marriage bed symbol

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

My Porn is Okay, Your Porn is Not Okay – Avoiding the Double Standard Part 1

WARNING: This post contains a topic of a sacred sexual nature and is intended for married couples only. Viewer discretion is advised.

One of the greatest challenges in today’s world for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is finding good entertainment that doesn’t compromise the moral standards we strive to abide by.

This search for good entertainment can affect our marriages. We may seek to watch or read romance because we want something to give us that spark to get us in the mood to be close to our spouse. The Church has made it very clear that pornographic images (the kind men are generally drawn to) are definitely out, but the line on what is pornography for women is not so clear, or taken as seriously, and some become ensnared in moral traps as a result.

In order to define a problem, we must first start with a practical definition of what pornography is. The HBO documentary "Sexual Intelligence" tells us that porn comes from the Greek word porne meaning “female prostitute”, and was later coined as the word pornographos, meaning “writings about whores”. The word was created by a Greek scholar who gave a title to the large cataloged sexual artifact collection found in Pompeii.

The word pornography stuck as a term to describe any sexual images or writing intended to cause sexual excitement. The term later expanded for Church members when pornography was defined as sexual images, or writing, or dressing in a way, or speaking in a way or looking at people in a way that sexually stimulates or arouses.

For those who are married, Elder Oaks also said that pornography is “images and words [originating from sources outside a husband and wife] that are intended to arouse sexual desire.” A sexual stimulus that is generated from within the marriage relationship does not fall under the general definition of pornography and is better classified as marital intimacy.

Within the genre of romance, there are works with more artistic qualities versus popular forms of romance that could be classified as “female pornography”.

Artistic works portray people with many characteristics beyond the physical, and not all of these characteristics are glamorous or sexually attractive. In “female porn”, everyone is from LA in the looks department. At least the main characters are highly sexually attractive, and much of their description is focused on the physical.

“Female porn” characters are often forgettable, or almost interchangeable from book to book or movie to movie; they are cookie cutter in nature. Although the determination of what is good writing and what is bad writing is largely subjective, those works with artistic merit are written well, and those of a popular quality that could be classified as “female porn” are characterized by poor writing quality that is dull or monotonous.

Marilyn Arnold, an LDS English teacher, offers these clues to determining art from pornography:
“[Female porn] is comfortably predictable, and real life is not…difficult problems [are] easily solved. It never disappoints us, never tells us that to live is also to suffer; never tests our values or our moral and spiritual stamina. What it does is this: it allows us to live vicariously the lives of people for whom everything works out happily, invariably. Unfortunately, the relief we get through romance fiction…only lasts as long as the book lasts.”
Another point she makes is that these works are
“…almost totally devoid of art…the person is left essentially unchanged, uninspired, unmoved, un-enriched…It has no interest in truth or in values that endure, and it is essentially without moral content…the descriptions of [the hero and heroines] are canned and superficial.”
All of this is also true of the visual male porn.

Finally, in works that lean more towards artistic, the human condition is portrayed with a sense of authenticity. Life is complicated, and artistic works explore this complication. The consumer comes away from the book or movie with a sense of being changed or inspired or uplifted or enriched. Artistic works help us to deal with our reality more effectively than before. Appropriate entertainment leaves us with a feeling of appreciation for our spouse and family and inspires us to exhibit those qualities or activities that bring us closer to our spouse and family.

By contrast, in “female porn” or even male porn, the scenario is written according to a calculated formula that has been drawn from what each gender wants to see and read. Biologically, words and images are formulated to what will most likely trigger dopamine releases in the brain. This formula is also designed to have little to do with reality. It distorts reality in order to stimulate us sexually. It inspires our thoughts and actions away from our spouse and family and leads us to read or view in secret in order to release the chemical potion in the brain that activates those desires.

When the scenario is finished, the frustrations of life are still there. Nothing has changed about us from coming into contact with the story. Indeed, the individual is left feeling more frustrated than ever. He or she has been given nothing to help cope with the ethical and moral and emotional difficulties of life. Relationships are not edified by the experience, but become instead a stumbling block, because they stand in the way of going back for another quick sexual “high”.

To separate female pornography from literature, a woman can ask herself, “Is this book’s purpose to fill an emotional need that leads me to feel sexually aroused?” A woman can know she’s being aroused if:

* she puts herself in the place of the heroine who’s falling in love with the hero
* if she imagines herself kissing or making love to the hero
* if she goes back specifically to the sexual parts repeatedly while skipping
the rest of the story, or
* if she begins to fantasize about being with the hero in order to become aroused
enough to have sex or orgasm while having sex with her husband.

Under these conditions, she can be relatively certain that an intimacy problem with her husband exists and needs to be addressed.

Spencer W. Kimball said in The Miracle of Forgiveness,
“’Thou shalt love thy [wife/husband] with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto [her/him] and none else’ (D&C 42.22). The words ‘none else’ eliminate everyone and everything. The spouse then becomes pre-eminent in the life of the husband or wife and neither social life nor occupational life nor political life nor any other interest nor person nor thing shall ever take precedence over the companion spouse…If love wanes or dies, it is often infidelity of thought or act which gave the lethal potion. I plead with all people, young and old, bound by marriage vows and covenants to make that marriage holy, keep it fresh, express affection meaningfully and sincerely and often. Thus will one avoid the pitfalls which destroy marriages.”

REFERENCES:

Catherine, Annau, dir, Sexual Intelligence, HBO documentary, 2005
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/porography
“Pornography” Elder Dallin H. Oaks Ensign >>2005>>May
Arnold, Marilyn, “A Look at Popular Romance Fiction (Confessions of an English Teacher.) “ Ensign, Feb. 1987
Kimball, Spencer W. The Miracle of Forgiveness, pg. 250-251, Bookcraft, Salt Lake: 1992.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I do not read romance novels. I read books with sex in them but that is not the purpose of the book. But what if reading romance novels made a woman sexually interested in her husband whereas otherwise she had no interest?

CoachSam said...

Excellent question, and I will be addressing that point in the next couple of weeks. This is part of a larger article that I broke down into parts for easier reading. I hope you'll stay tuned!

Anonymous said...

I think that men can look at porn and not need to fantasize about the porn when making love to their wife. I think that most women assume that if their husbands look at porn then they use those images for arousal when making love to them. IMO, when a spouse is engaging and passionate during sex, there is no reason for their mate to fantisize about someone else.

I am not defending or condoning the use of porn, but thought I would point this out.

Grandma Nadeoui said...

I used to love reading books by a favorite authoress. The stories were wonderful, but I had to skip pages at a time that were very steamy. I finally figured out that I need to have an "R" rating for books that I just do not choose to read any more.

We do need an escape at times, and I am re-reading all the Twilight books again...and it is fun to feel 17 again. But if I find I have to skip pages at a time to avoid sex...I discard the book. Some stuff we just don't need in our heads.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that this is what you intended, but the quote from Marilyn Arnold seems to imply that if film or literature is not predictable, devoid of suffering and disappointment, morally vacant, overly simplified, and/or devoid of art, if it doesn't leave you "unchanged, uninspired, unmoved, or un-enriched" then it is not porn.
If this was your impression on porn then I think you may be suffering from a faulty paradigm.
The notion that "if it's art it's not porn"
Back when I was caught up in pornography there was a show I used to watch with complex characters, it was unpredictable, problems were not easily solved, it addressed moral issues, and the general vein of the stories was that sex should be about love and not lust. I would certainly call it artistic, in fact when I repented I lamented the fact that such great writing talent was wasted on a pornographic show.
But the point is artistic as it may have been it was still porn, and my body still treated it as such.
I think a better way to determine if something is pornographic is to ask yourself "Am I being witness to sexual acts that I shouldn't intrude on if these were real people"

Anonymous said...

But that doesn't fly either. The Old Testament has some of the most sexual stories and imagery in all of literature.
What about the rape of Dinah, or Amnon and Tamar, or Lot's daughters getting pregnant by Lot? Should we not read these stories because we become witness to sexual acts of real people? These aren't the only ones either.
We don't study these stories in Sunday School, but that doesn't mean they're not still in the Bible, which we should be reading. There are lessons to be drawn from these stories, which also happen to contain sexual elements.
Art can have sexual elements in it, and we should use the Spirit to decide what is all right to take in and what crosses the line into porn.
We may decide that the one part poisons the whole story. We may decide that parts can be edited out with little damage to the story. That's a decision that each of us has to make concerning the literature we engage with.

Anonymous said...

Finally, someone gets it. My wife and I have had this discussion. "Girl Porn vs. "Guy Porn" - she and her friends went to the last twilight, and were laughing about how "hot and bothered" they all were, but if I look at someone in a bikini and feel the same, I might have to talk to my bishop.

On the other hand, my sex life was never so exciting as when she was reading the books. Weird situation.