Two brief notes on Elder Scott’s Saturday morning talk. I was grateful for his denunciation of pornography. Viewing pornography has profound personal theological implications, as Elder Scott notes. It “degrades the mind and heart,” which directly influences our ability to feel the Spirit.
However, he did not adequately complete the central theological argument, which I think would be an even better preventive than the one he gave. In describing why we should not look at pornographic materials, Elder Scott only hinted at the true reason behind this injunction. The reason involves the influence of the Spirit, certainly, and also the devil’s perfidy in convincing us that private indulgence is not harmful to anyone else.
More accurately, however, the reason involves types of looking and the ideologies behind them. Two of Elder Scott’s phrases serve as the hint: “it is one of the most damning influences on earth” and “manifestation of unbridled selfishness.” Pornographic looking requires objectification of the person being viewed and self-gratification of the viewer. Christianity conversely promotes subjectification of people viewed and selflessness on the part of the viewer. These forms of looking are not simply matters of sight; they are matters of orientation and action. Christianity requires believers to turn to Christ at all times, looking to his sacrifice to answer their deepest loneliness and need for love. Christianity is about a change of heart that directly influences the self (Elder Uchtdorf’s talk was a little more satisfying on this point, although I did not feel that his discussion of love included enough about Christ). Until we frame this particular argument in a Christo-centric way, any reason for not looking at pornography is not going to be good enough. It does not convince or convict, as true conversion does. Where do we look, if not at pornography? We look at and turn toward Christ. We must do this always or we haven’t got a fighting chance in anything we do.
Perhaps all of this goes without saying, but I do think Elder Scott’s argument could have been better in the sense of being more convincing and even more true.
My second point. Elder Scott noted the sad emotional effects of pornography on men and women. But for women, these sad emotional effects came at the hands of their husbands: “How can a man, particularly a priesthood bearer, not think of the emotional and spiritual damage caused to women, especially his wife, by such abhorrent activity,” he said. I am sure his argument was not meant to be exclusive. A few minutes later he cautioned parents and leaders to guard youths against early addiction.
But his address was still lopsided in favor of men and exclusionary of the sexual struggles of women. This suggests to me that the sexual dichotomy in official Mormon discourse is still slightly oversimplified, with the conclusion that men lust after women and thereby destroy the lives of those around them and that women have no sexual desires unless they are seducing men. Pornography is not limited to male consumption or to being used as a tool to satisfy male sexual desires. Women are no less susceptible to this phenomenon than men are, even if it is less prevalent among women. Women are not yet perceived as sexual agents in Mormon discourse, and neither men nor women are fully humanized in terms of the complex set of sexual issues each deal with. I would appreciate a good discourse, updated to fit our times, treating this topic at some point. A few thoughts.