May 27, 2008

Pictures of Pornography: When Children find it

By AnonMom

Hey, all you LDS Moms and Dads! You've got a problem with pornography. I'm a mom of six amazing, good, active LDS kids, and we have a problem with pornography. It's not "out there", it's right here, in our homes, in our cars, following our kids at school and wherever they go in the community.

Anywhere there's a computer with internet access, or a computer with WiFi capability close to another computer with WIFI access, an IPOD, PDA, gaming console, or a cell phone or any other device with "intelligent" capacity, all the pornography in the world is right there. And you don't have to go looking for it to find just shows up sometimes, even if you're being careful, sometimes it's just there.

You know it happens, moms and dads, becuase if you use the internet at all, it has probably happened to you. You type in some innocuous search words and you get a screen full of links...some of which may have something to do with what you were looking for, and some.....that make your eyes bug out and your jaw drop. Or you're innocently perusing an apparently squeaky clean website, and some incredibly inappropriate popup appears. You didn't want to see that stuff, but there it is. You're an adult, and you know to shut it down and get out of there. But what about your kids? The same stuff has happened to them.

It is inevitable that our kids will encounter pornography at one point or another as they use computers and computer related devices. Sometimes they seek it out, and sometimes it just pops up before their eyes. As with many other ugly things, we may not want to talk about it, or think about it. But, as with any real danger, we don't get any good out of ignoring it and hoping it won't bother us. We need to assume our kids have either encountered pornography already, or will soon. We need to do all we can to prevent problems, but we also need to be prepared to deal with the aftermath. We don't help anyone by sticking our heads in the sand.

Of my six children, two have had issues with pornography before the age of 14. They found it accidentally, their curiosity was piqued, and they looked. That's not good. It's a sin. But think about what it's like to be 12 or 13, when you're just starting to be extremely interested in the opposite sex. It's pretty hard for an adult to look the other way, and it's almost impossible for a kid. And then there's the shame. They don't want to tell you what they saw (how embarrassing to talk to mom or dad about that!) and they especially don't want to admit that they KEPT looking, or looked for more. So the problem may not get solved right away....and now the temptation is stronger.

Some people mentally diminish the seriousness of pornography because they're not really "doing anything" to anyone. They don't classify it as a sexual sin because they're not having sex with anybody. They are only looking at pictures. They can do that fully dressed in Sunday clothing, sitting bolt upright at the computer. How bad can that be? Many, many apparently good latter day saints develop addictions to pornography, using this as their excuse.

We parents had no clue that our kids were looking at pornography. We were taking the basic precautions. We had filters in place, browser control management, our computer was in the living room. We monitored what the kids were doing on the internet. What we didn't consider is that children are far more tech savvy that most adults. They know how to find passwords, to enable and disable filters, to erase internet history. We found out what was going on only when their guilt and distress got so bad that they started having emotional problems. I'm glad they were good enough kids to feel guilt, because that led to intervention, confession, help, and eventually, healing.

The scary thing about pornography, like any really effective Satanic tool, is that it has a wide range of effects on its victims. Some come away apparently unscathed. Others are utterly ruined. What might seem like just a dirty little secret to some is the destruction of temporal and eternal life for others. I wish there was a bright red warning continually on every computer screen stating "when you view pornography you degrade, exploit and dehumanize the human beings it depicts, commit the same crimes on yourself, jeopardize your chances of ever having a normal intimate relationships, and may destroy your own soul. The End" That is what Satan would LOVE to have happen.

Our kids are OK now. We didn't get rid of the internet, though I wanted to. We are stricter about who uses what devices where and when. Our family will never have phones or IPODS with video and internet compatibility (ask your high school kids about photos that get sent from phone to phone) We check up on people more. The kids know that if we find internet history tampered with, the computers will be gone. We will never assume that everything is hunky dory, and "our kid wouldn't do that". Because our kids are the kind who wouldn't do that, and they did. They are human, just as we are, and the problem is right here with us, all the time.

May 25, 2008

Pictures of Pornography: Kids and Sexuality

By Anonymous for this

My daughter has done self-stimulation ever since she was a baby. It has been distressing to me, but I have not said anything. I was afraid that, if I said the wrong thing I might instill shame in her about her body. I might create the kind of “forbidden fruit” situations that seem to lead to trouble later. There were some difficult times we went through when she was a baby, and so I thought it might be her way of coping, and I left her alone. Sure enough, she has not done it nearly as often as she has gotten older.

I found her the other day, though, when I went into the spare room where she was napping to get something. She is six now, and I thought, I should probably say something. I was afraid of making her feel guilty, but also afraid that if I did not give her any kind of guidance about sexuality, and what those feelings she was after were about, I would also fail as a parent. Especially if I want her to avoid masturbation one day. As a teenager, a habit like that can be much harder to break.

I thought for a moment and said a silent prayer, then sat on the bed. She had stopped as soon as I came in, and I could tell by the wary expression on her face that she was ready for me to chastise or shame her. I just looked at her in the face and told her, calmly and lovingly, that I understood that what she was doing made her feel good. I told her that lots of kids do it, and it doesn't make her a bad person that she does it sometimes. I also asked her if she could try not to do it, because it's not something Heavenly Father wants us to do very much, and that those feelings are special, for when we get married. She nodded and looked at me seriously during the discussion.

I went downstairs and took a deep breath, and sat in the chair in front of the computer. I thought the conversation went fine, but I wondered if I had handled it right. Should I have been more stern? Should I not have said that lots of kids do it, almost validating it? Should I not have told her to try not to do it? She is not even eight; accountability does not apply to her yet. And yet... the habit. I did not want to make life harder for her because I was afraid to speak up.

Several minutes later, she came downstairs and climbed into my lap and gave me a big hug. She is not normally an actively demonstrative girl; most of the hugs are ones I ask for, or sometimes she will playfully hug me. This was a real hug; an honest-to-goodness, “thank you for being my mommy” hug. I will remember it forever.

I think I did the right thing.

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 frappéd 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.

May 18, 2008

Pictures of Pornography: finding NCMO

This week I thought we could talk about one of the hypothesized reasons why LDS men and women struggle with sexual addictions like pornography. When we are single, we can't have any official sex until we marry. That is, if we want to remain in good standing with the church. It is good to save yourself until marriage. But dang it! It is difficult, isn't it? A man's sex drive peaks at around age 18 (according to rumored highly scientific studies).

So what does a single, celibate LDS man, for instance, do with all that energy? (The subtext: why pornography might distract, for a moment, even the worthiest, most returned missionary of returned missionaries).

As an introduction to this particular facet of the discussion, I have uploaded a short film that was made by actual BYU coeds. It addresses the phenomenon of NCMO at BYU. For those of you who have never encountered the acronym before, NCMO stands for "non-commital make out." This occurs not infrequently among single, LDS people. A few years ago, BYU students were actually advertising NCMO opportunities in local papers.

NCMO is much like pornography. It's a conscious, unproductive vent of sexual frustration. And unfortunately it has gotten some good people in trouble church-wise.

So watch, enjoy. Or you could watch, groan, and fall asleep depending on your sense of humor. And stay tuned for the post on Thursday: a guest article full of insights by someone who has had a lot of experience with this particular issue.

Credit for this video (script, most of the acting, editing) goes to Chris, Anthony and Kyle of White House North.

May 15, 2008

Pictures of Pornograpy: an interview with an LDS bishop

This is part I of my interview with BR, who is a longstanding, active member of the Mormon church. He was the bishop of a BYU singles' ward for three years.

NSG: When you were bishop of the singles ward, did you have a lot of people coming to you with concerns about pornography?

BR: I would guess from my experience that about 98% of LDS people have some brush with pornography.

NSG: whether that be a chance encounter, or an active perusal…

BR: Yes. I think most people have had a time when they have viewed pornography and even sought it out. When I was bishop there was one time when I was counseling 25% of the ward about pornography or other sexual issues. I even counseled some women… though I would say with the women it was more like 10%.

NSG: do you think that might be because they would be less willing to talk about it, or do you really think less women have a problem?

BR: Well in my experience, women are a lot more reluctant to talk about it. I feel like I was able to be a bishop that lots of people felt comfortable talking to about these problems, and I pretty much had to prompt the women to talk to me about the pornography.

NSG: These people who came to you to talk about pornography; why did they come? Was it just out of the blue, they wanted to talk about it, or was it more in preparation for marriages and missions?

BR: There was a lot related to getting married. I had about ten cases where I had to counsel the couple about a pornography problem in order to get them worthy to be married in the temple.

NSG: Were there any cases where it didn’t work out, where the couple broke it off because of pornography?

BR: Yes. But most of them were able to work through it. I tried to counsel with the women especially, about why men struggle so much with pornography. I have found that it is very hard for a woman especially to understand why a man has such a hard time with it. I talk to them about how a man works in that way… how any attractive woman that walks by can become an issue. And it seems that men have a hard time understanding why a woman’s heart can break over an issue like this. A lot of the women save themselves for marriage and that relationship that should only come after marriage, and they feel betrayed when they find out that their partner or fiancée has gotten into pornography.

NSG: What would you say is the general reaction of a couple when someone confesses to pornography problems?
BR: A man will feel very guilty, unworthy of the woman. He will wonder if he can be trusted or if he should even expect the woman to trust him. And typically a woman will react with sadness and anger, and wondering if she can ever trust him. Her perfect image of him as prince charming is suddenly different; the knight in shining armor is looking a little tarnished. The thing is, that happens after marriage anyway. I have to counsel couples to really think about how much they love each other, and if they do love each other to make it work, to work with each other and try to overcome this.

NSG: So you would say in most cases, you think it is important for them to think about trying anyway.

BR: Yes. At least not react right away, give the matter some thought and some prayer, and decide what you want to do.

NSG: What about a case where there is a real problem, something that could be classified as an addiction, maybe. For instance, someone who spends hundreds of dollars a month on porn, someone who buys magazines and movies and spends hours a day looking at it? Would that be something that might cause you to advise differently?

BR: It really depends. Are they wanting to overcome it? Do they want to get better? Are they committed to being free of it? Those are the real issues. And sometimes a pornography problem is beyond what I can address as a bishop and I refer them to a professional who can help them overcome it. But yes, I think there are some cases where it is better not to get married because it will just cause further problems. And you have your own progression to think about; if you marry someone who is in it so deep that his progression is going to be stunted or keep you from progressing, you have to think about that too.

NSG: What sorts of pornography are most common? In addition to internet porn, do people ever come to you with things like movies, magazines, literature?

BR: All of that.

NSG: Do you find that women tend to look at pictures or gravitate more to literature?

BR: It does seem like women have more involvement with what we call “soft porn”, things like romance novels. I have found also that a higher percentage of the women who came to me tended to look at same-sex porn, meaning they view the same porn men would want to view.

NSG: Really? That is very interesting.

BR: There were some men who had the same issue… viewing pornography of the same sex. More men came to me about porn in general, and a smaller percentage of those men looked at pornography in what you could say was a homosexual way. Less women came to me, but a higher percentage of those women were looking at their own sex. I think with women, they keep those drives so much inside that they are not willing to try to talk about and understand them, and so they cover it up by romance novels and things like that. It is a lot harder for women… they did not want to talk to me much, I had to ask them questions to lead them to telling me they were struggling. I found a very good therapist to refer them to who did a lot of work with the women, with abuse issues and such.

NSG: Could I have that referral?

BR: Sure.

NSG: Did you find that, when you were counseling dating couples on this issue, that women or men would ever overreact to one of those “fleeting glance” type instances and decide not to go through an engagement, for instance?

BR: Yes.

NSG: What do you think of that?

BR: I think you should really stop and think about it. Think about yourself and how much you love someone. Try to learn about it and understand it rather than being afraid of it.

NSG: Give it a chance rather than just dismissing the idea of staying together.

BR: Right.

NSG: Did the couples you counseled work it out?

BR: For the most part, yes. There were three that broke up over it. There are a few that I am sure are still dealing with the issue in their marriage.

NSG: So really if you decide to stay together you should think of it as a recovery process and something that isn’t always possible to stop cold turkey… to try to be compassionate and work on it together.

BR: Yes. It seemed to me that the best successes came when the partner stepped up and took an active role in the recovery process. Talked about it. Did some monitoring. Called them sometimes and asked how they were doing. Asked them frankly if they had looked at it since they last spoke. As a bishop men usually wouldn’t react as well when I asked those kinds of things as they did when their girlfriends or fiancées did.

NSG: What can couples do to help each other avoid pornography and other inappropriate sexual acts while dating?

BR: I think some women are so innocent, and sometimes sheltered, that they just don’t know what affect they can have. Men just go… they react to things that some women don’t realize. A woman can help by not allowing a lot of caressing and long kissing sections, and no inappropriate touching… it’s hands off. A man should be wise and know where the boundary is and be responsible. Those long make-out sessions lead to so much pain and trouble… just stay out of it and keep it well within what is appropriate. And couples need to talk about it. They don’t have to do it a whole lot, and they should treat it as sacred, but they have to talk about sexuality, and about their own desires and expectations and as they prepare for marriage, they just need to talk about it. It’s important.

May 12, 2008

Pornography series: Introduction

My first real encounter with pornography was a rude one. It was not, as it is with so many others, a picture in a magazine or on the internet. It wasn’t an “earthy” romance novel.
It happened one fall day, when I came home after several hours of classes and midterms, and found a half-empty house. My husband had left me, with no warning. He had been perfectly pleasant that morning. I remembered laughing about something over breakfast. He had kissed me as I went out the door to classes. I almost couldn’t believe it, looking around at the carpet-notches where furniture had been, at my baby alone in her swing. And then the clincher, as I walked into the master bedroom: his wedding ring, left on the bare mattress, on top of a neat stack of papers: the car title, the rent agreement, and divorce papers printed off of the internet.
Before this last shoe dropped in the ruin of my first marriage, things had been very confusing for me. My husband had proven himself to be utterly unpredictable. He was part amazing, hard-working, loving father, decent man and priesthood holder, and part childish, selfish, petulant, vindictive son-of-a-gun. This second side of him manifested only rarely. The first time it came out was three months into our marriage, when he took a knife with him into the bathroom and threatened suicide because I disagreed with him about how to cook biscuits. It was puzzling, confusing, scary to me. I felt disbelief, disgust, anger, fear, sadness… in that order, and in rapid succession. I could not internalize it or face it. After each of these rare encounters that seemed to occur every few months, we would talk. I would say that we need to get counseling, and he would cry, he would hug me and apologize, we would make up and forget about it. Except for the little remnants of sadness and fear that were left behind for both of us.

How does one deal with a situation like that? You love him, you are utterly bewildered by him, you realize there must be something more to it, and it effectively destroys your trust each time. You need to know what is up, but at the same time you do not want to think about what it might be. You ask him during a period of calm and trust, and he just shrugs you off and says it won’t happen again, so why discuss it further. Why even worry about it.

I’ll tell you how you deal with it: you start to feel that it must be partly your own fault. You start to think that, obviously, you’re not a good spouse or you would be able to forestall these scary outbursts. You’re also starting to wonder if something might be wrong with you, not him, because you’re becoming increasingly more paranoid and untrusting; you are starting to spy on him, to look for ways he might be lying to you. When you find what looks like might be evidence of something, you are sick inside, and also afraid, because you know you have to ask him, which means you have to admit to not trusting him, and the whole house of cards seems like it might come crashing down around you.

My husband finally confessed to the bishop. After being away for a couple of days, he rushed back, moving van and all, completely apologetic and penitent. I found out then that he had been hiding a pornography addiction from me. My feeling was almost relief. I hadn’t asked for this kind of baggage when I knelt across from the kind, soft-spoken, worthy priesthood holder I had come to love and respect. But pornography was better than extramarital sex. It was better than him not loving me anymore. It was better than the prospect of raising my baby daughter all by myself, and having to explain to her that her dad had left us.

But then he confessed to more and more… it started coming out, all the deception. He had dropped out of school and used the tuition for pornography. He had spent every day at home looking at porn instead of playing with, diapering, and feeding our child. He had gone to a strip club while I was away at a friend’s wedding (and then bought roses for me when I came home.) While I was in labor with our daughter, he left my hospital bedside, not to study for a test as I had thought, but to go play video games and look at porn. As the confessions poured out I started to wonder if I really could live with this alter ego of his. It was too much to take in… I had been so successfully deceived. How would I ever trust him again? Was it possible for him to recover? For me, it ended soon after that, when I found out that my husband had tried to poison me, three times. The attempts took place soon after one of the turbulent confrontations we had several months before.
He went to jail, and we were divorced. It was almost the easier solution, in the end, but I am still haunted by it. The only peace I found at the time was a spiritual confirmation that divorce was the right choice. I know now (with 20/20 hindsight) that divorce was the best option for my own well being, as well as my addicted, mentally-unstable husband’s.
But my case was unique. Not many husbands, entrenched as they may be in their addictions, do something so drastic that the marriage ends practically by default. There are countless spouses, fiancées, and girlfriends and boyfriends out there that have to address this issue in a situation that is not nearly so clean cut. The questions that these couples all have to face are, “is it worth it, or should I just walk away? I love her, but is love enough? What can I do to help her?” Also, “What if he never gets over this. Could I live with a spouse that has a pornography addiction?”

An addict or a habitual user often feels helpless. They realize that they are in trouble, because they feel out of control and they do not like the person they have become as a result of deception and addiction. They feel unworthy of trust and love. They feel too full of shame to seek help. Once they have gotten to the point where they realize they have a problem, they sometimes doubt that there really is a way out.

This series is an attempt help people find their own answers to these difficult questions and problems. It is also my way of trying to start a conversation that needs to be started: about pornography and LDS people. As Jodi Hildebrandt from the Lifestar program says, sexual addictions are fed by shame and silence. I hope that, in the few weeks that follow, people will speak up about pornography. I hope that people can offer one another frank feedback and support. Because Pornography is out there, and it is prevalent. Encountering it is pretty much inevitable in today’s world. And if we stay in denial, and let fear keep us from addressing it, the problem will continue to worsen and spread, and good LDS people will continue to feel hopeless and ashamed, rather than empowered, informed, and capable to overcome.

May 11, 2008

great hair day

The best thing about having twists in for 3 days...

Loli LOVED her hair today. Lol you should have seen her prance around.

May 9, 2008

Loli's hair

So, I have tried a thing or two on Loli's hair, just to get used to doing a real head. It's very different from the mannequin. her hair actuall absorbs wax and conditioners and gets easier to work with... I don't know if the mannequin is different because the hair is synthetic, or because the texture absorbs the conditioning agents quickly the same way African hair would.

Anyway, Cornrows....

And simple twists with large triangle parts.

She wore the first style for a few days; the second for two days so far. Not bad for caucasian hair. And she hardly complained at all... she says that having her hair parted "tickles." So I am getting more and more reassured.

I'm half-done with a mannequin style righ t now... when I'm done I resolve to post it no matter how hideous it looks. Right now it looks pretty hideous. Sigh.

May 6, 2008

Changes coming...

In upcoming weeks, I will be doing something new and radical on this blog. I have interviewed, written, and collected articles from a few people about a topic near and dear to my heart: Pornography in the LDS population. Not near and dear because I like pornography, of course. But because it is out there, it is something almost all of us have struggled with at one time or another (yes, this is true... whether the struggles involve ourselves, members of our close family, or just the day-to-day interactions with the internet necessary to our lives and careers.)

This will be a series of guest posts, by people with different areas of expertise in dealing with pornography and LDS people. I've read over most of it and I'm telling you, those of you who read this will be surprised, shocked, comforted, inspired, and informed by the end of it.

I have asked the women over and to promote the series, and they have agreed. Once the series gets started I plan on asking a few of the other major LDS blogs and bloggernacles to do some promoting, too. My goal is to start conversations about pornography and its existence among LDS people, so that resources, solutions, and problem solving can be shared and spread in places where the most people will be helped.

This means I will be making some temporary changes to the blog, in order to facilitate the higher traffic (and hopefully commenting) that will occur. I will be changing my layout a bit, and enabling comment moderations and controls that will hopefully filter out any spam we might get, due to the subject matter we will be addressing.

The first post (introduction) will be next Monday, and I will be putting up an additional post in the series each Thursday and Monday following.

I'm excited about this... I hope all of you are, too.

May 4, 2008

A Canoe Ride To Recovery

As spring begins to infect the hillsides and turn this valley green, patch by patch, I feel my lazy genes kick in. This is the time for weeding, tilling, playing hard, and then vegging.

And for memories. When I walk outside and and smell that damp-mud lake smell after a spring storm, I think of Spot.

I got to know Spot when she came to the center for help with her anorexia. In her sixties, bright eyed, delacte-boned, this woman was a ball of energy from the beginning. She was one of those who made us techs quickly bite back a smile at the dinner table. We wanted to like her, wanted to laugh with her. But we couldn't because she was eating her prunes with her fork and this was a serious thing.

One time I took the girls to a certain park by a river where I live. It was the Saturday outing, and everyone was either in high spirits or angsty rebellious spirits, depending upon whether they were the outdoors type. Everyone was required to sit in a canoe and paddle, whether they liked it or not.

Spot was quiet all the way there, and quiet as we all stood around forming our canoeing teams. I got paired with a girl and then un-paired, because she wanted to ride with her buddy from the inpatient unit. I turned and saw Spot, standing there alone, seriously regarding the canoes. I asked her if she needed a partner, and she said yes.

And that is how it began.

We got into our canoe. I sat in the back and Spot sat toward the front. We all sat there, floating on the murky surface of the river, until the two Rec therapists got going. They gave us three rules: stay within sight of the next canoe, don't go in front of the rec therapist that was leading, and don't dawdle behind the rec therapist that was trailing. It was still a lock-down situation, after all. We didn't want any canoeing runaways.

I settled myself and took my paddle in hand, ready to enjoy an idyllic ride down the river, perhaps watch a few dragonflies, splash a duck or two.

Imagine my surprise when, as soon as the Rec therapists called out to start, my canoe shot out from the shoreline like a heat-seeking missile. I stuttered and splashed myself a good deal as I tried to dig my paddle in the water to slow us down. "Spot!" I called, "we're going too fast! We're going to crash into something..."

She turned her head and looked at me for a moment, all while still paddling furiously. "C'mon!" She yelled. "We can beat these little girls!"

"Spot," I said, desperately trying to keep up with her swift, decisive paddle strokes. "It's not a race! We just passed the rec therapist!"

"I don't care," she yelled back. "Live a little! We can beat these girls silly! We're gonna win!"

I turned and shrugged desperately at the rec therapist, who was quickly becoming smaller as we continued to outpace the entire group of girls.

Finally, a few bends before we would have reached the lake, she stopped paddling. The canoe drifted and then gently bumped against the shore.

"You know, nosurfgirl," Spot said. "I've been canoeing down the Amazon."

I didn't quite know whether to believe her, but something in her snappy black eyes told me she was not lying.

The group arrived several minutes later. The rec therapist in charge raised an eyebrow at me but nobody was chastised. We ate a quiet snack, and I watched Spot and the other girls carefully for infractions. The wrappers were neatly stowed away, and we made the journey back, this time at a more sedate pace, but one that still far outstripped the rest of the group. We were silent all the car ride home.

A month and a half later, Spot stopped me in the hall as I was making my way to flushing a desperate girl's toilet. She had been on the residential unit for several weeks, and was looking a lot better, and acting a lot cheerier. "You know, nosurfgirl," she said to me thoughtfully.

"What?" I asked, grinning at her. (I was allowed, now that I was not the one responsible for her infractions.)

"That canoe ride. Remember that?"

"Yes. I don't think I could forget it if I tried."

"I think that was the day I started recovery."

I nodded thoughtfully.

"I just felt so powerful. I had so much energy."

"You did. There was nothing I could do to stop you."

I was treated, then, to an impudent grin, almost too big for her pixie face. "Exactly," she said. She gave me a hug, and then turned and walked back down the hall to the residential unit.