A recent study from BYU highlighted the effects of pornography on religious persons. While there was much discussion on social media, the conversations were less than fruitful when arguments hinged on the definition of pornography.
I’m highly skeptical of absolute statements concerning traditional notions of pornography when sexual imagery is far more complicated that just good or bad. I have often said, “I am anti-porn, because I’m pro-sex.” But what is porn?
According to Merriam-Webster, pornography is defined as: (1) the depiction of erotic behavior intended to cause sexual excitement (2) material such as books or photography that depicts erotic behavior and is intended to cause sexual excitement.
I suspect most people would conform to this definition of pornography or something akin to it.
If we accept this definition, one must conclude that not all pornography is bad. For example, I send my husband explicit, erotic images and videos of myself regularly with the deliberate intent to sexually arouse and excite him. Over fifteen years of marriage, he certainly has collected quite a “pornographic collection” and has developed what some would consider a definitional “pornography addiction.” But in this context words like pornography and addiction, as traditionally defined, hardly seem helpful. Frankly, those words seem silly. But why? How is pornography different than me sending erotic images and videos to my husband?
The sexual expressions, depictions, and behaviors between my husband and I are founded upon love and intimacy. I’m not convinced this medium of sexual interaction is bad, damaging, or immoral. Quite the contrary, it is a consensual expression of sexual desire that provokes intimacy and love among the involved parties. I would contend that sexually explicit or erotic material that enhances intimacy and love in interpersonal relationships of all persons involved is NOT pornography. Pornography should be defined in terms of harmful sexual expressions, not arousal or excitement.
For example, to the extent that sexually explicit material enhances intimacy and love in interpersonal relationships among consenting members, it is good and therefore is NOT pornography. To the extent that sexually explicit material is a hindrance to intimacy and love in interpersonal relationships, it is bad and therefore IS pornography.
Pornography has tangible effects on human sexual desire, response, and functionality. If we look at some of the potential harm that comes from prolonged, systematic exposure to pornography, which is sadly exacerbated by damaging shame tactics and dangerously repressed sexual desires, we certainly shouldn’t ignore the risks and effects of engaging in pornography viewing, production, and distribution.
However, if pornography is defined as depictions of erotic behavior intended to cause sexual excitement that are a hindrance to intimacy and love in interpersonal relationships, the word pornography has become an identifier of what we wish to avoid, which is harmful, oppressive, sexual expressions to oneself and/or others. With this definition of pornography, we aren’t shaming sexual desire and arousal via imagery and media, we are instead identifying harmful sexual expressions.
Of course, the devil is in the details. This definition of pornography certainly leaves room for interpretation and would likely vary among the persons involved. What is a harmful sexual expression to me may not be a harmful sexual expression to you. While my husband may enjoy sexually explicit media of me in a perfectly healthy way, if he were to distribute those images or videos without my consent, they would then become pornography because they were distributed in a manner that would hinder love and intimacy in our relationship. In this sense pornography is a fluid state that may or may not change depending on context.
There is still much to be explored and understood about the risks and benefits of sexual expressions, especially as technology continues to connect us with others in radically unprecedented ways. Should pornography play a role in our relationships? Well, it depends on how you define pornography. It should be defined in terms of damage, harm, and oppression. So I would say no, there is no need for it in our relationships.
As for myself, discussions about pornography seem silly when definitions, assumptions, and verbal baggage obstruct meaningful discovery of what are helpful sexual expressions and harmful sexual expressions. I certainly am anti-porn, because I perceive pornography as harmful sexual expressions that inhibit love and intimacy among involved persons. I am certainly pro-sex, because sex is a powerful, dare I even say godly, way of enhancing love and intimacy among involved, consenting persons. As technology is further developed I have no doubt it will radically change the way we perceive and engage in sexual behaviors, but we won’t be able to appropriately discuss the risks and ramifications if we can’t even define pornography in any meaningful way.
Blaire you make a number of good points and I would highly recommend this article to every member of the Church. So much of what the Church teaches about sex only makes sense when applied to children but falls apart when applied to adults.
I would go further and argue that all pornography is benign for an adult. Take viewing violent movies for example. Why is it a sin to watch someone making love and yet it isn’t a sin to watch someone being murdered? Yet I haven’t found a Church web site on overcoming a violent movie addiction.
Some might argue that this scripture from 3 Nephi proves that pornography is a sin.
“28 But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman, to lust after her, hath committed adultery already in his heart.”
The problem with using this verse is that this is not what it means.
Firstly, while it is true that feelings are at the heart of his motivation, what “to lust after her” is describing is what he is doing. In other words the man is arranging things so that he can spend time alone with a married woman with the goal of having a sexual relationship. What makes this case a transgression is in what he is doing, and not why not why he is doing what he is doing.
We could also compare this simple example with the complexity of this issue during the time the Church was promoting polygamy and note how complicated this issue can become. There is more to this issue then just having sexual feelings.
Secondly, if it were universally true that having sexual feelings is a sin then everyone who ever gets married would be a sinner if they had sexual feelings for their spouse. And of course this doesn’t make sense. And like Judge Judy says, “If it doesn’t make sense, then it isn’t true.”
All the best,
@Bob Cooper. “Why is it a sin to watch someone making love and yet it isn’t a sin to watch someone being murdered? Yet I haven’t found a Church web site on overcoming a violent movie addiction.” It is a sin to watch violent movies, this is commonly talked about by the leaders of the church. Salacious depictions of Sex, violence and degrading language have been all decried as bad habits and if become addictions apply equally to the addiction program that the church has started. It just so happens that pornography is a significant problem in the church and gets more attention.
“The problem with using this verse is that this is not what it means.” How can something not mean what it means, maybe you should have said it is not what is says or seems to mean. Either way lust is a state of mind. Hitting on a woman (or man) or further acting out thoughts of lust is not what this verse is talking about at all. If you are thinking about having sex with someone you should not be, it is not good. Nor does it need to mention the exception of married couples, I would assume this is implied. It is one thing to be attracted to someone, it is another to lust after them but both are a state of mind and thought.
You are right. I could have worded my answer better. If you don’t mind let me give it another try.
As far as your first comment there are three points I would like to make.
The first point is that I define sin as a behavior. I base this belief on a number of facts but to keep my reply brief I will only share one with you.
In a talk given by Elder Holland in the October 2007 Ensign he made the point that there is a distinction between what we think and feel, and what we do. He argued that sin is what we do as opposed to the thoughts and feelings that precipitated the behaving which are not sin. In support of his position, which I agree with, he quoted from a letter written to the members of the Church by the First Presidency. In the letter “The First Presidency stated, “There is a distinction between immoral thought and feelings and participating in either immoral heterosexual or any homosexual behavior.” If you do not act on temptations, you have not transgressed.”
The First Presidency clearly makes the distinction between thoughts and feelings, and behavior. They state that sin is in what you do with another person. The thoughts and feelings that precipitated the act are not sin.
I understand why you might disagree with this understanding because not many members I have talked to are even aware of this letter and what it says. As well a lot of members believe that what they think and feel can be sins so your position isn’t uncommon. Also we might argue that if we didn’t have the thoughts and feelings that precipitate committing adultery in the first place then logically we wouldn’t commit adultery so it makes sense to avoid having inappropriate thoughts and feelings. There is a flaw in this reasoning however which brings me to my second point which is that for most of us there is a gap between what we think and feel, and what we do. And I think this gap is not only important but it is critical. Let me explain why.
I used to teach workshops on decision-making and I would ask the following questions at the start of every class.
The first question was, “Who thinks that exercising on a regular basis is a good idea?” 100% of the time everyone in the class would raise their hand.
The second question was, “Who here exercises at least three times a week?” The percentage who responded in the affirmative to this question varied between 40 to 60 percent.
This does point out one thing. And it is that there is a gap, for most people, between what we do and what we think. I think this a good thing and it is related to my understanding of agency.
I believe that this gap is the critical component in our agency. Without it we would be robots and following Satan’s plan.
The third point I would like to make is based on the concept of logical equivalency. A logical equivalency is a rule of logic that states for any statement to be true then the opposite must also be true. In the case of the question of how we define sin consider the logic equivalency of a common belief we have in the Church that God won’t reward us for the good works we don’t do even if we really wanted to do them. The logical equivalency of this belief is that if God won’t reward us for our good thoughts and feelings then He won’t punish us bad thoughts and feelings, even if we can’t get the bad thoughts and feelings out of our heads and hearts. In other words you have to believe: that God will punish and reward you for good and bad thoughts and feelings, or you have to believe that God won’t punish or reward you for good and bad thoughts and feelings, or the third option is that what you believe is illogical.
As far as your second comment let me rephrasing my statement, “The problem with using this verse is that this is not what it means.” What I could have said was that using this verse to support the belief that pornography is a sin is problematic because it is based on a common parsing error that a lot of people make.
The error is that most people read the words, “to lust after her” as if it was one prepositional phrase that means the man is experiencing the internal feeling called lust. The correct parse of these words is that there are actually two prepositional phrases, not just one. The first phrase is “to lust” and it modifies the second phrase which is “after her” and describes what the man was doing. And what he was doing was pursing a woman with the object in mind of having a sexual relationship. The term we use today for this type of behavior is seduction. The sin is in what he is doing and not the thoughts and feelings that precipitated his behavior. When you refer back to the letter of the First Presidency you see that they agree with this interpretation.
I hope that this makes more sense.
All the best,
Consider two scenarios. In scenario A, one couple (call them the “performers”) performs via webcam for another couple (call them the “viewers”) in a very explicit sexual manner. The performers did not know the viewers beforehand. However, the performers feel their own intimacy and love increase in the act of performing, and the viewers feel their own intimacy and love increase in the act of viewing. Because the performers and the viewers did not know each other beforehand, there is some (albeit very small) increase in the love and intimacy that they feel for each other—that is, that the performers feel for the viewers and vice versa.
In scenario B, a woman (call her Wanda) wants to celebrate her upcoming anniversary by giving her husband of 20 years (call him Henry) a “boudoir” photoset of herself. To acheive this, the woman asks her very good photographer friend (call her Faye) to take the photos, which will be a surprise gift to Harry. Faye has done this for other friends and has no problem taking the photos. Faye and Wanda remain as close as ever after the photoshoot; it doesn’t affect their relationship positively or negatively. Henry enjoys the photos; it does foster love and intimacy between Wanda and him. However, Henry now feels slightly more awkward around Faye, knowing she took the photos that he has received. It doesn’t do terrible harm to Faye’s and Henry’s friendship, but for a time it makes things mildly uncomfortable for Henry. Thus, there was some harm done (albeit very small).
As I understand your definition of P, scenario A does not involve P (since there was no harm done whatsoever) and scenario B does involve P (because there was at least some harm done and love and intimacy was not increased for everyone involved). Does that sound right?
As you probably guessed, “P” equals “pornography” in the last paragraph of my comment above. Writing the comment from a work computer forced me to censor and I forgot to change it back. Ad for calling Henry “Harry” at one point … well, that was just stupidity.
Hi Blair, Thanks for your post. I appreciate your efforts to make distinctions around this very challenging topic. My only issue with your desire to define pornography as “depictions of sexual behavior that are a hinderance to intimacy” is that it doesn’t help us define what constitutes that. Is it particular graphic depictions themselves that undermine intimacy or is it the meaning and context of seeking out those images that causes it? Certainly one could take issue with participation in the industry itself, but the impact of the images on the viewer, and on love and intimacy is a question for me. Is porn problematic because one sees a graphic representation of sexuality, or is one’s viewing of certain kinds of imagery symptomatic of who one is, and how one is in relationship to him / herself and others? These are genuine questions for me that I haven’t yet satisfactorily answered but I think the causal relationship is generally going the wrong way in most of our discussions on the topic. Most members of the church talk as if the porn causes damage to the relationship. It may, but I am more inclined to believe that the PERSON and the meaning of their chosen behavior (e.g. viewing graphic images without a spouse’s knowledge, preferring porn to forging an intimate real relationship, etc.) is what causes the damage to the relationship. Further, the kinds of imagery one is drawn to (e.g. sexual humiliation of a woman) is an expression of the viewer and what he has eroticized (which would be expressed in any intimate relationship), but not necessarily that the image is causing him to be one who denigrates women. Sometimes people say to me that porn has caused their husband and their relationship damage. And sometimes my response to that is, “If the internet shut down tomorrow, your husband would still be a self-serving, low-decency guy”. That is to say, his entitlement, secrecy, contempt for women etc (with which his porn viewing is consistent) is an expression of who your married to, not what porn has made him. Again, I’m trying to sort this out myself, but I think the extremely important question is whether certain kinds of images promote intimacy and others undermine it. I still think it’s in the meaning of the viewing and of the content that has the impact, not the graphic nature of it. And if so maybe we should not be focusing on porn as the problem but the meaning and impact of people’s sexual and intimate behavior.
That is a really great comment Jennifer, thanks for your insights. It is nice to see thoughtful discussions on this complicated topic.
Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Jennifer. I agree there is still much to be explored about what is and isn’t harmful. Defining what specifically constitutes as pornography is certainly tricky. For me context is important. Honestly, I don’t think porn can be defined in universally objective terms. Or at least that’s where I’m at right now. At the end of my post I suggested porn is fluid. Meaning nude pictures of are not porn, but distributed without my consent is porn. Or other times we make something porn that doesn’t need to be porn simply by shaming it, thus causing harm. I like what Cindy Gallop is doing with MakeLoveNotPorn. It’s videos of consenting adult engaging in sex and I consider it very ethical sexual material. That’s only one small example, but we should certainly start by taking the shame out of sex and various sexual desires. That’s not to say all sexual desires should be acted upon, but treating harmful sexual desires with shame creates internal monsters.
I’d love to have a dialogue with you about it sometime to bounce ideas back and forth with each other, or even possibly be a guest on your podcast. I’m currently working on a second degree in philosophy with an emphasis on gender and human sexuality, mainly queer theory. I’d love to chat with you sometime. (shameless plug over) 🙂
I have a really difficult time with what you’re writing and aligning it with statements from modern day prophets. It seems like you’re saying that viewing sexually explicit material with your husband of other individuals is fine as long as you both enjoy it and believe it brings you closer as a couple. To me that sounds a lot like justifying behavior and not taking into account the sacred nature of marriage intimacy. With this mindset a couple could talk themselves into all kinds of sinful behavior. I believe the sexual intimacy should be between the husband and wife. Period. Bringing in outside images or videos is not a healthy behavior no matter how one spins it. Sharing intimacy in creative ways between husband and wife is wonderful. Watching sexual acts of others and saying it embellishes intimacy or closeness is a very dangerous and slippery slope in my opinion.
@Matt, I couldn’t agree more. And I would add that if one feels it is pornography when their spouse shares images of me to others then why is looking at others that are not your spouse somehow ok? We teach to have no other sexual relations with anyone other than our spouse, I would say that includes watching someone else have sex even if it is with your spouse. It is the same reason we try to not shop on Sunday, if we don’t believe in working on Sunday then why would we expect others to do it so we can have an ice cream cone etc…
I find this conversation void of important truths. Have you ever watched hollywood violence and felt offended by the inhumanity portrayed on the screen? My experience is the more I watched the less sensitive I was. Less sensitive to other human beings. Do I want to live in a fantasy that undermines my true nature to care about people? Watching violence caused my heart to change. In a way I became past feeling. Harder. Desensitized. Is that who I want to be? This conversation about porn feels naive to me. (Sorry Jennifer). I am a woman who feels sexually awake. I get David Schnarch’s call toward the goodness of “doing” someone or being “done”. I have also witnessed good men turn cold to the kind of sexuality I think Schnarch preaches. To encourage a tolerance for viewing others engaged in sexual acts baffles me. Why would I want to become desensitized to the erotic sacredness of my sexuality? Many report the more they view explicit adult material, the less aroused or engaged they feel when participating in sexual acts with their spouse. I appreciate Jennifer’s curiosity. I hear her question in a kind of chicken or the egg perspective. Her assumption that one who tolerates sexual humiliation seeks porn because (obviously) they are a self serving, low-decency guy. My experience says different. I would like to suggest that those who are exposed to porn become self serving. They find themselves tolerating over time a greater disconnect. Disconnect from their innate goodness, their humanity, their relationship toward women and the sacredness of their own sexuality. They are at risk of becoming consumers instead of lovers. I have zero tolerance for viewing others engaged in sexual acts and I want to continue cherishing the sacredness of sexuality, especially mine.
Further, the kinds of imagery one is drawn to (e.g. sexual humiliation of a woman) is an expression of the viewer and what he has eroticized (which would be expressed in any intimate relationship), but not necessarily that the image is causing him to be one who denigrates women. Sometimes people say to me that porn has caused their husband and their relationship damage. And sometimes my response to that is, “If the internet shut down tomorrow, your husband would still be a self-serving, low-decency guy”. That is to say, his entitlement, secrecy, contempt for women etc (with which his porn viewing is consistent) is an expression of who your married to, not what porn has made him. Again, I’m trying to sort this out myself, but I think the extremely important question is whether certain kinds of images promote
“Most members of the church talk as if the porn causes damage to the relationship. It may, but I am more inclined to believe that the PERSON and the meaning of their chosen behavior (e.g. viewing graphic images without a spouse’s knowledge, preferring porn to forging an intimate real relationship, etc.) is what causes the damage to the relationship.”
I think it’s both. Most adults who have problems with porn had problems start when they were children/youth. Percentages of those who have had some sort of problem, and then had some sort of problem return in adulthood are not low. Porn DOES something to people. They become acted upon in many, many cases. It doesn’t mean they can’t learn to overcome its impact. But to deny that it has an impact on a person in ways that then impact relationship is to miss something very serious.
If the potential to be acted upon wasn’t a real thing, we wouldn’t have standards or commandments at all. If substances or behaviors didn’t put us at risk for eroding agency — our ability to deliberately build character consistent with true principles — then addiction or compulsion would not be a thing. Addictions and compulsions exist because of an interplay of substance/behavior and character weakness. Healing has to include both attention to the substance/behavior that contributed to downward spirals in character.
We are learning creatures, and every last thing we are exposed to throughout our lives has the potential to impact how our brains and characters develop. We can’t divest nature and nurture. They are intertwined, always.
Also, doctrinally speaking, we are spiritual creatures. We can’t consume something or engage in a behavior that isn’t in line with core truth without it harming our souls and relationships in some way, ESPECIALLY when it comes to such a counterfeit of something so core to God’s plan.
Perhaps you don’t subscribe to the idea that pornography can be an addiction, but I do. I’ve seen it too many times — and seen the flip side of what a recovery approach and mindset can do for individuals, spouses, and families.
In recovery circles, it is well known that sobriety (abstinence from consumption of a substance or behavior) is important but not sufficient. Perhaps that is what you are trying to get at, and this IS an important reality. But those in recovery also know that you can’t really get to the heart of what it means to heal if you don’t abstain from the branches of the problem (which means that the substance being consumed IS part of the problem of feeding character weakness). If you don’t identify whatever your “drug of choice” is, you will never have a clear enough mind, heart, and spirit to get to the roots of what you need healing from. (I do think it’s important to note, however, that porn is not the actual drug of choice when porn is consumed. Lust is. So you are right, the internet could go down and a lust addict would still be a lust addict. But that wouldn’t mean that porn was a separate something in acting on that person to the point of deep character and relational impact.)
Fortunately, almost without exception, those who do engage in a recovery process realize that the initial problem they thought they have (“I use alcohol.” “I use drugs.” “I use pornography.” “I have food issues.”) is not really the core problem. So again, to that point, I agree with you. Removing porn would not save the relationship. It runs deeper. But I think you have swung too far the other way. You can’t divest the substance from the behavioral and belief patterns that develop to the point of saying that it isn’t actually impacting a relationship. All behaviors and substances that reduce agency (compulsions or addictions or whatever you want to call them — substitutes for real living, real connection with self and others, and real joy) WILL impact character. Similarly, character weaknesses can make one more susceptible to engage in unhealthy behaviors, thoughts, etc.
I know I’m being repetitive, but I think it all bears repeating.
Thank you for a very insightful post. May I pose a question? What role does viewing erotic material play for a married man whose wife refuses all physical intimacy? No sexual relations for more than six years. Are erotic materials and masturbation an acceptable option? Counseling has been tried without results.
I am intrigued by this question. Are you suggesting that it is your wife’s fault you masturbate while viewing porn? From my perspective I think divorce would be the better and only solution. I would not think a sexless marriage was a marriage I should tolerate. So which came first. Your wife’s low desire or your porn use?
I’m not a therapist, but I have strong feelings about this because after years of research and involvement in this space, I’ve seen the pain and sadness that come to men who turn to porn and masturbation. I’ve heard first-hand from people who will tell you that porn and masturbation are a black hole of isolation.
So my invitation to you is to take a step back to think about this. Sex with self and a screen is not intimacy. It will never replace what you really want. Be clear in your mind about the difference between orgasm and intimacy. Your wife’s choices are definitely impacting your life, but what kind of life are you going to create in response? You clearly feel hurt, but will turning to porn and masturbation help you feel less hurt? Less alone? More spiritually strong? More in tune with yourself and your need for healing? More in tune with the pain your wife may be feeling in her own world? More in tune with your children’s needs (if you have them)? More plugged into your long-term life and eternal goals?
Intimacy is about relationship, not about sexual release. God never promised that life would bring orgasm. (A world centered on sexual rights would convince us otherwise.) He gave us sexuality for a purpose. What is the purpose? Does that purpose find fulfillment in sex with self?
If your wife is not choosing to engage, that doesn’t mean that you should violate the core doctrines and principles surrounding the purpose of sex by turning to a counterfeit of the real deal. If you violate those principles, you risk hurting twice over or more. You will risk being MORE lonely and also risk dulling your spirit and heart. (Some men also experience erectile dysfunction when they engage in these behaviors.) But mostly, I am concerned about the personal impact it will have on your spirit. Even though you are married, you still have a personal spiritual journey to walk. What would God have you do?
My heart goes out to you because this is hard stuff. But please, face the hard situation head-on with God (not seeking counseling to change your wife, but seeking counsel and help, and wisdom from God about what to do in your situation). He can and will guide you!
We can’t stay centered on what sex is about in God’s plan if we make it about personal pleasure alone. It’s about relationship. And if relationship is struggling, then that is the issue. Lack of sex is not the issue. It may be a symptom, but it’s not the issue. Just like porn alone is never the issue in a marriage, although it contributes to problems within. There are always layers. If your wife doesn’t want to do counseling, then look inward and see what God has for you to do. (Often real marriage healing is about two people each getting grounded in their own personal health first, anyway. And sometimes hard marriages are refiner’s fires. Or sometimes hard marriages should be ended. Only God can know.)
Your answer may be to stay and be patient and just be grateful for what you do have for now. It may be to stay and have boundaries to communicate that things need to change. It may be to separate and find some healing and then decide what to do. It may be to end the marriage. It may be a combination of things. Have you considered that there may be pain your wife doesn’t know how to face yet? I have seen marriages heal because the one being hurt takes the higher road…coming to realize the hurt that their hurt-giving spouse was dealing with but didn’t know how to heal from because the marriage dynamic was just another pain point. I don’t know. But strength comes from facing your reality, not creating an alternative reality to escape the difficulty of your life. Don’t reduce your ability to understand and be capable of real intimacy in the long term just because your wife isn’t having sex with you in the short term.
Decide who you want to be regardless of what your wife chooses. Decide what kind of life you want to lead even if she isn’t engaging right now. Decide what your bottom-line values are and then live them. God never promised that we wouldn’t have periods of loneliness, but He can help you through that loneliness as you figure out what He wants to you do and learn. God never promised a life of sexual bliss; He can’t violate someone’s agency to give you what you want. But why risk jeopardizing your own your own agency because she is choosing detachment right now?
My bottom-line invitation would be to think about this not as “how can I make sexual release a possibility in my life right now?” but rather, simply (simple but not easy): “What does God want me to do?” Surrender your short-term desired outcome for now and see what He has to say. You may be surprised.
Besides, even if you were to divorce you’d still have to figure out how to live a celibate life until you found someone else. And would you want a need for sex to be your primary reason to be married?
Your pain is real. The situation is hard. God cares about your pain. But He cares about more than short-term solutions. Find out what He has for you. Make this about your journey with Him and see what happens. It will likely be a longer road than the quick-fix kind of “solution” porn and masturbation might present for you in the moment, but why else are we here, really, but to learn to navigate our less-than-ideal situations with God’s help and to see what He has for us when we let Him take the reins?
I think there is a lot of significance with the shift to spontaneous ovulation in the evolution of female mammals. With the shift in position of the clitoris further away from the vagina, there came a disconnect between the surge of prolactin and oxytocin (orgasm) with induced ovulation. As Blakemore has said from the Pavličev study, “women who don’t achieve orgasm during sexual intercourse are not defective—just highly evolved.” So how does this apply to Mormon men? Men need to seek better role models than Joseph Smith or Brigham Young to find intimacy solutions. Quotes from Brigham Young like JoD 4:209, Where are your wives?” “They are back yonder; they would not follow us.” “Never mind,” says Joseph, “here are thousands, have all you want.” History of Emma catching Joseph Smith celestializing with Fanny Alger in the barn, or secret marriages to 3 pairs of sisters, 2 14-year-olds, 13 already married women, mother+daughter marriage, and “frigging” mary heron snyder without the consent of emma is just wrong – and yet the essays defend Joseph? mormon men implant this sense of entitlement, and “concubinage” in their minds, and then they act out on the internet seeking porn compulsively. men use erotic mormon history as an excuse to not evolve towards greater fulfillment in marriage intimacy with real flesh and blood intelligent beings. As Chandler said in the old Friends episode, Chandler: “You know what, we have to turn off the porn.” Joey: “I think you’re right.” i.e. watching porn was not helping them understand women. As for what Zhana Vrangalova is proposing in her TED talk – I’m not sure it actually works.
“As Chandler said in the old Friends episode, Chandler: “You know what, we have to turn off the porn.” Joey: “I think you’re right.” i.e. watching porn was not helping them understand women.”
When even Friends aligns with prophetic guidance, it must be true. 🙂
“So how does this apply to Mormon men? Men need to seek better role models than Joseph Smith or Brigham Young to find intimacy solutions. ”
How about each husband work with his wife and with God, the only ones with whom solutions can be found? Every woman is different. Every marriage is different. The only way to figure this out is to figure it out, together.
And Mormon men need look no further than the counsel of our prophets to understand that sexual entitlement is not the model. I think it’s just sort of bizarre to blame polygamy for current-day sexual entitlement. You’d have to skip a LOT of modern-day teachings to make that illogical leap. You’d also have to be able to prove that polygamy was primarily about legitimized sexual excess, and I think that would be hard to prove. Those quotes you include prove nada.
I spent some time on the website Blaire shared she likes what they are doing, MakeLoveNotPorn. My curiosity was triggered. How do you see the sexual media this sight is encouraging different from main stream porn?
I am guessing it might feel more ethical since the porn stars (their words) are authentically having sex and enjoy sharing their intimate experiences on camera vs mainstream porn might pay the actors who are portraying sex acts. Correct?
I have jumped to some conclusions and in all fairness Blaire would like to better understand the conversation you are trying to invite. It feels like you want your readers to see sex as good and a reasonable form of foreplay is nudity in pictures or watching sex on film and if either of those mediums are done by real people in real relationships then it isn’t pornography. Real porn exploits and dehumanizes others and you are attempting to open the conversation around a type of sexual media or photographs that will enhance a couples sexual engagement. Correct?
It seems to me that we are missing a core issue with pornography and it is how do we define pornography? The Church seems to favor this definition which I found on the Church web site LDS.org.
““Pornography is any material depicting or describing the human body or sexual conduct in a way that arouses sexual feelings.”
If this definition is the official position of the Church then it seems to me that Blaire and her husband may have a problem as far as the Church is concerned. It also holds that this definition supports the comments of those who condemn any use of pornography.
The problem I have with this definition comes when I try and apply it in my life. Does this mean that if I look at my wife and her appearance arouses sexual feelings that she is pornography? And how about me, do I need to confess to the Bishop and sign up for the 12 step ARP?
Or what if she and I were living during the time when the Church was promoting and practicing polygamy. How would she feel when I left her to go and have a sexual experience with my other wife? Would she be okay with it as long as I promised not to enjoy myself? And given a choice between my using pornography and my taking another wife which would she choose?
To me questions like these point out that this definition of pornography and the resulting moral outrage I read in some of the comments are a big part of the problem we have in the Church and that a tighter definition would go a long way to solving some of these issues.
Bob I find your comments worth pondering. Are you suggesting as a married woman I only have 2 choices? My husband can look at porn or have sex with other women, my choice? I would suggest if my spouse wants to have sexual experiences with other women then he should put me on notice, like be honest, that our agreed upon monogamist Temple marriage has changed. Why isn’t it obvious when an LDS married man decides he wants to masturbate to porn he should tell his wife and let her choose what she wants to do? The silver lining that I see through some of these conversations is that we as a culture might become more in agreement that a woman’s sexuality matters as much as a mans.
Private, I’m sorry if I inferred that there are only two choices. My questions were designed to evoke a dialogue not a decision. I prefer to think of this issue, pornography in marriage, as a continuum best decided by the couple.
Take for example the use of lingerie. If we take a strict and literal view based on the definition of pornography I quoted then it is obvious that using lingerie is inappropriate because its sole purpose is to create a sexual response in a man.
I would argue instead that God made us sexual beings and that He placed in us a need for sexual intimacy and expression and that this need is triggered in men by visual images. As well if He didn’t do this then we as a species would have never got off the ground so to speak.
As far as masturbation is concerned its not just men who masturbate. If I could suggest a resource besides Dr Fife have you read the book by Laura Brotherson called “And They Were Not Ashamed”? Laura takes on this issue and looks at it from the woman’s perspective.
She points out the differences between a man and a woman when it comes to having an organism. Most women are capable of having multiple organisms in a short period of time. Most men are only capable of having one. I believe that how a couple works out this difference can be a good thing or a bad thing and the difference is whether the couple approaches this issue together. If either partner is meeting their need for sexual expression and intimacy in secret then that is a problem. But to suggest that the only place for a man to have an orgasm is in a woman’s vagina or that a woman can only have one orgasm at a time seems to me to limit how a couple can resolve these differences in a way that promotes greater intimacy as apposed to letting these difference act like a wedge in the marriage.
What the Church teaches about pornography works relatively well for young men but I find that it fails miserably when we consider marriage and the complexities of two people trying to work through these issues. If we take a hard line on this issue I believe we are limiting ourselves and setting are self up for disappointment.
All the best,
Thank you Bob. There is lots we agree on. Yes I have read Laura’s book and often give it as a gift to new brides. Honesty is critical and it looks as if you also agree. The definition for pornography found in the True to the Faith booklet to me implies an assumption that “materials” would be media (magazine, movies, books) that would be viewed by one who is not married or is married but viewing outside of their relationship. I guess it feels a bit like splitting hairs. I know when I have sexual integrity and when I do not. The Holy Ghost offers great reminders when needed.
I shared the following on another post and thought worth bringing forward here so you might better understand my comments. I am a convert to the Church and prior to baptism there were 2 things stumbling my decision. History of the Priesthood and masturbation. I wasn’t sure I could join an organization that suggested it was wrong for men to masturbate. This was 1980 so the leaders I asked were a bit surprised a young 18 year old would concern herself with this matter but I was and I continue to be, and yes it would be thoughtful to include women in the conversation.