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  1. I found this podcast interesting. I did have a couple of comments/questions. I think it’s obvious that American cultural’s perspective on sex is horribly flawed, it’s gotten so sexualized, and the religious community’s reaction to it often times produces shame and secrecy. It seems there’s a tendency within religious culture to default to addiction to describe someone who is immersed in pornography in any level. That doesn’t resonate with me… But it seems like addiction recovery programs like twelve steps provides tools that can help someone deal with underlying issues that make pornography use more likely. However, in hearing this podcast, some of the benefits of twelve step support groups could be broadly useful – open and honest communication, vulnerability, managing shame, unconditional love, bearing one another’s burdens without judgment.

    It would be nice if we could get more of this in church and other settings and it seems like these are precisely the resources we need really access the atonement, to deal with our real and inevitable human weaknesses, to be able to cope with inevitable pain we inflict on each other. It would be nice if we didn’t have to hit rock bottom before we felt the need to get this kind of support. In other words, all of us just had access to this support. So, that instead of trying to deal with a 20 year pornography addiction, as an example, we could deal with these issues much, much sooner.

    I guess I’m assuming not everyone who struggles with pornography has to necessarily consider themselves addicts. And even those who don’t struggle with pornography inevitably struggles with something. We shouldn’t necessarily have to treat these things as an addiction to get support to help us deal with painful things in our lives.

    Or perhaps coming to terms with addiction is the only way to recovery?

  2. I listened to this on a long walk yesterday and it is quite good. I want to thank Coby and Ashlynn for opening up and making this more public. I think it is going to take a few more folks doing so before we normalize the early steps where they are not so stigmatized that nobody gets help. I appreciate (probably only a bit) how hard this must have been. It was courageous for both of you. Others will be blessed.

    I was about to make a few comments, but as I read Scott’s comments above – I had almost the same points to make.

  3. Scott’s remarks above ring so true to me. I have had occasion to be involved in al-anon and AA meetings (the non-denominational version) and found them to be broadly helpful in my life. I had these opportunities to attend presented to me rather tangentially, but found the concepts so compelling and applicable I sought opportunities to continuing learning…the tenets definitely feel inspired!

    Another strong response I had to this podcast was inspired by Ashlynn’s remarks concerning the jewelry she holds to that proclaim
    “I am enough!”. It occurred to me that many women who had polygyny thrust upon them may have found strength in this proclamation as well! It hurts and angers me that the church continues to defend the history of polygamy in our church, all the while producing talk after talk about the toxicity of porn. In my view, polygyny is another iteration of the objectification of women.

  4. I am just too agreeable and maybe I need to change my pseudonym to “Mr. Agreeable”, but I have to agree with your statement on polygamy being in some ways equivalent to porn. It then made me think. I wonder if this is one thing fueling the never ending talk about the evils of porn. Is it an attempt to distance the church from the association of polygamy was mainly about the sex (i.e. ” ‘It’s Not About the Sex’ My Ass: Confessions of an Ex-Mormon Ex-Polygamist Ex-Wife” http://www.amazon.com/Its-Not-About-Sex-Ex-Polygamist-ebook/dp/B008Q4D6E4/ref=sr_1_1)

  5. A friend dealing with similar stuff in her marriage made this remark “Inspiring. I’m in awe of that kind of openess and honesty and grit to climb out of such a dark hole.
    So good. Man, they are so brave.”

  6. Dan, I’m a huge fan of your podcast and love the topics you discuss, but I found this episode frustrating on a few levels. I think it would have been helpful to have a professional therapist, like Natasha Helfer Parker or Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, someone in the Mormon therapy world with real professional experience to provide a perspective on these issues. I think all of your guests were well intentioned, but I’m worried that some of the language used to describe addictions on this episode could perpetuate some of the problems we have in the Mormon culture around sexual issues.

    A couple thoughts from my perspective, a non professional myself. The assumptions that the Mitchell’s brought to the table about porn and masturbation were that both are bad under all circumstances and should be avoided. I think this reflects opinions of the current church leadership, but I’m worried that this kind of black and white stance does a lot of harm, and has been addressed and talked about in the bloggernacle for years. This abstinence only policy towards what is considered by many in society to be natural and healthy behavior is actually causing a lot of the problems in my opinion. What if the Mitchell’s had an approach that was more moderate and didn’t automatically describe these behaviors as “acting out”, but as natural and healthy when used appropriately and moderately? I’m pretty sure a PHD would not consider Mr. Mitchell an addict.

    Our church culture looks at so many things in immature terms. Whether that’s rated R movies with naked bodies or profane language, or music and other media the church culture labels these things as bad. We create taboos to be avoided in order to maintain purity. Taboos are treated like infectious diseases. Repentance is the cure and avoidance is the tool for maintaining health. Is there a healthy practice of masturbation or viewing of erotic material in the church today? Not one that can be discussed openly, because of the messages from the top. These are evil in all their forms, taboos that are the tools of Satan. What if these assumptions are all wrong? I think the church is way behind the times because they can’t discuss these topics with any level of objectivity. Sexual issues are all taboo, and unfortunately I think this is fuel for the behavioral problems that people within Mormon communities experience around these issues.

    Would you be willing to consider a followup podcast addressing some of these topics from a more moderate perspective? I think it would go along way to provide an alternative to some of the myths and misperceptions perpetuated in this conversation.

    1. Post

      Thanks for the notes, and definitely in the plan to address several of the issues you raised. (In fact earlier in the week recorded this, I noted the Mormon Mental Health Association’s statement about pornography and the addiction model, and Bill Turnbull and I discussed hosting as a companion piece a back and forth between those holding both sides of that debate. And we’ve even had discussions like you’re calling on a few times on Mormon Matters in the past, most recently in the episode on Sex Positivity in Mormonism. Ultimately, Bill and I decided this is a series of personal journeys with an emphasis on spiritual discoveries and changes that often accompany those in recovery. Hence having someone on who disagrees with the model a person is using as they share their story didn’t seem right, nor did an accompanying conversation that played at more meta-levels–at least not so close to the sharing of such powerful personal narratives by persons who may not hold positions about pornography and masturbation that you and many professionals hold yet still so clearly found help while holding to the addiction and “never” model. We’ll definitely have a show directly on it, though, within the coming month or so. Two more shows planned for the addiction and recovery series first (plus two others, not related, in the works).

      All best!

    2. Objectification in any form is never okay. Sexual slavery is never okay. “Erotic material” is objectification, and there’s a good chance it’s sexual slavery for the women involved in it. Setting all religion aside, pornography is objectification. I completely agree that the Mormon culture has created a lot of shame in people who struggle with, however you want to word it, compulsive sexual behaviors or addiction. I personally believe the leaders and members could do better when talking about pornography. But the opposite of pornography is not sexual repression. If more people knew what healthy sexuality was and what it looked like (no, not through pictures or videos), they’d be able to see the lies that pornography tells. Because that’s what pornography and erotic material is. Nothing but lies.

      1. Rosie,
        I’ve thought this for a long time. I wish leaders would talk about the evils of objectification more. I think it would help. I discussed this with a couple of my junior high classes (mostly Mormon kids) and a few eyebrows were raised–in a good way. It made them think.

  7. Excellent podcast Dan, Bill, and Colby and Ashlynn. Powerful and fundamental change of the soul. It is a beautiful thing to hear about and witness. And to experience this great change of heart. While I understand the points in “hope_for_all_things” comments above, I find them extreme and lacking the nuance that these issues require. I have listened to and read articles of porn and masturbation by Natasha and Jennifer and think, particularly in the masturbation area, that they make some valuable points. But I agree with Rosie’s comment above, it is hard to move into the realm of porn without objectification of men or women and complicit association with many unsavory and harmful people and ideas. Not to mention the possible compulsion or addiction it can lead to for some. Or the destruction of relationships. Yes, the church can refine its message in this area and hopefully will in terms of masturbation. But it terms of porn, which is now extremely accessible and often involves children and violent behavior, it is likely best to simply avoid any of it. I am grateful for the church’s encouragement to do just that. Rather than immature, I think that is quite a mature stance. The church has already softened it’s stance over the years regarding masturbation.

    One of the best podcasts I have heard on porn was done on RadioWest recently. It was fascinating to hear two scientists in this area (after the well-spoken senator spoke) take two very different positions. The first one, a man, seemed full of sophistry. The second, a woman, felt more honest and objective. You can find it here: http://radiowest.kuer.org/post/porn-and-public-health

    Thanks again to each of you. Colby and Ashlynn especially for being brave enough to be God’s hands, heart, and voice.

  8. I don’t doubt Cobys recovery and the blessing that has been his their lives and the lives of those they have helped but it did seem a bit off to me that in all his talk of recovery there was very little talk of the actual 12 steps of recovery. His ‘dailies’ were little more than read the scriptures, pray, go to church. Maybe add in some exercise…

    The promise of the 12 steps is that of a daily reprieve from addiction from maintaining a fit spiritual condition so maybe I’ve got it wrong here…

    I’ve been sober for a little over 2 years now. I haven’t read the scriptures much at all, my prayers are always a struggle and I don’t think I’ve had a good experience at church in all that time, but I’m daily trying to let go of the resentments that arise in my life, the fears and worries that are relentless, the times when I want to be dishonest and most of all the selfishness which consumed my life in addiction.

    If its working its working, I guess my point is that my recovery experience in 12 steps has been different to Cody’s and I was surprised there wasn’t too much I recognised in the HOW of this recovery.

  9. I really appreciate the various experiences being shared in this series and the effort’s breadth and depth. Thank you!!!

    Has there been a podcast (series) anywhere that is dedicated to the 12 step process and those who have experienced it? That would be really fascinating! I’m curious how the tools and skills gleaned from this process could be utilized by broader membership. Life is full and stressful for all of us at times and one can never have too many tools and skills in our tool belts! As a mom of 5 kids aged 12 on down, this got me thinking of how to help guide my kids (and be better myself) at recognizing and using healthier means of stress management.

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