Wednesday, July 11, 2012

a struggle with pornography: part one--anonymous

There's one way that guys, at least ones raised in relatively strict religious environments, often hate their bodies: for betraying them with hormones. Specifically, when they succumb to temptations like pornography and masturbation. I want to talk a little about my experience with those things: how it all started, how I've dealt with them over the years, and where I am now.


I'm unusual (I think) in that I remember being physically attracted to women since I was very young, as in 6 or 7. Some examples: I remember actually checking out my first grade teacher's cleavage when she would lean over my desk to help me with something I was working on (not that she was wearing particularly revealing clothes or anything). I remember hiding a lingerie catalog (just regular bra and panty type ads, not anything pornographic) my mom had gotten in the mail in my room when I was no older than 8 and basically drooling over the pictures in it. I remember at my swimming pool when I was 6 or 7 specifically checking out the butts of some girls a year or two older than me (goggles were awesome as far as I was concerned). I remember watching a movie at a friend's house (King Ralph, starring John Goodman) that was probably rated PG but had a scene where the girlfriend is for some reason performing at a strip club and is wearing next to nothing--I definitely got aroused watching that scene. (The friend's mother walked in around then and immediately turned the movie off, having not realized that it had such content in it before we started.) So I've always been very attracted to women's bodies for almost as long as I can remember.

Obviously it's not my first grade teacher's or those 9 year old girls' fault that I was checking them out. But I don't know that it makes all that much sense to say it was my fault--at that age, I didn't know any better, I was following basic instincts and even to the extent I did know it was wrong, I certainly didn't have the self-control to do anything different. And maybe it wasn't necessarily even wrong to think of women as sexually attractive (not that I even knew what sex was at the time). But these innocent things were, in my mind, all part of the same path. And at some point it definitely did start getting wrong (sinful if you want to call it that) and I did start to know better. As we started to get the internet in our house, I would search for things like Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition pictures, or pictures of Britney Spears or Pamela Anderson, etc. Soon it included searches for nudity too. Pretty soon I was looking at actual pornography. I don't know what age I started this stuff, maybe 10 but definitely by the time I was 12.

Mind you, I didn't even know what "masturbation" was at this point. I just knew my body liked looking at these pictures. It was exciting. It was forbidden. I got a rush from doing it. I just looked and would turn the computer off when my parents would walk into the room. But with these pornographic searches I did start exploring my body and discovering masturbation.

I knew that I wasn't supposed to be doing any of this at this point--sexual purity is a pretty big emphasis in Mormonism, and by the time I was getting into the Deacons Quorum and attending priesthood session warnings about sexual sins became more overt. (I think I was too young for any of the really strongly-worded talks about the dangers of internet pornography that we always hear during priesthood sessions today to have started at that point--I wonder if they would have helped.) But I still didn't have the ability or at least the real desire to stop. I told myself it wasn't that bad, that I could stop at any time, etc. But I slowly started to realize that the rush I mentioned above when I consumed sexually explicit pictures (or stories, or videos) was addictive. Trying to stop was hard.

My parents, by the way, did everything they could have done. They were relatively open about talking about sex and how it is a beautiful and good thing though something that should wait for marriage. They once found some pornography in our internet history and interrogated me and my brothers but they weren't able to find out whose it was, damn me and my good lying skills.

The first person I ever told was my home ward bishop when I got my ecclesiastical endorsement before going out to BYU. I didn't think he'd sign it, and I was terrified (it was too late at that point to get in to another university). He was of course very understanding and kind. He told me to pray harder, to sing a hymn when I felt tempted, etc. and that I'd be OK. He signed my endorsement and I was determined to quit.

I did a lot better at avoiding these types of sins my freshman year at BYU, though especially at stressful times I would slip up. I thought I had it behind me by the time I went on a mission, and my bishop and stake president agreed that I was worthy to go. Since I didn't have access to a computer on my mission I was able to avoid pornography, but masturbation was still something that I was only able to suppress for a month or a few weeks at a time at the longest. Soon after returning home I got back into the same bad habits I had before my mission. When I would tell a bishop, he would be understanding and counsel me to pray and read my scriptures and keep the commandments. I tried that, and when he would ask again a few weeks later I would say I was doing "better," which technically was true at that moment. They usually never really asked again; it felt like they wanted it to be fixed, and I wanted it to be fixed, and it was easy to pretend it was fixed. But it wasn't.

2 comments:

  1. I am sorry annonymous that you have felt such guilt and shame about your sexuality. While a lot of pornography is degrading to women, I would say feeling attracted to the opposite sex should not be a shameful thing (I would also say the same about being attracted to the same sex... but that's obviously a whole other topic). Or even masturbation, actually. I really don't see the harm in it. Now, having sex or even participating in various acts before either partner is emotionally, physically, and spiritually ready and willing, that is the real sin, in my opinion. I am generally disgusted with the shaming attitude toward sex and sexuality in the LDS culture in general. Also with the way that church leaders are involved in people's intimate lives. There is so much room for abuse, I have experienced weird, borderline abusive situations with church leaders firsthand. Seems the whole interview system is set up to be abused. Ughhh.

    Anyway I hope that part two ends on a happier note!

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  2. I am LDS and feel like the church needs to train specific people on how to approach issues of sexuality with their members. Some bishops are really talented at it and you feel like you're talking to a therapist. Others are normal humans without the experience or talent to deal with it properly. It really should be something people are educated on so they can really help their members.

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