Ask Mormon Girl: The Mormon men in my life have porn issues. Help?

Have mercy.  Dear, sweet AMG readers sent two—yes, two—queries this week about a most sensitive subject: pornography.

Here’s query one:

I’m a young single female adult in the church and in my dating, I have come across what seems like an astonishing number of young men in the church that have struggled with pornography. (Maybe astonishing isn’t the right word, as I’m well aware of the far-reaching impact of pornography addiction.) I have heard horror story after horror story about families being torn apart from pornography and it’s left me feeling a little, well, hopeless. Are there any positive stories about people overcoming pornography addiction? I’m sure there are, but frankly, it seems like those stories don’t really get told in General Conference all that often. Is it wiser to write off any boys that have/had problems with porn? I hate to do that because 1, I believe in the healing power of the Atonement and 2, that would reduce my already tiny dating pool into something of a dating puddle. And what’s the best way to broach the topic with any potential spouses?

Here’s query two:

I am writing with a touchy subject. I have been married to my husband for 2 and a half years. We have had a happy marriage thus far; we both have similar goals and perspectives—including our political and religious beliefs. We love being around each other. However, about a year ago, I learned that my husband has had a pornography addiction since he was a teenager. He had never told anyone about this, and it has been difficult for me to learn how to handle. Right when I learned about this, he and I discussed it at length. We also visited with our branch president who offered excellent advice and counsel. For the first few months following this advice, my husband would let me know when he ‘slipped up’ and we would talk about what the situation was when he sought out pornography. As time has passed, we haven’t talked much about how he is doing. In the last few months, I have found out that he is still looking at pornography. Once, recently, I found out about it while he was next to me by the computer (he’s usually so good at covering his ‘tracks’). We didn’t talk in depth at the time, but it really saddens me that he isn’t open about this, as I am trying so hard to be non-judgmental and kind about the reality that he and I are in. But when it comes down to it, I feel like my trust has been betrayed and I find myself becoming paranoid—I don’t want to stalk him or make him feel like he is constantly being harassed as I ‘check in’ on how he’s doing, but I do believe that this is something that I can’t simply live with indefinitely.

My question is this: As a progressive Mormon, I feel a bit prudish being offended and negatively impacted by my husband’s pornography addiction. I know that pornography is widely accepted throughout the progressive world that I enjoy associating with, but I still can’t ignore how hurt I am. I don’t want to make my husband feel guilty over this habit, but I’m not sure how to express my concern to him without making him feel that he is an immoral person. How can I work through this with him, and furthermore, how can I restore the trust that I feel is gone when it comes to this addiction?

Look, this is a really complicated subject.  I’m no Church leader, and I’m no psychologist.  I can offer here only some general reflections, and then point you to a few resources and hope the community chimes in as well.

I’ll start with a confession.  I have food issues. (Correction:  make that a huge number of Mormon women and I have food issues. Wait.  Second correction:  make that 75% of the white girls in the US of A and I have food issues.)  My food issues are mild, but persistent.  I’ve lived with them for decades now.  And I came by them honestly.  I inhaled them with the air I breathed and drank them in the water—in familial attitudes towards food, social attitudes towards women’s bodies, perfectionist pressures I picked up in my religious culture. But mostly my food issues have to do with everyday emotional pressures that every human being faces.

My husband happens to be a terrific cook who cares deeply about healthy food.  Before I met him, I subsisted for weeks at a time on popsicles and toast.  In the early days of our relationship, I’d marvel to see him roast peppers and steep exotic dried mushrooms and make them into an actual sauce to go over a pasta that was not store brand spaghetti! On Friday mornings, we’d go to farmers markets and touch exotic organic fruits and vegetables and then, on Friday nights, we would cook together.  And there is still a lot of cooking in our house.  And when my food issues flare up, it is not about his cooking.  It is not about whether his risotto really satisfies me.  It is not about the roasted balsamic brussel sprouts with pancetta, parmesan, and pecans that we love to share at our favorite restaurant.  It is about my own cluster of tender but predictably human feelings like anxiety, shame, and anger.  In fact, my food issues—mild though they are—are predictably compounded by my own self-consciousness about having food issues.  Is it right to link this to my husband?  Is it right to make him my monitor?  That, I think, would only complicate the control and shame issues immeasurably.

I wonder if for some people porn issues are an anxiety-related compulsion that shame only compounds.  Kind of like food issues.

Porn, you will say, is a vastly more serious and complicated issue than your predictable white-girl food issues.  Yes, it may in fact be.  Certainly it is in the eyes of the LDS Church.  We all know LDS Church leaders have been emphasizing the dangers of pornography, especially to young men.  And yet, the statistics have shown that Utah has the highest rate of home on-line porn subscription.

Still, this seemingly contradictory pair of facts seems to suggest that there’s something compulsive going on with porn in the world of Mormonism.  Mormon communities are emphatic about chastity—because it is a commandment.  But Mormonism’s emphasis on chastity can impact the way Mormons feel about healthy sexuality, tinging it with shame, mystery, guilt, and unrealistic expectations.  Now, bring into this complicated mix the advent of internet pornography.  The digital era means porn is pervasively accessible, and that accessibility is changing the course of human sexual development and expectations.  In many ways I’m not comfortable with.

So if porn is truly pervasive, and if it seems to present a specific shame-sensitive challenge to people in chastity-emphatic LDS communities, what to do? How to deal with the very real human being—your husband, your boyfriend—who acknowledges that porn has been an issue for him too?

Some of the clearest and most merciful talk I’ve encountered on pornography and sexuality in Mormon contexts has come from a Mormon therapist named Natasha Parker. I’d recommend reading this helpful article and this column too.  Check out this book she recommends.

I pass these resources along not as an alternative to the counsel you get in church. But maybe it can help relieve some of the pressure you’re feeling.  For if the shadow side of Mormonism’s emphasis on sexual chastity is compulsive pornography consumption, it will take persistent, frank, but gentle dialogue to help us all along towards a healthy place.

Readers?  Can you help?

Send your query to askmormongirl@gmail.com, or follow @askmormongirl on Twitter.

About these ads

161 Comments

Filed under pornography

161 responses to “Ask Mormon Girl: The Mormon men in my life have porn issues. Help?

  1. For Query #1. Please don’t discard men who are honest about being tempted by porn or having looked at it. I think you should value honesty highly.

    • Kristen S.

      It is interesting to read these responses. I have had more education on this subject than I ever cared to have…In my opinion, you can never take this too lightly. For what it’s worth, I’ll leave my comments. I’m sure that every man and women will see pornography during their lifetime. I know I was under the age of 8 when someone brought it to the swimming pool. I think it is important what you do when you see it. Like Joseph of Egypt – my recommendation would be to run like hell. I took a class years ago where they showed a cat scan of a healthy brain and contrasted it with the brain of a sex addict. It was shocking. Not every man who sees porn will be addicted but I agree with the experts who told me that sexual addiction is as strong of an addiction as heroin (not over-eating – although I do recognize that can be an addiction). The cycle of addiction includes the loved ones of the addict. Emotional abuse is part of the cycle because they need to find something that satisfies their need to justify satiating their appetite. So they basically tear apart the spouse,children or whoever is close to them so they have someone to blame. They devalue women and objectify them. Dishonesty accompanies addiction – it adds to the high. Lying then becomes so natural, they believe the lies themselves. Normally, after they have given in to their addiction, they become loving and kind because they feel bad for what they have done. Spouses can easily become co dependent and then children pattern what they see and the cycle lives on through generations. How fast they move throught the cycle depends on how addicted they have become. It is devastating. President Monson gives a great talk on it in the July 2001 Ensign. It is called Pornography, the Deadly Carrier. There is also a great book called Hold on to Hope that helps you understand addiction. There are so many other books out there but I guess it depends on your situation. As for me…No, I wouldn’t date an addict. They are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. They often hate themselves for what they have done but unless they are one of the ones who are consistently humble, get help (LifeStar, counseling, 12 steps) and fight it with everything they have, it isn’t worth it. If you are already married, I’d go to 12 steps, LifeStar, see a counselor…basically whatever it takes. Know that some people are more prone to addiction and addicts don’t naturally recognize that they are addicted. Those who have grown up in homes that are extremely rigid & controlled or whose parents believed in shame based parenting are at a much higher risk. ( Stay away from the extremes) It normally starts in their youth. They often get their act together to go on a mission and then fall back into it after they marry because they never really addressed the issues involved. One thing I think is important is to recognize is that addiction doesn’t happen overnight. Inadvertently, we teach our kids that when it just isn’t true. It usually happens over time and the end result was never what was intended or expected. As far as the church goes, they are not to blame. If you live the gospel, it will keep you safe from addiction. If you are addicted, it is the Savior alone that can set you free if you give away all your sins to know him. I hope this helps

      • James R

        Look, you’ve been taught since early childhood that pornography is the paragon of evil, and you’ve rationalized a giant case against it. Has it ever occurred to you that your indoctrination might be jeopardizing your ability to appreciate the diversity of information about such an emotional topic?
        I highly recommend you take the time to read the articles to which Joanna posted links. To give you a TL/DR: The healthcare community considers pornography usage to be a problem when it affects other areas of peoples’ lives. The Church ensures a veil of shame surrounds pornography, which does a few things. It nurtures dependent behaviors when people self-medicate their shame with another dose of the vice, ironically drawing people further to porn. (Utah has the highest rate of internet porn subscription). You yourself point out that shame plays a pivotal role in addiction. That shame also makes porn users far more likely to be dysfunctional and suffer with self esteem issues.
        It is up to people like you read articles by secular psychologists and start to unwind the giant pornography stigma in your community. Looking at porn as the affliction to be treated is akin to prescribing foundation makeup to treat a case of blue complexion when the person is actually in need of the Heimlich maneuver.

      • Kristen S.

        I have read more than you know and worked with “secular specialists.” I personally believe that the adverse effects of pornography are underestimated by most members of the “Mormon” community.

      • Patrick Smythe

        Um… – this may be only a little voice in the wilderness, but it seems to me that most of you are restricting your reading to conservative and/or religious sources. Are you not aware, for example, that many women look at porn?

  2. Adrian

    This is where Jesus comes in. He told us that we would never be perfect. We wont be perfect. Men are going to look at women with lust. That is adultery. So men right off the bat are quilty for life. From the time we can kick a ball till the time we sit on our own. Pornography can be from nude women pictures to hard core porn. Now if it just nude women he is looking at then that is going to be a tough battel because he is going to be looking at them even with clothes on. Trust me, at the mall, at church, on TV and so on. But if it is violent pornography or degrading pornography then yeah you might have a problem.

    It is in the nature of men, all men. Like I said this makes us guilty from the very start. We are definitely going to need someone to pay the price for this sin. Lucky for us there is, Jesus.

    Now I am a born again christian and I am not sure how that works in Mormonism but I do not think Mormon men are any different. I mean just look at Joseph Smith.

    If Mormon men are going to burn at the stake for this, then line up your boys.

  3. Crying Webfile

    “I wonder if for some people porn issues are an anxiety-related compulsion that shame only compounds. Kind of like food issues.” It is, indeed, just that! That by far not the only reason, but relapse is driven by such issues, at least in most cases I’ve been subjected to, including personal experiences.

    The pervasive nature of this problem is shown in the addressing of this issue so often in General Conference, and the likelihood of it begin discussed with priesthood leaders way less than many of us would ever want to admit. Discussions are often had amongst friends. The saddest part is that even then, it’s like playing dodgeball; no one wants to even say the word pornography because of the taboo topic of sex and any of its problems derived therefrom.

    The feelings of shame and guilt are only amplified when you have to continually relive it, but it’s a much harder habit to break than a lot of others. Many of my priesthood leaders have expressed that they would much rather have someone come in with Word of Wisdom issues than with porn addiction.

    To me, there’s a distinct change in thought that has to happen to overcome this problem: finding and accepting the divine potential of you and those you are watching. When you begin to think that these people are sons/daughters of someone, not only on this Earth, but divine heirs of God, you desire to watch someone in such an intimate act can dissipate greatly, if not entirely. This requires faith, and an attitude that will require help from those around you, mainly from prayer and study.

    If you don’t find solace in those areas of life, you are more than likely going to slip up and relapse. I know many that feel that this issue will stop when they get married, but we all know that as guys, we lie to ourselves in this situation. We are a highly visual group, I can’t lie on that one, and there is great beauty in the human body, but this is not a proper appreciation of this, as we have been taught in the gospel.

    We are taught to love, and show that love to those around us, it’s even a part of the baptismal covenants, but if you were to reduce your “dating pool” to only those that have never had a problem with pornography, I hate to say it, but you may just end up being single for the rest of your life, it’s that pervasive! If there is a problem in your relationship, find what’s causing the need for release, because that’s what it is. I’ve found that its usually a stressful trigger, and it’s often heightened by a loss of faith, or an appearance of doubt or depression about certain things. When you are able to find those triggers, you can begin learning when your spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend is having an issue that could trigger that need. Being able to talk through a period where the temptation is bad, is probably the most helpful time, but since its such a solitary problem, it’s hard to continue talking until the temptation is completely gone. It will always rear it’s ugly head, and you have to be able to understand that. This will always be a problem for the rest of their life.

    You can find comfort and hope in the atonement, but the temptation will always be there. Hopefully love for the Savior will ultimately win out for those honorably trying for change in attitude, but it’s a coping mechanism for most, just like food, and for some: exercise. Don’t be afraid of someone that has a problem with it. You can find people that do have issues with pornography, that are good people, but they are usually trying to change that. There are other issues that make someone terrible, and while you may find trust being violated in your mind, it’s often not the thought that’s going through the person’s mind that has the addiction. Allow your thoughts to be heard. Express your issues with the problem, and offer your help in discussing what they need and how to pinpoint the causes/triggers, and in seeking the help of The Lord. Comfort from this issues comes only through The Lord and true repentance.

    Those struggling with the issue will find solace in their trusted aids (loved ones) in their repentance process, their local Bishop/Branch President, and in faith in the atonement.

    Again, this is based off of personal experiences and lots of discussions I’ve had with many men and leaders in the church. I don’t have any counseling experience, but I’ve found many coming to me for help and advice because they know I’ll be frank with them. We float around issues too much at times.

  4. NDM

    As a bishop, I learned a) that experience with pornography is now so common among young men as to be practically universal; and b) that pornography addicts fell into two surprisingly clear-cut categories: Those who struggled against the addiction, and those who struggled against everything that got between them and the addiction.

    If you’re waiting for the Sunday school answer, I’m sorry to disappoint: The difference was not that one group succeeded and one failed. Indeed, I became (perhaps heretically) convinced that there are some men who will never be able to shake the addiction no matter how much prayer, fasting and self-control they exert.

    No, the difference was that those who were honest about it – with me, with their wives, with themselves – stayed committed to their families and their faith.

    Those who tried to justify it, in every case I dealt with, turned their homes into a living hell. They became to some degree emotional abusers. They blamed their wives for not satisfying them. They blamed the Church. They began placing demands on their wives to engage in acts that I am sure virtually any woman would find degrading. They wanted their wives to pose for photos and videos to be posted on the internet – one man even did this surreptitiously. In a true Jekyll-Hyde transformation, they progressively became emotionally, verbally and often physically abusive to their children – not just in occasional outbursts, but as a constant dynamic. Eventually, each of them committed adultery. And each took pains to ensure that the inevitable divorce was as bitter and nasty as possible.

    Now let’s go back to that first group, the honest ones. None of them under my ecclesiastical care – and they were many – ever cheated on his wife. None ever neglected or abused his children. Interestingly, unlike the other group, their addiction seldom if ever “progressed” into harder or more deviant territory. For them, it was a constant cycle of struggle and remorse.

    So what am I saying? Pornography is not necessarily the danger sign. The real danger signs are deceit, self-absorption, self-justification, and callousness.

    • Carl Youngblood

      NDM, thanks for sharing your experiences.

    • JMG

      Thank you NDM. My husband has struggled with his addiction for many years. It started in his early teens, progressed and deepened through a very dysfunctional first marriage rife with almost complete sexual abstinence for 20 years. I married him 11 years ago knowing the depth of his addiction AND the desire in him to get well. I am very comfortable in my own sexuality and have always felt that speaking openly and honestly about sex, exploration and what is healthy vs unhealthy was extremely important. In spite of all of that, my husband has continued to struggle. In church Sunday, the message was about breaking the cycle of poor choices and starting (I repeat, starting) to choose differently. He used the analogy of making new muscle memory, building the new when the old muscle memory of repeated poor and destructive chooses has occurred over a long period of time. The point was to emphasize that it takes time and consistent work (Derek Jeeter was the point of the analogy :-)) My husband came home from service and for the first time, had a different approach to “change”. He knew that he had spent 30 years building essentially destructive muscle memory in how to handle stress, anxiety, frustration, rejection and loss. That is a long time and his choices, over that time became rote. Doesn’t excuse the choices and rebuilding new muscle memory is also very painful – physically, as well as emotionally.

      I agree that this is far more about making better choices that make use better individuals and brings us closer to God, but it will be his lifetime struggle.

      NDM – he was one who has carried his addiction almost to the brink of self-destruction. The choice is and always has been his.

    • Marca

      I’d add a “hear, hear!” to NDM’s comment…My husband (now ex) told me about his porn problem when we’d been married 2 1/2 years, and then it became MY problem–as in, I had to do whatever he wanted sexually, or I wasn’t supporting him in working through HIS addiction. As our marriage was coming apart, he even had the audacity to tell me one day, in these words, that “if [I] were a better wife, [he] wouldn’t have to look at porn.”

      We’ve been divorced almost 8 years now. I have no idea if he still has the porn problem, but I am glad that I am not his wife anymore to have to deal with the mental floggings I got over not being Enough because of the porn women who were.

    • Mac

      NDM–I’ve read your comments in previous posts and always appreciate your point of view. I’d like to paste this comment into a post on my blog (to publish tomorrow, Feb 4th). If you’d rather not have it copied there, please feel free to let me know on my blog and I’ll take it down. Thanks.

    • Been there...

      This was my experience as well. My husband was a closet porn addict for 25 years, and as his use escalated, he became emotionally abusive with me and my children. It almost destroyed out home, not to mention any spirituality or peace that might be there. He became very critical of me and my body, and rationalized “looking” at other women and admiring their body parts. It was awful. All of this happened, and I am someone who never cared about porn and wasn’t brought up with “evil” messages about it. He denounced all religion because it didn’t allow him to rationalize everything he was doing. Amazingly, after a year free from sexual acting out, our home again is peaceful and loving- all because the porn is gone and his coping skills are improved thanks to intensive therapy- he doesn’t need to use sex or womens bodies to cope with life anymore. I saw first hand how destructive it is in individuals and families, and anyone that claims it is harmless clearly is misinformed or has their head in the sand.

      And it all started with an SI swimsuit edition magazine in his mailbox at the age of 14… little things can easily grow into bigger things. Why take the chance?

    • LK

      NDM,

      I understand the two different groups of men hooked on porn. The different types are very different, yet with surprising similarities. I believe the correct response should be largely the same with both groups and then I believe there would be more success in helping men choose to stop their addiction. For I believe addictions are a choice. They choose to feed their addiction because they care more about getting the perks from it, than they care about their eternal welfare or their wife & children, or anything else they will lose because of the addiction.

      A loving wife can do much to help her husband overcome his addictions, IF he is humble enough to submit to her constant supervision & control of the situation.

      I believe porn use is just another form of serious abuse of women & abuse of a wife. It is also a serious form of adultery, with the same spiritual effects of any other form of adultery. Both of these aspects of ‘abuse & adultery’ seem to be downplayed by the Church, even though it is every leader’s #1 responsibility to do everything in his power to protect women from the abuse, adultery, addictions or abandonment, etc. of her husband. (And visa versa if the wife is the abuser or adulterer)

      But, from what I have seen, not just with porn addiction but with many other forms of abuse & adultery & especially abandonment (divorce & remarriage) the Church appears to be very soft on these things, often not even applying any consequences, especially for things like abandonment by divorce and the subsequent adultery committed by dating & remarrying, which the Church seems to now completely support and often even encourage and reward instead of excommunicate for as it used to and should do.. For all the ‘talk’ from the Church that it is trying to save & create eternal marriages & families, it’s behavior unfortunately seems to be encouraging their destruction instead.

      Porn or any other form of abuse or adultery will only continue to get worse until civil & religious leaders do their duty to apply serious consequences to those who abuse their spouse in such ways. But this probably will never happen, for the Church appears more concerned with being soft on abusers & adulterers & abandoners than they are about helping them realize how serious their behaviors are and helping them repent.

      If Moroni were here he would definitely uphold the no tolerance rule on these issues.

    • JH

      Wow, very insightful and real. Thank you for sharing that experience, bishop!

  5. Thank you so much for posting this. Five years ago, I was terrified of pornography and what it was doing in terms of the current mormon dating scene. I decided to do something about it. At first, it was just reading books and and talking to therapists, so that I could figure out how to help the women in my relief society actually bring it up without crushing the guys they were dating (there is so much shame involved).

    But now, I can say, I’m not afraid of it. Is it still devastatingly sad? Yep. But, the above commenter is right, just like any other addiction, if the person is open and honest and willing to fight for the grace of the atonement—even if that fight lasts their whole life—rock on, we can be happy.

    I would say, find out everything you can about how (any) addiction works. It will make you a better parent, a better friend, and a better prepared to discern healthy behaviors in a relationship.

    • Peter Priesthood

      I’m troubled by the practice of single Mormon women “screening” potential mates based on pornography use. I’m especially troubled by the interest in helping “the women in [] relief society actually bring it up without crushing the guys they [are] dating.” The current discourse approaches pornography as a mental health issue, rather than a basic sin. If the mental health approach is the right one, as I believe it is, it should extend beyond treatment questions. For example, if my elders quorum teacher were to read books and talk to therapists about depression or anxiety so that he could figure out how to help the men in the quorum bring it up without crushing the girls they were dating, I think we could all agree that he’s missed the mark. The hypothetical elders quorum teacher misses the mark because he’s focused on protecting healthy people from the indirect effects of someone else’s illness, rather than helping the unhealthy person overcome that illness. Not only has he failed to help the one who actually needs help, but he’s also disserved healthy people because “bringing up” the illness won’t effectively prevent indirect harm from another person’s illness nearly as well as treating the actual illness.

      I know that emiliadelmar is not advocating that approach in her post, and she deserves a lot of credit for reflecting on it and pursuing better alternatives. However, the fact that she went through such lengths to help women “bring it up without crushing the guys” demonstrates the pervasiveness of this problematic approach. The pervasiveness is confirmed by this week’s first AMG query, in which the female YSA writer is focused on “broach[ing] the topic with any potential spouses” and the size of her dating pool. Again, I don’t fault either emiliadelmar or the AMG writer for acknowledging the “screening” approach. The whole purpose of this discussion is to reflect on it, and this reflection should be respected and encouraged. Nevertheless, “screening” or “writing off” potential husbands based on pornography use is definitely the wrong approach.

      At the same time, it would certainly be unfair to expect women to stick their heads in the sand while dating and only consider pornography issues after they’re already married. So what IS the right approach?

      I’m not certain what the ultimate answer is. But I am confident that the right approach requires untangling the question into two separate issyes: 1) How to address the general mental health issue of pornography abuse and 2) How to select the right spouse. Neither question has an easy answer, but it’s better to deal with two difficult, independent issues separately than to convolute them so that the answer fails to address either.
      As a single twenty-something Mormon man, I’m troubled by the notion of women “screening” potential mates based on pornography use. Pornography difficulties are intensely personal and intensely private. For me, an interrogation into my pornography by a date or girlfriend is emotionally akin to being strip-searched.

      • Steve in Millcreek

        Peter, in your last line, you said, “For me, an interrogation into my pornography by a date or girlfriend is emotionally akin to being strip-searched.”

        I think I understand your point but, as you and a close girlfriend approach marriage, is there ever a time when pornography should be discussed? If so, when?

      • Been there...

        If my husband hasn’t kept his “personal” problem a secret, our family would have been saved from going through hell and back. Sorry if sharing sexual behaviors with your sexual partner and spouse is too personal, but it does affect the future of the family in many cases, and it has been shown to produce changes in the prefrontal cortex of the barin with huge consequences. As a future spouse, I deserve to know what I am getting into.

      • Peter, thanks so much for your reply. I agree, conversations about pornography shouldn’t be about a “screening process”. My intent in helping other women being more comfortable with talking about pornography is help alleviate the shame guys feel.

        A lot of single women think that if a guy has looked at pornography on any basis he’s not worthy of marriage. Or, they don’t even know what to think because all they know about pornography is what they hear in conference talks.

        What I should have put in my first comment is that education is really important because not only does it increase understanding and empathy, it also points out that being able to identify healthy & unhealthy relationships is more important than if a guy has ever looked at porn.

        In regards to talking about it, it’s just simply a sign of a healthy relationship to talk about ways, healthy and unhealthy, in which either partner deals with stress, boredom, rejection, hunger, anxiety, low-self esteem. And these conversations should be positive and bring the two parties closer together (if they are both aware of their issues).

        When I talk about pornography with guys I date, sometimes it just comes up naturally as a topic. But, in the more serious discussions, I have my own weaknesses to discuss as well. It’s important for girls to realize that we all have issues–sometimes small, sometimes big. I really like Joanne’s comparison to food issues. It’s absolutely applicable.

  6. Katy Bettner

    I worked in the addiction recovery field for years and am a sober alcoholic as well. While pornographt addiction is prevalent within the halls of Mormonism it is by no means a Mormon problem.
    The advent of the Internet is the common factor for the growth of this addiction regardless of the cultural mores surrounding sex in an addicts culture.
    Re: the 2nd query, you said branch, which leads me to believe that you live in a less that populous LDS area? Please call family services and ask about the Addiction Recovery Program. It is an adaptation of the 12 steps that is supported by gospel doctorine. If there are no meetings locally, there will be call in meetings and online meetings. Encourage your husband to get a sponsor and actively work the steps. You can also look for SLAA meeting or SAA meeting locally. They will be a bit more crude if you husband is sensitive to those kind of things, but the most important part is to go to meetings and get a sponsor.
    Re: the 1st query, writing off someone with a history of addictive issues is a personal choice. I wouldn’t blame anyone for it, but I know some amazingly empathetic and open minded people in recovered who are more compassionate, laid back and spiritually strong for their troubles. I think the key is to find out how commited someone is to becoming a better person. How willing are they to go the distance in order to face their demons and overcome them? Will they work hard? Are they flexible and commited? The same things that make someone a good partner can make them a great recovering addict.
    When I first came back to church after a long absence I was wary of the strict cultural interpretations of gospel principles around sex and by extension pornography. I then started working at a residential facility that treated sexually compulsive behavior and became fairly well educated on the topic. What I came to believe is that pornography is like alcohol or any other drug. For certain people it is immediately addictive, for others it slowly works its way to being an issue in their marriage or the way they then look a women as an amalgam of useable parts seperate from the person, for yet another it seems not to really present a problem. It is, however, something that we can not forsee. It can be no big deal at one point in a persons life and then in a different life situation it can become all consuming.
    Does it make us better people to watch it? No. Will we most likely be better off to avoid it? Certainly.
    If you want positive stories about addiction recovery, to pornography or otherwise, attend an ARP meeting. 12 step meetings are notoriously jovial and the LDS version is no different.

    • Melody

      Lovely. Thanks for sharing.

      • Rey

        Thanks for the words and perspective Katy. I particularly appreciate that you said that “it’s a personal choice”. I’ve dated both a porn addict and an alcohoic. Due to those experiances, its very unlikely that I will ever purposefully date another addict or even knowingly marry one…of any kind. People can judge me all day long for that statement/decision but they have no idea what my experiances were like for me nor do I know anything about their experiances. I do realize, from both experiances, that addicts can be and generally are really great people…that struggle deeply and daily. I can honestly say that I question my ability to be what an addict needs in a significant other as well. Either way, our life lessons shape us and again, it comes down to “choices” and appreciate that reminder Katy.

  7. anon tonight

    I would like to add to NDM’s response. And Joanna, such a lovely response to a delicate and painful issue. I have not had as much exposure to porn addicts as this good bishop above has. But I can tell you that I am married to a man who struggled with porn addiction in his adolescence and throughout adulthood. I want to suggest to the first query that there is a lot more nuance and variation in the term “porn addiction” than the LDS discourse has had room to allow for. The man I am married to is totally wonderful. He has had times where he indulged in porn privately due to our really hectic schedules. I wonder if when he says “porn addiction” if he just means “high porn usage”, but we have not discussed the topic at great length. I think it would be worth discussing now, in light of this conversation. His porn use really has not affected our intimacy, emotionally or physically. His usage is not out of control, nor does it leak into other parts of his life, like our finances, or his ability to hold a job, etc. Initially, I felt very hurt by his confession. He felt terrible. So I understand how scary this is. And I understand that addiction is very, very tricky. So I cannot speak for your own experience, I can only speak to mine.

    But in any case, my point is that Mormons have been socialized to completely shut off the conversation and the thinking when it comes to porn. And while I think many women outside of LDS culture are not necessarily comfortable with it as well as Mormon women, I think LDS definitely would do well to have a more mature conversation about pornography usage. It is stressful and scary to hear these confessions from your partner. But your relationship has NOT failed. YOU have not failed as a woman or a wife. These women’s feelings definitely do matter about the issue, which is why it’s important to honor your feelings, get more education, and just don’t stop talking to each other about how you feel. When you do talk to each other, do your best to remain calm and unaccusatory. Don’t talk to each other when your blood is boiling and you’re out of control. If it comes to that, take a break and come back later. But keep talking, and enlist some help like a therapist. That is all I can say for my experience, other than best wishes, sweethearts.

  8. John Doe

    I’m no longer a member, so I’ve seen this question from two entirely different world views. If you want someone to stop looking at pornography, just about the worst strategy is combining the “just say no” approach with relentless guilt and shame spirals when the failure comes. When I left the church pornography suddenly looked less interesting, it was just a thing in the world like any other modern supernormal stumuli (like fast food, or movie theaters, etc.). If the church simply took a reasonable approach to sexuality (meaning a reasonable conversation about masturbation, etc.) while still stressing the importance of not letting your “Id” control you, there would be less pornography problems. At this point, the church should just create an amateur porn site devoted to loving couples, because the combination of your Id and google can lead the average male to some strange places. If I had had a church sanctioned website I would have been far better off.

  9. Momof4

    I am going to go against the grain here a bit. While I agree that most men have likely been exposed to or viewed porn at one time or another, I do not believe that most of them have an ongoing porn addiction or compulsion. There is a difference.

    Given this, if I were dating and looking for a life partner and had a choice between a guy with a porn addiction and one without, I would choose the one without, and yes, I would indeed avoid the one with an active porn addiction.

    My reasoning has to do with respect. Certainly any good relationship must have a foundation of honesty and respect. As a woman I would not feel respected if my guy were obsessed with other women, online or otherwise.

    Alternatively, as a feminist, it would be difficult for me to respect someone that engaged in and supported an industry that is so degrading and damaging to women, particularly if they were indulging and taking pleasure in the more hard-core stuff the previous poster referred to. I would feel sorry for him, but I wouldn’t respect him.

  10. Aaron

    I cringe when I hear the words “addicted to porn” in the LDS context. I feel that the word “addicted” is over used and misunderstood. If a person glances at a Victoria’s Secret ad in his/her email once a year, he/she is NOT addicted to porn.

    • Been there...

      Of course not, accidentally glancing at an ad is not addiction. But using to secretly at the expense of close relationships, is likely a problem and addiction.

      This isn’t a mormon problem.

  11. djemilysmith

    I have to say, once you’re married, seriously try watching porn together, with an open mind. Porn is, in my mind, retarded and hilarious, although it can sometimes give interesting ideas to experiment with, especially if you’re in your first years of marriage. There’s a balance between not condemning and not encouraging watching porn. That’s the approach I took with my relationship anyway. I stopped feeling like porn were these awful dirty untouchable evils and took some time to understand what the appeal is. With the handful of times that I gave these videos 2 minutes of my time, I was able to make a joke out of them rather than condemn them. I also did a little research into the lives of the actors and watched an interview with a porn star. The whole field is ridiculous and makes me able to laugh at porn every time I see a little bit of it. If I see my husband looking at porn, I watch for a second, make fun of it, then I make time to meet whatever need he’s trying fulfills by watching porn.
    I think and equally important conversation is to discuss masterbation. Now that we’re married, I feel like masterbation is okay so long as he’s only thinking of me when it happens. This also discourages porn in a way because if he’s jacking off while looking at someone else, that’s cheating in a way. If he’s thinking of me (and has a couple of pictures of me that are just for him), the addiction to porn looses its purpose.

  12. Improving

    I had a similar experience but from the other side. When I confessed to my wife, she was extremely supportive. She didn’t judge me. One thing that really helped me was that she took the opportunity to give up sugar while I gave up pornography. Honestly, I thought it was silly to compare sugar to pornography, and it was overwhelming to think of not viewing pornography ever again. Every once in a while some new realization would come up for one or the other of us – that we would never have ice cream again, or that I would never see (some-specific-thing-or-other) again. For the most part, we just took it one day at a time since it was too overwhelming at the beginning to think of giving it up forever – or even for a few weeks. Every day we would discuss how we felt, and it was amazing to see how similar our experiences were (and still are). I now have no doubt that sugar is highly addictive. We have had the same experiences with cravings, identifying our triggers, and gradually cleansing ourselves. Our home is now sugar- and pornography- free, though it is still a struggle at times, and I am grateful for a loving, trusting, and supportive wife.

  13. Chris

    The idea of “pornagraphy addiction” in this case is too simplistic. Are these men actually “addicted” or are they perusing pretty women on the internet on occasion? An “addiction” is something that consumes a person to the point that it becomes the thing they obsess over on a daily basis. If her husband is seeking a “fix” on a daily basis then he may be addicted. If he’s just taking a look at bikini models on occasion then he’s most likey not addicted.

    The LDS church teaches that women’s bodies are bad, that sex is bad, that immorality before marriage damages a person (especially a girl) for the rest of eternity. They teach the girls that they are responsible for the feelings of boys and therefore must cover themselves in modesty at all times. Then somehow they are supposed to get married and all is good and wonderful in the bedroom.

    There is a reason that Utah has the highest rate of paid porn. The messaged the youth receive regarding sexuality in the church is confusing, obsessive and abusive. Open, honest conversation on the subject of sex would change things dramatically. Helping kids understand the emotions and thoughts they go through at puberty would go a long way to improving mental health in the church.

    • AKS

      I am a female who grew up in the LDS Church and am still active. I do not ever remember being taught that my body was bad, that sex was bad, or that I was responsible for the feelings of boys. I was taught to dress modestly as an expression of respect for myself and those around me. I was taught that sex was a part of married life, something sacred and reserved for two people committed to raising children together in love and fidelity. It binds two people together and creates physical life, with the spirit of that new life being sent by God. It was never spoken of as something bad. My body was a sacred gift from God, compared to a temple. How is that bad? Sexual activity outside of marriage – or immorality – is a sin to be repented of, and is spiritually damaging if engaged in. Alma, a prophet in the Book of Mormon (and prophets actually talk with God, by the way) teaches that it is the greatest sin next to murder. If one wants to understand why that is, one need only to pray and ponder and the truth will be revealed to you personally. It is true. You don’t think that an act with such weighty spiritual implications as the physical/emotional/spiritual union of two eternal and currently physical beings carries with it serious consequences? I encourage you and anyone who reads this to replace your T.V. time with meditation time and watch your spiritual eyes open.

      • LDSwoman

        I am also a female who grew up in the LDS church and am still active. I remember quite well growing up being taught that sex was a taboo topic. I also know that the church teaches that women/girls are the guardians of virtue for young men. I know of the “licked cupcake” object lessons that have been common in the Young Women program (ie a tray of cupcakes is passed around the classroom by the teacher – after the teacher licks a cupcake…the implication being that the licked cupcake is a girl who has had some sort of sexual experience and no boy would want her). I know that when I was younger (until my early 20s) the LDS church did not teach that women’s shoulders were inherently sexual – and many young women and little girls wore sleeveless clothing until we received our endowments. Now it is common for 3 year old little girls in the church to be told that not covering their tiny little non-sexual shoulders is “immodest”. I know that a male leader in the church (an apostle) warned women not too long ago that they were often “walking pornography” – making women directly in charge of and responsible for the thoughts and choices of men as well as implying that the female body itself is sinful (pornography) – even when it is not involved in any sexual activity (context). There is a very, very messed up view of the female body in the LDS church. And, that messed up view has directly fed the pornography monster we now see. We have made women feel ashamed of their own bodies and made it acceptable for men to view the female body as “pornography” even when not engaged in anything remotely sexual (such as breastfeeding). As someone who never watches television I have had my spiritual eyes opened. And, what I see is exactly what the Book of Mormon warns will happen to Christ’s church.

    • CJam

      Chris, your second and third paragraph are profoundly true. Thank you for articulating that so well and thoughtfully. As a woman who grew up in the church, I was indoctrinated with these messages all of my life. I got married in the temple at age 24 to a convert who didn’t struggle with these issues. My sexual relationship with my husband has been plagued with my deep-seated fears and guilt associated with sex. I have gone to therapy for over a year and am working on becoming a healthier, more well-rounded person, without the rule and control of the church weighing me down.

  14. R.

    Joanna, I think the food/porn comparison is interesting and apt. I do take one issue with it, though. You ask “Is it right to link this to my husband? Is it right to make him my monitor? That, I think, would only complicate the control and shame issues immeasurably,” hinting that wives/girlfriends shouldn’t monitor husbands/boyfriends. I think this is usually true, because I suspect that some porn reactions in the church are over-reacting. But I also think there are some cases when porn involvement can have a huge impact on a couple’s sex life, or a person’s ability to be productive (like any addiction). In these cases it *is* necessary for the spouse to be involved–just like your husband should be involved if your food issues blossomed into actual anorexia or full-blown bulimia.

  15. TaterTot

    Wonderful response JoAnna. To take the food analogy a little further, it’s as if the church has decided that having a food problem is a sin, so to avoid anyone getting to that point, they have decided that eating food before you are married is a sin and after you are married, you are only allowed to eat if your husband or wife is eating with you. Therefore, what are you to do when you are hungry and your spouse isn’t? Should you starve yourself and wait for your spouse to be hungry again? What are you to do when your spouse is out of town on a business trip? If you do give in to your hunger and eat by yourself without your spouse, you are made to feel guilty, dirty, and unwanted. Your spouse is taught to feel betrayed and disgusted. Sexuality is as much a part of being human as eating is.

    I also think it’s important to distinguish between erotica and pornography. We are taught at church that anything with naked people is pornography, and in some cases we are even taught that fully clothed people are pornography. (Think “walking pornography.”) There is a big difference between watching loving, kind, beautiful sexual encounters and watching degrading, or violent sexual behaviors.

    The church’s approach of pathologizing a very natural human urge is very unhealthy and unnecessary in my opinion. Pornography does not cause marriages and families to fall apart. The church’s teachings about pornography and sexuality cause marriages and families to fall apart.

    • Alison

      I totally agree.

    • With all due respect “Tater Tot” I could point you in the direction of blogs written by women, Mormon and non, whose relationships have been destroyed by pornography. Out of respect for those women, I’d like to boldly say that pornography does in fact cause marriages and families to fall apart.

      To you, and all the others whose remarks are without the “benefit” of personal experience, I ask that you consider that women’s feelings are at stake, the pain and anguish we have felt as the result of pornography addiction are very real to us.

    • DT

      Excuse me, but pornography DOES cause marriages and families to fall apart! Hence this whole interesting and timely discussion!. Kristen S. and NDM have major experience and wise words.

    • Kate

      I do not agree with comparing food to sex. Food is a basic human need and if you do not eat, you will die. You will not die if you do not have sex, it does not keep you alive in the same way that food does. Our ability to control sexual impulses and express them at appropriate times is what separates us from the animals. I agree that we are sexual beings and that sexual fulfillment and expression is important in a relationship. But on the other hand, no one has ever died from not having sex. And pornography does hurt marriages, families and also those who participate in it! The dishonesty and selfishness destroy the foundations of a healthy relationship. You are fooling yourself if you think you can casually indulge in pornography and think that it will not have an effect on you and by consequence, your marriage.

      • AKS

        Well said, Kate. I couldn’t agree more. The term “appetite” is used for food and sex but that is where the similarity ends. It is absolutely within our power to control ourselves, and those who choose not to are choosing to ignore the divinity within, that spark of godliness we inherited from our Father (and Mother). When we focus on that and truly trust in His power to see us through EVERY temptation this life can throw at us, we live lives of triumphant joy and satisfaction. He blesses those who faithfully rely on Him and do whatever it takes to overcome temptations that will destroy us and those we are connected to. With God, we are bigger and stronger than anything we are faced with. Anything. He is the Almighty! How can we fail with a portion of His spirit within us and His strength and angels all around is if we but ask?

      • TubieDad

        True. No one has died from a lack of sex. However, plenty of people have been driven crazy by it!

        If we’re sexual beings how can we be satisfied without expressing that part of our nature? People have a varying libidos. There are very real physical impulses, urges, or “appetites” that, left unfulfilled, drive you absolutely nuts. It’s a very depressing way to live.

        I’m not saying this excuses any particular behavior that is not in line with Church teachings, but to emphasize the important of directing our efforts toward finding those “appropriate times” for sexual expression.

      • AKS

        To TubieDad: I think you were kind of trying to be funny, but if someone is depressed and going “crazy” about not having sex, a shift in perspective and a re-direction of attention and energy is a necessary choice. Getting depressed or going crazy because you can’t have what you want when you want it is a reaction that can be classified as childish – that is how toddlers act in their “terrible twos”, and then they grow out of it as they learn how to control their emotions and behavior (novel thought). While we are sexual beings, we are not ONLY sexual beings. It is one aspect of our existence that not everyone gets to participate in while IN THIS LIFE. If someone is deprived of that activity for some reason or another while in this mortal existence – even for a time – God has promised unlimited power and peace to those who ask. This is the time for testing, and when this life is over, nothing will be withheld from those who have conquered the natural man regardless of their circumstances. Even within marriage, one spouse doesn’t get to call all the shots when it comes to this. One person doesn’t get to have whatever they want whenever they want it, regardless of how the other spouse feels. Then what? So, I think it’s really important for people to understand that they are in complete control of their own selves, of their own thoughts, of their own emotions, of their own behavior, and to not let the lack of getting what they think they HAVE TO HAVE control them instead. That’s a lie.

      • LDSwoman

        Eating can be compared to sex in that they are both basic human behaviors that can become so distorted that they are detrimental to human life. I have watched a loved one with an eating disorder. And, it was easier for that loved one to give up a substance abuse problem than it was for that same person to recover from an eating disorder. Most certainly eating disorders can be compared to sexual compulsion (such as compulsive pornography use). Both arise from an attempt to control emotions that are the underlying problem. Both arise from distorted views of the human body and human functions. Both destroy marriages and other relationships. Both are a form of “self-medication” which shame only complicates. Both are primarily symptoms of more extensive damage that cannot be seen. And, both can only be “cured” by the person affected tackling the source of the problem.

      • Kristen S.

        The spiritual ramifications of each or distinctly different and can’t be compared.

      • Steve

        So many women pontificating in this thread. I’m going to address my comment, “To the Women of the Church Only”, which every Mormon man reading this will know what I’m paying homage to (or not). :)

        I’m disturbed how the average Mormon woman views this problem. Wanna know a better way to solve porn, read below. To start, I have a few questions for you:

        1. Did you ever get an erection in the middle of class in the 7th grade, for no reason, other than you were going through adolescence? You weren’t thinking of anything sexual or dirty. It just happened. Did that ever happen to you? Would you have felt guilty about it?
        2. Did you ever wake up to a wet dream?
        3. Did your body start producing – at age 11 or 12 – sperm and semen that needed to be expelled and be replenished often? No amount of self-control of thought or action prevents nor slows this cycle of sperm and semen replenishment. Contrary to Elder Packer’s 1976 talk (which as now been removed from LDS.org).
        4. Did you ever stop to think that sometimes the only way for boys and men to fulfill their natural urge to replenish sperm and semen is to masturbate? Not fulfilling the urge is what fuels more sexual thoughts.
        5. Did you have to repeatedly confess to your bishop that you were masturbating, and feel the guilt and shame, and wear the scarlet letter in front of your friends and parents (not passing the sacrament, no temple trip, etc)?
        6. Did you feel like you were unworthy your entire adolescence?
        7. Did you resort to lying to the Bishop because you were exhausted from feeling like you needed to go confess your sin – every time you released your body’s natural urge to replenish sperm?
        8. Did you get married and then to your horror realize that your spouse might divorce you if you ever masturbated. Deep down you know this is a natural part of living, but now begins a life of marital secrecy. This can go no where good from here.
        9. Deep down, did you know you were a good decent human being, but believed everyone else would believe you were a sexual deviant if they knew about your masturbation “problem”.

        All of this, without the influence of pornography. Whether a boy sees a swimsuit magazine or not, he’s going to masturbate. The deacons who pass you the sacrament – they are masturbating. Your Bishop and his counselors, good likelihood that they do it periodically too. Are you a mother of a teenage boy? He’s masturbating. Are you a wife? Your husband masturbates. Don’t agree? You’re head’s in the sand.

        What does this have to do with porn? I could go on, but the reality is, you are part of a culture that feeds shame and guilt so much that it has driven porn usage to such high levels. Yes, I agree – porn is a problem. Once a boy/man feels so shameful about masturbation, well, he’s already a broken person – an perceived sex addict who must live a life a secrecy. It’s no wonder so many turn to porn. I did. You have no idea what it’s like to be in a man’s body. Who is really obsessed with porn here?

        Guess what solved my porn problem? I realized that when the urge to replenish my sperm and semen arrives (remember – you have no idea how this biological urge feels), the best way to avoid looking at porn was to take care of the urge myself and not feel guilty about it. Once I did this, the temptation to look a porn….gone. It wasn’t more fervent prayers, more confession, and more scripture reading, it was simply accepting that my body has a natural cycle, and dealing with it. That cycle has nothing to do with marital intimacy and whether or not I truly love my wife, and it has absolutely nothing to do with immoral vs moral. It’s just a simple biological reality. So when I finally got over the bad programming I had received growing up (Packer, Kimball, Peterson, and all my Bishop’s & Stake Presidents), and decided that I wasn’t a bad person for being human, I dealt with it. My wife is now ok with it. We’re happier. We communicate better. No more secrets. Every couple has a mismatched libido and mismatched biological cycles. Deal with this mismatch pragmatically, not emotionally… and for the love certainly NOT religiously! My love for my wife is stronger than ever before, because she understands and accepts me, and loves me. She doesn’t shame me, and she doesn’t threaten me.

        Porn problem gone. Little factory still working. Yay! :)

  16. c

    My husband had a pornography “addiction” starting when he was 10. He told me about it when we were dating, and it really shook me. I had recently attended a stake fireside where a researcher came in telling us the impacts, effects, etc., and if you ever encountered a man with a porn addiction, to run as fast as you can in the other direction. Those words were strong in my head when my husband told me about his addiction. He relapsed once while we were engaged, and then again about six months into our marriage, at which point I considered leaving him. We went through the church-sponsored 12-step program together (he went to the men’s meeting, and I went to the meeting for spouses). Those were a really, really dark couple of months. Since then, he hasn’t looked at porn, and it has now been seven years.
    So, for the first question, I would say, as many other commenters have, there is a HUGE difference between a man who looks at porn sometimes (and because he is Mormon he feels horribly ashamed, and if he has looked at porn lots of times, he is labeled an addict) and a man who is literally addicted and is willing to sacrifice relationships, money, etc. to look at porn. I think my husband falls in that first category, and I am SO happy I didn’t “run in the other direction.” I think that would have made his problem worse, because he would have felt more shame.
    If my husband “relapsed” again, I honestly don’t know that I would be horribly bothered. I no longer feel like I am his watchdog, and I wouldn’t feel like if he looked at porn it was because of some weird perverted addiction. He is a normal American man with a normal interest in sex. I personally think it’s disgusting and degrading, and I don’t want him to look at it, but I think it’s that shame and a need to hide that turns it into a problem.

  17. Allow me to preface my reply by saying that there is a great man in my life who struggled with pornography. He has since broken that, at least the hard-core stuff. (In my opinion, movies with passionate sex scenes where everything’s covered aren’t reccomended viewing, but they aren’t porn, either.)

    I’m not married, so I’m not going to touch the 2nd query other than to offer sincere wishes for peace and understanding with whatever happens/gets decided.

    Now, the first question, I’m down with. I’m fishing in that same pond (or splashing in that same puddle). I had a similar discussion about this with someone a few weeks ago, and I decided that when it comes to me and guys with porn issues, I’m okay dating someone who has control over the addiction. (Because, let’s face it: addictions never really go away. Temptations are always there.) A guy who is still struggling? Friends, yes but nothing beyond that until the addiction is under control.

  18. “fightthenewdrug.org” is an excellent non-profit organization of which I’ve been a part since 2009, that specifically aims to educate individuals regarding the harmful effects of pornography from a scientific base. I have not only been a girlfriend, but also a sibling and a friend to many who have been viewing pornography regularly for 20+ years. I strongly believe that EVERYONE should take the time to educate themselves on what happens to the brain when viewing pornography and how, when consistently viewed, it can quickly become as addictive as chemical drugs. As we educate ourselves and better understand the scientific results of pornography, it SHOULD motivate us to not only be more open-minded and understanding about pornography and those that struggle with its addiction, but also give us the strength to share what we’ve learned and TALK OPENLY about it with others. Check out Fight the New Drug and begin educating yourself today!

  19. The part of your column here that caught me was this:

    “Porn, you will say, is a vastly more serious and complicated issue than your predictable white-girl food issues. Yes, it may in fact be. Certainly it is in the eyes of the LDS Church.”

    It’s not clear to me, but by “food issues” are you talking about eating disorders? If so, I feel exactly the opposite of what you’re saying here — I believe that food issues are an order of magnitude more serious and complicated.

  20. Wufarck

    What can I say…
    Porn saved my marriage. After a very hard birth, my wife was ‘out of commission for a couple of years. Before porn, I was bitter, and felt the temptation to cheat many times. I was given to believe that we may not be able to have sex ever again. I contemplated leaving the marriage. Just having the quick sexual outlet of masturbation made it possible to control my feelings of being deceived (My thinking was; marriage includes the promise of sex, right?) Being able to ‘take care of myself’ while my wife was recuperating kept me from becoming resentful and obsessing about sex. My wife was less stressed because she could feel my feelings for her return, and didn’t have the pressure to perform in spite of the extreme pain. It tided me over to the time last year of her complete recovery.
    I often wonder whether the only reason porn breaks up a marriage is because someone said it was ‘bad’ or ‘a betrayal’. If women can see it as a way for men to take care of their sexual needs when their libido is higher than their wives… well, I think it could be of help. A few times during the transition period, when it looked like she could handle some gentle petting, she even took out some pictures for us to look at and comment on together.
    I worry that when the General Authorities demonize porn, they are actually spreading porn. By demonizing porn, they indirectly contribute to the factors that cause a cascading ‘guilt cycle’ which actually results in more porn consumption and more obsession. Understanding that men are stimulated to a greater extent through sexual visual cues, (women, on the other hand are mostly stimulated by emotional cues.) may help women realize that porn does not in itself take anything away from the marriage. A marriage that fails may fail for many reasons… because the relationship is no longer loving, or spouses no longer empathize. In such situations, porn is often given as the reason for divorce. Nevertheless, I suspect that porn use (as a needed sexual outlet within the vacuum created by an inaccessible spouse…etc.) is more of a symptom of a failing relationship than it is the actual cause of a relationship failing.

  21. Andrea

    About the oft-quoted statistic about the rate of online porn subscriptions in Utah: People like to bring that statistic up as a shocking indication of how Mormons are more sex-obsessed than non-Mormons. I doubt the state is any more sex-obsessed than its peers – but the sex industry is more concentrated into one outlet because other forms of pornography – such as the strip clubs or adult video stores that dot the seedier areas of every city in America – aren’t available, Utahns (Mormon and non-) find alternative ways to consume it. The statistic could be another soft indication that we’ve forced discussion of sex underground more, but the pragmatic supply-and-demand explanation probably carries a lot of the burden.

  22. Andrea

    Chris,
    While it’s likely that some pornography addictions are really not addictions, my sense is that, due to cultural shaming, fearful attitudes about sex generally, and so forth, the likelihood of a porn habit becoming a bona fide addiction is higher in religiously conservative communities like ours. Addiction thrives on isolation and shame.

    That said, to say that the LDS church “teaches that women’s bodies are bad, that sex is bad, that immorality before marriage damages a person…for the rest of eternity” is a bit of a caricature. Our culture derives directly from America’s Puritan heritage, and these attitudes are culturally embedded, not doctrinally. Do individual teachers teach these cultural mores? Definitely, and tragically. Should there be change, and clear statements from leadership directing that change? I think so. But nothing in scripture makes me think that’s how God views it.

    I thoroughly agree that open, honest conversation is the way to go. Better that our kid know about sex with healthy contextualization about its purpose and power – even if he shocks a teacher by saying something open and knowledgeable in class – than that he wonder and feel shameful and become obsessive in private in ways that aren’t conducive to healthy relationships.

  23. Jiggs Casey

    The only reason porn has torn families apart in the LDS church is because LDS leaders make such a big deal out of it. It’s a topic that is just hammered to death in every general conference, every stake conference, and LDS leaders just can’t leave it alone. All of the emphasis and attention on it then gets the minds of people going, and LDS men who occasionally look at porn (like probably 90% or more of “normal” i.e. non-LDS men) think they are sons of perdition, and must “confess” to the bishop (ludicrous) and their wives think they are the worst, most worthless deviant perverts ever and some go so far as to divorce their evil husband. Well, if I were the husband, I’d say good riddance. It’s time for all to back off and be realistic and not make it out to be the sin next to murder. And a porn addiction? Come on. You can get addicted to heroin, nicotine, alcohol, sure, but porn? Gimme a break. The word addiction is tossed around way to nonchalantly in our society.

    • Steve in Millcreek

      Jiggs Casey, your opening line prompted serious thought: “The only reason porn has torn families apart in the LDS church is because LDS leaders make such a big deal out of it. … All the emphasis and attention… wives think (their husbands) are the worst, most worthless deviant perverts … to divorce their evil husbands.”

      I’m trying to decide if the notorious Salem Witch Trials give some comparison. Their 1692 logic was “Throw her in the lake to see if she’s a witch. If she floats, then she’s a witch.” A double bind. If she sinks, drowns, then she wasn’t a witch.

    • moving forward

      Yes porn is addictive. Your harsh and unfounded rantings are just not true. My x husband was never under and disciipline the several times I went in for concern for our family. Porn is like a drug to someone who can’t live without it. It goes from magazines, movies, hard stuff , then spirals to illegal activity. Our whole family has been sadly hurt by this , yes, addiction. The reason families are torn apart is the lack of truth from the person who is violating their family. Deception is an ugly companion to pornography. Again, my x husband was a Bishop and in the Stake Presidency and nothing was said to him other that stop. They didn’t get mad at him. So now, he sees his children maybe 2 hrs a week because of the sad way he is living his secret life. He still does go to the temple but that’s only because when you have been addicted so long you become what you lie about. He is two people and when the sweet man I married 32 years ago isn’t the same one in may when our divorce was final. I have compassion, sadness , anger, sorrow and pain. Everyday is better and better for me and my family. It is sad to see the “good guy” when he comes out for only minutes sob like a helpless child because of what he has lost because of his addiction. Do not blame this on the church, leaders or the gospel. The statements that General Conference dwells on this with judgement is simply not true, I have listened for guidance about this for 32 years and no where was there a harsh judgement with people who suffer from this horrible addiction.

  24. Jiggs Casey

    By the way, when I was in Iraq for one full year, my buddy had plenty of porn on his hard drive, and his wife was fine with it. She called it their “anti-infidelity insurance.” And it worked – he did not stray during that deployment. Needless to say, they are not LDS.

  25. ScottH

    Let’s acknowledge that it is more than just Mormon attitudes towards pornography that take a behavior and turn it into a habit. The official Mormon structure and response is virtually guaranteed to take a near-universal behavior and turn it into a destructive compulsion or addiction.

    Imagine a man outside the church looks at porn, to his wife’s disapproval. He realizes that he put his wife’s approval and affection at risk. The two can have a conversation after they put the kids to bed on the weekend, talk it through, and come to some understanding. Any guilt or shame can be experienced, processed and then left behind.

    Imagine a man inside the church who looks at porn. He realizes that not only is his wife’s approval and affection at risk, but that he risks exposure to his community and extended family. His eternal family is at risk. He knows that talking to his wife will lead to a trip to the Bishop. The wife, perhaps feeling somewhat dis-empowered by patriarchy in the church, may feel energized by the newly found power of being able to control and engage in the power dynamic of his husband’s repentance process. The Bishop, realizing that he must do something to scare the guy straight, will tell him not to take the sacrament and use his priesthood for a month. Whoops, his friend is baptizing a child this week and has asked the man to stand in the confirmation circle. “I can’t participate” can only mean one thing – the wife caught me looking at porn. The friend will give a slightly sad smile and respond, “I understand”. He will sit in sacrament meeting and watch as the boy that he taught in primary and in scouting hands him a tray of bread. He’ll look up just enough to make eye contact with the boy and shake his head before lowering it between his knees – the boy is young but he knows what that means. People within a 10 foot radius will see the man turn down the sacrament, and 50% of the ward will know by the end of the Relief Society meeting that he was looking at porn. Leaving church, the man will feel racked with guilt and shame.

    Maybe next time, he says to himself, I just won’t tell anyone. Racked with guilt and shame, the next time likely isn’t far off.

    Make no mistake, our church brands men who have the gall to look and confess with a flaming bright A. We just do it in our typical passive-aggressive way. Let’s cut the men some slack. I appreciate the Bishop who talks about men taking responsibility for themselves, but that shouldn’t get in the way of acknowledging the reality of the environment and structure that sets men up for failure in a colossal fashion.

    Want to see porn compulsion drop in the church? Take away the priesthood penalties and accompanying public flagellation.

    • PastProvoWife

      Scott H., what a fascinating comparison. My husband struggled with a pornography addiction and your comment makes me wonder if it wouldn’t have gotten so bad if he hadn’t have had that exact same thought process, fears, and shame as you describe. How different would it have been if before marriage we had just had a frank discussion about what we are and aren’t comfortable with? If no bishops or priesthood had been involved, he may have known it was ok to just come talk to me about it the first time he slipped.

      I guess the assumption though is that those outside the church would actually sit down and discuss the topic after the kids are in bed. I don’t think pornography is a popular topic among married couples anywhere, so it may be that the husband just looks at it with his wife knowing full well that he does and she feels degraded and he just assumes it’s “ok.” In other non-LDS discussion boards I have participated in, when the topic comes up, many of the women report feeling degraded and ashamed that their husbands look at it, but don’t feel like they can object because it’s just “what men do.”

    • Alison

      The enormous amount of shame, guilt, labeling it as evil/sin/lustful/debasing attributed to looking at porn as well as the requirement to “confess and regularly report on behavior” provide the exact ingredients to form an addictive cycle.

    • Rebecca

      Amen. Public “penalties” do not help anyone.

    • LDSwoman

      I agree with you, ScottH. But, as a woman, I will go a bit further and point out other contributing factors: The bishop in the ward starts looking around on the stand during sacrament – looking for women who are attractive, who have clothing on that shows their feminine form, or who might have clothing on which reveals more than the temple garment would reveal. The bishop then goes on to shame these women by reminding them that they are directly responsible for the thoughts of all of the men – both old and young in the ward. A woman who usually breastfeeds on the back row of Sacrament meeting is called into the bishop’s office and informed that her breastfeeding is immodest (sexually provocative) and she will need to go to the breastfeeding closet from now on to feed her infant. Women start looking surreptitiously at the new 16 year old young woman in the ward whose family just moved in. She’s ridiculously attractive to any normal person – male or female. And, the women secretly start worrying that she is “walking pornography” since the girl would be gorgeous and clearly feminine even wearing a sack. The girl doesn’t understand why so many of the older women in the ward speak to her harshly nor why rumors of her being immodest (despite her modest clothing) seem to pop up. The husband in ScottH’s post who can’t take the sacrament has his wife sitting right next to him – feeding her bitterness and anger at his side as she contemplates how he has wronged her. ——- If you want to see the true extent of this issue you also have to see it through female eyes. And, our church culture and attitudes place men in a spot where they are held accountable for their actions – but so are women. And, the female body is sexualized to the point that a woman having shoulders exposed, breastfeeding a baby, or wearing clothing which shows her feminine form is a male fetish. We are destroying not just the men with this – the women suffer equally.

  26. Jiggs Casey

    ScottH, extremely well said. I’m not sure when it became necessary to confess to the bishop that one has looked at porn, or perhaps has a habit? (I won’t call it an addiction because I don’t believe it is.) If the man needs help, fine, but there is no requirement that the man “confess” to the bishop to have his sins forgiven. Looking at porn is not a “sin” punishable by excommunication. The man can repent on his own, he does not need the bishop. Once he goes down that path, then as you say, Scott, everyone knows.

    • TubieDad

      Maybe this is just me projecting, but I think we as a people, for all of our talk about repentance, fail to practice it in our daily lives. When we fail to repent for the tiniest of things on our own, we fail to learn how to repent of progressively larger things on our own.

      You can probably break it down into three categories: minor stuff we don’t worry about, middling stuff that bothers us but we still don’t do anything about and we’ve soon forgotten, and bigger items that we don’t know how to deal with so we run to our ecclesiastical leaders. If we did more real repentance of the items in the first two categories, the third category wouldn’t be so big.

  27. Anonymous

    Well…here I go. My husband is a porn addict meaning he has gone twenty plus years trying to fight off the feeling of needing to look at pornography. It is an addiction and it is a problem. For the past 16 months he has been in the 12 step addiction recovery program provided by the LDS church. He has tried many different approaches to recovery including a 3 day intensive and this last 16 months has been the hardest and the most productive in his recovery process. That being said I do believe people can recover but like others have said it is a lifelong commitment to recovery.

    Now, something that I don’t feel like has been discussed that really needs to be is the fact that as a spouse, girlfriend, friend there is nothing we can do to stop their addiction. They have to be the ones to choose recovery. At the same time their addiction can greatly affect us and we need to know how to handle the intense emotions that come with living with and/or being married to a porn addict. While my husband has been going to his 12 step meetings I too have been attending my own support group 12 step meetings. It has changed my life. For 5 years I tried to understand, support and change my husband. In that time I lost myself and I never really understood and therefore used the power of the Atonement. After going through the program myself I have gained a true and sincere testimony of the Atonement and that Christ knows how I feel and has made it possible for me to feel joy. And I do now feel joy because of that. My husband has a long ways to go but I don’t have to wait for him to be in full recovery for me to feel joy. Here is a link to the support group manual which I found to be incredibly helpful…http://ldsar.org/FamilyManual.pdf
    The support groups aren’t currently using this manual due to some copyright issues but it follows along with the ARP manual used in group meetings (which I strongly suggest you try to attend!)

    Also I wanted to say this. A pornography addiction isn’t just about sex. It is a way to feel something other then the intense usually sad and dark feelings that the addict doesn’t want to feel. It is an extremely unhealthy coping mechanism that basically shuts down their ability to process emotions. Recovery requires some sort of 12 step program and therapy! Lots of therapy!

    I would be happy to further talk with either of the concerned women who wrote in about this topic. The addicts’ story might be different but the feelings it provokes in us are quite often very similar. Discussions are important, therapeutic and sometimes so necessary for our own healing process.

    Love to you both. It does get better. We must be willing to fight through the awfulness that is pornography addiction by turning to Christ, separating ourselves from the addiction and becoming healthy and strong woman!

    • Eric Green

      Thank you Anonymous for mentioning the 12 step program. I’m surprised it hasn’t been mentioned yet. I am a recovering pornography addict, and I’ve tried everything to stop. Only the 12 step program has yielded results. In my support group, there are many many people who are enjoying years of sobriety. I used to think that pornography addiction was basically impossible to overcome and that an addict was essentially doomed. The 12 step program has shown me differently. What’s surprising to me is that most people, including me before I got involved, either don’t know about the program or don’t really think it’ll work any better than some personal trick to use better self control. It’s a night and day difference, because 99.9% of addicts just can’t do it on their own, no matter how ingenious their personal methods are to exercise control.

    • Melody

      This is wonderful. Perfect.

  28. Gary Parker

    I stopped feeling any compulsion to view pornography the moment I stopped believing looking at pornography was a vile evil. I don’t believe that is a coincidence.

  29. petrathepoet

    I think it is helpful to note that the LDS definition of porn addiction and a trained counselor’s definition of a porn addiction are vastly different. If your husband/boyfriend is able to function in society, able to hold a job, able to connect with you emotionally, etc., then he is not addicted. He may have an issue, he may wish he felt less of a compulsion to view porn, but until it is hindering his ability to function normally he is not addicted.

    I also think the reason #1 is finding “porn problems” so prevalent is because of the LDS definition. People have a very normative behavior but are told that it is an addiction so they think something is wrong with them. Honestly, if you can find a man who has never viewed porn, he was probably raised somewhere without internet.

    My husband thought he had an addiction, and so did I for a while. When I discovered the actual definition of addiction I went straight home and told him he did not have a problem with pornography. He has relaxed so much and the “problem” has all but disappeared. There are very real porn addictions, but I think they are probably rather rare in comparison.

    • Debbie

      I totally agree that many who are defined as addicts are not so.

      For myself, I am not offended by a man watching porn per we, but I might still have issues with it if, for example, it leads to him expecting me to act like a porn actor in bed and failing to realise that they are just that – actors, in empty unreal situations that don’t make any sense in the real world.

      It also depends on what he’s watching. I can understand the draw to watch people have sex. To a lesser degree, I do that even just watching a romantic movie. But what I would have an issue with is my boyfriend/husband enjoying watching sex where the woman is humiliated, or more serious stuff like rape scenes or bestiality. I would find it disturbing if he was turned on by that and that’s where I’d be wanting him to think about why he is and whether or not it indicates something underlying he needs to work out.

    • petrathepoet. I have not experienced that the LDS definition of porn addiction and a trained counselor’s definition of a porn addiction are vastly different. I do think you bring up a good point. “He has relaxed” is a good thing and also helpful for someone who is addicted to do. Here is clip from Dr. Rory Reid that touches on this principle. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1SdYo_ZYeE Your husband may not have an addiction but interesting enough I have found the answer, especially with addiction, is often found with in the question. (People tend to know by the very fact they are asking) Denial and minimizing are so often a comfortable place for both an addict and their spouse that many stay stuck for years in the consequences of their addiction. I trust you know your situation just sharing for those who are on the fence about seeking help.

    • moving forward

      My x husband is a well educated ( PhD) has had the same job for 28 years, functions very well in society, had a connection emotionally with me. Now the connection was very nice and pleasant, HE traveled a lot, came home and acted so happy to be there then retreated to his home office. The point I am making is he viewed porn, watched it , spiraled to swinging, street sex, very vile and illegal things and all the meanwhile maintaining a “high profile” calling. He was not judged, attacked, or had any fingers pointing at him ,gratefully. I would have liked some help to deal with this mind altering, self inflicted passed feeling attitude towards me and other women. No one can compete with porn, believe me I tried within the realms of my marriage but it isn’t possible to have until the attitude of the person with the ADDICTION wants to change.

  30. Rick

    Addiction at its core is a problem caused by lack of self-worth. The LDS culture, and particularly past talks by church leaders, is full of guilt-inducing teachings. Add to that a general shyness and conservative approach to sexuality — and general restraint of the “shadow side” we all have inherant within us, and you have a recipe for secret release and exploration that is unacceptable in most religious settings. The answer, IMO, is probably not kosher to most Mormons, but is to allow and encourage healthy sexuality. This may included masturbation, open communication with each other regarding sexual fantasies, and generally being open with each other wrt their desires. It is only when a person is allowed to embrace their shadow side that healthy relationships can exist.

  31. Paul

    Porn is indeed a delicate and complicated set of issues.

    Humans are sexual—more so than other animals. Not just from societal norms but from physical realities like profound responsiveness to stimulation and desire outside of reproduction drives (humans have sex when females are not in heat). Sexual continence is no virtue absent of real opportunity. Squelching sexuality is as much a crime against God and nature as much as other perversions.

    Let’s explore some LDS history. Comments have already pointed out that while porn subscriptions are statistically very high in LDS communities but other aspectsof the sex industry are extraordinarily small, like strip clubs and prostitution. The early church also had similar disparity from the rest of America regarding cultural approaches to sexuality. Polygamy was intentionally utilized as a means of contextualizing human sex drives in healthy and supportive ways. Though there may be a substantial history of abuse and excess, there is also an even more substantial history of men being asked to marry single women in the congregation to ensure that women were not left to the vulnerable life of prostitution, for example. Nor were women subjugated to the inferior position of single life. Culture has changed and single life for women is more viable now. Coincidentally—for men too. Women were clearly not subjugated by polygamy as evidenced by the economic and political power of women from the time. It is not an insignificant detail that LDS women in the Utah territory had the right to vote 30 years before any other American demographic. Neither is it an aside that Mormon settlements had very low concentrations of brothels compared to any other communities on the Western frontier. Mormons were demonized by other religious groups because dancing was nearly a commandment, and Mormon men, hello Brigham, were notoriously public about physical affection between husbands and wives.

    One of the artifacts of polygamy was frank acknowledgement that sexual desire for someone you are not married to is normal. Contemporary LDS culture really struggles with this, but history tells a different tale. Sex was contextualized in ways that dealt with far more than reproduction. Let us never forget that we Mormons have the astounding theology that the birth of Jesus was the result of physical congress between Mary and God the Father.

    Before we can solve problems, we may need to locate the problems first. I believe there are many issues with porn, and do not claim that we should just dive into every fantasy impulse we have because the internet provides access to the images. But we need to protect sexual desire. We need to differentiate between prevalence and problem. We need to avoid sexist relegation of desire to masculinity. While it is a cultural norm that men are more visually stimulated there are legion approaches to the same subject that challenge those assumptions. We need a culture where women are not shamed for having desire. We need a culture were women do not feel betrayed because they are desired. We need to acknowledge that it is human to respond to a body that you are not married to no matter what else the circumstances. We need a culture that acknowledges that response to sexual stimulation does not equate perversion. We need to get comfortable with our sexual bodies to the point that normal things don’t induce panic. And we need a culture that doesn’t generate shame.

    Yes, men can use porn as a means of satisfying a physical urge facilitated by damaging emotional distance. But the other side of that coin is that women who are socialized to sanitize sex are landing with similar emotional distance, shame and all the other negative things commonly associated with porn. We should not feel shame because we feel desire.

    • Debbie

      Physical congress? /small smirk/ Sex, Paul. They had sex. ;)

    • Olde Skool

      “we Mormons have the astounding theology that the birth of Jesus was the result of physical congress between Mary and God the Father”

      No we don’t. That’s apocryphal lore, without any textual support.

    • LDSwoman

      It also wouldn’t hurt for us to have a culture where men actually learned how to please their wives sexually. Women have just as strong sex drives as men do. But, for many women sex is avoided simply because it is about gratifying the man exclusively. Sexual relationships should be partnerships, and that requires every man to learn how to actually please a woman – instead we make it all about the man’s pleasure.

  32. PastProvoWife

    I think there are two things missing in most of the replies posted here in response to reader number two. Let me preface this with the information that my husband struggled with a pornography addiction as well, so I am speaking from my experience.

    Point number One is validation for reader #2′s feelings. It seems like a lot of replies are trying to convince her that it isn’t really a problem and that over time she may come to see that it isn’t. Speaking from experience, reader #2, you have every right to feel “offended” and “negatively impacted” by your husbands issues. That is not being prudish. Yes, it is a widely accepted practice outside of LDS culture, but I think that; even though they may not admit it, most women feel degraded and ashamed by their husband’s pornography use. When I was experiencing it, I looked into the research on the experience of other spouses who were going through it and found an interesting research article in The Journal of Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention, Volume 13, issue 2-3, 2006. What these researchers found is that after disclosure of sexually compulsive behavior (I think porn would fall into this category in LDS culture, they defined it as “driven [sexual] behaviors an individual and those closest to him or her find troublesome and which continue despite negative consequences and disturbed levels of functioning”) wives experiences symptoms that can be categorized as PTSD. In my experience, this was very true. After a particularly bad discovery, I found myself feeling “out of body”, I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t feel anything. It was very strange. So, my point is, you are NOT prudish to be feeling negatively impacted.

    The second subject I wanted to address was this. You and your husband need to go see a therapist along with your bishop. Bishops have no clue how to handle this problem, they have no training in it. This is a very religiously sensitive topic though, so it may be best to contact LDS family services to find an LDS therapist that will understand the religious aspect of your struggles.

    In response to the first reader, I think NDM summed it up perfectly. My husband worked and worked to overcome the addiction and he has been successful, going on 5 years now. He never once made excuses or tried to justify his behavior. In therapy, he was able to discover some of the reasons why it had become an addiction for him, but that was never an excuse for him. He hit rock bottom shortly after I found out and he decided for himself that he needed to work on it. Part of that was because I flat out told him that our marriage would not survive unless he fixed this problem. He had specific consequences and was accountable for his actions.

    I think many men will never find the strength to change. It is an uphill battle. I am so happy to be married to my husband. Part of the reason our marriage is so strong is that we know that we have overcome something so terrible as pornography, nothing can phase us and nothing can break us apart. But, I wouldn’t recommend going into a marriage knowing that pornography is an issue (I didn’t know it was before we were married). As I said, I think it is a battle that too many LDS men just don’t have the strength to overcome.

    • Stella Q

      Thank you for this. I also had to get help for PTSD symptoms relating to discovering my husbands secret porn addiction. The harm and hurt is very real, and I’m not even a “prude.” Quite frankly, I am now one by choice because I see how harmful not being one can be. I’d rather be safe than sorry!

  33. anon

    I’m someone who used to compulsively seek after porn for several years. The way I was able to get rid of that compulsion wasn’t to pray more, but to stop being a hypocrite and to change some fundamental parts of the way I thought. I would present myself as being a good Mormon guy while being someone different inside. I eventually decided that that was doing no good and opened up. For me, opening up to others that I had a problem was the hardest part. I also came to realize that American culture and Mormon culture’s reactionary response to it had screwed up the way I viewed women. Men are brought up to view women as objects and trophies, and to want sex, not intimacy. (This article does a good job explaining this: http://www.cracked.com/article_19785_5-ways-modern-men-are-trained-to-hate-women.html) I wasn’t able to change until I realized the deeper problems behind the compulsion. Reading the scriptures helped me to find more healthy ways of looking at sexuality than the damaging things pervasive in Mormon culture. Reading feminist materials helped me to realize how I was part of the problem of oppressing women by objectifying them and not letting them to have meaningful relationships with me.

    Some other thoughts:
    If someone has sought out porn on occasion, it doesn’t mean that they are an addict. That isn’t to say that it isn’t bad, but they don’t need to go to a 12 step program.

    I personally believe that the taboo against masturbation is purely cultural and it looks like condemning it is already on its way out. Too many people in the church have been harmed by internalizing the message that masturbation is a sin next to murder. I don’t think that someone is going to get rid of porn unless they learn to be comfortable with their sexuality and deal with it in a healthy matter. I think that it will be very difficult for people to get rid of porn in their lives unless they can figure out a healthy balance in their life. The problem with porn isn’t that you are getting sexually stimulated, but that it makes people into sex toys, it is a sexual relationship with other individuals with no intimacy or love, and the industry is making loads of many taking advantage of and abusing lots of people.

    Don’t lose hope. People can change, but they often need help, including sometimes professional help. Compulsive behavior comes from deeper issues in someone’s psyche. I know that the Atonement can heal the deepest of wounds.

  34. Melody

    If you’re talking about a true addiction, it’s a horrific and destructive force – like alchohol or meth or any other addictive substance. It won’t go away on its own and true addicts rarely stop without outside support. My own (albeit more removed) experience echos what Anonymous said above.

    My sister works in the LDS 12-step programs and I have family and friends who have utilized the Primary Purpose 12-Step (a true AA-modeled program applied to other addictive processes.) It has altered their lives in miraculous and lasting ways. AA is a Godsend. And the AA Big Book is no less than holy writ. I’m serious. Every living soul should read it. And when the steps are worked with an open and willing heart, they save lives, bring people back to their true selves and to God-whoever God is for them. That’s all. Amen.

  35. This is a great post. Thank you. I will be sharing some additional resources on my blog soon. I look forward to checking out the ones you have shared here. I became aware of the pornography issue within the Mormon faith during the years I owned an LDS independent bookstore. There are great resources available. Many in and out of the church are trying to wrap their heads around the differences between ‘old school’ adult entertainment to today’s high speed internet porn that anyone including children can easily access. I was glad to see the conversation and love your insights. Thank you.

  36. Kari

    So many good comments. I haven’t read through them all meticulously, so forgive if I’m being redundant (and repetitive).

    My perspective comes not from porn addiction, but by being an adult child of 2 alcoholic parents. In my own recovery from the effects of growing up with addiction, I’ve learned so much about how addiction works in general. What I’ve learned is that addiction can often be the product of trying to escape pain. Neither of my parents knew how to carry their pain softly. Pain is a natural emotion and unless we know how to carry it gently, we want to numb those feelings. Shame, the sense of being wrong at our core, rather than guilt (doing something wrong), comes close on the heels of numbing. Then we get a good dose of guilt by being members of the church, because we are turning to substances and behaviors that we are told are wrong.

    12-step programs help immensely. I love being a member of Al-Anon. In therapy I’m working on doing some work (not just talking) to heal the pain of my childhood. These things are helping my own addictive behaviors substantially.

    I find it interesting (so much so that I’m contemplating a doctorate in this area when I’ve finished my MSW degree) that we hear so much in Church about avoiding addictive substances and behaviors. But we also have such a culture of shame (at least as I experience it along the Wasatch Front), and the behaviors are becoming more and more pervasive. I’d really just like us to have more great, inspiring dialogues about how we heal pain–how we avail ourselves of the atonement to bring peace to our own lives, how we carry pain gently, how we have more compassion for ourselves and for others–getting at the root of the complex thoughts and emotions that precipitate many addictions in the first place.

    • sammie

      Some thoughts in random order:
      1. I recommend a book called “Pornography and silence” by Susan Griffin (hard to find?}.
      2. I hear the stores of troubles to marriages. But I do not hear useful definitions of either what is pornographic or what is addiction. How can one get clear about consumption or compulsion without knowing what it is?
      3. I am a sex addict in recovery. Through 12-step work (not the church’s bastardization), I found that I was not addicted to porn or masturbation in marriage so much as I was addicted to shame. For me,it was necessary as a man to see more clearly about normal male sexual feelings and see them as other than shameful.
      4. A good working definition for addiction requires a “yes” answer to BOTH of two questions, a) Do I do my particular behavior even when I genuinely do not want to? and b) Does it have life damaging consequences?
      5. I understand the feelings commonly expressed by spouses, but feelings arise out of perceptions. I am not a well-correlated Mormon and do not hesitate to say that the official teachings about masturbation before and after marriage, use of erotica, and the silence about sex all contribute to the problem and not the solution. Spouses,basing their perceptions and meaning making on what comes from the bully pulpit are bound to see a threat to marriage and self esteem where it needn’t be and does not really exist.
      6. In my clinical work, I saw marriages fail and men nearly driven to an addicting shame because of no good knowledge of male sexuality, pornography or addiction.
      7. There is the issue of what to do if taking anti-depressants or other drugs which suppress libido.
      8. Since y0u mentioned food, we seen to not talk about “sexirexia” as a problem to be addressed.
      9. We rarely talk about the subtle ways spouses can judge and shame their partners into silence.

      In conclusion, the trauma caused by “glowing goddess” consumption may be from ignorance of what it is really about and the official decrying of it
      without competent accurate information and non-judgementalism.

      I wish peace to all who really have an addiction, medicating their own moods and shutting out God and spouses, and those whoreally donot have a problem.

  37. Skye Pixton

    Anybody heard of the movie “Shamed”? It is attempting to address these issues in-depth and I think it’s doing an important work. They have done quite a bit of filming, and are working on funding to complete the documentary. You can watch some videos of interviews and footage on their website: http://www.shamedthemovie.com/

    • Thank you Skye for the shout out for SHAMED. We are indeed working on a film that will give answers, hope, awareness, and understanding on this subject.

      This post has been up for 1 day…notice how many people have already commented. CLEARLY this is an issue that so very many people are facing and affected by. I admit to reading only a few responses, so if my thoughts are repetitive…I won’t apologize, we learn better with repetition.

      First understand that Mormons are no different in their amount of consumption of pornography than any other conservative religious people. Mormons might struggle more with addressing the issue because of the culture’s huge emphasis on “perfection”. But the shame of living a lie or going against one’s core beliefs is universal among all believers who use pornography and sex to cope with life’s difficulties.

      The church (and I mean all Christian believers when I say this) has failed in a few areas…1) teaching the “whys” behind the importance of purity 2) teaching the joys of real intimacy and healthy sexuality in a marriage 3) focusing so much on perfectionism that we leave little to no room for sinners to feels welcome 4) giving little information and speaking in cliches and generalizations when talking about pornography and lust.

      I hope my film will encourage ecclesiastical leaders to step up and really lead their people to a place of honesty and safety. I hope it will help the naive to open their eyes. I hope that the addicts and the strugglers will feel love and encouragement.

      I do want to speak to a few pitfalls in thinking from the original questions…

      “I have heard horror story after horror story about families being torn apart from pornography and it’s left me feeling a little, well, hopeless. Are there any positive stories about people overcoming pornography addiction? Is it wiser to write off any boys that have/had problems with porn?”

      First of all, you are right – most living, breathing young men have looked at some form of pornography and have masturbated, Mormons or otherwise. I had a researcher at BYU tell me that “95% of the guys at BYU admitted to looking at porn and the other 5% were lying”. We live in a pornography saturated world. If you avoid men who have looked at porn, you are likely to be dating the liars and those most consumed with shame. Not a healthy approach to finding a mate. Accept the pervasiveness of pornography (but never accept pornography as ok/morally acceptable), and look for a guy who is honest and has a good heart – one that worries about the problem and is willing to work on it. Educate yourself on the signs of addiction, keep an open mind and heart when conversing on the subject, set up boundaries of safety for your self and do not allow others to cross them, allow people to be imperfect. And know that yes, there are lots of stories of recovered sex addicts. My personal experience has been that those truly in recovery make the best husband material, because they have learned to be honest, to communicate about their feelings, and often they have very powerful testimonies of Christ.

      “But when it comes down to it, I feel like my trust has been betrayed and I find myself becoming paranoid—I don’t want to stalk him or make him feel like he is constantly being harassed as I ‘check in’ on how he’s doing, but I do believe that this is something that I can’t simply live with indefinitely.”

      Any good sex addiction therapist will tell you that “policing” your spouse will lead to no where healthy or helpful. Do not do it. BUT what you should do is keep your eyes wide open. So many wives of sex addicts spend years or decades fighting against themselves and their instincts that something is wrong in the marriage, that they just have to accept their spouse as he is. So many blame themselves, develop major self-esteem issues, become embittered and very unhappy. Don’t let this happen to you. Like I mentioned above, you need to set up healthy boundaries and keep them. Now when setting up your boundaries, do so with education, prayer, and plenty of thought. Talk to your husband about them in a non-threatening, healthy, cool-headed way. He needs to know how you feel and what lines you need to draw for your own healthy and safety and for the safety of the family on a whole. Your spouse has to choose for himself on whether or not he wants to remove pornography from his life. You can’t do it for him.

      “My question is this: As a progressive Mormon, I feel a bit prudish being offended and negatively impacted by my husband’s pornography addiction. I know that pornography is widely accepted throughout the progressive world that I enjoy associating with, but I still can’t ignore how hurt I am. I don’t want to make my husband feel guilty over this habit, but I’m not sure how to express my concern to him without making him feel that he is an immoral person.”

      I sigh with sorrow when reading this. It is sad to me how many people have begun to accept pornography – even when their instincts and emotions tell them not to – just because the world at large encourages the acceptance of pornography. Of course they do – the porn industry is the richest (and therefore one of the most powerful) industries in the world. Don’t you think they put plenty of effort into sending out the message that its “socially acceptable” and “doesn’t hurt anyone”? Be “prudish” for heaven’s sake! Stand up against all the lusty (and often violent and degrading) objectification of humans – especially of women and children. Pornography teaches and heavily reinforces ideals about sex that are never about love, respect, friendship, intimacy and commitment. It is a major counterfeit to healthy sexuality. It teaches that sex is about instant and selfish gratification – no matter who it hurts.

      SHAMED promotes open communication and honesty on the subjects of pornography and sex – it’s the fastest way to helping our struggling culture back on track. We promote removing shame from the issue…it’s the shame that keeps an addict tightly secure to their addiction. We promote the truth that sex addiction is not “a man’s issue”, women struggle too. We promote that the porn industry cares nothing about healthy sexuality and freedom of expression – but that they care about the bottom line and infinite profit possibilities. We absolutely promote that recovery is possible (when that addict wants to do the required work) and that forgiveness is readily available through Christ.

      I suggest to all, find sources to help you get educated. Hopefully my source will help you…please feel free to use any of the videos here to learn more and to help you find hope… https://vimeo.com/channels/shamed

  38. It’s hard to keep this short. I have so much to say about this issue.

    Briefly, I have had a problem with porn since I was a lonely, introverted 14 year old who was terrified to talk to a girl. It’s in remission now and has been for years and I hope to keep it that way.

    The Church has a very healthy, positive set of beliefs about sexuality generally. I don’t know how it could be much more positive than believing that we have heavenly parents who have physical bodies and that we can become like them. We are taught that sex is good under the right circumstances.

    But the translation into how the believes are taught is not very good and, in my experiences, leans primarily toward warning people of the dangers of negative behavior. Maybe this helps keeps some people out of trouble. My guess is that it’s more people who are relatively healthy and have been taught and understand the principles and have had good role models.

    I think that for many people, like me, who don’t have that background or who make mistakes, it’s not much use and can make things worse.

    I using pornography, not by ‘overcoming’ a dysfunctional sexual behavior but by learning a healthy perspective on male/female relationships, marriage, family and society in which it didn’t have a place. At first I had to push it out, but as my understanding increased and I cultivated a positive perspective, came to believe in it, and wanted it, acted on it and changed, it just faded away.

    Maybe it sounds like it was easy. It was not. It took many years and required that I dump huge amounts of mental garbage overboard. I had to be ruthlessly honest with myself and went through a lot of pain. In the meantime, it was very painful for my wife.

    It was when I began to recognize how much pain it caused her that I began to wise up. How could I cause so much pain to this person that I claimed to love. It was years before the bad outweighed the good.

    Recognizing the pain I was causing her was just the catalyst, though. Stopping the behavior just brought me to ground zero with her.

    What has really changed things was to recognize that she had beliefs and ideals that I didn’t understand. I didn’t even understand them well enough to know that I wanted them. In fact, given my background, I was inclined to be feel very suspicious and negative about them. I once commented that when someone tells me they love me, it made me physically ill. But gradually, I began to understand. As we began to build the positive, it pushed out the negative.

    It’s often like walking on a razor blade to this day though. I sometimes get a flash of improved understanding of how things can be and I recognize that she already understands this and has been waiting for me to figure it out. Then there’s the pain of knowing how much she has wished for this but the happiness that we can make it happen. And sometimes there’s that thought that maybe pornography isn’t all that bad after all. But those thoughts are now short-lived and perspective returns.

    But, she would not want me putting her on a pedestal and I don’t. She has had her own issues. We committed when we got married that no matter what happened we would talk it through and do whatever we had to do to make it work. That has served us well and now we have a pretty good thing that is getting better all the time.

    • Gail Nicolaysen-Shurtleff

      Jon, I was reading this thread because it caught my eye and I come to your post. I love and respect you for the hard work that comes form facing challenges, and for enduring one pillow beating that changed both of us.

      As a therapist I must state that the only true fix for this is for both members of a relationshiop to leran to give. AND we do have a great thing blooming.

  39. Alison

    When I became engaged my fiancé confided that he had struggled with masturbation throughout his life and wanted to be honest with me about that struggle. I understood his situation having struggled with it myself. During the first several years of our marriage he had times that he was very emotionally withdrawn. We were a typical young Mormon couple having kids and struggling with balancing everything. I was naive and didn’t understand how important the frequency of our sex was to him and with being a young mom with two small children I was often overwhelmed, tired and not in the mood. My husband would periodically bring up the frequency of our sex life and that he wished we could have it more often and I would earnestly try to make that happen but it would also go in cycles depending on what was going on with life. I wanted and enjoyed sex and it wasn’t something that I intentionally avoided at all but just rather that it was hard to find the time, energy, etc to have it as often as he would have liked. His sex drive was much stronger than mine during this time and he said he didn’t know what to do with his sexual needs when sex with me was not happening. I didn’t want him to struggle with this and tried to be more aware of the frequency of our sex but it was not on my radar screen like it was his! I also noticed he went through intense cycles of trying to be more “spiritual” and read his scriptures, pray, etc more regularly. I began to recognize that he came to bed much later than me sometimes and it felt like it was hiding things from me. Then he came home after a business trip and broke down and shared that he had hit rock bottom. He explained that he had gone and paid for a private lap dance while on his trip and sobbed. He told me his struggle with masturbation involved pornography. He said it had become overwhelming to him and he was scared what it was doing to him. He was terrified that he had done this on his business trip and what he might do next if he didn’t get it under control. He cried harder than I’ve ever seen him and was an emotional wreck. His behavior had become a true addiction although we didn’t realize it at the time: He hid what he did and lied about it, he went on binges that lasted for hours, he risked his job by using his work computer and during work hours and terrified the company would find out and fire him like others for doing it. He said the desire to look at something would build up and he would try all kinds of ways to think of other things and avoid it only to have it build up to the point where he would “lose control” and go into a cycle that could last for hours, days. The next few years involved a very difficult time for us as I struggled with the devastation I felt. I felt all the things that someone feels when their partner shares this with them: betrayal, self doubt about my looks and sexuality, inadequate, etc. It was the hardest thing either of us had ever gone through. We both desperately wanted to make this work and I knew he wanted to change his behavior but just didn’t know how. We tried all kinds of things to see if they would help. At the same time he regularly visited with our various Bishops as we moved around with jobs. These visits would sometimes be together with me and sometimes alone and typically consisted of the Bishop sternly reminding him of his priesthood and duties as a husband and father. They would remind him that if he loved me and his family enough he would not want to do this because of the eternal consequences. They would remind him of his covenants, ask him not to take the sacrament, turn to praying, reading, etc more so that the Atonement could truly change him. I watched him desperately try all of these things and agonize at why he still could not seem to change this behavior. After a couple of tries we finally found a non-LDS counselor who was able to help him really understand the dynamics of an addiction and the cycle that he was going through. It changed everything! Instead of the focus being on sin, guilt, shame, remorse, repentance and the Atonement – we actually learned what stress triggers generated his need to “escape”, why this had become his drug of choice in doing that, why guilt and shame actually made things worse and many other amazing discoveries. He met with both of us and helped me understand and deal with my feelings and needs. For the first time since he was a teenager my husband was given the tools and understanding to learn how to understand and recognize his needs and healthier ways to relieve negative emotions like stress, loneliness, disappointment, etc. We recognized that the way the church teaches and talks about sexual things directly contributed to the development and continuation of his addictive cycle. Not because the church is trying to be damaging by any means – it’s just that they teach that sexual thoughts and needs come from the “natural man” and that as righteous men/women we should be able to restrain/control those in a pretty strict manner. The church focuses constantly on virtue for young women, chastity and paints sexual thoughts/urges/desires as lustful, sinful, immoral and damaging to our spiritual well being. It teaches our youth to avoid anything that arouses sexual feelings in others as well as ourselves and that sexual sings are extremely serious in God’s sight. All of this creates an environment where when we experience natural, healthy desires, feelings, thoughts and needs we feel guilt, shame, disgust and that we need to repent, talk to our bishop and work harder at being more righteous to overcome them. These attitudes can fuel someone directly into an addictive cycle! Instead of helping us understand healthy attitudes toward sex we are constantly taught to hide, avoid and deny those natural feelings and needs.
    Fifteen additional years have passed since this very difficult time. Years of learning, growing and discovering. We have a healthy, wonderful emotional and physical relationship with each other. He no longer struggles with this addictive compulsive cycle. He is in a comfortable place where he recognizes that if he has sexual tension and it’s not a possible to turn that toward me he just releases that himself in a natural way and moves on. He doesn’t let it become some huge guilt driven thing that he’s trying to avoid. I recognize this has nothing to do with his love or desire for me. We both have our own sexual needs and we prefer to share those with each other as that is the most enjoyable and fulfilling. Nothing compares with being together and that’s where our focus is but we also know that sometimes our needs don’t mesh with each other whether it’s schedule, fatigue, etc. and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean we are being unfaithful to each other. It’s not a sin and we don’t have to feel guilt and shame about it. The church’s teachings did not help my husband as a teenager learn how to understand his sexuality in a healthy way. They did not help me as a young woman or young wife to understand sexual needs in myself or my husband and the important role that would play in our relationship. They did not help us once my husband was in addictive cycle to learn how to understand what addiction really is, how to recognize and change it. The affect the teachings of the church had in our experience is a tragedy and as I watch many others go through this I’m sad that the organization that claims to have revealed truth has still been unable to recognize the unhealthy impact it’s having in this area.

    • Molly

      AMEN ALISON! I agree with so much of what you said here! Best wishes as you continue your journey!

    • Kim

      Thank you, thank you for this reply! My husband and I have talked at length about how the church is not doing any favors by repressing sexuality in order to ‘protect’ chastity. I really loved the links that were shared in Joanna’s commentary; they helped me see that I am not alone in the church–masturbation has its place in any healthy sexual relationship and it shouldn’t be seen as scary, dangerous, or immoral. I am so happy to read that this has become a part of your past, and that you and your husband have found a healthy balance, outside of the church’s resources, to really learn about how the brain works with addictive behaviors.

    • PastProvoWife

      What an inspired comment Alison. I have always wondered how I will broach the subject to my own children so they don’t have the problems their father had with it and your comment gave me direction in this. Thank you!

  40. anon

    In answer to letter #1: I know you’ve been given lots of contradictory answers to this, but I have to say – absolutely stay away! As NDM stated – a man who is trying to cover up his pornography addiction can make your home a living hell. Yes, the power of the Atonement is infinite, but for the short few years you are here on earth, there will be challenges enough without having to deal with a spouse who is addicted to pornography. Being single really isn’t the worst thing that can happen in your few short years on earth.

    Also, in response to all the comments trying to justify pornography, say pornography is funny, or say there are degrees of pornography—- I don’t think pornography is to be taken lightly. Pornography influences human sex trafficking. People who continue to watch pornography have addictions that continue to escalate. I don’t mean one prostitute in the red light zone in some foreign country, I am talking about here, in the US, very young girls living as victims of sex trafficking and living at the whim of pimps. I am talking about a 13-yr-old girls being used to play out satanic fantasies. Most people’s addiction to porn will hopefully not lead to illegal activities, but the demand for porn can influence the demand in the sex trafficking market. Pornography doesn’t just affect Mormons and their ability to keep the law of chastity, it affects children everywhere.

  41. Paul W.

    I was once sitting in on a 14-15 year old boys Sunday School class when the instructor said “Now I know that none of you have ever been tempted by pornography….” I nearly barfed. Aside from the rare case of an asexual, every male (and some females) has been tempted by pornography–often on a regular basis.

    Every woman considering marrying a man needs to open a continuing dialogue about pornography use–past, present and future. If the man says he’s never been tempted–flee. He’s a liar. It’s pervasive, but we’re not all porn-addicts, even if we’ve dabbled and repented. But only a fool would marry someone without thorough due diligence (recognizing that even due diligence may not be enough).

    Where does it rank as a sin? Does it really matter? Viewing pornography can become addictive (as in, I “need” to do it regularly). It dirties the mind. It is lust. Lust is bad, even for progressive Mormons.

    Sex is not bad–in the right circumstances–even though–let’s be real–at it’s best it often includes what the world easily mistakes for lust. It does involve unbridled passions, and that’s good! But it always should be respectful, kind, unselfish and loving. Both parties should feel uplifted afterwards.

    Pornography cheapens all of this and causes unrealistic expectations and selfish obsessions. There’s a better way, a higher law. Men, rather than engaging in porn, become emotionally connected and devoted to your wife. Re-channel all of that energy into your relationship with your wife. Work at it. Be unselfish. Communicate, including when you feel the urge and need her help.

    And women can help. A little effort here can go a very long way. If you’re always (or even regularly) turned off, figure out why and talk to your husband about it. Even the chastest of men have a very difficult time staying that way if a wife only wants to have sex once a month and then only endures it. If it is painful, unpleasant or nauseating, maybe something is wrong. Check into it.

    If you have a porn problem, get all of the help you can get and focus on improving–not shame. But don’t just excuse yourself or blame others.

    Finally, this is not just an issue for men. Women increasingly are facing their own porn issues. All of the same issues apply.

    • ScottH

      “If the man says he’s never been tempted–flee. He’s a liar.”

      Or… maybe you should create a safe environment and build real trust before asking such a fraught question. Why do people lie? Because they are bad? Because their lies define them? Or is it a learned protection from being continuously placed in a no win scenario? This is bad advice.

      “It dirties the mind.” What does this even mean? Obviously its a metaphor, our mind is a neural network that responds to sensory input and seeks pleasure and avoids pain. This metaphor needs to go the way of the licked cupcake, the chewed gum, and the board with a nail hole.

      “Viewing pornography can become addictive (as in, I “need” to do it regularly). It dirties the mind. It is lust. Lust is bad, even for progressive Mormons.”

      Lust is human, even for conservative Mormons. Any habit can become addictive (or better said, compulsive). To suggest that we should completely abstain from any habit that can become addictive/compulsive is as foolish as it is unrealistic. This is bad advice.

      “Men, rather than engaging in porn, become emotionally connected and devoted to your wife.”

      Men and women, stop fixating on porn as the albatross of emotional connectivity. IF porn is creating emotional connectivity issues with you and your wife, deal with it. If porn consumption isn’t creating emotional connectivity issues with your wife, then stop listening to these incessant voices that are trying to develop within you feelings of shame that they then hold the key to solving/fixing.

    • JSmith

      “Women increasingly are facing their own porn issues.”

      True dat. While we’re talking about non-addicted but tempted members, I wish that someone in the church would start addressing the issue of chick porn: romance novels. Women are very quick to blame men for their sexual weaknesses. Why is it okay to read a book to get aroused but not to look at a picture to get aroused?

      Think Twilight: imagine what would happen if the YM president said, “Our next YM activity is to go to the movies and watch Jacobina take off her shirt and get to first base while pressuring her date to let her run home. Then afterwards we’ll compare whether Team Jacobina’s chest is to be preferred over Team Edwardette’s pasty white face.” He’d be immediately released and probably disciplined, but if our YW do the same thing, it’s somehow okay. We women ought to think about what it would be like to have reading Twilight to get horny become a talk-to-the-Bishop offense.

      While I agree that viewing pornography is wrong, I’d love to hear someone say that READING pornography is also wrong. It would be nice to have someone state that there is a difference between a boy/man who is truly addicted to pornography (abusive, spending money, deviant sexual behaviors) and those who are just getting horny. I think we’re heaping guilt on our boys and men that isn’t helping them learn to heal and overcome these temptations.

      • Amy

        I don’t think you’ve read Twilight…It doesn’t go into any details about sex. In any way. Other romance novels I would consider written porn. But not Twilight. Twilight is just a Disney princess story for teens/adults.

        IMO, it is masturbation combined with pornography that is the bigger issue. If I am thinking of someone other than my husband while feeling those feelings, that is a true betrayal.

        But I’m sure everyone has a different point at which they feel betrayed, which is why it needs to be discussed with your partner so that you are both on the same page.

      • Steve in Millcreek

        If the evil of porn lies in EMOTIONAL DISCONNECTION between husband and wife, and romance novels achieve that disconnection through a fantasy of words, then both word-porn and picture-porn are equally bad. If “Twilight” books lead up to sex without detailing it then “Twilight” is on the slippery slope akin to so-called men’s magazines that show nudity and no sex. In either case, storyline details are up to the imagination of readers (either book or magazine readers/viewers). In my view, the effect is the same yet our Mormon leaders treat them quite differently.

      • Steve in Millcreek

        “Women are very quick to blame men for their sexual weaknesses. Why is it okay to read a book to get aroused but not to look at a picture to get aroused?”

        I challenge JSmith’s “arousal” assumption, above. Each person should be responsible for his/her own propensity toward arousal; and each should know how and what arouses him/her, then manage it by staying away from arousal triggers as needed. If universal orthodox lines were drawn, then no Mormon could pursue medical professions specifically OBGYN or become an accredited marriage counselor, (Natasha Parker as Joanna noted.) Other examples abound. If Mormons do not pursue such professions, non-Mormons will fill the vacuum; and Mormon clients cannot receive faith-related professional advice.

      • Stella Q

        I don’t think anyone is saying pornographic novels are Ok, for anyone. But I love how readers are blameshifting on here by saying by trying to blame women.

    • Stella Q

      Beautifully said. Couldn’t agree more.

  42. DB

    for what it is worth, i see pornography to be like alcohol. many people see alcohol in moderation to be fine and even beneficial. but in the church, we take a hard “no alcohol” stance. for those who have seen their families/ marriage ruined by alcohol, this stance makes some sense. it is virtually impossible for an alcoholic to enjoy alcohol in moderation; it is either total addiction or nothing. pornography is similar. many see pornography in moderation to be fine, or even helpful. however, those of us who are dealing with the damage that pornography brings to marriage can sympathize with the church’s “no porn” stance, even if it seems harsh. it is virtually impossible for a porn addict to use porn in moderation. it is either total addition or nothing. the woman from query 2 has experienced the pain that pornography has brought into her marriage as i have, and my heart goes out to her.

  43. Steve in Millcreek

    Much has been said on this topic so I will try not to repeat. Here are my thought, numbered:

    1.) PORN AND FOOD. I like Joanna’s analogy between Porn and Food with one key exception – - there is no shame in loving/viewing/admiring food without consumption. The opposite it true; admiring food while abstaining is championed. It is further championed when Technical Compliance defies Emotional Compliance. (For example, nationally-advertised weight loss programs show fattening-looking meals and deserts without fat calories. Consumers are in technical compliance but not emotional compliance.)

    2.) IS IT A SLIPPERY SLOPE? With porn, many Mormons feel that Seeing equals Viewing equals Consumption equals Lustful Desire equals Fornication/Adultery. Is it a fair assumption that beginners fall into a vortex, unable to control their impulses; to begin the sequence is to end it with Adultery. Imagine a society where seeing food on another person’s plate equates to morbid obesity.

    3.) DEFINE IT. So far, no one (in this blog column) has defined Pornography. Without an agreed-upon definition, we respondents talk past one another. To some, Nudity equals Pornography. To others, Pornography is more a condition of Body Posture and/or Dominance and less about Clothing. BYU’s 1997 banning of Rodin’s “The Kiss” further clouded the porn-line for many Mormons, appearing to push the line further toward the ultra-orthodox. As a kid, I was greatly confused on this topic because I could not find the common denominator; seeing nude statues in a museum was accepted/championed, seeing nudes in print was not.

    4.) INOCULATION has been the focus of some of John Dehlin’s “mormonstories.org” presentations, to tell Mormons the details of tough/non-traditional/complex aspects of our history before anti-M control the agenda and teach from a crass, non-faithful viewpoint. – Like John, I believe that we need to take a similar stance on this Porn issue: Church leaders (Prophet, Q of 12 and 70s, etc) need to peel apart the good and bad aspects of this topic. Once clear, our youth (and adults) need a big healthy dose of the good part as an inoculation against the bad. (How do LDS youth in France and Germany manage this issue; should we Americans counsel them or they us? I’d love to hear Dieter Uchtdorf’s advice.)

    5.) UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES. We Mormons are known for “Setting The Bar High” on all moral topics; such high expectations can have unintended consequences. On this porn topic, when many cannot reach that bar, (and deeply believe that they should), personal failing looms larger than reality. In analogy, some Asia students are pushed so hard to achieve academically that a grade of A- can lead to deep depression or suicide. They fail their micro-society but remain high achievers in the macro-society, the objective world view. It’s a tough life to be measured against perfection.

    By observation, LDS Singles Wards are getting larger; and the average age is climbing. I strongly suspect that a large part bears on guilt of healthy single men self-aware of their imperfections in this world awash in orthodox-defined porn. Adding guilt (to other insecurities faced by most people, i.e., self-doubt, lack of money,..) leads to marriage postponement.

    This is all food for thought. Comments?

  44. Mike T

    PastProvoWife has overstated her own power and probably “tamed” her husband in the process. Folks need to keep the issues straight. There are just a couple so it shouldn’t be hard to figure out.

    1. Watching Porn (a means of or substitute for masturbating) is to engage in an INTENSE physical-emotional release within ones own person. It has nothing to do with the person’s husband or wife.

    2. Making love with one’s partner and experiencing the SHARING of that precious, intense release with another thinking, loving, sharing, human being is/can be “religious” in its’ intensity. I mean babies and life-long relationships can be created and grown and maintained by the SHARED activity (what you each do for the other as you move toward the emotional-physical-spiritual peak of joining as one ) of total love of one’s partner. This is GREAT and POWERFUL stuff!

    3. If ANYBODY; the partners, the community, or especially the so-called religious leaders confuse the first ( 1. ) point with the ( 2. ) second point only pain and guilt and self-loathing inevitably result.

    Please note that I have been careful not to specify gender ( or I suppose even number of partners ), in 1. , 2. , or 3.

    Almost all the pain that I have read about here is based on the confusion of these simple realities.

    with love,
    M

    • PastProvoWife

      Mike, when I read my comment, I did realize that it sounded like I had the power to make him change. Trust me, I spent those initial months of his recovery having to realize that I couldn’t make him change, he had to decide to on his own. What I meant to say was that he knew our marriage wouldn’t work if he continued looking at pornography, solitciting women online for pornographic photos, etc… In the end though, he decided to change for himself, not I gave him an ultimatum. I should retract the statement where I said I “flat out told him.” I never gave him an ultimatum, but I was honest in our therapy sessions when asked about our marriage. He knew that he had to change for we weren’t staying married. So no, he is not “tamed;” he realized for himself that what he was giving up (family, church, marriage) was just not worth consuming pornography. Isn’t that the choice all addicts eventually have to make?

      What I was trying to say that paragraph was that, when married to someone struggling with sex addiction, you have to have clear boundaries and consequences for those boundaries; for your own self-respect. You cannot just sit by and say “it’s ok, no problem, porn isn’t a big deal, we will stay married no matter how bad this gets.”

      As for your next points, (pt. 1 and 2) and how they often get mixed up. Mike, as the spouse of someone who consumed pornography, I can say that those two are NOT mutually exclusive. From an outsiders perspective, it may seem like they are, but the wife of a man with this problem feels disgusting, used, unattractive. How could she compare to those pictures? For the spouse, number one affects completely number two. It may be easy for you to say matter-of-factly that porn isn’t the same as sex and so the two shouldn’t interfere, but the reality is that they DO affect each other and you are failing to acknowledge that. It isn’t helpful to sit there and basically tell us to just separate the two and get on with life. It is a normal emotional reaction to feel betrayed and those are feelings that are worked on extensively in therapy, but they are there in the initial stages.

  45. Kelly S.

    This comment is a little off track but my IVF doctor was a TBM mormon. He provided pornographic magazines and videos for his patients to choose from. Isn’t this hypocritical with mormon teachings?

    Also, this link about the psychological effects of mormonism made so much sense to me while I was making a faith transition from TBM to Atheist.

    http://members.shaw.ca/blair_watson/

  46. Dave

    There are resources for men who deal with this addiction. It is possible to overcome it and to live pron free. This website has resources for couples and families. http://www.addictionhopeandrecovery.com/

  47. Anonymous

    We teach our young women to seek after return missionaries, and now we’re going to teach them to abstain from relationships with anyone that has a history with pornography? Well, I guess singles programs will see an influx, or we’ll see more “flirt to convert” baptisms.

    As someone that’s struggled with porn, and still have strong desires to look at it, I have been working to control it, and to have someone completely deny me because of that history would be devastating, and the likelihood of returning to that would increase…I know that, but I’ve also learned many techniques, from my own self-discovery, that have enabled me to deal with the stress and anxiety I get from being a single man in the church today. I know that it’s not just men that deal with this.

    I don’t live in the confines of Utah, or any other highly populated Mormon area, so my pool of potential spouses is already slim, but it’s narrowed again by the first thing I said, and this issue wasn’t what kept me from going, health did. I’ve seen people flat out reject non-RMs simply for that fact, when they are good guys, and I’ve also seen RMs that are the epitome of sleaze, get married and make their wife feel terrible throughout the dating process, and even further into marriage.

    I’ll admit that the dating process is to learn about the person, and whether you are compatible, but the history of someone bring them to where they are now, and holding that against them, if they have things under control, is not showing your capacity to become like the Savior. It’s like saying that he never forgave all those prostitutes he hung out with during His ministry. People can change, and it takes time and practice, but it can be done!

    Besides, I know way too many people that are going out and getting drunk, having sex, and many other things, that still go to church and act like nothing they do effects their standing in the church. They partake of the sacrament and keep their appearance up at church, but privately go against the teachings of the church. I know these things, but I can go to the leaders about it, because I don’t have proof, and what would it really help? If they’re going to change, they have to change on their own. You can feel sad because you got caught, but Godly sorrow comes from self-imposed confession, not compelled relegation.

    If someone is honest with you about this problem, you can work through it, but you also have to know how to feel if someone is lying. I’m not justifying the use of pornography, I believe it to be a terribly addictive and emotionally scarring product that feasts on what we see as the “natural man.” As many others have said, our cultural repression of this very subject will lead to depravity for many. It’s not until you realize that we have to be open about some things, and accept that there are some things that we all have to deal with, that you can accept who you are, and who others are as well.

    I know that I’ve withdrawn from people as a result of my own problems with this, but I’m also withdrawn normally. I can’t even say when I was first exposed to it anymore, but I know it was my early teens. I’ve been dealing with this for maybe 20 years, and I didn’t even understand what it was when I first started, but by the time I knew, I was already addicted. I’ve never been able to do the whole therapy thing, but I’ve found outlets and new ways to relieve stress, like exercise, being around other people, limiting my online time, and focusing on my desires for the future.

    I want a wife, and I don’t want to let her down in any way! I know that pornography will do just that. If she has to read what basically pornographic material, then I would hope she would understand that that would also be detrimental to me as well. That’s where our communication would have to happen. No one really talks about this stuff, even in marriage prep, from what I’ve heard from my friends. We are a sexually repressed group of people.

    We’ve got to be open to the ability for people to change. We have to understand the effects/affects of the Atonement. We have to be willing to be as the Savior, and love everyone, even the sinner and the recovering/recovered sinner. We are all either one of those. We all fall far from perfect, and narrowing your pool by such a stringent standard will almost nullify your pool. I would agree with not marrying someone that’s still within the grasp of porn, but if its history, you can’t hold it against them.

    • YSAwoman

      Hey Anonymous,
      Thanks for taking the time to post this sincere response, and I can say as a YSA woman, I appreciate the honesty here and your efforts in overcoming this particular addiction/temptation. In my dating experience, I have been on plenty of dates with the RM’s who were absolute pigs and treated girls like… a tool. And I have dated very respectful guys who were not RM’s. It drives me nuts that I wasn’t really prepared to enter the dating world, as I was led to believe all RM’s would be honorable and great potential mates. Reality hit, and I can say that I have learned quite a bit since.
      I had a bishop who warned me to never marry a guy who had issues with porn. He did give me heartbreaking examples of wives in his office being torn with grief over their husband’s porn problems. This was because I had at that point dated guys who I found out had porn and related sexual problems, and it even then affected our dating relationship very negatively. I truly tried to understand the guy and help him overcome, though looking back I didn’t know nearly enough to take that on.
      Having had my own challenges, I can say I have a better understanding now and would not turn down a potential spouse due to a history with porn issues. Keep your chin up, not all good LDS gals are narrow-minded and judgmental.

    • Stella Q

      An addiction never goes away, it is only in recovery or “remission.” Just like with other addictions. I think it is unfair to paint young women as judgmental and unforgiving because they prefer a spouse that doesn’t have a sexual addiction.

      From personal experience… my husband became addicted to porn as a teen and stopped cold turkey for his mission, and stayed clean for 3 years. Didn’t tell me when we were dating because it was “in the past”. Sadly, it came back worse than ever and he hid it for 18 years, all while it chipping away at our family and himself as it affected his behavior and attitudes. How I wish I had the choice in the beginning to take this journey or not! It was his selfishness and pride that almost destroyed me and our family. Pornography is virtual infidelity, and my husband is the first to admit it. It’s very serious, not just some petty
      “mistake” or “weakness.” that you can simply forgive and move on from.

      Sadly, if men to choose to use pornography, knowing young women in their religion don’t appreciate it, then duh, why be surprised if they are not interested? It’s not like a beer, or leaving the cap off the toothpaste. It objectifies women and desenstizes men to real women in many cases,

  48. anon

    Is this a fair question? What if certain triggers lead to me going to the local coffee shop and hanging out just long enough to catch a man’s eye, strike up a conversation, and get him to ask for my number? That was all I needed – just that moment when I know I’m desirable enough to get him to ask for my number. I have absolutely no intention of giving it to him or being unfaithful. But, as a woman, it’s just one of those things I need. How many men would be okay with that?

    • Steve in Millcreek

      Anon, your last statement was “But, as a woman, it’s just one of those things I need. How many men would be okay with that?”

      I’m missing the point in your coffee shop example. Please add a few lines to clarify. This is a sincere request.

  49. Dolly

    I want to be as open-minded and fair as possible. While my membership is less traditional than it used to be my spouse is still active, and we have two small sons that we wish great things for.

    How do you parents treat the whole porn issue?

    How can I encourage a healthy, respectful attitude toward sex for my growing boys?

    • I plan to treat pornography the same way I treat all other potentially addictive behaviors. Just like I will teach my kids that “Smoking cigarettes is addictive, experimenting with it might cause a habit that will bring long-term consequences to your health at the very least, perhaps in other ways as well.” And similarly, “Pornography is an industry that objectifies women, experimenting with it may cause a habit that will bring you psychological and emotional problems, that will most likely affect your relatioships particularly your sexuality.”

      At least it seems like a good place to start anyway…

  50. LJ

    I have another perspective on this topic. Three years ago, my husband of 18 years struggled with viewing pornography for several months. It became a temptation to him during a period when he was feeling very low in his masculinity. We both work full time and I was enrolled in a college night class at the time, with a heavy homework load. We are in our 50s and he was six months out from surgery for prostate cancer. Thank goodness for 21st century surgical procedures. A prostatectomy is no longer a death sentence for sex, but that doesn’t mean that recovery is easy, or that sex is the same after surgery.

    The combination of my husband’s erectile dysfunction and my unavailability (emotional and time based, due to the college course load) meant that my husband was on his own and feeling low too often. He is the last person either of us would have expected to have a struggle with pornography–he is kind, patient, humble, and a devoted husband, priesthood holder and Church servant. He was High Priests Group Leader at the time.

    He finally admitted to me, in tears, that he had been viewing pornography for months. (In light of the comments above requesting “definition,” I will mention that I never did ask him to explicitly describe exactly what type/level of images he was viewing. I do not believe that he was watching violent or hardcore porn.) He confessed to me on a Saturday night, and he met with our bishop the next day.

    Thank goodness our bishop told him to repent and go see a therapist immediately. My husband was not subjected to the shame/punishment cycle that some commenters have described above, and he continued to function in his leadership role. . We met with a male counselor through LDS social services, who helped my husband understand the stress triggers and emotional issues that were underlying his compulsion. I participated in some of the meetings, usually for a few minutes at the end to “keep me in the loop,” but the actual work was undertaken by my husband. He was very motivated to change. We met with the counselor for a few months, at which point my husband felt that he had the situation under control. He had one relapse within that same year, and met with the counselor a few more times, and he has been able to successfully manage his life/temptations without pornography since then.

    When I told him I was reading this post/comments this evening, he said that it really does help him to read the scriptures when he is tempted. That it’s different than having a scripture memorized in a “hum your favorite hymn” sense. It’s more like having a sword in hand to fight off Satan’s temptations. More like, “Get thee hence…”

    The best thing to come out of all of this is our improved communication about our individual sexual needs and desires. Included in that is the sense of loss with him having the prostatectomy at a relatively young age. We have learned to focus on tenderness and honest communication and being real with each other. I still have to guard against my own tendency to get wrapped up in too many projects or to be too busy, and therefore unavailable. Not just for sex–that’s the least of it–but for closeness and communication.

    For any families struggling with pornography, I strongly endorse the comment above to see a counselor. Bishops are called of God but they do not have expertise in helping families work through the underlying issues.

  51. Mac

    Hi everyone (especially the women who posed the original questions): I actually blog about this very topic. I’d love to address these questions on my blog and would leave my thoughts here, but I’m at work today and leaving town for the weekend. Bad timing! I’ll try to come back next week and weigh in, but in the meantime, feel free to hop over and see my post for today: bestrongbeconfident.blogspot.com/

    I’ve connected with a wonderful network of women trying to navigate pornography in their relationships. The spectrum covers very conservative to quite liberal (I consider myself on the liberal side). Almost all are LDS.

    (Note that I write for just about anyone who wants to know more about the topic, but some of the other bloggers in my blog roll write specifically for women dealing with this and aren’t interested in getting into these types of discussions. Please be sensitive if you go to their blogs. But you can write whatever you want on mine.)

  52. We had a lot of people coming to our site with questions like these as well, so much so that we started creating an index of personal stories (linked in our sidebar — most commented-on topic on our site, actually). The LDS Addiction Recovery site also has many personal stories.

    Like Mac said, there is a whole community that is addressing this topic from personal experience. You might also be interested in
    the film “Shamed” — which is still in production and needing funding. If the topic of shame around sex in Christian communities interests you, help make that film happen!

    But as other commenters have said, it’s inaccurate to make it a Mormon problem. Even secular organizations that are tracking the impact of porn on individuals, families, and communities are alarmed by how much its impact and the seriousness of it is continuing to grow. You can’t pick up one end of the stick without picking up the other, which includes severe objectification of women, billions of dollars being made at their expense, child and human trafficking, and more.

    There’s a boatload of information out there for those who are looking for more information, help, perspective, and support. Email at mormonwomen a/ gmail for more links and resources.

  53. Wow. I didn’t take the time to read through all the comments above, in part because some of them were truly painful for me as I began. I don’t have any advice, but to Query #2 I offer an amazing community of support. Mac (above) is a dear friend of mine, and we welcome you into our circle. I promise you will find hope and friendship, and know that your feelings are normal.

    http://www.hisstrugglemystruggle.blogspot.com

  54. I don’t understand why the question “DO YOU VIEW PORNOGRAPHY?” is not present in the temple interview. If men knew that specific question would be asked, and not just a broad question on chastity, (which they can justify in their minds doesn’t included viral experiences), they might actually have a fear of real ramifications. And there should be ramifications. To live a life with such a lie is one thing. But to make a mockery of the lives and love of your family is appalling.

    • Alison

      Natalie – If that was on the temple recommend there would be few men who could attend. Fear of real ramifications is not what’s helpful to men in this area. That would back them into a corner and cause dishonesty in the temple recommend interview. It’s the same as if they asked if you masturbate during the temple recommend. Completely inappropriate question – like asking do you exercise regularly and eat meat sparingly since the Word of Wisdom tells us we should be doing that. If we get to the point that we have to be asked detailed questions like then we have really turned into the people of the Old Testament with rules about how many steps they could take, etc.

      • Kristen S.

        I’m not sure why you would put exercise and eat meat sparingly on the same level of sin as pornography. Pornography leads to infidelity which is second to murder in the eyes of God. Society seems to want to downplay the severity of this problem and it’s outreaching effects.

      • Alison

        Pornography does not always lead to infidelity…. that stereotype is built with fear and is a generalization that can be used to “scare” people. Just like saying premarital sex is going to lead to venereal disease. Of course those things can happen but they can also not happen. You were advocating to actually ask the question “do you view pornography” as a temple question for worthiness and suggesting someone who answers yes in anyway should not receive their recommend. I’m saying there are a lot of other “teachings/doctrines” that we say we should be doing like the health portions of the word of wisdom, home teaching, visiting teaching, etc. We all pick/choose certain aspects of the gospel which we follow on a more consistent basis than others. If we get to the point that we are asked about all of these various issues then we have really gone off the mark. What is the purpose of the temple? To go and feel close to the Lord, to review commitments we have previously made and think/remember them again, to think about the big picture/plan for our lives – all in the setting of providing that opportunity for someone else at the same time. If we have to “report” that we are either doing or not doing about all the various things we are taught to do instead of focusing on us trying to live our lives and figure out how we feel about our relationship to God then we have really gone off the mark. I’m certainly glad I don’t have to have my recommend interview with you.

  55. R

    I struggled with pornography and masturbation during my teen years. I didn’t really know anything was ‘wrong’ with masturbation until I was older and began attending church more regularly. Once I realized the importance of giving up these selfish acts, I realized that it was hard and I thought to myself – oh my gosh, I’m addicted to this stuff! Mind you, this was before the Internet and I didn’t have any idea of what a person could or could not be ‘addicted’ to. All I knew was that if I couldn’t stop engaging in a behavior when I wanted to – it must mean there was an addiction of some sort going on.

    It took time, but through my best efforts and the grace of God, I feel like I have overcome this temptation in my life and have been able to put in appropriate checks and balances to prevent me from giving in again.

    Ultimately the only person that can overcome an addiction is the one who is suffering from it. That person must have a desire for change before any efforts on the parts of others will make any difference. You cannot change another person – you can only decide what you will allow in your own life. Establish this boundary early and communicate it to those you are dating. Then if you encounter someone you love who has weaknesses that threaten this boundary – you’ll have to make it a matter of prayer as to whether you’ll deepen your relationship with that person, or just remain friends, or remove contact altogether with that person. Do what is best for *you* first and foremost, but try to be Christlike and help in ways that will still allow you to remain true to yourself and protect yourself.

    People rarely change until the pain of *not* changing becomes greater than the pain of remaining the same. The path to this change of perception is not something that can come from external forces, usually, it takes enlightenment from the Spirit that their current patterns of behavior are causing them to miss out on something greater they could have in their lives. For me, it was my desire to be a worthy priesthood holder – being confident that I could administer a blessing and count on the Holy Ghost to be present – that helped me establish new behaviors.

    Here are my ‘lessons learned’ throughout my experiences – past and present:

    * Believe that the Atonement of Christ can apply to you, regardless of what mistakes you have made in your life.
    * Sex and things related to it (pornography, masturbation, etc) can be an addiction. Treat it this way. Having this perspective will help you in changing your behavior to what you desire it to be.
    * My mission president taught us something he called the ‘Ju-en principle’ – essentially that people deposit a coin in their self-worth piggy bank when they do things they feel are ‘right’ in their lives. But when they mess up and do something wrong – their tendency is to take all of the good things in their piggy bank and dump them out; feeling that they are a failure and therefore what is the sense in trying? We need to keep our piggy-banks full, and not empty them with each mess-up we perform. We will make mistakes; that is part of life. When you make a mistake, take care of it with a prayer to your God and ask for strength and resolve to do better. If the mistakes are few and far between, perhaps you can overcome it through your own testimony and efforts. If, however, the behavior is consistent and regular, and you’re feeling unable to change your behavior, then enlist the help of your priesthood leader(s). Let them know you’d like additional resources. Regardless of how judgemental or non-judgemental they may be, it doesn’t matter – they will do their best to seek God’s will for you and mobilize whatever is at their disposal to help you, and ultimately in the end what matters is your own personal relationship with God and whether you feel you are living in accordance with His will for your life.
    * Cultivate your relationship with Heavenly Father. Be honest with Him, and it will help you when you’re tempted during your days.
    * Establish patterns of righteousness in your life that will make it easier to maintain the standards you have set for yourself. Ending your night with prayer is a very important pattern for those who are tempted by anything. Knowing that you’ll be checking in with God before bed helps you be a little stronger if/when temptations arise before then.
    * Utilize any/all tools you can to block unwanted influences from your life. This way, rather than coming upon something inappropriate by accident, you’ll have to be purposefully seeking it out and doing that takes a higher level of mental effort and is easier to block/overcome on your own.

  56. Y’know, after I left Mormonism and came to Seattle, I realized that I hear a whole lot LESS about porn in the real world than I did in LDS circles. If porn stops being such a big deal, I’m sure people will obsess about it less.

  57. Shae

    Men and women alike share in the pornography addiction. Not all white girls are addicted to food….infact a lot of them are addicted to porn. I went to BYU and I know this for a fact…because I attended a lot of therapy groups where men and women both would break down and talk about their addiction to porn. I believe that through the atonement any sin can be forgiven. That means, my sins, your sins, and Joe Schmoe down the streets sins. 99% of men will have to one day face the fact that they have seen porn, and might have had a little attraction to it. 99% of women will have to do the same thing. 80% of women are already addicted to porn (and it doesn’t always have to be the online kind of porn either….erotic novels count just as much!) We are sexual beings and as a single LDS man or woman (especially those that are 20+ something and not married) it is hard not to be attracted to porn. Most porn addictions start much earlier than this, but I feel that once someone goes to college and is living on their own, with no rules (other than the ones they make for themselves) this is when pornography becomes an even bigger problem. Pornography that is found in a marriage must be handled with precision and grace. Men and women need to give and take a lot to make a marriage work in the first place. With a porn addiction it has to be even more. It is hard to overcome, but with a loving spouse (who wants better for you than for themselves) and the atonement of Jesus Christ all can be overcome.

  58. J

    I have conflicting stories to tell you. To give you hope, I know someone who is married to someone who struggled a lot with a porn addiction and was unable to beat it without professional help, but did, and he is one of the best husbands I have every seen to my friend. He did truly beat it and it is no longer part of his life, so it’s possible. The struggle and effort to beat it has to come from within the person though. My ex husband had an addiction and it was one of the things that started him down the path that lead him to adultery and eventually the end of our marriage. It’s a dangerous powerful force in our world, but it is possible to beat. Be honest and open with the men in your life and listen to the Lord’s guidance on what the best things for you to do to support them and it can and will work out for the best for everyone.

  59. Ryan

    To the letter writers: You should not demand perfection from the men you date/marry in anything except honesty. If you are honest with each other, you will approach life’s challenges together, as a team. These challenges may include your habit of passing hurtful gossip or his viewing stimulating pictures of women on the internet. How do you know he’s honest? Easy. If he seems perfect, he’s not being honest. I’m a former addict and the thing I treasure most in this life is the open, vulnerable, understanding and connected relationship with my spouse. All our weaknesses, which are real and often ugly, will crumble before us as we face them together.

  60. annon

    In my marriage the worst thing about porn was the cycle of lies, guilt, and secrecy- not the images themselves. For an upstanding, temple recommend- holding man with a leadership position, chastity is supposed to be a no- brainer and there is so much pressure to seem perfect. For my husband porn took massive amounts of time away from work, family, and hobbies, and he felt that lying was justified because of he was afraid of being shamed. As Mormons it would help if we developed a more natural view of ourselves and our sexuality than the one embedded into us at church.

  61. Anonymous

    I agree with your analysis that shame is a deep part of it all.

    A family member of mine has been addicted to porn his whole adult life (now in his 60′s). He thought getting married would “cure” him– not even close. No matter what he does, he can’t seem to shake it. It has caused so much grief to his spouse because of the way she felt diminished and unattractive (he had no desire for sex because he tired himself out elsewhere; she was a beauty queen before marriage). Lost many jobs because of it, which also caused some deep and lasting problems. Because it has taken over even some of his basic life functioning, his incredible talents have mostly gone to waste. It is really, really tragic. The light at the end of the tunnel, is that his spouse has stuck with him through all of this, through the ups and downs, and is glad she has, even with all the pain it has caused. (I have wondered, as with other addictions, if he turns to porn to help him cope with difficult situations? like an alcoholic would?)

    For me, with my own kids, I try to be really open and matter-of -fact about bodies and biology. I try to represent sex in a really matter-of-fact way– it helps that my kids like nature shows. :) And I am also really open and honest about pornography, and I call it that. I try to speak from my own experiences in helping them to see that it is not harmless and can ruin their life. So while sexuality and all that is totally normal, healthy, there will be slip-ups, but porn is addictive and destructive and to run away. From a biological perspective, porn is destructive, I don’t care what you say, because it leads to less healthy reproductive cycles– because it leads to dead-end reproduction, where normal, healthy sexuality (which is what our biology is leading us to do, reproduce) leads to perpetuation of the species, if we are going to look at ourselves that way. :) Of course we should not shame anyone for their feelings, or their nature, but, to me, it is a total denigration of men to say that they cannot control themselves or their urges. In short, I would run away from any man who has had a porn addiction (if you are dating), not just had a few exposures, as he may seem very contrite and changed, or you may even think you can change him, but the problem will persist and has nothing to do with you. If I were married, I’d stick it out, but get some therapeutic help for both of us, including realizing that it has nothing to do with you or how attractive you are.

  62. Mark

    I stumbled upon this today because I was searching internet for helpful resources from an LDS perspective. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to everyone who has taken the time to write a few words of compassion, to both the addicts (me) and the spouses and families of addicts. This is a daily struggle for me.

  63. Gramps

    My sister linked me to this blogsite thinking it might be of interest to me. Instead I find myself vexed with ire over the misconceptions and misunderstandings of 90% of responses here. It is difficult when observing such heartache to adhere to my motto of minding my own business. At first I thought I could keep my response short and pointed, but in the midst of such ignorance, it is difficult. There are a few people posting who have sufficient grasp of the essential issues they will realize improved relationships. The rest I predict will continue in frustration, misunderstanding, rancor, and marital dissolution.

    The first misconception is with the definition of “addiction.” My Sage dictionary is faithful to English: “1.Someone who is physiologically dependent on a substance; abrupt deprivation of the substance produces [physiological] withdrawal symptoms. 2.Someone who is so ardently devoted to something that it resembles an addiction.” Looking and acting like a duck does not necessarily mean the action is performed by a duck. There is a distinct, marked difference between addiction, and obsessive, or compulsive behaviors. Those people who cannot understand the fine distinctions will continue to have relational problems, especially with intimacy. An excellent book discussing addiction, behavior, and healing is The Codependency Conspiracy, written by forensic psychologist, Stan Katz. Dr Katz also illuminates the fundamental flaws in the 12 step program used by AA, and plagiarized into numerous recovery groups, a variation apparently adopted by LDS practitioners. Look for it in your local library system. It is well worth the read.

    Sixty years ago as a child, I learned it was common knowledge in this country that psychiatry was quackery. Since then, the acceptance of its scientific validity has swept through our culture, in spite of the material published by their own researchers invalidating the efficacy of its techniques. The church, finding they were having increasing membership behavioral problems, as often produced by local leaders as otherwise, incorporated psychotherapy into its administrative structure in order to get members help and attention diverted from those local priesthood officials who exacerbated these kinds of problems. During this same period, Donald Cameron, one time president of the APA, was investigated for civil liberty and psychological abuse violations in connection with his “psychic driving” research funded by the CIA, then classified as MK Ultra. For a brief period, some of these same techniques in diminutive form were employed by BYU officials on campus, in an attempt to heterosexualize homosexual church members with disastrous results, seriously damaging the lives of these “patients.” This psychic driving consisted of pornography, electroshock, and drugs. It’s abysmal failure precipitated its discontinuance.

    The second area of misunderstanding is the sexual chastity elephant being forced into the living rooms of church members. Obsession with sexual purity is one of the chief causes of porn’s increasing usage among church members. I have two brothers who spent time incarcerated for their arson, all because our father’s obsession with certain behavioral issues of his kids. This obsession was driven by his own weaknesses in these same areas, unwittingly producing the same problems in us he had struggled with as a youth. It can be taken as a cardinal guide that those who are obsessed with the behavior of others are sufferers of the same weakness, and are propagating their dysfunctional relationship skills upon all those they have influence with. This is precisely what Jesus had reference to with His Beam & Mote in the Eye parable.

    This second area of misunderstanding is characterized by suppressing or medicating the symptom, which is porn, when the actual problem lies elsewhere. Western society has devolved into treating symptoms, while classifying them as disorders or diseases. This cancerous solution to symptomatic problems is spreading throughout the world and has caused me considerable alarm for the well being of my posterity. A few years ago I broke a tooth crown and went to a specialist to have it reworked. The doctor discovered an infection in the tooth so severe that he was nearly forced to remove the tooth to terminate the infection. Yet I felt no discomfort anywhere near it. But I had been suffering increasing nerve pain in my arm, to the point I could barely hold a spoon to feed myself. Once the tooth infection was cured, the nerve problems disappeared in my arm and my natural strength returned. When church officials pound the pulpit unceasingly over chastity they are effectively scratching at a skin lesion that cannot heal. The cause of the infection must be eliminated, not bandaided. Failure to address the underlying cause of behavioral problems is a clear sign of spiritual impotence in religious leaders and quackery in the behavioral modification professions.

    In my professional career I encountered the concept of Root Cause Analysis. Because my career was in physical science, it was often a mistaken assumption by associates that product failure was a physical phenomenon. What I discovered early on was that RCA has to do with people, not physical impurities. All solutions to product failures focused on misunderstanding and procedural errors in people’s behavior. The same RCA principles apply to human social dysfunctions. The manifestation of porn is symptomatic of a systemic problem, and its treatment and elimination requires involvement of both men and women, because both are involved in its root cause in society. Women who do not go beyond the first step in their man’s ownership of a problem are destined to fail in their relationship until they perceive their interactive part in the overall development of intimacy substitutes.

    The third misunderstanding is not realizing that porn usage (true of all other symptomatic behaviors), is a substitute for an underlying deficiency. Without attention to the underlying deficiency, substitutes will always be employed. Suppression or other behavior modification methods will always fail, with its attendant guilt and shame in a religious context, perpetuating the failure cycle. A large portion of this misunderstanding of overt sexual “misbehavior” is a failure of understanding human sexuality, its biological nature, and its successful socialization. Men have often been denigrated because they are inept at initiating sex with women. But it works both ways. My experience has been that very few women understand how to love, and make love, to the men in their lives, becoming frustrated and hurt because their man begins looking for augmentation or substitutes elsewhere. What men are looking for is intimacy, overridden in the early adult years by sex hormones. Those women who are successful rarely are able to articulate exactly why how they treat their husband/lover keeps them returning and bonding with them. The sexualization process in American culture has few if any rituals, rites of passage, or socialization processes providing a vehicle for healthy sexual development and its perpetuation.

    Charles Moore, Santa Cruz DA and Catholic priest, extemporized on the hormonal differences between men and women entering puberty. He declared that when women enter this transition, their hormones can increase at least three times that in childhood. But for men, that increase can peak at least fifteen times the previous level. A woman’s sexual nature will usually remain fairly constant within normal hormonal fluctuations until menopause where interest doesn’t decline, but shifts. For men, hormonal peaking takes place in early adulthood and can begin decline as early as thirty, or as late as seventy. This 5/1 disparity underscores the difficulties in women understanding male sexual behavior, male disappointment in female responses, and for men, completely overshadows their underlying needs for intimacy. Without effective socialization from both mother and father, males can have considerable difficulty in expressing their intimacy desires with women because their brains are suffused with testosterone, clouding their judgment. Without understanding these biological affects on male behavior, women will repeatedly clash gears on the sexual frontier.

    In the final analysis, Christ’s teachings concerning love, temperance, long-suffering are the bedrock of establishing effective intimacy and mutual understanding between sexual partners. Relational difficulties can only be surmounted by an atmosphere of trust, support, non-judgementalism, and true faithfulness to marital vows where marriage is concerned. My wife and I are now after twenty years of marriage, developing the mutual understanding of each other’s emotional and sexual needs. This is something we should have developed early in our lives, but was inhibited because of parental ignorance and spiritual impotence of religious leaders. People who surrender their fate and serenity to the guidance of those who themselves are sufferers (evident by their obsession with symptoms) cannot realize the self-actualization and repose in marital fidelity they conceive. It is an impossible burden other humans are unequipped to service. People must take ownership of their destiny and buckle up to their own imperfections and work through them.

  64. Sneaky Jimmy

    Did anyone mention that many LDS women are addicted to porn as well? Maybe even exceeding that of men. Take a look at the proliferation of “50 shades of perverts” and the MANY vampire books. It’s simply porn for women.

  65. C

    I have been thinking about this post a lot. Thanks for writing about a tough subject Joanna. You are amazing.

    Here are my two cents. Having personally been in a family that was destroyed by addictive porn use (in the true sense of the word, as it hindered basic functionality, basic sexuality in the marriage relationship, and proved to be a very long term problem), I have some personal insights. I know that Mormon culture needs more healthy ways in approaching this subject, in being unafraid of healthy sexuality and a tendency to shame those who participate in porn use, as well as a difficulty in addressing this issue in an open way. At the same time, there are a few things within Mormon culture that I have wondered if they contribute to this problem in a way that hasn’t been addressed. First, I have always held an underlying though unspoken belief that polygamy, which is part of our distant heritage, supports the idea that a man’s physical needs surpass the ability of one woman to satisfy. We also tend toward a higher birthrate, which I know in my own life has tended toward a much lowered sex drive on my part (as the female in the relationship). Could there be a connection? So more babies, which means more tired and busy women, and deep inside the brains of both– a deep seated fear in the wife that she is not satisfying a desire that exists, and a concrete acknowledgement by the very church that tells us to be true to one another, that men do indeed have a greater need than women do?

    That said, there is something else to consider. I have read many history books. It became clear that people in all ages of time have cheated on spouses, both by visiting houses of ill repute, having mistresses, etc. But there were still people, John Adams being one example, who, separated from his wife for months and years at a time, was still faithful to his wife, in some times extenuating circumstances (being in a more lax Parisian society for one). I think the modern cultural voice has become so loud in saying that men cannot control themselves, that their needs are so great they must be satisfied elsewhere, does men a great disservice. Sending this message (while acknowledging their strong physiological desires as normal, which they are), to me, is harmful because it suggests they are an uncontrollable pile of hormones. On the flipside, I heard the author of A Billion Wicked Thoughts interviewed, who said that women consume the romantic novel (I hope I’m quoting this right) in equal quantities to mens porn consumption, which he considered the female equivalent.

    I would like to suggest one more thing. A few years ago I traded my nightly television watching for reading. I found after a time that my own thoughts were so much more easily controllable, that I looked at myself as less of an object, and that I found a healthier, more realistic image of my body. I think that we are bombarded by sexualized images constantly. On billboards, on movies/TV, and even at the grocery store. These are somewhat unavoidable. I have wondered since the time I gave up TV if this is putting especially men’s systems into overdrive, because they are so visual. And it may be making women feel like an object (which may lead to less satisfying relations, because there may be no emotional connection) and it may make them feel less desirable in comparison (in the book I referenced, the author stated that part of attraction for women is feeling attractive to a partner). 99% of Mormons I know are active consumers of media that has become increasingly saturated with this type of stuff. Just because it isn’t gratuitous doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an effect.

    Lastly, though pop culture and some psychologists reject the idea that porn is harmful, there is a growing body of research that suggests it is. Just google “Psychology Today” and “porn addiction.” There is quite a bit of new scholarly research on the subject. Here is just one link: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/inside-porn-addiction/201112/is-porn-really-destroying-500000-marriages-annually, but there are many more.

    I think we can approach this problem in a loving, non-condemnatory way, but we need to see that it IS a problem. Its not just our culture that tells us it is or isn’t.

  66. Stella Q

    Wonderful video about the neuroscience/ effects of porn on the brain- must watch! It’s at the end of the article. It’s well done, no shame or blame involved :)

    http://www.covenanteyes.com/2012/12/07/why-do-men-binge-on-porn-neuroscience-addiction/

  67. A couple of years ago, one of my good friends got divorced because of sex addiction issues where pornography was just the tip of the iceburg. As a 28 year-old single girl, I was terrified. For the first time, I had to face the reality that all the guys I was dating had been affected by pornography whether or not they were addicted.

    I hate being terrified, so I started researching. I found the more I researched, the fear went away. I realized pornography is not a silver bullet. I should be more concerned with identifying healthy dating relationships than agonizing over whether someone might or might not be viewing pornography. Because, in reality, if pornography is a problem, it will manifest itself in other ways that are obvious for people who are aware and honest with themselves.

    I recently wrote a post about talking about pornography with guys (as a result of my research and asking a therapist to come talk with the relief society in my singles’ ward). But I think the questions apply to talking about it with kids (which is SO IMPORTANT! if you’re a parent, please talk about this with your kids openly).

    Dating + Pornography + Talking About It

    Thanks so much Joanna for opening the conversation about here. It’s awesome

  68. Bart M.

    There are over 140 posts to this topic of porn addiction on this thread. Unbelievable! Understanding is the best solution and it is obvious we don’t have a clue about this.

    What is pornography? And what is a porn addict? Pornography can actually be anything that causes arousal to the person looking at or watching. Some people actually get sexually aroused by looking at certain cars, or even homes. Some get aroused by a love story or a book they read. Some get aroused by someone talking with them nicely. The list can go on and on. The “Church” has never put an actual definition to it, much like tithing. We leave it open for discussion because they get “more” if they don’t define it. Some people in the church think that anything that shows beyond the garment lines is pornographic. Some think that a Victoria’s Secret catalog is pornographic. Some think that a Playboy is pornographic. Some think that anyone naked is pornographic. Now you see why everyone is so messed up on the subject. One of those taboo topics that never get understood yet hurts many people.

    What is a porn addict? A porn addict is not someone who views “porn” a few times a week. In fact, an addict isn’t even someone that views it daily for a few minutes. An
    addict is someone that the addiction causes a complete different route in their daily life. Their job is at risk because they are viewing it at work for hours. When they get home they are again viewing it for hours. An addict is actually not your common man in the church. But we are making it out to be that way with how we talk about porn addiction. We are making it out for you to think that anyone that has seen some porn is now an addict. How ridiculous.

    We are sexual beings with sexual organs meant to have pleasure. The second someone controls this they have power over you. The Church has done a great job in controlling
    you regarding sex or anything about sexuality. Telling women that they are “Walking Pornography” is just plain wrong in every sense of the word. Look nice, but not too nice, but don’t let yourself go, but be careful about too much makeup and watch that neckline. . .

    1. We say that if a person looks at porn long enough then they become an addict. If we agree with this statement than every single doctor is an addict. In fact, the addict is doing more than looking, he or she is touching! Day in and day out. Oh, but it’s his job you say? Well how about if your job was to be a photographer for Playboy? Would that be okay too? Or would you blame the photographer for not having a different job? There are many perverted doctors on the planet but they get a free pass because they are doctors. I have heard many times before that a doctor is desensitized with women’s breasts and vagina’s because they look at them all day long. Really? Then does a man or woman that views pornography all day become desensitized to pornography? Think logic here. Viewing has nothing to do with addictions or the real problem. How then does a doctor that has been giving exams all day long to beautiful young woman with perky boobs and tight
    vagina’s then come home to his wife that is aged and shows some miles on her? Hmm. Could it be more than physical attraction which makes up a loving relationship? When you are in total love, your spouse is the hottest, most beautiful person on the planet.

    2. We have read here many reports of how “porn” has ruined their marriage. Porn doesn’t ruin marriages, people do. Now take the word porn and replace it with gun. People have
    used guns to kill people, but I have never heard of a gun actually killing people. Porn doesn’t ruin people. People ruin themselves. People may use porn as a release or something to get their mind off of what the real problems in their life might be, but porn doesn’t knock on your door and open fire. We all want to blame something for our actions and porn does get the blame in our Mormon culture a lot. Wives think they are not sexy enough, or will never match to what a porn woman may look like or act in bed. If you think that way you really need to wake up. Everything in this world is fake to some degree. Let’s just say you were to open up your own interpretation of what porn is right now while you are reading this. Now, what is the first thing that goes through your mind after looking at it? Maybe it’s, “wow, she has huge boobs and mine are not like that”, or “she is so skinny and perfect”, or maybe you are looking at how hung the guy is and think how unhung your own husband or yourself is. Now, go to any magazine stand. Look at all the covers. Do you really think that these people look like that in real life? Now pick up an Ensign. Flip through it. Do you really think that all those images in there are actually what an average Mormon family looks and acts like? Even the photos of our general authorities and prophet are touched up and worked over. People, we need to recognize that everything that looks amazing is worked over to make it look perfect. NO ONE LOOKS LIKE THAT IN REAL LIFE! EVEN PORN STARS! They are made up as much as anyone can be made up to be. Their job is to take you into a different world by offering something that is not actually real.

    3. Speaking of not real. When was the last time you went to a movie? Why did you go to a
    movie? To get away? To be entertained? Tell me one Disney film that is real? Tell me one love story that is real? Tell me one fairy tale movie that is actually real? Porn isn’t real either. It’s fantasy. How many teenagers are caught up in things like the Twilight movies? Is that real? Is that how real teenagers look and act? How many shows on TV about teenagers portray reality? Even reality shows are not real.

    4. If we were somehow able to solve porn and it was gone from the earth, how many would jump for joy? What in the world would our speakers and teachers have left to talk about
    on Sunday? What would our councilors do? What would our bishops do with all of their free time? Again, this doesn’t solve the problem. The bishop’s office would be filled up again with something else. Speakers would talk about something else. It’s about getting to the root of the problem in a person’s life. But here is where you say, “Yea, but you just don’t understand, my husband did this for 20 years and it ruined our relationship”. No, his 20 years of suffering from something messed up your marriage. Porn was just the release. It could have been alcohol or drugs but then other people would know because it shows. And we all know how important our image is right?

    5. Now let’s assume we are talking about a man addicted to porn. Why should we assume this? Isn’t it just men that are addicted to porn? Wrong again. What if I said that women have a higher degree of porn addiction than men? Remember what I said about what defines porn? Guess who is buying all those tickets to romance movies? Guess who is buying all those romance novels at the bookstore? Guess who watches all that TV about
    relationships and far off places? Guess who buys all the videos about Twilight or any other vampire love show? Yep, women. And that’s not all! Women are the fastest growing segment in internet porn viewing. Wow, stop the train! Not women! Not the mother of these children! Not these innocent victims of abuse by their husband! Men keep it
    pretty simple. Women get it many different ways. Culture specific creates much of what we believe to be true. Why is it that a woman in Africa can go around without her shirt on and we accept that as normal? Put a black African woman in a magazine without clothes and we call it tribal location. Show the same picture of someone in America doing that and it is considered porn. Go to Europe where art is part of their culture especially nude and erotic art. In fact, nude art has always been the classiest and highest form of art in the world! The human body is the most beautiful and inspiring form there is. Why? Because we are humans and we like to look at humans in beautiful settings and positions. Bring that here and it just doesn’t sit well next to our many pictures of the current first presidency, the prophet Joseph Smith and the temples now does it? What would the home teachers think? It’s called “ward council”.

    6. Now to a sensitive one. The woman. The wife. The daughter. How many times
    have you heard this about a woman in porn; “She is someone’s daughter, or she
    is a daughter of God, or she could be my daughter, or she is no older than our own daughter”? Let’s be blunt here. No one wants to have sex with their own kin. That’s just sick. No one here wants to think about their parents having sex. That’s just sicker. But, everyone would like to have sex with their own spouse or basically someone that is not kin
    folk. That means, anyone else in the world is open game, but nothing on the kin folk works. So we have used that line many times to try and persuade people from looking at porn. I don’t think that anyone would want to see their own daughter in a porn video. But that goes for everyone across the board, not just Mormons. Again, when it is family it just doesn’t work. There is no such thing as sexy when we are talking about our parents or our kids. We want them to wear turtle necks and long pants.

    7. Next sensitive one. Guess what women? You have issues too and you are dealing with them the only way you know how to. How many of you women are overweight? (yes men too, duh) I’m not talking a pound or two; I’m talking 50-100 pounds overweight? Why? Is it because of some mysterious disease you have? Is it because you have given birth to children? Or is it because you are suffering yourself from something and your body reacts by putting on the
    pounds? There are plenty of women that haven’t gained much weight by having babies. Just look in your own ward! Half are fat and the other half aren’t. Now, what if we compared weight gain to women as we do porn addiction to men? We tell the man to STOP viewing porn! Now, if you are a woman, tell yourself to stop gaining weight! Let’s say your husband has been viewing porn for 3 hours a day for the past 10 years. Now let’s say you (woman) have been way overweight for the past 10 years. Now you both sit down and both commit to stop. Can you do it? Can you lose the appetite for porn? Can you lose those 100 pounds? Wait a minute, that’s not fair is it? Okay, maybe the guy views
    porn just casually, maybe a few times a week and the woman is only about 20 pounds overweight. Now can the guy not view porn at all and the woman lose all 20 pounds? The woman is saying this is not fair at this point. Don’t worry, let’s keep going.

    8. Desire. Keep the desire in control. Yep, heard that one too. Men, keep your thing in
    your pants at all times except for procreation and maybe a little quickie in between putting kids to bed. Wait, did we just say kids? Where did they come from? Desire? Uncontrollable desire? How many kids is enough to satisfy your appetite? 2, 5, 8, 12? Man, what an addict. Guys are in a tough spot. They have a thing called a penis. Its
    purpose (from church) is to use for procreation. Problem is there wouldn’t be any procreating if the man had no desire. If the guy couldn’t get it up there would be no babies. So the man has this urge, drive, and desire to have sex or “release”. Yes release. A guy is physically attracted to a woman’s figure. Most guys have no desire for a fairy princess, but they do if it has large breasts and an hour-glass figure. Just like a woman gets goo-goo over a little baby or something cute and cuddly. A woman has a monthly and if guys hold it in they too will have a monthly or bi-monthly. But if a guy releases, then he is accused of fantasizing about other women or masturbating or something else. Step back in time a bit and remember when woman that had periods (?) were considered witches and had to be killed? It seems to take a long time for us to figure this stuff out and accept it. Now, a woman has a clitoris. What is that for? Doesn’t do anything for any purpose for reproduction purposes, so why is it there? Why would God mess up and put something that has no use? Oh, that’s right; it is purely for sexual gratification. Wow! Now hold on a second. . . only for pleasure? How disgusting and barbaric is that? Oh yea, women masturbate too. A lot! Why? Because they too have something that brings desire and satisfaction. Gees, why can we not accept this fact? Men and women NEED to use their sexual organs and muscles or they will end up just like any other muscle and organ. They die. The don’t work. Hence, bring on Viagra and vibrators!

    9. Fantasies. If that word only had four letters we in the church could call that a 4-letter
    word! We are a suppressed people we have been taught to keep it in. No wonder we are blowing our gaskets all the time. Talk about each other’s fantasies. Open up about them and whatever you do, don’t condemn your spouse about their personal fantasy. Everyone has a different one and it’s up to the both of you to find out about each others. Once you do, do whatever you can within the boundaries you both set and go for it! Fantasies
    played out together can be one of the most satisfying methods of gaining trust there is. It almost sounds like an oxi-moron.

    10. Conclusion. Look, I feel and understand that you may have strong beliefs about porn, eating disorders, too much tv, etc., addictions are tough to overcome. But my point is that everyone that eats does not have an eating disorder and everyone that looks at porn is not addicted to it. Eating and weight problems are troublesome problem in our culturel that we need to face. Too much time spent at our church callings can be addictive. Don’t be afraid of porn, drugs, alcohol and food. Just treat it all with care and understanding and most important, knowledge! Educate yourself more about it before you throw your entire marriage or life away because of it. If you have been hurt by the actions of a spouse, I am truly sorry. Hurt comes in many ways. If your husband loves you, he loves you regardless of how you look today. When he courted you, looks had a lot to do with it, but times change and people change. Go easy on each other. If your spouse has an addiction problem to anything, it’s not that he loves alcohol, drugs or porn, there is something more to it. Don’t get caught up in the fact that it is another woman that has taken him away. There are many women that take women away from their husbands. Anything and everything has and is happening to people. The most successful relationships are the ones that are open and honest. That means there are many marriages that work wonderfully with porn as a part of their relationship for both of them. Many times they are much closer to each other and trust each other than ones without. Vulnerabilities when exposed and handled with care open up new ways to love and be loved. Marriage is a work in progress. You both came to the table with baggage of growing up; baggage of a belief system etc, and now you are to spend the rest of your life working on the both of you and what works for each other. There is no one way method just as there is no two snowflakes alike.

  69. guy

    So I tried to take the responses here seriously, but I just can’t. Far too many uninformed comments about the dreaded “Church” with a capital C. Who doesn’t understand sex and ruins everything. Or that the members whose opinions are nurchured though general conference don’t know how to think for themselves. The Prophets and Apostles who talk about pornography at General Conference definately understand the issues around pornography.

    I have never heard a body of people so informed, so no in-touch with the issues concerning pornography then the Church officials. Those who attack the teachings from general conference, to me, have not really listened to what is being said.

    So sorry, I just can’t take most of the replies here seriously.

  70. Josh

    I haven’t read all the comments but I just thought i’d make a few references to help people struggling with porn. There are a lot of resources out there and the subject is now much better understood as a result of recent developments in neuroscience. It’s definitely true that religious communities that emphasis chastity are particularly prone to the problem, because as most people realise, the allure of the forbidden is an extra temptation. The injunction to ‘just pray’ more or ‘turn to christ’ is not generally helpful for sexual compulsives, it merely compounds a cycle of shame and fails completely to address the biological reality of porn addiction.

    Since this is a Mormon blog, i’ll recommend Tony Litster’s free self help program for porn addiction. There are some things in there i don’t necessarily agree with, and i’m generally suspicious of ‘self help’, but Tony seems to well understand the problem, having dealt with it himself. And as a Mormon he is very much alive to the additional pressures facing the Mormon community. He also understands that to truly address a severe compulsion, while it does ultimately require spiritual growth and development, this occurs also through concrete and painstaking work on personal habits, mental associations etc, not just earnest earnest prayer and desire to change.

    The standard book on sexual addiction would have to be Patrick Carnes “Out of the Shadows”, though it is quite old now it’s certainly relevant. Carnes advocates a twelve step approach.

    Another very good, more recent book by a Catholic writer is William Struther’s “Wired for Intimacy”. This book explains in disturbing detail the way in which repeated viewing of pornography rewires the brains arousal patterns.

    There are also numerous support groups online which can be found through a quick search. Another thing I recommend for those struggling with a serious problem is installing a form of web monitoring software, and giving the password to someone else. K9 web protection is a free program that blocks adult sites. Covenant Eyes is cheap program that has another feature of emailing regular updates concerning your internet use to an “accountability partner.”

    Hope this helps someone.

  71. ann

    Joanna, thanks again for tackling a tough subject. I have had some new insight into this problem after having been diagnosed at age 35 with ADHD. (you may wonder how this relates, I’ll get there) I have struggled my whole life to be not only as normal as possible and in other ways I actually really excelled. Looking back I can see how my ADD was both a huge blessing and a curse. And my struggle against it has made me so much stronger, as I believe some of the things I’ve had to overcome (as I tried to pretend there was nothing wrong) have made me so much stronger. And I have always had certain gifts, not to toot my own horn here, that I see now probably came from the ADD– art, music, and even intelligence that is outside the box. But there has also been a lot of shame. From my earliest memories I remember getting yelled at and singled out by teachers for daydreaming, being forgetful, or taking too long to finish my work (even though my test scores were very high, I’ve struggled with people who thought I was stupid my whole life, even though my family has always believed in me). I also had certain things that were VERY hard for me– such as poor control over my spending (you’d never know unless you lived with me) and eating (ahhh, sugar) among other things. I used to guilt myself so badly over external and internal messages. I thought I just needed to try harder. I just needed to understand the Atonement. I just needed to be better (and I am a good girl!). In retrospect, the gospel helped me have one more reference point to push myself that much harder for self control. And I’m stronger because of it, but it has been dawning on me ever since I have researched about ADHD that there is a part of the picture that is desperately missing. Many, many people who have addictions also have ADHD (or some of the things that go along with it). ADHD affects the frontal cortex, which influences motivation and impulse control and makes it so sufferers don’t feel rewarded for every day activities like normal people do. So if an ADHD-er is undiagnosed and unmedicated (medications stimulate the part of the brain affected, as does exercise), he/she may self-medicate unintentionally. For me, event though they aren’t out of control, that means sugar and spending. For my dad, who has had a lifelong porn addiction, and loads of buried shame, I now see the connection! I’m pretty sure he has the same type of inattentive ADHD that I have, and he is basically self-medicating through the high that porn viewing gives. So I’m not suggesting that all people who are addicted to porn have ADHD, there are some definite biological things that are going on that affect people who are addicts, and often we shame these people or simply tell them to try harder (which just increases the shame, because they just can’t try hard enough!). I am finally seeing that there is a true underlying biological basis for these things I have felt shame over, and that my struggle with them is not my fault. This is not an excuse for anyone not to deal with porn addiction, as it is a serious problem, but to try something different. I’ve read that many ADHD-er’s with porn addictions just turn to the typical sources for help, when what they really need is treatment for ADHD.

  72. askned

    I have narrowly avoided landing in divorce court after my wife of many years discovered that I had been using internet porn. She was furious as she equate porn use with cheating. In addition she was hurt and became extremely distrustful.

    As I want to stay married and enjoy my family, I agreed to stop using the porn but soon was horrified to discover that I had apparently developed and addiction to it and could not seem to put it down. So I began staying late at the office and getting in the wee hours of the night to feed the addiction. Of course I got caught again and it hit the fan.

    I got kicked out of the house, an attorney was called and things were going south rapidly. I was commiserating with a friend about the whole thing when he suggested that an internet filter might be helpful. It is software that will actually block access to the porn sites. So I discussed this with my wife who agreed to give it a try. The problem remained that she still didn’t trust me so I found a filter that included something called accountability reporting. This allows a partner, my wife in this case, to access a browsing history that cannot be erased. Even more compelling is that it will send email alert if the software detects that I am trying to break through the filter to the porn sites.

    There are several filters that do this. I am using one called http://www.wisechoice.net .
    It sounds as though I am in a prison but really it is a relief. I have a handle on an addiction that was going to ruin my life and more importantly I have moved back home, and trust is being rebuilt. I hope this is helpful to someone.

  73. J.C

    I don’t know if I can shed much light. I am going through the same thing at this time and just recently re-discovered my spouse’s addiction not too long ago. This time however, I have decided to do something about it and learn more about it. I still have questions unanswered because my husband is unwilling to accept his addiction and will not talk about it. But after listening to general conference Proverbs 3:5-6 comes to my mind. Trust in the lord. The church does have new websites you may want to check out. I just watched this video: http://videos.ksl.com/video/widget/17513825.mp4. But right now I am going through a program on a website called, curethecraving.com. This is an LDS man, tony, who has gone through a pornography addiction and has tried everything (from therapy, to meditation, etc) he could to ‘fix it’. He now has the ‘cure’ and has a program for wives who are affected and for spouses who are addicted. It has helped me immensely and has brought the spirit even more strongly in my life! I am also beginning to attend a 12 step program. If your husband says to ‘be quiet about the situation and not share’ I would not agree. I would pray and be wary about who you share it with, but that does not mean that you can not seek help from a 12 step program in the church. Secrecy and Isolation will only make it worse for you and for him. You can find those on the lds website or go to google and type in http://addictionrecovery.lds.org/find-a-meeting?lang=eng. I have not seen a bishop yet, only because I was advised to ‘not share his junk’ because it will not facilitate a desire in healing on his part. He needs to make the decision to go to a bishop and want to repent. It truly is dependent upon the addicted individual. I would seek counsel from the Lord, try going through this website, and attending a 12 step. Like I said, by no means do I have all the answers, but this is what is helping me so far. You need to protect yourself and your family. Most importantly, learn to forgive. This is not just his choice (the first time was), but Tony explains that it is the chemicals in the brain that make him unable to stop and makes him feel he has to keep coming back. It is a coping strategy for stress, boredom, etc– he has learned at some point in his life, most likely when he was young. Now he will struggle with this for the rest of his life. I think Joanna was right on the money to compare this to a food addiction, except it is not as serious. I have that problem as well. So please try Tony’s website if you don’t know anywhere else to turn, more lds people should know this website it really is helpful, I can all ready tell a difference in myself. curethecraving.com. Good luck to all and may god be with you through your struggles and show you the way.

  74. To Query 1 - JC

    oh and to query 1, I wouldn’t say give up on dating. I know my choice was right to marry my husband and he was and is a good man. This is just one trial God has for my spouse and I to endure. There will be A LOT of men who struggle with this and yes, there is a lot of hope. It is just something that we as women (or men that their wives are struggling) need to research and learn MORE about. Be more open, teach our children and spouses, talk about it. Follow gospel principles, just live your life accordingly and don’t be ignorant of this subject. Again, http://www.curethecraving.com is still a good website even if you aren’t going through it just to see what they are going through. Maybe even look at yourself and see your own addictions while you do that website or you could even attend a 12 step. Cure the craving has helped me learn so much about what addicts go through, understanding them, and what to do to protect my family. Don’t be AFRAID to discuss this with people!! Do not shame a person further or act disgusted if someone has a problem with this, they all ready feel like crap. Providing a good environment, and loving relationship for someone to trust that you will not shame them more will allow them to be more open. The more we spread our knowledge the better in my opinion. Get a filter for your computer! And a good one like spectorsoft. Everyone not just the addict needs protection. Good luck!

  75. Wow! What a wide variety of responses! So much conflicted opinion. This tells me we don’t yet have an answer, if we ever will.

    For those of you dealing with the dragon, let me say it is possible to be a Porn Slayer and live with No More Porn. I did. I used to have an irresistible urge for porn and I was able to eradicate it from my belly from where it drove me on. That urge has never come back.

    However, you cannot slay the dragon of lust, you can only domesticate him. Lust, as Freud recognized, is the “Life Drive”, the libido, which is the Latin word for “I desire.” You can no more eradicate lust from your breast than excise your own heart. And you wouldn’t like it if you did.

    The reality is sexual purity as defined by the church to mean you can’t even THINK about sex unless its about your wife and woe is you if you’re not married, cannot be lived by any man. It’s not just hard, it’s physiologically IMPOSSIBLE. To me that means our traditional interpretation of those verses is WRONG and I don’t have time to get into alternative interpretations. But let’s start with that idea, shall we?

    Next, ladies, believe me, it’s not about YOU. It’s not even about sex. It’s about FEELING GOOOOOOODDDDD. Porn is free and cheap heroin injected directly into our brains via our eyes. Think of anything that gives you pleasure and imagine all you had to do was LOOK AT IT and you’d get the rush! That’s what porn is like for us men! And you think we should stop? You think we CAN stop? (Yes, we can, and The Way is in the book, No More Porn.)

    But even if we could, WHY should we? Answering the why is the biggest challenge any of us will ever face. Why involves meaning and value and purpose and goals and means. All the things that make life good and hard and worthwhile and difficult. Why NOT porn is a question few of us have an answer for that comes from deep within. For most of us, our reasons for NOT porning are imposed on us from without. Wife, church, friends. But to say “no” to our very Life Drive? That’s a toughie.

    There is an answer. But most men will never find it because they don’t know they need to look for it.

    How will internet pornography change the church? Society? We have no idea. But it’s already started changing us and few of us like where we’re going.

    If you’re not worried you’re not paying attention.

  76. Ann-Michelle

    Joanna, that was a brilliant metaphor. Nice work :)

  77. R

    Just a couple of thoughts. First, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but I am the only member in my family of origin. One of my siblings attends church here: http://newhope4si.com/ I’ve always been impressed with the frank, nonshaming way their pastor addressing pornography. Maybe that will be of help?

    Sencond, I found this link very informative: http://www.upworthy.com/this-is-what-happens-when-kids-grow-up-on-unlimited-access-to-pornography?g=3&c=ufb1. It seems to say that it is not occasional exposure to pornography that is the problem, but that unlimited access through digital media is problematic.

    Finally, I agree that shame is a part of the problem for ANY additction or poor behavior cycle. For that reason shaming pornography use will only make it worse, not help. I remember a time when I was praying about a cycle I was engaged in that was damaging to me. I had the distinct impression that I needed to focus on the times when I made healthy decisions and not on my failures.

  78. lls

    My husband struggled with it. Few things we learned while we worked through it together:

    1. Don’t underestimate the addiction! There are very few church leaders (bishops that truly have the ability to provide guidance. As a wife, I was positioned to demand for appropriate assistance – therapist and support group) that truly understood. They thought that it would be cured by few months without temple recommend and weeks of no sacrament taking. (snort).

    2. Once when the secret is out, addiction’s power is truly reduced. When you are accountable to more people, less the power addiction has over you. When my husband saw his therapist, it was what he was told. My husband went to support group provided by church and I also asked him on frequent basis how he was feeling from time to time. He had to be honest with me and his support group. I also had to learn how to “take it”, no matter how painful it so that I can support him.

    3. There are great sources out there on pornography addiction. Most of all, much to our shock- pornography addiction is equivalent to drug addiction. You know the rest of train . . . Don’t simply stop learning. More you know, more you are empowered in your fight against it.

    4. Don’t stop fighting. Once an addict. Always an addict.

  79. Reid Elliott

    I have never enjoyed reading about this topic as much as I have on this site. Lots of honest open communication. Years ago, with the help of a Catholic therapist, I learned that porn addiction was being fed by my deep feelings of inadequacy as a financial provider, the all around perfect Dad and husband, the high achiever at work, staying perfectly fit so my wife would find me desirable, perfect church member, putting in huge hours of church service, etc. etc. one day he said to me, “nurture yourself always and learn to say no”. I felt like my life took on new meaning. As a kid, I was taught to work, study, sports, church and looking back, I think I missed being a real kid. I also learned the importance of male companionship. I had no real friends at church. It was almost like a day at work as far as my calling went. There was no fellowship in our ward unless you were a local homegrown Mesa Mormon. I made an extra effort to meet and befriend other men in my stake and do cycling, golf or whatever. It helps a lot. Porn is a way of self medicating. One of my friends is slowly killing himself with food addiction. I am trying to help him see that food is just the “medication”. The real problem is deep inside. To which I add that men (this is not meant to be self pity) are socialized to not express fears, concerns, pain, etc. this is a garden bed for the start of many addictions. I was also afraid to talk to my wife about the sexual needs as I knew she was tired from dealing with kids all day. We live in a challenging time. I recallmy parents took 2 weeks every year for a “honeymoon”. My Dad had a secure job, worked 40-45 hrs a week, golfed, fished and had lots of friends. We always ate dinner together as a family. Our world is vastly different today. I think men and women all feel it too. Addictions of types are truly the bain of modern living.

  80. Addict

    I have had a problem with pornography for three years now and I am only sixteen. I have never confessed to anyone because of the shame that surrounds it and the feeling that I will be rejected by my family.
    The first pornographic image I ever saw was in a film adaption of “Romeo and Juliet” when I was ten. No wait, even earlier, when I was about seven I came down stairs in the evening when I had a babysitter and he was watching a movie rated R for pornographic reasons. Actually further back when I was six my mum took me shopping and page 3 of the sun was open on the news stand. I have still not forgotten these images, and there were probably even more dating back earlier. But my problem really started when I was researching for a school paper and I needed a picture. I simply looked up “George Fox” on google images (my paper was on the founders of Quakerism) and on the third row down their was a pornograhic image. But I had no idea what it was.
    Throughout my entire life, nobody had told me what pornography was or what it could do, or at least to what I could understand. I had heard in church meetings the word “pornography”, but I had never had a true explanation of what that meant from a church leader or ever my father. This is necessary, because the only explanation I had had was from older boys at my school, and their descriptions condoned it, encouraged it and suggested that pornograhy had to be graphic and not something from a movie. or even simply a still picture. From what I gathered at a young age, pornography was something that I could find only if I looked for it, and that I was safe if I didn’t look. But of course it wasn’t, meaning I let my guard down massively.
    The reason I share this is not to place the blame on anybody else, but because I think the problem starts like this for many young boys because they do not have a clear idea of what it is, and once they see it, that makes it harder to let go. People overestimate the age that pornography becomes an issue. It becomes something to worry about as soon as a child starts to use a computer, because then they can innocently come across it, and yet never forget it. They need to know that if this happens, they are not a sinner. After seeing that image on google, my first thought was that now I saw it, it didn;t matter if I saw it again, just like if someone says a swear word for the first time. The problem starts once you look again. But even before a boy can understand what pornography is, I think that he needs to know something. If I had been told at the age of eight: “son, you shouldn’t look at a picture that shows any part of a woman that you wouldn’t normally see; but if you see this, you’re not wrong, just come and tell me at once and I’ll try to make sure you’ll never see it again”, I would have probably been coming to my dad the next day to tell him about something I’d seen. At ten years old, a boy in my class confessed to being a porn addict. This is not a problem that starts once you’re an adult, or even a youth.
    The truth is, we all sin, and we all need forgiving. If a girl will not forgive a boy for having a problem with pornography, then she is equally in the wrong because to not forgive is also a sin. Overcoming use of pornography is the challenge for men, forgiving a repented user of pornography is the challenge for women. The latter is a harder challenge to ever overcome.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s