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Defining porn involves 'subtle' challenges

By Miranda H. Lotz

For the Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, March 21 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Hundreds of demonstrators march on the Utah State Capitol Monday February 17, 2003 against pornography.

Scott G.Winterton, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

Defining pornography is a challenge. While so-called hardcore pornography — written or visual images obviously intended to incite sexual arousal — is fairly easy to identify, many struggle with how they should respond to more subtle and subdued materials.

The LDS reference guide "True to the Faith" offers this definition: “Pornography is any material depicting or describing the human body or sexual conduct in a way that arouses sexual feelings.”

Lexie Kite, a doctoral student in media studies and co-founder of BeautyRedefined.net, recently told an LDS group in Utah, “In my studies, I research how pornography has quietly and powerfully infiltrated our lives. During the last decade, sexually degrading media has become the norm — a new ‘normal’ we rarely question… When we understand that pornography includes all of the depictions, in images or words, that are meant to invite a sexualized interpretation and incite sexual feelings, then we see that otherwise ‘mainstream’ media choices are actually working as gateway drugs to more secret, addictive forms of pornography.”

President Thomas S. Monson, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has also noted such subtle shifts in societal values, calling them “pernicious permissiveness.”

Marcus Flansburg, a sex crimes detective for the Cache County Sheriff’s office and member of the Utah Internet Crimes Against Children task force, said intent is important when labeling pornography. He noted there is a substantial difference between an innocent family photo of an infant being bathed and a similar photo taken by a pedophile for the purpose of sexual gratification. "The purpose or context will influence whether something is considered pornography,” he said.

There is also an individual component, according to Rory C. Reid, a psychotherapist who has counseled many in their recovery from pornography addiction. He said if the material causes sexual arousl, intended or not, it constitues pornography for that individual. "If you find yourself asking whether a work is pornographic, the question itself suggests the material makes you uncomfortable. That should be enough to tell you to avoid it.”

CombatingPornography.org, the LDS Church’s website on pornography addiction, talks about the chemical changes which occur in the brain with pornography consumption. This can negatively impact the part of the cerebral cortex which regulates impetuousness and governs self control.

Research suggests that abstinence from pornography can undo the chemical changes to the brain.

Kite proposes a novel approach to protecting individals and their family members — including children — from pornography: going on a media fast.

“Choose a day, a week, a month, or longer to steer clear of as much media as you can," Kite said. "That way, you can see how your life is different without all those messages and images, and when you return to viewing and reading popular media, you will be more sensitive to the messages that hurt you and those that are unrealistic.”

Flansburg agrees: “I don't want anyone, especially the mothers of our precious kids, to feel any regret about protecting those kids.”

Miranda H. Lotz is a military wife, mother of four, bibliophile and musician. She lives on a remote Air Force station in Cavalier, North Dakota.

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