Madwoman Out of the Attic

a feminist trudging forward in a patriarchal world

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Hashing Out Thoughts on Pornography

Last Sunday, our RS lesson was on "Let Virtue Garnish Thy Thoughts." i.e. pornography. This seems to be a rather frequent lesson topic, as in the last couple of years, we've had a fifth Sunday, an Enrichment, and more than one RS lesson on this topic.

I appreciated the RS women's comments and stories. Clearly it's been a real destructive force in some women's lives. (And I was thrilled to hear some of they heavy weights in RS say that this is a problem that requires professional help - praying and talking to the bish are rarely enough.) But while part of me totally understands how horrible it's been for several people's marriages, part of me wants to have a more balanced discussion about it.

For example, I think it's totally horrible when a man gets hooked on porn and then starts to ignore and treat his wife badly. So for me, the real bad things are a) getting addicted and b) treating your spouse badly.

But I can't help but recognize that at some point in the next 15 years, I'm sure my little baby E will look at some dirty pictures. How could he avoid doing so in this day and age? And I don't want him to feel like he's going to hell, or that he's committed an unpardonable sin. My wish would simply be that he not get hooked.

I also would be interested in a discussion that distinguishes between porn and erotica. In my mind, porn is primarily about exploitation and degregdation. It's about having sex with underage girls or boys, rape scenes, chains, etc. But erotica I think of taking place between two consenting adults and having more artistic merit.

I personally think it's best to stay away from porn in any situation. However, I do wonder if there's a place for erotica in a marriage. If both partners are interested at looking at it and both are totally agreeable - that doesn't seem to be as bad as the type of porn that gets talked about at church.

I'd also be interested in discussing what seems to often be the women's equivalent to men's pornographic pictures - romance novels. An interesting equivalent because it just doesn't seem as destructive to me as pornographic pictures often are to men. I personally enjoy a good steamy romance novel now and then, and Mike doesn't really have any issues with it. Doesn't feel betrayed, ignored, badly treated, etc. So, I wonder, do the GA's agree with me, and is that why porn talks focus so sharply on men's porn problems?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you always been so comfortable questioning your religion without it causing you to question your faith?

7/31/2007 7:30 PM  
Blogger Melanie said...

Over the past few years, I've heard an increased focus on romance novels and the like, both in RS lessons and in mixed-gender lessons, firesides, etc. I think church leaders are slowly becoming aware of the effect of this verbal stimulation. The visual stuff marketed at men has been a more obvious and pervasive problem, especially with the explosion of internet sources, so it's received a more vocal response. I don't the lack of focus on romance novels, etc., means they aren't a problem--they are just the same problem they've always been, while the internet has multiplied the availability of visual materials.

7/31/2007 7:45 PM  
Blogger Caroline said...

Interesting question. I suppose the short answer is no. Like a lot of people, I've had my crisis of faith. But I've decided to stick with what I've got and make the best of it. And part of that, for me, is to be open - at least online and among sympathetic people - about things I wish were talked about more, differently, or better at church.

Melanie, I think you're right that there has been some attention paid to romance novels. I remember an Ensign article about it a couple of years ago. But it's funny that in my ward, I've heard nary a word about them.

But even with the increased attention to them, I still think that they don't get as much a mention because they aren't as destructive to marriages as men's visual porn.

7/31/2007 9:16 PM  
Anonymous beenthere said...

One tricky thing about porn addiction is that, given the right personality or a hereditary predisposition to addiction, it only takes a few seconds of viewing for an addiction to form. It's like a drug--cause similar areas of the brain to light up (I'm not sure, but erotica might work the same way for people with this predisposition.) So even one viewing could have potentially dangerous consequences for some people.

That said, excessive guilt over one viewing can cause great damage to that person's spirit and even their sexuality. So it's tricky.

7/31/2007 10:50 PM  
Blogger john.white said...

Not being "in," I've always wondered about this porn addiction problem which people keep talking about. What's the difference between someone who enjoys looking at porn and someone who's addicted to it?

8/01/2007 10:49 AM  
Blogger Caroline said...

Beenthere, thanks for your comment. I kind of wonder if porn is like alcohol - some people are predisposed to quickly forming addictions to it.

I'm guessing the difference between someone who is addicted and someone who enjoys it is the extent to which it occupies a person's thoughts, affects the person's actions and affects the person's treatment/expectations of others(women).

8/01/2007 10:56 AM  
Anonymous other anon said...

I think that people who come from groups where porn is taboo are probably more prone to becoming addicts, as opposed to someone who has no prior opinion about whether or not porn is good or bad. Something about the rush of doing something bad.

Having said that, pornography literally means the writings of prostitutes. So, any form communication with the purpose to stimulate sexually is pornography. The GA's have said (and I think that they are including the broader definition) that any form of porn should not be a part of marriage, which I think is meant to transcend the policy of whatever you decide to do behind closed doors is your business.

As for discussion, I think there is focus on "male porn" more because of a) it's produced at such a larger quantity and b) (you probably won't like this one) it's especially grievous for a priesthood bearer to fall into this pit.

8/01/2007 3:25 PM  
Blogger Caroline said...

other anon,
Yes, I heard from someone else that Mormons who get hooked on porn - well it pretty much destroys their lives. The men are racked with guilt and shame. Whereas non mormon men who are into porn don't think it's that big a deal, grow out of it, and many eventually have healthy relationships. Interesting observation...

Regarding your idea of no erotica within marriage, I think you're in good company with the majority of Mo's.

And you're absolutely right that I wouldn't like your last point. I don't think God has a double standard for exaltation.

8/01/2007 8:45 PM  
Anonymous AnonExMo said...

I've also observed that pornography causes more and bigger problems for Mormons than for non-Mormons. Indeed lots of sex issues affect Mormons differently than they affect non-Mormons (especially non-religious non-Mormons). Another example is pre-marital sex. Though here it seems to affect Mormon women much more than Mormon men. A Mormon woman who has pre-martial sex is likely to face at least as much shame and stigma as a Mormon man who develops a "pornography problem."

For the record, insofar as pornography depicts women as objects and teaches men to treat them as such, and insofar as pornography presents women with awful examples of how women should behave sexually, I am strongly opposed to it. (I do think there is an important distinction between pornography and erotic art, though)

I've heard anecdotal (but reliable) reports that as recent as eight or ten years ago "officially approved" LDS therapists would prescribe sexually stimulating images and literature to individuals or couples with certain sexual problems. I suspect that all such recommendations have been or are being ruled out, now, though.

(My opinion is that Mormon culture fosters an immaturity about sex that exacerbates potential problems that can arise from things like pornography and pre-marital sex. I'd go so far as to say it creates problems that wouldn't arise outside Mormonism (or other similar institutions and cultures). Absolute prohibitions and attitudes of strong condemnation create settings in which "violators" are almost inevitably devastated.)

8/06/2007 10:33 PM  

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