An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

A group in which I participated recently turned the conversation  to sex. Jenny, a 33-year-old Mormon woman, confided that she had caught her
husband accessing porn on the computer late one evening. She asked him why since she was in their bedroom and willing. His reply was, “I didn’t want to bother
you.” Am I out-of-touch, or is there something wrong with a 33-year-old man who prefers virtual sex on a computer screen to real sex with his wife?

I’m no sex therapist, but I doubt his behavior is a sign of a healthy  marriage—and their marriage is not healthy. Married at age seventeen because of
her pregnancy, resentments for what they have lost lie barely hidden beneath  the surface of their active Mormon lives.

Jenny’s story made me wonder if porn usage by Mormons is a  symptom rather than a cause of unhappy marriages. I’m pretty sure the potential
for unsatisfactory sex lives in Mormon marriages is high. Mormons tend to marry young—21-year-old returned missionaries are urged by family and church leaders
to marry and settle down. Marriage opportunities for Mormon women appear to significantly  decrease after age 22.

Marrying young, usually without much previous sexual  experience and usually with no pre-marriage counseling about sex, is a logical
reason for a young couple’s sex life being less than the stuff of which dreams  are made. Pair that with sex (unless it relates to fertility) being a taboo
topic in Mormon circles, and with chastity talks, especially for Young Women,  nearly equating sexual feelings with sin. I suspect that that more than a few
married Mormons are in a situation where the husband might find himself enjoying  sexual fantasies alone in front of his computer screen more than trying to
entice a reluctant wife.

Being neither a sociologist nor a marriage counselor, I’m only  speculating about reasons for porn usage by married people. But, since porn
addiction is a frequent topic of general conference addresses as well as  addresses on stake and ward levels, I suggest it is time to do a study about
Mormon porn use. Is it a bigger problem with Mormons than with people of other  or of no faiths? Is it the cause of unhappy marriages or do unhappy marriages
turn men who have neither the time nor money for affairs to their computers?

Instead of repeating “Don’t do it” over and over, it would  be more helpful for church leaders to learn why the problem exists and work on
a remedy for the cause.

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Comments on: "Porn Use: Cause or Symptom?" (10)

  1. I think you may be off…somewhat. I agree that the Church pushes people into marriage without adequate preparation. I agree that age, rather than maturity, is often the criteria for marriage, which is a very poor metric. I also agree that an early and immature marriage has more than its share of problems.

    But I do not agree about the porn.

    I think porn may be a symptom of a troubled marriage, but not always or exclusively. I worked in an industry where people were away from home a lot, and a lot of those people used porn. The odd thing was that the porn did not disappear when they went home. Some had great marriages, some had terrible, and the porn was never really indicative of anything. Some women I know, and others I have read about, enjoy porn. It seems to be a growing influence in women’s lives as it becomes more prevalent.

    I think porn is an addiction in many cases, and Mormons are not good with addiction. The hormonal rush a man experiences from sexual stimulation is something that can become very addicting, as much as nicotine or alcohol. Mormons are shielded from addiction (outside of food, and many Mormons I know are overweight), to a large degree and are likely unused to dealing with the effects. I think this is more to blame than marriages.

    People use porn for numerous reasons, and while a troubled marriage might be one, I do not think it has the market cornered. More than anything else, porn provides a quick release. It is quick, easy, and let’s be honest, sex requires a lot of work (fun work, but work nonetheless), so some people might turn to it for that reason. That has been my experience with friends who collect Playboy the way I collect National Geographic.

    In the Mormon community the taboo makes the rush that much greater, and the allure to the forbidden, when the forbidden comes with a huge surge of very pleasurable hormones, has much more to do with it than anything else.

    Just my opinion.

    • Joseph Abraham,

      I agree that the causes ofs porn use are complex. You’ve brought up an itneresting point. Mormons, being chielded from msot addictions, may not be good at dealing with them. Again, I suggest research into this problem is needed.

  2. I know in my case you hit the nail on the head. sad

  3. and what are you suppose to do with unwilling spouses…you have a decade invested in an eternal marriage…your trapped and disappointed …. what do the wives care? they are in the right regardless… they are not viewed as the cause when their husband views porn, they are not held accountable for frigidity as no force or threat of divorce or pressure is to be used in the bedroom(if its not ok with the wife its not to happen according to priesthood leaders) its their husbands ” bad” needs. neither are they held accountable for when the husband finally finds what he needs out side the marriage or the subsequent divorce… women in the Mormon church just are not accountable to their husbands needs and the responsibilities of marriage. If while dating… and future truth were to be told… how many men would marry these women? It quite frankly would not be in our interests to even date these women. In my marriage my spouse thought she might be the “daily type” but turned out to be the once bimonthly type. I wouldn’t have even given a first glance had I known… even with the wonderful kids and happiness the union has produced. I would have opted for the beastly ugly mustached chick who puts out 5 times a week but otherwise treats me like crap…..the make do: porn

    Solutions? I think Dr. Laura has it right…” women are in the unique position of having an extraordinary amount of influence over their husbands, which when exercised thoughtfully, compassionately, lovingly, and intelligently results in a happier husband who will ‘swim through shark infested waters to bring her a lemonade.’ Women seem not to understand, or underestimate, the profound power they have over their husbands. Men are very emotionally dependent upon women from the day they are born to the day they expire. What about sex? Are wives obligated to give their husbands sex on demand?
    As a woman who happens to believe that orgasms are a fabulous gift and blessing from God, I am amazed at how many women callers are willing to give them up to the gods of “I’m tired,” or “I’m annoyed.” Now, anyone can not be in the mood from time to time — that’s natural. However, the denigration of male sexual needs (They are just animals) and the use of sex to punish or control (You didn’t do what I wanted) and inappropriate prioritizing (My work and children take all my energy) are self-centered and self-defeating. I ask my women callers who complain that their husbands are not happy with virtually no sexual intimacy (and, by the way, that’s what the men truly feel about sex with their wives — it’s the ultimate in ‘acceptance and approval’ for them) if they would be satisfied with that profound a rejection and dismissal. They always say, “No, I guess not.” Frankly, too many women treat their husbands as accessories instead of priorities. ” if the food is great at home why go out to a restaurant for fast food?
    intimacy is importand… and if a husband is the center of his wifes world wouldn’t she want to prove it to him? Porn is no substatute to their wives bodies…. but mormon women are not brought up to think their bodies once they are married could have any alure to their husbands…. and since their not realy the naked in the living room type(thanks ALANIS MORISSETTE) mormon men tend not to see their wives as naked in times other than the brief and few encounters internet porn has a certain appeal. can you immagine if mormon women when discovering their men on line asked how many minutes/hours they watched porn per night and matched it with naked fun? how long would internet porn hold its allure?

    • Your comments definitely show the need for a more enlightened attitude toward sex for Mormons. Also, some premarriage counseling about sex would be helpful–and no, bishops are not trained to do that. Neither do they have the time.

  4. fuzzyoctopus said:

    I think there’s too little discussion of sex just as a whole in the Church and especially between couples who have made the decision to be married.

    I hope everyone has been reading the new blog that raises some of these issues – http://mormonmissionaryposition.wordpress.com/

    I know I’ve been appreciating a lot of the posts there. As to what asdert said above – communication. My non-christian friends can’t imagine getting married without finding out before hand if you’re sexually compatible. Now my husband and I did actually wait until we were married to have sex (with great effort) but we talked about it a lot and we were certain that we were a good match sexually. He even asked me at one point, “Say it’s the future and we’ve been married for two years, how often do you think you will want to have sex?”

    Regardless of this, I do sometimes think that our level of compatibility must be at least part dumb luck, because in the 8 years we’ve been married we’ve changed so much, but in ways that are still good together.

    • true ..true… one thing that most couples don’t realize is expectations ….men don’t think the women change and women don’t think men should stay the same(they will change the man)… what happens women change and men tend to stay the same.

      • asdf,

        You are so right. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to require premarital counseling (by a professional) to tip engaged couples off about the realities that follow their temple marriage?

  5. Ann: I just read your post above and appreciated your insights. In particular your ending sentence identifies a driving force that has motivated me over the last year and a half:

    “Instead of repeating ‘Don’t do it’ over and over, it would be more helpful for church leaders to learn why the problem exists and work on a remedy for the cause.”

    I’m a Latter-day Saint and a recovering sex and pornography addict. I probably became an addict as young as four and struggled with my compulsive behavior until I was forty-one. That’s when an LDS friend introduced me to Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) and I started attending meetings, got sober and became truly happy for the first time in my life.

    As I learned more about sex addiction in SA, I was shocked to find parallels right down the line with alcoholism and drug addiction. I had spent a lifetime believing that Satan was tempting me and I was periodically refusing to resist his temptations (through willpower) and was instead misusing my God-given agency for evil. It turns out that no one can overcome an addiction by willpower alone. I had been misled. If someone does “overcome” by willpower, it wouldn’t be addiction. All of the “stand firm in your resolve to resist temptation” talks in General Conference were of no avail for an addict like me. I was steeped in my compulsive behaviors and was using my drug (lust) to self-medicate so that my painful reality hurt less.

    Ever since I began learning about addiction and recovery–and then experiencing recovery and freedom from my addiction by working the 12 Steps, attending meetings, sponsoring and being sponsored–I have looked back despairingly on what the Church provided me in the way of moral guidance to deal with my “porn problem.” Essentially, the advice from bishops and mission presidents was to pray harder, longer and more often; fast harder, longer and more often; read my scriptures longer and more often–and exert more willpower.

    I now see that this was all useless advice for an addict. The alcoholics had known this since the 1930s. They’d had the solution to my addictive behavior for nearly eighty years, but I didn’t know about it until April 2010 when someone with recovery experience told me to look outside the Church. My whole life, I had kept looking to the Church to solve my problem and the Church leaders had kept insisting that they had the answer to the problem–why would I doubt them?

    As I moved along in recovery, I was surprised to find that there was actually very little writing out there in the real or virtual world from the perspective of the LDS sex and pornography addict in recovery. Most of the voices were those of professionals, Church leaders and the devastated wives of the Mormon men who continued to act out with their drug. The message seemed to be that failure and doom were all that awaited the LDS porn addict. There was no hope! There was no voice of the recovering addict!

    That’s when I started writing. I wanted to get the solution out there–and also simply let Latter-day Saints know that there even was a solution. I have desperately wanted to put an end to the “Don’t do it” talks and see them replaced by the “This is why you can’t stop” talks. I ended up with a website and a self-published book both of which are slowly capturing attention and resonating with LDS addicts, spouses, local leaders and professional counselors throughout North America. There is a solution out there in the 12 Step programs–the real ones, not the watered-down, toothless version that’s being foisted on unsuspecting addicts by LDS Family Services–but there seems to be a huge knowledge gap in between that solution and the members and leaders of the LDS Church.

    Church leaders could, if they really wanted to, quickly learn about the problem and the remedy you mention by asking the men (and women) who have found long-term recovery from their sex addiction. These folks know how they became addicted, why they acted out and, most importantly, they can articulate what they had to do to finally stop. Sadly, the Church seems more interested in telling these men (and women) who are already in recovery what they ought to be doing (prayer, scripture study and willpower) rather than listening to the experts talk about what really works.

    Again, I appreciated that you tackled the subject in your blog. You are definitely asking the right questions.

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