As part of my ongoing series “Getting to the Root of Certain Problems”, I would like to tackle an old favorite.
If one were to search in the Church’s new “General Conference Website” ( which is really nice, by the way. I suggest you check it out.) I can easily find out that 7 talks this conference dealt with pornography.
That’s a pretty big number of talks. I’d say that’s a pretty fair sample.
We’ll come back to them.
Right now I am going to describe a scenario for you.
Imagine that you are in the deep American South.
You have just decided to attended a meeting. The topic is “The Evils of Racist Images and Literature.” Let’s say, it’s in the 1960’s.
You attend, the entire room is full of sincere looking white people, you sit down, and the speaker rises:
Speaker: Today we are speaking about how destructive and vile Racist Images and Literature are. Does anyone want to share some ways that they are destructive and bad?
White Guy: Ya. It’s awful. Sometimes when I am at work, I end up spending hours looking up hilarious racist cartoons. For hours. Sometimes I feel like my job might actually be at stake.
*crowd response* “Oh how awful!” “Poor man!”
Another White Guy: Sometimes, after I laugh really really hard at a racist joke I read…I feel kind of guilty…but I’m not exactly sure why…but this guilt is just…awful!
*crowd response* “Did he say he felt guilt? Oh my gosh! How can he bear it!” “Poor soul! How could racist jokes do such a thing to him!” “Shame…damn shame. Give that man a hug. He’s been so wronged”
Speaker: Yes Yes. Racist images and and jokes are like a plague, infecting our neighborhoods. On a spiritual level, it is destructive. It destroys the soul…of the white guy who uses it.
*Crowd response* “Oh! Poor white guys!” “What can we do to help them in their looooowly state?”
Speaker: In FACT, racist images and jokes can make it harder for White people to communicate with GOD!
*Crowd response* “Oh the HUMANITY!”
( Around this point you might start to wonder…or laugh. Is no one going to mention the ACTUAL reason that racist images and rhetoric are abhorent? It continues.)
Speaker: Racist images are a weapon of mass moral destruction. It, among other things, prevents white people from gaining self control. It is a sign of decadence.
White guy in the back : Like eatting too many chocolates?
Speaker: Ya….pretty close. One can lead to the other pretty easily, and they have a very similar effect.
Speaker: Racist media destroys character and makes its user sink in the quicksand of filth, out of which the person can escape only with much help.
White Guy #5= So, let me get this straight, in order to avoid the “quicksand of filth” that comes from seeing black people in a degrading was we need to understand that all this comes from looking at Black people doing embarrassing things? Then there is only one possible solution. A higher code of conduct for Black people! If they can’t trip and fall down or embarrass themselves or anything, then they won’t cause any of us suffer in such a way. (White person in back: AND OH! HOW WE SUFFER!) If a Black Person does something we might think is funny or could make fun of….they should be punished! Also…just in case, we should have them cover up…in case just seeing them causes us to think about racist images.
Crowd Response * heads nodding* “Yes, yes. The obvious solution.” “How could they be so selfish as to give us fodder to distract us? I mean, didn’t you hear the man! Making it harder to talk to GOD! Losing jobs!”
Speaker: Yes. Indeed. We’ve already thought of that. We are having a separate meeting for Black people next weekend where will inform them of the new, higher level of behavior expectation and covering requirements in public places.
If we do not black out evil from our homes and lives, do not be surprised if devastating moral explosions shatter the peace which is the reward for righteous living. Our responsibility is to be in the world but not of the world.
( You are looking around. Are these people serious? Nothing about oppressed African American populations who suffer from these images and jokes? The emotional and psychological damagen to African Americans as a result of these cultural perseptions? The perpetuation of oppressive belief systems which are used to justify laws and mores which disenfranchise BLACK PEOPLE!)
Old White Guy: “One time I watched ‘The Birth of a Nation’ so much that my eyes got strained!”
Speaker: See, yet another example how this is hurting people everywhere. Racism is personally destructive and rampant inour society!
(personally destructive? Seriously? Come on peop-)
And whenever you spend time doing something, it can become addictive, and then YOU surrender agency.
*Crowd response* “Ya! One time that happened to me with oreos!”
BUT racist images don’t just hurt us!
( Oh my Gosh! Finally some sanity!)
No! Not just us. Your fellow white neighbors suffer because of your addiction. I mean, if you should lose your job, whole property values could go down. Your children might not be able to trust you if you say you’ll fix the swing, but instead you were busy cracking racist jokes with your buddies. Think of it! You have to quit for the benefit of all!
(WHAT? What. About. The. Black. People. You know? The ones who actually suffer because of this? Am I getting Punked? Is this another dimension? What is going ON!)
Later after the meeting you see a white person talking to their black friend.
White Person: Phew. We just got out of our meeting.
Black Person: Really? What was it about?
White Person: Oh you know, the usual. We totally got pounded about the evils of Racism. It is such a pervasive problem. It almost seems like overkill. You are so lucky. Everyone knows the White People meetings are all about shaping up. Your meetings are all about how great you are, and you know…modesty. You’ve got to protect yourself from all the scumbag white people who might use you to reinforce their racist beleifs.
And thus is feels to me when there are talks in General Conference about Pornography. People sometimes will mention how great it is that pornography was even mentioned at all….but if you argue against something with completely flawed logic then…
A: People will easily shoot it down…because it is wrong. This is why many of my non-mormon friends were able to easily dismiss the anti-pornography logic we threw at them- because it is FAULTY! People will happily dismiss our lame, groundless reasons with anything ranging from scientific journals to their own experience. Especially when they can clearly see that the way our rhetoric is phrased, and the logic presented, easily leads to more oppression for women anyway.
B: This twisted oppressor= victim and victim= perpetrator mentality is the world’s biggest problem perpetuation tool. General Conference talks generally do more harm than good on this topic.
C: If I had a dime for every time I heard the “But I’m not hurting anyone but myself” line…I would dive in them like Scrooge McDuck.
And when I hear this I want to ask, “Really? Where did you get that super-factual spark of brilliance? Did a unicorn gallop by and tell you that, before ascending back up the rainbow of your imagination?”
Except…I know EXACTLY where they got that idea. And it wasn’t from a unicorn.
There are all the talks mentioning pornography this past conference. I challenge you to find one that mentions the oppression of women? In fact, I challenge you to find one that does anything but primarily mention the harm that happens to users of pornography*.
Now, I’m not saying that the GAs are purposefully trying to do this. I just think that not even they are quite sure what is so bad about pornography. I don’t think they’ve even really thought all that much about the effect of women, because, frankly, if you are in a high leadership position in the Church, you could spend your entire day interacting with maybe two women…none of whom you’d actually have to consider your peers. ( Say, one being a employee and another their wife, both would have an invested interest in keeping you happy and doing what you request.). You really wouldn’t HAVE to think about women and what effects them very much at all…and life would still remain pretty functional.
But, seriously guys. Pornography is NOT similar to over-use of video games or texting…unless you are referring to the inconvenience experienced by the active participant. That’s ridiculous. That’s like saying pornography is similarly sinful in a way that a compulesivly eating Oreos is sinful. Not the same.
And so, gentlemen (including my own father), who come back from priesthood meetings full of how all you ever hear in meetings is to shape up, stop viewing pornography, and treat women better…you’ll have to excuse my lack of enthusiasm….because, you see, I don’t actually think that’s what you’ve been hearing. At least, not really.
*And no, that one reference about damaging the relationship between husband and wife doesn’t count, because he is refering to that relationship from a male perspective, and it is actually in the wife’s benefit, when pornography enters a relationship, for things not to continue all rainbows and butterflies. The major sufferer in a relationship when your wife wants to leave you, is the husband. A tragedy would be for the wife to have to stay in the unhappy, abusive marriage forever.
And sure one mentions the spouse (secondarily)….but right along side the “children” and “father and mother”….sure they all suffer, but children ( unless it is child pornography) and parents are NOT the ones who’s human dignity is assaulted by pornography. They are only really inconvenienced.
Elder Cook mentions, as part of a long list, that bad people try to tear down society through pornography and sexual exploitation—-and that’s really about as close as we get. Yay Elder Cook! You’re the closest one, so far, to reality.