The Real Danger?

April 5, 2006 | 75 comments
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[NOTE: After initially posting this, I soon removed it because I was made aware that it was unnecessarily divisive. This was not my intent. However, I am putting it back up, unaltered, in the interest of debate. Additionally, one commenter pointed out that it was unfair to delete the post after people had commented, something I hadn't considered when I took the post down. "For the record," therefore, if for no other reason, I am reposting this.]

It seems to me that far more dangerous to the lives and well-being of Latter-day Saint women, and women generally, than patriarchy or priesthood, is the plague of pornography. What am I missing here?

Pornography has a central role in actualizing this system of subordination in the contemporary West, beginning with the conditions of its production. Women in pornography are bound, battered, tortured, harassed, raped, and sometimes killed; or, in the glossy men’s entertainment magazines, “merely” humiliated, molested, objectified, and used. In all pornography, women are prostituted. This is done because it means sexual pleasure to pornography’s consumers and profits to its providers, largely organized crime. But to those who are exploited, it means being bound, battered, tortured, harassed, raped, and sometimes killed, or merely humiliated, molested, objectified, and used. It is done because someone who has more power than they do, someone who matters, someone with rights, a full human being and a full citizen, gets pleasure from seeing it, or doing it, or seeing it as a form of doing it. In order to produce what the consumer wants to see, it must first be done to someone, usually a woman, a woman with few real choices. Because he wants to see it done, it is done to her. (Catharine A. MacKinnon, “Pornography as Defamation and Discrimination, 71 B.U.L. Rev. 793, (1991).)

Catharine MacKinnon, vocal feminist and ally of Andrea Dworkin, and prolific critic of pornography,[1] wrote this long before the internet brought millions of pages of content depicting the most defiling acts of sexual deviancy into our homes for free and anonymous access. Jonathan Greene brought my attention to the shocking Financial Times article of March 31, 2006 (link here but registration required) that states what we all know: the ease of access and anonymity of the internet are causing large percentages of men in our societies (the Financial Times article was discussing the UK) to view instantly available hard-core pornography regularly. Many of them become addicted. This problem exists in the United States as well.

In recent congressional hearings, experts have testified about the dangers of pornography. The purpose of these hearings is to consider greater regulation of this multi-billion dollar trade in misery, filth, and addiction. In these hearings, Dr. Mary Anne Layden, co-director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program at the Center for Cognitive Therapy of the University of Pennsylvania, has testified that

Pornography, by its very nature, is an equal opportunity toxin. It damages the viewer, the performer, and the spouses and the children of the viewers and the performers. It is toxic mis-education about sex and relationships. It is more toxic the more you consume, the “harder� the variety you consume and the younger and more vulnerable the consumer. . . .

An example of Pornography Distortion would include beliefs such as “Sex is not about intimacy, procreation or marriage. Sex is about predatory self-gratification, casual recreation, body parts, violence, feces, strangers, children, animals and using women as entertainment.� All of these are messages regularly sent by pornography. . . .

Both Pornography Distortion and Permission-Giving Beliefs increase the problem of mis-education about sexuality and relationships. For example, the myth that women are sexually aroused by engaging in behaviors that are actually sexually pleasuring to men is a particularly narcissistic invention of the pornography industry. This is sexual mis-education. . . .

Those who use pornography have also been shown to be more likely to engage in illegal behavior as well. Research indicates and my clinical experience supports that those who use pronography are more likely to go to prostitutes, engage in domestic violence, stranger rape, date rape, and incest. These beahviors should not be suprising since pornographic videos contaning all of these themes are readily available and the permssion-giving beliefs of these pornographic videos reinforced by the orgasm say that all these behaviors are normal, acceptable, common and don’t hurt anyone. (The Science Behind Pornography Addiction: Hearing Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, 109th Cong. (2004) (testimony of Dr. Mary Anne Layden).)

The Financial Times article points out that an increasingly large percentage of boys (mentioning ages 12 – 17) are regularly looking at hard-core pornography online at home. The article attempts objectivity by pointing out that noone knows what societal effect a generation of boys raised on hard-core pornography will have. But we all know what effect it will have: these boys don’t stand a chance of having a normal, non-perverted sexual relationship once they are married. The effect is that these boys will look at women, not with respect, dignity, and equality, but rather as pieces of meat, sex toys to be fantasized about when looking at them, to be consumed and cast-aside after perverted and degrading one-night-stands.

An expert testified in the congressional hearings as to the effect of pornography on the brain of viewers, arguably all the more compounded when exposed to brains of children which are still developing:

Thanks to the latest advances in neuroscience, we now know that pornographic visual images imprint and alter the brain, triggering an instant, involuntary, but lasting, biochemical memory trail . . . .

Pornographic images also cause secretion of the body’s “fight or flightâ€? sex hormones. This triggers excitatory transmitters and produces non-rational, involuntary reactions; intense arousal states that overlap sexual lust–now with fear, shame, and/or hostility and violence. Media erotic fantasies become deeply imbedded, commonly coarsening, confusing, motivating and addicting many of those exposed. (See “the Violence Pyramidâ€? at http://www.vbii.org/violence.html) Pornography triggers myriad kinds of internal, natural drugs that mimic the “highâ€? from a street drug. Addiction to pornography is addiction to what I dub erototoxins — mind-altering drugs produced by the viewer’s own brain. . . .

Brain scientists tell us that “in 3/10 of a second a visual image passes from the eye through the brain, and whether or not one wants to, the brain is structurally changed and memories are created – we literally ‘grow new brain’ with each visual experience.� . . .

This scientifically documented neurochemical imprinting affects children and teens especially deeply; their still-developing brains process emotions differently, with significantly less rationality and cognition than the adult brain.

Children and others who cannot read will still instantly decode, feel and experience images. Largely right-hemisphere visual and non-speech stimuli enter long-term memory, conscious and unconscious. Any highly excitatory stimuli (whether sexually explicit sex education or X-Rated films) say neurologists, “which lasts half a second within five to ten minutes has produced a structural change that is in some ways as profound as the structural changes one sees in [brain] damage…[and] can…leave a trace that will last for years.â€? (The Science Behind Pornography Addiction: Hearing Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, 109th Cong. (2004) (testimony of Dr. Judith Reisman).)

Despite knowing these things about pornography, lawyers and spokepeople for the “adult entertainment” industry smugly and shamelessly celebrate our “freedom” to wallow in such filth, pretending that it is normal and/or natural, and that it does not have any negative externalities. In decrying proposed laws meant to limit the reach of pornography, one such adult industry lawyer enthusiastically observes that

There is an increasing normalization of pornography in America. Witness the proliferation of adult stores in rural Midwest communities and the success in 2004 of books such as adult video star Jenna Jameson’s “How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale.” The San Francisco Chronicle reported in 2004 that sex is now a multibillion-dollar industry nationwide. Adult video business alone generates $ 11 billion a year, by some estimates. And it’s not just for the kinky or perverse. Almost everyone, it seems, has watched an adult movie. And as the film critic for another newspaper reported in November of 2004, turn on the television, go to the movies, peruse the book racks, and one thing is bound to get your attention: Sex, explicit sex, is everywhere. (Clay Calvert, “The First Amendment, the Media and the Culture Wars: Eight Important Lessons From 2004 About Speech, Censorship, Science and Public Policy,” 41 Cal. W. L. Rev. 325, 341-42 (2005) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).)

What, indeed, will be the effect of a generation of boys raised on hard-core pornography, viewing it regularly in the home, sometimes (often) in the view of their parents? One does not need to be a brain scientist to hazard a guess.

Jesus has given us the dire prophesy that, in the last days, “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matt. 24:12). Although it is always difficult to match a prophecy with the fulfillment of the prophecy, it is not much of a stretch to see fulfillment of this prophecy in the widespread use of pornography, which changes attitudes towards women and sex, and erases love from the equation, causing the love of many to wax cold in their pursuit of the selfish gratification offered by the illusion and “sexual mis-education” of pornography.

For good reason our prophet and the Apostles of Jesus Christ continually decry pornography and warn us against it. President Monson again noted its dangers a few days ago in this recent conference. In 2004, President Hinckley raised a voice of warning about its evils in the Priesthood Session: “I might go on, but you, too, know enough of the seriousness of the problem. Suffice it to say that all who are involved become victims. Children are exploited, and their lives are severely damaged. The minds of youth become warped with false concepts” (“A Tragic Evil Among Us,” April 2004, Priesthood Session).

Should not our prophet and the Apostles of Jesus Christ focus their attention and energy on deterring this real danger that threatens the Church and our whole society, perhaps even western civilization as a whole? One thing we know to be true: although the Lord demands personal righteousness of individuals, he does not shy from punishing society as a whole for its deviancy. God’s punishment in this matter will be the natural consequence of a generation of men bred on hard-core pornography and the way they view women and the world.

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[1] Some critics of MacKinnon’s analysis of pornography argue that the legal prohibition of pornography reinforces sexist stereotypes about men as “irresponsible beasts, with ‘natural physiological responses’ which can be triggered by sexually explicit images of women, and for which the men cannot be held accountable”, and sexist stereotypes about women including that they are incapable of consent and that “good’ women do not seek and enjoy sex.” Nan D. Hunter & Sylvia A. Law, Brief Amici Curiae of Feminist Anti-Censorship Taskforce, et al, in American Booksellers Association v. Hudnut, 21 U. Mich. J.L. Ref. 69, 127, 129 (Fall 1987-Winter 1988); see also Mary C. Dunlap, Sexual Speech and the State: Putting Pornography in its Place, 17 Golden Gate U.L. Rev. 359 (1987) (arguing society needs more, not less, sexually explicit expression, in order to address the problems of child and adult sexual abuse, AIDS and other sexually- transmitted diseases, and to improve all forms of consensual, intimate relationships). Others have argued that MacKinnon’s theory of pornography, by assuming that first, men are free subjects who use pornography to construct and impose their views of sexuality on women; and second, women are involuntary actors who lack subjectivity, is a “constant reaffirmation” of male power and “an unending rewriting of the myth of male subjectivity,” which makes an affirmative feminist program “problematic, to say the least.” Jeanne L. Schroeder, The Taming of the Shrew: The Liberal Attempt to Tame Feminist Radical Theory, 5 Yale J.L. & Feminism, 123, 179-80 (1992). Supporters of MacKinnon’s regulatory approach to pornography argue that it is consistent with, rather than opposed to, the First Amendment. See, e.g., Cass Sunstein, Pornography and the First Amendment, 1986 Duke L.J. 589 (arguing pornography is “low value” speech not entitled to First Amendment protection). (Katharine T. Bartlett, “Gender Law,” 1 Duke J. Gender L. & Pol’y 1, note 36.)

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75 Responses to The Real Danger?

  1. tnr on April 5, 2006 at 2:58 pm

    What you’re missing is an argument that pornography is not just bad, but a greater problem for women than patriarchy or priesthood. You’ve got an argument against pornography, but nothing that supports your initial statement which is that it is worse than two other things. Or was the comparison just for rhetorical effect? ;-)

  2. john f. on April 5, 2006 at 3:19 pm

    TNR, for nearly two years in the Bloggernacle, I have seen numerous posts and threads highly critical of the Church based on patriarchy and priesthood. However, I have seen very little written by women in the Bloggernacle against pornography. Why is that?

    I assert that it might be more dangerous to women than patriarchy or priesthood because it changes the way men look at women and by its very nature subjects women to men and turns women into faceless sexual objects.

    Church leaders spend a lot of time decrying pornography and very little time criticizing patriarchy or priesthood. I am suggesting that this course of action is justified.

  3. Kristine Haglund Harris on April 5, 2006 at 3:54 pm

    John, just for laughs, try to imagine me (or Julie or Rosalynde or Melissa) starting a post with a long quotation from Catharine McKinnon, and imagine how many people would have made it past the first three sentences before they started criticizing us for being in thrall to crazy leftist lesbian feminazis.

    Also, please don’t forget that Times and Seasons is supposed to be Mormon-themed–I’m as anti-pornography as the next gal, but I don’t particularly see it as a Mormon problem. That’s why I haven’t posted on it here.

    I reckon it wouldn’t lead to a particularly constructive discussion if I suggested that the policies against women and men working together in the church (mixed-gender Primary presidencies, for instance), endless discussions of modesty (always heavily gendered), etc. partake of precisely the same kind of thinking–that women are always potentially objects of male desire, and that they must therefore be segregated and controlled. Of course, Mormon patriarchy is not violent, and is thus less immediately dangerous to women, as you say. Nonetheless, it is like p-rnography in that it functions as a barrier to women being regarded as fully human.

  4. Nate Oman on April 5, 2006 at 4:10 pm

    Kristine: I am happy to report that if our search engine is to be trusted, you are the first person to ever use the term “feminazi” on this blog…

  5. john f. on April 5, 2006 at 4:15 pm

    Kristine, I used MacKinnon as an example to show that a liberal perspective should not, in theory, have to arrest anyone’s vehemence against the evils of pornography.

    In this most recent conference, President Monson again specifically addressed pornography as one of the main evils of our day that we need to reject and overcome. This makes it a Mormon problem.

  6. Eve on April 5, 2006 at 4:18 pm

    John, first of all, while I’ve seen a number of denunciations of patriarchy in the Bloggernacle, I don’t recall any denunciations of the priesthood per se–only some denunciations of its limitation to men and of our rhetorical justifications for that limitation. (It’s very possible I’ve missed a thread somewhere, but I can’t recall anyone saying that the priesthood itself is bad for women).

    Second, like tnr, I don’t see any necessary dichotomy between critiques of patriarchy and critiques of pornography. A number of radical feminists like those you quote see pornography as a tool of patriarchy. Here are the options as I see them, grossly oversimplified because both patriarchy and pornography are so complicated.

    We could

    (1) Critique both patriarchy and pornography (the radical feminist position of MacKinnon and Dworkin)
    (2) Defend patriarchy and critique pornography (the socially conservative position)
    (3) Defend pornography and critique patriarchy (the socially liberal position)
    (4) Defend both patriarchy and pornography (I’m not sure what to call this one).

    Third, while I wholeheartedly agree with you that pornography is degrading to women, there are practical reasons I wouldn’t write much about it. I don’t understand it at all, I don’t seek it out, and I mostly forget it exists. If it weren’t for what I hear about what a problem it is in General Conference and church, I would barely give it a thought. Perhaps I ought to consider it more. If I had teenaged sons, I almost certainly would think about it a lot more than I do. But other than saying that I oppose pornography and I do think it’s degrading to women (and to men), I don’t have much to say on the subject, largely because I’ve had almost no experience with it. On the other hand, I’ve had more than three decades of experiences with patriarchy and the priesthood, so I have a lot more to say about those subjects.

    Of course, I can’t speak for any other women on the Bloggernacle, but those are my reasons.

  7. Kristine Haglund Harris on April 5, 2006 at 4:21 pm

    What Eve said!

    (Thanks, Eve)

  8. D-Train on April 5, 2006 at 4:22 pm

    John,

    I think we can probably all agree that we’re against pornography and that it’s a terrible thing. Indeed, it is feminist literature that often makes the most compelling arguments against pornography. A few problems that I have, though:

    1) I’m not real cool with your attempt to make opposition to pornography and opposition to patriarchy mutually exclusive. Why can’t we oppose both? I think the general theme of your post attempts to place these in opposition so that you can reject anti-patriarchy arguments without actually engaging them.

    2) Your claim that those who are viewing hard-core pornography “don’t stand a chance” of having a healthy sexual relationship is dubious to say the least. Again, we can all agree that there are problems with pornography and that it harms relationships. However, your take seems to ignore the possibility of repentance and assumes that the effects will be uniform across individuals.

    3) Perhaps the greatest evil that you don’t mention (but probably would agree with) is that pornography is so easy to get and is becoming more normalized. In my view, most people that are looking at pornography don’t really have any basis for knowing that it’s wrong. It’s just there. It’s just something you do. Is this a societal evil? Absolutely. However, we can’t necessarily judge individuals that simply weren’t provided with good principles as youth. I’m not saying that your post does this, but I am arguing that we need to be careful with the sort of rhetoric we use. I think the MacKinnon type arguments are a lot more likely to be successful than mounting the city walls and telling people how awful they are, which is how most opposition to pornography from the religious community seems to manifest itself.

    As we oppose pornography, let us remember that it’s not the only legitimate problem in the world. Just because other issues get discussion doesn’t mean that porn is seen as acceptable.

  9. Ronan on April 5, 2006 at 4:22 pm

    I’m glad that the FT and others are pointing out that porn is not just bad on a cosmic, God-offending level, it is also bad for kids, bad for women, bad for marriages, bad for us all. Great post. (Although I agree that the intro is unnecessarily divisive. Behold!)

  10. john f. on April 5, 2006 at 4:28 pm

    Ronan, the FT article didn’t point out that porn is bad. If I remember correctly, it quoted its interviewees as saying that we don’t know what effect, if any, the widespread and frequent use of pornography will have on society. One or two of them said that the picture of men gratifying themselves in front of their computers was pathetic, even tragic, but I didn’t see anyone say that pornography itself was bad. I might not be remembering it accurately.

  11. cchrissyy on April 5, 2006 at 4:31 pm

    wow, those are great quotes about how sick, sad, and dangerous pornogpraphy is. I wholly agree.

    But somebody should add, and it may as well be me, that there is hope for freedom and total healing, through Jesus Christ, repentance, and 12-step programs. the church has addiction recovery meetings including ones for men only that are specific to pornography and sexual addiction. there are also 12-step meetings for female family members only, if they have developed unhealthy coping patterns.
    meetings are listed here: http://www.providentliving.org/content/list/0,11664,4177-1,00.html

  12. Randy B. on April 5, 2006 at 4:51 pm

    Kristine’s and Eve’s explanations make sense to me. I suspect that there are other factors at work here as well — including the fact that no one here (other than perhaps Steve EM) is going to give a rousing defense of p0rn. There simply is not much of a market for discussing the merits of p0rn in the bloggernacle.

    Most people don’t spend much time blogging about issues that aren’t new or novel, already get lots of air time, and aren’t particularly controversial. That’s true generally, not just of “women’s issues.”

  13. john f. on April 5, 2006 at 4:51 pm

    D-Train wrote I think we can probably all agree that we’re against pornography and that it’s a terrible thing.

    I’m not so sure this is an accurate statement. Maybe you meant in the bloggernacle and not in society as a whole. In society as a whole, my observation has been, aside from some feminist writing to which you refer, that “the Left” by and large acts like it cannot condemn the insufferable practice of pornography, even defending it — free speech and all that.

    I think the general theme of your post attempts to place these in opposition so that you can reject anti-patriarchy arguments without actually engaging them.

    This was not my purpose at all. Rather, I was making an observation as follows:

    In my opinion (“it seems to me”), pornography is more dangerous to women in the Church and in society as a whole than patriarchy or priesthood are. My observation is that many in the Bloggernacle, however, write frequently about how patriarchy is bad or dangerous for women. My observation has been that very few women in the Bloggernacle write condemning pornography and ways to rid the Church and society of it. Why is that? The long exposition on pornography was to illustrate why, in my opinion, pornography is far worse, both in an immediate and in a cosmic sense, than patriarchy. So what am I missing? Why is more time and energy spent on patriarchy and priesthood than on society’s (both men and women’s) rapidly diminishing respect for women based on viewing pornography? It’s not a false dichotomy or a diversion tactic, as you suggest. If you disagree that pornography is more dangerous to women than patriarchy, then just say so.

    I think the MacKinnon type arguments are a lot more likely to be successful than mounting the city walls and telling people how awful they are, which is how most opposition to pornography from the religious community seems to manifest itself.

    Whether some kid was raised on hard-core porn at home without knowing it was wrong in a religious sense or not, the resulting man will still not stand a chance of having a non-perverted sex life and will still likely objectify women in a degrading manner. Our leaders are standing on the wall, to use your metaphor, preaching against pornography as an evil that must be refused by individuals and hopefully by society as a whole. Is this approach unjustified if the audience, as you claim, consists of people “don’t really have any basis for knowing that it’s wrong”?

    Eve, the silence on pornography, rightly or wrongly, seems to imply that the Bloggernacle leans toward # 3.

    Should I delete the first paragraph, since that seems to be what is bothering everyone (i.e. one can’t wonder why so much time is spent criticizing patriarchy and priesthood when there is the much more immediate and degrading danger of pornography about)?

  14. rd on April 6, 2006 at 12:29 pm

    “Nonetheless, it [female primary presidencies] is like p-rnography in that it functions as a barrier to women being regarded as fully human”

    It must be difficult to live in a world where primary presidencies are like p-rnography. In fact, how does a female function with such a view? These bastions of comfort and instruction that give so much time, energy, and spiritual capital to my children are, well, just another sign of our dimented thinking. Who knew. Just think of the poor male primary teachers who are segregated from, and have to [it absolutely kills me to say] answer to female leadership. They’re not even p-rn. They’re nothing.

    At least I’m the ward mission leader . . .

  15. Eve on April 6, 2006 at 12:48 pm

    Kristine–anytime!

    John, I’ve tended to read the Bloggernacle silence about p0rn as Randy (#12) does. I tend to assume that almost all naccers would denounce p0rn. I haven’t read much here about the evils of rape (also a feminist issue), but I think it’s also fair to assume that silence on the subject doesn’t indicate tacit approval.

    That said, I think I can see why you might assume that the silence on porn suggests the Bloggernacle leans to (3), the socially liberal denunciation of patriarchy and defense of porn. A fair portion of the nacle leans left (for Mormons, anyway), so it’s reasonable to wonder to what extent left-leaning Mormons would accept p0rn on grounds of free speech or sexual liberation.

    The question you raise about patriarchy and p0rn strikes me as very complex. Some radical feminists would argue that p0rn is a manifestation of patriarchy, not unrelated to the kind of religious discourse that tends to make women objects, some forms of which Kristine mentions in #3. I haven’t followed the LDS denuciations of p0rn very closely in recent years, since it’s not a pressing issue in my life, but I remember being bothered a few years ago by the General Authorities’ conspicuous silence about p0rn’s degrading portrayal of women as sexual objects. In the talks I remember reading or hearing from years ago, p0rn was generally compared to a drug, like cocaine, and men were warned to absain because of its highly addictive properties. As I see it, that analogy, however helpful, breaks down at the point we realize that cocaine is an object and has no feelings about being abused. Women aren’t cocaine. I’m glad to hear that point is being made more frequently these days.

    And thanks for putting the post back up. I think the issues you raise are worth discussing, and I hope you haven’t felt that the discussion here has been divisive. FWIW, it hasn’t struck me that way.

  16. Kaimi Wenger on April 6, 2006 at 1:33 pm

    John,

    I appreciate the question that you raise – why aren’t more Mormon feminists talking about p0rn? It’s a good point. I would love to see more discussion of some of the problems of p0rn, from a Mormon feminist perspective. (Hint, hint — FMH-Lisa, Kristine, Elisabeth, Julie, Artemis, Melissa, Caroline, Emily, Not-Ophelia, Tea, Eve, and all the rest of the rocking feminists of the nacle (there are really far too many to list you all individually, and I feel bad for leaving anyone out)).

    However, as much as I agree with that broader point – and commend you for raising it – I have to disagree with two other points that you seem to be arguing. First, you seem to be saying that because there are posts on partiarchy and fewer on p0rn, that bloggers must care less about p0rn. I think that Kristine and Eve have done a pretty good job of arguing that that’s wrong; let me just agree with them. I don’t think that the mere post ratio – absent further indicia – supports your argument.

    Second, your bifurcation between p0rn and patriarchy ignores the fact that for many feminist, p0rn is a _form_ of patriarchy. Thus, it is not “we should focus on p0rn rather than patriarchy.” Rather, feminists like MacKinnon attack p0rn _because_ it reinforces patriarchy. Thus, your statement that “It seems to me that far more dangerous to the lives and well-being of Latter-day Saint women, and women generally, than patriarchy or priesthood, is the plague of pornography” is a bit confusing from a feminist perspective. Both the problems of p0rn and the inequities of the partiarchal heirarchy in the church stem from the same source, which is male privilege and patriarchy.

  17. john f. on April 6, 2006 at 1:45 pm

    I see the false dichotomy that you all are pointing out. This has been divisive and was the reason I initially took the post down. But I haven’t deleted the first paragraph for the sake of honesty — this is the reason that I have written a post about pornography on a Mormon-themed blog. I guess one aspect of my point is that I wonder (fear?) that many LDS women who campaign against patriarchy could be using their talents and energy in the fight against the objectification of women through pornography in the greater culture.

  18. Kaimi Wenger on April 6, 2006 at 1:58 pm

    By the way, contra the standard perception that interest in p0rn is a male-only thing (a perception sometimes reinforced by both church leaders and feminist critics), there are certainly some women who are consumers of pornography. In fact, today’s “Dear Prudence” at Slate contains a portion on just that subject: http://www.slate.com/id/2138212/ .

    So while it’s important to focus in a feminist way on the issues raised by pornography, it’s also important not to oversimplify the analysis – there are some women who are consumers of p0rn, though the ratio is much lower than it is among men.

  19. Frank McIntyre on April 6, 2006 at 2:01 pm

    Kaimi,

    While I am sure you are right that some women struggle with personal pornography problems, I dearly hope that we will not descend to taking internet advice columns as evidence of anything pertaining to reality.

  20. Eve on April 6, 2006 at 2:14 pm

    OK, John, setting aside the whole patriarchy issue (which is what I take it you’re trying to do), maybe we do need to take pornography more seriously, both from feminist and from other perspectives. In that spirit, I’ll throw out what few thoughts I have.

    A few years ago, a good friend who at that time held a leadership position in the church confessed to me that he had struggled with porn since early adolesence. I was stunned. To be brief and elliptical about drawn-out, nasty affair, I had several soul-searching conversations with both him and his wife as he struggled unsuccessfully to overcome his problems and as their marriage unraveled. I talked to my husband about it quite a bit as well in an attempt to understand porn. [Here follows an embarrassing naive-Mormon-girl confession] It wasn’t until my husband explained it to me that I realized the whole point of porn was to masturbate to it. Although I’d been married for years at that point, porn was and is so alien to my inclinations that that had never occurred to me.

    Watching the disintegration of their marriage and various attitudes towards it, I was struck by the variety of views people had of the issue. Some (non-LDS) thought the porn was a non-issue, that the wife was using that as a dumping ground or an excuse to avoid dealing with other “real” problems. One even suggested that she was threatening divorce to fan the flames of her husband’s affection. Others (LDS who weren’t aware of the porn issue) were critical of her for not sticking with him. Having seen the soul-destroying nature of porn, both in their case and in the cases of two other close friends whose boyfriends or husbands have used it, I absolutely oppose it, I completely agree with the GAs that we all need to avoid it, and I think that the people who use it need compassion and help. But having said all that, I still don’t really understand it. Although Kaimi rightly points out that some women have problems with porn or other sexual addictions, I suspect there are biological differences between men and women at issue here.

  21. Elisabeth Calvert Smith on April 6, 2006 at 2:40 pm

    John F. – so are you asking us to debate the relative harm of patriarchy vs. porn? Measuring the relative harm done to a woman who is told her entire life that she needs to wait around for a man to marry her, and that her only value as a person is her value as a mother (patriarchy) vs. a woman who is sexually degraded for money (porn) is not a constructive exercise.

    The effects of both patriarchy and porn can be extremely harmful to women and men alike. And since most reasonable people agree with that statement, I’m not sure there’s much left to argue about.

  22. john f. on April 6, 2006 at 2:46 pm

    Are you saying that someone who does not agree that the effects of patriarchy in the LDS Church are “extremely harmful to women and men alike” is not or cannot be a reasonable person? (I.e. only reasonable people agree with you and people who see things differently are and must be unreasonable based on that different view?)

  23. Starfoxy on April 6, 2006 at 2:52 pm

    Perhaps a discussion of what porn is might be useful? As many have said, to most of the participants around here porn is out of the question. And since we can only argue, ahem, *discuss* what we disagree on we don’t discuss porn because no one around here would dare say that it’s not bad. So what can we disagree on? What porn is and where to find it.
    There are things that are obviously porn, (playboy etc.) but there are lots of things that aren’t so obvious. I had a friend who’s dad’s favorite catalogue was the Victoria’s Secret Catalogue. I highly doubt that the man was masturbating to it, but I am sure his interest in it wasn’t for the perfume samples. What about Sports Illustrated? Cheerleaders and dancers at games? The Acadamy Awards? Music Videos? Herbal Essences commercials?
    Personally I would complain most about women’s magazines (Cosmo et al) because they send women the message that sex =beauty and “you are only important when you’re being lusted after.” I seem to remember reading that 80% of women felt worse about themselves and their bodies after reading a magazine. Do LDS women read magazines like that? Should they?

  24. john f. on April 6, 2006 at 2:52 pm

    ECS, based on your rephrasing of the issue into a patriarchy vs. porn statement, and the way you worded that statement in defining it, it sounds like you think that patriarchy is worse than porn.

    Patriarchy, according to you, is the harm done to a woman who is told her entire life that she needs to wait around for a man to marry her, and that her only value as a person is her value as a mother whereas porn is just a woman who is sexually degraded for money. This could be read to reveal which one you are more mad about.

  25. john f. on April 6, 2006 at 2:55 pm

    Re 23: In her testimony in the congressional hearings, Mary Anne Layden provided what I think is a useful, descriptive, and accurate definition of what porn is: it is anything that sends the message that “sex is not about intimacy, procreation or marriage. Sex is about predatory self-gratification, casual recreation, body parts, violence, feces, strangers, children, animals and using women as entertainment.�

  26. Elisabeth Calvert Smith on April 6, 2006 at 2:56 pm

    LOL! Thanks for the psychoanalysis, John. You free for weekly sessions? I’ve got a few other hang-ups I could use your help diagnosing.

    Look – you are putting words into my mouth. I did not mention the LDS Church in my comment. What I said was that most reasonable people will agree that effects of patriarchy (the supremacy of men over women) are harmful to both genders.

  27. Kaimi Wenger on April 6, 2006 at 2:59 pm

    John (22),

    No, no, no. Reasonable people are those who agree with _me_, not those who agree with _Elisabeth_.

    Now granted, Elisabeth is generally pretty reasonable herself. After all, she usually agrees with me! But she’s occasionally unreasonable – that is, she disagrees with me – and when she’s being unreasonable, I’m always sure to let her know about it. :P

    So there you have it. The standard is that reasonableness means agreeing with _Kaimi_, not _Elisabeth_. Though it’s fine to agree with Elisabeth too, of course, as long as it’s on an issue on which she agrees with me.

    I hope that clarifies things.

  28. john f. on April 6, 2006 at 3:02 pm

    it helps a little but i’m still confused

    i thought reasonable people could have a widely varying range of views and beliefs, including that patriarchy in and of itself is not harmful to women

    i guess i was wrong — only an unreasonable person could possibly think that

  29. Kaimi Wenger on April 6, 2006 at 3:05 pm

    Wow, the comments fly fast!

    Starfoxy (23) – that’s a reasonable question to ask. :)

    I think that it is a helpful categorization to keep p0rn separate from other sexually stimulating things. Not that objectification of women in, say, the Super Bowl halftime show or on MTV is good. But I think that it’s sensible to draw a line between p0rn-nudity-masturbation — e.g., Playboy channel, XXX movies, and so on — and other sexually suggestive material. They have some similarities, but the issues are more pronounced in the former case.

    John (24) – not to put words into reasonable-Elisabeth’s mouth, but I think it’s quite possible that she sees the problems in both. At least, that’s how I read her comment.

    John (25) – hey, that sounds reasonable enough! :)

    Elisabeth (26) – now that’s what I call a reasonable comment! :)

  30. Elisabeth Calvert Smith on April 6, 2006 at 3:06 pm

    John, I’d like to hear more of your thoughts on how patriarchy as I’ve defined it – the supremacy of men over women – is not harmful to women. Feel free to re-define the terms as you wish, but I think you are pushing the bounds of the reasonable person standard in your comment #28.

  31. john f. on April 6, 2006 at 3:13 pm

    I’m not sure that “patriarchy” necessarily entails any kind of implication of the supremacy of men over women. But maybe it does, I don’t know. I’ve never thought of it that way — and I’ve never heard it described that way in the Church.

  32. Elisabeth Calvert Smith on April 6, 2006 at 3:40 pm

    John, this is the definition of patriarchy:

    A social system in which the father is the head of the family, and men have authority over women and children. A family, community, or society based on this system or governed by men.

    http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=patriarchy

  33. john f. on April 6, 2006 at 3:45 pm

    Is it your view that patriarchy in families in the Church includes men having authority over women and children? What about a father and mother standing together at the head of a family, two equal halves required to form the patriarchal unit at the head of the family and thus equal in authority?

  34. Wacky Hermit on April 6, 2006 at 3:48 pm

    E.C.S.: “Measuring the relative harm done to a woman who is told her entire life that she needs to wait around for a man to marry her, and that her only value as a person is her value as a mother (patriarchy)”

    I’ve been a Mormon my whole life and I never once was told (let alone for my entire life) that I had to wait around for a man to marry me and help me to be a mother or I wouldn’t be worth anything. The wonderful way single sisters in my wards were treated would have put the lie to that sort of false teaching. Maybe your ward was different.

  35. Rosalynde Welch on April 6, 2006 at 3:54 pm

    I think the best way to think about patriarchy is as a kinship group or community in which men control property and resources, and thus control women’s access to property and resources. This allows for distinctions between patriarchal systems and patrilineal or patrilocal systems—all of which often occur simultaneously, of course. Incidentally, under my proposed definition, every known pre-modern human society—and many corners of modern human society, as well—has been patriarchal. Patriarchy as about as close to a trans-historical cultural constant as we can get (though, of course, it has differed in function and particulars in different times and places).

    I heartily agree with your condemnation of pornography, John. For what it’s worth, I’ve made a bit of a spectacle of myself arguing strongly against pornography on a few occasions in the bloggernacle (but because they don’t show me off to good effect, and because I’m vain, I won’t link to them).

    I’m interested in speculation on the specific sociologial effects of widespread porn use: will sexual assaults against women increase? will fewer men choose to marry? what specifically will we see happening?

  36. Elisabeth Calvert Smith on April 6, 2006 at 3:59 pm

    John – My general point is that the effects of men ruling over women (patriarchy) are harmful to women and men.

    To answer the specific questions in your comment #33, yes, I do think that the patriarchy described in the Church includes men having authority over women and children.

    The second question you raise is interesting. I’ve heard that patriarchy means equal partnership before (most recently from Elder Oaks in last October’s General Conference), but defining patriarchy as a partnership strains the accepted definitions of both “patriarchy” and “partnership”.

  37. john f. on April 6, 2006 at 4:00 pm

    My opinion is that it will prevent women from being seen as equals — it will render that impossible when a woman is a faceless sex toy — anywhere, whether the workplace, academia, in churches, or simply walking down the street.

    I think that what you have mentioned will also occur. Surely it will lead to dissolution of families and a decrease in marriage. It will contribute to the further alienation of one human being to another.

  38. Kaimi Wenger on April 6, 2006 at 4:00 pm

    John,

    Not to put words into Elisabeth’s mouth (again), but let me try to hit the middle ground here.

    Patriarchy can be bad for women. Go to Elisabeth’s definition, and you’ll see the potential reasons. And modern feminists have raised that critique. In fact, as Elisabeth suggests – quite reasonably, I think – patriarchy can have effects that are harmful to both genders.

    (In the literature, you’ll see this idea discussed as male privilege. Male privilege has perncisious effects on both men and women, just as white privilege has pernicious effects on both whites and Blacks).

    People may disagree on the question of whether harmful patriarchy exists within the church. You may feel that such patriarchy does not exist in the chruch; others may feel that it does. (Issues may arise as to whether men or women are more appropriate judges of this). But at the very least, it should be possible to criticize patriarchal assumptions independent from (and possibly outside of) the church structure — and Eliisabeth (in 26 and 32) seems to be arguably within that category.

  39. john f. on April 6, 2006 at 4:01 pm

    # 37 was in response to Rosalynde # 35.

  40. Kaimi Wenger on April 6, 2006 at 4:03 pm

    Well, E.’s recent comment changes the analysis slightly, but I still think that it should be possible (and hopefully, easy) to agree with her statements about general negative effects of patriarchy (26, 32), even if one does not agree with her specific application to the churhc context.

  41. Elisabeth Calvert Smith on April 6, 2006 at 4:03 pm

    Wacky Hermit – I think your name explains how we might have had different experiences growing up. :)

  42. john f. on April 6, 2006 at 4:05 pm

    Kaimi, this post questions whether pornography is more dangerous to women, both LDS and non-LDS, than “patriarchy” as viewed within the Church. This is a Mormon-themed blog, after all. This post has nothing to do with patriarchy existing in other cultures or sub-cultures. ECS is equating any patriarchy that happens to exist in the Church will all other patriarchy, it would seem. I am not cool with that, not only because it wasn’t the point of this post, but also because I disagree with it substantively.

  43. Elisabeth Calvert Smith on April 6, 2006 at 4:31 pm

    John, before you hold me up for public scorn and derision for criticizing the Church on this Mormon-themed blog – let’s get our definitions straight. Could you explain what you mean by “patriarchy that happens to exist in the Church” and “all other patriarchy”?? I’d like to understand the source of our disagreement. Do you disagree that men in the Church have authority over women and children?

  44. john f. on April 6, 2006 at 4:34 pm

    ECS, let me turn the question around on you by repeating my earlier, unanswered comment # 33:

    Is it your view that patriarchy in families in the Church includes men having authority over women and children? What about a father and mother standing together at the head of a family, two equal halves required to form the patriarchal unit at the head of the family and thus equal in authority?

    Also, let me ask, are you not speaking of patriarchy generally as being harmful to women rather than of patriarchy within the Church? Maybe I have misunderstood you.

  45. WillF on April 6, 2006 at 4:34 pm

    Re 25: So far your definition only takes into account the purposes of the porn producer. I think this lets people off the hook by making it easy to justify behavior by claiming the material in question was not intended to be porn.
    The intentions and perceptions of the person viewing can twist something into porn that was not intended to be porn.

  46. john f. on April 6, 2006 at 4:54 pm

    re 45, I certainly am not intending to let anyone off the hook. # 25 was meant as a broad definition.

    However, I would not want to create a definition of porn that would include legitimate art, such as e.g. something like certain sculptures by Rodin. If in a particular case a viewer sees those in a light similar to the definition in # 25, then that is a more subjective problem, I would say, for the viewer (and must be avoided by that viewer as such). But when it is real porn, you know it when you see it, to paraphrase a distinguished member of our Supreme Court.

  47. D-Train on April 6, 2006 at 5:13 pm

    John,

    Sorry for my silence – I didn’t notice the return of your post.

    I did mean that the bloggernacle has a consensus. Society has something of a consensus, but there are people that support porn and a lot more that don’t condemn/passively use.

    Basically my only complaint is the link of this issue to the patriarchy debate. I’d also caution that we should understand that porn affects people differently, although I will concede that the effects are basically all negative. I also think that we have to use different tones in addressing Church and public audiences. I was too critical of your post’s tone because it is here in the Bloggernacle – but I do think that we need to appeal to different sorts of values that are shared by those that we address outside of the Church. After all, the best argument in your post is precisely this – pornography stinks for women no matter how you look at it.

    I will argue that patriarchy is a bigger problem than porn for your average LDS woman (who is actually concerned about patriarchy). Suppose you’re married with three young kids and neither your husband nor the kids use porn. Is pornography still the elephant in the room? Sure, you need to be aware of it, but is it really an issue? Not really. However, if a woman is harmed by patriarchy that is present in the Church, it seems to me that this could cause great emotional pain and make it very difficult for women to have good relationships with men and the Church. Beyond this, patriarchy must be addressed in the public sphere in order to confront it. Pornography may be a societal ill, but we can deal with it effectively within the confines of the home.

  48. Elisabeth on April 6, 2006 at 5:39 pm

    John –

    Thanks for the opportunity to clarify – those are helpful questions.

    1. Yes, patriarchy in the Church does include men having authority over women and children. This is clear in LDS doctrine and practice. Men preside over their families. Men don’t preside over their families because men are more righteous or more capable than women (or children, as the case may be), but men preside because, according to LDS doctrine, men (not women) preside over their families. Furthermore, men are granted priesthood authority. Women are not.

    2. I like the idea of two equal halves working together. Help me see how two equal halves is compatible with presiding and priesthood authority.

    3. I think patriarchal systems have great capacity to harm – especially if this power goes unchecked. In the LDS Church, as I understand it, local leaders interview each male individually to determine his worthiness to hold the priesthood and preside over his family. Whether or not patriarchal systems by their very nature are harmful to women is a more difficult question to answer.

  49. john f. on April 6, 2006 at 6:05 pm

    ECS: re comment 48, your # 2 is how I understand patriarchy to be practiced within the Church..

    D-Train: porn can be addressed within the confines of the home in the sense of a particular individual’s use of porn. But I would argue based on the information in the post that it is still and should be the “elephant in the room,” as you have described it. The reason is because of the macro effect of porn in our society, which was actually the point of the post. Even if a particular woman is in a home where no porn ever enters, porn is still going to have an immediate effect on the woman because she will be devalued everywhere in society as a sex object as a result of the widespread use and acceptance of porn.

  50. D-Train on April 6, 2006 at 7:19 pm

    John,

    That’s a good point. You might well be right. It’s tough to actually verify the importance of porn in this particular hypothetical because we don’t know how people that aren’t in some relationship with our hypothetical woman will treat her because of their porn consumption. Even if they think she’s a sex object, it’s not clear that they will treat her as such. Also, it should be noted that patriarchy may have the same effect and may be the moving factor in the sort of erotic entertainment that guys are interested in.

    I think we’re agreed on the problem. I would suggest that porn might be something of an intermediate link (negative attitudes toward women lead to porn (especially of the very degrading form), which reifies negative attitudes). So I think porn is bad but it is both caused by and reinforces the negative impact that we’re interested in. Does that make sense?

  51. D-Train on April 6, 2006 at 7:23 pm

    And, if we’re discussing patriarchy, one of the arguments that frequently comes from feminist scholars is that patriarchy is a result and institutionalization of negative attitudes toward women and that these attitudes are frequently sexual or sexualized. I don’t think that model is particularly appropriate to the Church, but I can see some issues.

  52. Elisabeth on April 6, 2006 at 10:55 pm

    Hmm. Ever read through your comments and regret making them? I think my tone on this thread was unnecessarily harsh, and I really didn’t add much to the conversation (except said unnecessary harshness). Sorry, John!

  53. mullingandmusing (m&m) on April 7, 2006 at 2:14 am

    Elisabeth,
    I saw your post as containing heartfelt questions, not an awful tone.

    Interestingly, I’ve been pondering this very issue tonite (actually all day). The following talks might be helpful. I was interested to note how many times the concepts of power and authority were mentioned.

    Dallin H. Oaks, “The Relief Society and the Church,� Ensign, May 1992, 34
    Boyd K. Packer, “The Circle of Sisters,� Ensign, Nov. 1980, 109
    Sheri L. Dew, “It Is Not Good for Man or Woman to Be Alone,� Ensign, Nov. 2001, 12

    I think sometimes we just don’t see how much we as women have because we think of equality in a natural-man, cultural kind of way — that everything should be exactly alike for both sexes. I think Sister Tanner’s talk from Conference, although disliked by some, really gets at what equality means to God. We are equal because we can all pray, we can all receive all the saving ordinances, we can all have a testimony, we can all receive revelation (and, as [then] Elder Packer reminds us in the above talk, we can all have the ministering of angels). The gifts available through the priesthood (and through the Spirit, which is available because of the priesthood) are available to all. Interestingly, it is the very priesthood that causes some angst for some in the Church that makes this kind of equality fully possible (re: ordinances, etc.)

    I am fully persuaded that if there is angst about women and the priesthood, it is simply because we don’t understand yet how God works. But I trust completely that He means what He says through His prophets, and even though we may hear “gender roles,” “patriarchal order” “priesthood” “presiding authority” or any other buzz words and think “inequality,” I believe that God truly does love His sons and daughters equally. If we plant that seed in our hearts and don’t cast it out, I know it can grow. The fruit can be sweet. :) I’m tasting it the more I ponder these concepts. Do I understand all the whys? No. Do I have no more questions? No. But I believe what we are told. Understanding these things begins with a trust in what we are taught…rather than perhaps waiting for what we want to hear. But the Lord’s yoke — His way — is easy if we trust Him.

  54. Nathan on April 7, 2006 at 2:57 am

    If a man truly understands and uses his priesthood the way it is intended, the patriarchal order thrives because to hold the priesthood and use it properly, he must serve his family. Ok, so now if I as patriarchal head of the home am supposed to “rule” over my family, this rule isn’t by fear or by demands, it is by service, by working side by side with them, it is by creating a spirit of love and friendship. Perhaps if I may more eloquently say, if my wife ain’t happy, I ain’t happy. Therefore my job as Patriarch is to make my wife and family happy.

    So who ultimately leads in the home? My wife

    I don’t say this to patronize women. I honestly believe this.

  55. Karter Hermit on April 7, 2006 at 4:17 pm

    p0rn = bad
    p0rn is man’s fault
    men = bad

    patriarchy = bad
    men = patriarchy
    church = partriarchy
    church = bad?

    what else is new in the bloggernacle?

    Forget that in this “girl power” society many young women are baring all and want to be porn stars. It’s the man’s fault because he buys what the women want to sell.

    And yes, Elizabeth, you did come off as rude to Wacky Hermit. Saying that her weird name must be a result of her weird upbringing and views.

    Wacky, not all of us are that puffed up in our own importance.

    Seacrest out.

  56. MikeInWeHo on April 8, 2006 at 12:53 am

    Re-reading these entries more carefully, I’m utterly befuddled. What on earth is being discussed here? This dreaded, addictive “porn” which is scarier than a used heroin needle on the floor yet so broadly defined (see #25) as to be almost meaningless. I have no idea what material is being discussed. Hard-core xxx videos in some sleezy bookstore off the highway? An episode of Will & Grace? Brokeback Mountain just released on DVD? The Calvin Klein billboard that hovers over my street? The Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition? The Abercrombie and Fitch store at the mall? Our society is infused with sexual objectification of women and men. Pornography is a symptom, not a cause. Getting all freaked out about the Playboy on sale at 7-11 is utterly counter-productive. Pornography is demand, not suppy- driven. And IMO, nothing generates demand for this material better than a patriarchal, sexist system. MacKinnon and Dworkin were no Mormons and would be horrified (or perhaps amused) to see their names mentioned in a discussion like this!

  57. Elisabeth on April 8, 2006 at 9:17 am

    Mr. Hermit – look, if you’re going to go around calling yourself a “Wacky Hermit”, you’ve got to expect at least SOME ribbing about such a fantastic pseudonym, no? That said, I certainly did not mean to offend Ms. Hermit with my jocularity. (although I must admit I feel almost as silly apologizing for playfully joking around about a comical, obviously fake name, as I do apologizing to John Fowles for being argumentative :P)

    Mulling and musing – thanks for your charitable interpretation of my questions.

  58. annegb on April 8, 2006 at 9:51 am

    #56 Mike, you’re probably the only one who read these carefully. Speaking for myself, I’m more interested in what I have to say than what anybody else has to say. Especially when the opening post is ten miles long, John. Are you channeling Julie?

    I read Brokeback Mountain and Annie Proux is a good writer, but she did nothing to establish a homosexual relationship as a loving, caring one. She didn’t have any context or explanation for the acts in the book. I don’t know if it’s pornography or not. I’m pretty sure if I saw the movie, and saw that stuff, I would throw up. No offense to anybody, it’s just the truth.

    I don’t even know about Will and Grace, that Jack is so funny, then they something so disgusting I have to turn the channel for a minute till it’s over.

    I found some pornography in my 15 year old son’s room, that was 17 years ago. It was the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen up to this minute. He’d bought it from a kid down the street who stole it from his dad. We are now dealing with molestation issues in our neighbor, not my family, but others. While probably all the boys in the neighborhood saw that garbage, one chose to act on it. And boy, you guys would not believe the damage done.

    I disagree with your comment about demand, not supply. The damand often follows the supply. I wonder how many boys in our neighborhood became porn addicts after visiting that home. These are good kids who never would have sought that out otherwise.

  59. MikeInWeHo on April 8, 2006 at 12:07 pm

    Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not trying in any way to defend hard-core pornography and I am very sorry about what happened in your neighborhood. I guess for me, I’m much more concerned about sexual objectification generally than pornography specifically. It’s easy to keep my 16 year old stepdaughter away from objectionable material (internet filters and TiVo are fantastic tools in that regard). It’s a heckuva lot harder to keep her away from an endless barrage of messages telling her that women should be stick-thin, etc.

  60. Bookslinger on April 8, 2006 at 2:30 pm

    MacKinnon and Dworkin are not people you want on your side, or to promote as sharing a position with you.

    Their condemnation of pornography reminds me of the woman in the New Testamant who correctly and publicly identified the apostles as servants of the Most High, but who was herself possessed of unclean spirits.

  61. D-Train on April 8, 2006 at 2:59 pm

    Bookslinger, I think that rhetoric is just pointless. So if people don’t agree with you in every last single thing, they should be forced away from you into complete opposition? You can disagree with them, but why imply that they’re possessed of unclean spirits? Being this argumentative makes it really hard for Latter-Day Saints to conduct a dialogue with anyone. If pornography is so awful (and I presume you share my view that it is), let’s mobilize others to fight it, even if they don’t agree with us in anything else.

  62. Bookslinger on April 9, 2006 at 3:20 am

    D-train, Yes, I believe that pornography is awful.

    And I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to imply MacKinnon and Dworkin are possessed by unclean spirits. I should have stated unmistakeably that they are. I’ve read some of Dworkin, and it was very disturbing. If you really want to be on her side, then please read some of her early stuff and see what kind of people you want to be aligned with. Not only is her work and her social/cultural positions themselves offensive to LDS doctrine, academics of all stripes have torn her “scholarly” studies to shreds.

    Being anti-pornography is merely one plank in the pro-family pro-marriage, pro-children, pro-procreation platform. If I understand correctly, MacKinnon and Dworkin are none of those other things. Maybe something has changed since I last read excerpts of Dworkin, and reviews of her work.

    One might compare it to aligning with Hitler because he was anti-communist.

  63. Kimball Hunt on April 9, 2006 at 4:19 am

    #60: Which, Bookslinger, according to traditions, includes Mary Magdalene. Although of course this may not have any bearing on your point. Anyway, re pornography I think it’s important society always is in the process of formulating morals or rules, that this should be an ever dynamic and never static process. Within this framework I believe certain types of images should be forbidden, some discouraged, some allowed to be accessed within venues of various types of access, and some broadly acceptable among a broad swath of the public.And I believe that all reasonable voices should be heard in this debate.

  64. annegb on April 9, 2006 at 8:49 am

    Mike, I think you make an important point. I’m not sure it has to do with pornography, per se, but boy, I see girls assaulted with that image of skinny and beautiful. I can see how being thin and beautifully dressed could lead to shopping compulsions, debt, lots of problems.

    I think I’m going to go back and read more carefully. Maybe John had something to say :).

    Why don’t you guys allow smiley faces?

  65. MikeInWeHo on April 9, 2006 at 12:23 pm

    RE: #62 I suspect you’ll find many here who aren’t quite ready to walk the plank with you, Bookslinger. While lots of people in the Church seem inclined to lump multiple issues together into some “pro-family platform” (as you describe it), and even frame it as a culture war, there are plenty who don’t see the world that way at all. But believe me, I understand where you are coming from. I have Fox News available 24/7 right here at home.

    RE: #63 But who gets to decide what is forbidden, discouraged, acceptable, etc? Personally I like the current legal doctrine that invokes ‘community standards’ to determine what’s allowed. Anyone who’s ever lived in, say, Provo and then West Hollywood can tell you that there’s no such thing as “broadly acceptable” at the national level. Brokeback Mountain is anti-family smut to some, a beacon of light to others. Once you get beyond “true” hard-core porn, there is no consensus whatsoever.

    The dilemma is that the internet, satellite tv, et. al. have changed the situation. A community can decide what’s acceptable, but with porn now literally beamed down from the sky, how can these standards really be enforced? I dunno. Certainly tools like the v-chip and internet filters have been most helpful to me.

  66. Kimball Hunt on April 9, 2006 at 3:15 pm

    Mike (Is it in Wehoken, New Joisey?): In my illiterate post 13 to the accompanying blog, I argue from the fact of Brigham’s theocracy allowing brothels for gentiles for a two-tier system of the legality of pornographic material not otherwise likely to be acceptable to the devout. And if personally Brokeback Mountain isn’t my idea of a love story I still doubt it could really offend me. However I have a much lower tolerence level for gratuitous depictions of violence. However I’ve read somewhere as well how super violently themed cartoons and games are the broad norm in Japan, let alone here — whereas in Japan they have relatively little street violence. So maybe my distolerence for violent material isn’t anything like a community norm. I think the gladiatorial games were an effort of caesars to “toughen up” the populous — Vicariously? That is, as you would green troops? — for conquest and domination. (And maybe it worked? I was never spanked and I’m certainly a bleeding heart, vegetarian — well, ‘cept for occasionally fish — uh liberal who thinks Abu Graib a travesty.)

  67. MikeInWeHo on April 10, 2006 at 12:34 am

    Nah, it’s West Hollywood, California….a veritable refugee camp for gay Mormons (mostly inactive, very few anti- surprisingly enough–mostly we’re just nostalgic and kinda sad to be apart). Lots of us have kids. It’s like anti-Provo but with better sushi.

    I didn’t know that BY allowed brothels. Love that! Church history is so much fun.

    Thank goodness this is a huge country with room for such different communities.

  68. john f. on April 10, 2006 at 1:17 pm

    Mike, the point of my post was that pornography objectifies women and makes it impossible for its addicts to view women as equals.

    Now, which part of the post confused you? I am confused about your confusion about the “definition” in # 25. Those things don’t constitute pornography to your mind? It’s confusing because the definition doesn’t seem to cover the A&F billboard outside your window?

    So add another couple of lines to the definition, for instance, in addition to the statement that pornography is something that depicts sex as “casual recreation” (if that is not enough to cover playboy and A&F posters alike), then add a statement that pornography is also anything that turns women and men into sexual objects rather than human beings.

    Unless the point of your incredulity is that you find the definition in # 25 too broad and would condemn some things as pornography that you wouldn’t want defined as pornography. If that’s what you meant, then I misread you, but can’t agree with you.

  69. john f. on April 10, 2006 at 1:17 pm

    ECS, are you saying that I am too argumentative?

  70. MikeInWeHo on April 10, 2006 at 6:14 pm

    That’s exactly what I meant. Sorry I was obtuse (often am). All I meant to say was that I think you are defining pornography so broadly in #25 as to diminish your argument. We seem to agree that the ubiquitous sexual objectification in our media is highly problematic. I just wouldn’t lump it all under the heading ‘pornography.’ So no, I do not consider all the things I listed in #56 pornographic. Do you?

  71. john f. on April 10, 2006 at 6:24 pm

    No I don’t. It seems an unnecessary complication to beat that drum at this point. Even the most desensitized know pornography when they see it.

  72. MikeInWeHo on April 11, 2006 at 1:48 am

    So then perhaps we agree after all. I choose not to view pornography and protect my family from it zealously. So do you. But we both have trouble avoiding images and messages that objectify women, promote immorality, etc. In this case, I think we’re using different words to describe the same dilemma. If the Calvin Klein ads aren’t “pornographic” per se, what are they?

  73. cchrissyy on April 11, 2006 at 10:33 am

    72- exploitive? dehuminizing through commercialization and objectification?

  74. john f. on April 11, 2006 at 10:58 am

    inappropriate, permissive, irreverent, indulgent, decadent, disrepsectful etc.

  75. MikeInWeHo on April 11, 2006 at 12:14 pm

    # 73 -74. Amen to you both.