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.
Labels: Pictures of Pornography and the LDS People