Is Pornography Adultery?

Ray adultery, Bible, marriage, pornography, sexuality 92 Comments

The following article is interesting and asks a fascinating question.

Is Pornography Adultery?

Coincidently, the following is excerpted from a post I wrote independent of the above article on my own blog two weeks ago (September 6), entitled “Becoming More Chaste in Thought and Deed“.

“Become more chaste in thought and deed” is taken from Matthew 5:27-28, which read thus:

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

As I contemplate these verses, the first thing that jumps out at me is that Jesus appears to be doing two things in this statement. First, he is reinforcing the general prohibition against adultery included in the ancient Ten Commandments. Second, however, he is laying out the concept that we (as “living souls” – Genesis 2:7, 1 Thess. 5:23) truly are a combination of body and spirit – that something that affects one has a corresponding effect on the other. For those who think of our spirit as something incorporeal and formless, this might be confusing, but for those who envision our spirits as possessing real form and substance (of being “material” in some way) it makes sense to speak of influences on our spirits in the same manner that we understand influences on our physical bodies. It makes sense to speak of addictions to our spirit in the same way we speak of addictions to our physical bodies. Likewise, it makes sense to think of there being a real effect of “visualizing sexual activity”, just as there is a real effect of being involved “physically” with sexual activity.

In fact, I believe these verses go beyond a simple “analogy” or “comparison” between the two. I believe that Jesus is teaching in this passage the core concept that “spiritual activity” is actual “physical activity” – again, since our spirits are comprised of “real, actual” matter that simply is too “fine” to be discerned by our mortal eyes. (See D&C 131:7) I believe that Jesus is doing more than merely saying, “Don’t even look with lust, because that might lead to adultery in the flesh.” Rather, he is saying, “There is adultery of the flesh, and there is adultery of the spirit. BOTH are adultery in a truly “physical” way; both have real, physical effects; don’t commit either.”

What do you think? Is pornography adultery? If so, why? If not, why not – and what is it in relation to “sexual activity”?

Comments

comments

Comments 92

  1. Pornography is mental adultery. Why? Because it betrays the vows you make in the temple when you marry your eternal companion. It invokes feelings that ought not to occur outside of the bonds of marriage. It conjures thoughts and attitudes that lead you to believe that somehow, somewhere, this is reality. Pornography is, in every way, shape and form, adultery.

    Alas, while this is often a “man’s problem” more and more sisters are finding themselves enthralled with the readily available pornography, especially the prime time pornography that can be found in some many dramas, sitcoms and the like now.

  2. I liked the article for the bit about infidelity being on a spectrum. However, men in the church with porn issues (what, maybe 50%? Who knows?) would all be exed if they were committing the sin of “adultery,” would they not? Labeling every stray thought as adultery is not effective, but it does cast light on the seriousness of porn habits and other issues.

    Your bit about the physicality of our spirits is interesting to think about in this light. I’m not sure what I think about it, mainly because I can’t comprehend how our “spirit” is affected by anything. Habits, mood, maybe even personality can change, but I need to learn more about one’s spirit, and what exactly that is.

  3. Very interesting, thought provoking post Ray.

    I was involved in pornography before returning to the church. I weaned off slowly by turning first to more loving images, then to progressively softer images.

    When I think of “me” I think of spirit me and of my body as a vehicle, a means. So, your comment; a combination of body and spirit – that something that affects one has a corresponding effect on the other rings absolutely true to me. I am convinced we take our personalities, our training and our experience with us to the spirit world. In addition, it is easy for me to envision the psychological addiction of our spirit.

    Adultery causes more serious problems in our mortal life than porn. The problem with porn I think is lust and lust regardless of how it is acted out is both a physical and spiritual problem.

  4. Adultery seems to me to involve much more than simply engaging in physical, sexual intercourse outside of the bonds of marriage. I wonder if the completeness that is embodied in the sexual act is a symbol for the completeness that can and should be found within the marriage in which it is enjoyed. Truly becoming one is symbolized in the act of physical intimacy but there are many more facets to a marriage such as the emotional, spiritual and intellectual unions, etc, of two people in which oneness should be attained. I feel that when those needs are not met, on whatever level or grounds, when a married individual goes beyond the bounds of marriage to have them met, they cheat both themselves and their beloveds of what should be a unique and binding experience. Sometimes it takes courage to speak up and ask for those needs to be met but great challenges, especally in marriage, often bring great rewards (not to say that the same challenges don’t also bring disappointment should the marriage partner be unwilling to listen). Using porn is not so much to me a fulfillment of a sexual need but an emotional one. I’m not sure it can be generalized as “sexual activity” since, in my experience, there is a spectrum to this addiction. Perhaps the farther the user delves into it, the more it could be classified as such. I really don’t know, but it’s an interesting thought.

    My husband is a recovering porn addict. He was unable to communicate his emotional needs to prevent disappointment for himself within our marriage and so turned to pornography. I couldn’t meet what I didn’t know was deficient in our marriage or help him with what were his deficiencies. Using porn to numb himself to emotional pain and disappointments had proven effective throughout his life (he started as a small child…about seven years old we figure…the child of a highly dysfunctional marriage and family). Though I would poke and prod him to talk to me about more matters he simply couldn’t because he didn’t know how. His family life was such that discussing emotions wasn’t allowed. Ever. Thankfully he’s on the more proximal end of the spectrum though his recovery has been very painful despite his sporadic (sometimes years in between) use. Perhaps emotional pain is the body’s reaction to and manifestation of spiritual pain.

    When we began to discuss our intimate relationship more, he began to talk more about his emotions. It’s been a rough road but for me it wasn’t the porn that was the issue. The lies he fed me over a period of years and his unwillingness to discuss his demons with me, his wife, that hurt the most. Going to pornography to meet and numb both his needs and his pain hurt me as much as him. It felt like he was cheating me then of the improved union we share now. Now, when he feels the pull of the internet, he calls me to talk (he’s deployed to Iraq). We work it out and, through improved communication, great humility on his part and a lot of shutting my mouth from spewing prideful, injurious words, we are able to work through it. I feel the temptation to shut him out as he did me but cannot and must be willing to try in order for us to save our marriage. Swallowing my pride has proven as difficult for me as it was and is for him. We both swallow thorny pills but are building a better marriage as a result.

    I’m not sure how it will pan out when he gets back in another month or so but we certainly have greater reason for hope and a positive outlook than we did when he left. We certainly have a more open and connected relationship. He’s been clean for six months now. Not a small feat given that porn use is the norm over there. One day at a time…

    I hope I’m not too off base here, or too open about such personal things. I do see this as an enormous issue in the church and have witnessed that it’s not always understood or dealt with appropriately if at all. In fact, my current husband had to convince our bishop that it was indeed a problem and he was really addicted. My ex was extended a stake level calling after his confession and admitted unworthiness. The personal opinions of leaders and their willingness to discuss such personal and painful matters try them at their core, and it tries the members they care for as much. It’s not easy, on either side of the bishop’s desks.

    1. Thank you for sharing this. I am a new member of the church and look forward t omeeting someone who is honest and trust worthy in these matters. I agree that it is not taken as seriously as it should be. My ex husband was addicted to porn and it destroyed our marriage. Now I’m dating a member who told me he never cheated on his wife of 15yrs even though he admitted to resorting to porn when she rejected him. I told him I sadly did the same when I found out about my ex preferring porn over me. The difference is, l do see it as cheating and he doesn’t. I’m afraid he may have a worse problem than my ex because he also goes out of his way to seek attention from young women every where we go. It’s clear to me that he enjoys the mutual sexual attraction that happens when he has conversations with these young women who seek him out, disturbingly WITHIN the church.

  5. #1: “It conjures thoughts and attitudes that lead you to believe that somehow, somewhere, this is reality.” – To me, that is one of the most harmful things about porn. It almost always portrays people who are constantly hyper-sexual as if that is a norm that should be true of all (especially women), and it often portrays this attitude as being normal and “desirable” even in situations that would be rape in the real world. That is the height of sexual narcissism and can be incredibly damaging in a real relationship.

  6. #2: “Labeling every stray thought as adultery is not effective.” – I agree completely, Adam. This post is NOT about “every stray thought” – and that whole outlook that is SO prevalent in our semi-Victorian society is pernicious. My favorite quote on that general topic is, “It is not a sin if an improper thought crosses the state of our mind. It is sin only if we make it stop and construct a play around it.”

  7. #3: Thanks for sharing your own experience, Howard. Part of my view on this comes from talking with and observing people who are dear to me. There is visual porn, and there is written porn – and they both can be addictive. In fact, written porn generally induces images in one’s mind, and those images can be constructed to fit individual fantasies, so there often is little difference in actual effect.

    #4: “Using porn is not so much to me a fulfillment of a sexual need but an emotional one.” – That is a fascinating comment. I will have to think about it, but in the context of an un-fulfilling marriage, I can see what you mean. As I said to Howard, thank you for sharing your personal experience. That is SO much more powerful than simple theoretical exercises.

    #5: I believe there is a very clear parallel between porn and alcohol. That makes the connection to an emotional need even more enlightening.

    Thanks, everyone. This is exactly the type of feedback I hoped this post would generate.

  8. Ray,

    Actually, Al-Anon is for family members of the addict. Addictive behavior (dyfunction in general) breeds dysfunction in the loved ones and associates of the addict. It’s called Codependency. (I don’t know how to do a link here so I’m afraid you’ll have to look it up on your own. Sorry.)

    Codependency is not so much a need for someone else (often mistakenly used in the place of interdependence), as it is an attraction to and desire to correct the dysfunction in others as a distraction from my own dysfunctional upbringing, behavior (codependency) and other issues. AA meetings are for the addict to deal with addiction, Al-Anon is for family members to deal with the behavioral dysfunctions of codependency which can include, but are far from limited to, trying to manage the addict’s behavior and feeling responsible for their problems. It’s pretty complex. There’s a great book entitled Codependent No More by Melody Beattie which outlines most of it. It’s more than worth a look.

    We attend the Church’s Addiction Recovery Program. It’s incredible.

  9. #9: Thanks for the input, anon. I understand the difference between AA and Al-Anon, but I think your description actually highlights the similarities between differing addictions and the issues they cause in families. I appreciate that insight.

    One of my friends leads the Church’s Addiction Recovery Program in our area, and you are right in your assessment. It really is incredible.

  10. I’d agree that porn might be a form of ‘mental adultery’ but to say that ‘pornography is physical adultery’ is a long stretch in my view.

    Adultery risks illegitimate pregnancy, STD’s and many social issues which thinking only doesn’t. There is a barrier between physical actions and mere thoughts, even though those thoughts will bring loss of spirit, confusion and hurt to spouses, which are minimal when compared to actual physical adultery cases. And the church recognizes this since it harshly disciplines the person who actually has sex outside of marriage but not the voyeur.

    So no, I don’t believe that it is correct to say that ‘mental adultery’ and ‘physical adultery’ “BOTH are adultery in a truly “physical” way”.

    1. I respectfully dissagree with you but you’ll have to take that one up with Jesus, I believe he made it very clear that the thought is just as sinful as the act, especially if you entertain it. We are human. We have instinctual responses to the opposite sex. But our conscience is what separates us from the animals. We know better. It would be interesting how different we would allow our thoughts to be, if our spouses or loved ones could hear or see our every thought!

  11. Anon Chicken brings up some interesting issues.
    My husband is a recovering porn addict. He was unable to communicate his emotional needs…
    Porn is used by both healthy and dysfunctional people. It sounds like her husband was using porn like a drug to mask other dysfunctional issues but I know two non-member couples who were able to work out their mismatched sexual desires and stay together with the help of porn.

    I do see this as an enormous issue in the church and have witnessed that it’s not always understood or dealt with appropriately…

    A friend returned from a church recommended seminar and reported that porn is a problem for 1 of 3 in the general population and 1 of 4 LDS. Yes it is an enormous problem that touches the lives of many people we shake hands with on Sunday.

  12. “And the church recognizes this since it harshly disciplines the person who actually has sex outside of marriage but not the voyeur.”

    I’ve wondered about this myself since the effect on the family, the marriage and the loss of Spirit –both in the home and the individual– seems to be the same. Neither my ex nor my current husband had physical affairs but I have been close with women whose husband’s have, some with multiple affairs lasting for many years. They echo my own experience of sensing something spiritually amiss in their homes, a feeling of fear or dread and wondering what is going on to cause this. In all cases, including my own, it was when their husbands stepped out on their marriage, be it physical, mental or emotional “affairs”. I’m certainly not requesting a proverbial book tossing at my husband or other men who have affairs of any definition yet I wonder why the two are seen as separate matters with differing consequences or at the very least different treatment. Some men who have had physical affairs have been disfellowshipped, others placed on probation while those addicted to porn have had no action or counsel offered at all. More like a “well, just quit doing it”…end of discussion. Maybe my experiences have been unique in the church, I don’t know.

    I guess my question is why is one considered more serious than the other (porn use vs. physical affair)? Any thoughts?

    1. I guess my question is why is one considered more serious than the other (porn use vs. physical affair)? Any thoughts?
      The reason it’s different, is because they ARE different. They’re both sins. But Adultery IS Adultery. Pornography is a sin of CARNAL MINDEDNESS. They both have sexual elements, but Adultery is a SEX sin, Pornography is a sin of vulgarity. 

      Spencer W. Kimball in the Miracle of Forgiveness, confirms this: “Who is to blame? The filth peddler, of course, but even more than this vulgar entertainer, the filth consumer, the public. So long as men are corrupt and revel in sewer filth, entertainers will sell them what they want. Laws may be passed, arrests may be made, lawyers may argue, courts may sentence and jails may harbor men of corrupt minds, but pornography and allied insults to decency will never cease until men have cleansed their minds and cease to require and pay for such vile stuff. When the customer is sick and tired of being drowned in filth by the comedians, he will not pay for that filth and its source will dry up.”  

  13. Anon Chicken,
    Porn use does not necessarily result in loss of Spirit.

    Why is one considered more serious than the other? The D&C is specific about what to do in the case of adultery.

  14. Anon,

    “I guess my question is why is one considered more serious than the other (porn use vs. physical affair)? Any thoughts?”

    Because it is, that is physical adultery is much more serious then the porn based one. As is adultery which involves a minor is more serious than adultery which involves consenting adults.

    By the way we always quote D&C 42:23 to explain why porn is bad. But notice that it also says ‘shall be cast out’ yet we, or I’ve, never heard of disciplinary action for pornography problems. Maybe other here have though.

    I’ve always understood D&C 42:23 to mean that porn would result in loss of Spirit, as you explain in #13

  15. Keep in mind that this verse is referring to a married woman who is not the spouse of the looker, and not to a single woman, otherwise known as a virgin or maiden: “Whosoever looketh on a [married] woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” If you lust after a single woman, unbetrothed to any man, that can’t be adultery. If you are going to label that a “spiritual” sin, that would be called fornication, not adultery. Biblically speaking, adultery only takes place between a married woman and a man who is not her spouse.

    So, if you are looking at pornography and the woman/women pornographers you are lusting after are not married, biblically that is not adultery, be it physical or spiritual.

  16. D&C 42:23 And he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit; and if he repents not he shall be cast out.

    So, I guess gay porn is ok then?

    Under certain conditions this verse may apply to porn but clearly that was not the original intent. It reads; “looketh upon a woman”, not look at an image of an anonymous woman. It reads; “to lust after her”, not to look at her with lust. This verse applies to someone who has a lustful crush on a specific woman and repents not.

  17. Would you bring a playboy to the temple? Would you pass through the vale after checking out the centerfold in the temple changing room?
    We all know it is wrong. Trying to justify it because it isn’t murder or a sin aginst the holy ghost… How much spirit do you lose or how far do you need to be cast out before you become concerned?

  18. Porn use does not necessarily result in loss of Spirit. -Howard #14

    I agree that it may not result in a permanent loss of the Spirit, however, it certainly results in a loss at the time porn is viewed and for a period after. I certainly don’t see the Spirit, as sensitive as we believe Him to be, to hang out when such is on screen.

    I’m no scriptorian by any stretch of the imagination and am speaking purely on personal experiences here. Each time my husband viewed pornography and in spite of his confessing otherwise, I felt the Spirit leave our home and, more importantly, a brand of evil (spirit or otherwise) entered. Having spoken with women whose husband’s have had physical affairs as well as their husband’s, I’ve learned that they too had similar experiences. That is, the wife (me), felt something amiss or “funny” in the home and knew something was wrong.

    Further (and I’m hoping I’m not getting overly personal here despite my anonymity), I felt the exact same evil as a child when I was sexually abused. I guess I have a little more experience with this brand of evil than I’d prefer and have learned over a long time (11 years of abuse as a child, 3 years spent in my first marriage to a porn addict) how to recognize this. I may not always recognize the Spirit when it’s around, but I certainly am aware of His absence and the entrance of evil of this kind. It takes a while for the Spirit to return and the home to feel “normal” again.

    My question about different treatment for porn use and physical adultery is that, in my experience, the evil invited by partaking of each is the same and the effect on the marriage and in the family is the same. I would say that the porn addict on the farther end of the spectrum or the adulterous spouse only increases their levels of self-hatred the farther they go to “fill” themselves. Otherwise, the effect on others is the same or similar.

    I know that the sin may vary in degree and call for a variety of disciplinary action (or not) with porn use, but why is it not taken as seriously when they are the same brand of evil and worsen when not treated? Bishop’s can only help with the repentance process and are unqualified as psychologists unless employed as such thus unable to treat the underlying cause. They help with the effect on the individual and family in an ecclesiastical manner. It’s been my experience (with four different bishops in two states) that a bishop who is willing to discuss this and face it head on in even a church leadership capacity is a rare gem. Three of the four excused themselves. That was a hard knock on my head.

    Is it the difference between stealing $5 and $1,000? With that, isn’t stealing just that…stealing and wouldn’t adultery in any of its many forms be the same? Perhaps a bit oversimplistic, I know, but I’m truly seeking an answer to this. I truly appreciate forums such as this.

  19. We all know it is wrong. Trying to justify it…
    Justification? No, accuracy. 3 Nephi 1:39-40 tells us to declare more or less than my doctrine is evil. This is a prevalent problem through out the church; people need to know where they really stand.

  20. Each time my husband viewed pornography and in spite of his confessing otherwise, I felt the Spirit leave our home and, more importantly, a brand of evil (spirit or otherwise) entered.
    Why would the Spirit “leave your home”? Why didn’t the Spirit leave your husband while staying with you?

  21. Anon Chicken – thanks for your story. You probably understand more about this than anyone else I’ve heard from. But I’m really confused when I hear things like “something was funny” or “amiss.” I guarantee you that missionaries are masturbating, sometimes even to porn. Do they not have the Spirit with them? I knew plenty that did. Brigham Young even told of one brother who maintained the companionship of the Spirit even having committed adultery (not that I’m recommending that!).

  22. #22- Perhaps not a permanent loss of the Spirit but, at the very least, a temporary withdrawal at the time of the individual’s indulgence. A scripture comes to mind in 2 Nephi 26:ll that “…the Spirit of the Lord will not always *strive* with man” which indicates to me that He only leaves permanently after vigorous effort on His part. I suppose that’s largely dependent upon the addict’s place in the spectrum of addiction and their personal level of effort to abstain on their own.

    Why didn’t the Spirit leave your husband while staying with you? -#21

    Again, I’m not always cognizant of my personal level of companionship with the Spirit. Sometimes I feel Him closer, others not quite as strong and sometimes it’s just there and I am only aware that there’s an absence. Perhaps that may indicate a level of complacency on my part but in my discussions with others I’ve figured it to be the norm.

    As for why the Spirit left my home and not just my husband, I don’t have a clear answer. I can only speculate it to be that my husband and I are equally responsible for the overall spiritual atmosphere in our home and his actions called for a departure. I say that after having hosted my brother and sister-in-law for a time over the holidays. He (brother-in-law) would get up early in the morning to view porn (which he admitted to after being confronted) yet it did not alter the feeling in our home overall. I only felt or smelled, in a spiritual sense, something amiss “on” him. Certainly not 100% of those in attendance at the temple are as worthy as they claim and yet it doesn’t necessarily effect the experience of the entire group.

    I hope that makes sense. It does in my head. 🙂

  23. Anon Chicken,
    Thank you for the clear explanation in 23, the differences between your husband and your brother-in-law both viewing porn in your house suggest that there is more going on than just porn. I’m wondering if your husband’s involvement with porn triggers in you the evil feelings you felt while being abused as a child.

  24. “the differences between your husband and your brother-in-law both viewing porn in your house suggest that there is more going on than just porn.”

    I’m not clear what you are wondering but I’ll try to clear it up a bit. My husband and I have a very healthy, regular and frequent intimate relationship. He is not abusive of me in any form nor does our relationship trigger in me any feelings of being sexually abused or molested in any way. Space, time and lots of pricey therapy have provided the healing I’ve experienced in overcoming the abuses in my past. The last incident occurred nearly 16 years ago.

    As far as their differences in pornography or sexual addiction for that matter, my brother-in-law is much farther down the spectrum than my husband. He (bro-in-law) molested his sisters at the age of fifteen (the girls were 10, 8 and 4 years old) and, according to his wife, frequents singles dating sites to seek out encounters with other women. I only knew what he’d been viewing at our home compliments of the browsing history which did not include those links (she asked if it did) though it did not rule out much either. He holds a current temple recommend despite this, leadership positions in the Primary and, when we’ve called his Bishop to express our concerns, seems adept at passing off as one who maintains a high level of spirituality and commands great respect despite the very real threat he is to himself and others. I’m not clear how he manages that though perhaps judgmental on my part. I felt very uncomfortable around him even before I was aware of these issues. We’ve been excused as inflammatory third parties by his Bishop and our own (we’ve been through to with this now…Army moves us a lot) have stated that they cannot get involved since they’re so far removed from the matter. That was yet another few knocks on my head. I’ve had quite a few since I converted 11 years ago.

    I assure you that, as fantastic as my claims may be about this brother-in-law, we’ve spoken to the sisters, his mother and his wife who have all confirmed details, etc. It’s simply baffling.

    1. The fact that the church is ok with letting your ‘bro-in-law’ be a part of primary is very disturbing to me. Perhaps you would have better luck reporting this man to the police. I’m sure they would take the matter very seriously. Sexual abusers who slip through the cracks are a huge danger to society, as you sadly learned for yourself, having endured undiscovered abuse for years.

  25. Thanks for clarifying Howard. No, and I never caught him in the act. Just felt a shift in our home when he “used”. I didn’t know what it was, nor did I suspect him at the time. After my discovery I didn’t feel that way (used or abused) either though I did lose a measure of faith and trust in him for a good, long time. I hope that’s a better answer.

  26. Anonymous if your Bishop and Stake President see fit to give a temple recomend to your brother-in-law or your husband; they need to be removed from office. If you can’t decern the spirit you can’t do your job as Bishop or Stake President.

  27. My husband returned his temple recommend to our bishop, which was later pushed back upon him and he has since destroyed it. He wishes to be worhty of it when he obtains another. I doubt my brother-in-law did the same.

  28. I think sometimes that people make assumptions about pr0n that can be a bit off-base, making those who use it seem much worse than they are in reality.

    1) All pr0n is NOT created equal. Some is undoubtedly worse for the Spirit than others, particularly those types that degrade the human body, subject one or more persons to physical, emotional, or any other kind of abuse, etc., and that depict illegal or destructive acts therein. Although you may argue that all pr0n degrades both the individual making it and the individual consuming it, you must recognize that there are as many types of pr0n out there as there are flavors of ice cream, and those partaking of the light versions or the sorbets are not getting the heavy calories of the Haagen Dazs. Not even all forms of tumors are of the malignant, body-consuming category.

    2) We must also realize that every user of pr0n is not necessarily a licentious, perverted pedophile misogynist who would take any opportunity to commit sexually immoral acts of all varieties if given the opportunity. That is far from the case, although there are many who would have you believe otherwise. The pr0n industry is huge, true, but not because it is turning all its users into mindless addicts who run from fix to fix, destroying their lives and everyone in their path along the way. Rather, like alcohol, most users of pr0n use it occasionally, and in moderation. And without the stigma of sin attached to its use, don’t feel they have to hide it from spouses and friends. Does the fact that most do not use pr0n as an addict would make pr0n any less of a danger? Maybe not; the Lord prohibits his people from drinking alcohol as per the WoW, so it is conceivable that pr0n is similarly prohibited. But that doesn’t make all your friends and loved ones who use pr0n into bad people, just like you don’t think all your non-LDS coworkers are all bad and going to hell for drinking alcohol.

    3) Habitual, secret pr0n use is often less connected with sexual satisfaction in real relationships and more to stresses from which the user seeks to run. It might be deadlines at work or school, or the expectations of a parent, spouse, or children. It might be the feeling like nothing is completely your own in your life except the one secret (pr0n) you keep from all others. It might be financial difficulties. And of course, just as financial stresses are common, interpersonal relationship dysfunction or difficulty CAN ALSO BE a stress from which the sex addict runs. We all know that spending hours looking at naked people doesn’t really help these people manage or extricate themselves from the stresses they are hiding from, but that’s the nature of addiction. In this case, discovery of and focus on eliminating the causes of the stress, not the symptoms are in order. (also, keep in mind that not all users of pr0n are addicts, so don’t start thinking that everyone who uses it is running from something).

    In terms of adultery in thought vs. adultery in deed, I think pr0n opens the door to our sexuality more than we would normally have it open otherwise, but I wonder if the adultery of the mind is more about transferring the affection and emotional connection that exists between someone and their spouse to that of another. In this sense, the married man looking at a nameless beauty on the Internet whom he has no hope or or desire to meet in real life, and no real interest in other than for her looks, is far different from the married man who looks at his secretary at work each day, becomes good friends with her, then becomes more interested her on an emotional, intellectual, possibly spiritual and physical ways, but who has never seen her naked. The former person may be responding to “natural man” impulses excessively, but the latter has transferred interest, affection, even romantic and sexual attraction away from his wife and towards another person. Here the thoughts and fantasies must surely condemn, because the man knows he should not be placing the love he’s reserved for his wife alone to another individual.

    I think perhaps the Lord was speaking of adultery very specifically in the Sermon on the Mount. He is not speaking of committing “fornication in your heart”. Why? How is that different? Well, for the same reason that the two men in the paragraph above were different. One was acting (perhaps unwisely or excessively) on natural instincts designed to promote the coupling of individuals; the other was acting against his better judgment, and in conflict with a covenant of fidelity toward a spouse, by transferring his attention, affection and desire to another. For unmarried people, we rely on the physical and sexual attraction we feel toward a potential mate in making our choice of spouse. It isn’t the only consideration, of course, but surely it is considered. What man or woman didn’t consider what it might be like (assuming he or she didn’t already know) to make love with their fiance(e)? Is that wrong? If not (argument: because it is toward the person you’re about to marry), what about a person who gets engaged and breaks it off, then gets engaged again? Is that wrong? What I’m trying to say, I think, is that we don’t all become adulterers in our hearts just because we have built in, strong attractions to others. We don’t even become adulterers in our hearts if we feel strong attractions to lots of different people, or to pr0nographic images even. We become adulterers of the heart when we have already made a marriage commitment of complete fidelity to another person and we willfully transfer that which should be reserved for the spouse to another person. Whether any exchange of bodily fluids ever actually occurs is immaterial.

  29. #16 “married woman who is not the spouse of the looker, and not to a single woman,”

    Sure, so every married is free to go for porn!!!!

    #17 “It reads; “looketh upon a woman”, not look at an image of an anonymous woman.”

    Goodness! so we can all go for porn since we don’t look at women but a picture of an anonymous woman…..yep that makes sense….NOT!

  30. Anon #19

    I agree with what you’re saying there about the loss of spirit. It is how it happens and you should use this knowledge to judge what is happening in your absence. Other people here just don’t get it and probably never will.

    About “Is it the difference between stealing $5 and $1,000?”

    Sure its still stealing but the sentence/Penalty is different. If you steal $5 you may only get a fine or community service, if that, but steal a million and jail is a certainty. Same with sins against the law of chastity. Break it with porn/masturbation and the penalty is relatively light, ie loss of spirit’s companionship. Break it with adultery or child abuse and the penalty will be much heavier -for the adulterer or the abuser, by the way, not the victims!

  31. #30: “In terms of adultery in thought vs. adultery in deed, I think pr0n opens the door to our sexuality more than we would normally have it open otherwise, but I wonder if the adultery of the mind is more about transferring the affection and emotional connection that exists between someone and their spouse to that of another.”

    “We become adulterers of the heart when we have already made a marriage commitment of complete fidelity to another person and we willfully transfer that which should be reserved for the spouse to another person. Whether any exchange of bodily fluids ever actually occurs is immaterial.”

    Thank you, everyone, for your contributions to this discussion. I have been in meetings and other responsibilities all day, and was unable to log-in from any computer at church in between meetings. (Any wonder why, given the topic? I think not.)

    The continued personal experiences have been enlightening, and the quotes above from #30 sum up my feelings very well. I agree completely that there are many levels of porn, just like there are many levels of intimacy and physical attraction and sexual activity. I think, personally, that disciplinary practices for “standard” adultery and fornication differ from pornography use and addiction largely because, in and of itself, porn use doesn’t cross that uncrossable line of “ultimate betrayal” and actual “coupling” – largely because the one after whom the man is lusting is not returning that lust. They really aren’t “becoming one”.

    I also think there is an element of “counsel vs. command” – much like the initial introduction of the Word of Wisdom. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if hardcore pornography automatically led to disfellowshipment or even excommunication some years in the future – when the counsel had been around and stressed long enough that the next logical step would be to make it binding command. However, I also wouldn’t be surprised if those steps did not occur, with the consequences being limited to the lack of ability to acquire a temple recommend and specific callings.

    I have no idea about that last speculation (what will happen in the future), but I know the Church doesn’t want to discipline 25% of its membership (if that figure is anywhere near accurate) – just as it couldn’t have disciplined the majority of its members when the WofW first was revealed.

  32. CarlosJC,
    By taking that sentence out of context you missed the main point of 17. D&C 42:23 isn’t specifically about porn; it only applies to porn in limited circumstances.

  33. Anon Chicken, I agree with you that the spirit does depart or the presence is weakened when others around you commit sin. I don’t know where the exact account is found in the Old Testament, but I remember the Prophet (Moses?) and the people understanding this principle and punishing (killing – I believe) those that sinned so that the consequences did not extend to the rest of the people.

    A more recent example happened with the three witnesses. David Whitmer could tell that he was affecting the spiritual state of the group and excused himself to repent. The others then received the witness. When David was ready he tried again with Joseph and received his witness. I think that this is also one reason why we are issued temple recommends, and participation in the temple work is selective so that this effect does not happen.

    The only potential good use of porn is to use it to get off of it, which was mentioned earlier. I do not know if this is accurate and will work with others, but if so, then it could be useful.

    Response to #20 The scripture you were referring to is actually 3 Nephi 11:39-40. I mention this because I tried to find it and had to look it up. It states more or less, which means that you also can’t say porn is ok or good as being doctrine. Mormon thought, and the consensus of prophets tend to lean toward porn being bad or very bad. So if it is not doctrine, it is very strong mormon thought.

  34. 36 Will,
    …which means that you also can’t say porn is ok or good as being doctrine. Agreed. So if it is not doctrine, it is very strong Mormon thought. Sure, the Prophet has stressed the porn issue over and over. Imho that is strong enough to qualify as doctrine.

  35. Anonymous,

    Your reactions to use by your husband of pornography is very common and the reaction of males discounting your reaction is also common.

    Just as it is difficult for many females to understand what a male finds so compelling and addictive about looking at pixels on a screen, many males find it difficult to understand why a wife feels betrayed by his looking at pixels on a screen.

    It is true that viewing pornography, of itself, does not lead to STDs or pregnancy risks for the viewer. But, in many cases, the shattering of self-esteem of the wife and of the emotional intimacy of the husband and wife is of the same nature and some times almost to the same degree as an actual physical acting out with another person.

    Rationally, I suppose, it makes little sense to a man for a wife to feel so betrayed, but rationally it also makes little sense to a woman for her husband to be drawn again and again to pornography or other addictive sexual behaviors.

    It is what it is. And, for what it is worth, I do believe it is a terrible betrayal. But I have also seen the power of God work miracles in healing, as His promises come true, to quote the AA Big Book, “some times quickly, some times slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.” http://www.step12.com/promises.html

    God bless you, Anonymous, and your family and other loved ones as each of you continue on your journeys of recovery and healing.

  36. #16 LDS Anarchist:

    Thanks for the clarification re: adultery/fornication in the N.T. I agree with you that the words Christ used should be understood in their context.

    Re: All the comments about whether someone “loses the Spirit” when they look at porn. I’m a little surprised this is even being debated. It seems like common sense that whenever we sin, it is harder for our spirits to communicate with God (the Holy Ghost). We are not cut off and permanently damned at the first sight of porn, but if we don’t change our behavior, we will be less in-tune with God. And if our bad behavior spirals into a destructive addiction, we may very well be damned if we never repent. This is true of porn, sex, anger, drugs, whatever.

    And it’s not very controversial that an entire family will be affected and feel it when one member of the family shuts off communication with God. Families are an interactive unit. Every conversation and action affects everyone else.

    Finally, porn isn’t adultery, since it isn’t a relationship with another person; but like adultery, it is a cruel betrayal of trust if a spouse doesn’t know about it (or does know about it but doesn’t consent).

  37. Interesting discussion, Ray. Like many things, I don’t see this as a black and white issue. My answer to your question, “Is looking at pornography adultery?” is: it depends on the couple. Honesty, Trust, Repect, Open Communication, and above all — Love — are how we should determine marital fidelity. How these baseline concepts are expressed, and where the boundary lines are drawn, will be highly variable from couple to couple, even within the Mormon subculture.

    A healthy marriage is always made up of three entities: the couple and two individuals. As such, there will always be shared/common dynamic and an individual dynamic.

    For example, we’d all argue that healthy marriages require shared spirituality between husband/wife, and individual spirituality between each person and the Lord.

    We’d also argue that healthy marriages require shared interests and hobbies, while recongnizing that not all hobbies will be shared. For example, my wife and I enjoy watching movies together and playing board games, but I don’t enjoy scrapbooking and she doesn’t share my enthusiasm for reading. That said, each of us are happy for each other’s “individual” hobbies and we’re able to take vicarious pleasure in each other’s experiences.

    Don’t all “feelings” follow a similar shared-vs-individual dynamic? Even sexual feelings? My love for my wife recognizes both the shared and individual aspects of her sexuality. I value our shared feelings, and I’m fascinated, intrigued, surprised, troubled, etc. by her individual feelings. But I value those individual feelings as a sacred and important part of her “being.” She may keep them to herself, or she may share them with me because we have established mutual feelings of trust, honesty, and respect. So, for example, I know she gets a visceral charge from Brad Pitt movies; it was obvious those godforsaken “Twilight” books got her “motor running” from the flush in her face; we openly discuss sexual dreams, etc. I feel no need or desire to completley “own” everything about her, including her sexual feelings. Not only is that not realistic or possible, it feels selfish.

    You’ll notice that nowhere have I mentioned pornography, nor do I plan to. I’m just explaining why I believe the issue is not black and white, (let alone always a case of “adultery”), and explaining why a healthy marriage includes both shared and individual feelings (including “sexual”), and even expressions of those feelings. Whether a couple’s boundaries of trust, respect, honesty includes pornography is up to them.

  38. Interesting thoughts, Matt. Perhaps the original, baseline questions should have included, “Is the use of pornography always adultery – or is adultery when it is viewed without the knowledge and free consent of a spouse?”

    I also have a real problem with the expectations that can arise out of pornography, since nobody ever has a headache or ever just isn’t in the mood – and sex often is portrayed in ways that are anything but consensual and loving. That goes all the way back to #1 and #6 – and I think it is a central part of breaking the bonds that should unite a couple.

  39. #30- “there are as many types of pr0n out there as there are flavors of ice cream”

    I agree completely and hope what I’ve said so far doesn’t come off as though I classify pedophiles and porn addicts as the same class of people. There are instances in which the progression of one led to the other but have proven to be pretty rare. I’ve found that men (or women) with addictions to porn or other substances make the best marriage partners. When facing and overcoming these challenges they are very open, honest, humble and affectionate people. I don’t know that I’d trade my husband’s addiction since the work it’s required of us both has provided me with the marriage I’ve always wanted. Wierd, no?

    “Rather, like alcohol, most users of pr0n use it occasionally, and in moderation.”

    I see that too but find it to be a very slippery slope into or out of addiction. That depends upon the individual’s propensity for addiction, of any type, as well. An addict is an addict. Only the drug of choice classifies the addiction (sex, food, internet, exercise, gambling, alcohol, etc) and can change from one thing to another if the root cause is not properly treated. Say, a person with a shopping addiction could move to food for consolation or a porn addict could switch to exercising excessively to combat their drive. Addictions to “good” things don’t make the “thing” bad necessarily (sex is not a bad thing) or the desire for the good thing bad, just the excess or misuse. Porn of any type is most certainly bad but cannot always be avoided since it’s subjective. To overcome the addict needs to live in this world and learn how to deal with the unexpected as well as avoid what they can.

    I don’t know that I could accurately clarify where or what the difference is between moderate use and addiction though I’m pretty sure it’s not far from the cliff. For that I’d have to trust a psychologist (which I’m not).

    There is a great book called Confronting Pornography which outlines addiction and the many results of porn use on any level. Some, without using hard core porn and only the “softer” images, can become so addicted that their brain (subconsciously) becomes programmed to find a fix. A modestly clothed woman passed on the street might provide just that. That’s not to say it happens in all cases, certainly, but outlines the chemical, psychological and biological risks of porn use at all and is largely dependent upon the individual. Indeed, when it comes down to it, the porn user is really only addicted to the chemical release in their brain and uses porn to bring it about. Kind of a fickle explanation as I see it could be twisted to excuse the use of porn and blame the brain. You’d have to refer to the book. I’m not good at translating…or at HTML else I’d include a link. 🙂

    “The former person may be responding to “natural man” impulses excessively, but the latter has transferred interest, affection, even romantic and sexual attraction away from his wife and towards another person. Here the thoughts and fantasies must surely condemn, because the man knows he should not be placing the love he’s reserved for his wife alone to another individual.”

    I’d have to say that the natural man (I think you’re referring to sexual interest and general attraction we have for the opposite sex) impulses should not be responded to outside of the marriage either by accessing images or through extramarital friendships. Those impulses are to be one of the most powerful binding forces in the marriage. I’m not saying that a husband or wife should not find another person attractive or actually be attracted to them, but that the primary interest and attractions should overshadow that enough to avoid the need to look more than once. The compelling need to return, even when successfully subdued for long periods of time, indicates a problem somewhere. I don’t know anyone who has married someone they were not attracted to and, if that attraction fades, I question that it would be the result of diminished youth or lack of desire on the wanderer’s part. Disappointment and the fulfilling of what should be had in the marriage comes about via unexpressed needs or emotions. Lack of communication or ineffective commmunication is almost always the culprit. What can’t be expressed can’t be met.

    There’s a great book by Laura Brotherson entitled And They Were Not Ashamed: Strengthening Marriage Through Sexual Fulfillment which goes into this in greater detail. My husband and I read it together and it helped him find ways to translate the attraction he felt to porn. He felt that if he used his endowments of the “natural man” in our relationship that I would think less of him or it would hurt our bond. He used porn to deflect some of that among a host of other reasons. When properly used and applied in marriage it’s an incredible boon.

    “I think pr0n opens the door to our sexuality more than we would normally have it open otherwise”

    Again, refer to Laura Brotherson’s book. It’s been the catalyst for much healing and growth in my marriage and has opened blocked communication lines which we were not aware of. I’d hardly refer to porn for tips on sexuality. I know many couples who do and while I try to respect their choice in the matter, would say it’s perhaps not as complete as they’d like when they invite others, albeit images or DVD’s, into their bedroom. Darkness may provide some education but educating myself about sexuality in the light of the gospel has proven to be far more worthwhile. I’d hardly refer to darkness or sin for knowledge of gospel truths and would prefer to learn under the tutilege of the God who designed it.

    #32- Thanks for making that a little more clear.

    Thanks to you all for this discussion. I really appreciate all that has been shared and feel very welcomed here. I hope I’m not saying too much or offending anyone with my remarks. It’s hard to summarize my thoughts or what I’ve learned by my experiences and appreciate your willingness to humor my excessive comments. I’ll be always be a lurker if not a commenter.

  40. I think Matt makes a good point about the sexual feelings of your spouse not belonging to you exclusively; they also belong to your spouse as an individual. But the expectation of ownership can be devastating to both or either individual: to the one whose image of her or his spouse’s sexuality as totally hers or his to command, to the one who feels s/he can’t express intimacy or feelings (creating a totally private fantasy life at the extreme end), or the couple that drifts apart over time and quits seeking sexual fulfillment at all. So, if pornography creates a further wedge between couples, that’s problematic. But if the wedge is already there, maybe it’s neutral in its impact.

  41. Hawkgrrrl – I love those last two points. If only I could be as succinct. 🙂 Sometimes the wedge isn’t noticed until something like porn brings it to light. We had no idea there was something missing in our relationship. Porn may not be the initial cause of the problem in all cases if not most. When the underlying dysfunction in the relationship (or the individual) is revealed, hurdling it can create much healing and strengthen the relationship. I don’t like this trial but am grateful for it.

  42. Anon:
    “He felt that if he used his endowments of the “natural man” in our relationship that I would think less of him or it would hurt our bond.”

    But what if your spouse really does think less of a partner who want to express the full range of their sexuality within marriage? Or has no interest in exploring that?

  43. I would suggest there are underlying issues in the unwilling spouse or a misunderstanding of sex and their sexuality if the requests are within reasonable and typically comfortable limits. I was raised by a very, um, “artistic” mother who taught me to respect intimacy and exploration within a loving bond. When I joined the LDS Church and was bombarded by teachings of “no no no” regarding sex *outside* of marriage, I developed inhibitions and did not understand it as it was divinely intended *within* marriage. The book by Laura Brotherson shed light on that for me and I’ve been able to find common ground between what my mother taught and intimacy as it was designed.

    If one spouse is unwilling to read the book or obtain understanding via counselling, prayer, etc, I would encourage the willing spouse to pursue their own education. Sometimes the increased understanding of one can have positive effects on the whole.

  44. Anonymous and anyone else interested–I actually went to a seminar for therapists and clergy by the author of “Confronting Pornography” — I think Mark Chamberlain was his name. He has a PhD from BYU, and a private practice in Utah somewhere. I was very impressed with the presentation. I don’t have the book but I would recommend just based on the seminar. Particularly enlightening on some of the roots behind addiction, and how it is different for everyone.

  45. hawkgrrl said: So, if pornography creates a further wedge between couples, that’s problematic. But if the wedge is already there, maybe it’s neutral in its impact.

    No problem with either of these scenarios. Both are certainly common enough.

    But what if pornography helps to lessen or even remove the wedge? Sex is almost exclusively a private form of communication, and as such, most people have no frame of reference. Sexual dysfunction and sexual miscommunication is hidden, often within ourselves.

    But we are social learners. Dysfunctions of various types are often overcome socially via direct observation or communication. This “social learning” doesn’t happen in the bedroom.

    So I wonder if some forms of erotica could be a means of overcoming inhibitions or hangups? Or as a jumping off point for more discussion and better communication? Or as a means of getting closer? Even establishing more trust? Or even, dare I say it, just for pleasure/fun? (Last I checked, within the bounds of marriage and mutual consent, sex was a gift for pleasure in addition to procreation.)

    Look, for the record, I understand and acknowledge all of the hangups with porn that have been addressed in the various comments on this thread. I also recognize that there is no room for porn in a faithful LDS context. I’m just making counter-arguments because sometimes the pendulum swings too far in the other direction. And in some ways I think focusing on the evils of porn misses the point. The point to me is more about sexual communication and expectations between couples, and identity or “being” as individuals. Where porn fits in that picture seems to be highly variable, either as a crutch, or wedge, or weapon, or secret, or source of shame, or tonic, or enhancer, or whatever…

    Finally, there is high variability, even within faithful Mormon couples, as to what is kosher in the bedroom. Because we never talk about it, I believe there are a lot of hangups, especially because the most conservative voice in church usually carries the day.

    For example, the other night we happened to be talking about Prop 8 at my inlaws house and the conversation somehow got on the subject of what was on and off limits in the bedroom between married, heterosexual couples. I said I didn’t think God cared on way or the other, only that what happened in the bedroom occured in a context of mutual consent and respect. My mother-in-law said that humans have perverted sex over the past few generations, that much of what was considered “normal” today was actually perverse in the eyes of God. Her bottom line was that our heavenly parents only practiced the “missionary position” in heaven. Laugh if you want, but such a mindset is likely very common, and if infused in the minds of young, impressionable newlyweds it can create all kinds of psychological havoc.

  46. Here’s my take, as a spouse of a recovering porn addict. He told me about his problem about 3 years into our marriage, and has honestly tried to lick it, but it is addictive.

    At first it FELT like adultery, because I knew so little about the nature of pornography. I felt hurt and betrayed because I was visualizing him obsessing over particular women.

    Then we installed an internet filter that, even though it doesn’t block everything, it logs everything. And as I was checking out the log, I stumbled into one of his “bad weeks”

    Whoah. I had no idea what was out there. Porn turned out to be nothing like I thought it was.

    Now it doesn’t FEEL like adultery. It feels more like I’m married to someone who is honestly sick, maybe a little perverted, but mostly truly sick and in need of help. I feel that understanding has helped our marriage a lot.

    So not that I’m suggesting to everyone who wants to understand porn better to go see for yourself. Especially men–I know it didn’t affect me sexually like it would affect men. But knowledge was power, and in my case, a blessing to our marriage.

  47. Matt, your last paragraph makes me laugh and cringe at the same time. I could start with why we even think sex as we know it is part of the afterlife, but I’ll just leave it at my mixed emotions. We (all people, but especially Mormons) really are peculiar.

  48. victim (#51) – “Now it doesn’t FEEL like adultery. It feels more like I’m married to someone who is honestly sick, maybe a little perverted, but mostly truly sick and in need of help.”

    Thanks. That resonates.

  49. #50 Matt,
    You make some excellent points, many I agree with. As I mentioned up thread I know couples who’s relationship have benefited from porn.

    It is possible to use porn for recreation and remain otherwise unaffected by it, including remaining close to the Spirit. It is also possible to get hooked, work through it and come out the other side thoroughly knowing yourself and being able to take it or leave it. But, most people become hooked and stay hooked.

    D&C 89 does not prohibit drinking beer. After doing some research, I suspect beer became a part of the word of wisdom because some of the saints couldn’t drink it without drinking too much. Porn seems to be much more addictive than beer so I doubt it will ever officially be tolerated in any form even though a few can handle it.

    A husband and wife can enjoy porn in their relationship. Who’s going to know…unless one or both of you get hooked? The problems are lust, addiction and use as a drug to mask other issues. If you can control all three you can retain the Spirit and function normally, but most people can’t.

  50. Howard,

    “D&C 89 does not prohibit drinking beer”…….its the ‘alcohol’ that’s banned!

    “Who’s going to know…”………ahh, probably God?

    ……..
    Matt #50 “Her bottom line was that our heavenly parents only practiced the “missionary position” in heaven. Laugh if you”

    Is this why we have so many ‘missionaries’………sorry! 🙂 (I just don’t have anything constructive to add, but someone needs to take your mother in law and teach her some real sex)

  51. CarlosJC,
    beer…its the ‘alcohol’ that’s banned!
    Sure, but not by D&C 89.

    “Who’s going to know…”………ahh, probably God?
    Yes, God will know, but so far he’s been silent on the issue of porn.

  52. “Her bottom line was that our heavenly parents only practiced the ‘missionary position’ in heaven.”

    Wow. I suspect my MIL has the same opinion. Would explain a lot in my marriage.

  53. In reading through these comments I’ve been amazed at the understanding many of you have in regards to men (or women) that stray outside the bonds of marriage. You seem to understand the effects that has on the relationship with the spouse and yet you would be the first on another thread to defend polygamy.

    We can look at many examples of early church leaders seeking and marrying other women and not understand that doing so dramatically affected the first wife. (Despite what some would have you believe about men we really only love one women at a time.) During the courting and honeymoon period, the excitement of a new relationship is all consuming to most men. During this time, there would be little if any intimacy for the 1st wife. Their relationship is certainly diminished and the feelings of being “one” are most certainly lost. I’m not saying that many didn’t learn to adapt to this type of lifestyle, but their marriage would be completely different and less fulfilling then a monogamist one. You can’t have “oneness” if your spouse is continually able to court and marry other women throughout your life.

    Sorry, I’m not trying to thread jack this into a polygamy discussion, I just find the contrast interesting…

  54. Doug G,
    Polygamy undoubtedly affected the first and subsequent wives in a dramatic way. But, I can testify from my personal experience outside the church that you statement “men we really only love one women at a time” is false.

  55. Howard (#54) said, “But, most people become hooked and stay hooked.”

    But what is “hooked”? Some people get hooked (i.e. over indulge) on shopping, eating, gambling, drinking, gaming (videogames), working, etc. Others simply partake in normal, healthy ways.

    At the basic, primal level, all people are attracted to erotic stimuli. For men, this inclination usually takes the form of visual stimuli. So my question is: Is such a natural inclination categorically bad, the so-called “natural man”? Something to completely sublimate? Or is it one of the myriad “gifts,” if you will, that we are bestowed, something to be controlled, as well as something to learn from?

    Do you see the difference? On the one hand, the inclination is framed as something sinful, on the other, it is framed as something normal, albeit something, like eating, to be controlled.

    I don’t know. I just see the danger for mischief and subjugation if the idea is taken too far in either direction. Take porn victim’s (#51) husband. I’m not sure framing it like “It feels more like I’m married to someone who is honestly sick” is always helpful. First, I’ll freely acknowledge that people can be sick/addicted to porn, just like eating, drinking, shopping, etc. I can’t speak to porn victim’s situation, but it brings up a good hypothetical. Should we refer to all people who look at porn as “sick”? For that matter, should we refer to all boys who masturbate as “sick”? Should we refer to all people with same-sex attraction as “sick”? Feels like a blunt instrument. What is “normal” and what is “sick”?

    Interesting discussion.

  56. Matt,
    Good points all.

    But what is “hooked”? Some people get hooked (i.e. over indulge) on…
    Sure you can obsess and over indulge on almost anything. But porn seems to be unusually addictive. http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2004/11/65772

    Is such a natural inclination categorically bad, the so-called “natural man”?
    The way I see it is the “natural man” is well…natural, that is simply an intrinsic part of us. I don’t know if God put it in us or if it is a by product of our creation but he certainly knows the natural man is there and he makes use of it. For instance I was lead by the Spirit to Christ through the repentance process, in other words my sinful acts as a natural man eventually lead me to Christ. We are expected to eventually transcend the natural man and become Christ-like. You said it well “something to be controlled, as well as something to learn from”. I believe that our sex drives are truly a gift and a necessary one at that, without it who would multiply and replenish the earth?

    Something to completely sublimate?
    Well, if you’re talking about sex, the church would obviously want us to control it and contain it within marriage. Another choice is to completely explore it until you master it. This basically inoculates you to the addictive tendencies, but it would be very difficult to do while remaining in the church.

    Do you see the difference? On the one hand, the inclination is framed as something sinful…
    Imho our sex drive is neutral. What we do with it determines if it is sinful or not.

    Feels like a blunt instrument. What is “normal” and what is “sick”?
    I agree. Judge not least ye be judged.

  57. Nice response Howard. No follow up thoughts at the moment, except that this discussion reminds me of one of my favorite Dialogue articles from the past few years, a two-parter entitled “The Theology of Desire” written by Cetti Cherniak that frames the earthy/sensual/visceral in Mormon theology in exciting ways. Highly recommmend it.

  58. Howard said,
    “men we really only love one women at a time” is false.

    Let me clarify a little. On a recent episode of “Oprah” a Dr. (can’t remember his name) was interviewed about a book he wrote on men who cheat, why they cheat, and how a woman can tell. One of the most common signs of the start of an affair is the sudden drop off in intimacy and sex drive. Several others have also written about how men become somewhat obsessive with their new found love and talk about it with close friends they feel they can trust. These conversations invariably involve putting down the poor spouse and disclosing faults. A man who is engaged in this type of behavior would hardly be considered in love with his spouse. He may say that he loves her, but he isn’t interested in spending time with her or having sexual relations. The lack of spending time at home was the second biggest clue to him cheating.

    So, IMHO men who get involved with another woman are not in-love with their spouse. Incidentally, the good doctor on Oprah also said that secret obsessions with porn are an indication that your husband is on the road to adultery. This isn’t to say that every man who likes porn will move on to cheat, but the odds greatly increase if he is secretly indulging.
    I guess what I’m saying is that I respectfully disagree with Howard but do agree that there are always exceptions to the rule. Perhaps he is one of them.

    At the end of the day, I see no way for polygamy not to cause extreme pain an anxiety for women and therefore must either conclude that God doesn’t really like women and therefore commands men to look outside their marriage, or realize that polygamy is an evil practice that never should have been part of the restored gospel.

  59. Doug G,
    You seem to be equating the motives and outcomes for plural marriage with the motives and outcomes for men who cheat on their wives.

  60. Howard,

    I’m trying to show that men who fall in love with other women (whether or not it’s a polygamist relationship) fall out of love with the current spouse. I say that because the author of the book on Oprah based much of his research on men and their needs. He had some fairly convincing studies showing the emotional effect of trying to foster a new and loving relationship with one woman while committed to another. I think the parallels apply to both types.

    When people discuss polygamy, I think they don’t actually mentally go through the processes involved in bringing a new love into an old relationship. If they did, they may start to empathize with these women who were forced to choose between believing the prophet and sharing their husbands (with all that entails) or leaving the religion. If you can start to feel what they must have felt, you start to see why this was evil. For me, reading my GG grandmothers journal of being pressured at 15 to marry her uncle was revealing. The hatred (from her aunt) that existed in the home after their marriage became so intolerable that she was forced to live in a separate cabin some distance from the main house. Her new husband only came over to spend the night on special occasions, but other than that, never spent time with her. Therefore, I think the emotions are very much the same for polygamy or adultery, it’s a betrayal of the “ones” a great marriage can have if nurtured correctly.

  61. Ray,

    Don’t be insulting, you know I like you. This is an area I happen to have some pretty strong feelings about. At least humor me and try to see my point. 🙂

  62. I kind of agree with Doug G. I don’t see how anyone (man or woman) could be equally “in love” with two people at the same time. My guess is that polygamy requires a more superficial relationship than being “in love” (e.g. charity, not romantic love).

  63. Doug G,
    I’m trying to show that men who fall in love with other women (whether or not it’s a polygamist relationship) fall out of love with the current spouse.
    Plural marriage given the commitment involved is difficult to compare to cheating given the lack of commitment involved. The permanence of plural marriage speaks to different motives than cheating; one of the biggest benefits to cheating is “no strings attached’.

    the author of the book on Oprah based much of his research on men and their needs.
    You must be assuming that plural marriage was not of God then or you would realize that God knows more about men than Oprah’s author.

    I am familiar with actually bringing a new love into an old relationship and I know others who have without falling out of love with the first woman. Could the opposite happen? Sure, but it would be a mistake to assume that is the norm without data to back up your assumption.

    Plural marriage existed in one of my lines as well, but my GG grandmother’s experience seemed quite different than yours.

    Hawkgrrrl,
    Sure, I’ve never been equally in love with any two women at the same time or at separate times. Every love has been unique.

  64. Doug, I apologize. This was a lousy day in a lot of ways, and I didn’t take as much time relaxing as normal before I fired up my computer. That definitely was a mistake. My comment was out of line.

    I don’t see polygamy as having to be either the evil result of horny men’s libidos or a sign that God doesn’t love women. I’m sure you don’t believe the latter, so I think it is clear you believe the former. However, I think you are overlooking the clear pain and anguish it often caused the men, as well.

    I am appalled by the cases like the one you mention, but I also have read enough accounts to know that wasn’t the norm. I’m not saying it was an isolated exception and everyone else practiced it in wonderful, Disney-esque way. That would be ludicrous. I also know it was more painful on the whole for women than for men, and that many women particularly had to divorce themselves emotionally more than many men did. However, I also know it was very hard for many, many men – and my reaction was against the apparent idea that the men were horny and happy within the system.

    I know that wasn’t stated, so I apologize again if you didn’t mean to imply that. My reaction probably was a result of hearing that exact argument too many times in my life.

  65. Oh, and I think Hawk’s reference to romantic love vs. what I would call marriage of utility is a key issue here. While many people married for romantic love in the 1900’s, many others married lacking that type of romantic foundation – especially men. I think holding them (men AND women) to a standard that wasn’t nearly as prevalent then as it is now simply is unfair.

    I actually do appreciate the application of this discussion to this post for those few (in my mind) who used polygamy in the Church at that time as a quasi-pornographic fix, but I don’t want to derail the central discussion of pornography itself. If we can continue this direction and still focus on that core issue, great; I am all for it.

  66. Big difference between polygamy and just ‘affairs’ is that the latter involves a lot of lying and hiding from the wife while polygamy can happen out in the open, with the wife’s input.

    Kind of like when we talk with our partner about who they can marry after we die.

    Best examples of polygamy are widows and widowers who re-marry without loosing love for their first partners or loving less the second.

    And seems to be easier to do the older we get. I can’t see 20 year olds loving two people at the same time.

    Maybe you guys should have watched Big Love to see how it all works.

  67. Doug G – I saw that same show but remember some of it a little differently.

    #64- “One of the most common signs of the start of an affair is the sudden drop off in intimacy and sex drive. … The lack of spending time at home was the second biggest clue to him cheating.”

    I remember those points being offered as indicators but I also remember they were excused (at least in one couple’s experience) as primary markers in some, but not all cases. One couple shared that at the time of the husband’s affair, they were having sex on a daily basis. In some instances it’s not unusual for a husband to be away from home for extended periods of time. Company trips, deployments, TDY (temporary duty assigments in the Army) and other stints are the norm for some families. That seemed, to me at least, that the affair came as a surprise to that wife since this “classic” sign was absent. I’m not saying there weren’t others, but it’s easy to overlook something (whatever the other signs may have been) relatively minor when the obvious was/is absent and the established norm for some includes absences or longer work days.

    “So, IMHO men who get involved with another woman are not in-love with their spouse.”

    I agree with you there but in some cases only. My first husband was not or fell out of love with me (he was counseled, though I didn’t know at the time, by a Church leader to get married to “fix” his problem – that was a punch in the gut for me). He was not interested in sex, never wanted to discuss the issue or others and began to look elsewhere for connection. Porn had consumed him. In this, my second marriage, it’s not the case. Perhaps since he’s not as far into the spectrum as my first husband. Time-wise, they had both been addicted and using for nearly an equal number of years. The difference has been made in second husband’s greater desire to abstain. Though not successful, he at least fought the urges for longer and much harder.

    Porn isn’t the problem, it’s only a *symptom* of the problem. The greater problems, in instances of porn addiction, lie in the straying spouse but can be prevented when he/she learns how to ask for what they need, such as emotional connection, and regular practice and application of communication skills. It also takes willingness and work from their spouses to prompt, listen and provide space when needed. Men are typically portrayed as sex-driven maniacs, void of emotion or a desire for true intimacy. This is not at all the case and is sometimes a big hurdle for them to see and embrace.

  68. I know that this thread is old but I have been reading some of the comments and the one made by Howard caught my eye the most. Not to pry or anything but it sounds to me like you are tring to justify some behvior that is not approved by the chruch in anyway.

    “Yes, God will know, but so far he has been silent on the issue”

    Are you kidding me?! God does speak out repeatedly about the harm of pornography thru the Prophet and other General Athourities. A great deal of the topics in General Conference for the past like I don’t know 4 years if not more has talked specifically about the problems of pornography. A couple of months ago quite a few articles in the Ensign were directed towards pronography, even if it is used between a man and his wife to “inhance” their love life is just wrong. One if not both of you WILL become addicted and any type of addiction is wrong. Now I can’t say whether or not Pornography should be likened to Adultrey…but either way it is a sin to look at another man or women in lust. And if you have to justify it in any way then there must be somthing tugging at you to make you want to justify it. As for what anon chicken was saying about the loss of the spirit in her home after pornography was in the home, I don’t really think that it was nessecarily loss of the spirit, but maybe it was the spirits way of telling her that something was wrong, I know when I have that pit in my stomach it is because I know something doesn’t feel right, but I always know that it is something bad and it is never a good feeling to know that something bad is happening. Now the spouse who is viewing pornography will slowly lose the spirit. I mean every time you ignore a prompting you are becoming more and more desensitized to what the sprit is prompting you not to view. I think that reguardless of whether pornography is like committing adultry it is just plain wrong no matter how you spin it.

  69. its porn! kids are going to look at it more and more because when your mormon you are taught to withhold from sex until marriage. so the kid looks at porn because he thinks its wrong to have sex. thats why mormons get married at a young age. when they finally have sex around 19 to 25 their virginity is taken and they think that 1st person is THE ONE. they later have a horrible marriage because they aren’t right for each other. then the church talks to the couple and basically says they are right for each other and they need to work their problems out. they think a baby would bring them close together. it never does. Then the baby has bad parents. never ending story. . . i know of FOUR situations like that. PLEASE someone REPLY!

  70. Brian, your comment isn’t really worth a reply. Come back with a little more nuance and balance and I’d be happy to respond.

  71. HAHA. . . . . .BRAIN WASHED!!! WELL GOD TOLD ME IM RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING. AND HE SAID I AM THE NEW GOD. . .SO.. no more joseph smith

  72. 27 ¶ Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit aadultery:
    28 But I say unto you, That whosoever alooketh on a bwoman to clust after her hath committed dadultery with her already in his heart.

  73. Post
    Author

    #79 – That is the central scriptural passage quoted in the post. The foundation question of the title of the article I linked (and, thus, this post) is based on that passage. It is the other questions I asked at the end of the post that I wanted to explore.

  74. why did you delete my last comment?
    do you not want to bring up real life situations instead of fake (appropriate) situations

    .
    .check out youporn.com
    .
    .
    .you know you will
    .
    .
    .
    .one of your kids probably looked at porn on the computer that your on right after you went to bed last night.
    .
    .
    .
    .check…haha

  75. I find these posts very insightful.

    First, a little background: I am married w/five children. I have struggled with pornography (or equivalent) since I was 5 years old. Although I am not into hard-core pornography. I am very attracted to women. I am as much or more addicted to stories than pictures. My wife is a great woman and very attractive. However, she is not very excited about sex – more of a duty than anything. I believe pornography has created a need in me that my wife be very desirous for sex with me. When she is not, I greatly struggle to be attracted to her. This need has been so pressing that in the past I have sought to expose her to pornography in order to light a fire of desire in her. She has resented me for these efforts. At times I have felt that another man might be able to light this fire in her. As a result, this has become a fantasy of mine. In the distant past, I even tried to get an LDS (married) friend of mine to flirt with her. She found out and again was very angry with me.

    At times I feel obsessed with looking at beautiful women and talking with them – friends, co-workers, etc. I have never had sexual relations (physically) anyone but my wife since we’ve been married.

    I really don’t know what to do. I guess I really am looking for solutions that have actually worked for people. That is why I found the following comment by Howard on 9/20, very interesting:

    “I was involved in pornography before returning to the church. I weaned off slowly by turning first to more loving images, then to progressively softer images.”

    Although this approach goes against my understanding of the gospel. I realize that I may err in my understanding.

  76. Mike
    Ask the God in FAITH to take the lust from your heart in Jesus name and he will. Then you have to do as the Spirit prompts you. Yes, dump thee playboys and delete the porn from the computer. The DVDs and any extra hard drives. The links too. If you can’t do these small things you’re lying to your self. You really don’t want to stop.

  77. Mike – if your wife finds sex a chore, the key to resolving your issues is through increasing the intimacy within your relationship. Do you have physical contact that is not sexual? Do you look at one another anymore? Do you have deep discussions in which you connect with each other mentally and emotionally? Do you laugh together? These are the things that create marital intimacy. You can’t increase your wife’s lack of desire by independently arousing your own.

  78. I am new here so please be gentle with me, but aren’t you all just trying to justify sin?
    What possible purpose can there be to pornography if no just lust, be it towards a single or married woman/man?
    If you a true to your spouse and to yourself you wont stray towards anything that could jeopardize your place next to him/her in heaven. Wake up to yourselves and ignore any kind of porn!

  79. I just saw an article on CNN.com that showed research that indicated that men view women in bikinis or in a sexualized was as objects. The part of the brain that used tools light up when viewing women in a sexualized way. This to me seems that it does demoralize women. My husband looks at it and lied to me for a very long time. It turns out he was spending money on porn when we didn’t have enough money to buy food. I would go without food sometimes while he was spending it on porn. He claims it is his personality but it wasn’t at one time. I also find that he is more and more unhappy with our own intimate relationship and wants me to perform more and more things that I am uncomfortable with. He claims that all women do it. This may not happen with all men but I do not think it is a healthy thing.

  80. Pingback: My Nacle Notebook 2008: Interesting Comments | Zelophehad’s Daughters

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *