Pornography. It’s a tough topic, for sure. Not many of us like to talk about it openly. However, if not discussed, it can be extremely detrimental in a relationship. Let’s chat about why pornography needs to be talked about more often (especially before marriage).
To begin, I want to make sure I’m very clear regarding what exactly I’m talking about here. According to the Church’s website, “Pornography is any depiction, in pictures or writing, that is intended to inappropriately arouse sexual feelings.” This includes photos, movies, books, social media, video games, phone conversations, music, and more. If it’s arousing sexual feelings, it’s pornography.
Along with pornography comes masturbation (not all the time, though). I have encountered many Latter-day Saints who have tried to convince me that this is not a sin. Please do not fall into this trap. President Spencer W. Kimball said,
Masturbation, a rather common indiscretion, is not approved of the Lord nor of His Church regardless of what may have been said by others whose ‘norms’ are lower. Latter-day Saints are urged to avoid this practice.
Therefore, when I mention pornography in this article, understand that I am also referring to masturbation. Though commonly done together, they are both separately considered sins. Both should be talked about early in a relationship.
Pornography is the killer of intimacy because it makes users objectify their partners. If a person masturbates while engaging with porn, it also can destroy intimacy, because the user can only achieve fulfillment in that way.
Time to Get Uncomfortable
Why is this topic so taboo? My personal opinion is because Satan wants it to be. The adversary wishes for us to keep our deepest darkest secrets to ourselves. He wants us to feel lonely and unloved. Feelings of guilt and despair come from him, not our Father in Heaven.
Of course, talking about pornography is uncomfortable. It’s a very personal, serious thing. I’m not at all saying that you should confess your sins from the rooftops and tell everyone about it. I simply want to talk about why it needs to be discussed in a serious relationship.
When I say the pornography talk needs to happen early, I’m not meaning the first date. I more mean that you should talk about it as soon as you know the relationship will be progressing towards something long-term and serious (in our religion, that probably means marriage).
Everyone is different, so bring it up however you want. I use humor when I’m uncomfortable, so I used that to break the ice and start the conversation with my husband. Basically, I joked about how my cousin had told me to ask about pornography on the first date. We both laughed and briefly mentioned how glad we were that that didn’t happen.
Then I said, “However, I do actually think it’s really important. Do you mind if we have a conversation about it sometime soon?” We both liked this because it was put on the table, but not all at once. It gave us both time to pray and prepare for the conversation.
When you do talk about it with your partner, please have patience. Plead for the Spirit to be with you. Have an open and forgiving heart. While pornography and masturbation are serious sins, they are extremely common issues (especially for men).
My mission president told me not to go looking for a sinless man. Instead, look for one that is honest about his past, accountable for his present, and working hard to prepare for the future. This is so true!
Have a prayer in your heart when talking about this subject. If someone has repented fully of their sins, Heavenly Father has forgiven them. We should too. Let’s dive deeper into the reasons why this discussion still is important to have.
Understanding the Blessings
The first reason as to why you and your partner should discuss pornography early on is to prepare you for the future. Unfortunately, this problem has a tendency to sneak back later on in life. Temptation might never fully go away. If you have an open and honest conversation, you can make plans to stay accountable with each other. You can also set boundaries and goals with each other to avoid the adversary’s grasp.
Other purposes of this conversation are to build trust and practice communication. It opens the floor to ask questions as well. It can also bring closure to a partner that has had struggles in the past. All of these things will be of great value to you as you continue on with your relationship.
“When a couple has learned to talk about this, they can talk about anything.”
~ Vauna Davis, Executive Director of the Utah Coalition Against Pornography
I am so grateful my husband and I talked about any issues with pornography and masturbation early on. It really created a foundation of honesty and vulnerability. Since we pushed ourselves to have a deep and serious conversation at the beginning, it was easier for us to communicate later on. We have found that we can be really truthful and vulnerable with each other.
Lastly, remember that Satan wants you to feel alone. When struggling with pornography, the adversary hopes that you will keep it inside and never share your guilt with anyone. Gaining an ally and having someone to trust and confide in will ruin all of Satan’s plans. Being accountable to someone is extremely helpful when overcoming these issues.
Pornography: A Continuous Conversation
Now, just because you’ve talked about pornography once at the beginning of your relationship doesn’t mean it never needs to be talked about again! This topic should remain an open conversation. You should check-in often with your significant other (depending on their needs). Stick to your plans!
If this relationship blossoms into marriage, please understand that pornography and masturbation are still sins even when sexual intimacy between husband and wife is now allowed. Gordon B. Hinckley said,
You cannot afford in any degree to become involved with pornography, whatever its form. You simply cannot afford to become involved in immoral practices—or to let down the bars of sexual restraint. The emotions that stir within you which make boys attractive to girls and girls attractive to boys are part of a divine plan. But they must be restrained, subdued, and kept under control, or they will destroy you and make you unworthy of many of the great blessings which the Lord has in store for you.
Notice that there are no exceptions here. We cannot afford in any degree to become involved with this sin. President Spencer W. Kimball also said,
If it is unnatural, you just don’t do it. That is all, and all the family life should be kept clean and worthy and on a very high plane. There are some people who have said that behind the bedroom doors anything goes. That is not true and the Lord would not condone it.
Therefore, please remember that pornography and masturbation will always be a sin no matter the circumstances. At the same time, always remember that Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, know you. They love you. They forever have their arms wide open for you. If you have made a mistake, you are not beyond their grasp and you can repent!
The Church offers many resources to help if you or a loved one is struggling with a pornography addiction. No matter your situation, please check out their page, Addressing Pornography.
Also, be sure to check out Fight the New Drug! It’s run by Latter-day Saints and a great resource for educating yourself and others about this issue.
I wish you all the best in your discussions, relationship, and marriage! I know that with prayer, forgiveness, and honest communication, anything is possible.
Don’t forget to share this article with someone who is getting married soon! It’s never too late to talk about these things!