Monday, June 1, 2009

He Said: Giving the P+()rn Talk to the Young Men

Last night I went to an Aaronic Priesthood fireside with my fourteen year-old son. We were about ten minutes late because it was supposed to start at 6:30 p.m. but we didn't get there on time. Lucky for us the fireside had not started because the bishop was calling young men not there to make sure everyone in the various Aaronic priesthood quorums were there. We weren't told what the theme of the fireside was ahead of time. But it became obvious in the first minutes as the bishop recited statistics that showed even good LDS young men were being exposed on the Internet to porn by the age of eleven and probably viewed it unintentionally six times by the age of sixteen. He offered to provide the statistics to us parents.

The bishop defined p+()rn as anything that causes a young man to be aroused. The Church defines it as "P+()rnography is any material depicting or describing the human body or $exual conduct in a way that arouses $exual feelings." The Bishop even said that some women had a serious problem with p+()rn. I had never really thought about females being into p+()rn but my wife later told me that some women like to look at nak*ed men and that women can become addicted to p+()rn. I guess I hadn't thought about that angle before and felt it was more of a male problem.

Later when we went home my wife was concerned when my son told her the bishop defined p+()rn as being aroused and she set us both straight that that was an objectionable definition. I felt a small sense of guilt as the bishop told us to put filters on our computers with password protection and to lock our television channels. Once when my son and I were watching television we came upon a movie channel that was R-rated and we saw full frontal nudi+y. I decided I had been too lax about allowing some channels to be unlocked and would take care of that problem this week. My son said that twice in his computer use has he seen any p+()rnographic material. I am hesitant to lock down my computer but I am now being more vigilant in watching my children's activities which I had never done before.

My son who is in to Japanese cartoons didn't feel as though he had a problem with p+()rn and reclined, embarrassed, in his seat during the whole talk. My wife pointed out that some Japanese anime has a nak*ed panel or two or scantily clad girls even if they aren't nak*ed. I decided that I should be more vigilant in monitoring my son's Internet viewing since our leaders suggested it. The truth is that being a librarian type I have never used filters because none of my daughters had a problem with p+()rnography. Even in my own personal life I have only viewed p+()rn about five or six times and almost all incidents were unintentional. I have probably seen about the same amount of R-rated television movies all but a couple while going up and down the TV dial. I admit I once watched Schlinder's List but fast forwarded during the $ex scene. My wife never lets me forget I watched an R-rated movie once. It is funny because right after my mission I actually walked out of the Goodbye Girl just because of the profanity. The other two or three R-rated movies were rated for violence Aliens and the Matrix. Our bishop told us we should not watch even violent films.

Being as I am not addicted to p+()rn nor do I consciously view it, I didn't realize how out of control this has become for our youth. I do know that there have been more talks eschewing it at General Conference by our former President Gordon B. Hinckley and current President Thomas S. Monson and that husbands particularly have been asked not to view filth. I do realize it has become a problem in the last few years as a close friend of one of my daughters who went on a mission and a son of a stake president member in Houston had a problem after his mission. I guess my current bishop must have had a boy or two confess otherwise why all of a sudden are we brought in and have the second counselor in our stake presidency take 45 minutes to warn us as parents and youth to not view p+()rn. The counselor referred to it as an insidious problem in which Satan uses to lead us away from the gospel.

When I was fresh off my mission I took a Book of Mormon class from Wayne Brickey where he told us as new returned missionaries that we shouldn't feel guilt if we stroked a girl's arm or danced with them and had a natural reaction. He told us that self-control needed to be learned that being aroused was also natural. It lessened the guilt for some of the guys in our class.

The problem with teaching young men about p+()rn that don't have any problem is that it puts it in your mind when it was not there to even start. I think that when you put a magnifying glass on the problem beyond a generalized talk it could put thoughts in boys heads that weren't there. One of my daughters told me that some of the boys in our ward do have a problem with p+()rn. Years ago I taught release-time seminary and one day I was teaching about keeping the Word of Wisdom when I called on a young man named Marcus after a CES filmstrip. Marcus was appalled by the young man in the film and said we really shouldn't be hypocrites as members and do bad things. About five minutes later he was called to the principal's office for being caught drinking on the bus.

I wonder if like Marcus's parents that many of us LDS parents don't have a clue what our own kids might be up to? If p+()rnography wasn't a problem I guess our leaders wouldn't need to beat it to death. I doubt at the current moment my son or seven daughters have a problem but one never knows what the future might bring. I just hope my leaders don't cause this to be a self-fulfilling prophecy by pointing it out to kids like my son who tend to be on the innocent geeky side.


  1. Dr B, I think you are on to something in your last line.

    Also, good to point out that violence in movies is at least AS bad as the sexual context. I find it very hypocritical when people feel like they can watch violent movies or play violent games, but would NEVER watch movies with sex scenes or play games in which they act out sex acts. Which is the greater sin?

  2. Hello, Brunos. I just clicked on this and I find the discussion very interesting. Frank, I completely agree with you on one hand; on the other, I don't. (And please don't think I'm being self-righteous - I am a known viewer of some R-rated movies, such as "Schindler's List.")
    I agree with you in that I fear presenting the warnings to these younger boys (10-, 11-, 12-year-olds, before they've really hit puberty) merely makes them curious and prone to do some serious research, especially if it's easy, like it is on the Internet. I think that tendency is normal curiosity, especially for males. I do think older boys should get the talk because they're going to run across p+()rn at some point, probably very soon. They need to know what to watch for (as if they won't know!). Just like they are told to prepare a reaction in advance when they are confronted with some indiscretion, they need to prepare for this eventuality. I preach this to my 13- and 14-year-old Sunday School kids about three times a month.
    I disagree with the point of monitoring, or even completely filtering internet access for all children. I know and completely understand your feelings about this because of your career. My academic training makes me diametrically opposed to censorship, as well. However, I have and will keep strong filters on my computers at home. In my mind it's a little like determining what they check out (or even view on the shelves) at Blockbuster. Some stuff they are just not ready to view.
    Just my thoughts.
    Thanks for letting me take part in your discussion.
    George Crain

  3. Women do have a problem with pornography, but it is not the same type that men have. While men are more visual, women tend to be more emotional. Those sleazy romance novels are porn in word form rather than picture form. And there are many, many women who are addicted.

    Children are encountering pornography at very early ages. They do need to know what it is and the dangers it poses. They run the risk of running into it at much earlier ages than most people would want to admit. And it will ruin not only their life, but the lives of those around them.

    There are probably some ways that are better to talk about it than others. But talking about it is better than pretending it isn't there.

  4. My husband had a big problem with pornography beginning at age 11. He told his bishop and the bishop went ahead and wrote him a temple recommend and told him that he would speak with the young man who had introduced it to him. I'm not even sure that he told him that it was wrong (I'm sure he just assumed that my husband knew it was wrong). But my husband came from a broken home and only had church lessons every other week. His member parent NEVER talked to him about sex, about pornography, or about the details of the male body.
    It is essential that youth know what pornography is and know the damage that it can cause. I was one of those youth who felt uncomfortable and hated those discussions. But now I am so grateful, because I was prepared and protected from making that mistake. I wish that my husband had been able to have that same opportunity. I think that if someone, anyone, had taken the time to talk to him about the dangers of pronography before it started, or even shortly after, he would (and I would) have been saved a lot of grief and the difficulties of fighting an addiction at age 16. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for the bishop who finally took the time to help him conquer that problem.

    P.S. I'm happy to report that my husband served a worthy mission and has kept all his temple covenants since the day he made them. I will always be eternally grateful to that bishop and the young men leaders who took the time to discuss sex, porngraphy, and all those difficult subjects with my husband. He is the man that he is today because of them.

  5. I appreciate what you are saying in this post--and I understand your concern about self-fulfilling prophesies.

    While it is possible that the talk gave some boys the idea to go find some porn, the truth is the vast majority of our youth are exposed to it long before anyone discusses it with them. I saw my first Playboys when I was seven years old--and didn't get the first talk about the dangers of porn until I was 14. Image how much easier it is now with the internet right here in our homes.

    We (hopefully) talk to our children about the sacred nature of their bodies and expectations of privacy starting when they are very young. We hope that no one will ever try to abuse them--but we prepare them to fight back in case some one does. I think it is wise to follow the same pattern when dealing with pornography as well. We should be helping our sons (and daughters) understand what to do when when they are confronted with erotic material, but there is no need to go into sordid detail about what constitutes pornography with younger children. Children can understand the concept of modesty and privacy at very young ages--and it is a simple matter to extend that to media as well.

    Preparation is key. This last Sunday a member of the Bishopric came and taught the sexual purity lesson to our young men. He came and got the manual halfway through Sunday School--and his lack of preparation showed. Unfortunately, I don't think the boys took the lesson seriously, and I don't think it really had an impact on any of them--and that's unfortunate. The better prepared we are, and the more comfortable we become talking about sexuality, the bigger the impact we will have on our children.

    I don't know what to say about monitoring since our children are still very young--right now, they can't get to anything without a parent's password--but they also don't want anything except PBS Kids, and With older children I don't think that monitoring should be punitive, but I do think that our children should know that we are watching out for them and that we expect them to be open and honest about what they are doing on the internet. If we are too strict and too controlling, they will find ways to get what they want without us knowing about it and then, when they do encounter porn, how can they possibly tell us?

    I think that we need to make sure we are constantly cultivating a atmosphere of love and trust so that even if our children are intentionally viewing inappropriate content, they feel comfortable telling us about it.

  6. These are all good points. I guess we need to be more open about problems in the church and have our leaders really sit down and discuss sex with our youth in a proper environment. I also agree that parents should be involved. I haven't had a problem talking to my six daughters about the subject (my youngest daughter at ten needs a year or two before I will approach it) but my son who is fourteen gets very embarrassed by the topic.