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.