marriage bed symbol

marriage bed symbol

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Reader Question: Sexting Your Spouse

 So, I have a question for you. Would you consider a wife sending sexy pictures of herself to her husband's cell phone porn? Why or why not?

Dear Anon July 19th,

For a deeper answer to your question, you may want to refer to my article series "My Porn is Okay, Your Porn Is not Okay, Avoiding The Double Standard I, II, & III." [i]

According to Dr. Simon Goldhill of Cambridge University, pornography is an invention of the 19th century Victorian culture. It began as a collection of archaeological artifacts that are sexual in nature. They contain clay and stone models of sex organs and images of sexual acts, many of which were religious in nature and sacred to the people who created them. Much of the collection were not considered sexually arousing to the ancient culture, but were instead a form of symbolic communication used to keep the peace.

The collection of the artifacts evolved into an effort by the "gentlemen" of that era to label, name and control their world. Their efforts to control who was allowed to view them was partially so that the images would not be abused and made a mockery of, or unintentionally offend those who would interpret them out of context.[ii]

Before the Victorians, no other culture in the world even had a concept of anything being “pornographic” - including the people in the scriptures. Even the Victorian culture couldn't nail down an agreed definition of the term – nor can we today. Since the 19th century, the term pornography has gone through several changes in definition.

Each subculture in today's world has its own definition of pornography. Our Mormon subculture has even established its own definition. Dallin H. Oaks gave us that definition when he described it as "images and words intended to arouse sexual desires.”  However, he followed this statement by quoting the Savior, who said,

“Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” [iii]

Committing adultery with our spouse, to whom we are already legally and lawfully married, is to me a contradiction in terms. It would also contradict everything that is taught in the gospel about the boundaries established by the Lord in regard to sex and sexuality. All things sexual are to be kept (and expressed) within the bonds of marriage.[iv]

Looking at the sacred, naked body parts of our wives or husbands (by whatever medium we may choose) is completely within the bounds the Lord has set and therefore cannot be defined as pornography  - as the leaders of the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have defined it.

Someone other viewing images of our spouse’s nakedness would be viewing them in a pornographic context. If ‘sexting’ is a practice you choose to do between each other as husband and wife, I would recommend immediate deletion of those images after they’ve been viewed by the intended spouse.

If a spouse desires to express their intimate feelings in this visual manner, and put themselves in a vulnerable position for your benefit, you should respect that vulnerability and do all that can be done to protect them from exposure and humiliation.

If such an image were someone else’s wife or the scantily-clad or nude image of a single daughter of God’s body, that image would be pornography to us.

We can think of pornography in terms of what is licensed and unlicensed. To become a lawyer, you must pass a bar exam to be licensed to practice law. An unlicensed person can hang a shingle as a lawyer, but he would be in violation of the law.

I prefer to not use the term "pornography" at all, because of it's fluid state of definition. I prefer to use the terms sacred erotica and profane erotica. Profane being taking something holy and treating as though it had no value and making it unholy. Sacred erotica would be those things that sexually arouse you within the bounds the Lord has set. 

You are licensed through marriage to view images of your spouse, and such an image therefore is not a violation of God’s law and therefore is sacred erotica to you. A person who is not licensed through marriage to view your spouse’s nudity would be in violation of God’s law, and the very same images would be profane erotica to them.
I’m not a lawyer, but it’s my understanding that if minors (such as children or children’s friends) accidently come upon those images, it could be considered a felony and prosecuted as such. Were another adult to view those images, it would be a sin in allowing another to ‘uncover the nakedness of your spouse’[v], not to mention the considerable embarrassment involved for all parties.

If the wrong button were pressed, and that image were broadcast on the Internet (it does happen), the problem would only be compounded, with far-reaching consequences in many directions that could involve damage to careers and reputations, as well as other sorts of repercussions.

Bottom line, I would recommend the exercise of basic caution and consideration for each other. I believe this is true in whatever sexual practice we choose as couples.

[ii] Simon Goldhill is Professor in Greek Literature and Culture and fellow and Director of Studies in Classics at King's College, Cambridge. See Wikipedia for a list of his writings.
[iii] Dallin H. Oaks, Pornography, Apr. 2005 Gen. Conference
[iv] Eternal Marriage Handbook, pg. 139-146
[v] A significant part of Leviticus 18 deals with laws concerning different forms of sexual immorality, which refer to immorality as ‘uncovering the nakedness’ of someone in an inappropriate way.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for a very thorough answer!

I agree that if done, it should be very carefully guarded so as to preserve the sacredness shared between husband and wife.

I really enjoy your blog and the unique LDS perspective that general "Christian" blogs can't offer. Keep up the work!

Anonymous said...

*good work! Keep up the GOOD work!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful blog. Thank you so much for putting it together. I've been married 4 years now and we have a good relationship, but there were a few questions I had about appropriate things in the bedroom, and intimacy and general LDS sex info that can be found nowhere else. For two days I had been looking all over the web for "Christian" forums, etc, and I just kept coming up with '50 Shades of Grey' results because apparently that is the name of the lead guy. Shucks. So I was greatly relieved when I found your blog! I have read almost every post now, and I greatly appreciate the info and frankness. Thank you!

Strong Man said...

The existence of this question reflects a need for your blog and a discussion of sexuality. There is way too much paranoia about pornography and marital sex.

OF COURSE seeing your spouse naked--in pictures or in person-- is not pornography!

Your cautions about deleting those images, though, are very well-put.

A less risky, but really fun idea is wives giving their husbands a booklet of them wearing lingerie as a wedding or anniversary gift to keep--for his eyes only. A physical print book is much easier to keep private than an online image.

Tyler said...

Pornography is an interesting topic on its own and I've thought a great deal about what it is and isn't and why The Lord asks us to turn away from it. The best definition I've come across for what pornography is, read that "pornography is prostitution, plus a camera." (and I can't recall where I read it.) Prostitution amounts to the selling of ones will, an eternal thing, for money, a purely temporal thing. I use the term selling of the “will,” because the prostitute essentially allows unauthorized user(s) to gain access to sacred things (their body) which have been placed in their custody by Heavenly Father (i.e. our bodies are not our own, but we have charge over them).

In the case of prostitution involving non-consenting parties (such as children or trafficked persons) there is an added element of stealing their rights of choice amounting to debasement of the sacred, or in other words, abuse of a child of God. In either case, prostitution is very offensive to the Lord.

So add a camera to that scene and you have now created pornography. I think what Our Father in Heaven dislikes most about pornography is that it makes its viewers an accessory to the wicked actions. The viewer participates by proxy in the debasement of the sacred or in the abuse of the innocent.

Pornography thrives on generating an arousal response in the viewer. The viewer feels the pleasures of arousal and wishes to continue, and will even pay money to be allowed to see more.

But is arousal itself a sin? If a person becomes aroused over the course of a day, unrelated to their spouse should they shrink in guilt and self-loathing? What if it is not connected to pornography at all? I don’t think arousal is at all offensive to The Lord, but the subjection of a persons will to its influence is. Sin might well be defined as the subjection of a person’s will to anything other than the Lord.
I find Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants a fascinating study on the sexuality/marriage. The later part of verse 38 “and in nothing did they sin, save in those things which they received not of me.” I would almost use that as a measuring stick for all the activities (sexual as well) people might have questions about, is this from The Lord, or some other source? Am I operating within his laws, or making my own?

Less related, but equally fascinating to me is the text in verses 61 and 62 of the same section. Too long to quote the whole thing, but this line “…if any man espouse a virgin and desire to espouse another…” has often made me reflect on how one desires a virgin other than his wife and manages to escape the accusation of lust. I can image the conversation with my wife, coming home from church one Sunday, “honey, you know that virgin in the ward, I desire to marry her, what do you think?”

I’m being a little sarcastic there, but I think there is a whole range of thoughts, feelings and desires which are not unacceptable to The Lord, but he holds in His right as God, the discretion to choose, who receives what, when, for how long, and why. As much of the section instructs, we are sinless when we receive from Him whatever He places upon us, but as we venture away, and begin to seek things He has no intention of giving us, or which belong to someone else (example of David) there lies sin. Is this not lust defined, to seek things we do not have a right to. Is not lust the whole heart and crux of pornography, of prostitution, and of adultery?
Back to the subject of the original post, can an image of your spouse inspire lust? Can you lust after something that belongs to you? When the scripture says, “he that looketh on a woman to lust after her…” does that apply to a spouse, can we lust after them? I had a well-meaning professional counselor explain to me it did apply even to our spouses. It seemed at the time a juxtaposition, and I suspect he was not correct.
In my opinion, there is more to this subject than is understood presently. So Sam, thanks for expanding the debate a little.

Anonymous said...

I send my wife sexy text message, but even then I have to be careful because sometimes I'll hand my phone to one of my kids to answer it if I'm driving or something like that. They know to not go looking there, but all the same I wouldn't send a picture that showed too much. I have some sexy pictures of my wife on my phone, but they are cropped versions so all PG-13 at worst.

Strong Man said...

Section 132 is a fascinating one relating to this question. The entire issue of polygamy is interesting and complex. At the time this was recorded, Joseph Smith had been sealed to a number of women, including several who were married to others, but publicly denied the existence of polygamy. The revelation was not published until 1852--under the direction of Brigham Young in Utah.

Many things about this entire doctrine and its implementation appear difficult and even imperfect to me.

At any rate--if we take vs. 61 and 62 at face value, they seem quite clear that it is at least possible for a married man to "desire to espouse another," AND "he cannot commit adultery" just through that desire. Theoretically, if his current wife did NOT give consent, even though he had a "desire to espouse another," he still would have not sinned!

So, is there a difference between "looketh upon a woman to lust after her," which is "adultery in his heart," and "desire to espouse another," in which "he cannot commit adultery?"

This seems to suggest that we are often much more paranoid about our "bad thoughts" toward women than the Lord is.

Tyler--your experience with a counselor saying lusting after your wife is a bad reminds me once again of the dangers and risks of working with a counselor. That is terrible and wrong advice, in my opinion.

MM said...

Great subject - my wife gave me an album of 'boudoir' photos she had done with a professional (female) photographer. I love them and do not in any way consider them pornography.