The LDS Church, Hatch battle adult pornography

In my ward yesterday, there was an over-the-pulpit announcement plugging an anti-pornography gathering by something called UCAP, or the Utah Coalition Against Pornography. Also mentioned was that Mark Willes, the LDS Church’s top media guy, will be speaking. I was also reading a magazine that noted that Sen. Orrin Hatch has co-signed a letter demanding that U.S. AG Eric Holder prosecute adult pornography crimes.

My church has been on a huge anti-pornography campaign lately via its media outlets, including the Deseret News. It’s no coincidence to me that it started soon after an academic study noted that Utah had the highest ratio of online pornography subscribers, read It’s not an outlandish stretch to assume that a healthy number of LDS men are online pornography subscribers. I’ve never signed up for any pornography or paid for it, unless you count “Prospero’s Books,” early John Waters, or “The Cook the Thief, His Wife and her Lover” as porn. (I’m sure some do)

This new church/state crusade against porn reminds me of the fuss a couple of years ago over whether watching porn is adultery. A “sex expert” on Fox News said it was. The idea gained a bit more steam from Ross Douthat, then with The Atlantic, who argued that paying to be sexually aroused by watching a person other than your spouse engage in sex is closer than most think to adultery Read An opposing viewpoint came from several pundits/bloggers, including Will Wilkinson of the Cato Institute, read who wrote, “for most people whose minds have not been addled by religious dogma, the distinction between touching yourself and touching someone not your spouse or committed monogamous partner is well nigh categorical. One’s just wrong, one’s just not.”

That about sums it up, but it’s perfectly appropriate for any church to discourage pornography if it clashes with said organization’s belief system or concerns its hierarchy. I’m a little more skeptical of Hatch’s crusade — there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that legal porn destroys marriages or causes crime. If it did, Utah would have a lot more problems.

As for myself, I find porn tempting but it’s been at least 20-plus years since I’ve watched a hard-core film or anything that would go beyond an NC-17 rating. My concerns with porn is that it can harm intimacy with the one you love by presenting an objectified facade of lust, and I wouldn’t want to treat my spouse that way.

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18 Responses to The LDS Church, Hatch battle adult pornography

  1. TV says:

    That’s why you took up boxing, Doug! Shroud those hands in a couple of 16-ounce gloves … and take out all that pent-up porn-starved aggression …


  2. D. Michael Martindale says:

    I’m no fan of pornography, but battles against pornography downright scare me. Too many people define it in such asinine ways that include all sorts of things that are decidedely not pornography. And legal battles of pornography bump directly up against the First Amendment. Regardless of what you personally think is bad about pornography, do you really have any business deciding for others that they shouldn’t be able to indulge in it if that’s their wish? Pornography may impact committed relationships, but we don’t legislate such things. Not even adultery is illegal, morally despicable as it is.

    Carry on all the religious crusades you want against pornography, but once you cross the line into passing laws to bolster your religious/moral crusade, you’ve very possibly crossed a line you have no business crossing.

    As Justice William O. Douglas wrote in Samuel Roth v. United States of America in 1957, “The test that supresses a cheap tract today can suppress a literary gem tomorrow.”

  3. Erick says:

    Just visited the UCAP website, and read through the speaking itinerary…it didn’t say anything about Hatch, or about political activism on the pornography front. Instead it seems to mostly comprise self-help solutions for living in an age of unrestrained access to pornography, such as how to talk to your children, how to avoid it, and how to get help. It seems completely reasonable to me. I tend to agree with you on the idea that we should be wary of religious political “crusades” as you called them, but I don’t see any of that here?

  4. Stephen M. Cook says:

    If they labeled violent movies “porn”, and left the nice movies of adults kissing on each other alone, it would at least seem to be a rational goal.
    As it is, it just looks like more group religious behavior.

  5. HeatherK says:

    I think that the pornography problem that the LDS church is facing stems from deeper roots, say deeper than merely persecuting pornography cases.
    Utah is #1 in pornography subscriptions…#1.
    That, to me, reflects deep seated cultural issues. I believe that some Mormon cultural practices are contributing to the problem: segregating boys and girls from early puberty.
    the fear mongering that if you are with a friend of the opposite sex the devil will force you to have sex.
    emphasizing that you should marry someone as soon as you come back from a mission.
    emphasizing in youth programs that the end of the road is marriage in the temple, and that after that you will be happy all the time.
    the teaching that ANY worthy (LDS) person is your ideal partner
    treating unmarried adults like children (boys and girls dorms, not men and women)
    The pressure to get married (single congregations, books, talks, dances, websites)
    The cultural pressure to pair off as soon as you meet someone with the goal of marriage
    etc, etc, I could list at least 50 more
    I think that Mormon boys are seldom trained or transitioned to see and treat women under normal circumstances. I think that they create an idealized view of a pretty church partner that would make a great mom, bu fail to learn what life is really like, or how to recognize love in a relationship. I think that this idealization pattern also explains why Utah is #1 in antidepressant use and bankruptcies.
    The church will one day have to reckon with its original teachings, the doings of its philandering founder, its polygamist and sexist teachings and its failure to create a puritan society in its ranks.

  6. Doug Gibson says:

    This article, in the Deseret News today, links Hatch, UCAP in the “battle” against adult porn:

  7. Erick says:

    Fair enough.

  8. CanCan says:

    As usual, the answer (passing laws) has nothing to do with the problem (sexual repression). People with healthy sexuality usually don’t binge on porn. Teaching kids that it’s a sin to touch themselves is the beginning of the repression. Maybe that should be outlawed.

  9. Dovie says:

    HeatherK – another explanation is it’s gay porn. Perhaps the married with kids closet guys.

    At any rate, it’s good the LDS church is “battling” it. Nobody needs it more, apparently. Whatever the reason.

    • Maybe the fight against porn, and the using it so much, are related! Psychologists do say that guilt fuels addiction, and I know that to me, porn seemed much more enticing and hard to escape from when I thought that it was forbidden.

  10. So in the past 20 years, you’ve watched softcore, NC-17 rated films?

    I don’t really go for the mainstream type stuff myself, but I hope you had fun with it. ^.^

  11. HeatherK says:


    That is certainly one of the many reasons. I read two research projects a few years back about men in the “down-low” in Utah. The numbers of LDS gay men with families taking crazy risks is staggering. The LDS church for many years told gay men to marry a woman to fix the problem, I have seen the devastation that this “counsel” created, thankfully the church saw the consequences of what they had created and changed their policy. Let’s not discuss electric shock therapy for gay men at BYU, another inspired decision…

    But I think what is really worth looking at is the pressure these men feel to look one way and act another. They can be at church, crying their eyes out about Jesus and a few minutes later they are logged on to porn, or at pioneer park. Because the pressure is not only religious but cultural, this creates gap of behavior that is incomprehensible to most well adapted people. In religious terms, it creates hypocrisy.

    This is the gap that the church is trying to fill now. First, by trying to A: associate porn with “adultery”, which is not, it is pornography. B: trying to make it an illness that people can catch, an addiction, and therefore it is the family’s problem and the man is not a sinner, he is a recovering victim. This creates cases that I treat everyday: women that are in a marriage with a man with sexual issues, mostly porn. These women are told that if they file for divorce it will be their fault that their families are not together forever and therefore will loose their children in the eternities. My patients cannot understand this and turn the blame on themselves, since the church is unwilling to excommunicate such large number of men.
    From my experience, my opinion would be that the church spends the rest of this decade with this same approach: guilt trip the men about porn, marriage, and being lazy useless bums that are lucky to find women, push that porn is an addiction that can be worked out without marital or membership changes and try to push a public campaign about how bad it is, while at church associating porn with books, movies, adultery, dating too long, dating before 16, talking to girls, using the internet, rated R movies, music, watching comedy central, kissing, drinking coke, lady Gaga, holding hands or any other crazy, unfounded pseudo-scientific statement that will erroneously influence the lives of LDS people for a generation.

  12. ss says:

    My wife and I watch erotic videos, in the privacy of our own home, all of the time.
    It would be a sin for someone of our religious denomination to deny the flesh. And, as good humanists, we don’t see why anyone without a nasty agenda would even care what we do in the privacy of our castle.
    Having these Authoritarian Conservatives in charge is frightening to anyone with a penchant for personal freedom: indeed, it is one step from living in a police state.
    Libertarian Conservatives: I can live with them.

  13. Botch says:

    Interesting that so many folks in this state are \willing\ to battle adult porn, yet will, next year, re-elect all the mormon legislators who gave a standing ovation to their hot-tubbing-with-naked-children leader.

  14. T. Foster says:

    This problem reaches far outside Utah. As HeatherK noted some of the problems of the LDS, the truth is that it is just a little more problematic than what exists in the rest of the country.

    There is basically no social means for boys and girls to interact in a safe and chaperoned situation, without some demand being placed on them at the same time that keeps them from socializing. Most people assume socialization happens in school and church, but that is not the case. They’re too busy.

    Even a farmer or a zookeeper will tell you that if male and female animals are kept apart while they are growing up, the odds are as likely as not that when put together they will not mate, but fight, and maybe to the death. There is no recognition, familiarity or understanding between them. Gender means different, and different is bad.

    At the same time, if you raise puppies and kittens together, they learn to understand each other, and there will be no problem with them trying to mate. Yet introduce a dog or cat from outside their group, and all bets are off. They are not “one of us”.

    Ironically, the LDS would likely be more than able to create such a chaperoned situation–if, and it’s a big if–they could keep adults from trying to divert the children to some other purpose than socializing.

    I would go so far as to say that if you paired off boys and girls for a month, and used a long handcuff between them for an hour every day, in just a years time, with twelve “handcuff partners” for each of them, they would all have a deep and abiding understanding of the other gender.

    In the old South, they used to have an acid test to determine if a couple were compatible or not. It was called “necking”, and had strict rules. If a couple could sit on a comfortable sofa and just kiss for an entire hour, nothing more, they would be compatible in marriage.

    Young people soon learned that if they were *not* compatible with someone else, there was no way to fake it. Most couldn’t last 5 minutes with someone who wasn’t compatible, and there was no doubt with either of them. And those who made it through that entire hour also knew that most likely, if they got married, they would stay married for the rest of their lives.

    And some people learned that they were just not compatible with anyone. This was a big help for them as well, because they were pretty sure that if they ever got married, it wouldn’t last, and would be unhappy until they split up. So no reason to try. Prepare to live life as a happy bachelor.

  15. HeatherK says:

    T Foster, you lost me a bit with the puppies and the zoo analogy, but I do see what you are saying. I have dealt with a huge portion of LDS members that when I ask them what drove them to their spouse their response was that with this particular person, the relationship was so “spiritual” that they did not feel tempted to “even hold hands”. They often will mention someone else who they felt were not as good of a potential partner because they would kiss too much or wanted to spend too much time together. They end up living with the regret that they were taught to interpret passion and love for lust and selfishness, and religious friendships as the ideal spouse.
    One of my good friends, who is the best, most brilliant, kind and successful man I have ever met, lost his sweetheart in high school because she misunderstood french kissing as oral sex and felt he did not really love her because they kissed in such a way. She ended up unhappy, childless, in a hillbilly town Utah, working nights to support her husband. Such a naivety is often never corrected before marriage and you end up with broken hearts and homes.

  16. Preston says:

    Doug, I can’t believe you said there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that porn causes marriage problems or crimes. Besides basic common sense telling you that it does cause problems, there’s a LOT of evidence. C’mon.

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