Exponent II's Latest Issue is Online (and Free!)

 
 

The first free online issue of Exponent II is now available at the publication’s website, www.exponentii.org. It addresses pornography addiction and it’s impact on Mormon families. For three years, associate editor, Heather Sundahl, has diligently gathered articles from men, women, and experts who deal with the effects of pornography.  Below is Heather’s excellent editorial…

The first time I heard pornography addressed from the pulpit was twenty years ago at BYU. I don’t remember much about the talk, but I remember my reaction: a big fat “Ew.” I, and everyone around me, kept shifting in our seats. Those of us who were ignorant of pornography’s allure squirmed because it made no sense that anyone would CHOOSE to seek out such images. Those of us who were ensnared by it squirmed, sure that everyone could read our shame. Two decades later, the reaction to talk of pornography addiction elicits much the same response from those in the pews. But it’s changed for me as I have come to realize how common and wide reaching this addiction is.

 

One summer a few years back, I was visiting a dear friend of mine, Michelle. I knew something was up. I knew it had to do with Rob, her husband, and I knew it was bad. Honestly, I thought he was cheating on her. When she finally told me he had an internet porn addiction, I felt so relieved and so determined not to be a judgmental Molly. So I tried to “normalize” it. I’m sure I said something stupid like, “There are worse things than looking at dirty pictures.” But as I listened to her, it became clear that looking at pornography was much different than being ADDICTED to pornography. It’s the difference between someone who has a glass of wine on occasion and someone who is an alcoholic. Pornography ran Rob’s life; when he gave into the urges, he shut off emotionally from the family and lashed out at Michelle and the kids. How to be alone with the computer drove his daily decisions. When he was “good,” he either spent his energy trying to outrun his addiction—being the BEST home teacher, attending extra temple sessions, reading scriptures—which also made him distant, or he refused to acknowledge that the demon might return, belittling Michelle’s worries and how the issue took a sledgehammer to her self-esteem.

 

 

Over the next few years, the Church and I both seem to have learned from others and have a much deeper understanding of how pornography is a drug to its users. As more friends came forward and shared with me their families’ battle with pornography, I emailed Michelle, got a list of resources (Michelle and Rob were in counseling at this point, doing wonderfully), and passed those on. Even so, I honestly had a hard time believing how prevalent it was, and how no one is above it. At that point, when someone in our ward or stake would address pornography, I’d look around stealthily, wondering which seemingly perfect families were caught in its grasp—knowing that no one was immune and yet knowing that the stigma against it was so overpowering that very few people had the courage to get the help they needed. Sometimes I think it would be more socially acceptable to be a Mormon with a pot problem than a pornography one.

When I was a kid people had to go looking for illicit images. But today, it comes looking for us in our Inboxes, pop-up web ads, and heaven forbid if your 7 year-old wants you to help them find an “X-Men” website. Jill Manning, an LDS therapist who specializes in the impact of pornography on families, explains that internet porn is “distinct from other forms of pornography because of the ‘Triple-A Engine’ effect of Accessibility, Affordability, and Anonymity.” And it helps explain why many people “who would not have been involved in this material prior to the advent of the Internet, have been drawn into problematic pornography consumption.” (For more information, visit Dr. Manning’s website www.drjillcmanning.com as it can direct people to counselors, books, articles, and other helpful websites.) Mary Anne Layden, co-director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Cognitive Therapy, asserts that porn is the “most concerning thing to psychological health that I know of existing today.” If the analogy holds that porn creates physical addiction similar to a drug like cocaine, then recovery is even more problematic “since coke users can get the drug out of their system, but pornographic images stay in the brain forever,” Layden said. Her prediction is frightening: “To have drug pumped into your house 24/7, free, and children know how to use it better than grown-ups know how to use it — it’s a perfect delivery system if we want to have a whole generation of young addicts who will never have the drug out of their mind.”

So this issue has been fermenting in my head for years. I’ve seen so much silent suffering that I wanted to give a voice to those in the trenches battling pornography, both the addict and their loved ones. Marci McPhee’s article discusses the Church’s new programs, which are designed to help addicts and their families (she literally helped write the book). Darrell Rigby shares some statistics and how things are changing from an ecclesiastical point of view. The other articles are written by friends and associates of the Exponent II community, and we are grateful for their honesty and respectful of their need to remain anonymous. They speak for themselves, but for thousands of others as well.

 

A few months ago we had our combined third hour on the Addiction Recovery program. As I listened to the speaker, I had no “ew” moment, which I now realize was just my way of saying, “I am so superior because I don’t feel the urge to look at porn.” Nor did I look around and secretly wonder who has what addiction. Instead, I saw the faces of people I love, who have all suffered, who all struggle, and who wrestle in dark places. And I really wished we could just talk about it, talk about the crosses we carry, and help each other bear the burden. So here are some of our stories. Pass them on.

 

EmilyCC

EmilyCC works for a national non-profit and lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her spouse and three children. She is a former editor of Exponent II and a founding blogger at The Exponent.

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  1. Jana says:

    I haven’t read the entire new edition of the Exponent yet, so perhaps my comment is premature…
    But when discussions of pornography addiction are raised, I find myself rather resistant and confused. In my mind porn is not the problem (though I will admit that porn is pretty yucky), it’s addiction that’s the problem. And from my experience, the shame attached to porn in LDS culture simply fuels the addiction cycle. So I wonder if a continued emphasis on the evils of porn exacerbates the problem–because it increases the shame and secrecy of porn use?

  2. Emily says:

    I just read through a few of the articles–what a great, powerful resource. Kudos.

  3. Amy says:

    I find myself having the same reaction as Jana. The likening of pornography addiction to cocaine addiction doesn’t hold water for me, and unfortunately detracts from some of the lovely things the author is saying about talking openly and destigmatizing the problem.

    My heart goes out to people whose lives are adversely affected. I hope they find solace and help, and I’m glad people are talking about this. It just feels blown out of proportion to me sometimes, as in:

    “most concerning thing to psychological health that I know of existing today.”

    I find abuse, neglect, trauma, actual drug addictions, depression, war, and the likes to be much more concerning than pornography, if I had to make a list. I agree with Jana that the shame and guilt attached to it is what drives it into the shadows of the psyche where pathologies are fed. So perhaps this talking out in the open is a good step. I hope.

  4. Deborah says:

    So excited that the magazine is now FREE! And ONLINE! Wahoo!!

    Kudos to Heather for the months she put into this issue. I’m eager to get through with my grades so that I can sit down and read the whole issue.

  5. happytobeamom says:

    I read most of the articles and thought it was wonderful. So many need this.

    I have to disagree with Jana that it exacerbates the problem to have a continued emphasis. I have seen several men deal with this and it is often more of a problem dealing with how people look or treat you when they find out you have this addiction. If you were a alcoholic, or drug user that has overcome this addiction you are awed and often asked to speak in sacrament meeting or at firesides. But those who have an addiction to porn are shunned or just avoided.

    That said, I don’t think they need to be paraded and do a speaking circuit. We do however need to recognize it as a problem and put our loving arms around those who struggle so we can help them through it.

    It is an amazing issue and one that will help many understand what they are going through as a loved one of someone who has this addiction. I also think it will be very helpful to those who are addicted and hopeful help those who have never dealt with it.

    As a mother of sons. We talk about it often and warn of its dangers. I want to have open dialog with them and hopefully let them know they can talk to us. I hope if they ever become ensnared by it they will know I will be there to help and that I love them unconditionally. I know it is not if they come across it but when. I hope that by talking about it often it will help them to choose to run from it.

  6. happytobeamom says:

    sorry Jana I reread your comment and agree on much of it. Especially that the shame attach to it exacerbates the addiction. I still however think that we need to have a continued emphasis on it evils and more importantly take all steps necessary to protect our children from it. If it were a more open dialog then hopeful when my sons come across it they would not be afraid to talk to one of us about it.

  7. Anonforno says:

    “I find abuse, neglect, trauma, actual drug addictions…”

    It is clear from several of the comments here that some of you have no understanding at all of what a porn addiction is. It is in fact a chemical addiction. A porn addicted individual is quite literally addicted to the endorphins released in their system during each porn session. The chemical effect of porn addiction and the subsequent masturbation is essentially the chemical equivalent of an hours long orgasm. It is indeed a chemical addiction, and is in fact one of the most powerful chemical addictions. The psychological addiction on top of that make it a tremendous problem.

    If you honestly don’t think porn addiction is a problem, you need to study more. The pure objectifying of women it causes alone should be a huge alarm to anyone.

  8. Matt says:

    I don’t doubt there is such a thing as porn addiction, and I don’t doubt that it has ruined people’s lives and marriages. But just as with gambling and alcohol, there is a middle ground that is being completely ignored here. We need to be able to separate the men who have a “problem” from the men who just have normal sex drives. Unfortunately, anyone who looks at porn are all being painted with the same “addict” brush. And that causes so much unnecessary pain. It also puts people into a shame spiral, where they go back and forth between binging on porn, and fasting from porn.

    To me there are some parallels between this and what the Evergreen people are doing for those with same-sex attraction — trying to correct something that isn’t necessarily broken.

  9. Matt says:

    Note: To the Exponent editors, please number the comments for easier reference.

    anonforno (#7) said, “The chemical effect of porn addiction and the subsequent masturbation is essentially the chemical equivalent of an hours long orgasm. It is indeed a chemical addiction, and is in fact one of the most powerful chemical addictions.”

    I’ve read a lot of the literature on this subject and agree with your point. The same phenomenon also happens when people gamble, drink alcohol, shop, etc.

    I just wonder if this is always a bad thing? If the chemical addiction is getting in the way of work, family, etc. then it is a problem. If the chemical addiction is affecting one’s ability to be intimate physically or emotionally with one’s spouse or girlfriend, then it is a problem.

    But if looking at porn is the equivalent of playing small stakes black jack in Vegas every once in awhile, or moderate social drinking once in awhile, then I don’t think it is the same thing.

    Of course, I’m coming at this from a more nuanced, secular point of view, which is difficult when the Mormon point of view on pornography, gambling, and drinking is so black and white. I am sure that black-and-white approach helps shield and protect people who have a weakness for addiction gambling, drinking, and porn, but it is a blunt instrument for everyone else, and forces square pegs into round holes, when they are perfectly healthy as square pegs.

  10. anonfornow says:

    I agree that there are definitely different levels for everything – drinking, gambling, porn – and that casual exposure is not going to make everyone an addict.

    There are of course plenty of people who are “perfectly healthy as square pegs”. But from a strictly LDS standpoint – in the end the square pegs won’t reach their full potential unless they let God take off their edges and make them round.

  11. Ana says:

    Looking at porn at all is a problem if you are a committed Latter-day Saint. Our ideal of chastity is complete loyalty to your spouse – mind, body and spirit. Porn cannot be a part of that.

    I suppose I can understand that for people who don’t embrace that ideal, there can be such a thing as “normal” use of porn. But for a believing Mormon there really is no such thing.

  12. EmilyCC says:

    I love it when EXII comes out with an issue that I can give to my bishop and say, “Oh, I thought you might find some of the information in here helpful.” Great paper, ladies!

  13. Matt says:

    anonfornow and Ana,

    I understand. There are many areas in life where the religious point of view and the fill-in-the-blank point of view (i.e. secular, scientific, political, artistic, etc.) can peacefully co-exist.

    When points of view clash, however, as in the case with pornography, one must ultimately choose which point of view to follow. (“Follow” is different from “believe”… it is possible to see and agree with two opposite or different points of view, but choose to follow only one of them.)

    Human sexuality is fascinating, beautiful, and complex. Since man began, religion has tried to corral our sexual impulses for better and worse. With most choices, something is given up and something is gained. I find the myriad choices fascinating, but I am less interested in arguing the merits of one point of view over the other, and more interested in protecting those in pain who fall outside the ideal of one particular point of view. The LDS ideal is perfectly valid and good; I’m just shining a light on other valid points of view.

  14. no name here says:

    This issue of the Exponent and the comments so far have raised important arguments against porn use. I would like to tell my story, in the hopes that it also might be helpful to some of you.
    I am married to a convert. He joined the church in high school and served a mission. He was from a nonreligious family. Though he could have been sexually active before joining the church, he chose not to be. In his family viewing porn occasionally (I’m talking along the lines of PlayBoy or a movie with some frontal nudity) and masturbating were considered totally normal and healthy. So he did these once in awhile without any guilt. For him, masturbation was used to relax or to help him get to sleep when he was feeling some anxiety. It was an occasional thing.

    When he joined the church and prepped for his mission, he realized he needed to stop those behaviors–and for the most part he did. But every once in awhile he’d indulge in one way or another and he’d feel horribly, horribly guilty. He’d go to the Bishop and confess. He would read and re-read The Miracle of Forgiveness and the scriptures and Jeffrey Holland’s talk about sex & sacraments. But even with all of these efforts he’d slip up on occasion (like once or twice a year). He felt horribly guilty and shameful as a result of his occasional slips.

    One day after we’d been married for a few years I found some sexy pictures on our computer (I don’t even know if they’d qualify as _porn_, really–mostly actresses in sexy outfits). I was mortified and cornered him, having heard so many talks about porn addiction. It drove a wedge between us that lasted for many years and erupted pretty dramatically at times. I became obsessed with ferreting out any secret porn-related behavior. On the rare occasion my husband would admit to masturbation I would be incensed. I made him see the bishop and go to a counselor. Looking back, I suspect that some of his porn use may have even escalated in response to my policing of his behavior, though now I’m not sure. But I do know for sure that it did make the marriage far worse than it had ever been before.

    During that period of time, I did a lot of reading to try to better understand porn use and porn addictions. My husband and I also started really talking about what led him to indulge on occasion. I learned that it wasn’t about any sense of dissatisfaction with our marriage or with me. It was mostly about relieving stress, or just for the enjoyment of it (and I should probably stress here that I’m not talking about hard-core stuff). I realized that it wasn’t all that different from my own appreciation of fine art–where I see plenty of nudity–or a well-done love scene in a novel. It seems a kind of artistic escape rather than a deviance. Masturbation and porn, for him, offered a sexual outlet when he was in his teens so he didn’t become prematurely sexually active, and at times–even though we’re happily married–it offers him an occasional outlet in the same way.

    Over time I’ve let him be his own ‘police.’ I don’t search his computer, I don’t question him about his masturbation habits. I figure that he’s an adult and he can make his own choices. I have not seen any behavior that gives me reason to feel that he is addicted or that he is hiding anything from me.

    I think my story might offer a counter-example to those that show how destructive porn addictions are. From my experience, I think we need to be very cautious about labeling all porn or masturbation as addictive. Rather, we should seek to better understand the person behind the actions and realize that these behaviors might not be as deviant as they may seem at first. I am sure that many of you will disagree with me, but I can only speak from my own experience on this one.

  15. Anon for this says:

    My husband occasionally looks at porn and masturbates. For a while it was definitely a destructive behavior, because he was using it to emotionally escape from me and from other issues in his life. I wish he wouldn’t do it at all, and he knows that I feel that way.

    On the other hand, I had a family member steal my credit card in order to gain access to pornographic websites. To me, that indicates a serious problem. I also know someone else who spends hours looking at pornography and has lost jobs as well as nearly lost his marriage because of the issues involved with addiction. For him, pornography is an addiction. He uses it to escape reality and can’t stop, even though it sends him into a deep depression, which then fuels more and more escapism and pornography use.

    I thought the articles were quite good and that they were useful for those who have family members involved in addiction or who deal with this themselves.

  16. Anonfornow says:

    “I think we need to be very cautious about labeling all porn or masturbation as addictive”

    Where has anyone done this in this discussion? Porn addiction and viewing are two drastically different things. I think I said that in fact.

    It should also be pointed out that neither you nor your husband seemed to understand the severity of masturbation as a sin. Yes, it is a sin, No, its not going to condemn you. Shopping on Sunday and watching R rated movies are sins too.

    The issue with masturbation is what it ends up leading to. If it leads to massive porn use and addiction, it is a terrible problem. If it leads to random internet hook ups for trashy sex, then it is a huge problem. If all it leads to is your husband wishing you were skinnier and had fake boobs then it is a personal problem, not a sexual problem.

  17. no name here says:

    Last I checked, 95% of men have masturbated & about 89% of women also have done so. In any given year, about 60% of men masturbate and 40% of women do.

    So…would you say that all of those folks are engaging in “random internet hookups and trashy sex,” etc? I’m going to say probably not. From what I’ve read in psych literature, masturbation is a perfectly healthy behavior that does not lead to sexual perversion or promiscuity.

  18. Anonfornow says:

    “would you say that all of those folks are engaging in “random internet hookups and trashy sex,” etc?”

    No, of course I wouldn’t, that was my point. Evidently no one here reads posts very carefully.

    I would say masturbation on rare occasion leads to much worse offenses. But when it does the outcome can be catastrophic. From a secular standpoint occasional use of porn to get off is not really a big deal.

    From an LDS standpoint, checking out some porn bimbo that is all that your wife isn’t and masturbating as you look so you ‘can relax’ isn’t that big a deal either.

    Just like drinking a beer or smoking a joint ‘to relax’ really isn’t that big a deal. I do however feel that guys that check out porn and masturbate “to relax” will get about as far in the end as guys that drink an occasional beer or smoke a joint once in a while “to relax”

  19. JCV says:

    I was a contributer to this Exponent. After reading all of the comments I feel like a lot of people are missing the point. This issue is about people who truly have a chemical additcion. Not to the occasional looker or masterbator. It is NOT the Porn (although it is a very effective mode of delivery) that is the problem, it is the addiction. The desire to escape, relax, create relationships that are not at all indicitive of real women/men relationships and just plain fantasy. It is also about the objectification of women/men that leads to unhealthy abusive thought patterns. This issue was about the pain that porn addiction/sexual addiction causes and destruction it leaves in its wake. I think unless you have personally struggled with it you have no idea how hard it is. I think this issue of the Exponent did a beautiful job at trying to help everyone better understand the addiction.

  20. janeannechovy says:

    JCV, I’m not sure they’re missing the point, but you might be missing theirs. I have been a little concerned in past church seminars on porn and porn addiction (and the Danger it poses to our children, with Danger always capitalized), and in reading the Exponent II issue, that sometimes the terms “porn” and “addiction” are defined too broadly. This can result in people with normal and non-deviant sexual drives and behavior being labeled as people with sickness. Mainstream entertainment like R-rated movies is not porn, and masturbating once a day is not an obsessive behavior, but some folks seem to want to define them as such. I think doing so only exacerbates unnecessary feelings of guilt and the shame spiral, etc., and can create a problem where none previously existed. Would it be possible to more clearly define these terms so as not to cast the net too broadly?

  21. sadwife says:

    I have read the whole issue and felt that is was very well done. Too often we only hear from one perspective on this issue.

    So here’s my experience…
    About a year or so after marriage, my hubby told me he had looked at porn. I was heart broken. I guess you could have called me a ‘typical’ innocent girl, knowing about porn, but never seeing it, and never considering in a million years that my husband, would have looked at it. I was so sad, and shocked. My way of dealing with it was not talking about it. I was just so frustrated and hurt.
    Over the years it had happened a few more times – that I knew of. After each incident I would wonder, when he was on the computer, and I was in bed or gone somewhere, if he was looking at porn. I have to say that for me, it got in the way of our sex life. I felt angry and betrayed at times.
    Fast forward a few years to the present.
    Yesterday I was on the computer, which we’ve only had for a few months, and I was downloading a registration form for my kids. Suddenly up pops a ‘downloads’ screen, which has all the downloads that have happened on the computer. I look over and see some tiny, questionable images, then read their titles “suck, f*@k, skinny girl”, among others. My heart started racing, my legs started shaking and I felt like throwing up. I clicked on some of the TWELVE different downloads, most of which were video clips of people engaged in various sex acts. I think I had a brief panic attack, I couldn’t breath, and the tears started pouring down my face. I couldn’t believe that he would watch this stuff, and to take the time to download it all, onto OUR FAMILIES computer – where my innocent kids are on PBS Kids regularly. I was so angry to think of how this window popped up for me, it could have popped up on one of them!
    I sat on the couch for awhile, crying my eyes out. This stuff had been downloaded in the last couple months! I also thought of the last couple months, where I feel things were going well, we were happy, our kids were happy, and all the while he was doing THIS???
    As I type, the tears are flowing. From my perspective, even occasional viewing isn’t okay – at least with me. How can I trust him? The thing that rips me off the most, is that yes, I’ve seen R rated movies with sex scenes, read a few books with sex scenes, but never, ever, have I seen stuff like I saw yesterday – and the images still burn in my mind. All, thanks to my husband.
    Sorry for the lengthy comment, but this seems like a safe place to share my experience.

  22. Jana says:

    sadwife:
    This is a difficult situation that you’re in right now–the shock and betrayal are evident in your comment. I hope that others will chime in with their experiences and support for you. I’m glad to know that The Exponent is a safe space for you to share.

    You wrote:
    “I sat on the couch for awhile, crying my eyes out. This stuff had been downloaded in the last couple months! I also thought of the last couple months, where I feel things were going well, we were happy, our kids were happy, and all the while he was doing THIS???”

    I think, above all, it’s important for you to know that porn use or porn addiction is rarely about of marital problems. Meaning, that your spouse isn’t looking at porn because he’s unhappy with you. And it’s not your fault. At all. I’m sure that you know this already, but I do hope that you can remind yourself of it as you work through this with your spouse.

    It might be that your spouse is addicted to porn. It may be that he’s just curious (most men look at porn occasionally–even LDS men). Here’s an online checklist for porn addiction that you or he might find helpful.

    I wish I could say something that could take away the pain that you’re feeling right now. I hope that you will find a support network to help you and your spouse work through this. Please keep checking in on the blog and let us know how you’re doing.

  23. Deborah says:

    sadwife:

    I’m so sorry — the feelings of betrayal and pain come through achingly. I don’t have any practical advice, but for what it’s worth, I’ll keep your family in my prayers tomorrow.

  24. JCV says:

    Your point is well taken janeannechovy.
    I guess from my experience my husbands choices are clearly able to be labled addictive and self destructive. I have never had the middle ground in my life. I can see why there could be a problem on the flip side of all of the discussion on porn addiction. Especially within the church. After reading the issue my husband made the commment that these guys didn’t seem as bad off as a lot of the men that he sees in his support group.
    I guess I never really considered the flip side of all of the discussion on pornography/sexual addiction. The talks etc. have always hit very close to home and have usually felt appropriate. As to SadWife…Your feelings are totally normal. There are many stages that one goes through when learning that a loved one is involved in habitually viewing porn. I would echo Janna’s advice to look at the check list. If you do find that your spouse is struggling with something more than mere curiosity, there are support groups for women and for men. There are a lot of resources out there to help you. I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers. I am glad you were able to share.

  25. me says:

    Being married to an addict myself it breaks my heart to hear someone say,
    “I find abuse, neglect, trauma, actual drug addictions, depression, war, and the likes to be much more concerning than pornography, if I had to make a list.
    Rather then be offended, I am trying to understand how it must appear to someone who has not suffered from this or had a love one involved. My husband used pornograghy as his escape from reality. He had been subjected to it at the age of 12 and the cycle of addiction followed, along with the shame. If you do more research on the subject then you will read about the brain chemistry and why it does become an addiction. My husband has been “clean” for almost 2 years but it was a hard road for him and I. His addiction affected our entire family even thought at the time I did not understand where the contention was coming from. My Husband and I now are closer then we have ever been but I wouldn’t wish the evils of pornography on anyone. It is very real and a VERY real problem.

  1. April 28, 2008

    […] Posted by Joseph on April 28, 2008 Exponent II magazine recently dedicated an entire volume to the topic of porn addiction. The volume is available for free online, and has a number of different articles on the topic. A good blog discussion is also available at Exponent blog. […]

  2. September 22, 2008

    […] Before discovering a pornography addiction. […]

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