May 22, 2008

Pictures of Pornography: JustAGuy

by JustAGuy

This story is about more than porn. It is about growing up as a common LDS boy with a common hate/love fascination with sex. Only, I thought I was a rare pervert and I would surely go to hell if I couldn't get free. That is also common.

I know my experiences were common because I've now met many others worse off than me. I've listened to others conversations and I've had a few heart to heart talks and I'm glad I stopped walking the path to porn addiction when I did. I hope my frank sharing will help you and others avoid this path and find a better way. I have now learned and grown up enough to understand and control sexual feelings, but it was a hard, sad way to grow up, sexually. It was like living two lives.

I grew up in a good LDS family. We went to church, had FHE, all us kids were good friends and our parents taught us the gospel and lived it too. I believe that the problems didn't come from religion, or family, they came from our closed culture. I was never really taught about sexuality at home or at church. I learned it from the world, particularly my friends, the media, and experimentation.


Lesson: Start Young
I saw my first hardcore pornography when I was five or six years old. But I was already addicted to sex by then. Of course I had no idea how sex really took place for adults. I just knew what felt good and that it wasn't good to feel good that way. Kids played and kids talked and I was curious. My mom caught me a few times alone and with others so I knew it was scary bad to touch there! I learned quickly to hide my curiosity from adults. They just got mad.

I didn't really understand real sexuality until I was 10 or 11. By then, I had learned enough from other kids to know the basic body parts (that girls weren't really broken boys), how they fit together and liked it, and that parents didn't want us to know this, even though my friends said parents played all the time. This made me even more curious. After all, I was grown up enough (so I thought) to know and no one would tell me why it was bad, just that it was.


Lesson: Be Frank, Open, Complete, Truthful, and Uplifting
I was very confused and very curious. So I turned to the only answers I could find by experimentation and questions to older kids. My parents taught me a little here and there. They did not say that bodies were evil, but they didn't explain why some actions were. Nor did they tell me what to expect with growing up and how to cope.

Primary didn't help. They just talked about good people doing good things and how to be obedient. Who cared?! That just made me feel bad when I couldn't sit still or when I knew I was doing bad things. They said "follow the Spirit." It makes you feel warm... AND??? That didn't mean much. "It will teach you right and wrong." REALLY? HOW?

Now I know I felt the Spirit back then. But I didn't know it at the time. I felt guilt. I felt frustration. I felt fear. I felt curious. I felt sidelined. I felt demeaned. All because I had questions I could not ask. I didn't know how to hear the Spirit in all that noise. No one talked about how to control curiosity by getting answers from the right sources, like parents. When would we talk about real things? That's what Scouts was for!


Lesson: Anticipate Exposure
Besides that early experience as a young kid, "real" porn was completely absent from my life. But I believe that a form of porn was always available to me. When you are curious, any hints or possible answers are examined carefully. I remember seeing "private parts" in shapes all around me. I was fascinated by the human body and looked at pictures anywhere I could. I remember wondering how they would fit together, and how it would feel when I grew up and got married. I listened intently when anyone described anything about sex. I learned slang, and more of the "dirtiness" of sex because that was all that was talked about. And all this was apart from church and family. This was my secret self.

I remember the feelings I felt when I first saw those Playboy magazines as a five year old. It was all about fear of getting caught doing something wrong. But I didn't know why it was wrong. The other kids said it was. I had no idea what I was looking at. I don't remember images, but the experience is vivid in my mind because it was forbidden. It made me so curious. That was when I needed to be taught by my parents what sex was about. That was when I needed to learn what porn was and why it was wrong. The Spirit was there, telling me, but I didn't know what it was saying.

Events like that were repeated in other ways, time after time, as I grew up. Porn has many forms all around us. People on the street, magazines in stores, bra ads in the paper. It was all porn because I wanted to see it that way. I wanted answers but I knew I couldn't talk about it with my parents.

Once puberty began, I discovered a new variable. I felt drives and hungers that were scary and uncontrollable. Everything was stimulating! Walking, breezes, bathing, warm sun. I knew something was wrong because nearly everything had a sexual bend to it and I thought that these feelings were evil extensions of my perversion. It didn't make sense and it made it harder to think of other things in life. But I trusted the rules and commandments from primary and home and I tried to change.

The problem was, puberty was too late for an easy change.


Lesson: Don't Underestimate Masturbation or the Imagination
The M word is ugly. Sex is a dirty word. I used to get a thrill looking it up in the encyclopedia. Righteous people don't think about either and they aren't tempted. I know because there are no stories about it.

As a teenager, I didn't know what to do. I had lofty goals, and I was a model student and young man, on the outside. I felt like there was a demon inside. I did a good job controlling him. He was only in control in times of stress, when I was alone. Its to bad teen life is stressful. Maybe I could have thrown him out before my mission. But I didn't quite. And I really tried. At first, I was sure that masturbation would get me excommunicated if anyone ever found out. I thought about killing myself to be free, but I knew that wouldn't fix a sin, just keep me from getting worse. Maybe God would have mercy and put me in a lower kingdom and not send me to hell. But maybe I had committed the "unpardonable sin" because I knew masturbation was wrong and I still did it.

I read every church book I could. The Miracle of Forgiveness tore my heart out and I prayed and prayed to be free. But I was petrified to talk to the bishop. He knew my dad. And dad would tell mom and they would be so disapointed. I loved them and they loved me and this might break that.

The secret had to be kept between me and God. The scriptures were comforting. Enos's prayer inspired me. But prayer didn't seem to help much. Maybe in some moments of temptation, but not always. I never felt free. But I began to understand, everything. God did teach me and he did give me answers.

I read and read including non-religious books about sexuality and I eventually began to understand the difference between God's purpose for sex and man's twisting of it. God said masturbation was wrong while psychologists said it was natural and even necessary. I trusted the Spirit and I knew it was wrong. But I still had a habit to break.


Lesson: Don't Expect the Church to Preserve Your Children
Church didn't help much. No real discussions could take place there (Pres. Packer's beeping slideshow about stages of the mind and singing hymns just doesn't cut it). No one was willing (or felt enabled) to openly discuss sexuality's good and bad points, answer questions and provide real support to overcome bad habits and look forward to healthy sexual expression in marriage. I think this was because most leaders didn't know much to share, or were suffering themselves, or had "cut off the offending hand" and ignored it all together.

Don't ask. Don't tell. Don't look. Don't see.

Scouts actually caused problems by putting boys together, late at night, to talk dirty about sexual exploits without leaders noticing, explaining or correcting. And then there was my mission. If I felt mixed up as a teen, I was thrown in a blender and frapp├ęd as a missionary.

I always wanted to be a missionary. I never felt any indecision about going. Every year that I grew closer to going, I would resolve to break my habit and enter the temple and mission a pure man. I was prepared in every way, but morally. When my mission interviews came, I was petrified. All my friends were getting mission calls and I was sure that I would be shamed before them, excommunicated, or disfellowshipped, or at least refused a mission call. I was sure the doctor giving me a physical could tell I had a longstanding habit and would turn me in.

Finally, when faced with telling a boldfaced lie to the Stake President, I had to come clean. I admitted to the big M. His only question was "Do you still do it?"

Well, of course not! I had resolved right there and then to never do it again.

That's all that happened. No followup, or counsel, or help, or explanation, or encouragement. It is the "unseen" habit. When I failed in my resolve, I felt angry at him for just passing it over. I realized later that I was a odd case, not for the habit, but for bringing it up in the first place.

I loved my mission. It was everything a mission should be, the best of times and the worst. It transformed me. But it did not break the habit. The habit almost broke me. The tension between my secrets and my faith was so strong that I felt like Alma the Younger, wishing to be an angel, but feeling like a slave of Satan. I wish I could tell you just how excruciating that felt. At times I felt like I was one big hypocrite and then I would feel the overwhelming love of God for me, personally. But in that love I also felt his disappointment.

During this conflicted time I learned two things. I was very special to God. He knew and cared about me. Me. And Satan did too. He had worked long and hard to bury a solid hook deep inside me that was holding me back. But that didn't make me evil. Despite my weaknesses I witnessing miracles in the work. I had a vision of what I wanted to become. I was following the Spirit and I was drawing close to God. And second, I learned how the atonement worked. I preached it until I understood it, then I wanted it for myself like nothing else.

So I went to my Mission President to confess and be free once and for all. He looked disappointed. He encouraged me to get in control. He told me that the work would suffer until I did. In two later interviews he asked how I was doing. That was it. Months later, I learned from another missionary that he had addressed the leaders of the mission and told them that one in two missionaries currently masturbates.

As horrifying as it was to hear, I suddenly had a revelation. I was not alone. Did that mean I was not a pervert?

Then my mission ended. I wish I could say that was the end of it. But no. Leaving a mission is depressing. Depression doesn't help addictions.


Lesson: Get Help
I continued to struggle with masturbation and sexual curiosity for years after my mission. Only now, I had new challenges added on. I was not serving others all the time and the Spirit was harder to keep close. I was losing focus on the great spiritual person I wanted to be. I was expected to date, get close to girls and prepare for marriage, but stay chaste. I noticed how women looked. I had to battle wandering thoughts far more than before. Without a mission companion, I was alone. Absolutely alone.

I felt more stress than ever before and I began to feel less fulfilled by my habit. I was going to college and had easy access to the Internet. But I didn't feel any real curiosity about porn. I had always known it was dangerous and demeaning. I also vaguely remembered it as gross.

I was fortunate to avoid porn until it found me. I was caught in a "porn storm." Thats when a mistyped URL takes you to a site that hijacks your browser and every click to close it opens more windows on more sites. It was sickening sweet. Hunger, loneliness, shame, curiosity, horror, shock, lust and fear of discovery all rolled over me at once. After a few seconds I realized what was happening and logged out to force the windows to close.

But my body remembered the experience. It was new and enticing. But even stronger was my disgust. I never mentioned this to anyone. I just went on with life. But I didn't change the other "softer" porn habits of thought and personal practice. Satan just had to wait for another moment of weakness to inject more shame. That came several years later when I was still not married, had just broken up again, and felt like I was doomed to be a "menace to society".

I just felt like I wasn't worth much to anyone. I couldn't get a good job or make enough to win a girl over and live like everyone else seemed to. I began to feel angry at society and the church. And that's when I decided to learn more about sex on my own and I went to the Internet, alone.

I looked up all sorts of educational stuff, learned a lot, but eventually found and viewed some porn. I did this a few times. Then I met someone that I wanted to marry. At that point, my shame was deep.

But I reached deeper into myself and remembered my mission, my goals, I realized that these sexual interests were perverted from something much more important to me and I wanted the better way.

I decided to confess to my girlfriend and to my bishop. Both were supportive. It was difficult. I worked hard and we moved on and got married.

For me, marriage was the way out. I realize that this may not work for others. My demon has tried to climb back a few times, but for me it is much easier to ignore him with a loving wife near! I wasn't into porn very deep, either.

I don't know what to say to those who can't marry to be free, or who are much deeper than I ever got. I just know that sex was designed by God for good. I had a long journey with many troubles, but I'm now traveling in good company and I'm very, very happy. I also feel a great responsibility to teach my future sons and daughters with love and openness. Maybe they can avoid all this trouble and pain.

24 comments:

Sarbear said...

Thanks for sharing your story. It is interesting to hear how you began to have an interest in it at such a young age. I had no idea that kids could start thinking about it then. My husband and I recently started reading, "And They Were Not Ashamed: Strengthening Marriage though Sexual Fulfillment." It is so far a great book. As well as addressing sexual fulfillment between couples, it has three chapters about teaching your children about sex at different stages including when they are quite young. I look forward to that time with my sons and hope that they won't experience the shame and confusion you did.

HappyOne said...

I would also like to say thanks for JustAGuy for sharing his story. Sadly, I think almost all boys/men have very similar experiences and yet no one shares. I am glad to see that might be changing. If we(good people) leave a vacuum about this the only people talking about it will be Hollywood, the porn industry and those who like to think it's good to feed every desire.

HappyOne said...

There is so much I want to say on this topic... I also hoped my urges and wet dreams would go away during my mission. They didn't and Europe's advertising standards didn't allow me to ignore the inputs very easily.

For me, getting married caused the problem to get worse before it got better. I have been married 8 years now and have only recently felt like I won't look at porn again. It could be a long story, but the real take-away for me was to realize the true principle in all of it. The way I understand it my orgasms belong to my wife. If I'm orgasming, I should be thinking of her. I think there must be a spiritual level function happening during orgasm and that it causes trouble if the energy isn't directed properly or something like that. With that(her) in mind I can find a way to maintain myself in good health by masturbating without resorting to pornography to make that happen. I can't see how there's any sin in this since it's just like sex, or sex play, it's just that she's in the other room. It really helps balance the fact that she's only interested in sex a couple times a month and I'm rather interested almost all the time.

NoSurfGirl said...

That's an interesting way of thinking of if, happy one. Thanks for sharing. It's something we talk about so little, I think that it's hard for a lot of us to really know how we feel about various aspects of sexuality, like what you mentioned. Is masturbation ever appropriate? I know that there are couples out there who have had to use masturbation in order to find themselves capable of sexuality.

My own personal feeling about it is I would not like it to be done in the other room in my marriage. But everyone figures out how they function... what works best, what their partner is OK and not OK with .

Jonathan Blake said...

JustAGuy,

Your story could be my story almost exactly. Those who have been following the thread at fMh already know how I feel about all this. I just want one chance to grieve over our mutual shame and suffering for a sin that isn't a sin.

HappyOne said...

I would also prefer that it not be done in the other room(usually the shower). I would of course prefer "the real thing" every time. But for me and my wife, that is just plain unrealistic and would end up with way too much pressure on her for no good reason.

NoSurfGirl said...

makes sense, Happyone.

I'm glad you guys have worked things out. I know lots of couples feel trapped and/or unsatisfied, because they feel unable to talk about it, or to hear the other person's needs/perspective. And it's not just the men who have the higher drives, either. I have a close friend who once bemoaned to me her dissappointment at her husband's lower sex drive, and how that made her feel less capable as a wife... we should take capability or incapability, "good wife", "good husband" out of teh equation entirely. We all have needs! And they're different from person to person, and even different at different points in an individual's life.

HappyOne said...

If I didn't say it yet, thanks for taking the initiative with this whole thing. It's great to see people talking about it.

I am also glad that we have worked things out. And it's great to finally be rid of that garbage in our lives and to have peace about it all. My wife is the best and it makes me sad when I see that she feels like she's not "a good wife" because of the mismatched appetites. I honestly have gotten to where I don't mind at all. I've told her that she can take her time and let me know. Snuggling is always a wonderful and intimate thing as well. :)

Putz said...

maybe i can't comment too much, have so little knowledge

NoSurfGirl said...

Putz,

That's OK. Before everything happened to me I was relatively uniformed about these issues, too.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for telling your story, JustAGuy. I have a couple boys, and it's good to know they need to know about their bodies at a much younger age than I would have thought.

happyone - do you mind if I ask if your wife ever thought it was her fault in the years you used porn? Maybe she thought that if she did have a higher sex drive, you wouldn't use porn?

I ask because I've had the same questions. My husband is in the mood for sex more frequently than I am. For a long time just after we married and I knew he wasn't using porn, I tried to say "yes" every time because I thought if we made love every time he/we were in the mood, he wouldn't go back to using porn. Despite my efforts, he went back to porn. He says it's not my fault. I'm inclined to believe him. After all, he started porn years before he met me.

Anyway, after I found out he was using porn again, I gave up on trying to say "yes" even when I wasn't in the mood. Some days, I just think "he's got his porn, he doesn't need me," and tell him no. Then I wonder if I'm feeding a cycle - I don't feel obligated to put much effort into our sex life because he has porn, so our sex life is less than satisfactory for him, and that increases his porn use. But he started back into porn when I was giving my best efforts to our sex life! He never talked to me about his needs; he just started using porn again.

Mindy

HappyOne said...

Mindy,

Yes, she wondered about it. She wondered if it was her fault, if she wasn't as pretty or whatever. It wasn't that at all. It's not easy for men to even figure out what it is about...

She asked me to tell her if I had been looking at it again. I tried to be open with her but there was so much shame and hurt associated with it that I was scared to. I felt like I had to get over it all the way by myself before I talked about it again. I tried and failed and tried again and again. Finally I got it straight. She has always been very understanding but I know it's been difficult for her.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for telling your story. As a mother of four, I have spent a lot of time preparing for discussions about sexuality with my children, and have already had some discussions. I appreciate hearing other people's experiences to know some things that my children might feel or go through.
I'm sure it is hard to write all that and leave yourself open to comments.
I think that marriage can change a person's environment and establishes new habits (weight changes, etc.) Luckily for you it has made it possible for you to leave your masterbation habit behind. I don't know how long you have been married, and for your sake I hope that your happy situation continues. Good luck to you!
JKS

(chandelle) said...

"If I'm orgasming, I should be thinking of her. I think there must be a spiritual level function happening during orgasm and that it causes trouble if the energy isn't directed properly or something like that."

my husband feels the same way. during various periods in our marriage, particularly in late pregnancy and postpartum, and when i've had a lot of health problems, sex has been on the back burner, or even impossible. my husband just generally has a higher drive than me, and i'm not one of those women who is capable of "doing it anyway" when i'm not in the mood. and that's not what he wants of me anyway. so i've not only abided masturbation during those periods; i've encouraged it. i want my husband to be relaxed and at ease with me, especially if i need forms of intimacy that are not sexual. i just ask that he think of me, because i would consider it a form of infidelity if he were to think of someone else or use a visual aid. he feels the same way about me, and we have a deep trust between us about these important issues. this is what works for us. i'm happy to know that it works for someone else as well.

Anonymous said...

I've known about sex as long as I can remember. I began masturbating about the age of 5 (at least that I can remember). Like justaguy I tried again and again and prayed and prayed and never could stop. I finally was able to once I got married. Before that I couldn't go more than a week - It's been almost three years. I don't know what changed. Before I married I lived with someone for 4 years and couldn't quit then. But when I got married something changed and now the urge is almost non existant.

My husband also had problems with masturbation and P*rn. Like me, things changed when we got married. He says he still has urges for both, but by and large has avoided them since we married, but I'm not sure why.

Finding the balance between sex drives is important, I'm so glad happyone and Chandelle have managed to work it out - because it can be a challenge. We've managed to find a balance to our sex drives and I much prefer that he not be in the other room. I'd rather be there and be part of it in some way. These last few months I've had some medical problems that have prevented me from really doing anything, but I can lay next to him and talk to him - be part of it.

And as for dealing with his urges to look at p*rn - what's worked for the last 6 months is we've developed a ranking system from 1 to 10 indicating if he looked at anything suggestive during the day. 1 being completely non suggestive - didn't even cross his mind to 5 being mildly suggestive material and 10 being hardcore stuff. I ask him every day how he was - for him, it helps to be accountable.It also helps him to just talk about it. He says there has been a significant decrease in the material he looks at. I know this is all short term - but it's worked for us so far.

Wow, I wrote a novel - guess I had a lot to say lol.

helpful wife said...

Regarding husbands using masturbation when their wives don't want to or can't. Aren't there other ways of helping your husband be satisfied that don't require much at all from the wife, but you do it together. I am happy to satisfy my husband when he needs it and I'm not up to it. Is that not always an option for other couples?

NoSurfGirl said...

Helpful,

I thought of this, too. :)

(chandelle) said...

HW,

sure, that works sometimes too. :)

Anonymous said...

wanted to thank this guy for the better informed discussion DH and I have been able to have re our childrens sexuality as a consequence.I want them to feel they have every right to enjoy their own bodies within the bounds the Lord has set and with respect for all of Heavenly Fathers children without making an object of another.Another opportunity to grow in love.

djinn said...

This is such an odd topic; I confess, it seems to me to be completely paradoxical. After the posts at feministmormonhousewives, I did some research, summarized at my own (brand-spankin' new blog) adizzylife.blogspot.com. Basically, two countries greatly liberalized their pornography laws and saw stunning, stunning, decreases in sexual violence against woman and children. (Denmark-50%, Japan 85%.) For the life of me, I cannot figure out why. However, I feel the experience of my friend Venkatesh may give some insight. He grew up in India; his parents were strict Vishnuites. The temple was covered in erotic carvings--he'd gaze at them fondly when dragged to worship. This seemed to inoculate him against the sort of images we deem pornographic and against pre-marital sex as well, as "Brahmins don't do those sort of things." I confess to finding this all very confusing; but suspect that inoculation when young may innoculate boys (girls too?) against getting intoxicated by such images when older. I confess to being bewildered by this; but this is where the data leads.

djinn said...

Though, theoretically, I love the visual image of the crumpled paper behind the letters on your blog, I find it difficult to read through; something less, uh, busy?

NoSurfGirl said...

It shouldn't be crumpled paper, djinn!!!

I understand your argument. I disagree with the idea that exposure to porn leads to a decrease in violent sexual crime for two reasons.

1) Rape is not a sex crime. It's a violent crime. Viewing pornography is not a violent crime. It is (in my mind) a sexual crime. Would you use the same argument about child porn, that it should be allowed because then there would be less child molesters out there? Both are crimes, both should be stopped. Because one crime is a few degrees less violent does not make it OK. This is operating from the perspective that pornography is a crime; I realize that in our society adult porn isn't. But I think it should be. Why is prostitution a crime in many states? That same reasoning should make pornography a crime.

2) The prophets have said it is wrong to look at porn. Period. For me, that's the end. I realize not everyone believes as I do... this is why I have done this series with LDS people specifically in mind. IN writing this and collecting articles for it, I operate under the assumption that people reading it are in agreement that porn is wrong, because (if for no other reason) our prophets have said.

Thanks for your thoughts, though, djinn. They are interesting. And I'll have to ponder that a littel further... why would societies that condone sexuality, that basically do not make a secret of it, have less incidence of violent crime? I wonder... if we werent' so ashamed of sex within the bounds the Lord has set, would we have such a problem with sexual addictions? I think maybe we wouldn't.

I'm sure this has lots of misspellings... it's late at night and I'm typing very fast because I'm hungry and want to eat my baked potato. Sorry.

djinn said...

But nosurfgirl, I didn't state it as a suggestion; there is actually a correlation between high degrees of access to pornography and low amounts of rape and sexual abuse of children in society. Bizarre, but there you have it.

djinn said...

But nosurfgirl, I didn't state it as a suggestion; there is actually a correlation between high degrees of access to pornography and low amounts of rape and sexual abuse of children in society. Bizarre, but there you have it.