By way of full disclosure, I volunteered to write this post because I have personal experience with the topic. I’ve viewed online pornographic movies both before and since I joined the church. I felt no guilt associated with viewing it before joining the church (which was also before I was married), but when I began to view it after joining (which was also after I had been married), I desired to repent and have since studied the topic to better understand it.
When I use “pornography” in this post, I will be referring to video or photographs of adults engaging in sexual relations. Currently, there are more than 300 million pages of pornographic material on the internet, an increase of 1800% over the last five years. More than 70% of American men, ages 18 – 34, visit a pornographic website in a typical month. Further, in 2006, the pornography industry netted just short of $100 billion – more revenue than that of Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Apple, and Netflix combined. The state that contributes the most to those profits – Utah.
The inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.
Porneia is rendered “fornication” all 26 times it is used in the New Testament. It is from the word used to designate the temple prostitutes the Gentiles used for fertility worship.
The popularity of pornography relies on dehumanizing the subject, which is typically a woman. The characters in pornography are not depicted as children of God with intellects and personalities – but as a collection of anatomical features that can be used to induce a physiological response. Ask a man who watches pornography if he would want his wife or daughter to be in videos like the ones he watches – and 68.2689492137% will say, “No.” (Note: this figure was edited from 100% per comments below) They want somebody else’s wife or daughter. They prefer to do unto others’ daughters what they would not want done to their own.
The sexual climax is intended to be the sequel of the unification of two real persons. The fact that the pleasure associated with the discharge can be produced in solitude demonstrates that the feelings are designed to conclude the sexual act – and are not a part of the unifying aspect of sex. This is what I find most troubling about pornography use. The release that ends sexual unification is designed to bind a person to the other person he or she is having relations with. What are pornography users binding themselves to – a computer screen, pixels? Humans are meant to make real connections with real people.
Recent discussion indicates that Satan introduced the concept of shame for nudity. It is the same with sexuality. Satan either covers up sexuality, teaching that it is too private to discuss openly, or he teaches only the physical biology of it, leaving out the spiritual connection that takes place. He motivates sinners to hide from God and from others. On the other hand, God sees all things, and thus He motivates sinners to be open, in full-fellowship and intimacy with Him and with others.
Sites like FightTheNewDrug promote addressing pornography by letting it into the light to be seen for what it really is – much like the “Truth” ads did for changing the discussion on cigarette smoking. Having progressed, we can now look back on old cigarette ads as a deceptive venture to make an unhealthy practice popular for the sake of making money. FightTheNewDrug focuses on addressing pornography by reducing demand – not supply. When something is banned – rather by states, religions, etc. – without addressing the underlying motivations, the behavior is just pushed underground, becoming darker in the process. When people learn that, for example, the reason for pornography actors shave their pubic hair is to make them look more like large children – people can choose to turn away from such perversions. Instead of demonizing sexual expression or victimizing “porn addicts”, the rhetoric should focus on re-humanizing the people involved with pornography and re-emphasizing the sexiness of humans connecting with humans.
Intimacy is the opposite of what Satan suggested Adam and Eve do when they discovered their nakedness in the garden. Before he found them, they were naked and were not ashamed. Adam was fully exposed to Eve – and Eve to Adam. This is the light that pornography should be seen in. Humans are not meant to experience sexuality in front of computer screens, alone, feeling cycles of shame and guilt.
Boyd Packer told members during the most recent General Conference that:
The priesthood holds consummate power. It can protect you from the plague of pornography—and it is a plague—if you are succumbing to its influence. If one is obedient, the priesthood can show how to break a habit and even erase an addiction. Holders of the priesthood have that authority and should employ it to combat evil influences.
I think the evidence on this site should make it clear that you do not have to do anything with your bishop if you have viewed pornography. A person that has viewed pornography has most likely committed adultery in his heart – if he were married, then confession to a spouse would be warranted. But whether or not a person chooses to talk to his or her bishop is a personal decision – and it should be made in light of what will be the most helpful to the person. When confession to a bishop is not expedient – as it would be in cases of unrepentant sin brought to the authorities by witnesses – then confession should be treated only as a tool to help the person. One should weigh the risk of opening up grounds for a witch-hunt from an unprepared or unrighteous priesthood leader with the comfort that being completely open with a trusted and capable bishop can bring. For example, I spoke with my bishop in the past when I had fell into a habit of viewing pornography – because I knew him to be a man of integrity and Godly love. I received no formal or informal disciplines. It was hard to speak openly about it with my wife, and I used my time with him to get many things off my chest. I, unlike Packer, would not recommend confession to a bishop to everyone. Many bishops are unprepared for dealing with such a nuanced situation and have been conditioned to use extreme measures with pornography because of inflated rhetoric about the subject. So tread carefully.
I don’t mean to say porn can’t be a problem for some people. However, it is more often the symptom of a different problem – e.g. poor socialization by parents on sexuality, unaddressed childhood abuse, an addictive personality, or feelings of insecurity. The visual depiction of a man and women engaging in sexual relations is not, in and of itself, sinful – not any more than shopping is, or spending too much time on the computer. The current state of pornography is a complicated issue and calling it evil or a plague doesn’t help anybody. All you do is demonize something that, unless you have some dependence on it, isn’t bad for you. Proclaiming some moral absolute on a mental health issue is just harmful to those involved.
We should take comfort in the fact that, for our generation, pornography is largely a problem of technology. Just 30 years ago, to obtain pornography, a man would don a trench coat and sunglasses and go to the back of a dimly lit store to secretly purchase a VHS tape, hoping no one would see him walking back to his car – then he’d have to keep the tapes hidden at home, hoping kids or spouse didn’t find them. However, today, I can type in a URL in the privacy of my home or office, instantly steam hours of free videos, and then delete my browsing history. That’s it. The reason this is a good thing for anyone who finds themselves habitually viewing pornography – if technology is the reason it is so available to you, then use technology to make it less available. Effective webfilters are as readily available as free porn sites. Humans should choose to connect with people — not pixels.
Next Article by Justin: The Garment
Previous Article by Justin: Tribal Relationships