In this episode, Tony discusses his approach for overcoming pornography addiction within a Mormon paradigm.
Tags: LDS, Marriage, masturbation, Mormon, pornography, sex
”Your wife is the only one who can touch your penis, unLESS you are going potty!”
For real though, this was EXCELLENT. Also a plug, many of us on Feminist Mormon Housewives have mentioned so much of this. I personally think (like Tony) that porn addiction is such a problem for LDS young men because the leaders talk about it- how to find it, and bring it up- SO MUCH. Also, we treat nudity as something not shameful in our home. My husband still does the super-quick turn away if he sees a “bad” magazine cover or whatever. It makes me crazy. It is so abnormal.
IMO part of the problem is the fact that Mormon men are kept away from the opposite sex for so long when they are young that they turn more inward for sexuality (since it is a far lesser/risky sin), which typically means leaning toward more porn and/or masturbation.
I agree with Scott, this is part of a much bigger problem than just frequent referencing general conference talks.
It centers around the unnatural way we teach/communicate about sexuality in the LDS culture and unrealistic demands we put on abstaining.
Also for LDS men guilt,shame, and secrecy can create severe anxiety that is often more debilitating and provoking than biological drives.
Way back when in history, when young men and women reached puberty, at about 12 to 14 yrs of age, marriage was considered the norm. Children were raised mostly in families with solid core values, including the work ethic. Hard work was required in order to survive, and all the children from a very young age became a part of a family’s work pool. This enabled a child to mature and become a responsible “adult” by the time they entered puberty and, hence, were perfectly capable of entering into a marriage relationship. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that the maturity level of a 13 year old back then exceeded that of today’s 21-25 year old! This is important information when discussing the pornography epidemic which has infected men and women in our modern age. The doctrine of today is “get an education, money in the bank, go on a mission first – THEN get married”, when the peak of a male’s testosterone level is about 19 years of age! Talk about repression of our God-given procreative impulses and urges! This is one woman’s opinion. Any other thoughts on this?
Is there a possibility of getting a psychologist’s response to this issue of pornography? I’ve listened to other great podcasts of yours where sex is talked about but this is a little different, I think. I have three young boys and I am worried how I should go about approaching this as they grow into these very sensitive years. I am really torn and don’t know what to do.
I resonate with the idea of being honest and open about nakedness but I realise that my wife and I will turn the TV channel if there’s a half naked girl on screen. We are cautious not to make any signs of embarrasment as we do it, because that’s not why we are turning it over and we talk openly about it as we need to.
But after hearing this it seems like we shouldn’t be changing the channel. I am just not sure. A big part of me is saying as long as we are open and honest but still keep ‘changing the channel’ on nakedness, they will not be embarrassed as they grow older. If we allow them to see nakedness, isn’t that going to invoke the explorer in them to see more?
I think there is an important difference between the natural naked body (and sex and sexual desire and relationships) and the way the media portrays the body and sexual relationships. In our home, the body, clothed or unclothed, is nothing to be ashamed of, and physical intimacy is something we can discuss with our children. But that is a bit different than how many magazines and movies portray sexual relations and the human body.
There’s a whole bunch of resources for parents who want to teach their kids about sexuality and pornography addiction here, fwiw. The resources include professional perspectives.
You talked a lot about married people. Any suggestions for unmarried and celibate people who have a porn problem?
Unmarried celibate people have the same issues with porn as married people. I think the way Tony addressed the underlying addition issue with porn very well. The principles I heard in the podcast about brain chemistry, body, mind, spirit, and stress management apply equally well to anyone struggling with a process addiction (like porn) regardless of whether they are old, young, married, single, straight, or gay.
I agree. I’ve found a lot of John’s podcasts on sexuality very useful and interesting, but a lot of them focus on issues faced by married people. It would be great to have a podcast on single LDS people and sexuality (not just porn). In addition to this podcast, I also listed to some materials from Tony’s website. Although they were a very useful perspective, I felt there was a lot of information focused on parents, wives, and male porn-users. I am particularly interested in information on how single LDS women are impacted directly and indirectly by pornography and LDS-influenced attitudes and practices with regard to sexuality in general.
I will donate $1000 bucks (maybe more) if John does a podcast on unmarried/celibate LDS men/women who have a porn problem.
As I’ve listened to this and a dozen other podcasts here on Mormon Stories, the Holy Spirit has taught me so many truths that I’m full of gratitude to my Higher Power for leading me to this refreshing well spring. I’ve found answers here to gospel perplexities of critical importance that I’ve wrestled with my whole life. Finally, a place to find some answers! Thanks so much.
Tony said that sex had a spiritual origin, or something like that. I can’t agree with that less. Sex, like the need to eat, is one of the most basic, animal urges that we have. Trying to put it up there at a spiritual level is disingenuous and dangerous.
Yes, it’s a basic animal urge but the intimacy sex can create with your spouse can be a profoundly spiritual and emotionally bonding experience.
I get that (no, not really, not at a spiritual level. That’s weird), but anyway, he said that sex has a spiritual ORIGIN. That’s what I disagree with
Iv got to say I have to agree and kind of disagree with the whole church makes porn more forbidden and therefore more inciting stance. My husband for one was raised non lds in a liberal family that had porn magazines out and readily available- and sex was talked about frequently with the men in his family as not a big deal. He still fell pray to addiction even when it was not so much forbidden but more accepted. I think people like to point the finger at the church alot for making a big deal out of porn but it is a big deal and I’m sure in places like Europe where nakedness is normalized there are still alot of problems and addicts as well. Saying that at the end I did like what was said about being open with your partner about struggles. I am lucky to have married an honest man above everything else. It is because of his honesty of being open with me about his problems that he was able to defeat his addiction. Perhaps its is because he felt accountability to someone, perhaps it is because it was less inciting knowing it wasn’t something that was going to be a secret, I don’t know, but i know being honest in a relationship is key. I know the deceit element is almost what would hurt more then the actual act itself.
I never bought that either. What the church accomplished bringing up porn so much was to make me feel awfully guilty. I didn’t feel more tempted to see porn because the church brought it up so much but because I went for so long without watching any
Hoping you didn’t miss the point Don.
I think what Girlygal was saying was, you cannot blame the church policies for addiction problems. It is also a huge problem in environments where porn is ‘fully loaded’ and accepted. There is likely no correlation with sexual addiction in the church and the church’s discouragment of it. It is more likely the secrecy and awkwardness which well-meaning church members place on it. To be clear, being secretive of it is not a teaching of the church. Cheers.
I agree that porn can be detrimental to your soul and perceptions of women as objects. It would be better IMO if the church recommended/commanded OCASIONALLY the avoidance of porn but then stated the intimacy and mutual love that abstaining can provide.
I’m a faithful member, returned missionary etc., but two things I am going to teach my children is 1) that the naked body is a wonderful creation and should be admired as a thing of beauty and that 2) there is absolutely nothing wrong with masturbation. It is sad the amount of mental damage that can be inflicted by the church teaching that you will go to hell for masturbating (or least that is how you feel when you are 16 and the hormones are raging). It’s going to happen, accept it, learn to control it so that it doesn’t control you, and move on. And maybe even enjoy it while you can .
I thought this podcast was not only incomplete, but certain parts were blatantly wrong. My husband and I have been married for 14 years. We have spent the past two years going through a sex addiction/codependent recovery program, called Lifestar (which I highly recommend!). We have both learned a tremendous amount along the way, and at this point, I can actually say that I am thankful for the trials we have experienced because of the amazing growth and freedom that has come our way, both individually, and as a couple.
Some things in this interview just didn’t sit well with me: The idea that men “need” to masturbate to release semen is simply not physiologically true. The body’s natural way to release semen is through a wet dream; not masturbation. Masturbating in front of your spouse? Ugh. That is one of the most disconnected ideas I have ever heard. How about doing the hard and sometimes long-term work of serving and connecting emotionally with your spouse so the mutual desire for intimacy exists? It’s not a quick fix (especially if sexual betrayal has been present in the past), and sure, both partners may not always be on the same schedule, but isn’t that what marriage is all about? What exactly are we supposed to learn in this mortal experience if it isn’t to curb our appetites? Healing in Recovery is all about sacrificing and it is one way to nurture the fractured relationship and rebuild trust. The growth that can happen through accommodating your spouse, and truly understanding each others’ needs results in a sexual relationship that is the most satisfying, close, and connecting thing in mortality.
Not only is masturbation specifically mentioned in the ‘For the Strength of Youth’ pamphlet, our temple covenants specifically state that we will have no sexual relations except for with our spouses. That covenant doesn’t include being sexual with and by yourself! As hard as it is, I have a testimony that God provides a way for us to actually live His commandments. There are real answers and ways to be obedient; we don’t have to change the law so we can feel good about our justifications.
Tony says at one point that his pregnant wife was unable to have intercourse for 5-6 months and makes the statement that he shouldn’t have to be celibate just because she had to be. Pu-lease. I seriously couldn’t believe my ears! Do you think Tony’s wife got herself pregnant? Do you think she was happy abstaining from sex for that long? Don’t you think her body was making great sacrifices to accommodate their new, beautiful baby? The bodily discomforts a woman experiences during pregnancy and breast feeding are a huge contribution to the well-being of a family. Personally, I feel those sacrifices to be a huge privilege- an opportunity for me to sacrifice my own comfort for the greater good of my family. Those sacrifices brought me closer to my beautiful babies and to Christ. I can only imagine that a husband abstaining from sex during the time his wife is required to, is just one very obvious way that a husband could contribute to the effort of bringing a new life into his home.
I feel that Tony minimized the pain of an addict’s spouse. His comparison of a man acting out to a woman being compulsive with chocolate is not only laughable, but offensive. When I eat chocolate, does it cause my spouse feelings of betrayal, inner turmoil, self-doubt, mistrust, and pain? Eating chocolate isn’t against the commandments and it also doesn’t betray the marriage covenants.
Finally, the root of all addiction is emotional dishonesty. Once we are able to identify our feelings and be honest with ourselves- no matter how painful and vulnerable they are- only then are we able to express them, creating meaningful relationships with God and other human beings. I truly believe that these honest relationships are the only thing that fills that emptiness that most of us experience in mortality. Anything less is a quick-fix, a complete illusion, a lie.
I feel sad that this misinformation is out here. So many people are dealing with this issue and this was a sad display of rationalization and denial. It is certainly hurtful to those of us seeking honest recovery.
“Masturbating in front of your spouse? Ugh. That is one of the most disconnected ideas I have ever heard.”
How do you know if you’ve never tried it? Masturbating together is fun, too, and useful for times when full intercourse is not possible or inadvisable.
“Not only is masturbation specifically mentioned in the ‘For the Strength of Youth’ pamphlet, our temple covenants specifically state that we will have no sexual relations except for with our spouses. That covenant doesn’t include being sexual with and by yourself!”
The word ‘masturbation’ isn’t printed anywhere in the current FTSOY pamphlet, it’s only alluded to. Likewise, it’s nowhere in the Church Handbook of Instructions. The church has been consistently weakening its opposition to masturbation for the past 40 years, give it another 20 or 30, and there won’t be any opposition at all. Also, that interpretation of temple covenant is your own, and you’re welcome to it, but others certainly aren’t bound to your interpretation.
“I feel that Tony minimized the pain of an addict’s spouse. His comparison of a man acting out to a woman being compulsive with chocolate is not only laughable, but offensive. When I eat chocolate, does it cause my spouse feelings of betrayal, inner turmoil, self-doubt, mistrust, and pain? Eating chocolate isn’t against the commandments and it also doesn’t betray the marriage covenants.”
Eating chocolate would your spouse all those feelings if you thought that it was against the commandments. There’s nothing inherently betraying about masturbation or porn, plenty of perfectly committed couples participate in them together and it draws them closer together. With porn, there are some other issues that can become a problem with it, but with regards to masturbation, it’s certainly healthier than eating chocolate. It’s all about the cultural constructions you’re operating under. The church could do far more to alleviate spouses’ suffering by encouraging healthy attitudes towards porn and masturbation than they ever can by trying to make sure no one ever does those things.
“Finally, the root of all addiction is emotional dishonesty. Once we are able to identify our feelings and be honest with ourselves- no matter how painful and vulnerable they are- only then are we able to express them, creating meaningful relationships with God and other human beings. I truly believe that these honest relationships are the only thing that fills that emptiness that most of us experience in mortality. Anything less is a quick-fix, a complete illusion, a lie.”
The root of addiction isn’t emotional dishonesty, the root of addiction is chemical responses in the brain. However, what you say about honesty in relationships is absolutely true. But along with that comes a requirement that one receives compassion and understanding as a result of that honesty instead of judgment and blame.
Even if you don’t consider masturbation to be sexual relations with yourself, there is also the temple covenant to avaoid any unclean or impure practices. It should also be noted that masturbation with your spouse (where you touch each other, which is ok) is not the same thing as solo masturbation. For me it comes down to whether you’re selfishly filling a perceived need for yourself or having a bonding experience with your spuse.
The talk Litster mentioned does not say masturbation is ok either. I think this is it http://www.lds.org/ensign/1991/05/making-the-right-decisions?lang=eng
Oops, although the one above does allude to the same things, I think this is actually the talk that was mentioned http://www.lds.org/ensign/1994/11/making-the-right-choices?lang=eng
If for some reason I was not able to have sex or some other issue came up to prevent me from being able to fulfill my wife’s needs, why would I want her to suffer as well? While i understand that a women giving birth is a tremendous sacrifice that is a “huge contribution to the well-being of a family,” I don’t think the converse of a husband being celibate offers the same contribution. In fact you say it is obvious but I don’t think it is obvious at all. In fact I think it isn’t even connected.
I see some of Merissa’s point as underscoring that there are different ways of looking at what the purpose of sex is. If you see sex as a personal right or “need,” and look at it more as a physiological ‘release’ rather than a more whole experience for a marriage relationship, then celibacy (either in a marriage during ebb and flow times like bedrest or for those who aren’t currently married) seems like expecting inhumane “suffering.” I think what was missing from this podcast was the message that it is possible to live the admittedly high standards of the Church. That doesn’t have to be the same thing as as an all-or-nothing, “if you slip your damned forever” message that does sometimes come through the culture. But I don’t think people are well served when there is an insistence that the standards really aren’t there, or by insisting that the standards are the problem. The law is essential to experiencing the power of the Atonement. Shame comes, imo, when the law is taught in a vacuum without the Atonement. But problems also come when love is taught without the truth of the commandments. It’s a dance, a tension, that demands a lot of us all, but it’s part of the wonder of learning by experience and coming to know of the love and power and saving grace of God and His Son.
In my view, the hope and the solution to the all-or-nothing, shame-filled message that sometimes comes through the culture is the doctrine of Christ and the Atonement. And this is preached plentifully in the Church. It’s something that I felt was missing in this podcast, though.
Please don’t misunderstand: I’m a huge fan of helpful tools for helping people find recovery. I’ve dedicated a whole blog to sharing such tools and info. I think Tony shared some good ones during the last quarter or so of the podcast. But especially when addressing a Mormon audience, I think not talking about Christ and how His atonement both gives us power (grace!) beyond our own to face hard things, and also bridges the gap between where we are and what His standards are only risks perpetuating the problem of shame within the culture.
I think I just see it differently. If your sexual life is shared as a couple, and you become pregnant, that is a beautiful thing! If the natural outcome of being pregnant includes abstaining from sex for a time-being, then to me, it makes sense that you would also do that as a couple. I think it could be a huge bonding experience for true intimacy.
I feel sorry for you. There is no recovering from being who you are. Just accept yourself and your sexuality even with your self.
No need to feel sorry for me. I could not be more at peace with myself and my sexuality. I think making love is awesome! And enjoying it honestly with my spouse is very fulfilling for both of us.
Your spouse masturbating does not cause any of the negative feelings you talked about. It is the church teaching you that you need to feel that way. You get to choose how you feel about it. Some women like to watch porn with their husband. It’s all how you look at it. And destroying a family over something so natural is so sad.
Please see my reply to Stacia below. There are real reasons why spouses feel negative feelings and they have nothing to do with church teaching. Destroying a family IS so sad, and that is exactly what an addiction will do.
Then why is it usually that the uncovering of the secrecy of an addiction is when the damage is done? I mean, keeping secrets is one thing, but really, if you think about it, it reveals that the damage is not done by occasional pornography use but by how it is perceived. Pornography does not turn men into cold hearted, selfish, haters. The way we view and think about ourselves has MUCH more influence there. If we lack compassion with ourselves, are overly critical of ourselves, constantly view ourselves as inadequate, insufficient, gross out-of-control monsters, we’re more inclined to act that way.
And that’s where the most harm is done.
Bravo Marissa. Bravo. Wholeheartedly agree.
Furthermore, I can’t believe the amount of comments here and elsewhere that say I can’t find the word ‘masturbation’ anywhere in Church curriculum. My goodness. If you’re searching for that word alone, sure. If you really want to see the truth, it’s everywhere advised against. It is related to selfishness. Men like me can avoid masturbation and be wholeheartedly satisfied. In fact, you see spiritual things that others don’t.
Responses interlaced below:
“Some things in this interview just didn’t sit well with me: The idea that men “need” to masturbate to release semen is simply not physiologically true. The body’s natural way to release semen is through a wet dream;”
You have not experienced this for yourself, clearly. At 34 years of age, I have had one nocturnal emission in my entire life, and that during one of the most frustrating and helpless bouts of celibacy in my sex-starved marriage. Nothing natural or healthy about that experience.
“How about doing the hard and sometimes long-term work of serving and connecting emotionally with your spouse so the mutual desire for intimacy exists?”
Nice biased view from a woman’s perspective. How about doing the hard and sometimes long-term work of trying to walk a mile in your partner’s shoes. Sometimes men need a fix, as disgusting as it may sound to you. Long-term abstinence is an obstacle for the man to sincerely work toward the very emotional connection you are seeking.
“What exactly are we supposed to learn in this mortal experience if it isn’t to curb our appetites?”
We are supposed to learn that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the ONLY WAY. Duh!
“The growth that can happen through accommodating your spouse, and truly understanding each others’ needs”
How can you understand your partners needs when you are already convinced of what your partner needs or doesn’t need, sexually. Every partner’s needs are different….and it’s not your job to distinguish between your partner’s needs and wants. How about listening to what your partner is telling you?
His comparison of a man acting out to a woman being compulsive with chocolate is not only laughable, but offensive.
“He wasn’t really comparing the two, he was trying to find an analogy that a woman could relate to……..he was trying to show how women have unrealistic expectations about how recovery really works.”
“Finally, the root of all addiction is emotional dishonesty.”
The podcast was laced throughout with advocacy for honesty and transparency!!!
“I feel sad that this misinformation is out here. So many people are dealing with this issue and this was a sad display of rationalization and denial.”
Have your husband listen and see what his honest feedback is. Just because this didn’t ring true for your doesn’t mean it won’t be helpful to others. Every bit of this resonated with truth for me. For me and many others, the church’s approach to porn & porn recovery is choked with rationalization and denial….while Tony’s approach is open, realistic, and reflects, FWIW, my personal experience with porn addiction perfectly. The church doesn’t have all the answers, not even close. Their approach to porn addiction does not work for me, cannot work for me. I came to many of the realizations Tony discusses a few years ago.
Amen, this is exactly how I’ve felt. I’ve been through counseling three times, twelve step program twice, and have come to the basic conclusion that the church does not know how to fix the problem. The church environment is fantastic for helping me to feel inadequate, perpetually guilty and shamed. You can say what you want about what the church teaches, but the end product, for me, was I feel I was emotionally harmed growing up in the church.
Now, that doesn’t mean I think the church is evil, or that any other church would have done better, or I regret having been raised LDS, just that it is not a perfect institution and it is dealing with this problem rather clumsily.
Tony’s remarks resounded with absolute truth. As I have had more peace, and as I have seen Porn as less of a Taboo, I have felt less desire to look at it. Maybe it’s just me, but I just see women who are selling their bodies for money, often to their own harm, and something that will leave me feeling empty, lonely, and disconnected. I don’t want that. BUT I HAD TO FIND PEACE FIRST, and I had to drop the notion that looking at pornography made me a bad person.
Why do true believers want to turn everything into a sacrifice? Does God love us more if we go through life miserable and scared?
If you believe we were created, then your God has created humans to be one of the most sexual animals, with no “season” for sexual arousal in men, a constant supply of hormones creating desire and arousal, a rush of stress relieving reward chemicals to the brain upon completion, then a commandment to ignore all of that because sacrifice and going against the nature of human body is proof of devotion to this God. Talk about Old Testament cruelty.
(being from the south, every female is a Miss, out of respect)
I do hope you can hear and feel my standing ovation and incredibly loud Bravooooooooooooooo, Bravooooooooooooooooo, because of your strength, your commitment to your family, in maintaining, what I have to believe, is an incredibly nurturing and supportive atmosphere, in holding tight to one another, keeping your eyes on the sun and the SON. I applaud your insight and inspirational willingness to not bow to the whims and enticing’s of the world, as they blow through families, as the tumble weeds of the great plains.
I applaud, your commitment to an honest dialogue, concerning, why we chose to come to this earth and the incredible commitment, honesty, integrity, and honor to one’s promises and covenants, required to return home to Jesus and our Father, as His, literal spiritual offspring, to inherit all, that He, has to offer.
This life is not about perfection, it is all about, becoming whole, perfection, is way down the road.
To think about all that is required of a mere mortal, to meet and exceed the qualifications of becoming a NASA astronaut, or a mere brain surgeon, or heart surgeon. Are we to think for one millisecond, that there will be no discipline or sacrifice to qualify, to inherit, all that the one true living God has to offer.
The days of eat, drink and be merry, are long over………….again, this is not about perfection, it is all about us, becoming whole.
Bravoooooooooooooooooooo, Miss Marissa, Bravoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.
God bless us all in our endeavor to become whole and return home with honor……………….HOLD FAST.
What happened to the Bill Reel interview?
I’m sorry, but I thought this totally missed the mark. Just because you aren’t taking as hard a line as the church, doesn’t mean you’re not “pathologizing” things that is perfectly normal.
Most mission presidents aren’t dealing with huge masturbation “problems.” Their missions are filled with perfectly normal young men.
Masturbation does not lead to unhealthy sexuality.
People who have private fantasies in their heads during intercourse with their spouses are not necessarily disconnected from the act.
Marissa: I am a 50+ year old man and cannot recall having even one single “wet dream” in my life, including during years of abstinence from orgasm by any means.
Must depend on what your body is used to. I’m in my late 30s and mine is used to weekly sex with my wife. Due to issues we’re currently having, it’s been 3 weeks since we’ve had sex. And I’ve already had a wet dream in the meantime.
Marissa: “It is certainly hurtful to those of us seeking honest recovery.” One thing I have learned in recovery is to use “I” statements and not shame/should on others. I found great strength in this podcast and I’m sorry you did not. I invite you to look into the reason why this brings up such a strong charge in you.
Anon: 3 weeks! … lucky bastard. 4-6 months over here and it’s like nephi being tied up on a ship some nights around the 5th month.
Heather: After feeling like the devil for having masturbated on my mission, I asked if I should be sent home early. In a effort to comfort me, I was told that ~70% of my mission masturbated …. oh yeah, and by the way… will you marry me? jk
Lastly, can we pass the plate to start early stage trials for a Utah MLM company to reverse engineer Viagra and create a pill to lower sexual desire… just think of the commercials you could create!
I have been a listener to Mormon Stories for many years even though I am not LDS. I grew up and have lived in Utah for 20 years, though, and find myself heavily influenced by the culture nonetheless. And now I am raising children in this culture, and have also been on my own non-LDS faith journey, so I find the podcast fascinating, informative, and enjoyable.
I have to say, after listening to this episode, I’ve never been MORE grateful never to have been LDS. This may have been the saddest Mormon Stories I’ve ever listened to, and I’ve listed to all but probably five episodes. I agree that there was a lot of misinformation and “woo truths” discussed. I would love to see this subject covered again by a panel of actual medical doctors and mental health professionals, perhaps a mixture of LDS and non-LDS?
I feel that the LDS people are robbed of healthy sexuality by the institution of the Church(not God) and it is absolutely heartbreaking. The shame, pain, and havoc wrecked upon singles and couples that are forced to try to pretzel twist their natural sexuality to fit the warped demands of a flawed institution is so very sad and unnecessary.
A wife cries when she discovers her husband has occasionally touched his own body??!?! And the husband feels guilty?!?!?? Just. Wow. You have been robbed, my friends. The worst (or perhaps most merciful?) part is that you will never truly know how profoundly.
My first reaction was to say that 2 Nephi 15:20 comes to mind…
But maybe I’ll just say that I have found happiness in “pretzel twisting” to meet the demands of the gospel.
I understand happiness generated from positive spiritual discipline. But it doesn’t seem like the droves of returned missionaries lining up for Mr. Litster’s course or the tortured couples are suffering from an abundance of happiness.
The other thing that bothered me about this podcast was the lack of discussion of pathological pornography addiction. I absolutely believe there is such a problem in this world, but unless Mr. Litster was seriously editing his story, he has never suffered it. True porn addicts lose jobs, lose most relationships, rack up thousands in debt, and ruin their lives in the service of porn. Looking at swimsuit magazines and masturbating quarterly does not a porn addict make.
If you aim to teach healthy men and women to curb natural sexual urges and control sexual energy as a spiritual practice, then by all means proceed. But I don’t think you can necessarily equate those methods as solutions for a pathological pornography addiction.
My thoughts exactly.
I think this is a bit like saying you don’t really have cancer unless it’s at stage 4.
Of course it’s true that the “acting out” part can escalate, but that’s part of the reason to seek help when it’s “just” at the “can’t stop using porn/masturbating” stage. It’s still addiction at this stage, and it still can wreak havoc in a person’s life and in a marriage. The impact on a wife is very similar, too, regardless of how bad the acting out has been. (“Is there a difference between an addict and a more casual user? No, there is not enough difference to suggest that we can dismiss casual use as harmless.” http://www.challies.com/interviews/spiritual-healing-in-the-midst-of-a-husbands-addiction-to-pornography#more)
The benefit of understanding this is that rather than wait until life completely falls apart, those who struggle with addiction (and the people who love them) can seek help earlier in the process.
Victor Cline, a professional who has dealt with and written about sex addiction, talks about four stages of addiction.
You keep coming back to porn. It becomes a regular part of your life. You’re hooked and can’t quit.
You start to look for more graphic pornography. You start using porn that disgusted you earlier. Now, it excites you.
You start to become numb to the images you see. Even the most graphic porn doesn’t excite you any more. You become desperate to feel the same thrill again, but you can’t find it.
ACTING OUT SEXUALLY [with other people, not just with images]
This is the point where men make a crucial jump and start acting out the images they have seen. Some move from the paper and plastic images of porn into the real world, with real people, in destructive ways.
I want to be clear about my message. I think masturbation with your partner is totally fine! In my mind, the purpose of sex is connection. Masturbating as a couple (or whatever you both feel comfortable with) is more about the experience of connecting together instead of doing something solely for yourself.
I want to share a little of my experience, because I think a lot of people misunderstand why porn/sex addiction is harmful to self and others. In my own recovery group, there are 7 women whose husband’s are sex addicts. Let me tell you, the pain that has been shared within our group does not come because “her husband has occasionally touched his own body.” No, the pain has come from the effects that a serious addiction has had on our families and marriage relationships. The women I know have been in crazy-making relationships with real addicts who have used every denial strategy to avoid responsibility for their actions and blame their spouse for their problem. These men have often lost their jobs because of their addictions, creating instability for their families. They are also often unable to care for themselves in basic ways such as personal hygiene and even do minimal housework. These women have over the years, have allowed themselves to become objects, maids, and overly responsible for things that are not theirs. This leads to self-doubt and constant anxiety and fear. Living with someone who is unable to connect emotionally is hurtful. It is hard to not be able to have your feelings validated, to be told relentlessly that you are wrong, to be talked to only when the need for sex is present. Many of these men have not only been physically absent from family life because of the actual daily acting out (visiting strip clubs, meeting prostitutes, holing up with their computer), but they are largely mentally and emotionally absent from family life even when they are physically around. This type of father unintentionally hurts the self-esteem of children, because they inevitably believe (even subconsciously) that they are not worth their dad’s time and attention. Many of these women also live with violence- verbal abuse, outbursts of temper, and physical aggression. Some of these men seek out prostitutes, have given their wives STDs, abuse alcohol and drugs, and have lived a completely double life. The hurt experienced by a spouse is REAL and completely understandable. The realization that you are married to someone who is not who you knew them to be is where the pain comes from. It is the dishonesty that is hurtful, not “because her husband has occasionally touched his own body.”
There are real reasons why pornography leads people down a path that leads them to pain! The outcomes are so clear. So if we are going to have an honest discussion about this topic, then let’s name it exactly as it is. I have now met more than 50 women in recovery; our stories are full of heartache and pain and it is not because of unrealistic expectations. Addiction= pain. This has been my experience.
I just want to add some comments to the conversations going on between Marissa and the others. Like sex addiction, recovery is complex and not the same for everyone. Sex addiction is manifested differently from person to person. So is recovery. If a person found this podcast useful (as I did) we should be happy. If a person’s recovery doesn’t look just like yours that doesn’t mean it is less valid. Recovery is recovery and that’s where addicts hopefully want to be. And it goes without saying that a person’s recovery and what he/she has learned during that recovery does not have all the answers to everyone’s situation. This means that we might not agree with something in their recovery. That’s OK. But let people recover. Don’t crush those who have found this podcast useful by saying it is full of falsehoods. It might not be your path, or your husband’s, but it might be someone else’s. I found this unbelievably helpful. To see someone smart like you roll in and say it is garbage can cause a person to second guess that absolutely real relief they are feeling. This podcast isn’t the end all be all, but likely an important piece for someone else’s recovery. Recovery is a path, it’s a journey to wholeness. And just because a person doesn’t have an addiction does not mean they have no need to take their own path to wholeness. Sin, big or small, is not looked upon with the least degree of allowance.
Another point, has someone specifically defined “unclean or impure practices?” I would argue the vast majority of responses are subjective. We ought to stay out of other people’s sex lives. If it is open and honest and works for a couple, let them figure it out on their own.
My entire life I DID EVERYTHING THE CHURCH TOLD ME TO DO, and guess what, I DID NOT RECOVER. I still haven’t figured out exactly what this means but I have some ideas I prefer not to share. But I can say that listening to podcasts like this one has given me the greatest feeling of hope I have ever had. But they have given more than hope – they have given pieces that have actually helped me truly recover (and not via white-knuckled measures, I might add). And as a side note, and lest I be judged as an invalid source because I have need of recovery, I am not a deadbeat father. Ask anyone, including my wife and children. Sex addiction does not always manifest itself in the same forms, as many I suspect can testify here.
By the way, I find your situation based on what you have written to be very sad. But please don’t resent others if they find answers in some other way.
I’m NOT accusing you of this, but I have found that when people (including myself) resent others because of how they recovered, or because of the way they conduct their sex life, I resent them because I am envious. I am envious of what they have that I want, or I’m envious because of something bad they didn’t experience that I did.
Lets all let people recover.
I’m worried this whole anti-masturbation trend is a vehicle to shame men. This man is persuasive but he’s a motivational speaker and doesn’t seem to have a lot of research behind him. I’ve been looking for non-religious sources to back him up, but every credible source I find says that masturbation is a healthy outlet that is normally harmless. The main point is not to make it the focus of our day or let it prevent you from getting out and living your life.
It was scary how well the summary of a typical Mormon male’s sex life around the 50 min. mark matched that of my own. This discussion gave me some great info., restored my confidence, and helped me see a solution that I was able to suggest to my wife that seems to be leading to a big break through for us. This is great, thank you both so much!
This will likely go unnoticed but FWIW may I point out the obvious to the earnest who are seeking advice:
Considering the type of vistors to this forum, unsure of their spiritual bearings, this is probably not the best place to gleen spiritual advice. (Obvious as I said). Use it as food for thought only. There seems to be a common bias toward the physical satifactions here. Physical urges have no empathy for spirtual progression.
Take this fools advice – Masturbation as a means of fulfilling physical urges do not have to be a part of anyones life, regardless of situation. If thoughts are reigned in and focussed on what is important, physical urges do not even occur when they are not wanted. It’s when we want and then entertain them that this whole issue blows out of proportion.
I’ve learned from sad experience.
Listening to the podcast right now and am most of the way through with it. I have several critiques/criticisms so far. First, there seems to be little discussion of why porn is supposedly problematic in the first place. We should begin any meaningful discussion with a debate about what its natural conseqences are and what negative consequences we are trying to avoid. More specifically, I have not heard any discussion in this podcast about: (1) whether there exists any acceptable level of porn use; or (2) why it is that so many couples use porn frequently, either together, or separately, with no apparent negative effects on their relationship. If a person is able to manage their life responsibilities, carry on fulfilling relationships, and be happy, why on Earth should we be worked up about them using porn? I can’t help but sense that brother Litster’s world view about porn addiction is that porn=addiction and therefore is automatically bad. How did Brother Litster initially arrive at the conclusion that porn was problematic in the first place? Most likely it was the Church’s animosity towards it. Unfortunately, the proposed solution to sexual craving (that men simply schedule masturbation, but somehow without ever looking at erotic imagery other than their spouse) is completely at odds with the fact that men are physiologically designed to seek out a wide variety of sex partners. I am not suggesting polyamory, but I am pointing out that at least some porn (and erotic imagery generally) fulfills a critical role of supplying safe sexual fantasies to the male brain, thereby reducing the temptation and likelihood of having actual affairs. Why can’t we just freaking grow up and recognize each partner’s rights to enjoy whatever sexual fantasies they want to have in the safe recesses of their own minds? Why must we put an unrealistic ideal (that spouses’ only sexual fantasies will be about each other) on a pedestal and beat people down for not reaching it because they happen to not be superhuman? Let’s get real and have the discussion that is not being had in this podcast.
I agree a bit more background especially for non mormon listeners would have helped of the implications or porn use as there in my opinion is a broad spectrum. I appreciate also your more mature take on porn use in a couples situation as it can work however what you are illuding to is an ideal situation which rarely occurs and usually neglect, jelousy, hurt feelings or even low self esteem are often present in one spouse. Besides the dynamics of the couple and the spiritual implications the problems I find with porn mainly as a fellow human being is the that the industry has a very dark underbelly. I don’t agree with a human being exploited, and not know if they actually were paid (human trafficing), underage, physically abused, or have a drug addiction. Its impossible to tell on the internet what conditions these videos or pictures were produced, and to view it for pleasure when the people you are viewing are messed up is just plain wrong. To support the industry in my opinion is to fuel human trafficing. Second to that, I do believe porn is spiritual corrosive, I have seen people in my life change when they either kicked or started the habit,of course admittedly this could be from my religious standpoint.
I will be first to agree that the porn industry has a dark underbelly. But that is a grossly inadequate reason to condemn all porn or porn use. To take another analogy- religion also has a dark underbelly. In some Islamic countries, women can be stoned for being in public without a veil. Does that justify tossing out all of Islam, or Mormonism for that matter? Being fair in our analysis means being able to distinguish between what is and is not harmful, and how many permutations there are of different varieties of porn. Speaking for myself, I believe that porn which involves children, actual coercion, or glorification of abuse or exploitation, is wrong. As a matter of personal taste, I also believe that overly-explicit depictions of sex are not a turn-on, and can be repulsive, even though fully consensual.
I must also concede that some people (men and sometimes women) seem susceptible to porn taking over their lives in unhealthy ways- they may spend inordinate amounts of time or money, may get involved in risky sexual behavior, reject sex from a spouse or significant other, or neglect family, job, or other life responsibilities. Some anecdotal evidence even suggests that in rarer instances, obsession with or overuse of more extreme forms of porn can serve as a template for the abuse or humiliation of a sex partner.
But for the overwhelming majority of men, they seem to be able to separate fantasy from reality, and in most instances, they remain capable of (and do) maintaining healthy and satisfying real-life sexual relationships. Women who expect or demand that a man eliminate the majority of his naturally-occuring sexual thoughts and fantasies in order to only think about her sexually, are coming very close to demanding that their man become asexual.
The idea of a spouse having sexual fantasies about someone else (particularly during sex acts) gets huge criticism in conservative religious circles. But as I have discussed with friends to illustrate a point- imagine that your significant other is 90 years old, wrinkled, and in a wheelchair. When you get it on with them, are you going to be focusing only on those things right in front of you, or will your mind be elsewhere? Obvious answer: No- you couldn’t possibly, because sexual arousal requires some level of eroticism (subjective to each person), and virtually no human would find that situation erotic. Having sexual intimacy with that person will require your mind to import some some other image to program a physiological response. While that example may seem somewhat extreme, it illustrates that the human mind does not get to just decide what it will find erotic- that effect is not only subjective, but involuntary. At the same time, we must be careful to distinguish between, on the one hand, the compassionate love spouses feel for each other because of the mutual affection and trust they have build up over time, and on the other hand, the sexual attraction and physiological response which are largely outside the control of the person experiencing it. Erotic thoughts, a pre-requisite to nearly all male orgasms and sustainable arousals, unfortunately do not automatically flow from compassionate love, no matter how strong it may be. Therefore, I believe that, whether secretly or openly, most men, and quite likely a fair percentage of women, even in happy and committed relationships, will have at least some persistent sexual fantasies about people other than their spouse (termed “extradyadic fantasies”), both not during and during sexual relations with the spouse. Notably, the statistics of sexual fantasies seem unaltered by the level of commitment- in fact, on average, longer committed relationships tend to have greater incidence of extradyadic fantasies. If people can be mature enough to understand and accept that fact (which seems substantiated by secular research on human sexuality), then their compassion and mutual trust in each other can allow them to get past the point of feeling threatened or hurt by extradyadic fantasies.
Porn use is far more likely to become problematic when the user feels isolated and unable to express their sexual needs openly. Unfortunately in the LDS faith (as well as in many conservative religious circles), couples are taught a model of human sexuality which refuses to acknowledge the necessity and true mechanisms of human desire, arousal, eroticism, and orgasm. Subjective preferences are tossed out the window in favor of the assumption that the compassionate love and friendship of married couples who adhere to church standards are sufficient by themselves to fuel and sustain a satisfying monogamous sexual relationship, regardless of any independent sexual attraction. When people are conditioned to believe that sexual desire and arousal are supposed to magically spring up just because of a bunch of non-sexual good feelings, and that fantasies or imagery other than a spouse are huge sins, they naturally tend to feel guilty when they discover that forbidden imagery/fantasy is necessary to bring them to orgasm and/or satisfy themselves sexually. Guilt and anxiety in turn fuel secrecy, which in turn fuels breaches of trust and hurt feelings. For those of us who do not happen to be superhuman, the only solution to building and maintaining a lasting and healthy sexual relationship, without mistrust or secret betrayals, is acknowledgement and acceptance of sexual facts which unfortunately do not fit the LDS Church’s sanitized puritannical model. It is a far easier task to learn acceptance of natural human sexuality, than to fundamentally alter natural human sexuality. Indeed, as many men, including myself, know, attempting to alter, eliminate, or virtually eliminate, natural human sexual desires, is a recipe for depression, self-hatred, and even suicide. I am fully aware that many religious conservatives argue that acceptance of any level of masturbation, pornography, homosexuality, or extradyadic fantasy, is a cave-in to moral relativism and leaves everyone at complete moral liberty to do whatever they feel like sexually without limits, no matter how destructive or abusive. I completely reject that argument, for the same reasons that I believe we can and must distinguish between types of pornography. Our God-given right to do what we please is still curtailed by important principles, such as that we should not harm others.
“there seems to be little discussion of why porn is supposedly problematic in the first place.”
I’m wondering if some actually listen to the whole podcast.
9:43 The emotions of sex are totally different than the emotions of porn. Sex in a relationship with someone where there is love and commitment is a very fulfilling, connective experience. But what it [doesn't] do is take away the cravings for the adrenaline factor … of this forbidden thing [porn].
24:49-27:13 The more I fasted, the more cravings I had. The more I pushed in the direction of overdoing things to “be enough”, the more I pushed in trying to finally be good enough to connect with God, the worse it got. The more religious I became, the worse it got…. The more religious I became, the worse my cravings got and the less spiritual I was…. Prayer and reading scriptures isn’t an effective tool for making cravings go away…. You can’t make the brain chemistry go away unless you actually met the need it’s trying to get.
1:29:28 Cravings are a message from your brain; they are not wrong; they are a signal that say: “You’ve been cheating the system.”
1:34:00 The outcome of porn leads people to isolation and being alone. The reason for that is it is cheating Nature; it’s triggering the natural chemicals that occur at the beginning of a relationship over and over and over, more than Nature could trigger; and so the only way to get it is through extreme behavior. Extreme behavior is not connective; it is not nurturing to other people; and so the further we act out in extreme behavior the more people—real relationships—will withdraw from us, and we become alone.
Great podcast just released on “Real Intimacy” in a marriage… among many topics discussed, the appropriate role of masturbation within marriage was discussed.
I agree with the poster above that there are those of us who are single and/or gay who would have some unique issues related to the issue of porn that are different from a straight married man. I would also like to see those addressed.
I didn’t see the link to Tony’s site anywhere so here it is:
One can participate in his program for free…. I will warn you, though…(and this is inappropriate but honest) I am gay and watching Tony in that welcome video is almost like watching porn.
A couple of other resources I’ve found:
yourbrainonporn.com – Some excellent videos relating the physiological effects of porn on the brain and the chemicals involved
yourbrainrebalanced.com – This is a forum for folks to support and encourage each other to “reboot” their brains and go porn, masturbation and sex free for a period of time. There’s a journal area where you can keep track of your progress.
I’m guessing Tony would say that their emphasis on abstaining from sex at all is misplaced, but it’s a closely related viewpoint nonetheless. Can’t have too much help, right?
This was often amazing to me, how people can twist natural human sexual functions into something horrible and shameful.
I don’t see how masturbation is a “problem” as long as people aren’t taking time out of work or family to do it. If you’re still horny enough you will feel like beating off. If you’re not you won’t do it. No problem.
Tony Litster – it seems like you often raised the problem of porn up as more of a problem with you than it really is if you look objectively. Getting adrenaline rushes when looking at women in bikinis rather than just admiring their beauty is the problem. I would also consider spending $150k on self-help or whatever the heck it all is as far more of a problem than occasionally “throwing one off”. Perhaps you should start a self-help course for people addicted to self-help courses.
Hey, ozpoof! Did you listen to the podcast? Because Tony didn’t rail against masturbation. It’s the commentators here that are doing that.
I agree that he’s a bit hyper-vigilant when it comes to certain images but I think every person knows for himself what is porn this THEM…and I think he even says that. I smell a bit of the Mormon shame and scrupulosity on him too but in my research I’m finding several non-religious sources that agree with most of what he’s saying. There’s something unique about Internet porn that our human brains haven’t evolved to handle making it uniquely compelling, and potentially addictive.
Here’s another resource I’ve found:
There are a LOT of guys who claim to be negatively impacted by Internet porn without any religious or moral backing to their claims. Reading their stories is what changed my mind on the topic. I would have tended to agree with you but I think there’s something to Tony’s POV that has scientific backing and wisdom to it.
Actually, the root of all addiction is trying to trigger the pleasure circuit of the brain. This is why one can be addicted to substances (like cocaine, heroin, chocolate, nicotine, alcohol, etc.) and to processes (like gambling, viewing porn, exercise, meditation, etc.) If you want to read a digest of the scholarly research on this, you can check out “The Compass of Pleasure.” http://www.amazon.com/The-Compass-Pleasure-Marijuana-Generosity/dp/0670022586
Emotional dishonesty is a result of trying to hide something that is considered unacceptable.
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