with underage porn.  Any person with a normally-constituted sex drive can easily subsist on porn produced without duress or exploitation.

      • Anonymous Reply

        Right on, Heather!  I believe it is possible (and not hard) to consume porn responsibly.  One can usually sense true exploitation when we see it.  The majority of mainstream porn involves well-paid actors who are under no duress to do it.  I do not at all buy the argument that consumption of consensual adult porn has anything to do with underage porn.  Any person with a normally-constituted sex drive can easily subsist on porn produced without duress or exploitation.

      • Anonymous Reply

        I have read several reports suggesting that the porn industry is faltering and profits are way down. The reason? Too many people are uploading their own home made porn for free! One report suggested as much as 50% of free available porn was homemade and not produced by any porn company. So the exploitation argument is pretty much a red herring. No?

        • Zilpha Reply

          Many people like to see AND be seen. They really like the idea of others appreciating their sexuality and sensuality. Besides, don’t most industries exploit their workers to some degree or another? You can find abuses in every arena (think Walmart, ballet, restaurants, tomato fields, clothing production, manufacturing, heck…there are very few things we enjoy as consumers that don’t have some kind of shady exploitative side to them). We may not like that fact, but it generally doesn’t stop us from going to a restaurant, dipping our fries in Ketchup, or buying a pair of jeans.

          • Cain_The_CuresED

            Correct Zilpha, and might I add that as an avid porn consumer myself, I can only bring myself to watch the homemade, non-produced porn. If I know they are actors, it makes me feel sad for them, and is a total turn off. If I know they are getting off, its rocks.

        • Harry Reply

          Wait lets be careful there. I am pretty sure that a lot of “homemade” porn does not come with the qualifier that those in the video all signed off on its release to the wide public. Many are probably videos shot under the understanding they were private and then uploaded without their knowledge by the other.  

          I think Kevin has a really, really important point here.  While I agree that we go way overboard in how porn is handled in the church and it is rooted in not handling sexuality well (which I think is slowly starting to change), I do think that consuming a product that comes from an industry that systematically exploits people in horrible ways can affect the consumer spiritually outside of the actual content itself.  Direct, if tacit support of individuals who manipulate and abuse others to create the product cankers the soul too. Just as it would if you walked to farm you knew used 14 hour a day child labor to pick its fruit and say there eating it. The fruit itself isn’t bad, but don’t you think there is spiritual damage in knowingly participating in that system? I do.

      • Randy Snyder Reply

        Everything Heather said.  The podcast wasn’t about an examination of the entire porn industry. The topic we did cover wasn’t even fully addressed in the slightest.  I get that there is some unbelievably awful sh#t going down in porn in general and worldwide but the porn I consume is well paid professionals that love their job.  Have you ever seen these women interviewed?  HBO has a show that covers the porn/legal prostitution business.  These porn stars are like, “I get paid a ridiculous amount to have sex with beautiful people.”  

        Actually, just a random thought that I am now reminded of.  Family Guy has a scene that had me rolling on the floor.  A man and a woman are in a hotel room and the man hands her money to have sex.  Just as he does, two cops bust in and yell, “you’re under arrest for solicitation!”  The guy then tells the cops, “Hey you don’t understand.”  He points to a video camera and says, “We’re going to film it and sell it on the internet.”  The cops apologize and say something like, “Well, then it’s totally legal.  Carry on.”If anyone is wondering, yes I think prostitution should be legalized and regulated to help prevent all the worst problems associated with our current illegal prostitution.  But that’s a whole ‘nother podcast.

        • Anonymous Reply

          I don’t necessarily accept what porn stars say in interviews as reality.  Just because they say that when the camera is on doesn’t mean that’s what’s in their hearts when they’re honest with themselves.

          • Anonymous

            For what it’s worth I think there are plenty of damaged, empty, and unfulfilled mainstream movie stars.  They seek the spotlight in a desperate attempt to feel good about themselves and be happy.  Are we exploiting them by watching their movies?

    • Wes Cauthers Reply

      Hey Kevin,

      You raise an important issue that I rarely see brought up in discussions on porn.  While this episode was specifically about the article from Meridian, I would love to see one that explores the issues of ethics and exploitation related to porn.

      Here are a few youtube clips I think you’ll find interesting:

      “Pornography’s link to sex trafficking” Briefing at the U.S. Capitol Hill, June 15, 2010
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSRxpVDNpGI

      Also, the following interview with Noam Chomsky (a well-known MIT professor who is not religious and refers to himself as a libertarian socialist) says all pornography is exploitative regardless of whether or not people consent to it. He says it is no different than people who consent to working in a sweat shop and are paid for their time.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNlRoaFTHuE

      • Anonymous Reply

        I can’t speak for everyone else, but if Paris Hilton decides to film herself in a sex tape, I think it is hard to call that “exploitation.”  Not all porn even involves sex acts, and in fact, much of it is faked.

        • Wes Cauthers Reply

          I think this is one of those issues where people are going to fundamentally disagree for a variety of reasons but I still think it’s a discussion worth having. I do find it fascinating that Chomsky, who is not religious, argues that all porn is exploitative including those who who consent to it and says it’s no different from consenting to work in a sweat shop. This is not an argument I had heard before seeing that clip.

          I think it’s fair to say that most people are fairly ignorant of what really goes on behind the scenes in the world of porn. The only thing most viewers see is the finished product and I have seen interviews of ex-pornstars who say that it is a very dark industry on multiple levels. In some ways, their stories remind me of the stories I hear of people who leave Mormonism. It’s similar in that the only thing people outside of Mormonism see is exactly what the church wants them to see. But those of us who have left Zion know otherwise from personal experience.

          I think it’s interesting that very few people (at least whom I have met) would be okay if one of their family members, especially their children (consenting adult children), were depicted in porn. Why is that? Also, I imagine that very few of the people who end up in porn started out with dreams of being there. I once saw an interview with Ron Jeremy who frankly acknowledged that had he made it as a mainstream actor, he never would have done porn. I’m sure there are examples that refute both of these observations, but my guess is that they are in the minority.

          Something else to consider is the fact that porn is opposed by some feminists who, like Chomsky, also argue that it is exploitative but additionally say that it reduces women to sex objects, is harmful to them during production, contributes to sexism, promotes violence and hatred towards women, and causes a distorted view of the human body and sexuality:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminist_views_on_pornography#Anti-pornography_feminism

          • Anonymous

            I agree that people are going to fundamentally disagree, Wes.  I’ve seen plenty of porn discussions online.  They never go anywhere.  Kinda like abortion and capital punishment discussions.  They’re all heated issues and people are well entrenched in their opinions. 

            I like Zilpha’s comment below that exploitation can be found everywhere.  People wear clothing made in sweat shops, drink coffee produced by extremely underpaid farmers, eat bananas that are harvested by people who are essentially slaves.  The list goes on forever.  Is there exploitation in the porn industry?  Sure.  But is that a function of the porn or a function of power and greed?

            John also makes a good point below.  Most porn you find online isn’t created by some evil porn corporation who is exploiting people.  It’s made by “amateurs” who make it themselves and upload it themselves.  Heck, there is even a porn movie festival in Seattle where average everyday Jo Schmos make a video and submit it to the festival.  It’s basically a porn celebration.

            When I get into discussions like this I’m always reminded how slow we are to see the fundamental problems of humanity.  (By we I mean everybody, myself included.)  It’s like people out there who say there would be no war if religion were abandoned.  War is not caused by religion.  Religion is the excuse/motivation people use to commit war.  If we were to eliminate religion people would find new motivations or excuses and wars would continue to happen.  The same principle can be found in almost any problem in humanity, including the porn industry.  One can argue the morality of the sex acts in pornography.  (Should one be engaging in sexual activities outside of marriage, etc.)  But it’s not those sex acts “themselves” that are doing the exploitation.  It’s the people involved in the recording of those sex acts and their questionable motivations.

          • Wes Cauthers

            While I agree that exploitation can be found in many arenas, I don’t think that’s a good reason to have a nonchalant attitude about it. In fact, I think that’s even more reason to be opposed to it wherever it may be found. Regarding exploitation and the porn industry in particular, it may be helpful if I clarify exactly what I am referring to:

            By exploitation, I mean treating human beings as mere means to an end—or as mere “objects” which is described more here:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exploitation#As_unjust_benefit

            Also, when I mentioned the dark porn industry in my earlier post, I was referring specifically to the multi-billion dollar industry described more here:

            http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jan/04/pornography-big-business-influence-culture

            http://www.amazon.com/Pornography-Production-Consumption-Gail-Dines/dp/0415918138/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_2

            I agree with what you said about religion and war and that we are slow to see the fundamental problems of humanity. I also agree that sex in and of itself is inherently good. I think it is something that humans were meant to enjoy and that our capacity for pleasure on many levels is amazing. Where we differ is on whether the porn industry is inherently harmful. It’s likely that we will just have to agree to disagree there but I have no problem with that.

          • Anonymous

            I’m not endorsing apathy or nonchalant attitudes.  I’m acknowledging that the issue isn’t as cut and dry as one might think at first glance.  But yeah… agree to disagree.  🙂

      • Anonymous Reply

        I can’t speak for everyone else, but if Paris Hilton decides to film herself in a sex tape, I think it is hard to call that “exploitation.”  Not all porn even involves sex acts, and in fact, much of it is faked.

    • Helaman's Wife Reply

      The issue at hand really is that this article and its author are making it more likely for church members to be disrespectful of personal boundaries.  A porn discussion is just the vehicle of that disrespect.

  9. Buffalo Reply

    If the porn problem ended tomorrow, I can’t help but think the LDS leadership would be a little disappointed. They’d need to find something else to shame the men about to keep them into line.

    Good for them, then, that their approach to “combating” pornography through shame just makes it worse, and in many cases creates actual addiction where it wouldn’t otherwise exist. They’ll stay in business that way. 

  10. Major Bidamon Reply

    I asked a Southern Baptist coworker today, “Do you guys ever talk about the porn problem at church?”.  He said “Never”.  In fact, they have a Sunday School class devoted to “the problem of evil and suffering” … he indicated they really don’t highlight specific behaviours that are sinful, just the idea of Jesus as Saviour.  His response surprised me …. are we becoming the “church of porn”?

  11. Bodona Reply

    Saw this on reddit last night, and thought it was applicable to this podcast:  http://i.imgur.com/0tdOH.jpg

  12. Steve Kimball Reply

    Someone ought to report this guy to the State licensing board.  Counselor’s like doctors can have licenses revoked for engaging in harmful activity to patients.  

  13. Steve Kimball Reply

    I’ve been thinking a lot about porn after hearing this podcast and I’m blaming Mormon Expression for my new evil fixation.  Wait, is thinking about porn sinful?  I have also, and this is where the real perversion enters, been thinking about the LDS position (no pun).  I have come (no pun) to the following conclusion based on my experience.  In life, anytime you make something forbidden people are going to do, but secretly, and often, it’s like a closet drinker.  Closet drinking almost always leads to alcohol problems.  Healthier open approaches to alcohol seldom lead to alcohol problems.  The evidence is in, Utah says porn is evil–and has the highest per capita Internet viewing/use rate.  Anytime you have people forbidding and making things off limits when it really shouldn’t be viewed in such extreme ways you end up with unhealthy behaviors.  My suggestion would be the LDS church including some nudity in it’s services and spicing things up by allowing sleeveless temple dresses and that sort of thing.  Oh, and the geriatric monotone leaders should step down and pass on leadership to some young studs and hot women.  Problem fixed–cept for my new fixation caused by this podcast. Amen    

  14. Megan Reply

    I might have missed it – or not noticed in the comments – but did no one point out that the assumption is that women don’t look at porn? Underlying this whole article are the pernicious Mormon myths about male and female sexuality: men are bestial and will always fall into sexual sin; women are pure and have no desires for sex outside of their (single and only) relationship.

    The consistent degrading of men and their (totally normal) sexual desires is as damaging as the silence on women’s sexuality and the implication that a woman who masturbates and looks at or reads sexually explicit stuff is deviant (and alone).

    • Anonymous Reply

      Yet again I fail to be a feminist.  haha. 

      Yes, you’re right.  We should have discussed that this article propagates that Victorian sexuality myth.

      Good catch.

      • Megan Reply

        No gold star for you!

        Actually it’s still amazing to me how invisible feminine sexuality is in the church – so successfully invisible that we don’t notice the absence.

        • Randy Snyder Reply

          Funny thing is we did talk about this in the after discussion. We may have gotten to it if Glenn hadn’t artificially truncated the discussion. I was just getting started on Kama Sutra. But nooo, Glenn had to sleep (actually, it was after midnight on a weeknight and he had those 2 guests over).

  15. sara Reply

    While listening to the podcast I started thinking about he LDS church’s preoccupation with porn and masturbation.  I recalled a Swedish film I saw last year, where the wife of a sexually repressed minister said (and I’m paraphrasing):  There is no sin.  Religion holds out sin and guilt with one hand so it can offer salvation with the other.  

    If you accept this notion (which I do), then it is easy to understand why the church does not allow for gradations of sexual behavior and why it is not sufficient to clear up offenses by going straight to God.  The goal is to control people’s behavior and increase their dependence on the church.

    Loved the podcast, btw…

    • Randy Snyder Reply

      Sara, absolutely. The job of religion is to make a problem only they can provide the solution to (well, I should qualify that w the Abrahamic religions particularly Christianity). But they have nothing to offer if u don’t feel broken. Sexuality is an easy target as it is well rooted in our humanity. An easy target to reinforce how carnal, wicked and “fallen” our natures are and just how much we “need” them.

  16. Anonymous Reply

    A line from Monty Python’s “Holy Grail” comes to mind; “RUN AWAY!!!”

    Even if I was in love with a woman, if her parent/s treated me this way I would take it as a very bad omen for the future. Firstly, these fruitcakes will be in your life for as long as they live. Secondly, your future wife was raised by these people. It doesn’t bode well.

    • Anonymous Reply

      I think I’ve probably already had this disagreement with you in the MO 2.0 group on Facebook.  But, I’ll re-state my opinion here. 

      The real test is how the woman reacts to her parents overstepping boundaries.  If she sees no problem with her father asking such questions, then yes, by all means, RUN away.  But if she is horrified, establishes appropriate boundaries with her parents, and sticks to them then there isn’t a problem.  I don’t think it’s fair to hold a person’s crazy parents against them.  Just because someone raised you doesn’t mean you are that person.  What about people whose parents were drug addicts?  Abusers?  The person one is dating is the one to be evaluated for marriage.  Not their crazy ass family.

  17. Scottie Reply

    One thing that has always bothered me is that porn is only ever defined as men watching naked women.

    What about the porn that it Twilight, or romance novels for women?

    If we follow typical behaviors of men vs women, men are visually stimulated while women are emotionally stimulated. 

    When a woman says she feels cheated on when her husband sees a naked woman, why can’t a man say he is cheated on when a woman swoons for Edward and/or Jacob?  Or when she reads a steamy romance novel, ripe with sex.  Apparently if it’s bound and in word form, it’s okay?

    I also hear that women chastise men because it puts an unrealistic expectation on wives.  That they aren’t going to look like the 18 year old the man is watching.  But couldn’t the same be said for romance novels?  Women read these unrealistic men who jet the women to Paris on a whim for a romantic dinner on top of the Eiffel tower, then look at disgust at their husband who has neither the means or the time to do this.

  18. Jean Bodie Reply

    This is the sweetest thing I have read since John Dehlin’s Why They Leave. He was the only person who seemed to understand my pain at that time except for other unbelievers.

    Thank you Brandt – “almost thou persuadeth me to become a Christian.”

  19. Amber Price Reply

    Brandt, this is lovely.  Thank you for your words… now- submit it to the Ensign. 😉 

  20. Trevor P Reply

    Wow, this is one of the best write-ups on this topic I’ve ever read. Excellent work on a very important yet very misunderstood situation.

  21. Matt Reply

    I developed a porn addiction when I was a young teenager. The culture of the church wraps so much shame around sexuality that I was terrified to tell anyone. I kept thinking a mission would cure me, and it didn’t. After my mission it got progressively worse. I would sometimes confess to a bishop, some would tell me to go to the temple, and one took my recommend for two months. Because he took my recommend i wasn’t able to go to my cousins wedding. I felt so ashamed that i lied to my family and told them I couldn’t get off work to attend. I always felt like confessing to a bishop would cure me and it never did. I never learned what was actually happening to me and why i was using porn to cope with pain. I go married and it was clear to me that I had to do something about it. It was too hard to hide from my wife. On the outside my marriage looked great, but internally i was in so much pain. I eventually found a support group and went through two years of therapy. In those two years, and still today I have learned more about addiction and how to overcome it than i ever did from a bishop. My testimony of the church is rocky right now. I like the social structure because my whole family and friends are in it, but i do not trust the church’s leadership in helping me with my struggles. The bishop to me is just some dude who they ask to listen to peoples problems. Confession is an important part of recovery and repentance, but actually working on it is the missing piece. Reading your scriptures every day and praying will not make an addiction go away. My testimony of the church is weaker now, but because of therapy and recovery I am a lot happier and can cope with pain in healthier ways.

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