Friday, October 20, 2017

Female Struggles with Porn and Masturbation



Anonymous Question Series:


Q: "What is your advice to females who have watched pornography or masturbate?"

See also:
A Place of Healing, Not Hiding

Furthermore, as I have stated in other posts; this is a great question and will be a little difficult to answer concisely, for me. This has been a topic of GREAT interest and equal concern for me; so much that I have taken up the opportunity to write about it. I am over 100 pages into a book I hope to complete by the end of this year that addresses this issue and other related topics and their solutions. Additionally, Kathryn Kirk and I have attempted to fill this gap, of women not having a resource, with "LDS Women Struggle Too" Blog and Group. But because of our LDS culture, it is very hard to get the word out.

A: The quick answer; Love yourself, be kind to yourself, retain the joy and beauty that is your sexuality, come out of hiding, and be confident in your struggle.

Your question is important to me; one I am addressing in depth in my book. There are too many women struggling alone. There are few resources and even fewer good resources. There is much I want to say, but there is so much misunderstanding, negativity, and flawed ideas around the subject that a more lengthy response is required. I am working frantically to get good resources out to our dear sisters alone in this battle.

But for now, avoid negative self-talk and avoid viewing sexuality as bad or evil. Discover joy and beauty in sexual desire. Understand these desires are of God, they are not evil. Also, recognize that every individual's biology and sexual drive is different. Be careful to not compare your sexual urges and desires to another person's. Focus more on untangling the unhealthy views of pornography from your own sexuality. Develop a true self-mastery plan that measures progress as apposed to abstinence.

Continue to be brave! Porn is everywhere and everyone defines it differently. You do not need to be ashamed, in fact I encourage you to put off all shame that is preventing you from feeling joy. You love the Lord and you know that. Don't let your struggle define your love for Father.

Take a moment and read Kathryn Kirks blog:

"Being open about my struggle with pornography has changed my life. I haven’t been wide open about it, but I have opened up to some very key people, and as you can see from this blog, I’m starting to share my stories and experiences with whoever wants to listen. Once I stopped trying so hard to hide from everyone, I slowly started finding room to heal. This ongoing transformation has been something I never could have imagined, and now I want others to experience it too." A Place of Healing, Not Hiding




Thursday, October 19, 2017

Authentic Living in Christ Slides

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Recorded Audio:

Jealousy and Social Media



Anonymous Question Series:

Q: My husband gets jealous about Facebook likes, emojis, and comments I get from other men who are just friends. How do you recommend dealing with such situations?

A: The quick answer; Recognize your husbands jealousy is rooted in fears and insecurities and avoid taking responsibility for his emotions.

Jealousy is a toxic form of control and is never a healthy or appropriate response. While it is important to respect and love your spouse, to hear out their concerns, you never should take responsibility for his emotional immaturity - his jealousy. What I mean by this last comment is that you should never feel you have to change because your spouse guilts, scares, or uses logic to convince you to change. Even in the case of emotional or physical infidelity, jealously is toxic and not healthy.

It is natural to experience hurt, pain, sadness, maybe even a little jealousy, but jealousy is a manifestation of other serious emotional issues. Gwendolyn Seidman, Ph.D., addressed these mental health issues well in her article "What's Really Behind Jealousy, and What to Do About It"

Research has linked several traits to jealousy:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Neuroticism: a general tendency to be moody, anxious, and emotionally unstable
  • Feelings of insecurity and possessiveness
  • Dependence on your partner: Codependency
  • Feelings of inadequacy in your relationship
  • An anxious attachment style

Take courage in your integrity. You get to be you! Some married individuals require or expect their spouses to: "unfriend" old friends of the opposite sex and past boyfriends/girlfriends and share social media and emails. This is inappropriate. Some people agree to do this because it seems to make logical sense and they see it as a form of "honoring" their spouse. So, they agree to go along with it. Sure, absolutely, if you personally decide it's best for you to avoid interacting with others of the opposite sex, you get to make that decision. But it is not loving nor healthy of him to make you feel obligated to comply.

Elder Holland made it clear that this immature jealousy and tantrum is not appropriate (refer to my post: Marital Myth of Communication); 
"The second segment of this scriptural sermon on love in Moroni 7:45 says that true charity—real love—'is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity.' Think of how many arguments could be avoided, how many hurt feelings could be spared, how many cold shoulders and silent treatments could be ended, and, in a worst-case scenario, how many breakups and divorces could be avoided if we were not so easily provoked, if we thought no evil of one another, and if we not only did not rejoice in iniquity but didn’t rejoice even in little mistakes.

Temper tantrums are not cute even in children; they are despicable in adults, especially adults who are supposed to love each other. We are too easily provoked; we are too inclined to think that our partner meant to hurt us—meant to do us evil, so to speak; and in defensive or jealous response we too often rejoice when we see them make a mistake and find them in a fault. Let’s show some discipline on this one. Act a little more maturely. Bite your tongue if you have to. 'He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city' (Proverbs 16:32). At least one difference between a tolerable marriage and a great one may be that willingness in the latter to allow some things to pass without comment, without response."   
How Do I Love Thee? ―Elder Jeffery R. Holland 
Respond with love and boundaries, don't loose who you are, have fun and be you. It's not easy, but he needs to learn how to be an adult and a loving companion. You can't force him, but you can take comfort in knowing you get to be you.

One final thought. If he is making such an issue over "likes" that you feel it had to be addressed with me, I am going to assume this behavior is not limited to social media. I would encourage you to read and become familiar with Emotional Blackmail. 

Additional Resources: 

Here is a summary of the book: "Emotional Blackmail" patterns.  


Emotional Blackmail website: Out of the F.O.G.

Self-Assessment of Emotional Abuse: Emotional Abuse 

A Conversation on Spouse Abuse

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Transparency in All Things


Anonymous Question Series:

Q: If someone has watched pornography or masturbated in the past do you feel they are obligated to tell their future spouse? Does it depend on how long ago it was?

There are three concepts in this question that need to be answered; 1) Transparency in relationships 2) Stigma/shame of sexual sins/behaviors, 3) Masturbation, is it really that bad? 
The main focus in this question is transparency and stigma/shame of sexual sins/behaviors. I will address the third concept in a separate post.

A: The quick answer; yes, and if you can't/don't, you should not get married.

Transparency in Relationships
"Where there is respect, there is also transparency, which is a key element of happy marriages. There are no secrets about relevant matters in marriages based on mutual respect and transparency. Husbands and wives make all decisions about finances together and both have access to all information." Marriage: Watch and Learn By Elder L. Whitney Clayton Of the Presidency of the Seventy
I understand the above quote is specifically addressing social media in marriage, which I will address more specifically in my forthcoming post on, "Jealousy and Social Media". Once published, I will put a link to it here.

Nonetheless, this quote is absolutely applicable to premarital relationships, especially if you are engaged. How do you ever expect to be transparent or desire your partner to be transparent if you yourself keep secrets?

Myth

Let's dispel a myth right now. I have searched all over for a source, a reference, or the origin of one of the most ridiculous myths and traditions in our faith. But I cannot find an original source nor anything that supports it. That is, if you have "repented" of something, you don't need to divulge it to your future spouse (or current spouse). I cannot emphasize how naive, controlling, and dangerous this concept is.

There are women who say, "If it is in the past, I don't want to know about it, I don't need to know about it." For some reason I've only heard women express this idea, but please realize that this is a rejection of your partner. Not wanting to share and not wanting to know is anything but love. Many excuse it as "true love" and "embracing the atonement" when they don't "dig up the past." These individuals believe it is a rejection of the Atonement to bring up the past. When women desire to learn about their loved one, the men often respond defensively, "why do you keep wanting to know about the things I've repented about?"

This is a huge RED FLAG and if it wasn't so common, I would tell you to turn and run, run as fast as you can. Unfortunately, it is far too common of a conversation, which means it's a tradition and myth that good people truly believe. It can be worked through and properly understood, but transparency is an absolute must! Without exception!

Clarity and Perspective

It boggles my mind that we still speak as though pornography is some type of sin of "perdition," unrecoverable and mentally damaging. A sin that turns beautiful, intelligent, amazing individuals into social pariahs. The social and self shame around this topic is unjustified. I assure you, nearly 100% of individuals, male and female have viewed pornography and 80-95% of people have masturbated. In today's information age, it is impossible to not view and even engage in pornography.

Additionally, there is a real problem with even the word "pornography." It's a nonsensical, abstract word. Let me give you a real life example; A wife demands her spouse repent to the bishop because he saw breasts in the movie "Titanic". The Bishop, whom that husband will potentially confess to, went on a date with his wife to see "Deadpool." One can argue the Bishop and his wife are in serious violation themselves. This is the problem; who gets to define pornography?

Recently, I was interacting with a anti-porn advocate who uses her spouse's "short comings" as a platform for her "trauma." Yet, she has a plethora of highly sensual books and movies on her own Facebook "Likes" page. Some could easily be considered "harlequin" type material. When pointed out, she defended it saying there was no "nudity" in those types of entertainment. That statement wasn't entirely true, but it's an example of the double standard and confusion around the concept of pornography.
"Historically the term 'pornography' has an unreliable history of usefulness as a scientific term. Instead, it is a social construct of the human mind. Its social use is vague, inaccurate and is often co-opted for use as rhetoric by those who use it to further their social or political agendas. Over time the term has taken on negative connotations, and is now, also used as a pejorative term in expressions of disapproval. The term "pornography" is like using the term "lemon" to describe an automobile. It describes a negative quality of an object in the minds of many people.

....Now is the time for scientists to break a bad habit of using this socially biased, non-scientific term. As scientists we create problems for ourselves when we adopt unscientific terminology that has culturally evolved, and is loaded with cultural or moralistic bias. We handicap the social effectiveness of our research when we use such terms." A New Taxonomy: Scientific Misuse of the Term "Pornography" Mark Kim Malan, Ph.D.
As I pointed out in my previous post, problematic sexual behavior is an ambiguous terminology socially defined by white middle class christian males. ARP Fails Women Support Groups

Fortunately, Elder Oaks has addressed this topic well in an Ensign article October 2015. Where he embraced a more scientific and correct view; (1) inadvertent exposure, (2) occasional use, (3) intensive use, and (4) compulsive use (addiction). The Church is making great progress in defining the "problem" and eliminating the shame.

Stigma/Shame of Sexual Sins/Behaviors

From a "doctrinal" and spiritual perspective. Our culture has traditionally lumped ALL "porn" into the same level of severity and seriousness. In spite of logic and the infinite Atonement, we conceptually view, even 5 mins of pornography, as a sexual "sin next to murder," which is not accurate.
"...Corianton’s sin was a composite of several elements, specifically sexual immorality by a priesthood leader that caused him to abandon his ministry and therefore neglect the spiritual needs of his flock, thereby leading them into apostasy. In effect, Corianton metaphorically “murdered” the testimonies of those he was commissioned to bring unto Christ when he was lured away by Isabel (cf. Alma 36:14). 
This understanding of Corianton’s particular situation is strengthened by of the fact that in Alma 39:5, Alma speaks of “these things” (plural) being “an abomination in the sight of the Lord.” Apparently, “these things” included not only Corianton committing sexual sin, but purposefully neglecting “the ministry wherewith [he] wast entrusted” (v. 4). Perhaps, then, “the more serious infraction was the resulting spiritual damage inflicted upon others who had witnessed Corianton’s sinful actions.” Michael R. Ash and B. W. Jorgensen - "Knowhy #147" 


Let me be clear, the prevalence of a sin or behavior doesn't make it right (just because everyone is doing it). However, we treat pornography and masturbation with such rejection, that emotionally, we loath ourselves and others for engaging in it. In the great words of Elder Uchtdorf, "STOP IT."

Doing it Right

We must stop it; stop being ashamed and own it. The fact that people view it with such seriousness, makes it this landmark conversation in the relationship. My suggestion is to go into a relationship with the assumption that the other has engaged in these behaviors. As the relationship matures, it will provide appropriate opportunities to discuss the history and severity of the behaviors.

Every relationship is different and there is no fast and set rule on when to divulge your past. You can not control your partners responses, but you can begin to view yourself in the loving context of the Atonement. Their response is a reflection of their spiritual and emotional maturity. In fact, your sharing and their response can be an excellent indicator of their marriage readiness.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Sex and Illness


Anonymous Question Series:

Q: "What would you do if you had a sick spouse you loved but was unable to perform sex due to illness?"

A: The quick answer; find a way. Consult with medical professionals and spouse (if they are capable of discussing) and explore options. If your spouse is physically, mentally, or both, incapable... Between the Lord and you, you may consider self-stimulation.

(This is a great question and will be a little difficult to answer concisely. This has been a topic of GREAT interest and equal concern for me; so much that I have taken up the opportunity to write about it. I am over 100 pages into a book I hope to complete by the end of this year that addresses this issue and other related topics and their solutions.)

This is such a valid topic with so many misconceptions and harsh taboos around it. These harsh taboos, unfortunately, block truth and clarity. "...men (and women) are, that they might have joy." You are married and now incapable of having intercourse with your spouse. What doctrine, principle, or concept confines you from experiencing the God-given desire and blessings of arousal that are associated with the powers of creation? Because of a biological or medical issue your spouse is experiencing, you are NO longer allowed to experience the JOY and fulfillment of marriage, sexually? I have studied in-depth everything written on the subject within the church since its restoration in 1830. I'll share my findings in my forthcoming book. There is not one scriptural, solid doctrine, that says you cannot experience sexual fulfillment in your marriage, even when your spouse cannot.

As I said, I have read everything written and spoken on the topic within the church. I am not exaggerating nor taking my comment lightly. I am fully aware of the harsh and bold declarations President Kimball and Elder McConkie and others have made regarding Masturbation. (I will get into far greater detail on this topic in my upcoming book.) In short, their ideas are NOT based on doctrine and more importantly, are rooted in BAD medical science. The reason they spoke so harshly against it was because they believed it caused homosexuality and other "diseases."

In fact, and quit interestingly, the Church was very progressive in sexual understanding at its restoration and up through the 1930's. At that time the world believed having an orgasm literally shorten your life span and caused severe illness. Our leaders were teaching the beauty of desire and sexuality;
Elder Orson Pratt, “God is the Author of sexual or conjugal love, the same as He is of all other kinds of pure…God has ordained that pure and virtuous love should be incorporated with sexual love; that, by the combination of the two, permanent unions in the marriage covenant may be formed, and the species be multiplied in righteousness.”1 
In another instance Elder Parley P. Pratt expressed, "Some persons have supposed that our natural affections were the results of a fallen and corrupt nature, and that they are 'carnal, sensual, and devilish,' and therefore out to be resisted, subdued, or overcome as so many evils which prevent our perfection, or progress in the spiritual life...Such persons have mistaken the source and fountain of happiness altogether."2 
“The late 1920s and most of the 1930s saw a more explicit “sex education” in church lessons, to a degree not matched before or since. As one invited speaker explained to a general conference of the Relief Society, adults needed to realize that “you and I have been brought up in a generation where we just could not talk about sex. Not so our youngsters. They are talking and thinking about sex as frankly as anything else, and so far as I can discover, as wholesomely. Official church manuals endorsed secular books about sexuality and suggested that sexual interests be guided rather than inhibited. During this time masturbation did not always carry the same onus that it does in the popular Mormon literature of today. Rather than focusing on abstinence supervision as is practiced today with current church youth interviewing policies, lessons instead warned parents that they could create emotional problems in their adolescents by an “unintelligent” over-response to their masturbation (Bush, 1993).”3
Yet, over the last 20-30 years the church has removed, almost entirely, any mention of masturbation. Additionally President Kimball's book, "Miracle of Forgiveness" has been discontinued, recognizing that many of the opinions in it were neither scientifically accurate nor accurate to Church doctrine. Furthermore, the Brethren have counseled leaders NOT to inquire about the behavior and if brought up, to remind the member asking about it that it's a discussion between the individual/couple and the Lord. Leaders are NOT sex therapists and should not be consulting in such personal matters.

Again, this is such an important topic, which has so many false concepts around it. I am doing all I can to complete my detailed response to this topic in book format. Until that time, four resources I highly recommend;

1) The Lord, seriously. Take it up with the Lord, openly and honestly. Put off all your preconceived notions, ideas, and taboos and seek the Lord in this regard first and foremost.
2) Reach out to me for specific follow up Daniel Burgess at daniel.burgess@gmail.com,
3) Read "And They Were Not Ashamed",
4) "Art of Desire" by Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife.

Also posted at: Sacred Sexuality

1. The Seer 1:155 (1853)
2. Essential Parley P. Pratt Ch 10, p.124
3. Health and Medicine among the Latter-day Saints: Science, Sense, and Scripture by Lester E. Bush, Jr pg. 144

ARP Fails Women Support Groups


Anonymous Question Series:

Q: "Why does the church's ARP program assume that men are addicts and women are "related to addicts"? It is SO difficult to find a women's support group."

A: The quick answer; as an LDS culture we have done a poor job at identifying and providing women resources.

(This is a great question and will be a little difficult to answer concisely, for me. This has been a topic of GREAT interest and equal concern for me; so much that I have taken up the opportunity to write about it. I am over 100 pages into a book I hope to complete by the end of this year that addresses this issue and other related topics and their solutions. Additionally, Kathryn Kirk and I have attempted to fill this gap with "LDS Women Struggle Too" Blog and Group. But because of our LDS culture. It is very hard to get the word out.)

However, I can't "blame" the church nor the "culture" for not meeting the needs of women adequately in this regard. Many do, and I value the frustration around the topic. But this issue is NOT limited to the church. "Addiction," especially sexual related issues, have historically been a "man's" issue. With the exception of AA (or "Friends of Bill"), which had its beginnings in 1935. Support groups for non-substance abuse only started in the mid 1970's and were predominately male focused. Additionally, medically and psychologically there is NO standard definition or diagnosis for sexual related "addiction." Sex (porn and sexual related issues) addiction was a 'self-diagnosis' of subtenancy abuse individuals, who felt they wanted a separate AA meeting to address their "problems with love." It was also a "sign" to their spouses that they were doing "something" to address their cheating behavior. It is interesting to note that, because there was NO medical definition of sex addiction, it was entirely, and still is today, self-diagnosed. Here's the kicker, because there was/is no medical definition, the criteria for sex addiction was entirely driven by white male middle class individuals;
"... sex addiction is overwhelmingly focused on male sexuality, given that 90-95% of alleged sex addicts are male. In the paraprofessional side of sex addiction, the online bloggers and activists who promote the ideas of porn addiction are also consistently white males, typically of middle class or above." --Sex Addiction's Diversity Problem
As a result of white Christian middle class males, defining sex addiction, the majority of addicts are in that demographic... the epitome of confirmed bias! As such, the 'solutions' have been entirely developed around solving it for the white Christian middle class male. Not only making a perceived issue worse then it really is, but entirely neglecting the needs of other demographics.

The Church has been modeling what the professionals have been doing; therefore, they have mirrored support groups for males of our faith and have lectured repeatably to men in priesthood meetings. While entirely ignoring or being unaware that about 50% of those who struggle with porn and sexual issues are female. This is while NOT one word is spoken about it in Relief Society or the General Women's Conferences. Fortunately, the brethren are recognizing that the old approach isn't working and they haven't lectured the men in priesthood for the last few conferences.

Back to your specific question. There are support groups, but they are hard to find. Kathryn and I have tried really hard to promote our free online group, but it is very hard to spread the word. I also wonder if the church should be involved with support groups. The success rate is ridiculously poor... at best 10% for support groups or 12 step programs in general. I believe the success rate in our church support groups and 12 step programs also mirror the secular groups. Unfortunately, 'our' view that something is better than nothing is keeping the status quo.

This isn't a solution, but hopefully it helped you understand the complicated dynamics of the issue. You are always welcome to reach out to Kathryn or myself for further support. If you would like a support group we are eager to support an effective, solution based approach. Spread the word and we will provide.




Thursday, September 21, 2017

Goodly Parents


Something to consider when reading 1 Nephi1:1;

"Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days."

Ben Spackman (a PhD student at Claremont, studying history of religion and science, with a focus on issues of fundamentalism, literalism, creationism, and evolution), provides the following interpretation:

"This is a long-standing argument among a few bloggers, including me. In the first few verses, Nephi explains that, because his parents were “goodly,” he was taught not just to read (very unusual in the ancient world) but to write (even more unusual), and moreover, to write in two scripts or languages (depending on how we understand the “Egypt” reference). That degree of learning is much more dependent upon Lehi’s financial status than his goodness. Context thus favors the interpretation of “well-off.” The (weaker, in my view) counter-argument comes from dictionaries, which don’t list something like “well-off” as a meaning, so it would be fairly idiomatic usage there in 1Ne 1:1.


Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/benjaminthescribe/2016/01/me-the-blog-and-book-of-mormon-gospel-doctrine-lesson-1-changes/#DCCqldPxXcKDKWxv.99