Saturday, August 4, 2012

My experience with pornography


I was tempted to make this an anonymous story, as I am sure were most people posting on this site. However, I resisted the urge for a number of reasons. First, I think that this is a rather safe environment (although I might link to this post from my family's blog, which is not as safe an environment). Second, I feel that I'm at a good place to talk about my experiences openly. Third, being open about my experiences, I hope, will be something of a healing experience. If nothing else, perhaps others will feel more open to share their experiences, whether anonymously or not.

First off, I should apologize to those reading this who are not Mormon. So much of this story takes place within an LDS context and is shaped by my youth within the church, that a discussion within that context is unavoidable. I regret that this context may be difficult for others to understand. I also understand that some people think viewing porn or masturbation aren't that big of deal. I recognize that as a valid viewpoint, but respectfully disagree.

Please skip this post if you are uncomfortable with the subject matter, although I have attempted to keep out any excessive details.

I am not sure if I was ever addicted to pornography or masturbation, in that I never really thought about doing either one except when I was doing them. I've been much more obsessed with other things, like favorite hobbies, technology and books and Star Wars to know that this was never really on that level.

Still, I looked at pornography and especially masturbated more often than I wanted to (although none was how much I wanted to). Like so many other people have talked about when it comes to eating disorders, I feel like I would just lose control over my body every once in a while. I hated it immediately after and before, but still I did it.

I never watched or looked at many pornographic images or videos. Instead, I read erotic stories online. Sometimes I would look at erotic pictures, but rarely where the woman was fully naked. I think I mainly stayed with erotic stories because they seemed less harmful, were not as easy to identify as porn for anyone walking by, and, because I had little experience with pornography in my youth (we were only allowed to watch pre-approved PG movies growing up) more than sufficiently stimulating. 

I was never very honest about my problems. I definitely had an image, at least in my mind, but I think with those around me as well, as being a very obedient and down-the-line Mormon. And for the most part, I was and am. I've never smoked, drank, had sex outside of marriage, very rarely swore, I even stayed away from caffeinated soda. I was generally a very honest person and didn't steal or cheat. And so masturbation and pornography stood out as this very glaring sin in my mind, which I wasn't willing to be honest about in order to preserve my reputation, but even bigger than that, the idea of a good Mormon boy that I had about myself.

When the time came for me to serve an LDS mission and go through the temple, I knew it was time for me to clean up my act. I succeeded in cutting back on the frequency of my slip-ups and I discussed my problems with church leaders, although I still avoided (and do to this day) talking about them with my parents. My mission was in many ways a turning point for me.  I thrived in the monastic lifestyle and, besides a few instances of masturbation, experienced little temptation or trial in sexual realms.

The period right after my mission was a difficult one, and I regressed somewhat, but after going to college, I really felt that I was able to find myself again. I still have had some bad moments, but they have become more and more rare. Part of getting better is being busy, first with school, then marriage to a wonderful woman, and then having kids. Part of it is having more responsibility and more people to let down if I make mistakes. I've also benefited from trying to enter into a more mindful and meditative life. This Taoism and Zen inspired idea, that by focusing on where I am now, in this moment, and accepting that as an unalterable reality, has really helped me to work through levels of denial that have built up over the years. Having an honest and open wife who I can in turn be honest and open with has helped me, in turn, to be honest and open.

That is also what this blogpost is mainly about. It's mainly about me, someone who to this day struggles with temptations that I wish had never entered into my life, trying to be more honest and open. I believe that doing so, in a safe environment, has great benefits in itself. I also would love it if somehow, this would be my little bit towards furthering an open dialogue about pornography in Mormon culture and maybe even in the larger culture. I'm not excusing myself, but I am pretty sure I am not alone in having fairly extensive experience with pornography and not talking about it with anyone. I know we don't need to go around talking about our sins or shortcomings all the time, but neither do I feel that it is healthy to ignore that they exist.

In Part two I would like to discuss what I think we can do better to both reduce pornography usage and to stand with and care for those who are struggling with this problem.

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