Countering Pornography

August 25, 2004 | 47 comments
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My impression is that pornography is a widespread problem among members of the Church. While women sometimes fall prey to its enticements, the overwhelming majority of pornography consumers are men. The perils of pornography are of particular concern for those who work with the young men, but many Elders and High Priests also suffer from a so-called “pornography addiction.” As I have encountered members of the Church who are dealing with this problem — whether as Church leaders or as parents — one thing has become depressingly clear: we are not very effective at countering the magnetic force of pornography.

Perhaps this should not be a surprise. If abstinence from pornography is essentially a question of self-mastery, why would we expect any more success with that than we have with, say, physical fitness or home teaching? The First Presidency has railed against pornography, calling it “evil,” “contagious,” and “addicting.” They have offered a three-step “battle plan” that could just as well be applied to any issue of self-mastery: (1) “a return to righteousness”; (2) “a quest for the good life”; and (3) “a pledge to wage and win the war against pernicious permissiveness.”

While this approach, or something very similar to it, seems the only strategy likely to result in long-term success, it is nothing more than a framework. We are left to fill in the details appropriate to the particular circumstance. And, thus, my radical idea … I have a hunch — which was strengthened after speaking to my wife about this issue — that many women would be able to devise a more effective anti-pornography strategy than the typical male Church leader. In my experience, men are inclined to promote a “just say no” strategy or to question the manhood of those who partake of pornography, but we are terrible on the details. Obviously, I have only casual empirics to support this, but I think men feel uncomfortable with the details. Moreover, many men seem a bit too understanding with those who indulge their carnal appetites in this way, as if to say, “I know it’s tough, buddy, but do the best you can.”

Women, on the other hand, often have intense feelings about pornography that are difficult for men to match. This first occurred to me when I heard Catharine MacKinnon in the late 1980s, and I have seen it repeatedly in speaking with women in my various wards. Their strong feelings can understandably lead to more effective thinking about how to counter pornography. So I would like to recruit some women in the ward to teach a lesson on pornography in the priesthood class. Any objections?

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47 Responses to Countering Pornography

  1. Steve Evans on August 25, 2004 at 1:32 pm

    What?! Women teaching in Priesthood! What’s next, letting them wear pantsuits?

    I don’t think women have cornered the market on strong feelings towards pr0n. Witness my blowup on the last thread on this topic!

  2. Geoff B on August 25, 2004 at 1:35 pm

    Pornography is truly an evil industry. I could go on an on about this despicable practice, but I think the best argument to give anybody who is tempted to look at pornography is, “what if it were your daughter posing like that? If you are against your daughter posing in a pornographic posture, you should be against an industry that encourages somebody else’s daughter to do this. How could you support this industry in any way, including looking at a web site involving pornography?” Women appear better equipped to make this argument succinctly and clearly. Perhaps your idea is not a bad one.

  3. Julie in Austin on August 25, 2004 at 1:46 pm

    It probably goes without saying that I think your idea is an excellent one. I do think women would most likely present very different arguments against it. The reason that I wouldn’t want my husband involved with pr)n would be a (reasonable, I think) fear that *I*, three babies later, would never be able to hold his attention. For my sons, I would worry that they would start to treat real women as sex objects.

    That said, I am much better at diagnosing the problem than offering a solution. I know that on several occasions I have vowed to limit my time on the net and failed miserably. Why? Just because it is so easy . . . to browse on ebay or amazon, etc. I’m not sure what I would say to someone struggling with pr0n–how precisely _does_ one overcome that addiction? I have no idea.

  4. danithew on August 25, 2004 at 1:48 pm

    Exactly how candid a discussion about pornography are you planning to have in priesthood class? I can imagine a number of elders squirming in their seats or just clamping their mouths shut, especially if they’ve got the Relief Society president (or any other female) staring down at them as this issue is discussed.

    Besides the possibility that some men might not respond much to a woman teaching about this I also am a little more skeptical that it would be more effective to have a woman teach on the matter. Just because women are generally less inclined to use pornography doesn’t make them experts on the problem. It’s possible to even argue that this in fact shows that women know less or would understand less why many men are vulnerable to the temptations pornography offers.

    I can understand a lesson about chastity or modesty — but a lesson that is expressly about the evils of pornography could be pretty challenging. However, it certainly is a pertinent and timely topic.

  5. Charles on August 25, 2004 at 2:15 pm

    One of the reasons this is such a terrible dilemma in our days is the ease at which it is found. There used to be shame associated with picking up those kinds of magazines or going to those bars. But now the internet is the great anonymous box to find anything.

    It probably doesn’t help a lot that most people don’t realize just how non-anonymous the net is. Everywhere you go is tracked, everything you do leaves your virtual thumbprint somewhere.

    Its not enough to show how bad it is. People know and I doubt many church members would argue that it isn’t horrific. We need to bring some shame back into this world for doing bad things. We need to encourage people to replace bad habbits with good habbits. And we need to educate people on the tools that make it so accessible.

    There are some great suggestions. Keeping the pc in a family room. Treating on line like television, instead of just surfing for whatever is out there, make a plan before getting on line. Be open and encourage family members to work together. If neccessary get software to support parents. Some of these things may not change a person’s heart immediately but they eliminate some of the ease this malevolent material comes into our homes with.

  6. Jim Richins on August 25, 2004 at 2:15 pm

    That may be a good idea, Gordon, although I’m not sure I agree with your reasons. Intense feelings about a topic are not necessarily sufficient to qualify an instructor. I agree that women in general are likely to have a different perspective on pornography and should (nay, must) contribute their ideas to the discourse.

    However, I also believe that a female instructor to an MP quorum may suffer from other disadvantages (such as being unfamiliar with the context and “atmosphere” of the class), which might tend mitigate their ability to deliver their message. In our ward, our 5th Sunday curriculum frequently involves combining MP and RS. I believe that this setting might be better for an inter-gender discussion of the problem.

    I also agree with Pres. Packer’s oft-repeated point (also in Alma), that a discussion of doctrine will improve behavior more than a discussion of behavior will improve behavior. While the Church has provided a “framework” for combating pornography, it seems as though a thorough discussion of doctrine is, at best, only implied in the framework you listed. I think an explicit focus on the doctrines involved is essential to heading off pornography’s initial appeal and combating the eventual addiction. Geoff’s suggestion of juxtaposing one’s daughter as a porn star is just a start.

    Unfortunately, I also believe that many members of the Church do not have an accurate understanding of the doctrines regarding sexuality to begin with. Furthermore, I believe that some of the most important Truths associated with sexuality are best understood within the context of the Temple – making internalization of these Truths somewhat more difficult for many members. (Most of the members I know that attend the Temple do so without the proper “Temple” frame of mind. They “pass through the Temple, without the Temple passing through them).

    This makes it somewhat more difficult to have a discussion of the correct doctrines related to porn. In an open discussion of doctrine, I would expect to hear more comments that include incorrect doctrines when discussing sexuality, than I would when discussing, say, Tithing or Work of Wisdom. I think it is because of a general reluctance to discuss sexual topics, and I believe, also, that it is this reluctance that has allowed porn to gain such a sizeable beach-head on our shores.

    Therefore, I would heartily support more open, and VERY candid discussions of sexual topics, certainly in the adult classes in the ward. I would also welcome more guidance from the Brethren on these topics, so that the Bishops, Presidents, and Instructors themselves may be better informed and prepared to lead such discussions. Finally, I think that in order to adequately address the issue, more than one class or meeting would be required.

    I look forward to more comments.

  7. Mary on August 25, 2004 at 2:25 pm

    I’m with Dan (danithew) on this one. I don’t think that a woman teaching the lessons on p)rn is the answer. And I absolutely don’t think that Geoff’s idea to think, “what if this was my daughter?” is any help to people who truly suffer with this addiction. It might help those who are curious, who accidently run into the stuff, but with those who struggle with it, it doesn’t help, they’ll look anyway.

    What does help? Counseling, meditation, abstinence buddies, 12 step programs.

  8. anonymous on August 25, 2004 at 2:32 pm

    It has to be said, though I will try to say it carefully: no attempt to deal with addiction to pornography will be successful without equal attention paid to masturbation. It is the physical act, and the gratification it provides, which turns the desire for pornography into such a strong physical itch, such a deeply instinctive habit. While obviously there is no easy way to study this, it seems to me to be obvious that the number of serious consumers of pornography who are NOT also addicted to masturbation is practically nil. Addressing this problem is enormously difficult and painful, especially for married men, since the nature, quality, and quantity of their sexual relations with their spouse can’t help but be dragged into it. I have no easy solutions: just prayer, patience, tact, and the long, slow road of repentance and commitment.

    An old book by John and Martha Nibley Beck, Breaking the Cycle of Compulsive Behavior, was a godsend to me at a very difficult time, if only because it never sugar-coats how deep and how complicated (physically and psychologically) our addictions may be, and how hard it will be to escape them, assuming the Savior does not simply take our tests and failures away (which He rarely does).

  9. Kim Siever on August 25, 2004 at 3:01 pm

    “While women sometimes fall prey to its enticements”

    It is easy for me to picture some man in the deep, dark corners of his upstairs office with only the blue glow of the monitor as his only source of light looking at pornography. I cannot for the life of my imagine a woman in the same scenario.

  10. Anonymous on August 25, 2004 at 3:12 pm

    Having dealt with this in my own life as well as having family members dealing with it, I feel the most effective means of combating pornography is to be open about it.

    Early in my marriage as this arose, I would confess to my wife, talk to the bishop and then never discuss it again – until it happened again. I would repeat the process, justifying it was ok because it didn’t seem to be an issue with my bishop or my wife becuae the discussion never occured. Only later did I realize my wife did not like admitting there was a problem. I since have become an authority on the subject with her. I have opened up my own struggles and now openly share with my wife what struggles occur. Everytime I talk about my trials, I become more committed to not let them repeat. This doesn’t mean I always offer my story to Elders Quorum, but I am very open with my wife that it was, and continues to be a struggle that I am working on.

    When we “repent” and act like it never occurred, we set ourselves up to fail.

  11. Greg on August 25, 2004 at 3:23 pm

    It’s true, of course, that the vast majority of visual pornography consumers are men. But the vast majority of literary pornography consumers (erotica, harlequin romances) are women. I suppose we don’t hear so much about the latter issue because it is somehow less harmful or less addictive (???), but it shows that pornography does attract both sexes, just in different forms.

  12. Not Given on August 25, 2004 at 3:46 pm

    I agree that this is a pertinent and timely topic, and there’s a vital need for it to be discussed more often and more openly. I would almost guarantee that there are men in your priesthood class who struggle with this, some of them to a greater extent than they’ve been able to talk with anyone about, or even admit to themselves. For these men, it would be a step in the right direction just to be able to admit openly that it’s a “serious temptation”–I think most of the men in the room should be able to agree with that–rather than pretending it’s not such a big deal. It’s true that for some men this really isn’t an issue, but for a great many of us, much as we’d like to be “cool” and pretend it doesn’t really affect us either, it is simply not honest when we try to give that impression. Shame for things we’ve done also tends to create shame about even the temptation, and part of “covering up” the behaviour is to pretend we aren’t even affected by the temptation. But this has the effect of isolating us even more from the people who could help us. And isolation is one of the most damaging aspects of the disease.

    I agree that it’s a good thing for women to be more involved in talking about these things, but I think that involvement is more effective on a personal rather than a public level–that is, I think it’s very useful for men to discuss this individually with their wives, mothers, sisters, and even girlfriends, but I’m not sure how effective it would be to have women presenting information on this subject in such a setting as a priesthood lesson.

    In order to have a really effective lesson covering the topic of pornography and especially addiction to pornography, it really is a necessity to have a speaker with some firsthand experience with the process of overcoming that addiction. No one else can talk about it credibly. It’s very difficult for someone to comprehend the insanity of addiction who hasn’t experienced it himself: “Why don’t you just stop?” Well, if it were that simple, it wouldn’t be an addiction. By definition.

    Admittedly there might be some difficulty in finding someone who’s willing to talk about his own struggles with addiction–notice that I’m posting this anonymously?–but if you ask around you can probably find counselors, such as at LDS Family Services, who specialize in dealing with this sort of addiction from an LDS perspective, and who would be willing to talk about it to your priesthood quorum. I’ve seen this done and thought it was an extremely valuable thing–and the more you can get the quorum to open up and share from their own lives, the better.

    There was an excellent presentation about overcoming addiction to pornography given in 2000 at the “Families under Fire” conference at BYU. (Here’s the same article in HTML format from Google’s cache.)

  13. Last_lemming on August 25, 2004 at 3:49 pm

    To the extent that pornography is an addiction, most of your suggestions are unhelpful. The doctine is irrelevent to an addict. Imagining one’s daughter as a porn star just magnifies the self-loathing that the addict feels.

    Breaking the Cycle of Compulsive Behavior (aside from presenting case studies that are largely fraudulent) gets the solution only half right by leaving out any discussion of “acting in.” That phenomenon is discussed in “What Every Bishop Should Know About Men With Pornography Addiction/Abuse Problems” available at the following website:

    http://www.springsofwater.com/desert/clean/whatevery.phtml

    (One can download it for free, but the requested contribution would be well worth it). This article is far and away the best resource out there for dealing with the addiction aspect.

  14. Jim Richins on August 25, 2004 at 4:19 pm

    Another aspect of women’s involvement in pornography in the Internet sphere is with online dating, chatting, IM, etc. And, we should not forget the most obvious victims of the adult entertainment industry, which is the entertainers themselves.

    Perhaps if we consider the problem with a wider perspective, including all the different types of people affected by this (not just the stereotypical male in the blue glow of his monitor), we can comprehend better the full destructive impact of this cancer, and come up with better ways to combat the problem.

    I would guess that the classes of people involved in this problem might include the user, the user’s spouse (if any), the user’s family, the entertainer, the producer/purveyor, secondary victims of the user… any others?

    An entirely different, but still wide perspective on the problem, is to consider the types of media that aren’t normally associated with “soft” or “hard” pornography, but in varying degrees still qualify as such. Think Cosmo or Vogue at the supermarket, MTV, etc. It is very easy to run into a debate about whether the fashions displayed on MTV qualify as pornographic, but to me it doesn’t matter what label we place on it. To the extent that any media content 1) presents women (or men) in a way that objectifies them, 2) presents sexuality as a form of recreation between uncommitted, consenting adults rather than an expression of love in marriage, or 3) it’s purpose is to arouse or even suggest arousal to the viewer/reader/consumer, then it is part of this problem.

    Therefore, it might be best to consider not only ways to avoid media explicitly described as “soft” or “hard” pornography, but also ways to resist the ubiquitous messages of secularism. This is why I suggest teaching true doctrine, and also to find ways to tactfully, yet candidly, discuss sexuality in the Church more often.

    It does not take an issue of Playboy to suggest to a young woman that her value to an eventual mate can be quantified in terms of cup size. She only needs to turn on the TV or radio, or pick up a teen fasion magazine – heck, she only needs to read the cover from a distance! Likewise, the same messages can easily be internalized by young men. Furthermore, internalization of these pernicious distortions of truth does not need to begin at Deacon/Beehive age – it can begin (and often does) after mission, college, or marriage.

  15. Jim Richins on August 25, 2004 at 4:26 pm

    By the way, I think it could be very cruel to “assign” a Sister to teach in MP. This is not because the men are more intimidating than the women, or because the men may not respect a woman (although these could also be true). Simply asking anyone to be a guest instructor can be a very difficult task.

    It has nothing to do with gender roles or the euphemistic “weaker sex.” I was asked to teach a family history class to the relief society on enrichment night. I was scared to death of those ladies!! Not because I didn’t know my material, not because I had never taught the same lesson before, but just because I was out of my element.

  16. danithew on August 25, 2004 at 4:47 pm

    My wife and I enjoy watching the Food Network programming and drooling over the incredibly delicious fatty foods that are routinely prepared and displayed on that channel. I particularly enjoy the southern BBQ competitions that have been shown recently. A neighbor friend of ours recently described this sort of activity as “watching food porn.”

    I’m wondering if there are any guides out there to help cure food addicts from watching this kind of salacious and sinful culinary activity. :)

  17. Geoff B on August 25, 2004 at 5:23 pm

    It seems to me there are at least two kinds of people who engage in pornography.

    1)The “casual” users of pornography who think there’s nothing wrong with the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, Maxim magazine, watching the Paris Hilton tape on the internet and laughing about it, etc. Almost all of the men that I work with fall into this category (great office environment, right?).

    2)The “addicts.”

    From personal experience, there are many more of number 1 than 2.

    Satan’s trick is to turn category number 1 people into category number 2 people by normalizing pornography and spreading it worldwide. First it’s soft porn and then he wraps you in flaxen cords and drags you down to the addiction.

    It seems to me that there are different strategies for attacking each problem. For the casual users, you must make them conscious that what they are doing is dangerous, demeaning to women and can lead to sexual dysfunction, etc. You convince them to stop doing it by using a variety of techniques (including having them imagine that it were their own daughter suffering from this). Presumably if they are casual users of pornography, there is a possibility of getting them to change behavior, especially if they are Church members and if you were to discuss this in the right way and in the right kind of environment.

    For the addicts, you need to use a completely different strategy, including 12-step programs and other means that treat it truly as an addiction.

  18. Ebenezer on August 25, 2004 at 5:38 pm

    Brother Richins said:

    I also agree with Pres. Packer’s oft-repeated point (also in Alma), that a discussion of doctrine will improve behavior more than a discussion of behavior will improve behavior.

    Last Lemming said:

    The doctrine is irrelevant to an addict.

    I can understand how the doctrine might appear to have no relevance to the struggles of an addict. There is, however, real power in hearing and discussing true doctrine. There is an integral relationship between the Holy Spirit and the word, and in many instances the mere act of hearing the word brings the presence of the Spirit. Through its sanctifying power and influence we can be changed. (Alma 31:5) That is one of the main benefits of daily scripture study, weekly church attendance, and frequent temple attendance.

    I have always loved this quote from President Benson:

    The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature….Yes, Christ changes men, and changed men can change the world.

    That is not to say we should not take advantage of what help is available from psychology. We should combine the power of the word to change human nature with the best knowledge of mankind on how to change behavior and reap the benefits of both.

    Those members who are in the field of psychology should pray and ask the Lord to reveal to them an understanding of principles of addiction and provide to them inspired tools to counteract its terrible effects. If the Lord can reveal to Elder Nelson a better way to perform heart surgery, surely he can reveal a way to combat addiction.

  19. Charles on August 25, 2004 at 6:00 pm

    Kim,

    It may seem odd to picture a woman with this addiction, but I remember hearing about studies on the news that show a large portion of women on the internet having this struggle.

    As for a solution, I believe having someone you can talk to, counselor, bishop, or freind, to call on when you feel an urge is a good step.

    Its also important to realize that most people do not engage in behavior they know to be wrong without somehow working thier way up to it. Many of the TV shows basic cable, premium and network TV is riddled with graphic material that leaves little to the imagination. It is easy to fall into the slipery slope of wanting more when the ‘basic’ shows don’t do it for ya anymore.

    You can’t remove anything from your life without replacing it with something else. If you replace the wicked things in your life with more wholesome things, it will be easier to beat these kind of addictions.

  20. Rusty on August 25, 2004 at 6:24 pm

    Hey, I’m up late at night with the “blue glow of the monitor as [my] only source of light.” However, it’s an addiction to blogging. I guess recognition is the first step.

  21. Larry on August 25, 2004 at 6:35 pm

    I may be repeating someone ele’s comments, since this is a long thread, so forgive me if that is the case. Like many sins, pornography is a symptom, not the disease itself. The disease is a lack of self mastery, which includes modesty. Witness the beach volleyball women at the Olympics. The men wore t-shirts and shorts. Tell me one good reason why the women dress the way they do? If we truly have an eternal understanding of who we are, where we came from, and where we can be after this life, I think pornography will rapidly die away. It’s a virulent symptom of a sin-sick society, but the disease is far worse than we think. It is forsaking God and cleaving to the world.

  22. Sam B. on August 25, 2004 at 7:31 pm

    Larry said (about beach volleyball players):

    Tell me one good reason why the women dress the way they do?

    Flexibility?

    Yes, the men wore shorts and shirts, but if the women had been wearing the men’s shirts, you would have seen a lot more than you did.

  23. Ashleigh on August 25, 2004 at 7:40 pm

    Newsflash: Porn Objectifies Women

    I read an interesting article recently (I thought it was is last week’s Newsweek, but if it was it must have been the page my son ripped out and tried to eat because I can’t find it) about how some recent scientific study has concluded (gasp) that men who view pornography are much more likely to hold a derogatory view of women. Crazy huh? But it is nice to know that the churches and feminists were right all along (how odd, they agree on something?).

    It did not conclude however if viewing pornography caused men to devalue women or if sexist men are just more likely to view porn. Both, I’d bet, to some degree. Would a truly egalitarian society result in fewer problems with pornography? It seems possible.

    It made me wonder if we should spend more time teaching boys to be advocates for women. A lovely quixotic idea if I do say so myself. This possibility might support Gordon’s suggestion. Which I like, btw.

  24. Ashleigh on August 25, 2004 at 7:48 pm

    “Flexibility?”

    Hence the unfortuante lack of sucess for the Iranian Women’s beach volleyball team.

  25. danithew on August 25, 2004 at 7:49 pm

    Probably the best context for a discussion on the evils of pornography and resolving addiction is the bishop’s office. The trick might be getting the person who looks at pornography to show up and to openly talk with their bishop about the problem.

    Having a special stewardship over the ward, the bishop would have the right to receive revelation as to whether or not his ward needs to be spoken to about this problem. Also, the bishop might also be able to use personal interviews with ward members as an indicator of what might be happening with others.

    Earlier it was suggested that this might be a topic for a combined meeting (Priesthood and Relief Society) and I think that sounds about right. If a bishop presides over the class or teaches the class, then the bishop has the opportunity to invite those who are struggling with this problem to come in and confess what is going on so that they can start on a road to recovery. I think this would be far more likely to have the desired results than if a random member of the ward tries to handle this sensitive topic.

  26. Julie in Austin on August 25, 2004 at 8:56 pm

    Kim wrote, “It is easy for me to picture some man in the deep, dark corners of his upstairs office with only the blue glow of the monitor as his only source of light looking at pornography. I cannot for the life of my imagine a woman in the same scenario.”

    My husband had to take a speech class for which he had to design a product and then give a speech promoting it. I helped (grin).

    It was a magazine; a porn0graphic magazine for women. It was called SWEAT. It featured pictures of fully clothed men doing housework. The tag line was “real men, behaving well.”

    (I hope no one misses the gem of truth embedded here.)

  27. Jim Richins on August 25, 2004 at 9:03 pm

    I agree that there is a difference between “casual” and “addicted” users of pornography – although, I suspect the ratio of addicted to casual isn’t as small as we might think. A “casual” user may be somewhat less inclined to seek out pornography for pleasure or for use in private, but he/she has already started down the road towards that boundary that we arbitrarily place between “casual” and “addicted”.

    Furthermore, I am certain that even a casual user of pornography is being spiritually damaged by each use, however brief the exposure or indiscernible the damage may be.

    Fortunately, even significant spiritual damage can be repaired through Christ and the Atonement.

    That being said, I also agree that different strategies should be employed based on the severity of the case, as well as proportionally increasing levels of therapy. Having read the two articles about addiction and recovery that were referenced earlier, I have to say that I think they still heavily relied on correct doctrine about gender roles, sexuality, etc. The notable difference is the hands-on guidance and support that a therapist or group would provide in counter-conditioning, above and beyond what a Bishop could possibly provide. And seeking additional outside, specialized help in the case of severe cases is exactly what a Bishop is supposed to do.

    Actually, I think it is fair to say that counselling “addicted” users falls under the same category as counselling the mentally ill. I think the same concepts from that other thread would apply in the case of severe porn addiction or other sexual deviation.

    But for the context of a combined meeting, or an MP class, or preparing youth to combat the massive amount of sexual temptation they must wade through, teaching correct doctrine is the answer.

    When I was growing up, I was drilled with the Word of Wisdom all the time, but nary a hint of warning about sexual sin. At the time, porn was not as easily accessible as it is now, and even the “soft” porn of yesteryear is comparable to the images and messages of today’s mass media.

    I think we need to get over our reluctance, and talk about this much more.

  28. Sam B. on August 25, 2004 at 9:18 pm

    Ashleigh,
    It’s the best I could do with so little thought :)

    But my point is serious–my wife dances, and she couldn’t dance in jeans and a 3/4-length shirt; dancers wear less clothing as they dance for functional reasons. I assume that beach volleyball players do so for a functional reason. Inasmuch as I have no qualities one needs to play volleyball (e.g., height), I extrapolated from what I’ve heard. (Aha, my sister came up with a better reason–if part of your body OR CLOTHING touches the net, you lose the point. So the less you wear, the better.)

    You’re right that pr0n objectifies women; I think athletics (and art and dance, etc.) deobjectifies women (and, for that matter, men). My ire was raised (probably unnecessarily) because, as much as I dislike pornography, I’m also offended by the conflation of something good (volleyball) with something bad (pr0n)

  29. Jamie on August 25, 2004 at 9:23 pm

    In the interest of equal treatment, I demand that the men wear only Speedos in Beijing!

  30. Greg on August 25, 2004 at 9:36 pm

    I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the beach volleyball players wear bikinis more for marketing reasons than athletic reasons. There is apparently a rule (for women players only) that bikini briefs cannot have side seams broader than seven centimeters. (see http://tinyurl.com/3uy2k)

    From the NYT:

    “[Pro beach volleyball] organizers admit they use sex appeal as much as athletic ability to sell the sport. It has worked. Ever since it made its debut as a medal sport in Atlanta in 1996, beach volleyball has been one of the most popular sports of the Games, in part because of the bikinis for the female players and muscle-baring singlets for the men.”

  31. Sam B. on August 25, 2004 at 9:47 pm

    Greg,
    I don’t deny that they’re willing to allow sex to sell the sport; I’m not in a position to know. I don’t think the conclusion that it’s the most popular sport because of the clothing necessarily follows–runners seem to wear similar clothing, for example. I think it’s equally likely that it’s the most popular because it’s the most exciting sport in the Olympics.

    All that said, though, and even assuming that the sole reason for beach volleyballer’s clothing is to sell the sport to voyeuristic couch potatoes, I still maintain a significant difference between pr0n and volleyball (or figure painting. Or dancing. Or swimming. Maybe over-the-line is pr0nographic–I haven’t seen it since learning to play in 7th grade gym).

  32. Greg on August 25, 2004 at 10:02 pm

    Sam,

    I’m with you. I don’t think any of those activities you mention is lascivious in the least, and over-the-line is simply one of the all time great playground games. But I do think that it does not help the cause of feminism to use sex to market women’s sports. The problem is that most other marketing tactics have, for the most part, failed to attract male fans (see WNBA, WUSA).

  33. Sam B. on August 25, 2004 at 10:13 pm

    Greg,
    I can agree with that (except that I think that beach volleyball is inherently more exciting than WNBA [or, for that matter, NBA] and would have its audience anyway. Except that I’m probably wrong and just a beach volleyball fanboy).

  34. Sam B. on August 25, 2004 at 11:10 pm

    Greg,
    Sorry, one last thing and I’m done. I’m going to have to return to my primarily influenced by functionality for the uniforms–the women’s 400 hurdles just finished, and several of the hurdlers wear uniforms similar in type to the beach volleyball players.

  35. Jim Richins on August 26, 2004 at 12:52 am

    Sam said:

    I still maintain a significant difference between pr0n and volleyball (or figure painting. Or dancing. Or swimming…)

    I agree in principle. In particular, I feel that artistic expressions of the human body are not inherently sinful. Personally, I find the practice of covering the “naughty parts” to be inexplicable – even at BYU. Otherwise, what would LDS physicians do?

    However, the fact remains that whether it is Michelangelo’s David or Olympic Beach Volleyball, it matters less what the original intent was. An Olympic swimmer can just as easily arouse inappropriate thoughts/feelings in a man/woman who has been bitten by the illicit, self-serving pleasures of artificial sexual gratification.

    This is why I maintain that it is imperative that we prepare the membership more adequately for the temptations that wash over us each day, by teaching correct, and *complete*, doctrine.

    Is it possible for us to remain clean after wading through the sewer each day? I believe that no, it is not. However, we must not allow ourselves to indulge in the filth that washes over us. Rather we must resist at every turn, and thereby retain enough affinity for the Spirit to cleanse us each evening when we return home and each week with the Sacrament.

    I hope the Savior returns again soon!

  36. Ashleigh on August 26, 2004 at 2:12 am

    Sorry Sam, the way my comment posted it sounded like I was responding to you when I wasn’t. When I wrote that “News Flash” comment I hadn’t even read your explanation for Beach Volleyball uniforms. Totally unrelated. (The whole “news flash” thing was supposed to be an ironic comment about science “discovering” porn’s negative consequences, not a comment about beach volleyball uniforms)

    What a mess, sorry for the confusion.

    In fact I totally agree with you. My subsequent Iranian beach volleyball comment was supposed to be a funny agreement with you. (binding burka problems, Get it? ha ha.)

    Sports are great for women, empowering, healthy, fun, de-objectifying (is that a word) and the uniforms are functional not sexual. I dance too, and you have to be able to see your body to do so, binding baggy cloths impede performance.

    In fact one of the problems with pornography is that it can encourage men to impose sexual baggage in essentially a-sexual situations like volleyball. While I’m sure that the ptb aren’t above using sex to sell the sports (What? Sex sells? Since when?), I agree that it is extreme to bring up beach volleyball in a discussion about porn. Let’s condemn swimming and gymnastics and running while were at it.

    I think both extremes are unhealthy. Porn is unhealthy because is objectifies women, but puritanical rigidity is also unhealthy because it too objectifies women. Both label women’s bodies as objects of sex and/or shame.

    IMO, culture and context and functionality all play a role in what is modest in any given situation and the consequence of porn is its power to bring unhealthy meaning to healthy situations.

    Also, I think one of the reasons behind beach volleyball uniforms is that beach volleyball developed on . . . the beach. Swimsuits being the standard dress at the beach, you see.

    And as long as I’m rambling, on the subject of moral rigidity, there is only one Iranian woman participating in the Olympics, in shooting, even though she is a gymnast. Talk about unhealthy objectification and it’s unhealthy consequences.

  37. Sam B. on August 26, 2004 at 9:19 am

    Ashleigh,
    And the Iranian comment was the funniest thing I read on this thread–I took your other comment out of context to try to say what I’d meant to say.

    Jim,
    Actually, Ashleigh says what I want to say better than I can. All I’d add would be that, I don’t know what to do with the fact that a volleyball player or David can arouse inappropriate reactions in the observer–I think the original intent is the defining characteristic of pr0n–otherwise, how do you separate, say, Playboy from the 19th-century painting of nymphs I saw the other day at the San Diego Museum of Art. So do we teach each other not to go to the museum (or watch Olympic volleyball, track, or swimming if it involves women)? Or do we teach that, while it’s close to a bad thing, it’s not bad? Or do we ignore it and assume that we’ll all be able to differentiate?

  38. Maria on August 26, 2004 at 5:08 pm

    Re: more open and honest discussions of sexually-related topics and the need to hear from speakers who have personally overcome addictions

    I thought the following experience that a visiting area authority seventy shared during our district’s adult session of district conference (held last Saturday night) might help to refocus this discussion on Gordon’s original post:

    (I’ll paraphrase the story as accurately as I can reconstruct it from my notes)

    Fifteen years ago, while traveling on business, the seventy was staying alone in a hotel room. As he flipped through the channels on the TV, he inadvertently came upon a hard-core pornographic movie. He was not looking for p)rn, he didn’t intend to find any p)rn, but he accidentally happened upon it. However, he admitted (with shame), that he did not immediately turn off the movie. The seventy said that he just sat there, paralyzed, for about one minute before he realized what he was doing. He then turned off the television. And although the incident occurred over fifteen years ago, to this day he is still tempted to watch pornography every single time he enters a hotel room. The temptation is to the point that whenever he enters a hotel room he hears a voice inside his head saying “It would be so easy for you to just turn on that TV and watch pornography.”

    He then went on to discuss several specific things he had done to overcome his temptation, and some ideas for avoiding temptations in general. The techniques he suggested were not novel (each of his suggestions has already been discussed in this thread). However, the combined effect of the manner in which they were said (with the spirit) and the person who said them (someone who had been there) was profound. Instead of the standard “P*rn is bad, P*rn is evil, repent and do your home teaching” discourse, he exemplified qualities of a true leader by teaching us through his example. We felt the spirit, and we were inspired to follow his counsel.

    Now, I’m not trying to equate this elder’s 1 minute brush with pornography to the struggle that lifetime p)rn addicts face in overcoming their addictions. My main point is that I think he was definitely on to something in his inspired approach to have a candid discussion on the topic.

  39. danithew on August 26, 2004 at 5:36 pm

    I think it’s great that a Seventy shared a personal story that was able to give some insight into this matter. The resulting temptations from this one accidental slip help demonstrate just how serious the consequences for watching pornography can be.

    At the same time, I don’t think we’re likely to hear too many of these types of stories told over a pulpit.

    One thought: probably any man could get past mass disapproval with a “15 years ago, 1 minute” story like this one. But what if the numbers and timing get switched a little, as in “15 minutes, 1 day ago” as is probably more often the case with many people who struggle with a more serious problem/addiction.” I’m not saying I would want to hear this over the pulpit … I’m just saying that this man’s experience probably doesn’t begin to address some of the addictions/behaviors that are going on today.

    There is some church literature out there by LDS people who have struggled with (and to my knowledge, overcome) homosexuality or homosexual urges. Actually I’m not sure if literature is the term I should use. Maybe it’s just a few books (I’m aware of one). I’m not aware of any similar literature that deals with LDS people who struggled with serious addictions to pornography. I know there are articles. I’m talking about books.

    But maybe I’m wrong. (I should go back and review this thread again to see if any examples were already given).

  40. Mary on August 27, 2004 at 4:59 pm

    There is actually a LDS group that helps members dealing with addictive behaviors. They are called Heart t’ Heart and there address is here, http://www.heart-t-heart.org/
    BYU hosted some excellent talks about sex addictions at a conference called, Cyber Secrets. They have the transcripts of the talks and workshops on the KBYU website, http://www.byubroadcasting.org/secrets/default.asp?active=archive

  41. anonymous on August 27, 2004 at 5:35 pm

    5{ct who has struggled with p0rn for a long time. it is awful and hellish. most of you have no idea how painful it is and your glib discussion is so far off the beam in many cases. fasting, prayer, confession, repenting–i have tried it all. sometimes i do better than others. but having someone, a sister or otherwise, lecture about it isn’t the answer. there is no possible way i could fee worse. i think that sisters are probably not terribly qualified to understand this problem and often find them harsh and judgemental about this. i’m not justifying this–it is wrong. but criticizing the sinner isn’t the answer.

  42. wendy on August 28, 2004 at 8:29 pm

    Interesting article in NYTimes today re: women’s porn preferences:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/29/arts/television/29DOMI.html

    It made me think of this thread, which I thought was a bit naive about women’s consumption of pornography. Besides the sexually explicit romance novels that Greg mentioned, there are softcore movies that run on cable channels like Cinemax every night, and “couples” pornography, with plotlines and relatively high production values.

    Maybe the way to combat men sitting in the deep, dark corners of their upstairs offices with only the blue glow of their monitors as their only source of light looking at pornography, is for men to go home and watch it with their wives. That would seem to me to be a successful way to combat the masterbation problem that “Anonymous” noted. Maybe Church leaders should instruct Mormon couples to start having more frequent and more interesting sex? Furtive consumption of internet porn and related masterbation by men is apparently a rampant problem in the Church, and the counsel given so far doesn’t appear to be especially helpful/successful. “Fasting, prayer, confession, repenting–i have tried it all”. Why keep trying something that isn’t working?

  43. Kaimi on August 30, 2004 at 2:32 pm

    Wendy suggests, “Maybe Church leaders should instruct Mormon couples to start having more frequent and more interesting sex?”

    Good point, Wendy. As I recall, one of the porn addicts in the ABC News article indicated that he had sex with his wife once or twice per year. It was not indicated whether this routine predated or postadated his porn habit. But my thought was that such a marriage has some deeper trouble, porn or no porn.

    You hear anecdotes about LDS women who are so deeply indoctrinated that “sex is bad” that they are ashamed to have sex with their husbands. That’s not healthy, and seems likely to eventually lead to other problems, whether they are porn or adultery or just plain-vanilla divorce.

  44. Mardell on August 30, 2004 at 2:39 pm

    And the thing is, men generally want to have sex. And if they don’t get it from their wife, they will get it from somewhere else. Whether it’s porn and masturbation, or cheating with a secretary. Or they’ll just leave her to go marry someone who will have sex with them.

    Of course, another problem is that people need to learn to communicate better, and have sex that satisfies the wife too. She needs orgasms too. I’ve spoken to Mormon women who have never had an orgasm, and have been married for years and years. They dislike sex — gee, I wonder why.

  45. john fowles on August 30, 2004 at 2:48 pm

    Wendy wrote Furtive consumption of internet porn and related masterbation by men is apparently a rampant problem in the Church, and the counsel given so far doesn’t appear to be especially helpful/successful. “Fasting, prayer, confession, repenting–i have tried it all”. Why keep trying something that isn’t working?

    Right–why even be a Mormon at all? Forget all standards, just watch pornography together and partake of the de-sanctification of the sex act from a divinely ordained method of participating in the Plan of Salvation to a mere bodily function. Just have more frequent, more interesting (!? like what, S&M?) sex. (Are you saying that men looking at porn and masterbating is essentially the woman’s fault because the male and female interest in and need for sex are different resulting in the female controlling the sex in any given relationship and so if the man is engaging in these behaviors, then the woman is obviously not dishing out enough?) I think one of the real tragedies of the explosion and mainstreamization of porn in our society is that it has forced women to accept porn as something that those rascally men will just do, so they better sign on too.

  46. Kim Siever on September 8, 2004 at 3:46 pm

    “Maybe Church leaders should instruct Mormon couples to start having…more interesting sex?â€?

    Hmmm…I am afraid to ask what is meant by this.

  47. Anonymous on October 23, 2004 at 1:19 am

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